capitolo quarantadue

Andare in basso

capitolo quarantadue

Messaggio  simona80 il Dom 13 Mar 2011, 03:20

Chapter Forty-Two
Edward was frustrated.
He knew that his decision to forego sexual intimacy with Bella was the right one, but that didn't make the decision any less painful. He'd been having sex regularly since he was seventeen and apart from some brief stints of celibacy – when he was in rehab and later on when he was courting Bella – he hadn't foregone the pleasures of a woman for any great length of time.
It was now November and the last time he he'd had sex was with Bella back in March, the evening before that accursed VOLTURI Tribunal.
Edward shivered at the memory.
Whenever his frustration proved to be almost too much and he was ready to give in to Bella's heart-wrenching pleas and his own considerable desires, he would think of her face when she confronted him after the Tribunal. She had been hurt, he knew, but her words had injured him deeply and months later, they still stung.
Part of their sting was derived from the fact that Edward knew his past. He knew how he had viewed women and despite the fact that he had always prided himself on behaving like a gentleman, he had used them. He simply justified the use by saying that it was mutual and thus his rather utilitarian approach to coupling was excusable.
In his soul, however, he knew that such an excuse was specious. No human being deserved to be treated like an object rather than a subject, especially in the realm of sexual intimacy.
Edward shifted uncomfortably in the seat of the Land Rover.
It was blasphemous to term those previous encounters as intimate.
Intimacy was knowing someone body and soul. Intimacy was giving and not taking. Intimacy was loving the other more than one loved one's self and treating the other as a person and not as an object for self-gratification.
Edward didn't know how to repair Bella's lack of trust in him other than to show himself trustworthy in this delicate, intimate dance. And the only way he knew how to do that was to forego sexual relations until he'd made a permanent commitment to her. Then she would know how deep and constant his feelings were and she wouldn't doubt his intentions when he took her to his bed.
In short, he was denying himself and his considerable libido to put her first – to give her what she didn't realize she deserved and perhaps, what she secretly wanted.
Nevertheless, he burned for her.
He thought back to the night of Alice's wedding and how Bella had offered herself to him. The memory gave him chills. It had been tantalizing and exciting and absolutely desperate. She would have done it, he knew. She would have gotten on her knees for him, only to connect, to breach the gap between them. But in accepting her gift, he would have betrayed the scared young woman who he had showered with acceptance and affection in Umbria.
Perhaps she was ready. Perhaps she would never be ready. Regardless, he would not be the one to accept such a gift when it was given out of desperation. Even though his entire being ached for her.
Edward sighed and rubbed his eyes with his hands, waiting for Bella to come out of Dr. Walter's office. He had begun his own private counselling with one of Dr. Walter's colleagues, in addition to the premarital counselling he and Bella were receiving together. Dr. Zoe Alba, his new therapist, had praised him for his new celibacy and had agreed that he was making a good choice for the future of his relationship with Bella. But Dr. Alba's approval didn't quench the fire in his blood.
Bella opened the door of the Land Rover and silently slid into the passenger seat. She buckled her seatbelt and gazed out the window wordlessly.
"Baby?" He reached his hand out to push her hair away from her face.
She stiffened.
He withdrew his hand. "What's wrong? What happened?"
"Renee," she mumbled.
Edward reached over to gently turn her face in his direction. Her face was puffy and her skin was blotchy and uneven. She'd been crying for a while.
"Come here." He unfastened her seatbelt and tugged her over the centre console and onto his lap, which was no easy feat.
"Tell me what happened."
"Dr. Walters brought up all this – stuff about Renee. I didn't want to talk about it but she said that she wasn't doing her job if she let me suppress everything that happened in Phoenix. I took as much as I could take and then I left."
Edward grimaced. Dr. Alba had been making similar comments about his own mother, but he seemed to be closer to making peace with his past than Bella was, especially since his visit to Chicago.
"I'm sorry," he offered, kissing the top of her head. "But didn't Siobhan address your relationship with your mother?"
"Briefly. Mostly we discussed you."
Edward winced. He would always feel guilty for the pain he had caused her but the fact that he had bumped Renee off Siobhan's priority list for helping Bella made him cringe.
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
Bella laughed mirthlessly as she wiped her tears away. "Find me another therapist."
Edward shook his head. "I wouldn't be helping you if I did. Any therapist worth her salt would insist that you address what happened with your mother. And her boyfriends."
Bella began to protest but Edward interrupted her. "I understand what you're going through. Even though our mothers were abusive in different ways, I understand. And I'm here, ready to listen, whenever you want to talk about it.
"But in order to be healthy, you have to deal with your past. I'll do everything I can to help, but this is something only you can do – for yourself and for us." He gave her a sympathetic look. "You realize that, don't you? That the healing process not only helps you, it helps us?"
She nodded begrudgingly and then leaned her head against his shoulder.
"I thought all the angst was behind us. I thought that after everything we'd been through, we'd have our happy ever after."
Edward tried to repress a snicker. And failed.
"What? You don't believe in happy ever after?"
He smirked at her and tapped her nose with his finger.
"No, I don't believe in angst."
"Why not?"
"Because I'm not an Existentialist; I'm a Dantean."
She wrinkled her nose. "Very funny, Professor Masen."
He kissed her wrinkles affectionately.
"I exist in order to amuse you," he said.
"We will be happy, Isabella, but don't you see that in order to get to the happiness, you have to address the pain of the past?"
She squirmed slightly but did not respond.
"I was thinking about visiting Maia's grave." He cleared his throat.
"I'd like to take you with me, if that would be alright." His voice was hesitant and barely above a whisper. "I'd like you to see it. That is, if you wouldn't find it morbid."
"I'd be honoured. Of course I'll go with you."
"Thank you." He pressed his lips to her forehead.
"I didn't tell you everything that happened with Renee. Or with Jacob."
Edward sighed deeply and rubbed at his eyes. "I know."
He traced her eyebrows, trying to smooth out the furrows.
"I didn't tell you everything about my past, either," he admitted.
"Does it bother you? That I didn't tell you everything about them?" Bella searched his eyes eagerly.
"No. I'm willing to listen to anything you have to say. But truthfully, there are some things I don't really want to discuss about my life. So I understand your reticence to lay bare your history." He cleared his throat. "The important thing is that you address those events with someone, not that you disclose all of them to me. I'm sure that talking things over with Dr. Walters is good enough."
He kissed her once again and held her close, meditating on how far they'd come in their individual journeys and how far they still needed to go.
Bella had expected that at the moment she declared her willingness to become Edward's wife that he would drop to one knee and propose.
He didn't.
She expected him to take her shopping for wedding rings.
He made no such plans.
In fact, as the days passed she wondered if Edward was going to propose to her at all. Perhaps it was the case that he merely assumed that they were engaged and planned to pick out wedding rings at some later date.
He pestered her to travel with him to Forks, if only for a weekend, but she was so overwhelmed with writing term papers for her graduate seminars that she had to decline.
Edward seemed disappointed by her refusals but accepted them, making plans for them to rejoin his family and her father in Forks for Thanksgiving.
Despite her overall busyness with graduate school, which was a welcome distraction, Bella was frustrated. It wasn't only that she loved Edward and she longed to show him just that. It wasn't only that he was a beautiful, sexy man and she knew how talented he was as a lover and how he made her body sing.
It was that their separation was unnatural, uncomfortable, cold, and she ached to breach that separation and be one with him again. The fact that she couldn't made her terribly sad. And lonely.
All the chaste kisses and embraces in the world couldn't erase that kind of loneliness. And there were only so many times she could listen to Jill Sobule's Rock Me to Sleep while lying alone in her single bed.
She longed for the attention that he paid to her when they were making love, the way he lavished single-minded devotion on her as if there were no one and nothing else on earth. She coveted the way she felt when he touched her naked form. For in those moments, she felt beautiful and desirable, despite her innate shyness and unease about her body. Of course, she desired an orgasm, but even more than that she craved the moments afterward, when they were both relaxed and sated, and Edward would whisper beautiful words in her ear and they would simply be in one another's arms.
Bella wasn't sure how long she could tolerate their disconnection without lapsing into a depression.
The night before they were supposed to fly to Seattle Bella found herself in Edward's bed. They had an early flight the following morning and had agreed it would be best if she spent the night.
She was lying on her side looking out the bedroom window into the starless night. Edward was spooned behind her, his talented fingers playing with her hair.
"Did you ever tell Alice about how we met?"
"No. I never told anyone." She sighed. "It was too precious and too painful to talk about."
"And now?" He pressed her.
"I kind of like the fact that it's our secret. Your family is wonderful but I don't think they'd understand. And my father would come after you with a shotgun."
"Point taken," Edward chuckled, shaking his head.
He began to drag his fingertips over her scalp, touching her gently, when she suddenly flinched.
"I'm sorry," he murmured. "I forgot about your scar."
"It's alright. You only startled me."
Edward began to caress her again, this time avoiding the stretch of raised skin beneath her hair.
She inhaled deeply.
"Renee could be nice sometimes, when she wasn't drinking and she was in between boyfriends." Bella swallowed hard. "She would take me to the zoo in Phoenix and we'd have picnics. She let me play dress up with her clothes and she'd take me shopping. I liked that."
Edward stilled his hand for a moment before winding his arm around her waist and pulling her backwards.
He paused thoughtfully before speaking.
"I remember some good things about my mother, too, from when I was very young. But sometimes I wonder if those memories are actually dreams – if my mind invented them."
"Me, too," she said.
He pressed his lips to the nape of her neck and then tentatively moved them so that they hovered over her scar. "I'm sorry that she hurt you. I wish I could take it all away."
Bella hummed to let him know she'd heard him and this time, when he made contact with her scar, she didn't flinch.
"Is it getting better since you've started talking about her with Dr. Walters?"
"It was worse at the beginning. I tried to forget everything and I'd done a pretty good job of it. Now, it makes me angry. I wonder why she was ever nice to me at all if she was just going to turn around and be abusive again."
Edward continued toying with her hair.
"I understand that reaction completely. The cycle of abuse interspersed with occasional bouts of kindness keeps you stuck, waiting and hoping for the kindness to return. And it does, on occasion, only to be swept away. I know all about that. Regrettably."
Bella rolled over so that she was facing him.
"I'm sorry about your mother."
Edward kissed her forehead. "Thank you, darling."
"What happened with Jake doesn't haunt me anymore. Not like it did. I feel as if I've moved past that."
Edward cursed under his breath. "That dog is lucky he's in prison. I still wish I could beat him senseless and …"
Bella placed a hand on his chest and interrupted him. "It's over now. But things with my mother go so much deeper. It's like looking into a deep, dark well."
"I don't really know what to say except that I'm here. Tell me what to do." Edward felt helpless.
"There isn't anything you can do but listen. And I appreciate that. I do. But aren't you afraid? Aren't you worried about having children? I'm terrified I'll be a horrible mother." A sob caught in her throat. "I'm so afraid I'll be like her."
Edward placed his hand against her cheek, forcing her to see his eyes.
"She was sick. You aren't. And the fact that you worry about being a good mother shows that you are different from her. I doubt she ever worried about anything like that.
"And yes, I have the same concerns. But I keep focusing on how far we've come. And I think about my Mom and Dad, what their home was like. We can have a home like theirs, Isabella. A home filled with love and happiness and forgiveness. We've had so much love and grace lavished on us, don't you want to share those things with someone else? Someone small and helpless? A baby … our baby …" Edward's voice trailed off, overcome as he was with emotion.
"I'm scared," she whispered against his neck.
"So am I."
"Can we do it?"
"You have to have faith, Isabella."
Edward rolled her onto her back so that he could gaze at her face and then he kissed her gently, communicating with his body that love casts out fear.
Thanksgiving was a far more joyous occasion than it had been the year before. Alice and Jasper insisted on doing all the cooking at the family homestead while Emmett and Rose's little boy, Carlisle the Second, entertained everyone including Charlie, with his three-month old antics.
"How is married life treating you?" Edward asked Jasper as he assembled the ingredients for a salad.
"Really well. You should try it sometime." Jasper winked at Bella as he took a long pull from his bottle of Corona.
"That's an idea." Edward smiled smugly and then went back to his salad.
"Cut the crap, Edward. When are you going to put a ring on that woman's finger?" Alice's voice floated across the kitchen from the stove.
"She has a ring on her finger."
Alice left her turkey unattended and bounded across the kitchen to examine Bella's left hand.
"That doesn't count." She pointed to Bella's thumb, which was encased by Edward's platinum wedding band.
Bella and Alice exchanged a look and shook their heads.
Edward regarded the way that Bella's countenance fell and quickly abandoned his salad, (which was pretentiously laden with both fruit and nuts), and hastily embraced her.
"Trust me," he whispered in her ear, so quietly that no one else could hear.
She murmured her acquiescence and he squeezed her tightly before kissing her.
"Get a room, y'all." Jasper snickered.
"Oh, we have one." Edward glanced at him sideways.
"We have two, actually." Bella sighed and shook her head in resignation.
When they sat down for dinner, Carlisle asked everyone to hold hands while he said the blessing. He thanked God for his family, for his grandson, for his new son-in-law, and for the friendship of the Swans. He thanked God for his wife and her memory and he pointed out that the seeds she had planted with her children, her husband and her friends had come to fruition. And when he said Amen, everyone wiped at their eyes and smiled, more thankful than they could say that the family was together and strong once again.
When the meal was over and everyone had their fill, Edward stood to his feet, holding his wine glass.
"I know that everyone heard the toast I made to Mom at Alice and Jasper's wedding." His voice suddenly grew hoarse and he coughed twice. "But I'd like to repeat part of it, if that's alright."
As everyone at the table indicated their agreement, Bella saw Edward's hand tremble slightly at his side. She quietly slipped her hand into his and was gratified when he squeezed her softly.
"This evening would be incomplete if we didn't acknowledge the absence of our mother, Esme Cullen.
"Esme was gracious and beautiful, a loving wife and a devoted mother. Her capacity for goodness and compassion knew no bounds. She was generous and kind and very, very forgiving." He cleared his throat.
"She welcomed me into her home when my blood relatives abandoned me. She mothered me when I had no mother, even when I was hateful and difficult. She taught me what it is to love someone selflessly and absolutely and without her and Dad I'd probably be dead."
Edward paused and looked at Carlisle and then Bella.
He freed himself from Bella's grasp and pulled a folded piece of paper from his pocket and began to read,
'Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens….
She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night…
She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land….
Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness….
Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all…'
"I ask you all to drink to the memory of my mother, Esme."
By the time everyone drained their glasses, there wasn't a dry eye among them.
After dinner, Rose and Emmett took clean up duty while Alice and Jasper practiced their parenting skills with their nephew.
Outside on the porch, Carlisle and Charlie smoked cigars and drank Scotch, while watching old Mr. Banner carry things from the garage into the woods.
Carlisle gave Charlie a knowing look and the two men clinked glasses before relaxing in contentment.
Inside the house, Edward took Bella's hand and led her upstairs.
"Wear something warm," he said as they walked into her room. "I want to take you for a walk."
"It's warmer than it was last year," she remarked absently, as she pulled on one of Edward's old cashmere cardigans.
He had divested his wardrobe of cardigans after Bella had informed him that they made him look like a grandfather. Or like a PBS host.
Upon hearing that, Edward was only too glad to donate his cardigans to the Salvation Army, with the exception of one or two that Bella rescued.
"I don't want you to catch cold," he protested, tugging playfully on her sweater.
"I have you to warm me," she countered, winking at him.
After winding her Magdalen College scarf around her neck and seeing that she was truly bundled against the elements, Edward escorted her downstairs, through the kitchen and outside.
"Going for a walk, Masen?" Charlie's voice surprised them.
"With your permission, Chief Swan."
Charlie peered at him with no little sharpness.
"See to it that she returns to the house in the same condition that she left it."
"I can't promise that. But I can promise to take good care of her."
Charlie snorted. "I've heard that before."
Bella gazed between Edward and Charlie quizzically. "What's going on?"
"Edward is taking you for a walk, with my blessing." Her father spoke with only the slightest of grimaces.
"And mine," interjected Carlisle, his bright blue eyes alive with amusement.
"You two need to lay off the Scotch." Bella shook her head in slight confusion as Edward pulled her across the backyard and into the dense, thick trees.
"What was that all about?" she asked as they trudged towards the meadow.
"You'll see."
Edward kissed the top of her head and then began to quicken his pace.
"Not so fast, Edward, I'll fall."
He turned around to face her and reached down to whisper his lips against hers. "I won't let you fall."
He grinned as he inhaled her scent. "You smell like strawberries again."
"I got sick of lavender."
"So did I," he said triumphantly.
Within minutes they were at the edge of the meadow. Despite the fact that the trees were very thick around its perimeter, Bella saw light streaming through the branches and she heard the sound of Diana Krall's voice singing.
"What's going on?"
"Come." He took her hand and led her through the trees.
She gasped as soon as they stepped into the meadow.
There were small white lights decorating some of the branches of the trees overhead and lanterns scattered on the ground, containing flameless flickering candles.
Amidst the gentle light, which cast a warm glow over the stark, bare trees and the old grass, there stood a white tent. And a futon bed that was decorated with cushions and a very familiar looking old blanket.
"Oh, Edward," she whispered. "It's beautiful."
"Does this please you?" He took her hand and led her to the tent, encouraging her to sit down on the edge of the futon.
"It's gorgeous. Just like your garden back in Cambridge. But you didn't have to go to so much trouble. I would have been happy with this old blanket and the ground. That's what we used before."
"You deserve better." His eyes caught hers and she lost her breath as a simmering intensity shone out from their sea green depths.
Edward sang to her as he tenderly caressed her face with his fingers.
She inhaled sharply and closed her eyes as he pressed his thumb to her mouth.
"Would you like a drink?"
Her eyes flew open as he withdrew, walking over to a low table on which rested a champagne bucket and two champagne flutes.
She nodded and then watched as he expertly opened the champagne bottle and poured two glasses.
He returned to her side.
"Shall we toast?"
"Of course."
"Then let's drink to you. To Isabella, my beloved."
"I think we should drink to us."
"That, too. To us." He smiled and they toasted one another before they began sipping their champagne.
"How did you do all of this? It must have taken hours." Bella gazed at the spectacle around them with incredulity.
"Old Mr. Banner has been taking care of the house and grounds while I'm away. I asked him to arrange everything while we were eating dinner. May I?" He reached into a bowl of strawberries and chose the largest, ripest one and held it out to her.
It was perhaps prescient that at that moment the music switched from The Look of Love to Peggy Lee's Fever.
Edward brought the red fruit to Bella's lips, smiling widely as she took half of it into her mouth before biting down.
"You'll find that it complements the taste of the champagne quite nicely."
Bella giggled as some of the juice from the berry escaped her mouth. She moved to wipe at it with her hand, but Edward's fingers were faster.
He traced her lips slowly, capturing the juice, and then transferred his fingers to his own mouth before sucking on them.
"Delicious," he murmured.
As he repeated this ritual, Bella began to feel strangely light-headed. Edward's sensuality, even bridled, was dizzying in the extreme.
She reached over to return the favour and was stunned when, after swallowing, he drew one of her fingers into his mouth, swirling his tongue around it before sucking it dry.
She swayed slightly.
"Sweet like candy," he mused, his voice throaty and thick.
He sat next to her on the bed and placed his arm around her to steady her, drawing a single finger across her trembling lower lip.
"Do you have any idea what you do to me? The flush of your cheeks, the warmth of your skin, the speed of your heart …" He shook his head. "I'm amazed you still have these reactions to me after all this time."
Bella unbuttoned her coat and placed his palm flush against her chest.
"Feel my heart beat. You do this to me, Edward."
He glanced down at where his palm was placed, wide-eyed. "I intend to elicit that reaction for the rest of my life."
He captured her lips with his in a fiery kiss before withdrawing his hand to hover at her cheek.
"I brought you here because this is where it all began. You changed my life that night. I'll never be able to thank you."
"Your love is thanks enough."
He kissed her sweetly.
"Where is the music coming from?" Bella looked around for a stereo system but couldn't find one.
"Mr. Banner provided the means to have music."
"What song is this?" she asked as the music shifted.
"The Book of Love by The Magnetic Field. But it's Peter Gabriel singing."
"It's beautiful."
"Not half as beautiful as you, my love. You brought beauty to my very ugly life the instant I met you."
Edward tightened his grip around her, bringing her closer to him.
"I still can't believe I have you in my arms after all these years … and you love me."
"I always loved you, Edward. Even when you didn't recognize me." Bella pressed her head to his heart as he hummed along to the music.
When the song was replaced by a new one, Edward murmured against her skin. "I have a gift for you."
"I'd rather have your kisses."
"I'll rain kisses down on you once you let me present my gift."
He smiled and pulled something out of his jacket pocket and handed it to her.
It was an announcement written in Italian on very expensive card stock.
"I don't understand." She looked up at him.
"Read it," he urged, his eyes alight.
The announcement was from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and it declared the opening of an exclusive exhibit of an extraordinary collection of Botticelli illustrations of Dante's Divine Comedy in December; illustrations that had never before been seen in public.
The announcement went on to declare that the exhibit was on loan to the Uffizi through the generosity of Professor Edward Masen as a gift to his fiancée, Miss Isabella Swan.
She gaped at him in surprise.
"Edward, your illustrations. I can't believe it."
"My happiness has made me generous."
"But what about the legal issues? And how you bought them?"
"My lawyer hired a team of experts to trace the provenance, which ends in the late nineteenth century. After that, no one knows to whom they belonged. And since they were always part of a private collection, I own them legally and rightfully. As part of our wedding celebration, I wanted to share them. With one exception."
Bella gave him a questioning look.
"The illustration that I gave you will not be part of the exhibit. That illustration is yours alone to do with as you wish."
"It belongs with the others. That's why I returned it." She flushed and looked down at the ground. "You've embarrassed me, though."
"Have I? How?"
"To have my name attached to the exhibition. It's going to attract international attention. Not to mention the fact that the students and professors in my department will hear about it."
Edward frowned. "I hadn't thought about that. It's easily corrected. I'll ask that your name be removed from the announcements. This is only a mock up."
Bella reached up a hand to touch his jaw. "I'll accept the embarrassment for your sake. What you're doing is very generous. I always thought that those pieces should be available for people to see and to enjoy."
"You taught me not to be selfish, my love."
She moved to kiss him, eagerly tasting his mouth.
"You taught me to accept gifts."
"Then we're a matched set." He cleared his throat as he pushed a lock of hair away from her face. "Will you accompany me to the exhibition? They've asked that we open it in person. Dottore Vitali will be hosting a dinner for us, similar to the one he held last year for my lecture."
"Of course I'll go with you. Thank you."
"Good. Perhaps we'll be able to find a private corner of the museum so that we can …"
Bella swore that Edward was blushing, but in the semi-darkness it was difficult to tell.
He cleared his throat. "Have you thought about when we should get married?"
"Yes, I have."
"Good. Uh, what about next summer?"
His eyes sought the ground as disappointment spread across his face.
She giggled.
"Next summer would be far too late. What about next month? Around the time of the exhibition?"
Edward's eyes flew to hers.
"I'd marry you tomorrow, if I could. But are you sure? It doesn't leave us much time to plan a wedding."
"I want our wedding to be small and simple, if that's alright. I'm tired of living alone in my little hobbit hole. I want to be with you." She stood on tiptoes to brush his ear with her lips. "And it isn't only because I want to have you warm my bed."
A growl escaped Edward's chest and he kissed her firmly, lifting her off her feet.
She sighed into his mouth and the two embraced warmly before he pulled back.
"What about your studies?" he murmured, placing her back on the ground.
"Lots of graduate students are married. Even if I only see you in bed at night it will be more than I see you now. Please don't make me wait."
He laughed as he stroked her cheek with the back of his hand. "As if I could make you wait. As if the waiting wasn't killing me. So December it is."
"December in Assisi."
"Honeymoon to be determined?" He lifted his eyebrows suggestively. "Or is there somewhere particular you'd like to go? Paris? Venice? Tahiti?"
"Anywhere would be wonderful as long as I'm with you."
He squeezed her tightly. "Bless you for that. I'll make it a surprise, then."
She kissed him again and within moments, felt the world spinning around her. Everything fell away as she melted in his arms.
"I have something else I want to show you," he said at length, dragging his lips from hers.
He clasped her hand in his and walked with her over to the old apple tree that stood on the edge of the meadow.
He turned to face her, eyes full of feeling.
"The first time we met, I brought you here and I picked an apple from this tree."
"I remember."
"The apple represented what my life was like at that time – carnal, selfish, violent, a magnet for sin."
Bella watched as he sank to one knee, pulling an apple out of his pocket and presenting it to her cupped between his palms.
"This apple represents what I've become – full of hope. And love."
She reached out to take it before realizing that it was the golden apple she had found on his desk a few weeks ago. Her eyes sought his eagerly.
"Has a man ever asked you to marry him before, Isabella?"
She shook her head and placed the back of her hand against her mouth as a torrent of emotion passed through her.
"Then I'm glad I'm your first."
Edward paused and ran his fingers through his hair nervously.
"It's customary in some cultures for a husband to give his wife an apple after their wedding. I'm afraid I'm doing things backwards, as usual."
He looked up at her with a wide, slow smile and viridian eyes. He found the hinge in the apple that opened it like a magic box and Bella saw a sparkling diamond ring nestled against a fold of red velvet.
"I want to be your first and your last. I love you, Isabella. I offer you my heart and my life, my present and my future.
"Marry me. Be my wife, my friend, my lover and my guide. Be my blessed Beatrice and my adored Isabella." His voice wavered slightly, heavy with feeling. "Say you'll be mine. Forever."
"Yes. With all my heart, Edward, yes," Bella managed, before the tears overtook her.
Edward removed the ring from the apple and placed it gently on her finger, before caressing her knuckles with his mouth.
"I chose this ring a long time ago, when I picked out the wedding bands. But it can be returned." His voice was wistful. "I know you want to choose your own rings."
Bella examined the two and a half carat cushion-cut diamond in its platinum setting. The ring was old-fashioned, Edwardian even, with smaller, bead set diamonds that surrounded the central stone and graduated side stones that decorated the band. Although it was far larger and more ornate than she had ever dreamed of or wanted, it was perfect because he chose it for her.
"I choose this one," she said. "Because you chose it."
He stood up and she flew into his arms.
"I've wanted you forever. Since I first saw your picture," she said as her happy tears spilled onto his chest. "I wanted you even before I knew you."
"I wanted you when I didn't even know your name – just your goodness. And now I get to keep my Beatrice forever. My Isabella. My only love …"
A few days later, Peter received an email from Bella announcing her engagement. It made him ill.
Reading and re-reading her words didn't ameliorate his situation. Not one bit. But he did so anyway, if not to torture himself then to have her new status indelibly impressed on his mind.
Dear Peter,
I hope this email finds you well. I'm sorry it took me so long to answer your last message. Grad school is kicking my butt and I feel so behind in everything. But I'm loving it. (By the way, thank you for the recommendation of Ross King's books. I don't have much time to read these days, but I'm going to pick up "Brunelleschi's Dome.")
One of the reasons I don't have much time to read is because I'm engaged. Edward has asked me to marry him and I said yes. We're getting married a few days before Christmas in Assisi.
I know you're going to be disappointed to hear this, Peter, but I'm happy. He has changed. And I love him.
Please be happy for me.
A wedding invitation will be sent to your apartment in Toronto. We've also invited Katherine Picton.
I will understand if you can't or don't want to attend, but it was important to me to invite the people I care about. Edward has rented a house in Umbria for the wedding guests to stay in before and after the wedding. You'd be most welcome. I know my father would be happy to see you again, too.
You've been nothing but a good friend to me and I hope that someday I'll be able to repay you.
With affection,
P.S. Edward didn't want me to mention this, but he's the one who persuaded Katherine Picton to take you as a student. I asked her but she refused. Surely he isn't as bad as you thought?"
Peter's gratitude for Edward's generosity didn't erase the sudden sharp pain he felt in his heart at the realization that he had just lost Bella. Forever.
Yes, he had already lost her, but before Edward's return there had always been the possibility that Bella would change her mind, even if that possibility was extremely remote. Somehow the knowledge that she was going to
marry the Studentfucker smarted so much more than if she had been marrying, say, some other schmuck called Edward. Like Edward-the-plumber or Edward-the-cable-guy.
Shortly after she emailed Peter, Bella received a package in her mailbox at Harvard. Seeing that it was postmarked in Essex Junction, Vermont, she opened it eagerly.
Peter had sent her a limited edition copy of The Velveteen Rabbit. He'd written a short inscription to her on the flyleaf, which tugged at her heart, and enclosed a letter.
December 2010
Dear Bella,
I was surprised by your news. Congratulations.
Thanks for inviting me to your wedding but I won't be able to attend. My father had a heart attack a few days ago and is in the hospital. I'm helping out on the farm. (My mother says hello, by the way. She is making something for you as a wedding present. Where should she send it? I'm assuming you won't be living on campus once you're married)
From the first time I met you, I wanted you to be happy. To be real. To have a good life. You deserve these things and I'd hate to see you throw them away.
I wouldn't be your friend if I didn't ask you if Masen is what you really want. You shouldn't settle for anything less than the best. And if you have any doubt as to whether he is that for you, then you shouldn't marry him.
I promise I'm not trying to be an asshole. I'm simply asking you to really think about your decision.
I wish you all the best, no matter your decision.
Bella folded up Peter's letter and placed it back inside the book, a lone tear streaking down her cheek.
Despite the fact that Charlie gave his blessing to Bella and Edward, (albeit begrudgingly), conflict ensued when the happy couple announced the destination of their wedding.
While the Cullens were only too glad to spend the Christmas holidays in Italy, Charlie, who had never travelled outside of North America, was less than enthused. As the father of the bride, he had intended on paying for his only daughter's wedding even if he had to mortgage his new house in order to do so.
Bella wouldn't hear of him doing such a thing.
Though the wedding was going to be small, the estimated costs were high enough that they would effectively damage Charlie financially if he paid for everything. And Edward was more than comfortable covering the costs, much to Charlie's chagrin, for it was more important to Edward that Bella have the day of her dreams than for her father be placated.
Bella tried to smooth over the conflict between the two men by pointing out that there were things that her father could and should pay for, such as her wedding dress and the flowers.
This was before she found the dress of her dreams.
She had been walking down Newbury Street in Boston when she saw the dress in the window of an elegant boutique. It was ivory silk organza with a v-neck and little wisps of sleeves that sat high on the shoulders. While the bodice was covered in lace, the skirt was full and layered like a cloud, reminiscent of a ballet skirt.
Without further thought, she walked into the shop and asked to try it on. The shopkeeper complimented her taste, telling her that Monique Lhuillier's gowns were very popular.
Bella didn't recognize the designer's name and she didn't look at the price tag because there wasn't one. She did, however, notice that the dress had a name – Katya.
When she stood in front of the mirrors in the dressing room, she knew. This was her dress. It wasn't overly fussy or embroidered. It wasn't strapless or overly sexy. It was classically beautiful and would complement the colour of her skin and the shape of her body. And Edward would adore the fact that much of her upper back would be exposed. Tastefully, of course.
Still in the dressing room, she sent a picture of herself in the gown to Charlie via her iPhone, asking him what he thought.
He called her immediately, choking back tears and telling her that he'd never seen a bride as absolutely beautiful as she.
Charlie asked to speak to the boutique manager, and without Bella discovering the substantial price, he made arrangements to purchase the dress. Yes, it was expensive but, he reasoned, it was no more than he had been prepared to spend on a wedding in Forks. And since Bella was determined to be married in Italy, a Forks wedding was out of the question. Knowing that he was able to buy his only daughter the dress of her dreams enabled him to accept the fact that Edward would be paying for the rest of the wedding.
After saying goodbye to Charlie, Bella spent several hours shopping for the rest of her trousseau. Amongst other things, she chose a veil that was almost ankle length, a pair of satin heels that she could walk in successfully, and a long, white velvet cape with a silk lining that would protect her and her dress from the chilly December weather in Assisi.
Then she floated home.
While the Cullens and Whitlocks paid for their own travel, Edward insisted on providing them with accommodations. So of course he rented a castle to house everyone, including himself and Bella, until after the wedding.
Initially, Charlie had refused to stay at the castle, until Carlisle convinced him otherwise with a friendly but serious telephone call.
Edward's relatives seemed almost more excited about his upcoming nuptials than he was.
Two weeks before the wedding, Charlie called Bella to ask her an important question.
"I know the invitations have been sent out but would there be room for one more?"
Bella was surprised.
"Sure. I can add another name to the list for dinner. Is there a long lost cousin I wasn't aware of?"
"Not exactly," hedged Charlie.
"Then who?"
He took a very deep breath and held it.
"Dad, spit it out. Who do you want to bring?" Bella closed her eyes and silently begged the gods of daughters whose fathers were single to intervene on her behalf and keep Sue Clearwater from attending her wedding or worse – getting back together with Charlie.
"Um, Diane."
Bella's eyes flew open.
"Diane who?"
"Diane Martin."
"Diane from the Diner? You mean Diner Diane?"
"Don't call her that." Charlie's gruff imperative immediately telegraphed to Bella far more than he realized.
Her jaw dropped in shock.
"Bells? You still there?"
"Yeah, I'm here. Um, I'm sure that would be fine. Uh, is Diane a – special friend of yours?"
Charlie fell silent for a moment.
"You could say that."
"Huh," said Bella.
Charlie ended the conversation quickly and Bella put down her cell phone, wondering which blue plate special had precipitated her father's new little romance.
Definitely not the meatloaf, she thought.


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Data d'iscrizione : 01.01.11
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