Wednesday, November 4, 2015 | By: Drotuno

A Few Tables Away Chapter 27 & Pics

Chapter 27 – Epilogue Part One
“Thanks for letting me know, Liam,” I said softly into the phone, ending the call and dropping it onto the bed next to me.
I fell back, gazing up at the ceiling, my feet still hanging off the side of the mattress. I tried to figure out what I was feeling, but I wasn’t sure I was feeling anything. If I were completely honest with myself, I had been expecting that call long before now, well before I’d entered into the first semester of my senior year at Edgewater.
I heard the door to the apartment open and close, Bella’s sweet voice calling out to me. “Edward, baby! Where are you?” she said, entering the bedroom, and I couldn’t help but grin when she was suddenly crawling up my body to loom over me. “Hi, handsome!”
Cupping her face, I pulled her in for a kiss. “Hey, pretty girl.”
“What are you…” She paused, reaching up to brush my hair from my forehead. “What’s wrong? Your eyes look…tense.”
Snorting a little, I brought her in for another kiss. “Dad’s out.”
To say my girl hated Carlisle Cullen would be a complete and total understatement. Her eyes narrowed, and she sat up, still straddling me. “Out where?” she asked slowly and through gritted teeth.
“He was released, Bella,” I sighed, sitting up and situating her on my lap. “He’s at a halfway house in Seattle, where he will remain for another six months or so. He’s…out.”
Shrugging a shoulder, I tried not to dwell on it, but with Bella, it didn’t work. We’d been living together above the bookstore since the summer before our sophomore year. We were now seniors, with Halloween fast approaching, and we’d blended our lives together better than I’d ever imagined it. Not only did we live together, but I’d moved over from the café to work in the bookstore in order to take some of the pressure off Aunt Jane. Sunset Roast and As the Plot Thickens were one big consolidated storefront. We were busy, but for me, working in the bookstore was easier on my writing and my homework.
While Bella had finally chosen a major – business management, which was her idea to help not only Aunt Jane but me as well – I’d still continued to turn to Charlie in order to be a writer. His guidance, along with his connections in the publishing world, had at least gotten my first book in the door. We were just waiting to hear back.
But the girl on my lap knew me better than I probably knew myself, and her gentle touch was soothing as she raked her fingers through my hair. “If he called you… I swear to God—”
I cut her off with another kiss. “No, no, baby, that was Liam on the phone.”
“Oh,” she murmured, her brow wrinkling as she waited patiently for me to find the words.
Toying with her fingers, I tilted my head at her. “It seems like I should be feeling something, but I’m not. Not a damn thing. I just… I don’t even care. And…and… Apparently he’d been hurt or something while in there, but he’s out.” I sniffed a bit, wrinkling my nose. “Liam says Dad will be staying in Seattle, even after the halfway house situation.”
“Okay. Does Em know yet?”
“Yeah, yeah. Liam said he’d call Emmett next. Though, I promised him I’d break it to Ali.”
My brother and Rose had finally transferred last year down to a large state college not far from Glenhaven – just a few hours from us, actually. They’d been married in a small ceremony right after they’d gotten settled in. I’d been his Best Man, and Alice and Bella had shared the duties of Maid of Honor. Emmett was working for a small architecture firm while Rosalie was deep in law school. After this year, she’d take the bar exam.
As I remembered the intimate ceremony, I gazed at Bella, wanting it more and more. I was ready to ask her, though I needed to find the perfect time. The ring was already in my possession, hidden well in the back of my nightstand drawer. Reaching up, I fiddled with the necklace I’d given her for her twentieth birthday. We’d just moved in together, and we’d been busy with our sophomore year, but I remembered that day so damned clearly. It was the very first time I’d set foot in water since my mother had died. But it hadn’t been the last. Bella and I went to the beach all the time – or at least when we had a spare moment.
“I love you,” I whispered, leaning in to kiss her lips. “And I’m okay. He can’t contact me, and he’s not allowed to leave the state. Even if he did, I can’t imagine that he’d want anything to do with any of us, pretty girl, so stop worrying.”
“You’d think so, but you never know with him, Edward,” she stated, shaking her head. “Don’t forget he tried to write letters and call.”
“I know, baby, but he’s got to learn to make a living now. No more medical license, so sleazy prescriptions are out.” I grinned at her evil smile. “I do believe he’s got enough shit to deal with besides angry, overprotective brunettes.”
She scoffed, rolling her eyes. “He’d walk away with a limp. That’s all I’m sayin’.”
“Of that, I have no doubt.”
She was right; Dad had tried to contact all three of us at some point or other during his imprisonment. All letters had been returned, and every last one of us had changed our phone number, though mine had been changed before we’d even packed up our stuff in Forks, thanks to Jasper.
The thought of Jasper made me think of Alice. “Damn, I really do need to tell my sister. Is she downstairs with Jasper yet?”
Bella nodded. “Yeah, she just got there, actually. She’s taking a break before the art show tonight with Mom.”
“Gotcha.” I kissed my girl’s lips one more time, gripping her waist and setting her on her feet.
When Alice had told me originally that she’d applied to Edgewater, I knew in some ways it was to be closer to me and away from our father. I also knew that she’d really love it in Florida, and she did. What I never expected – none of us, actually – was that Alice and Renee would develop a fierce bond. My sister loved art but was never allowed to do anything with it thanks to Dad, but now she’d not only surrounded herself with art classes, she’d learned to love the history of it, the showing of it, and the process of it all. Renee fed it, built it up, and gave my sister the encouragement she needed. It had been amazing to watch. Alice had needed a mother more than I could possibly explain, and she’d found one. And Renee had found another hyper daughter and an art student in my sister, who soaked everything up like a sponge.
I stood up from the bed, pocketing my cell phone, and turned to see Bella studying me. “What, pretty girl?”
“He’s… Your dad, Edward… He’s not important. You know that, right? Anything that’s happened since the moment he decided to lay a hand on you is his own doing, and whatever happens to him…he’s earned it.”
Smiling at her fierceness, I nodded. “I’m well aware, baby.”
Her brow furrowed as she fidgeted in front of me. “I know – deep down – that one day he’s…he’ll say or do the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person and—”
I stopped her again with a kiss, but I was chuckling into it because I really did love that rambling honesty that never stopped. It was so Bella, and it flowed out of her adorably.
“Easy, baby,” I soothed her, dropping my forehead to hers. “He no longer has power here.” I gestured between us. “I’m not sure he ever did, Bella.”
“Well, I’m just sayin’… I just can’t wait until you’re published and you’re this awesome writer and you can prove to him that he didn’t win.”
Grinning, I kissed her again. “My pretty girl,” I sang to her, shaking my head. “You seem to think there’s some impending Edmund Dantes revenge moment still to come, but beautiful, I’ve already won. I’ve already had my say, and I’ve found everything I need. Right here.”
Holding her face in my hands, I kissed her, smiling when she giggled at me.
“The Count was badass,” she whispered.
Laughing, I linked my fingers with hers and led us out of our apartment and down the stairs. I kissed her once more before she went into the bookstore, and I made my way into the back of the café and out to the front counter.
“Ah, hell, kiddo. What happened?” Tanya whispered, leaning against the counter.
Grimacing, I pointed to Alice, who was sitting in a booth with Jasper. “I need my sister.”
“Shit, he’s out,” she breathed.
If anyone understood terrible fathers, it was Tanya, whose own had just recently drunk himself to death. She’d barely batted an eye because their relationship was tense and she’d been expecting it for years. I nodded once and then went to the booth, sliding in next to Alice.
“Hiya, big brother,” she greeted, but her smile fell immediately. “What? What happened?”
Jasper started to get up, but I stopped him. “You…might wanna stay, Jasper.”
“Ed, you all right?” he asked.
Grimacing a little, I nodded. “Yeah, it’s just that I got a call a few minutes ago.” I turned to face my sister. “Liam called me. He wanted to let me know that Dad’s been released.”
The happy blue in my sister’s eyes darkened. Her hatred for our father rivaled that of Bella’s. The very moment Dad had been arrested by Chief Yorkie on that Christmas Day after our fight, my sister had washed her hands of him. She had no desire to hear his side, see him, talk to him, or even sue him. We’d had no choice but to appear in court the one time. I wasn’t even sure she’d looked his way while on the stand.
“So…the fucker’s free?” she sneered, her hands balling up into fists.
“Not free but out of prison. He’s been released to a halfway house for the remainder of his sentence. He’s in Seattle.”
“He’d better stay in Seattle,” she muttered, frowning down at her cup of coffee. “He…he can’t call or anything. Do we need to do anything? Like another restraining order?”
“No, Ali, I think we’re okay. He’s not supposed to leave the state, and we’ve never allowed any contact since the trial, so I’m pretty sure he’s gotten the message. If he hasn’t, then Liam is happy to explain it to him.”
Alice snorted, looking up at me. “I bet he will. He’s been awesome.”
“He has,” I sighed, nodding in agreement.
Pastor Liam, our mother’s old friend, had maintained contact with all three of us since Dad had been arrested. He constantly checked on us all, had flown down for Emmett’s wedding, and he’d teased me about mine being next. He’d also helped with the sale of the house in Forks, kept us posted on news about our father, and refused to let us thank him. He’d become a very good friend, almost family, stating that it was what our mother would’ve wanted, and he’d admitted more than once to me that it was his way of making up for what we’d been through.
“You coming tonight?” she asked me, the blue in her eyes back to their happy sparkle.
“Hell, yeah! Like I’d miss seeing your work, Ali,” I teased, leaning in to kiss the side of her head. “Emmett and Rose, too. They were leaving after Emmett got off work. Bella and I will be at the art building as soon as she’s finished next door.”
I slipped out of the booth, but Jasper’s voice stopped me.
“Hey, Edward? You think… You think he’ll try to contact you guys again?” he asked, and his gaze flickered to my sister. I could tell he was worried, that he’d have to protect her – us – in some way.
I thought about it, remembering the letters to all of us and the phone calls our father had tried to make to Alice and Emmett, but they’d stopped eventually.
Finally meeting his gaze, I said, “No, I don’t.”
The eerie cry of the Sandhill Cranes made me smile and glance over at the tall, gray birds. That otherworldly call echoed out again, along with the mimicking baby crane that was with them. I had no way of knowing if they were the same two I’d seen the first time I’d set foot on the Swan property, but the daydreamer in me liked to think so. Bella had said they mated for life, so my hope was that they were the same two, raising a new little one.
Gazing out over the small lake in the backyard, I tapped my pen on my open journal. Sometimes the sight of water made me melancholy, but the panicky feelings hardly rose to the surface anymore. I still saw the accident, and I still worried endlessly whenever anyone was driving in poor weather, but I was working on it.
Right at that moment, though, I couldn’t feel anything but hope and nerves. I hoped I was doing this the right way, but I was nervous about being able to pull it off. Rereading what I’d already written, I added to it. I found myself writing until the sun started to set. I still used the journal to write to Bella, and I used it to sort out tough conversations. This was both. And most likely the last tough conversation I’d ever have to work though.
When I felt arms wrap around me from behind, I closed the book and grinned over my shoulder at Bella.
“Dinner’s ready, handsome.”
I brushed my lips over hers, chuckling when she landed across my lap, and I couldn’t help but cradle her in my arms. She gazed up at me, warm brown eyes that were happy, sweet, and curious.
“Now what’s got you writing in this thing?” she asked teasingly, reaching for my journal – the same journal I’d left with her when I’d first gone home to Washington.
Laughing, I pulled it away from her. “Just some stuff I needed to work through. It’s been a busy year, baby. I was just… Hell, pretty girl, we’re almost college graduates.”
She beamed up at me, cupping my face and bringing me in for a kiss. “And you are almost a published author!”
As awesome as that sounded, the words I’d just written down in my journal were more important than the book that had finally been accepted by a publishing house, and they wanted more. The story I’d written so long ago with my mother’s help, the same story I’d made up for my sister, and the first story Bella had ever read of mine, was now going to be in print. Elven princesses and kings and archer boys would soon be out for everyone to see. Everyone wanted to celebrate, which was why we were having dinner at her parents’ house.
Grinning, I kissed her again. “C’mon, pretty girl. Let’s eat, and then I can celebrate with just you.” I buried my face in her neck to kiss her just for the squeal into the giggles I lived to hear.
She stood up from my lap, and I tucked my journal and pen away into my backpack. When we stepped up into the back deck, I realized this was where we would’ve eaten the first time I’d ever come to this house, but they’d moved dinner indoors due to my fear of water. As I gazed around the table, I saw what real family was, what it should’ve been all along. It was my own flesh and blood – Emmett and Alice – along with the family who’d loved me from the moment the girl at my side said she was keeping me. Rose had become another sister, not to mention my sister-in-law. Charlie, who’d become the father I always needed. Renee, who was the mother to us all. Aunt Jane was strength and humor and a calm in the storm.
Jasper had become not only my best friend but another brother – and most likely my brother-in-law, because he’d already pulled Emmett and me aside to ask us for permission to marry Alice. We’d outright laughed at him, because he didn’t need our permission; Alice was quite capable of making that decision all on her own. And I was pretty sure she knew it was coming.
Then there was Bella. I gazed over at her, linking my fingers with hers beneath the table and giving them a soft squeeze. Without her, I had no idea where my life would be – not at that table, that was for certain.
Dinner was fun and loud, with teasing and the usual name calling between Bella and Jasper, which now included Emmett. Despite the fact that it was in celebration of my book, I stayed quiet, absorbing every second of it, but I needed to watch my time because there was someplace I wanted to be before it closed.
The drive back was comfortably quiet. Bella’s hand was in mine as I drove the roads back into town, when I turned toward the library and not our apartment, Bella looked over at me.
“I need to grab a book before class on Monday, pretty girl. You mind?”
“No, not at all. I should probably return the one we finished.”
We walked into the library, setting our things down at our usual table. I knew we only had about thirty minutes before they closed, but it should work, and I was happy to see there was hardly a soul inside, except for the kid behind the counter and two girls who were packing up.
“You want that other book we talked about?” Bella asked after dropping off the one we’d just finished reading together.
Smirking, I shrugged a shoulder. “It’s your turn to pick, baby.”
God, I loved that we’d never stopped reading to each other. Sometimes we’d read for class or for ourselves, but we always came back to reading to each other. I needed it and Bella seemed to live for it, so we kept going.
“Okay,” she sang, spinning around to make her way to the fiction section.
I waited until she was in the back before I pulled out my journal, setting it on top of her things. I left it just like I’d left it on her pillow the day I’d left for Washington – a bright purple flower sticking out as a bookmark. However, there was more inside than just a note to her. Before she could come back to the table, I stepped away. I did need a book for class, so I grabbed it quickly and checked it out, hiding behind the first bookcase to wait. She checked out a book and came to a stop at the table.
Bella gazed around, probably looking for me, but her hand reached out to pick up the book as she sat down in the chair. I’d reread the note so many times, I had it memorized.
To the girl who used to be a few tables away,
I remember the first time I saw you, there were tears in your eyes. I remember thinking that the book you were reading had to be something else in order to bring you to that much emotion. I needed to know exactly what made you cry, so I read the same book. And yeah, I cried a little, too, which told me that your heart was as beautiful as the rest of you. I remember the first time I heard your voice. It was soft and sweet but filled with protectiveness and bravery, but there was humor and laughter in it, as well, which only proved to me that you were smart and funny and honest.
Bella, my pretty girl, I remember everything about you from moment I first saw you. There’s not a thing I ever want to forget. The first time I trusted you to let you in, the first time you told me you weren’t going anywhere, and the first time our lips met. And my God, the first time you told me you loved me! All of it is stored away so I can remember it.
What started out as a shy, quiet, invisible boy crushing on a pretty girl just a few feet away turned into the best thing to ever happen to me. You made me strong when I thought I was weak. You made me feel things I thought were only in books. You forced me to see myself through your beautiful eyes. You gave me family and courage and a shoulder to cry on when life became too much. But mostly, my beautiful Bella, you gave me you. You offered up yourself with love and happiness and the sweetest smile I’d ever had the honor of seeing.
I’m a better man because of you. I told you once in this very journal that I know where I’m going in life, Bella. I know at the end of the day, it’s only you I need. Nothing about that has changed. No college graduation or book contracts or whatever life may bring our way will ever change the way I feel about you.
My mother once told me that I’d meet a girl who didn’t mind that I was shy, who wouldn’t mind if I couldn’t quite find the words. She told me that the right girl would love those things about me, that she’d wait until I did find the words. She told me that once I found her, I needed to be honest at all times; I needed to cherish her, love her, take care of her.
Well, I’ve found that girl, Bella. And all I want for the rest of my life is to love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.
Will you marry me?
Love, the boy who wants to always share your table…
I moved when my sweet girl sniffled, and I sat down in the chair next to hers. She picked up the red satin ribbon, which was the bookmark of the journal, but I’d used it to tie the ring to it. She pulled it off, finally meeting my gaze.
“I meant every word, pretty girl,” I whispered, reaching up to gently wipe away the tears that were falling from her deep warm eyes. “I wanted to ask you here, in this place, because I never want to forget how we started.”
She was up and out of her chair and in my lap before I could blink, which made me chuckle at her, but her lips met mine roughly.
“Yes! The answer’s yes, Edward!” Her voice was a whisper, but there was an emotional edge to it, too. “Oh, I’m glad there’s no one in here, baby, because I’m really going to kiss you stupid.”
And she did. She kissed me with love and heat, and I could taste the salty tears she was still leaking. I couldn’t help but smile into it, and when I pulled back, I dropped my forehead to hers.
“Here,” she said, holding out her hand, which was in a fist. When she opened it up, her ring was in her palm. “You do it.”
The ring was simple and beautiful, just like my pretty girl. And it fit, which I’d known it would, but that was a perk when I had a sneaky little sister that found out the size for me. Once it was on Bella’s finger, I brought it up to my lips, kissing it reverently.
“Edward?” she asked softly.
“Can we go home?”
Smiling, I nodded. “Yeah, pretty girl. Home.”


alisonactually said...

I loved Bella and the whole Swan family in this fic, I kind of want them to adopt me :-)

Enjoy a well earned break, we will be waiting when you find your way back xxx

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