‘Um, hi?’ It sounded like a question. I was squeezing Edward’s hand so hard I was surprised one of his fingers hadn’t snapped off and when I’d sat down, he looked just about as surprised and frustrated with Alice as me. I’d kill her later.
‘Yeah, uh, hello.’ It was Eric who said that. His hair was shorter, not as long as I’d last seen him. At my wedding. A year ago.
A year ago, the night of my wedding, I’d made the courageous decision to give up all of my old human friends, my relationships strictly to be only in the vampire population. The rest of my new family were happy with my decision, except for Jake who thought that in ten years, I wouldn’t be able to be friends with my school buddies because I hadn’t changed one bit, while they were beginning to find grey hairs spouting out of their heads. He thought I should keep them while I could. It was he who fought with me about it during the weeks after the Volturi issue. But I’d remained strong.
‘So, how’ve you been, Mike?’ Edward said happily, a smirk curling up at the side of his mouth as he watched the boy who’d been crushing on me for at least two years, even when he’d been dating Jessica – who, from memory, turned off me in the last months at Forks High School. Perfect. Now Edward and I were stuck with them for the next two hours, speeches and all.
‘Alright, if watching television and playing computer games excessively in your gap year is what you’d call alright. What about you?’ he paused, his eyes scanning from Edward to me. I could tell they were all staring at me in shock. I’d changed. Like, seriously changed. It didn’t help that Alice had plastered me in makeup and an extremely revealing dress before. A bit of warning that I’d be sitting with people from my previous life that thought I was just the plain looking daughter of the chief of police. I would have prepared some cue cards or something.
I cleared my throat. ‘Good. Gap year, too. Edward and I are going to Alaska next year.’
I looked kindly at Angela, the one who seemed to be acting normal like nothing had changed. She was always my favourite human friend at high school, but thinking of my schooling life and the friends I’d made felt like a year ago so I forced myself to believe that we’d all moved on. I had anyway, and so had Edward.
‘Are you at college?’
Angela grinned and fiddled with her name card. ‘I am actually. Journalism.’
Jess laughed and patted my arm. ‘Because she believes that will earn her the cash.’
Beside me, Edward stiffened and I felt myself boil with anger towards Jess’s rude comment. I tightened the grip on my fork and hid it under the pink napkin.
‘Angela, that sounds great,’ Edward said. ‘Where are you doing it, exactly?’
And he was off, rattling on with Angela about her course and the one he would be doing in Alaska in two terms time. You could tell my former best friend was flustered with all the questions Edward threw at her evenly but demandingly.
When the time came for the meals, and Edward and I kindly declined the waiter, my five friends watched us suspiciously. Tyler dug into his meal hungrily but the rest just fiddled with cutlery and tried to hide their confusion.
Suddenly, Edward came out with a believable excuse. ‘You can probably see that we’re awfully pale,’ I held back a laugh and covered it up with a cough. ‘But Bella, Alice and myself have all had the stomach flu. We’re better now, but just to be sure, we’re eating baby food.’
They ate silently, Mike playing with Eric’s food. I began to wonder if Edward and I were the only ones who had actually moved on. For a moment, I felt sad.
Charlie spoke last, after the long list of speeches. One from Edward, actually, which I didn’t know about which was very moving and if I could cry, I would have been sniffling my way through it. Alice spoke once, just accepting the thank you from Charlie and Sue for the wonderful ceremony but unfortunately, just before she did, Edward and I both shot daggers at her. Both Seth and Leah spoke, and Sam Uley. Also, when he got up, the whole audience got the shock of seeing Emily’s extremely large belly. It seemed that she was expecting a child. For a moment, I envied her stomach and the baby moments that would be soon to come. It crossed my mind whether if they were having a girl she would become a member of the Quileute pack.
Everyone could tell Charlie was nervous as he walked up onto the platform with a champagne glass, with shaking liquid in it. His eyes searched the audience and settled on me. He sighed, shook his head with a thankful smile of his face and turned to face his new wife, Sue Clearwater.
‘Would you ever do it again?’ Mike asked me when Edward left the table to go talk to Seth and pay his congratulations to Sam and Emily. This would be a question where I would need him to swoop in with a brilliant answer that could provide enough information to seal their lips until the next question stirred in the bowl. I was alone now.
‘Do what, Mike?’
He smiled and placed his fork down. His plate of meat and salad looked surprisingly unappetising – turning human food away with a wrinkled nose was something I was still getting used to. I hadn’t mastered the art of eating human food to look normal yet. Edward said it was a very pleasant experience.
‘Get married again.’
I was quick with my answer. ‘Never. Oh god.’
Edward saved me a few minutes later and took me out onto the dance floor unwillingly. But he didn’t dance with me. He only tapped Charlie’s shoulder and handed me over. Sue spun into Edward’s arms and I saw her blush when Edward took control.
‘You look beautiful, Bells.’ I looked up at Charlie and nearly laughed in shock. His eyes were all welled and his cheeks were bright red. He was embarrassed and emotional. From personal experience, not the greatest feeling.
‘Me? What about you and Sue? I’m really happy for you, dad. So happy.’
He frowned at me then. He looked confused and I was worried. Please no. Let it not be the Volturi!
‘Bella, where is Renesmee?’
‘Stomach flu, Edward and I had it too. And Alice.’
He smiled then and spotted Jacob in the crowd. He looked at him for a strange amount of time, but kept dancing. Well, if you could call rocking from foot to foot in a circle, dancing.
‘Is that Jake’s girlfriend with him? She looks oddly familiar.’ I recognized my daughter immediately and nodded. They were dancing too, and Renesmee was laughing with him. Her auburn hair was dancing around her face as Jacob spun her around and held her hand. They were having fun, and as Alice and Edward swung around Charlie and I, I saw that they, too, were looking at Jacob and Renesmee. Both were smiling, even I saw Edward chuckle as much as it would pain him to see them together.
‘Yes, they’re pretty serious,’ I told Charlie.
I was sitting by myself, near the edge of the party and watching Edward talk with Seth and Leah. Seth was in a suit, probably a few sizes too big but Leah looked beautiful. I looked over at my high school friends’ table and saw Mike gazing over at her. I shook my head in disbelief.
I looked back at the ceremony – Charlie and Sue were kissing in their seats, Carlisle and Esme were slow dancing to the Cello soloist, Alice and Jasper were talking with my high school friends, Edward was laughing with Seth and Leah but I couldn’t find Emmett, Rosalie or Jacob. But other than those three important people in my life, everyone was happy and enjoying themselves beneath Alice’s fairy lights. I was happy too.
Renesmee startled me from behind and spun me around. She looked at the same time, excited and extremely sad. I threw my arms around her but she only shook, she didn’t cry. I wondered if she could?
‘Something happened,’ she confessed, stepping away and straightening her dress.
‘What happened, Ness?’ I took her by her arms and begged for her to tell me. Whatever had happened was stressing her out.
‘I don’t want things to be weird, though, and I know he’s your best friend, but I can’t help it…’
I stopped her and made her look me in the eye. She had my eyes, not Edward’s. At the moment, they looked more like Charlie’s because she’d just eaten human food and they tended to go darker when she did but they were wider than usual and that scared me.
‘Renesmee, just tell me what happened.’
‘Mum, Jacob kissed me.’
I took a step back. Renesmee took it with me. I knew this day would come, just not nine months after her birth. However, Jake was always there for me. Always kind and caring, sticking with me even when I was a mad creature who only wanted to save my baby. Now he wanted to save both my daughter and me and I owed this him. I would let him have the girl he loved because he let me have the man I loved.
‘Then you go get him.’ I kissed my daughter and hugged all of my worries away.
I walked back into the middle of the ceremony and dragged Edward to the dance floor. He took control for a while, spinning me around and smiling at me whenever we met each other’s eyes, but then he slowed when he found me grinning as I saw Jacob and Renesmee holding hands and watching me. I nodded at my best friend and winked. I heard across the yard as he chuckled, taking Renesmee away to get a slice of wedding cake.
Then Edward kissed me. Lightly but passionately and I loved it. As always, when he pulled away it was such a disappointment and I wondered, like any other time, whether I would ever get enough of his kisses.
‘Bella, something must be funny because you won’t stop grinning.’
I sighed and thought about that, struggling to remove the grin from my face. I was unsuccessful. I tried to think of something smart to say without it sounding stupid but at last I settled for this:
‘I’m just enjoying this one happy moment of our forever.’