Momma and Rose were talking quietly about what was supposed to happen. I tried to listen, to pay attention, but it was difficult because I couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t quite right. Not the fact that we were at the rehearsal for Rose and Emmett’s wedding, but that Daddy wasn’t a part of it. Rosalie and I’d talked about things a lot over the past several weeks, and she assured me she was fine with the fact she’d be walking down the aisle with me rather than with him.
I’d taken her word for it, partially because I wanted her to be okay. I no longer felt guilt so much over what had happened, and made my peace with things as they stood, thanks to the immense support I’d gotten from both family and friends – not to mention from Edward, of course.
My eyes cut briefly to Edward, who was standing next to Emmett at the altar. Edward threw his head back and laughed at something Emmett had said. He flashed me a wide smile when he saw me looking his way. It softened as he took in the look on my face. He frowned, silently asking if I was okay. I nodded, glancing at my sister once more before turning to Edward again, who gave a nod in understanding.
“—and Jasper, you’ll be here,” said Carolyn, pulling me out of my thoughts as she guided me in place on Rosalie’s right before tucking Rose’s hand through my arm. “Like so,” she said with a smile, though her eyes shimmered with unshed tears.
“Momma,” I started, but she waved me off.
“Hush now, I’m alright. I just can’t believe my little girl’s getting married tomorrow,” said Carolyn softly.
Rosalie took Momma’s hand in hers and squeezed it; the expression on her face was hard to read, though I thought I understood. They both took a few deep breaths and then we continued. It was strange to watch Bella and Edward, who’d walked down toward us while I’d been preoccupied, walk up the aisle together, arm-in-arm.
Momma had to prod me into motion, and Rose chuckled as I mumbled a quick apology. She grinned at me and whispered, “You’d better not keep those eyes of yours glued to Edward’s ass before you’ve given me away, brother mine. Tomorrow you’ll need to actually pay attention.”
Blushing, I nodded, stammering another apology. Rosalie’s grin softened as she squeezed my arm and whispered, “Thank you for doing this, Jazzie.”
I paused as we reached the altar and turned to her. “You’re welcome, Rosie.” Giving her a kiss on the cheek, I turned to listen to the pastor as he gave instructions, and followed them before joining Momma, Esme and Carlisle, and Emmett’s parents to watch the rest of the rehearsal.
After the pastor was satisfied that we all knew our parts, we were dismissed, and we all headed to the rehearsal dinner. During dinner, Emmett, Carlisle, and Edward talked about the bachelor party we’d thrown for Emmett the previous Saturday. I joined in the conversation eagerly enough, as I was still pleased with how well things had gone. As per Emmett’s instructions, there had been no strippers of any sort. Instead, the guys from the team – including Carlisle – had all met up at Luna Nueva, at my suggestion. It’d been weird at first, but it seemed the best place to go.
It’d been low-key, though we hadn’t been able to resist giving Emmett a few gag gifts. The best one had actually come from Carlisle – a naughty fantasies kit that included a very revealing maid’s uniform, a blindfold, pink padded cuffs, and edible chocolate body paint. Edward had nearly choked on his drink and he was blushing even now as Rose leaned forward and thanked Carlisle.
“Oh, you’re quite welcome, dear,” said Esme with a mischievous grin I’d seen all too often on her son’s face. “Do try the body paint, it’s quite good.”
“Jesus,” he muttered, shaking his head. “Mom, please, I really don’t need to hear that stuff.”
Esme feigned a look of innocence. “What? How did you think we had you, dear? Besides, I’m sure Jasper’d like—”
“Mom!” exclaimed Edward, horrified. “Please,” he begged, his face a brilliant red.
Esme winked at me and everyone just lost it, laughing. Kissing below Edward’s ear, I murmured, “Don’t worry, babe, I won’t tell them we already have some,” causing his blush to deepen.
Dave, Emmett’s dad, grinned at Esme and said, “You’ll have to tell me where you got that, Esme. Might just have to pick some up before we head home.”
At that, everyone started laughing again. I glanced at Emmett to see if he was embarrassed, but he seemed just as cheerful as ever, and was wearing a grin to match his dad’s. At least that explained where Emmett got his sense of humor from.
Talk was steered back to the bachelor and bachelorette parties – Rose’s had been at the same time and day as Emmett’s, though obviously at a different venue. I was listening to their war stories with half an ear when I caught a snippet of conversation between Bella and Rosalie.
“—bad that he can’t be a part of this. I know it’s not easy for you,” said Bella.
Rose sighed and replied in a voice so low I only barely heard it, “It’s not, but it is what it is. He made his choice, Bella, and I made mine. Not that there ever really was one to make, as far as I’m concerned.”
When Rosalie looked my way, I quickly lowered my eyes to my plate, working hard to keep my expression even so she wouldn’t know I’d overheard her. For the rest of the evening, I was quiet as I thought over everything that had happened this past year. So much had changed, most of it for the better.
Momma was divorcing Daddy, something he apparently wasn’t going to contest, so it was going through fairly quickly.
Rose would marry Emmett the following day, and I had Edward. For the first time that I could recall, I had a group of friends I could count on. A support system that consisted of more than just my sister and my mother. Esme and Carlisle were like second parents to me and I loved them fiercely.
Edward and I were solid, both in our relationship and individually. What we’d been through had only served to strengthen us both and in a way, I found myself thankful for what had happened, weird as that might sound to some.
We’d also just finished redecorating the apartment, thanks to Esme and several of our friends who’d helped with the menial tasks on their weekends. The process had been fairly painless and had gone much quicker than we’d initially planned, and it felt so good to really have a home again. Our home.
After a while, I felt Edward’s arm around my shoulder, pulling me close to him. He whispered, “Are you okay, sweetheart? You’ve gone awfully quiet.”
Glancing up at him, I gazed into his eyes, seeing his loving concern reflected at me. Giving him a small smile, I nodded. “Yeah,” I said quietly. “Just… thinking.”
He watched me for a moment, then nodded in turn, kissing me sweetly on the lips before allowing his attention to be drawn by Bella. I tried to be more interactive for the remainder of the evening, but it was difficult as most of my mind was preoccupied. The need to do something only became stronger as the evening went and by the time everyone was ready to go home, I’d made up my mind.
After saying goodbye to the others, I turned to Edward, putting a hand on his arm to stop him from walking to the car.
“What is it, baby?” he asked, concerned.
My mouth opened and closed a couple of times as I tried to put my resolve into words. Finally I cleared my throat and, frowning, said quietly, “I’ve got something I have to do.”
He cupped my cheek, his eyes searching mine. After a minute, I added, “I’ll be okay. I just… I have to go see him.”
I didn’t need to explain further, thankfully, as Edward nodded with a grim look. “Are you sure?” he asked hesitantly.
“Yeah, I’m sure. I need to at least try, Edward.”
He nodded again and wrapped me into a tight hug. “I’ll come with you,” he spoke into my neck.
Shaking my head, I did my best to assure him I’d be fine. He pulled away slightly, cradling my face in his hands as his eyes bore into mine. “Jasper, I’m going. I’ll stay in the car if you want, but I don’t feel right letting you go alone. What if he goes crazy? He’s already tried to have a go at you once, baby.”
Reluctantly, I had to admit he had a point. “All right. Lets go,” I said quietly, brushing my lips to his. “Thank you.”
If I were completely honest, I did feel better knowing Edward would be there in case something happened, but I was determined to at least talk to my father alone. Somehow, I thought things would be difficult enough without throwing Edward in his face. I’d have my work cut out for me as it was.
We drove over to the house in silence, holding hands the entire way as traffic permitted. When Edward pulled up in the same spot he used to, I shook my head. “Park in the driveway,” I instructed. “That way you can hear if anything goes wrong.”
He did as I said, then turned the engine off. He took a deep breath and, kissing my knuckles, said quietly, “Good luck, baby.”
“Thanks,” I murmured, suddenly nervous. Rose might well kill me for taking the risk, but it was worth it. Or so I hoped.
I leaned in and kissed Edward, allowing the connection to ease and strengthen me. When I pulled away, Edward gave me a reassuring smile. “I love you,” I murmured.
“Love you, too. You’d better go,” he said quietly, caressing my cheek.
With a final, steadying breath, I got out of the car and slowly walked over to the front door. I knocked, then waited for what felt like hours before the door was finally opened. The sight of my father looking gaunter and more haggard than I’d ever seen him shocked me. His eyes hardened and he made to close the door without a word.
Bracing my hand against the door, I said quickly, “Wait. We need to talk. Please.”
His eyes narrowed and his voice was gruff and dismissive as he replied, “I’ve got nothing to say to you,” and started the close the door again.
Stepping forward, I pushed back, not willing to give up so soon. “Then just listen, because I do have something to say to you. You owe me that much, at least.”
He huffed, squaring his shoulders slightly before suddenly seeming to falter and change his mind. Without speaking, he turned and walked away, leaving the door open in the only invitation I could expect. With a final glance at Edward, I followed Daddy into the living room where he’d taken a seat in his favorite chair, his arms crossed tightly over his chest and his eyes anywhere but on me. “Say what you have to say and get out,” he said through clenched teeth.
For a moment, I was stunned. It felt so strange to be here, surrounded by so many familiar things, with so many memories woven intricately into everything, even if the house itself was fairly new. But to be here and not feel that sense of home or family anymore was too surreal, so I pushed it to the back of my mind in order to focus on the task at hand. Taking a seat opposite him on the edge of the couch, I rested my elbows on my knees and clasped my hands together. As I let my gaze roam over the place, I realized that the usual meticulously clean home I’d grown up in now seemed as disheveled as Daddy.
Nodding to myself, I was more sure than ever that I was right in coming here, no matter the outcome. Taking a steadying breath, I focused on my father. “I know how you feel about me, Daddy. I know that you don’t approve of me and the fact that I love Edward, and I’m sorry to be a disappointment to you, but I neither can nor will change who I am.”
His nostrils flared as he prepared a verbal onslaught, but I held up my hand and spoke firmly and with a confidence I’d never before felt in his presence. “No. Please, just listen. Let me finish.”
Daddy’s eyes narrowed again, but he sat back with a tight nod, so I continued.
“You’re my father, whether you like it or not. Whether you agree with my choices or not, that doesn’t – and shouldn’t – matter. You’re supposed to love and support me no matter what. I can sort of get why that might be difficult for you, Daddy, I really can. But can’t you see past it all? You’ve lost everything by denying me. Pushed everyone away with your choice to be hateful. I can see how much it’s cost you, Daddy, and it saddens me.”
Daddy’s eyes were practically slits as this point and his face was turning red with pent up anger, but he remained silent. It surprised me somewhat that he was letting me speak uninterrupted, but I took full advantage of it as I pressed on. “It killed Momma to do what she did, you know. She does still love you, but what you did… she couldn’t live with anymore. I know what’s been going on, at least to a degree, and it wasn’t right. You need help, Daddy. More than she could give, even if you had been willing to accept it.”
A noncommittal grunt was the only response he gave, so I went on. “Rosalie still needs her Daddy, too. We both do. Even if we have other great people in our lives, every child needs the love of their parents, even as adults. Did you know that Rosie’s getting married tomorrow? It should have been you walking her down the aisle, but because of your choices, it’ll be me giving her away and though she says she’s okay with that, I know it hurts her.”
Silence hung heavy in the air as Daddy looked off to the side with a pained expression, yet still he remained quiet. With a heavy sigh, I got to my feet and said, “Are you really ready to throw it all away? You don’t have to be thrilled about me being with Edward, that’s okay. I don’t need that from you anymore. But can you truly live with yourself, knowing all that you’re going to miss out on? Rosalie’s wedding? Grandkids? You’ve already lost any anniversaries with Momma, there’s no getting that back, I don’t think, but you still can have the rest, Daddy, if you really want it. The choice is yours.”
Watching him carefully, I waited for some sort of response, but he simply sat there, stoically and without a word. “Right,” I murmured, then walked over to the desk and wrote down both where the wedding itself would take place and the time, and where the reception would be. Looking back at my father one last time, I said quietly, “Just think about it. It isn’t too late, Daddy, not if you don’t want it to be. I still love you, in spite of everything, and Rose does, too, deep down.”
When he still didn’t respond, I shook my head. “Ball’s in your court now. At least I tried. Bye, Daddy.”
With that, I turned and left, feeling both like a weight had been lifted and saddened at how much of a toll these months had taken on my father. When I got in the car, Edward looked at me worriedly and took my hand. “You okay?” he asked softly.
Smiling wanly, I nodded. “Yeah, I’ll be fine. Lets go home.”
Edward nodded, then kissed me tenderly before starting the car and driving home. On the way, I filled him in on what had happened, how Daddy had looked. I still was amazed that he’d let me in, never mind letting me say my piece, all without any real aggression or rebuttal from him. All my life, it’d been my father who’d had the last word, who had asserted himself firmly and without any doubt that he was in charge. I’d always been intimidated by the man, but not tonight. That realization made me smile.
As we headed up the elevator, Edward took me in his arms and held me. It felt so right. “I meant what I told him, you know. I wouldn’t change a thing. Not if it meant having to give you up.”
Edward smiled, though there was a hint of sadness in his eyes. “Not anything? Not even the attack?”
Thinking about it for a moment, I shook my head. The elevator stopped at our floor and I led Edward out to our place. “No, not even that. As much as it sucked – and believe me, it did. A lot. I think going through all of that made me stronger. It forced me to face things and to open up.”
Edward’s smile widened somewhat. “Well, when you put it that way, then I guess I can see your point.”
Chuckling, I nodded. “Good. Now, it’s late so we’d better get some sleep. Rose will kill us if we show up for her wedding looking like zombies.”
Edward shuddered slightly. “You know, you’re right. She can be scary at times.”
I laughed. While Rose hadn’t gone too Bridezilla on us, she’d definitely shown her temper once or twice over the last couple of weeks when things hadn’t gone according to plan. Since neither one of us wanted to ruin her day, we went to bed and dutifully to sleep not long after.
The following morning Edward and I woke early. He’d taken the day off in order to help with the last minute details even though the wedding itself wouldn’t be until six that evening, as it was a workday. Rose was staying at Esme and Carlisle’s, as was Carolyn. Momma had her own apartment now, but Esme had wanted to have a special evening just for them as well as wanting to help out getting everything ready for Rose’s big day.
So after a quick breakfast, Edward and I headed over to Emmett’s. Bella was already there and they were going over what still needed doing. “Morning, guys,” she said with a wide smile.
Edward and I hugged her in turn as we wished them good morning. Edward frowned. “Shouldn’t you be getting ready, too?”
Bella rolled her eyes. “I’ve got a couple of things to do still, but after we’ve picked up the flowers and arranged them, I’ll be heading to your parents’ to get ready. Probably will be able to have lunch with you three, though, as long as we get a move on.”
We went over the list of chores, which thankfully wasn’t too big since it was just us to take care of it, and then headed on our way. By the time lunch rolled around, we’d picked up the cake, flowers, glassware, cutlery, napkins, plates, set the tables, arranged the flowers both at the church and the hall where the reception was going to be held. The food was being catered, and the bar was already stocked. Ben, who’d volunteered to DJ, was coming in to set up around the time we were headed out for a bite to eat.
Bella picked a sandwich shop for lunch, which was good as Emmett’s suggestion had been Taco Bell. “No way, Em. We’ll be having Mexican tonight,” she said, shaking her head with a grin.
The food was good, quick, and gave us enough energy to see us through the rest of our day. Bella bade us goodbye after we were done and headed to Edward’s parents’ house to get ready. Emmett clapped his hands together and grinned. “So, next stop, barber shop.”
Both Edward and I groaned, but we’d all agreed to it and the appointments had been made, so we went. I’d never actually had a professional shave before and was surprised at how much I enjoyed the experience. In all, we ended up more pampered than I’d ever been, which for some reason amused me. Still, once we were done we all felt much more relaxed than we had all day, which had been the point, I supposed.
We went back to Emmett’s place as it was getting late and we still needed to shower and dress. We could have gone home, but we’d agreed that the afternoon of the wedding would be for us guys, much like Rose would have her girl-time today. Since Emmett’s house only had two bathrooms, he and I ended up showering first, while Edward made us all a snack, since dinner wouldn’t be until after the wedding.
While Edward was taking his shower, Emmett and I were in the kitchen, eating the veggies and dip Edward had prepared. I took a moment to look at Emmett and was surprised to find him utterly at ease, a small smile playing on his lips as he munched on a carrot. “You’re not nervous at all, are you?” I asked.
Emmett grinned. “Nope.”
Quirking a brow, I asked, “Not even a little bit? No anxiety that she might leave you at the altar or anything?”
I knew that’d never happen, but I was still curious about his thoughts on it. Emmett shrugged. “Nah, man. That’s not my Rosie. Been counting down to this moment for what feels like forever, Jazz.”
Edward walked in then, slapping Emmett on the back with a laugh. “Thank God Rosalie’s going to take you off our hands and put your bachelor days behind you. About time you grew up.”
Emmett’s indignant, “Hey!” had both Edward and me laughing. Edward glanced at the clock and said as he pressed a kiss to my temple, “C’mon, we’d better get going. Gotta get this lug over to the church on time, after all.”
“Fucker,” said Emmett, taking a playful swing at the back of Edward’s head that he easily dodged. We put the leftovers in the fridge before piling into Edward’s car and heading to church.
The entire day, I’d been able to not linger on what I’d done the night before, but the closer we got to the time of the wedding, the more it weighed on my mind. I couldn’t stop myself from looking around to see if Daddy had shown up after all, though I wasn’t holding out too much hope on that. Still, I was compelled to look and every time I didn’t see him, Edward would squeeze my hand, neck, or shoulder in quiet support. Neither of us had mentioned my going to see Daddy to Emmett and I was becoming more and more glad of that as it seemed it hadn’t resulted in anything anyway.
After a while Edward and Emmett headed inside to wait in order for Emmett to avoid seeing Rosalie as she arrived in the limousine. People kept arriving steadily and I was distracted enough by people saying hello that I didn’t really have much chance to think about anything else.
Rosalie’s limo pulled up to the curb and I went to open the door, helping first Momma, then Bella out of the car while Carlisle got out on the other side and helped his wife. When Rose placed her hand in mine, I couldn’t stop my smile from widening, especially as she emerged from the vehicle and I saw her dress for the first time – white, strapless, and layers in the full length skirt that made me think of scales or ruffles, but not quite. Neither Edward nor I had been allowed to see it either, much to Emmett’s amusement.
“God, Rosie, you look… beautiful,” I whispered as I kissed her cheek.
“Thanks, Jazzie,” she said, shivering.
“Jesus, Rose, you must be freezing,” I said, taking in the strapless dress once more. It really was stunning, but the material didn’t seem very good for this time of year in Seattle.
Bella rolled her eyes. “Of course she is, Jasper. Did you think these dresses were made for warmth? Can we please get inside so we can warm up a little before everything starts?” she begged, rubbing her arm.
“Sorry, Bella,” I chuckled. Bella, too, was wearing a strapless dress, though hers was a dark green and just below her knees. “You look beautiful, too, by the way.” Glancing around to Esme and Momma and seeing their dresses, navy blue and steel grey respectively, I added, “As do you two.”
A chorus of “Thanks,” was my reward as I placed Rosalie’s hand in the crook of my arm and led the party inside. It was almost time to begin, but a few last-minute arrivals were straggling in.
Edward came to the little office-come-bridal room we were all in while we waited and smiled, heading straight to Rosalie to kiss her cheek. Holding her at arm’s length, he said, “Wow, Rose, Emmett’s one lucky man. You look gorgeous.”
Rosalie actually giggled. “Thank you, Edward. You look very handsome, too. You too, brother mine,” she added.
Grinning, I nodded, my eyes on Edward as he greeted the others. “Mom, Dad, Carolyn, you’d better go find your seats. It’s about that time,” he said as he wrapped an arm around Bella’s shoulders, squeezing her affectionately to his side.
Carlisle smiled, and after kissing Rosalie on the cheek held an arm out to Momma and Esme. “Ladies, if you’d do me the honor?”
We watched them leave and then Bella stepped over to Rosalie, fussing over her hair and dress, making sure everything was just so. I went over to Edward, kissing him lightly on the lips. “Anything?” I whispered, my eyes searching his.
Edward sighed, shaking his head. “No. I’m sorry, baby, but I don’t think he’s coming,” he said quietly, cupping my cheek.
Swallowing hard, I nodded. “Yeah, it was a long shot. But at least I tried, right?”
Edward gave a small smile. “Yes, you did. I’m proud of you for that, you know.”
I had no response to that, so instead I just gazed at him until my sister cleared her throat loudly. When both Edward and I turned to look at her, she was grinning. “Alright, you two. Cute as you are, this is supposed to be my day. If you want one to be all about you, you can have your own damn wedding. Now let’s go so I can get married already!”
Edward’s lips quirked up in a grin as he held his arm out to Bella. “Yes, ma’am. Ready, Bells?”
The moment Edward and Bella walked into the sanctuary, the music which had been filtering through changed. Rosalie took a steadying breath and laughed shakily. “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this,” she murmured.
Chuckling, I hugged her carefully. “Neither can I, but I’m so happy for you. You know that, right?”
“I know, Jazzie. Okay… I’m ready for this,” she said firmly, nodding to herself.
Taking her hand, I squeezed it lightly before placing it on the crook of my arm. We walked slowly into the sanctuary where the music once again changed and everyone got to their feet, turning to us. Rose spotted Emmett, whose eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw his bride, and Rose beamed a smile at me. “Told you,” I whispered, winking.
The walk down the aisle seemed to take forever, but was over too soon at the same time. After I handed Rose over to Emmett, I took my seat next to Momma and held her hand. Carolyn gave me a watery smile. I managed one last look around to see if Daddy had shown up, but couldn’t spot him before the pastor started on the ceremony.
Watching Rose and Emmett so enraptured with each other as they said their vows was amazing. I’d never before seen her look at anyone like she did at Emmett. Chancing a glance at Edward, I caught his eye and we shared a smile. Momma was sniffling and dabbing at her eyes throughout the entire thing, but whenever I checked to make sure she was okay, she smiled.
When the pastor finally announced, “I give you: Mr. and Mrs. McCarty,” everyone got to their feet and cheered. Never having been to a wedding before, I had no idea if it was proper, but it felt right and judging by the looks of pride and happiness pouring off the two, I doubted they minded one little bit.
As Rose and Emmett walked down the aisle, I glanced around once more, but there was no sign of Daddy. Of course, the church, though small, was filled with people so I couldn’t be completely sure. Edward and I locked eyes briefly as he walked past, and I shook my head with a sigh to let him know. He gave a small smile, mouthing, “I’m sorry. Love you,” as he and Bella followed the newly married couple.
By the time we were all outside for a quick photo-op, I’d given up on my father showing at all and silently wished him well as my focus was pulled to the goings-on around me. After several pictures were taken, we waved the newlyweds off to do a quick shoot elsewhere before meeting up with them again at the reception.
Edward came up to me, slipping his arm around my waist as Momma turned to me and asked, “Are you alright, Jasper?”
Smiling softly, I nodded, grateful for Edward’s reassuring squeeze as I answered Carolyn. “I’m fine, Momma.”
She watched me for a moment, then nodded, though I could tell she didn’t really believe me. Edward asked smoothly, “So are you ready to go to the reception, Carolyn?”
My lips twitched and my eyes cut to his, glad for the distraction. “Oh,” she said, glancing around. “Yes, I suppose so. Are you sure we’ll all fit in your car?”
Edward smiled reassuringly. “Yeah, I’m sure. Bella’s driving up with her Dad, so it’s just you, Mom, and Dad that are coming with us.”
I frowned as I noticed her blush slightly at Edward’s response, but she schooled herself too quickly for me to figure it out. When I glanced at Edward, he seemed as intrigued as I felt. Clearing my throat, I held out my arm to Momma. “Shall we?”
Carlisle and Esme were already waiting by the car, talking quietly to Emmett’s parents who were parked next to us. Since they weren’t too familiar with Seattle, they were to follow us to the reception. Rather than stay outside any longer than necessary, we ended up driving straight there. Bella and Charlie were already there by the time we got there, as was Alice. Between the two, the girls seemed to have everything under control, though Edward and I both were immediately set to work taking coats while Charlie and Carlisle ushered people to their tables. Ben was already playing music, keeping the atmosphere light and soothing, but with a distinct Mexican feel.
In all, I was far too preoccupied to even think about my father, and by the time Rosalie and Emmett showed up, I’d all but forgotten about him. Edward announced Emmett and Rose, and the festivities began, starting with dinner. It was perhaps a little unorthodox, but the fajita and taco bar was a hit. There was a tequila bar, too, and one with an assortment of Mexican sodas and beers. All in all, it was perfectly them and everyone seemed to have a great time, Rose and Emmett most of all.
When people had mostly had enough food, the toasts started. I grinned at Edward as he got to his feet. Ben played a little jingle to get people’s attention, much to everyone’s amusement. Edward waited until things quieted down enough for him to be heard. Raising his glass to Rose and Emmett, he smiled. “Rose, a blushing bride you’re not and thank God for that. You’re one of the most capable, caring women I’ve ever known and you’ll need every bit of your strength and energy to keep up with this guy. You have a heart and wit to match Emmett’s, and for that I’m grateful.”
As Edward paused, I glanced at my sister. She and Emmett were holding hands, their glasses poised to raise. Both of them were chuckling, oozing happiness and contentment. I refocused on Edward as he continued. “Emmett, you’ve been my best friend for years. I’ve watched you as women came and went, never really getting to the heart of you. And then Rosalie came along and everything changed – for the better. It’s been a true pleasure to see the two of you fall in love, holding each other up when life put obstacles in your way. I wish you both the best, with a lifetime filled with love, laughter, and even a few tears along the way. To Rose and Emmett.”
Everyone raised their glass, and a chorus of, “To Rose and Emmett,” filled the room. Emmett stood up to hug Edward, and I could hear him rumble, “Thanks, man,” followed shortly by Edward’s quiet, “You’re welcome, Em.”
Getting to my feet, I glanced at Ben, who played another jingle. Nodding my thanks, I turned to face my sister and took a deep breath, trying to squelch the sudden nerves. Rosalie smiled at me. Deciding to just go for it, I cleared my throat. “Rosie, you’ve been the best sister a guy could ask for. You’ve always supported me, stood up for me, sacrificed for me, and for that I can never thank you enough. Thanks to you, I’m in a much better place – happier than I’ve ever been, and now it’s your turn. I know you’ll be a great wife to Emmett, because I know the love you carry within you. I have no doubt that Emmett’s going to be a great husband to you, because God knows, you need a challenge – both of you do – and I think you fit the bill very well for each other.”
Rosalie chuckled, wrinkling her nose at me, making me grin. Turning to Emmett, I added, “And Emmett? As much as Rosie’s taken care of me all my life, don’t think I won’t come after you if you ever break her heart… though come to think of it, I’d probably have to stand in line – behind her.”
Everyone laughed, including Rose and Emmett, who leaned over to kiss his bride. I only barely caught his, “You can hurt me any time, baby.” I shuddered, stifling a groan. “Too much information, Emmett,” I grunted, eliciting another round of laughs.
Clearing my throat again, I locked eyes with my sister and, smiling, said, “Rosalie, Emmett, I wish you both nothing but the best in life. You deserve it. Both of you. I love you.”
Raising my glass, I had to swallow down the sudden lump in my throat. There was a chorus of, “Hear, hear!” as the toast was had and then Rose and I were hugging. She kissed my cheek, whispering, “Thanks for everything, brother mine,” in my ear. “I love you, too.”
We both took our seats again as a few more toasts were made to honor the happy couple. Before long, however, it was time for the first dance and Emmett escorted Rosalie to the middle of the dance floor as the first strands of “I’m a Believer,” by The Monkees started to sound. Chuckling, I wondered how on earth Ben managed to extend the intro, though that quickly got pushed aside as I watched Rose and Emmett dance. Edward scooted over to sit next to me, taking my sister’s seat. Leaning in, he laughed, “Wow, I never knew Emmett had those kind of moves!”
Laughing, I agreed readily. “Me, either. Rose doesn’t surprise me, though. She’s had plenty of dance lessons over the years.”
Scanning the crowd, I couldn’t help but grin as I noticed some of the faces. Our friends weren’t surprised in the least, but a few people were shocked at their choice of song for a first dance. It was totally them, though.
When the song ended I walked onto the dance floor and Emmett handed Rose over to me for what would have been the father/daughter dance. Her eyes were alight with happiness as we got into position and the music started. I shoved my feeling of disappointment aside and smiled, murmuring, “Ready?”
Rose nodded right as the song began. She’d chosen “Lean on Me,” by Bill Whithers, and in all honesty, it was the perfect song for us. We both sang along as we danced, our eyes intent on each other. I was startled by a tap on my shoulder and a quiet, “May I cut in?” All at once, it seemed as all sound just… stopped. Rose’s eyes widened, her mouth hanging open in shock even as I turned to look over my shoulder. “Daddy?” she whispered.
Sure enough, our father stood behind me, dressed in a suit and tie, his face haggard, but flushed, his eyes appearing almost liquid as he held Rose’s gaze. His voice was hoarse and broken when he spoke. “You look beautiful, Rosalie.”
Rose’s eyes flickered between Daddy and me in bewilderment. “What—?”
Glancing quickly around, I saw that Edward, Emmett, Felix, Bella, and Charlie had gotten to their feet. Momma sat stunned as she stared at us, her hand covering her mouth and tears visibly coursing down her cheeks. Charlie was standing behind her, one hand on her shoulder. Both Edward and Emmett made their way toward the dance floor but stopped when I shook my head. Now that Daddy was here, I wanted to see what he would do – to give him a chance to do this for Rose.
His quiet, “Would you allow me the honor of this dance, Rosalie?” made me focus on him again. Then he added, “If…that’s alright with you,” he paused, then seemed to steel himself and added, “Son?” The way he said that last word, how his face nearly contorted with the effort as if he were forcing something down his throat that didn’t sit well made my hackles rise. Still, the fact that he was here, that he was trying, and that – after everything that had occurred – he had used that term in relation to me… it gave me hope.
Looking to Rose, I squeezed her elbow, silently asking her if she was okay. We shared a long moment in wordless communication, both of us gauging how the other felt before she turned to our father again. Taking a shaky breath she gave him a tremulous smile and nodded. “I’d like that, Daddy.”
The look of surprise and relief on his face cemented things for me – I’d done right in going to him, in reaching out to him one last time. Taking Rose’s hand in mine, I placed it in my father’s and with a clasp to his shoulder, I left them to it and made my way back to Edward as the music started up again. The others were still on their feet, every last one of them exuding caution and uncertainty.
“Are you alright?” Edward murmured the second I was in his arms.
Nodding, I smiled. “I’m perfect.” Kissing him gently, I turned around and leaned back against him in order to watch father and daughter dance as they’d been meant to.
Before the song ended, however, I remembered the look on Momma’s face. Disentangling myself from Edward, I made my way over to her with Edward on my heels. Kneeling down beside her, I took her hands in mine. “Momma?”
Charlie was still behind her, his hands cupping her shoulders, a look of worry on his face as he alternately watched Carolyn, and Rose and Walter. Edward kneeled next to me, one hand on Carolyn’s arm and one on my neck.
Carolyn looked both pained, incredulous, and hopeful at once as she stared at her soon-to-be ex-husband and their daughter. “I can’t believe it,” she whispered. “When I spoke to him on the phone, he flat out refused… and now…”
Blushing, I confessed to seeking him out the day before and having my say. She was shocked to hear about the state I’d found him in, which didn’t surprise me too much, as all communication between them had either been over the phone, or with lawyers present at a neutral location and that only a handful of times.
The song had ended while Momma and I talked, and suddenly Rose and Daddy were standing with us. I could sense Charlie bristling slightly, though he held himself in check. Carolyn hadn’t said anything yet about anything going on between them, but I was fairly certain something was up, especially after his current display of protectiveness toward her and her complete acceptance of his support.
Rising to my feet, I nodded, feeling suddenly unsure of how to behave with my father. Instead, I settled on putting a hand on Edward’s lower back, hoping to draw strength from him as I addressed my father. “I’m glad you decided to come after all.”
Again, Daddy’s face flushed and I think for the first time in my life, I watched him shuffling his feet awkwardly. It took me aback for a moment. Glancing at both Momma and Rose, it had taken them by surprise as well. I was vaguely aware of Emmett and his mother dancing, though I knew his attention would mostly be on us.
“Carolyn,” Walter’s voice was gruff, but not unfriendly. “I hope you don’t mind—”
She was already shaking her head, her hand reaching out to him. He took it in his briefly, then let it slip between his fingers so it fell back in her lap. “I’m glad you came,” she said quietly.
Bella claimed Charlie for a dance, leaving us alone. I had to wonder whether she’d done it on purpose. Rose beckoned me to the side, and Edward followed as we walked over to Emmett who’d escorted his mother back to her seat. Rosalie turned on us with a hint of accusation. “This was your doing?”
My face flushed as I nodded with downcast eyes. Edward slipped behind me, wrapping me securely in his arms and lending me support, though he remained quiet. Rose sighed and when I looked up, she was gazing at me oddly. She had a soft smile on her lips, however, so I figured I wasn’t in too much trouble. “Jazzie, I can’t believe you,” she said quietly. “When?”
“Last night,” I admitted, then explained everything to her as well. At the end, she stepped up to me and hugged me tight – albeit a bit awkwardly as Edward still held onto me, too.
“Thank you,” she whispered, kissing my cheek.
Her attention was drawn by one of their guests wanting a dance with the bride, cutting our conversation short. Emmett just had time for his own thank you before he, too, was whisked away to the dance floor, leaving me alone with Edward. We both watched for a moment, taking in both Emmett and Rose as they danced with their partners, and my parents as they talked quietly — and civilly — for the first time since my being outed.
After a minute, Edward turned to me with a smile. “Dance with me?” he asked, holding out his hand.
Grinning, I grasped it tightly in my own and led the way to the dance floor. With our arms around each other, we began to sway. I chuckled when I noticed that Ben had shifted the song almost the moment we started to dance to “It’s a Wonderful World,” by Louis Armstrong. Edward laughed quietly before singing along.
Rather than joining him, I let the words wash over me. Let myself feel the love I had for him, and he for me. Never before had I been this loved. This content. This happy. Yes, tonight, it really was a wonderful world. My sister was now married to a great guy. I was in love, myself. Momma and Charlie – who were now dancing not far from us – seemed to be developing something of their own. I had friends I could rely on and that loved me for who I was, and I had a new family.
And now Daddy appeared to at least be making an effort. Whether or not things between us would ever be close to normal, I had no idea – though I had to admit that it was probably better if it weren’t, considering what our “normal” had been. But maybe, just maybe, we could grow a new relationship, one that was more of mutual respect, if nothing else.
Needing to express the joy I felt, I pulled Edward closer and kissed him with everything I had. Heedless of where we were or who we were with. I just needed to show him how much I loved him. When we finally came up for air, I could hear quiet laughter around us as well as a few catcalls, causing me to blush slightly.
Edward smiled, cupping my cheek in his hand. “I love you, Jasper.”
“Forever, Edward,” I murmured.