"Today? Really? That is a surprise. I assumed ..."
"What did you assume? When did you assume?"
"Well, when you came to visit me in April, it looked like things were pretty much sewn up, if you know what I mean. You're not very hard to read, sweetie. But I didn't say anything because I knew it wouldn't do any good. You're exactly like Charlie." She'd sighed, resigned. "Once you make up your mind, there is no reasoning with you. Of course, exactly like Charlie, you stick by your decisions, too."
And then she'd said the last thing that I'd ever expected to hear from my mother.
"You're not making my mistakes, Bella. You sound like you're scared silly, and I'm guessing it's because you're afraid of me." She'd giggled. "Of what I'm going to think. And I know I've said a lot of things about marriage and stupidity - and I'm not taking them back - but you need to realize that those things specifically applied to me. You're a completely different person than I am. You make your own kinds of mistakes, and I'm sure you'll have your share of regrets in life. But commitment was never your problem, sweetie. You have a better chance of making this work than most forty-year-olds I know." Renee had laughed again. "My little middle-aged child. Luckily, you seem to have found another old soul."
"You're not... mad? You don't think I'm making a humongous mistake?"
"Well, sure, I wish you'd wait a few more years. I mean, do I look old enough to be a mother-in-law to you? Don't answer that. But this isn't about me. This is about you. Are you happy?"
"I don't know. I'm having an out-of-body experience right now."
Renee had chuckled. "Does he make you happy, Bella?"
"Yes, but - "
"Are you ever going to want anyone else?"
"No, but - "
"But aren't you going to say that I sound exactly like every other infatuated teenager since the dawn of time?"
"You've never been a teenager, sweetie. You know what's best for you."
For the last few weeks, Renee had unexpectedly immersed herself in wedding plans. She'd spent hours every day on the phone with Edward's mother, Esme - no worries about the in-laws getting along. Renee adored Esme, but then, I doubted anyone could help responding that way to my lovable almost-mother-in-law.
It let me right off the hook. Edward's family and my family were taking care of the nuptials together without my having to do or know or think too hard about any of it.
Charlie was furious, of course, but the sweet part was that he wasn't furious at me. Renee was the traitor. He'd counted on her to play the heavy. What could he do now, when his ultimate threat - telling Mom - had turned out to be utterly empty? He had nothing, and he knew it. So he moped around the house, muttering things about not being able to trust anyone in this world___
"Dad?" I called as I pushed open the front door. "I'm home."
"Hold on, Bells, stay right there."
"Huh?" I asked, pausing automatically.
"Gimme a second. Ouch, you got me, Alice."
"Sorry, Charlie," Alice's trilling voice responded. "How's that?"
"I'm bleeding on it."
"You're fine. Didn't break the skin - trust me."
"What's going on?" I demanded, hesitating in the doorway.
"Thirty seconds, please, Bella," Alice told me. "Your patience will be rewarded."
"Humph," Charlie added.
I tapped my foot, counting each beat. Before I got to thirty, Alice said, "Okay, Bella, come in!"
Moving with caution, I rounded the little corner into our living room.
"Oh," I huffed. "Aw. Dad. Don't you look - "
"Silly?" Charlie interrupted.
"I was thinking more like debonair"
Charlie blushed. Alice took his elbow and tugged him around into a slow spin to showcase the pale gray tux.
"Now cut that out, Alice. I look like an idiot."
"No one dressed by me ever looks like an idiot."
"She's right, Dad. You look fabulous! What's the occasion?"
Alice rolled her eyes. "It's the final check on the fit. For both of you."
I peeled my gaze off the unusually elegant Charlie for the first time and saw the dreaded white garment bag laid carefully across the sofa.
"Go to your happy place, Bella. It won't take long."
I sucked in a deep breath and closed my eyes. Keeping them shut, I stumbled my way up the stairs to my room. I stripped down to my underwear and held my arms straight out.
"You'd think I was shoving bamboo splinters under your nails," Alice muttered to herself as she followed me in.
I paid no attention to her. I was in my happy place.
In my happy place, the whole wedding mess was over and done. Behind me. Already repressed and forgotten.
We were alone, just Edward and me. The setting was fuzzy and constantly in flux - it morphed from misty forest to cloud-covered city to arctic night - because Edward was keeping the location of our honeymoon a secret to surprise me. But I wasn't especially concerned about the where part.
Edward and I were together, and I'd fulfilled my side of our compromise perfectly. I'd married him. That was the big one. But I'd also accepted all his outrageous gifts and was registered, however futilely, to attend Dartmouth College in the fall. Now it was his turn.
Before he turned me into a vampire - his big compromise - he had one other stipulation to make good on.
Edward had an obsessive sort of concern over the human things that I would be giving up, the experiences he didn't want me to miss. Most of them - like the prom, for example - seemed silly to me. There was only one human experience I worried about missing. Of course it would be the one he wished I would forget completely.
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