Everywhere I look, I see it.
Frozen ponds in the distance.
Day-old snow melting on the street.
Frowning, I turn my gaze down, taking in the evergreen sleeveless dress I’m wearing.
It confuses me – I don’t feel cold.
I look around again, lost. This place doesn’t look familiar; why does it feel like it should be?
I walk toward the lone building at the end of the drive, hoping to find the answers I seek.
The closer I get, the more anxious I become. I know this is where I have to be.
I just don’t understand why.
As I approach the building, I notice a car – a very familiar car.
I hasten my steps, eager to see him. It feels like it’s been forever since I last saw his beautiful smile.
The way he looks at me always makes me melt, his kiss able to heat me from the inside out. Not that I’m cold, but I need to feel that again – that burning desire that is for him alone.
His copper hair is the first thing I see. It makes me smile.
The way his shoulders slump stops me in my tracks.
Something’s not right.
He walks away, into the fields surrounding the building almost as far as the eye can see.
I follow, my attention focused on him and him alone, ignoring everything around me.
When he stops, I try again.
My voice sounds off, somehow.
He doesn’t react at all.
Why is he ignoring me?
I step up to him, wanting to grab his arm and force him to acknowledge me.
But I don’t. I can’t quite make myself do it.
“Edward?” I whisper, hearing my anguish as I plead for him to turn around with only his name. “Please don’t.”
He kneels down, his shoulders shaking.
“Please, Edward, get up. Don’t do this, please?” I beg.
I’m afraid to touch him now. A small part of me wonders why – I never had been, before.
Slowly, I look up, my eyes wanting to weep as I take in the smooth, black slab of marble.
I ignore the letters chiseled in it, certain I don’t want to know what they say.
“Look at me!” I demand.
Again, I want to grab him, but I don’t. I just stand at his side, willing him to look up and see me.
Edward pulls a note from his pocket, unfolding it with trembling fingers. He closes his eyes briefly, his shoulders shaking as he struggles for control.
I reach out a hand to comfort him, but stop shy of actually touching him – trying not to see the reason.
With a sniffle, he looks up at the sky, muttering, “Oh, Bella…”
Taking a deep breath, he turns his attention to the paper in his hands and starts to read with a shaky voice. I follow along, barely able to distinguish the words.
“I’m so sorry, Bella. I never…never meant to hurt you.”
He keeps reading his letter through tears, shaking sobs, and his voice breaking – he just doesn’t stop.
Every word he utters, every anguished cry, pierces my heart. The cold that I can’t feel on my skin seeps into me from the inside out, and it frightens me.
“There’s so much I want to tell you…” he pauses, swallowing hard before continuing, “so much I never got the chance to say – or do.”
He wipes his tears away and looks up, almost directly at me.
He whispers, “Why did you have to leave me?”
“I’m right here! Edward, look at me!”
His eyes shift to the slab of marble, tears flowing freely down his face as he raises his hand. His fingers tremble as they trace the letters marring the surface.
Unwilling, my eyes follow their movement.
My heart – or rather, the place where I know it should be – hurts as I read:
Here lies Isabella Marie Swan
Rest in peace
Born 9-13-1987 / Died 9-10-2006
Suddenly, the world seems to weigh heavily on my shoulders. I fall to my knees beside Edward, eyes fixed on the words etched with a finality I can no longer deny.
I whisper, “No…”
Edward crumples the note in his hand, balling it into a fist. His whisper is so soft, I almost miss it.
“Why couldn’t it have been me? It should have been me!”
He wipes angrily at his tears. I listen with abstract horror as he goes on.
“It’s my fault… You would still be here if I hadn’t insisted on going out to Port Angeles that night.”
A rueful smile plays on his lips. “You looked so beautiful, Bella. I had it all planned out…”
Reaching into his pocket, he pulls out a small box, sighing as he opens it.
He stares at the ring – white gold with a princess-cut diamond nestled between two sapphires.
He takes it out, turning it between his fingers as he murmurs, “I was going to ask you after dinner. We were supposed to have forever…”
A sob tears through him, wracking his body as he clutches the ring tightly in one hand, the other grasping at frozen grass.
Deep, wavering breaths follow.
“But we never made it. Some idiot – some drunken bastard! – plowed into us and took you away from me…”
As he speaks, I remember as everything flashes in my mind.
“Bella…” he cries softly.
I want to cry. To touch him. To kiss him one last time. Anything to let him know I’m still here – but I can’t. I’m forced to watch as he rocks gently back and forth, his arms now wrapped tightly around his torso.
“Every night, I go over what happened – see you bleeding by the side of the road. I tried so hard, baby. I promise, I did, but there was just so much damn blood…”
I close my eyes.
“I begged for Him to let you live…for you not to leave me,” he whispers.
Everything that happened that night plays itself out in my mind’s eye.
Music playing on the car radio.
Edward holding my hand as he drove.
Headlights coming at us from out of nowhere.
Edward cursing as he tried to evade the oncoming car.
Hot, sticky wetness running down my face.
Pain. So much pain.
Edward’s frantic cries for me to wake up.
Edward’s wide, panicked eyes.
Me touching his cheek, whispering, “Kiss me…”
Edward’s lips – so careful, tender.
Trying to smile, voice fading. “I love you…”
Edward moves, pressing his forehead against the headstone.
I shift so I’m behind him, the need to touch him growing. It’s harder to ignore why I can’t anymore – equally difficult not to listen to my instinct to comfort him.
He whispers, “I miss you so much… it hurts so bad…”
“I know…” I sigh.
He sniffles. “I’ll never forget you, baby…”
We sit in silence for a while.
Finally, I can’t stand it anymore. I lean forward, place my hand between his shoulders, and bow my head.
“I love you, Edward. Always and forever.”
“I love you, too, my Bella.”