“....Bem-vindos a bordo, Senhoras e Senhores Deputados...
e obrigado por voar vias Aéreas Brasileiras....”
My Portuguese was never up to speed with Edward's, but I would recognize the voice inflections of a "welcome aboard" speech in any language. I understood the pilot to say we’re on schedule and that’s what counts.
"Hmm," I mused as we awaited take-off, "all the years of progress, yet Edward and I still prefer a 747 to transport us from one continent to another." Although there have been unfathomable changes in communication, travel, certainly in the field of medicine and the inner-workings of mortals, there is much to appreciate about the past.
As I felt the wheels leave the runway, thoughts of the life we were leaving behind gave way to scattered memories of Washington's Olympic Peninsula, and Forks....
Edward caressed my hand in his, earphones on, already lost in his music as the sights of Rio de Janeiro disappeared beneath a thin layering of clouds. I faintly heard the lullaby he’d composed for me early in our relationship. Unaware of his musical talents, I was moved to tears as he played it on the piano the first time he took me to his home. That was the day I officially met his family - his vampire family. 'Hard to believe how unnerving the word 'vampire' was at the time - even harder to believe that it was a century ago.
Memories of existing in a human world are clouded, but some remain with vivid clarity. That day spent with Edward lingers in my mind as if it was yesterday. After introducing me to everyone and giving me a tour of their spectacular house, he led me up the staircase to his room, into the private sanctuary that held the most personal, human facets of "Edward Cullen."
Once, on a special occasion, I allowed him to explore my safely archived mental journal of that pivotal day. As he read my thoughts, he came to the moment I’d told him he wasn’t as scary as he thought - the moment that was instantly followed with his mischievous smile and the subsequent warning, "You really shouldn’t have said that." My account of him hurling us both across his room onto the couch was quite different than his, for a variety of reasons. He failed to recall that when humans 'get the pee scared out of them,' it can all too easily become a matter-of-fact. Somehow I held it, but when he realized how miserably close I had come, he suddenly broke into hysterical laughter. I, on the other hand, was not laughing.
Semi-composed, he locked my wrists behind him and kissed me apologetically between suppressed chuckles. How could I possibly hold a grudge long enough to be effective? He was, is, and will forever be the most beautiful, angelic being this side of heaven.
The sweetness of his breath across my skin has never faded; the perfume of his scent still as alluring as the day he first spoke to me in our high school Biology class...his incredible, penetrating eyes still so hypnotic that I become helplessly lost in them. When I'm in his arms, nothing else matters; nothing else exists. All good things come to an end? Not for us. Not for Carlisle and Esme. Not for Alice and Jasper. Not for Emmett and Rosalie. Dreams can live forever. And mine is beside me as we float peacefully toward the horizon from 33,000 feet above the earth.
Visits to Forks were limited after we moved to New Hampshire to attend Dartmouth. There was little time for anything but studying during those years and family mostly visited us....
I remember standing in front of his house the day Edward and I were moving. Charlie was bursting with pride because I'd been accepted into an Ivy League college; but that day his face reflected a sadness that is forever etched in my memory. He handed Renesmee to Edward, reluctantly pulling her small arms from around his neck. As he and I exchanged goodbye hugs for the third time, he choked out the words, "Edward...you...take good care of my girls, now." He was going to be lost without us. He might even miss Edward, I thought. His fondness for Edward had become slightly detectable, though he hadn't admitted it.
I never saw Charlie cry before that cold, gray morning as we backed out of the drive. I stared into the side mirror and watched him still standing there until he was no longer in sight. As we passed through town, it sank even deeper that I was leaving behind everyone and everything that was familiar. "Home..." my voice broke as I tried to speak. "I - I'm going to miss it. I'm really going to miss...my dad."
Edward put his arm around me and held me close to his side. He softly whispered, "Everything will be okay, Mrs. Cullen. Like Charlie said, I'll take care of you, love - very good care of you and our little Renesmee."
Jacob, with the exception of leaving Billy, seemed completely comfortable with idea of relocating. After all, he'd roamed as a wolf between Washington and Canada for how long before Edward and I returned from our honeymoon, before Renesmee's birth and him imprinting on her? Call of the wild. That's always been in Jacob's blood, wolf, or no wolf. He was up for going anywhere there were forests to explore, and crisp, clean air to breathe in. He was fiercely loyal to Sam, Seth, and the others of his kind, but Jake would've traded anything or anyone to be close to Renesmee and me.
I hoped Sue Clearwater's ever-increasing presence would help take up some slack for my dad. She needed a purpose, and if anyone needed a keeper, it was Charlie. Eating his own cooking would eventually kill him, so I reassured myself that with her help and some time, he'd be okay.
Being the police chief conditioned Charlie for handling a crisis. Then I came back into his life. I'd been scared senseless that my marriage to Edward, our "disappearance" due to my "mysterious illness," and the physical changes I'd taken on when he saw me again would be too much for him. I was no longer human - something he wouldn't even try to wrap his mind around. He lived honestly and without secrets, and I defied those fundamental values. I assured myself if he made it past all that, the clincher would be discovering he had a granddaughter three months after my wedding. He'd freak.
Man, I owed Jacob. Was there ever a time from the moment I arrived in Forks that he hadn't come through for me? He'd proven himself in countless ways, but never more so than when he explained the need to know facts to my dad. Charlie didn't 'freak.' He came frighteningly close, but somehow found the will to focus on the few things that still made sense.
The power of love has always amazed me, whether between a husband and wife, as Edward and I share; parent and child, which I have experienced as a daughter and a mother; or the love of friend for friend, like it was between Jacob and me in our human existence - the way it remains, though both of us are forever changed.
Time stands still for no one, if you're mortal; but for immortals, time is eternal....
The Cullens relocated a few years after Edward and I left for college. Eventually, the people of Forks would notice they weren't aging alongside everyone else. (The world still isn't ready for that kind of truth.) We wouldn't live in Forks again until five generations had passed. My high school friends, Mike, Jessica, Angela, Ben...they'd all be gone - like Renée.
What I'd give to see Renée - my loving, erratic, hair-brained mother.... The last time I saw her was on my wedding day. The following year, she was killed in a car accident while on the road with her new husband, Phil. I was devastated. ....So was Charlie. Losing the people you love - that's the downside when you can live forever.
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create." - Albert Einstein
Edward earned his PhD in Neuroscience and graduated summa cum laude, which was no surprise to anyone. With his unwavering support, I ended up with a PhD in Genetics, which probably surprised everyone.
At graduation, Carlisle's usual state of calm caved to unrestrained joy. I'd never seen him that excited. Esme was overwhelmed with emotion, minus the tears that would have surfaced had it been possible. Rosalie, having discovered her softer side since Renesmee's birth, hugged us and offered her sincerest congratulations. Emmett jumped from side-to-side, taking jabs at Edward, hoping to entice him into a sparring match on the lush, green Dartmouth grounds - so typically Emmett. 'Gotta love ‘im.
My dad, even Billy Black and Seth, made it. Being that Charlie was never one for emotional displays, he gave me a wink and said, "I always knew you had it in you, kid. I'm proud of you, Bells."
Alice and Jasper were in Europe...they traveled - a lot - but called to congratulate us. I missed Alice terribly....
Edward met me half-way as I tiptoed to kiss him. I spoke softly in his ear, telling him I was saving my congratulations for a more private setting. Throughout the evening, I had to give him warning glances to stop acting anxious as we shared quality time with the family. I hoped they hadn't noticed. Emmett had said it took him and Rosalie ten years to reach a normal balance in their attraction to each other, and we were definitely still in the honeymoon phase of our marriage. Everyone opted to stay in a nearby hotel, which gave us some alone time. Perfect. Edward was very happy. I was very happy – and as always, morning came much too quickly.
Routine medical practice no longer challenged Carlisle. Shortly before Edward and I graduated, he and Esme established a research lab in Brazil. We soon joined them. By combining knowledge and skill, we made unparalleled discoveries that even the most capable scientists have yet to unravel. It would be understated to say the results were astounding. (Admittedly, we had time and a heightened learning ability on our side, but we made a great team.)
Renesmee grew to be a beautiful, gifted young woman. She inherited her father's looks, Charlie's sense of humor, and mirrors Carlisle's calm demeanor. She is amazing. She earned a PhD in Biological and Biomedical Sciences from Harvard, and was a tremendous asset to us. Her passions: family, work, and Jacob.
We traveled extensively between South America, the Yucatan, and the Amazon region, learning all we could about stem cell capabilities, the regenerative characteristics of retinoic acid, and DNA alteration. We learned from the hydra, axolotls, and other regenerative life forms. We experimented with anything and everything that had the ability to thoroughly and rapidly regenerate new tissue - a new body, a new head, a completely and correctly restored nervous system - fascinating stuff. The breakthroughs we uncovered were unbelievable even to Carlisle, who had studied medical science since the late 1600s. We tweaked and tested our theories until perfecting the process of DNA manipulation and cell regeneration. Our discoveries made it possible for Charlie to still be here. It’s why Jake and the other Quileute wolves are as good as ever. Correction: Better.
It was imperative that we kept our work from the Volturi. Had Aro and his henchmen known, it could have meant our deaths. Although they weren't as powerful as they once were, they were still capable of search-and-destroy missions.
The Volturi's multi-millennia reign weakened after they paid us a visit in Forks. They came under the guise of justice, but were exposed as ruthless murderers. The former Volturi leaders, Vladimir and Stefan, were enraged as they witnessed, as we all did, the unprovoked slaughter of one of the Denali coven. The same fate awaited the rest of us, but we fought back, forcing them to back down. I've never been as terrified - or relieved - as I was that day.
One thing I know for sure: Watch out for ticked off Romanians on a mission.
Hatred for Aro, Marco and Caius, drove Vladimir and Stefan toward vengeance and reclaiming what was rightfully theirs: The Volturi throne. With Jasper's military expertise and Alice's gift of seeing future events, they combined strengths to orchestrate a coup that would span four decades before coming to fruition. The Denali, Irish, and European covens pledged their alliance. Others joined them: The Amazons; Benjamin and Tia, of the Egyptian coven; Emmett and Rosalie, and anyone else who had a score to settle. Allies weren't hard to find.
Sometimes good guys do finish last. Vladimir and Stefan re-established a fair judicial system that was non-existent for two thousand years. Carlisle, Edward, Jasper and Emmett accepted when asked to aid in restructuring the Volturi government. They're, like, Supreme Court justices of the vampire world now. So, yeah, we're into politics.
Tensions were escalating in Europe at the time Edward and I graduated, but it wasn't until after the smoke cleared (billowing plumes of thick, purple smoke) that we learned what had prevented Alice and Jasper from joining us. They couldn't risk telling us anything for our protection as well as theirs. We thought they traveled the world because they enjoyed it. Actually, I think they did - what's more lethal than a rebel vampire? I was nearly the victim of one myself, but he didn't stand a chance against the Cullens.
Hearing Edward's voice as he answered Carlisle's call brought me back to the present. He was letting us know that he and Esme would be arriving in Seattle within minutes of us. Rosalie and Emmett would pick us up at the airport. They'd arrived yesterday with Renesmee and Jacob. Charlie, Alice, and Jasper made it in two days before.
"Edward? How long before we land?" It had been a long-awaited reunion, even by vampire time. I was desperate for everyone to be together again.
"Ten more minutes, love. Are you excited?"
"Does a werewolf howl in the forest?" Ugh, I can't believe I said that. "You're laughing at me again."
"And you're very observant," Edward quipped back.
I waited. I fidgeted. I counted backwards from a hundred and silently hummed the "Star Spangled Banner...."
We've landed! We're in Seattle! Finally! "Edward," I begged, "can we please, just this once, do something completely vampirish and get off this plane any faster?"
I heard a low rumble in his chest as he jokingly said, "Down, girl! You've waited all this time, what's another two minutes?"
"Fine, then," I snapped. "I'll try to behave, but I'm not making any promises!"
"Esme! Carlisle! Rosalie, Emmett!” I tried to restrain myself as we maneuvered through the crowded airport to reach them. I wished I could do the Moses thing and part the sea of people between us. By the time we reached them, I was ecstatic.
I'd been anticipating this day far too long. "Tears - I need tears! It isn't possible to hold in this much happiness!"
"Edward, we need to leave before I do something crazy. Can’t we send for our bags? Forks is calling!" Everyone laughed as we headed toward the exit doors.
Esme had devised an ingenious plan to ensure that the Cullens’ house and the fairytale cottage they'd given us were impeccably maintained until our return. A little dusting by the cleaning service before we arrived and it would be as though we'd never left...as if a hundred years hadn't passed by.
Just a few more miles.... If my heart could beat, it would explode out of my chest. Edward cupped his hand around my cheek and pulled me to him. I closed my eyes, envisioning the Cullens’ grand house - the house whose walls of glass opened to the rich green forest surrounding it. Those same wonderful glass walls that, despite their translucency, hold safely within them some of the most treasured memories I can recall. I’m going home. This is one of the happiest days of my life!
"Bella, Bella..." Edward gently nudged me. "I thought you might enjoy the drive up to the house."
Something hauntingly familiar was overtaking my thoughts. “What’s all this?”
"Mm, what's what?" Edward squeezed my hand as he continued looking out of the car window.
Thousands of twinkle lights were wrapped around the trees along the winding driveway - white satin bows? "What's going on, Edward? What aren’t you telling me? Edward?"
He silenced my questions with a slow, intimate kiss that lasted until we arrived in front of the house.
"Mmm...wh - what I was saying?"
Smiling a half-crooked smile, he said, "I have strictest instructions to cover your eyes until you’re inside."
“Let me guess, Alice?”
"She's missed you, Bella. Be nice."
"Other than coming home, is there some occasion I've let slip..." By now, my entire being was cringing.
“I FORGOT OUR WEDDING ANNIVERSARY?!” Had work and moving back home been that distracting?
“Oh, Edward, I - I’m sorry! How can you ever forgive me?"
He pulled me firmly to him. “Forgive you...hmm...” He bit his lower lip and smiled. “The cottage in the woods - meet me there at twilight, and I’m sure to think of something.”
He kissed me with such passion I nearly collapsed in his arms. All I could think or feel was how much I wanted him - but he reminded me our family and friends were waiting to celebrate with us.
“By the way, you’re forgiven.”
....And as his lips brushed softly across mine, he whispered, "Happy 100th, love."