Time like a river flows reaching ever forward to the endless ocean of our existence. Like that ocean, my existence has experienced a tireless ebb and flow over the past century with my Edward. The world of immortality is mystical and mysterious, and time has passed like water through a sieve-unbelievably quickly. At our sides--family, most importantly our beloved creation and product of love, our beautiful daughter, Renesmee, and by her side, my forever ‘best man,' the loyal and faithful, Jacob.
Raising Nessie as she grew and reached maturity at seven, as Nahuel had foretold, was our greatest joy. She now looked more like our sister than our daughter, appearing to be in her late teens, undoubtedly the most beautiful creature in the world, surpassing even Rosalie, who loves her so much she wholeheartedly agrees.
Nessie had Edward's beauty in nearly every feature, but I was there, too. In her eyes, beautiful warm chocolate brown eyes, that reminded me vaguely of my long past human days. And Charlie, my dear father, was present in her bronze curls that hung to her waist.
From the porch of the big white house in the woods, I gaze down to the river where Nessie plays in the sun, which only glints slightly off her alabaster skin in the rare rays of light that cut through the usual cloudy sky over Forks, Washington. Looking at her, there is a tightening in my chest where my dead heart has long stood still and a gasp escapes my lips--Charlie. She reminds me so much of him. He had loved her so. The memory is so sharp, I know without a doubt tears would be sliding down my face, if it were possible.
I miss my father so much, as I miss my mother and Phil, but there is nothing to compare to the loss of my gruff but loving father. Sixty years had come and gone since his death. Whoever coined the phrase "time heals all wounds" had never lived long enough to put that theory to the test. The ache was still as profound today as it had been the day the heart attack had taken him from me.
Edward had been and continues to be my rock, beyond all reason--beyond all time.
Nessie and Jacob wrestle playfully by the river. I had long ago lost any anxiety over their tremendous size difference. She was nearly as quick as her father, quicker than me even. Nessie could take care of herself.
Jacob, sweet, lovable, reliable Jacob had not changed one bit in the century since the Volturi showdown, and neither had our beloved friend Seth, who had remained on the reservation in La Push during all of our travels. He had returned to the house almost at the same instant we had.
Leah hadn't changed much either, except in her feelings for Carlisle and Esme. Quill and Embry remained the same, as well. All the wolves had retained their werewolf, or rather shape shifter status for the past century in spite of the changing circumstances between the wolves and our family. Jacob's relationship with Renesmee had assured that. The treaty made no distinction-therefore the pack boys, including Jacob, never aged.
Unfortunately, just like Charlie, that did not include Billy, and he had passed away about ten years after my dad and five years after Seth and Leah's mother, Sue. With Billy's passing, we had all been left orphans to the world. Somehow, even Leah had come around just a little and allowed herself to become, at least to a certain extent, an adopted daughter of Carlisle and Esme. Even she could not ignore the loving care and kindness displayed to her by my sympathetic in-laws at the loss of her mother. Although they were vampires, I couldn't help but wonder at times if Carlisle and Esme weren't somehow saints of some sort.
Soft as a whisper, Edward approaches me from behind. If possible, my keen vampire senses have only sharpened over the last century. I turn to greet him as he slips his marble arms around my granite waist and gaze into his beautiful honey gold eyes. My breath catches. How is it possible that this husband of mine still takes my breath away after all this time? In a century, we have never parted, but every time he takes me into his arms, it's like the first time. Electricity and want zing through me like lightening and he feels it too. It's almost tangible between us as he meets my kiss with equaled passion. The world slips away for a few heavenly minutes before we are interrupted by a laugh like the tinkling of musical bells and the deep clearing of a throat. Alice and Jasper.
"Honestly, you two," she says her voice bright and happy, trying and not succeeding to sound annoyed, "Get a room!"
My favorite sister climbs the steps hand in hand with her soul mate, Jasper, who is wearing a more and more characteristic smile these days.
Edward credits me with Jasper's more eager acceptance of the Cullen lifestyle because I have always been such a happy and positive role model for him. Jasper has now taken control of himself enough to realize that he has a choice in how he lives, and he has made his choice.
Edward adopts a smug look as he faces the now smiling Alice, "We already did, but you have to come up for air sometime."
I gasp and know that if I still possessed the ability, I would be blushing to my toes.
Alice trills, "Edward Cullen!"
Jasper high-fives my increasingly brazen and mischievous husband as they stride past us into the house. Emmett will never let us live this down!
I can't be too upset with Edward, not when he has come so far from the tortured soul I had fallen in love with so long ago. Now, he is the most exuberantly happy vampire, man, person, in existence. He whistles, sings, writes music, and plays the piano constantly. Carlisle, Esme, and the rest had all told me at different times that I had brought him to life, but in my opinion, it was the other way around. It was Edward who had brought me to life and his presence has provided me with an almost perfect existence. I love my life, vampire or not.
Laughing, I turn in his arms to gaze across the meadow to the riverbank where Nessie and Jacob sit talking and my mind drifts back to a time many years ago. After our triumph over the Volturi, when Nessie was still a baby, it had not taken long for things to settle into the norm, whatever that was. Memories flooded back.
With Charlie's help, Carlisle had been able to postpone my mother's ultimate visit until nearly my first anniversary with claims of illness. When I finally saw her, contacts were no longer needed, as my eyes matched the molten gold of Edward and the rest of the Cullens. She had easily accepted Charlie's need to know instructions and had fallen instantly in love with her granddaughter, Renesmee, who by this point, looked to be around four years old and absolutely gorgeous.
Nahuel and Huilen had stayed with us for a while, but Jacob's obvious overprotection of Nessie frightened the little vampires, and they soon returned to their home.
Jacob's imprinting with Nessie proved not to be a problem when it was time for my family to move on. He had ended our worries by deciding to follow Nessie wherever she went-for him, there was no choice.
Even though it came much later than originally planned, Edward and I did attend Dartmouth-together. My love for Literature took me all the way through graduate studies, and our family had remained for quite some time in New Hampshire. Its climate and wild life had served us well. Nessie had gone to high school and even graduated Dartmouth herself, along side Jacob. By then, it was time for us to move on. Things were so good for so long, the other shoe was bound to drop at some point.
Alice saw it coming. There was no way to stop it. So, some fifty years after the last showdown in Forks, another fight was coming. This time the target was Tanya, of the Denali coven, part of our own family. The charge, Alice had seen, was the murder of Caius, but, it had not happened-yet.
There was time to talk Tanya out of her act of vengeance.
In fifty years, Tanya had never recovered from the horror of watching her sister obliterated and burned at Caius' command. Kate, who had Garrett now, had moved on with his help, but her sister had refused all help and grown more bitter.
Our family set off to Denali, where we talked and persuaded, begged and pleaded with Tanya to see that her plan was suicide. Our family of ten and Tanya's family of five had breathed a collective sigh of relief when she had finally given in.
All seemed well until Alice had gone stiffly into a trance for a brief time before tonelessly informing us all "They are coming. This time they are coming to fight!" The fact that Tanya had changed her mind and meant no harm now meant nothing to them, of course.
Those words had been like the starting shot from a pistol that had caused an ensuing flurry of motion. According to Alice, there was little time, a week at the most, and we would need the help of friends, once again. This time, they would be asked to fight, because that was the only reason the Volturi were returning.
Within a few days, Tanya's house was overflowing with vampires there to support us. This time I knew them all-the Amazon coven, only part of the Egyptian coven, Benjamin and Tia, the Irish coven, and, for better or worse, the Romanian coven. We had hoped the nomads would show up, but on such short notice, no one could be sure.
The Volturi wives stayed away this time, but the three ancients had come with the full guard prepared for battle. Edward, Carlisle, Jasper, and Garrett had planned with Eleazar who knew the gifts of the guard and Alice who foresaw their plans.
As we prepared for the coming fight, I prepared myself to use my shield more heavily than I had since the last confrontation with the Volturi a half-century before. It was my job to protect all our minds. I feared for Nessie and Esme more than anyone else, and on the day of the fight, they would stay near me along with Zafrina, whose job it was, once again, to protect me and my shield with her visions.
I struggled with myself the day the battle began on a frost covered Alaskan terrain. I had to give everyone as much protection as possible. My shield had held-mighty iron armor in defense of every mind beneath its steadfast cover-but it would do nothing to protect those who drove forward to face savage physical attack, I knew. I had held my breath as Edward darted forth like a bullet from a gun-Demetri his target. I was vaguely aware of Kate, Tanya, Jasper, Emmett, and other members of my family as they darted forth on the frost covered tundra, dead set on their targets.
Aware of the significant danger to each of them, I had reached out with my shield-like fingers it obeyed and followed each member as a point of light, even as my brain concentrated on Edward. A smile had spread across my face as I had realized their minds were still protected! Demitri couldn't sense Edward's impending attack! Jane couldn't attack Kate! Emmett could attack Alec without being stripped of his senses, and Felix was no match for his attackers!
Victory burned like madness on my tongue. "Maybe we had a chance," my mind screamed, as I watched Tanya's feline figure crouch and spring onto Caius. He went from smug to cowering in an instant. His usual defiance replaced by terror, and all too soon, he went down-a sinking stone.
Sick, demented pleasure filled me as I watched Jane's body twist and convulse at Kate's touch. She finally had a taste of the cruelty she had so eagerly dealt out for so long. Seconds later, Kate had ripped the sadistic vampire's head from her shoulders and flung it aside before attacking her remaining torso.
It was over in mere minutes. Marcus had stood bewildered, yet, no one approached him. Aro had also stood, but his face was frozen in an expression of utter terror and rage at the carnage at his feet. Jane, Alec, Felix, Demitri-his precious guard lay strewn about in pieces.
The Volturi had underestimated the physical strength of our family. The mind games they always played were honed to perfection, but they had, in no way, been prepared for the physical onslaught that had awaited them here.
Suddenly, Aro's agonized cry at Caius' fall had brought the entire field of action to a halt. The sound of centuries of agony had split my ears and clawed at my cold dead heart, but to my surprise, there was no sorrow, no remorse within me for Aro or for the headless limbless torso of the cruelest of the three ancients.
"Damn him," I had thought bitterly, "Damn them all to the fieriest pits of hell!"
I remembered frantically seeking out the faces of my family -Edward-standing motionless and emotionless as stone, only a flicker of emotion in his tawny eyes when they met mine. Carlisle was the picture of utter sadness and loss that it had been brought down to a matter of them or us. I think he had known that, but he had been devastated, nonetheless. Esme had taken his hand to lead him away from the grisly scene.
Out of nowhere, as if by magic, Aro had a spear in one of his gnarled and papery-skinned white hands. His target-his physical target-that I couldn't protect with my shield, was Carlisle.
With a fearless and inhumane roar, Jacob, in his wolf form, had bounded forward to grip the spear and Aro's hand in his enormous jaws. With a snapping sound like a branch breaking from a tree, Aro's hand and the spear left his body. Before anyone could react, Edward, a blur of motion, had joined Jacob in an instant to bring Aro down.
Carlisle, sadder than ever, stared in disbelief from Esme's side as Jacob and Edward finished off the evil, vindictive vampire, ending the lopsided and unjust reign of the self proclaimed leaders of the vampire world.
The sole survivor of their ruling triangle had been Marcus. He had simply said, "Finally." As if he had suspected the outcome. He had gathered what was left of his bedraggled and maimed guard, given Carlisle, who looked absolutely devastated, a small apologetic smile, and taken the remaining guard away. To this day, the Volturi have never been heard from again.
When all was safe, the pieces were gathered and burned. The choking smell of burning incense had vaguely lit a human memory in my mind from long ago-burning newborns and Victoria in a fierce and deadly battle with Seth and Edward over my then human body.
Nessie had been frightened, especially for her father and her Jacob. She had touched my face and shared her fear then her joy that we were finally safe.
It had taken a long time for our world to recover from that devastating battle, but no one really seemed to miss the Volturi and their warped brand of ‘justice.'
Carlisle overcame his feelings of sadness at the loss of life and destruction eventually. As he did, his gentle and compassionate nature drew others to him. Carlisle and Esme especially were able to demonstrate love and understanding to all of our kind who came our way. Many were turned to our ‘vegetarian' way of life. Some even joined our family, while others began families of their own.
In many ways, the Cullens took up where the Volturi left off, although in a far different and better manner, without even trying. The Cullen family became the new source of guidance and leadership for the vampire world. Things had never been more peaceful.
Emmett, Jasper and Edward served the same purpose as the Volturi guard, when needed, but with less fatal results. Carlisle's gentle nature along with Emmett and Jasper's natural ferocity and Alice and Edward's special talents were usually enough to encourage any wrongdoer in the right direction.
So, peaceful was the dominant description of our lives over the past few decades. I'd had enough excitement in my existence to last me three eternities! Our family remained happily intact.
Love and a sense of family have kept us all together in a single home most of the time.
Renesmee is the ribbon that has woven itself through every heart and bound us all, including Jacob, together into one big happy family with an eternal bond stronger than any words can ever describe. I guess family is good, but somehow it just doesn't seem strong enough to describe us. The same goes for love. I guess we will just have to settle on the nameless feeling that causes my body to shiver at the thought of what we all share.
One hundred years later, and we are back in Forks, together, where it all started so long ago. Edward kisses my neck as if he can read my mind. Nessie waves from her place by the river and Jacob follows suit. A sigh escapes my lips. Yes, Bella Cullen, you have had a happy life.