Chapter Twelve: Forgiveness

By the time that Alice, Jasper and I got on an airplane to Anchorage, I was emotionally and perhaps even mentally exhausted. It had been so difficult not to just bolt after Bella a dozen times between the hours from when she left and when we met with the wolves, but I had somehow been able to be strong for my family and had made it through. Not that the meeting with the wolves had gone badly, because it hadn’t. Honestly, it had gone better than even I had expected.

After their initial shock of not seeing Bella with us and accepting that she had gone back to Alaska because she missed our friends there, things had actually gone quite well. They hadn’t exactly given us permission to stay (in fact they had stipulated that leaving the area was imperative) but Sam had told us that Bella had impressed upon them all that everyone makes mistakes, and we had been forgiven for ours to a point. As long as we left the area immediately and promised never to come back, they were going to keep both our secret and the treaty intact. It was what I had expected, but still a nice note to leave on. That is, it would have been if Sam hadn’t taken me aside to speak with me privately after they had ordered us to leave.

“You love her, don’t you?” Sam had asked me the moment we were alone together.

“Who?” I asked, blatantly playing dumb so that I didn’t have to have this conversation. I was desperate to get to Seattle and be on the first possible plane to Anchorage. It was possible that I would beat Bella there, but that could only help my plan. I had my mother's ring in my pocket for the second time in twenty four hours and this time I knew exactly what I was going to say to her. Sam was holding me up, and it was making me irritable enough that any goodwill I felt towards him for letting us leave was quickly dimming.

“Chief Swan’s daughter,” Sam said seriously. “I could tell by the way you looked at her last week. It was the thing that made this decision for me. You made a mistake, but you tried to make the best of it and you ended up finding the best thing in your life.”

By the end of his ‘speech’ I knew (from both his thoughts and his spoken words) that he was talking about himself and not about me, but the fact that he saw his situation in mine wasn’t a bad thing. I could understand and appreciate that. “Yes,” I admitted hurriedly, hoping my rushed words would let him know how impatient I was to get going, “I love her, more than anything in this world, and honestly I would do anything to keep her alive and happy.”

“Then don’t make any more mistakes with her. I know you didn’t send her away. I could tell that something happened before we arrived. There was too much confusion and tension in your family to chalk it all up to the meeting with us,” Sam said wisely. “If I were you, I wouldn’t waste any time in fixing things. Give her my best will you? She is one of a kind.”

I was surprised, even though I had known where this was going. Sam had actually taken me aside to give me advice? It had been the strangest part of my very long day, and that was saying something. “Thank you, I think she is pretty special myself,” I told him, attempting to be civil while I was dying to get away. “Now, if I don’t leave right this second, I might not be able to fix things at all.”

“Go get her,” Sam said, a rare smile breaking out on his face.

We shook hands then and went our separate ways. Within ten minutes we had arrived back at the house, packed it up into moving vans, and Carlisle and Esme had left for New York while Alice, Jasper and I had opted for Seattle. I had promised my parents that like Rosalie and Emmett were planning to do, I would meet them in New York in a few weeks and Bella would be at my side. It was the only option that I could give myself.

And as I sat beside Alice and Jasper, waiting for the plane to take off, I couldn’t help but think about Sam and the Guard and the turbulence of the day. When Bella and I had watched the sun coming up over the mountains earlier that morning, snuggled up on my sofa, I could never had imagined that so many things could happen in a twenty four hour period. Not only had I nearly proposed, Bella had attempted to seduce me (and almost succeeded), Tanya and Irina had shown up on a pretense of helping, Tanya had then attempted to seduce me, Bella had seen us in a compromising position and had fled from me with a broken heart and then not only had the wolves kept the treaty intact, Sam had taken me aside to wish me the best with Bella. I couldn’t have dreamed up a day like this if I had tried.

“So, has our decision to fly into Alaska changed the future?” I asked, teasing Alice with a forced levity. I knew that it had in certain ways: how could it not have? The question that I was really asking, and that Alice understood, was whether or not seeing me right off the bat when she arrived would give me an advantage or be a weakness.

Alice sat back thoughtfully, her hair fanning out on the headrest behind her. “It depends on whether or not she knows you are there,” she said with an ever widening smile. I had to grin too, the plan that was building in her head was something that I could definitely get behind.

“After all, my scent is all over the house,” I said smugly, “she won’t realize I’m there until Kate has already had hours calming her down...”

“... and then,” Alice said, continuing my thought, “she will be completely swept off her feet.”

I paused as the plan formulated between us, even though we sat in near silence. The most important question was hanging on my tongue, and I wasn’t sure that I should ask it, but I was unable to stop myself. “Will she say yes?”

Alice didn’t answer, she just have me a smug little smile and shook her head. “No fair peeking into my head for that answer, Edward,” she teased, “that is something you have to find out in the proper time and place.”

I leaned back against my seat and closed my eyes, even though I couldn’t sleep. “Well, you can’t fault a guy for asking.”

The only response I received was Alice’s joyful laughter.

When we arrived at Carmen and Eleazar’s home, it was nearing eight o’clock in the morning. Even if Bella had run straight here without stopping, which, given her mental state, was debatable, she wouldn’t arrive for another few hours, maybe one or two in the afternoon at the earliest.

Carmen came running out to join us, her eyes belying their worry. Before they could speak, even though I already knew the answer, I had to ask. “Is Bella here yet?”

Carmen shook her head. “No, we haven’t seen her since we left on our hunt. After Kate got your call, she just said she had to go and took off. She didn’t even take time to explain what was going on.”

“Good, we need to talk and I hoped that we would have time to set everything up before she arrives,” I said.

“What happened?” Carmen asked the moment I was done talking. “Carlisle called again after Kate left and said that you three were on your way. What is going on?” She seemed absolutely frantic. I knew how close she and Bella were and it pained me to see her like this. Before I could answer she shook her head and ushered us into the house. “No, it can wait until we get inside. We can talk about this in the living room where it's warm.”

By the time we were all situated in the living room, seated on assorted chairs and sofas, Carmen was wringing her hands with worry, and I could tell in her thoughts that the worry extended to all of her children, Bella included. I felt guilty for what I would have to tell her about Tanya and Irina, but I hadn’t been the one to make the choices they had made. The sisters had ruined things all on their own, and unfortunately one of the side effects would be a brokenhearted Carmen.

The woman I looked at as a beloved cousin was looking at me for answers that I wasn’t sure how to give. How did you tell someone that their family members had disgraced themselves, that they had hurt someone else that they cared about? I wracked my brain trying to figure out how to say it, but luckily for me I didn’t have to because Alice jumped in and saved me from the burden.

“It was Tanya and Irina,” Alice said sadly, knowing how hard it would be for Carmen to accept. “Tanya snuck into Edward’s room and attempted to seduce him. Bella was supposed to be with me, but Irina somehow got to her first. She convinced Bella that Edward was lying to her, that he didn’t really want her and that once he was done with her he would go back to Tanya. Since Bella had recently discovered that we were keeping something from her, this hit a nerve in her. She went to confront him and well...” she trailed off uncomfortably.

“Bella found the two of us in a compromising position,” I said through clenched teeth. “She didn’t even give me a chance to explain before she left.”

“No!” Carmen said, putting her hands to her mouth as her eyes grew wide in horror, “I knew my girls had left Denali, but why would they do that to my sweet Isabella?”

“Tanya couldn’t take no for an answer,” Alice said shrugging her delicate shoulders, “If she couldn’t have Edward, she couldn’t handle Bella having him either.”

Eleazar appeared in the doorway, looking concerned. “Did you say that our girls showed up at Carlisle’s home?” he asked seriously.

Carmen turned to watch her husband walk into the room and sit on the arm of the chair she was occupying. “Eleazar? I can’t believe they did this,” she cried, putting a hand on his arm and clinging to him.

“Edward, where is Isabella?” he asked me, “What did my daughters say to her?”

I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing would come out. This was the first time I was so upset that I couldn’t even speak. Instead I turned to Alice, my eyes begging her to say what I couldn’t. She seemed to understand because she patted my shoulder and gave me a pitying look. “As I told Carmen, Tanya and Irina must have had some sort of plan. Tanya attempted to seduce Edward and Irina goaded Bella, telling her that Edward would never stay faithful to her...” she trailed off with another delicate shrug, “When Bella went to ask him about what Irina had said, she found the two of them wrapped in each others arms. Tanya attacked him, knocking him to floor at just the right moment for Bella to see them together.”

Carmen gave me a sympathetic look, but Eleazar looked shocked and pained. “She was obviously devastated by that,” Carmen said with a sigh, “I can understand why she ran. She needed time to think. That must have been when you called for Kate.”

“I wanted to go after her myself, but Alice told me that I would make things worse. Watching her leave and knowing that her faith in me was completely broken was the worst moment of my life,” I said in a choked whisper, looking down at my hands that were splayed in my lap. It didn’t hurt any less now than it had yesterday afternoon. I just hoped that by the time Bella arrived, she would be willing to listen and understand my story. I regretted now that I hadn’t proposed when I had first thought of it, but that was going to be remedied as soon as I could manage. Now it was time to get everything in motion. Luckily for me, everyone here loved Bella as much as I did.

“So, instead of letting her wander alone, I called Kate as soon as I could. She intercepted her near the Canadian/Washington border and has been trying to calm her down ever since. I knew that Kate was the only person Bella would trust,” Alice said, trying to fill in all of the missing holes for Carmen and Eleazar.

“That explains about Kate’s disappearance, but where did Tanya and Irina go? Why are they not with you?” Carmen asked, her eyes wide with concern. Even though her daughters had done something terrible, she still loved them and worried about them.

Alice’s face fell into another grim frown. “They decided to spend some time traveling. It was in their best interests as well as ours.”

There was a painful, aching silence as everyone digested the information that Alice and I had relayed to them. Finally Carmen spoke up, her voice strong and determined. “So, Alice must have seen that Kate would bring Bella back here. What is your plan for when they arrive?”

Alice perked up at this, standing up and grinning at everyone. “Carmen, Eleazar, would you mind giving us the house for the afternoon? I’m not sure exactly which future will come to be, but I know that Edward and Bella will need their privacy.”

Carmen smiled at me, her eyes soft with warmth and understanding. “Anything you need, Edward, and it is yours.”

I smiled back at her, a sudden idea flashing through my mind. “That is good to know, because there are a few things that I might need...”

“...Edward, you need to relax. When Kate gets back with Bella you need to be ready,” Alice told me as I paced around the living room.

I ran a hand through my hair, mussing it into tangles. I had never been so worried in my life, not even during the three days I had waited to know if Bella was going to make it through the transformation. My entire future, my whole life, was riding on the question of whether or not I could convince Bella to listen to me. Of course, if Alice was right, getting her to listen to me wasn’t the problem: it was saying just the right thing. Everything was riding on this.

“What if I mess up? I can’t live without her,” I said shortly, feeling so full of energy that I couldn’t sit still. It wasn’t a problem I usually had. Bella brought out my human side in ways that I hadn’t felt in years.

“She feels the same way,” Alice said sagely. “It’s why she was so hurt when she saw you with Tanya.”

I felt a small burst of hope within me. Maybe it wasn’t too late to fix things after all. This led to an idea, a brilliant idea, one that I was almost certain would work. “Thank you for that,” I said with a soft smile. “It’s the only thing that is keeping me going. But right now I have a small problem. I need you to ask Jasper if everything here can be relocated to the music room.”

Alice’s eyes grew wide as my change of plans changed the vision in her head. “Oh...” she whispered softly, a tender smile flitting across her lips, “That is perfect.”

With that reaction to guide me, I left the front parlor, rushed across the house to the music room, sat down at the piano and stretched out my fingers. If Bella was looking for just the right words, I wouldn’t say anything at all. I would just let the music remind her of how I felt. If the song that I composed couldn’t do that, I hadn’t done a good enough job.

While I began playing, reacquainting myself with the piece, Alice and Jasper began bringing in items that we had set up in the living room. “You know, I think I agree with you on this,” Alice said as she pulled the curtains closed in all of the windows in the room, “playing her song is definitely the way to soften her up. Also, the music room is much more remote. Why didn’t I think of this to begin with?”

“You can’t always be the one with all the bright ideas,” I teased her, feeling the tension drain out of me and into the song as I played, “you have to leave a few for the rest of us sometimes.”

Alice laughed and kissed my cheek as she danced past me on her way to get the rest of the items that would be set up for Bella’s enjoyment. I felt like laughing myself. My entire outlook on this plan had changed the minute I decided to play a song for her. It was probably because I began to personalize it and make it about the two of us and not just any seduction attempt. Though, by calling it a seduction attempt I was cheapening it. It was more like the most elaborate apology slash proposal that had ever been attempted. I just hoped that it worked.

Alice and Jasper had just finished putting the final touches on the room when I heard Kate’s thoughts screaming at me from the edge of the woods surrounding their home. I instantly stopped playing the piano, stopped breathing, stopped moving entirely and focused my entire being on Kate and Bella.

“She is still upset, but after I explained what I think happened, she seemed to have calmed down quite a bit,” Kate told me, relief in her thoughts. “Thankfully she doesn’t seem to realize that anything is going on and since she asked me if she could call you guys when we got to the house, I think she wants to apologize for running off so suddenly.”

The tension left my body, but I still didn’t move an inch. Any little thing could ruin this moment and I needed it to be absolutely perfect in every way. When I heard the doorway crack open and the hushed voices of Kate and Bella, I felt as though my frozen heart were about to jump out of my chest. An entire day had passed since I had seen Bella and our parting had been the stuff of nightmares. I turned my face upward and prayed for the first time since becoming a vampire. I prayed desperately for the chance to redeem myself in Bella’s eyes, for the chance to fix what had been broken. I prayed for the hope that she still loved me.

Thankfully, Kate seemed to have sensed that we had moved everything from the living room to the music room because I heard the two girls walk down the hallway toward the door that I was waiting behind. “I’ll go and get you the phone,” I heard Kate say, and I knew that it was time to put my plan into action.

I took a deep breath, placed my fingers on the piano keys and began to play Bella’s song. I heard her gasp of surprise a moment before she cracked open the door and then gasped again. “Edward?” she breathed, stepping into the room with wide and wondrous eyes, “how... why...?”

She put a hand to her mouth as she surveyed the room, and I knew that I had been right to play her song for her as a welcome home. I didn’t turn to look at her as she walked around the room, taking in the bouquets of flowers, lupine and tulips, that were both in vases and had petals strewn across the floor. There were candles of all shapes and sizes, both in candlesticks and in glass jars on every available surface. When Alice had closed all the windows the room had become pitch black, lit only by the flames of the candles. It was a romantic scene, but one that wasn’t overwhelming. It was just a show of my feelings.

The notes flowed from the piano, ringing triumphantly around the room as though they were celebrating our love just by being played. By the time I got to the end of the song, Bella had sat down shakily on the piano bench next to me, her shoulders heaving in tearless sobs. “I want to explain what happened with Tanya,” I began the moment the last notes faded from the room,“I know what it looked like, but I swear that I wasn’t a willing participant....”

Bella stopped me, pressing her fingers to my lips. I looked up into her eyes and saw all the love in the world contained within them. I closed my eyes and bowed my head, humbled both by her apparent forgiveness.

“Kate and I talked for a long time, and she told me that even though she wasn’t there when it happened, she knew that there was no way that what I saw could be the truth. She explained all about Tanya’s obsession with you through the years, so you don’t need to apologize.” She took a deep breath, steeling herself. “But I do. I’m sorry I ran away like that,” she whispered, pushing her face into my neck and breathing in deeply, taking in my scent as though she had been away from me for weeks or months instead of a day. “I’m sorry I ran away without even listening to what you had to say in your defense. It’s just, when I saw Tanya on top of you, when Irina’s horrible words seemed to be true... Well, I was scared that maybe everything you had told me, everything that we had shared, was a lie. I couldn’t deal with that.”

I took my chances and turned to her, taking her face in my hands so that I could look at her in the candlelight. Damned if she wasn’t more beautiful in that light than she had ever been before. “Bella, I have never lied to you, not once,” I told her seriously. “I may not have told you every detail from my past, or withheld something that I thought might worry you unnecessarily, but nothing I have ever told you has been a lie. If you thought that I didn’t love you or want to spend forever with you... well, you are insane. I especially don’t want you thinking that I was ever interested in Tanya as anything more than a cousin. I never loved her, never desired her. You are the only one I have ever cared for this way. You are my entire life, everything I want or need. I need you to believe that.”

Bella laughed, but I could hear the sobs in it. “Can you ever forgive me for doubting you?” she asked tearfully.

I pulled her against my chest and buried my face in her hair. I breathed in her scent just as she had done with me. Honestly, a day was much, much too long to go without her. Even if she didn’t agree to marry me, I knew now that I would never be able to let her leave me. “Only if you forgive me for what you saw. I know it wasn’t my fault, but I feel guilty for not just tossing her out of my room the moment I knew what she was trying to do. I thought that I could convince her to give up her ridiculous need to have me at any cost. I should have known it was impossible, but I wanted to do it for us, so that we could have a future together without her interference,” I explained, squeezing her tight against me. It felt so good to hold her again.

“You didn’t have to explain, but I’m glad you did,” she admitted with that same half-laugh, half-sob, “and honestly, I think I could forgive you for anything right now. Just as long as you never let me walk away from you again.”

I kissed the top of her head. “I will never, never let that happen. In fact, that is something I wanted to talk to you about, but not before I answer any questions that you may have for me. Anything at all.”

She pulled away from me then, looking into my eyes with surprise and pleasure. “You would really do that for me? Tell me anything I wanted to know?”

I laughed and nodded. “Bella, I love you more than anything in the world. I want you to trust me, so yes, you can ask me anything your little heart desires.”

A soft smile crept onto her lips and she shook her head. “If you want to tell me, you can, but I don’t need to know about your past, or about any past you may have had with Tanya. I already know the most important thing,” she said and curled back up against my chest.

“Oh, what is that?” I asked, touched that she would trust me that way. It wasn’t something that I expected, but it was something that I appreciated. It meant that we could have a future together.

“The fact that I love you and nothing is going to change that, and knowing that you love me back... it is all that I really need to know,” she said honestly.

I didn’t even know how to respond to that. It was the best gift I had ever been given. It made me want to give her something just as good in return. I decided that with our declarations of love, with this new trust between us, it was the perfect time to propose a formal union. So, I moved from her side and dropped to one knee, pulling the ring box out of my pocket and placing it on the piano bench next to her.

“Bella, I’m glad you said that, because I’m going to do something I’ve been wanting to do for weeks now. Honestly, I don’t really know how to start this, because I’ve never felt this way in my entire life. I know that we have only known each other for a few months, I know that our relationship is still new and fresh... but for us that won’t ever change,” I began nervously, feeling my hand shaking as I opened the ring box to show Bella my mother’s ring. “Carlisle once told me that emotional changes don’t happen very often in a vampires life. We can learn, but forming new attachments isn’t something that comes easy. Once we feel those changes, they remain with us forever. Bella, I love you now and I will love you forever, more and more with every day that passes. I know that you don’t particularly like the idea of marriage, and if you wanted to wait, I would wait forever for you. But to me, marriage is more than just a piece of paper that says we are formally bound to each other. It is a promise, a vow that we make to each other, to love each other, honor each other, and cherish each other.”

I realized I was rambling, but I couldn’t seem to help myself. The words had just come pouring out of me in a flood of emotions. Before I could embarrass myself any further, I decided to get to the point. “Bella, I need to know... will you do me the honor of making that vow? Will you marry me?”

I held my breath as I waited for her answer. If she said no... well, I would accept that and I would stay with her. What we had was more important that losing her. I would even be willing to stretch my moral code... maybe. It would depend on what she said, if she ever answered me.

Bella took her own sweet time in answering my question. She looked down at the ring, at her hand, at me, at the room all decked in candles and flowers. She even looked like she wanted to cry at one point, but finally she stepped away from the piano bench and knelt down next to me, taking my mother's ring box and placing it in my hand. “If I say yes, will you travel the world with me? Would you be willing to give up the permanence of a home for me? At least for a few years?” she asked, her eyes sparkling with happiness.

I let out the breath I had been holding and forced myself not to pull her into my arms, shout for joy and spin her around the room. “Bella, my only love, I would follow you anywhere. You are never going to get rid of me again.”

She smiled then and moved closer to me, wrapping her arms around my neck. “Edward, I love you more than I ever thought possible. Of course I will marry you.”

I couldn’t resist any longer, I pulled her into my arms and kissed her as though I was never going to let her go... and I never really would.
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