Epilogue: Sunshine

Epilogue: Sunshine

We are calling it theft, as if he could pluck open your ribs like cello strings, pocket your breasts, steal what makes your heart flutter and tack its wings to his wall. Some days you will feel dirty! Some days you'll remember how hard it is to breathe in public, like your heart beat is climbing to the attic of your throat only to suicide itself out on the pavement. But know this: the person who did this to you is broken, not you.

- Sierra DeMulder, Paper Dolls

It's a sunny day for Forks. Time has passed; weeks have blurred into months. I'm sitting by the Cullens' pool reading Northanger Abbey for the fourteenth time. The pool is perhaps their one sign that they came from Florida. Rainy old Forks renders awesome things like pools unnecessary.

Esme comes outside to tell Edward and I that she was just on the phone to Renee. Esme seems really excited about my mom's ideas for this summer's vacation spot - I think we all need a break from that caravan park, too. We might go somewhere with snow this summer, just to switch things up a bit.

Emmett and I could tag team and make Edward into a snowman. My fingers itch for my camera already as I imagine a picture of Edward's carrot nose. I smile as Esme heads back into the house, loving the feeling of the sun on my skin; so warm, so nice. I move my feet through the crystalline water. My cherry-red toenail polish becomes a cerise blur as I smooth my feet around. The sunlight flashes quickly across the aqua water.

Edward motions for me to come into the water, his translucent-green eyes alive and reflective. "Hop in! You know you want to…." he calls teasingly.

I shake my head in reply, my smile deepening. The water's cold. Besides, who was I to miss the chance to finally stop being mistaken for someone without a pulse? I strike a cute pose, flaunting my navy-blue bikini.

"You know you would rather watch me sunbathe, loverboy," I drawl back to him.

Edward doesn't have much of a response to that. I grin.

My life has seemed to have changed for the better over these past couple of months. Sure, there's future stuff about school, careers, college, birthdays, marriage, babies and happily ever afters to be said, but blah, blah, blah. That's the stuff that fills your life while you're living it.

I don't even have to summarize what my circumstances are in regards to my old friends. They're no longer even in my life, thank God; though, Jake's still awesome. I'm also on my way to getting a 5.0 GPA. Renee calls every week, though, which has been new and unexpectedly motherly. Phil doesn't try to again. Since that call, Charlie and I have become closer.

Look out, potential assaulters. The Swans are a SAPO force to be reckoned with!

Alice has really become my best friend. Now, I can tell just by looking at her when she has something to tell me, when she's having a bad day, or when she's going to bust out a quote from Mean Girls. Her visions are still freakin' awesome. Her mom's settled down a bit – I think she may even secretly approve of Jasper. Jasper's parents, on the other hand, love Alice. Rosalie jokes that Alice is going to replace her in the Christmas photo this year. Speaking of Rosalie, she's still her same old self; her deep heart as hard as marble, still beautiful, still lovely, and still willing to make others feel okay.

I'm a bit like Rose, I'd like to think. This new Bella is still a little fucked up, and sometimes she just wants to be alone and drown in her despair and the memories the memories the memories. But then she remembers how terrible alone feels, and goes to her weekly support group meeting and talks to someone.

Someone like Edward Cullen. Who, by the way, is also a swimming champion. He seriously needs to stop being so talented. I watch him practice his butterfly stroke in awe - I can barely dog paddle well. I think he's splashing around a bit on purpose, though, to get me wet. Edward's definitely a handsome, cocky little tease – but it's hard to forget how kind, gentle and good-hearted he can be.

It's in part, thanks to Edward, that I have hardly any nightmares anymore. Edward nudging me into the Forks Abuse Program sexual assault support group really did the trick. Something in me changed when I found out I wasn't alone and that other people could truly understand.

People at school don't whisper things about me as much – I think that's been the major change during the past couple of wintry months. My attitude has changed, and so has theirs.

I know I didn't do anything wrong.

And I know, as I watch Edward shake the water out of his hair and grinning as it hits me, that what we have isn't perfect. We're one cute couple who laugh all the time and have great sex, but I'm not about to be all sunshine and rainbows and put on my Forks-Bella-Swan face.

My guarded heart sometimes comes between us, resurrecting our once-forgotten blood sworn oath. Sometimes it gets as bad as last summer, that day where I could only look at my sand covered toes and mumble apologies. Often, Edward needs a break from constantly dealing with my moments of doubt and insecurity and bad dreams, and we spend days without contact as he takes out the breath he's been holding through his touches on his ivory piano keys. Things just haven't gone away because I've made a resolution and gotten control over Phil and his creeping touches.

But things have gotten better.

Other times, I brush off the sand that conceals the vulnerable parts of me, and I let Edward see them. I tell him I love you until he's sick of hearing it. We pass notes during bio. When I sleep over at his house, and Phil's unforgiveable touches creep into my mind, Edward holds me until it's over and hums sweet lullabies until I sleep.

I know that we're so imperfect that we're bound to last.

And that's what we do.

A/N: I feel like sobbing. Summerboy is the best, and the most heartfelt, thing I've ever written. I put a lot of myself into this story and I'm so grateful for all of the wonderful feedback and critique that you have given this story. I'd like to thank PasticheLethe and kisbydog for their beta services; to ttharman and Minnakoda for sticking by Summerboy from the start; to tonks-shadow, Mrs Clare Malfoy and Caitlin, for being my best real-life readers; and to Laurie Halse Anderson, for always writing books that inspire me. I'd lastly like to thank every woman who speaks up against, or about her experiences of, sexual assault.You are beautiful.

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