April 22, 2013
“Alice, please,” I pleaded as the car wound through the forest to God knew where, “just a hint?”
“Nope.” I heard her voice through the blackness of my eyes.
Yep, I was blindfolded.
“Well, we’re traveling right now. Is the blindfold really necessary? I can’t see anything.” I shook my head slightly, hoping to loosen the trap a little bit.
“That’s the point, Bella,” she chimed in a voice laced with an undercurrent of duh, “to make sure you don’t see anything.”
“I’m going to kill him,” I growled. “He’s planning something big, isn’t he?”
“I am not giving you an answer to that question, and I’d rather you don’t kill him, since it’s your anniversary today and killing him kind of defeats the point of staying together forever, doesn’t it?”
I didn’t answer her. I just huffed and turned to the window, letting the scent of the leather and the air freshener in the car dominate my senses.
I had suspected Edward was up to something: all of them were. All those stolen, cursory glances toward each other, the shopping trips Alice said would “bore” me (as if they never did before), the nights out “hunting”: If I were human it might have been easier for them to slip away undetected. But they knew that I knew they were plotting something, especially Edward, and this was one of those instances when my being a vampire did not work out in their favor.
“Can I at least get a clue?” I sighed, giving up on trying to guess what he had planned this year.
“Have you gotten a clue up until now?” I heard Alice’s voice, and another implied duh.
I internally rolled my eyes. Of course.
Edward was nowhere to be found when I had come home from my hunt with Jacob this morning. Alice, very stubbornly, insisted that every couple in the family stay apart at least two weeks before their anniversary: said it made the sex that much more “amazing.”
This year Jacob had very graciously opted to take me hunting along with Esme and Nessie to help me get along without snapping at anyone.
Edward and I did not do well with staying apart. Distance from him, however short, always made me jumpy and anxious. I had hoped, during my transformation, that I would forget the memories of the time without him: that the acid and venom and blood would purge the reminders of the pain I had suffered in his absence.
They had, in a way.
I barely remembered my human years, if at all. But any reminder of the seven months without Edward triggered a sort of subconscious cycle in me. I would be anxious, arrogant, short-tempered, and my mind would be all over the place. Not to mention the uh . . . nightly escapades. Jasper had a field day with me during that time.
So, it had been only natural that I had protested vehemently against Alice’s “Enforced Separation” Policy when she forced it on me and Edward during our first year. But she hadn’t listened.
I wouldn’t have acted out that way, but she was being unreasonable. Everybody knew it, but nobody said anything—even if it was painful for them. Alice’s “Separation” entailed separation: no sights, no living together, no talking, even phone calls were banned. And little witch pixie found out every time someone tried to sneak around.
The result every year had been that by the time our anniversary rolled around, I would be a blubbering mess of emotions, anxiety, and pent up sexual frustration, because let’s face it: sex with Edward is amazing.
If this took any longer, I would roll over on the floor and start crying.
“There’s no need to do that, Bella. We’ll be there soon,” Alice said, laughing at my antics.
“You better pray for that, Alice. You better pray,” I warned, in my best “I’ll-kill-you-if-you-dare” voice.
I couldn’t say I wasn’t excited. In spite of his extravagant, exuberant tendencies, Edward really came up with amazing ideas to surprise me. I always told him not to worry much, but after the second year, I had quickly resigned myself to the fact that that was not possible at all.
But God, did the man come up with brilliant notions! I would love to probe around in his brain like he did in mine. I still had that “Moon Rock” he had given me one year. Granted, my response to it hadn’t exactly been what he had expected, but I loved it to death. It was just the mere fact that he had given me the stars, or a part of them—literally. For me, Edward Cullen could not not do anything.
But as much as I loved him, as much as I loved his mind, heart and soul, his tendencies to splurge didn’t always sit well with me. Not that money was a factor, no.
It was the mere fact that whatever I would plan for him—a night out, or a date, or even a show of his favorite movies from the past—would pale in comparison to his gift for me. I knew that it wasn’t a competition; it had never been. But somehow, in the extravagance of his thoughts and actions, my little ideas and gifts seemed insignificant. They made me feel . . . lazy.
That is probably not the word I am looking for. But after every gift, or every event he would plan for me, I would feel like I should have reciprocated in equal. I would feel like I should have gone to the same lengths, procured the same thoughts, shown my love for him in a more proper way. Every year I tried to top that, but it somehow failed. And frankly, it scared me.
Edward and I had never been in a conventional relationship. It had always seemed that fate had always tipped the scales in his favor. He had beauty, brains and more love than he knew what to do with. In comparison, I had been plain, clumsy, and more indecisive than a person in a midlife crisis. Doing things for Edward made me feel whole, proud, like I could finally be an equal partner in an unequal relationship. It didn’t help to have them upstaged every time. It made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough, like I wasn’t enough.
“Okay,” Alice said, slowly winding the car to a stop, “now, listen carefully. Do not take off the blindfold, Bella. Okay? Edward marked a trail around here. Follow it. And, I repeat, do not take off the blindfold. I’ll know.”
“Alice, please, just . . . can you give me a hint? Where are we?” I shook my head, my dead heart somehow seeming to beat loudly.
“Just get out of the car, Bella. You’ll know.” I could hear the smile in her words.
I sighed and opened the door, and was hit by the smell of rain, wet mud, and trees.
I heard the telltale sound of the car being reversed and driven off, and when I could hear the sounds no more, I debated with the idea of taking the blasphemous blindfold off.
Almost immediately, my cell phone buzzed. I dished it out of the pocket of my jeans, and put it to my ear.
“Don’t you even dare. Do not take off the blindfold, Bella.”
My mouth fell open at his words. It was, clearly, Alice I had been expecting to call. But Edward’s voice was a surprise that I had not anticipated.
“How did you . . .?” I chuckled and laughed at the same time, still standing at the same spot where Alice had left me.
“Your shield’s down, love. I could hear you from five miles away.” He laughed.
I frowned. I hadn’t realized that my shield had been down the whole time. Since the time Zafrina had left, regular practice had made me adept at lowering and extending my shield without any qualms and restrictions. Now, I could lower it and forget. It didn’t even register in my mind anymore.
“Where am I, Edward?” I sighed. “I would at least like a clue.”
“Nope, just catch my scent and walk.” I heard the playfulness in his voice. “I am pretty sure you’ll realize it soon. I’ll see you at the end of the Path of Illumination, okay?” He laughed and hung up.
Rome? I’m in Rome?
As much as I was horrified at the almost prospect, I knew that Edward was only kidding. This place around me smelled familiar.
I sniffed around in the air, and almost immediately, my senses registered his sweet scent. This was only one of the parts that I liked so much about my vampire life: we were so attuned to each other that we could detect the others presence easily, as if looking for a black cloud in a clear sky. Edward stood out.
I started walking in the direction of where the scent of Edward led, my own beacon of musk, perfume and him. Sometimes I smelled wet earth, and heard the pattering of rain drops on the leaves around me. Whether they were the aftereffects of a big shower or the lone remnants of water that somehow managed to escape the grasps of a possible canopy above me was hard to tell.
My hands touched the barks of different trees where Edward had stopped to wait, and I felt their texture under my stone hard—and yet, soft—skin. They were wet, muddy, and coarse, like the pristine forest around me. Again, I debated with the blindfold on my eyes—dying to see where I was—but then decided against it.
It was only after walking another few meters that I realized that I did not need to have my eyes open after all. The smell that hit my nose was one I had taken in every day for quite some time: I knew this pathway like the contours of my own body.
I did not need his scent to guide me now. My mind started working with the speed of light. He brought me back! He brought me to Forks!
My feet accelerated their motion, and soon I was sprinting through the maze of flora and flowers towards our cottage. His scent intensified with each step I took, and my breath raced with every whiff that went inside me.
There was full-fledged smile on my face by the time I stood in front of our makeshift driveway. It was more of a miniature trail really, flanked with shrubs like roses, dahlias, and my personal favorites, freesia. Their strong scents assaulted my nose, and I smiled realizing that the rain had taken care of them in my absence.
I walked up to the cottage slowly, and surely. I did not need to be hesitant. This was my home, my safe place, my sanctuary. This was the place where it had started. This was where Edward and I made love for the first time as immortals, where Nessie had taken her first steps, where she had first started reading and drawing. I had the home videos stashed away somewhere.
I felt him before I touched him. He was standing on the porch, waiting for me to come home.
“Hey.” His hands found mine, and he kissed me with all the love in the world.
“Hey,” I smiled against his lips. “This is a nice surprise.”
“Finally,” he breathed amusingly, “but it’s not the gift. That is inside.”
I laughed. “What is it this time? An actual star?”
He took me in his arms, his warm arms shielding me from the world: a daily reminder of his eternal promise to me.
“No, something much, much more special.” I could feel him wiggle his eyebrows like he did every time he felt mischievous.
“Oh, boy,” I sighed. “You’re going to give me heart palpitations.”
He laughed, and even after years, it was still the most beautiful sound I had ever heard.
I had to admit, it was a bit hypocritical of me. I stressed over the extravagance of his gift every year, but when the time came, the price of the gift took a back seat in my mind, ruled over by his careful thought and unbounded love. I actually found myself getting excited for whatever he had done.
“Can I take off the blindfold now?” I asked him as he led me inside. The smell in the place astounded me for a moment: musty, old, stale but homey, sweet, and welcoming.
“No, not yet. In just a few minutes, Bella.” He chuckled against my hair.
“Please tell me you’ve not done something outrageous.” I grinned into his shirt.
I wouldn’t ever have paid it much thought if it hadn’t been for others who had constantly pointed it out, but Edward and I were always touching. If we were in the same room, we would be within three feet of each other. He had a habit of playing with my hair, or running soft strokes down the length of my arm. I, on the other hand, could not get enough of his face. I was always running my fingers through his hair, or even poking him just to irritate him. In a way, that was what kept me going. Edward wasn’t just beauty and brain: he was an immaculate fresco of adoration, love, devotion and loyalty. He kept me going.
“Okay, be ready. I am going to take off the blindfold, and I want you to open your eyes slowly.” He stayed by my side, putting his hands on my shoulders, and then lightly touched the blindfold.
“Edward, I’m not getting eye surgery,” I chuckled, and he did too.
“Okay . . . ready?” His lips touched the side of my ear, and I bit my lip to will myself not to grin like an idiot.
“Uh huh,” I nodded.
“Oh, and Bella?” he said as he untied the piece of cloth surrounding my eyes, timing with his words perfectly, with the movement of my eyes.
“I love you, forever.”
The first thing I saw was yellow: everywhere.
That he had expanded the cottage with a new room I knew instantly. It was the purpose of it that baffled and amazed me. The entire room was covered in yellow: post-it notes, to be precise.
A small gasp escaped my lips inadvertently. Every surface of the room, except for the wall in the back, was adorned with hundreds of post-its, each with something written on it in black.
I left him standing in the doorway, and reached for the nearest one, detaching it from the wall-sized display board, which clung to the wall.
The message brought a smile to my face:
February 15th, 2006.
I stuck it back on the display board with the thumbnail and reached for another one:
The moment that changed my life:
I turned it around, and I would have cried on reading what was written on the back of it:
January 19th, 2006.
The day you came to Forks, my own “Personal brand of heroine.”
I went through some more of the post-its on the walls, and I couldn’t believe my crazy, darling, lovable, handsome, devoted, stupid husband. He had documented every detail of our life together on these little papers. He had even remembered the color significance of post-its: yellow, because it triggered memories.
Edward watched as I moved from one corner to the other, picking up post-its from everywhere, even the floor. He had remembered our first kiss, first fight, first date, first night he spent in my room, first time he kissed me after Nessie was born, first fight after marriage, my first gift to him, his first gift to me, first song that we heard together, first song that he recommended to me, that I recommended to him . . .
But the one that did the job of choking me up was the one that said:
The day I left.
My biggest mistake.
I held the little paper in my hand, wishing, for the first time in my vampire life to cry.
“Oh, Edward . . .” I turned and ran into his arms, and he welcomed me openly, letting me shower his face with kisses.
It wasn’t the fact that he had made the effort to remember all our firsts. It wasn’t even the fact that he made sure to document them. It was his willingness to accept us: all of us. Not just the good, and the happy, but the bad, and despondent. He had not only put in memories that made me grateful for who I was; he had also put in memories that I wanted to forget, that pained me to my very core. Because we both knew that we had not always had rainbows and sunshine. We knew that our life wasn’t just the now and its happiness, it was also the past and its darkness. His guilt, my indecisiveness, his pain, my pain, his darkness, my infidelity—this was all a part of us. It was an integral part of who we were. It was what had made us. Our relationship had not just seen the good, it had survived the rocks and the hardships. And he knew that. I knew that.
“I take it you like it,” he chuckled as he kissed me.
“I do! I love it. I love you!” I was a babbling, blubbering mess, and I was so grateful that he chose to ignore that, even if he found it amusing.
“Well, I’m glad you do. But this isn’t your entire gift. Come on.” He smiled down at me, and then led me to the back wall.
This wall had no post-its, but rather it contained a map of the world. I looked up at him in blissful confusion, and he smiled and pointed at the Olympic Peninsula.
The city of Forks had been marked with a big red thumbnail, attached to which was a picture of us at our wedding: our first picture as a married couple. A green thread started from Forks, and crossed the Mexican land, and the Caribbean to stop at Rio de Janeiro, and then leading to a very small miniscule dot in the Atlantic.
A grin broke out on my face when I realized what he had done.
“I would give you the world if you asked for it, Bella.”
And he had.
As my eyes raked over the map, I realized that he connected every place that we had ever been to together: Isle Esme, Alaska, Rome, Spain, London, Ireland . . . Edward loved traveling, and he and I had shared some unforgettable moments in some of these places. He had even attached a picture of us from every place: A picture of me buying an amulet from Greece, one of him on top of the Colosseum at night (we sneaked in), us on the Eiffel Tower, me making a snow angel in Alaska, us on the Marina Beach in India . . .
“What are the red ones for?” I touched Japan, which, along with many others, had been connected with a red string rather than green.
“Those are the ones we’re going to visit.” He grinned, that damn crooked grin.
“Edward, I . . .” I shook my head in wonder.
How in the world did I find this man?
I felt his arms snake around my waist. “You see what I have done, Bella? I told you I would give you the world . . . here it is. We’ll go wherever you want, do whatever you want. I will go to the end of the world if you tell me to. But this”—he pointed toward the red dot that signified Forks—“is home ground, Bella. And we’ll always remember it. This is where it started—all of it.” He looked around the room. “This is where home is. And no matter where we go, we’ll always come back home.”
He turned me around to face him, and I found his golden eyes to be glimmering with unspoken, but loud words.
“I can’t say enough, do enough, to tell you how much you mean to me, Bella. I waited for you a hundred years—an agonizing one hundred years.
“And every day that I spend with you, my love, is heaven. Scratch that, I don’t need heaven when I have you. You are the most beautiful person I have ever met: inside and out. And I can never tell you how happy and grateful it makes me to stand by your side every day and be a part of all that you do.
“All this, Bella . . . these five years, with you . . . and Nessie . . . you have given me more happiness than my hundred years alone ever gave me. I would gladly give up immortality if it meant that I had the chance to die with you, Bella. You are everything I have ever wanted, ever needed. Thank you, for being who you are.”
I wanted to say so many things, but the words never came out. They found themselves rendered unnecessary. We didn’t need words. Our hearts were enough.
Love is a strong emotion.
Love heals, hurts, redeems, destroys: it takes over your life, affects your thinking and rationale, and even then, you’re never sated. It is, indeed, a drug, which makes you keep coming back for more and more. A person who finds love, even if he be the poorest and the sickest person in the world, would find himself redeemed in the absolute power of love.
Love is engaging. Once you’re hit by it, you will never be the person that you were before. Because now, you don’t answer just to yourself. Someone else claims you, shares you, owns parts of you. His happiness becomes your happiness, his pain, your pain, his ambition, your devotion.
And that, undoubtedly, is the most fulfilling, amazing feeling in the world.
Love itself becomes the person in front of you. It is with that person you want to go to bed with, cry with, pray with, play with, fight with . . . You are no more yours.
You are his.
I was Edward’s. I belonged to him, as he belonged to me.
And there wasn’t a thing that I would change about that. All the tears, laughs, love, life, bloodshed had led to this: this moment where we stood in each others arms, inhaling each others scent, marking the other one and our self with the other.
“You’re everything to me, Edward. Everything. I love you.” I smiled, and sighed, because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get anything else out.
“I love you too, Bella,” he said and let my eyes meet his. “Always remember that.”
The kiss we shared next could very much have been the Holy Grail of kisses. His lips, moving against mine, were soft, and determinant at the same time. We both tried to pour our love for each other into that one physical imprint that we left on the others. It was intense, it was arousing, and it was lovely.
“And Bella, you aren’t just enough,” he said when he broke the kiss, and I gasped. He’d heard what I was thinking earlier.
“There’s nothing anyone, even you can do to change my love for you. You’re stuck with me for the rest of eternity. You’re my sin, my desire, my redemption, my temptation, my purpose, my determination. Not anyone else: you.” He smiled, the biggest smile, and kissed me again.
And as always, I believed him.
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