This is the last chapter of UtAT. I will be posting an epilogue along with something special, though. Don't ask when. When it is up, it is up. I usually don't make you wait long. You know this.
Under the Apple Tree
Chapter 63: Sometimes Love that Hurts, Can Heal
- The Final Chapter -
There are so many moments. Moments that simply pass by. Moments that you watch in slow motion. Moments you wish you could use the remote control on and either fast forward or rewind. Pause. Stop.
Then, there are the ones that you wish you could relive everyday. The ones that you watch and cannot believe that you are somehow worthy of witnessing.
And I, have seen them all.
"One night I had a dream-I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord and across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints, one belonged to me and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of my life flashed before me,I looked back at the footprints in the sand.I noticed that many times along the path of my life,there was only one set of footprints.I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in my life. This really bothered me and I questioned the Lord about it. "Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,you would walk with me all the way,but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints. "I don't understand why in times when I needed you most,you should leave me." The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child,I love you and I would never, never leave you during your times of trial and suffering. "When you saw only one set of footprints,it was then that I carried you."
"What does that mean?" Bree asks Edward.
He adjusts Grace on his lap. "It means, you're never alone. That when your load gets too large and you feel as though you cannot handle what life gives you, God is there to guide you. To help you. To save you."
She thinks about it for a minute. "So, you're kind of like God, then?"
His mouth smiles, but his eyes say no. "Why would you say that?"
"Because you help people. You save them." She pokes him in the back and his only reply is a kiss to her forehead.
I take Grace from his lap. She is so much bigger. Harder to easily pull into my arms, but well worth the effort.
I say it with my eyes closed, holding her to me. "Let's just hope God is in the mood to be charitable tomorrow."
"He's gonna give Grace new ears. I can't wait. I want her to come to dance class with me."
So do I.
"There would have to be more than new ears for that to happen, Brianna."
I look at him. He smirks. "Let's just get dinner and not talk about this for the millionth time." I pick up Grace and walk to the kitchen.
He is relentless. He is Edward. "Just think about how wonderful it would be, Bella." He pauses at the counter as I open the fridge door. "Grace and Bree would be like sisters. They could do ballet together. We could get out of this town…" his eyebrows suggest naughty things… "Apple picking in fall."
I place Grace in his arms. "And your mother would kill us both. Not to mention, all the money you spent on that gym/pool addition. What about that?"
He shrugs. "Increases the sale value."
Bree has become a traitor. "I want to go apple picking. And I want Grace to be a ballerina like me."
Edward smiles. Of course. I poke his chest. "Two against one isn't fair."
He takes my hand. "Then just say yes. Agree to move to Virginia. Problem solved."
I draw my hand away. "One problem at a time, Edward. Now let me feed you, please. If you're going to be playing God with our daughter's ears tomorrow, you should be well fed and rested."
His best replies tonight- are definitely kisses.
Somewhere in between toss and turn number fifty one and fifty five, I feel the bed move. The weight next to be is gone and so with it, goes the warmth. I sigh and roll over. When he doesn't return quickly, I let my feet touch the floor and wander until I fine him. I stand at her door.
He's holding her so sweetly. He's holding her like love. He's holding her like she is the most delicate, precious thing. She is. Their secret I love you rubs her cheek. Over and over. He doesn't need to say it, even if she could hear it. I can feel it and it's not even touching me. "I'm sorry you felt scared. You know Daddy would never let anything happen to you, right?" His hands move. They sign. His mouth speaks. It breaks my heart. It gives my heart a reason to beat. So gentle. So nods. He wipes her tears. Thumb to tiny cheek."You're too pretty to cry."The secret rubs her cheek
I sit on the plastic chair. Bree at my side. She has a book in her lap. It doesn't belong just to her. Jacob has sent her more gifts than I can count over the last three years. This is shared between them, though. I peek over. Her mouth is twisted up into a grin. Her hand writes something under where his hand has written something. I'm not prying, or sure, but I think this is like a journal they exchange whenever she visits. What I do know, is that if Edward ever peeked into it, he would probably go and hunt down Jacob.
I keep my mouth shut.
They come walking down the hallway. It's like when you see a wave about to crash over your head. I want this moment as much as I want to run away from it. The color of their scrubs is not comforting. I wish. His hands are. They slide under my chin. I don't trust my legs to stand. Carlisle waits while another doctor and some nurses go in the room that holds all of my life. Other than the one that is in front of me.
"She'll be alright. Piece of cake, remember?" He assures.
Bree. "Cake sounds good."
He smiles, but otherwise pays her no mind.
I nod. "I trust you."
A few kisses to my cheek and I watch his feet disappear behind Carlisle's. I wish as I sit here, that there really was a fast forward button. I settle for finding a piece of dried out cake in the cafeteria with Bree.
It's Sunday. I have a picnic basket in one hand. Small hand in my other. A man on the other side, holding on to the other free hand. In his free arm, there is a blanket and a book. We walk along the soft blades of grass towards our usual spot. My mouth is about to open, about to ask a question that is rather insignificant, when I am rendered still.
And then, all of us.
There is something that makes this our park. It goes above our heads. It keeps us shaded when the sun is high. It provides comfort despite its hard exterior. It has been the one place in the world I could always count on being here and as my eyes look out, in search of that place, there is only a grouping of benches with tables. A pavilion. I look around. I make sure. Everything else carries on like it is supposed to be here. Like we have arrived at the right place, but no. This is wrong. This is so, so wrong.
My knees are about to fail me. My eyes are already there. And a heart that has finally learned how to be, how to live, has suddenly forgotten how. A tug to my pants. I look down.
Small fingers haven't fully figured out her new voice and ears, yet. Where is the tree, Mommy?
I just shake my head and I…just shake.
The day I grew up
"Oh, honey. We are so proud of you." Esme hugs me like I am hers. I let her. "And this little hat. I forgot how adorable they are."
I shake my head. "There's nothing cute about it." I look around. "Where's Edward?"
"Grace had to go potty. Unfortunately, kids don't always understand the importance of such important moments in our lives," she smiles and fluffs the ends of my hair.
Carlisle puts his arm around her shoulders. "When you gotta go, you gotta go. Small bladders."
Esme makes a face, but she loves this man. "No lessons on the human body. This is Bella's day, Darling."
I see Edward coming through the crowed with Grace on his hip. She is wrapped around his neck like he is her protection from all the strange people. And I want a pause button.
"No. Not my day."
His mouth is on my cheek before I can even say hello. He is whispering in my ear and there are little arms trying to find their way into mine. She says a few words in between her fingers to him and he pulls something from his pocket. But I don't want gifts today. I don't need them. This isn't a day for rewards.
I tell her my own fingers and voice. I love you.
It is a day for redemption.
It's her day. I owe her this day.
When I gave in
"Edward wants to move to Virginia."
My shrink thinks for a moment as he writes. "And what do you want?"
"I want to go. I mean, I really want to go. But…I just don't want to pick up my shit and leave due to a few random assholes knowing about my business and spreading rumors. I guess, I'm not sure how much that shit hurts Grace, in comparison to how much leaving her grandparents and shit would. You know?"
He writes and then looks up. "Have you discussed this with Edward?"
I nod. "Of course." And I smile a little at how much we do that shit.
"And he's still in favor of the move?"
"Like, bugs the shit out of me everyday for years now."
A pause. A real one. "I would suggest making a list, number one. Pros and cons. Then of course, as a family, an entire family, you need to have this discussion. His parents included. All voices need to be heard. If there is a plan set in place, with Grace's grandparents, then the move should be smooth and would probably benefit her greatly. As well yourselves."
"A plan? What kind of plan?"
"A schedule of sorts. When visits can and will happen. Structure is very important to a child. If there is something, let's say a calendar for instance, that would show Grace when Grandma and Grandpa would visit, it offers her not only a sense of structure - as there is a plan for these events - but also, something to look forward to."
I think about this. My head nods. "Yeah. That makes sense."
"Talk about it with Edward."
Like I wouldn't.
"How are things going with the other list, Bella?"
And I know what he means. There are many lines crossed off. There are many that I feel quite proud of. But still, one remains. Renee.
"I'm still working on it."
And that's the truth.
I drive past the house everyday. I have a thousand thoughts in my head of how it would play out. I have words in my Christmas journal I have scribbled and crossed lines through and balls of paper in trash cans. But I also have happiness and no desire to ruin it. It doesn't offer a solution or resolution. It is just a line that I stand beside and do not cross. I just can't. Not yet.
"She's so beautiful." He is watching what I am watching. On our bed. In between us. A sleeping face. Tiny hands and pink little lips. Dreaming. Peaceful.
I nod and don't look away. The curls around my fingers feel just like the one's on my own head. But they are not frizzy. They are smooth and soft. They are well cared for. They are treated with ribbons and bows and headbands and I am not Renee. She has a hat with a logo and a number that was made just for her and it is the only time the curls are compromised. But when it sits on her head, she sits on Edward's lap. And he, he is Charlie. He is everything good and we, we are not my parents.
"Edward?" I whisper. He's looking at me. "Do you really want to move to Virginia?"
His face smiles. The whole thing. I hate and love him in stupid, stupid ways. That smile. I find my own. "I'll go, but under one condition."
"I want an apple tree in our backyard."
He tries to contain his laughter, keeping his mouth closed as he does it. Fingers under my chin like they love me back in stupid, stupid ways.
"With a swing?"
I look down to Grace. "Definitely."
"This sucks." Jacob kicks the dirt.
"You can visit in the summer. Any time. As long as you like."
"I'm gonna be here all alone. This sucks." He kicks the moving truck.
"Jake, this thing is a rental. Don't kick it." I tug on his arm and pull him to the sidewalk while the guys load up our things. "You're not alone. Emmett is here. And Billy. And your parents. If I could take you with me I would, but I don't think Sue would like that idea. You'll be fine. I promise."
He hugs me like I was the best thing to happen to him, but the truth is that Jacob, he was one of the best things that happened to a lot of people. Me. Emmett. Bree. Edward. Grace and all her smiles and laughs at his funny faces. Even Emmett's kid Josh and how he has a better father. A father who no longer hides and can hold his head high. A father who learned how to take care of his family and be honest.
If Jacob didn't exist, I wonder what would.
"Dude." We look over our shoulders to Emmett. He is carrying something heavy. He drops it down on the back of the truck. He wipes his forehead and looks at Jacob. "You're supposed to be my helper. Not hanging out on the sidewalk with the pretty girls." He snaps his fingers and Jacob stands.
I nod and he walks off to the house. Emmett winks at me as he passes. I stand and hold Grace's hand as we follow them back into the house. She runs with her little legs until she hits the steps and then climbs up. I chase behind her until she pushes the door to her room open.
"Hey Gracie," Alice greets her, but her face falls a bit when she sees me. "Bella."
We talk we just don't talk. You know, coffee and shit. Getting our nails done and shit. Her and Rose type of shit. No. Not us.
"Hi. Um…I can help with that." I take a pile of clothes from her hands and rest them on the bed while she rids the closet of the rest of the toys and clothes and million other things it holds.
Grace sits on the bed by me.
"Want to help Mommy?" She nods and does her best to help me take off the hangers. Mostly, she holds things up to her and puts other things on her head. It's the best kind of help.
I manage to get everything folded and put it to the side, ready for more, but when I look over, Alice hasn't moved anything else out. It takes me a second to realize what she is doing. What is in her hands. It was so long ago and all of those things I let my hands write on a piece of notebook paper, have been long forgotten. Well, they have been rectified any how. I couldn't ever forget.
She turns. Her face is thoughtful. She gives a light smile and shoves the letter back into its envelope. It's handed to me and I sit it down on the bed. Grace of course scoops it up and pulls everything out. Her eyes lighting up when she sees a familiar face.
"Pooh." And even the most simple, single words are the best. From her lips.
I nod. "Pooh. Want me to read it?"
Of course she does. Her little body crawls until she is in my lap and waiting. There are so many more words inside of that envelope. Things I am ashamed of. Things I am proud of because of the outcome. Shit I wish I could have pressed rewind to and never had to watch, but this paper, that I tore out of one of her books, will remain true.
Pooh is telling Piglet, but not really. "If there ever comes a day, when we can't be together, keep me in your heart and I'll stay there forever."
And my eyes. So goddamn stupid. Still.
After hugs that hurt - Esme - and a million promises we have to promise - Esme - and reassurance and 'Please. Stop. You're going to drive yourself insane.' - Edward - we have finally made our journey and have lush green grass under our feet. I don't know why, but grass on the front lawn of this house, feels amazing. I never want to wear shoes again. Not dirty. Not clean. Nothing. I just want to feel it in between my toes and lay on my back with it on my back and it and the sky and nothing.
Well, something. Two.
And when I close my eyes, I swear it was just for a second, but someone must have a fast forward button, because there is my daughter and there is Bree and there is Jacob and what was a house full of boxes is now a house full of kids, running down the porch steps, begging to get in a truck and drive down the little country store.
"Let Bella rest," Edward says, laying at my side. He was just trying to get lucky. Blankets. We have a million. This one was being quite good to us….until. Kids.
"Come on! You guys can kiss later. Geeze. Important stuff here," she is pulling Edward's hand and he is such a sucker. I get up and I hate that his weakness has worn off on me.
I brush the ground from my clothes. "What the heck are we going there for anyhow? I just went shopping. We have snacks coming out of my….we have plenty of snacks."
"It's a surprise." She pulls us along until we are giving in to what they all want.
They run from the truck as we arrive.
"Watch Grace," Edward calls out. He doesn't look away until Jacob and Bree have her hands securely in their own. Then, he takes mine. We follow behind them until I see what the big deal was. You see, the thing about country stores in country settings, they sell everything.
At the same time. "We are not getting a bunny."
Them, at the same time. "Come on. Please?"
Same time. "No."
Grace is better at this game then all of us. She holds one and asks with her eyes that Edward has no ability to say no to.
"Edward," I warn.
His face twists. "It is just a small rabbit. How much could it hurt?"
I have eyes too. And my eyes are saying exactly how I feel. But you see, this small child, her brain is not the same size as her small body, because she places her face against this damn bunny and bats her lashes like she learned that shit somewhere. He kneels down and as soon as she opens her mouth to ask in her softest, sweetest Grace tone 'please daddy', I have lost.
I am alone.
I should turn around and shout that aisle three needs a clean up. My boyfriend, a huge pile of mushy man on the floor. Bring a mop.
"Yes!" And the miniature masses rejoice.
They are all taking turns holding this rodent as we drive home. I am making eyes that I know he can feel. As I see the smirk on his stupid face.
Bree holds it up to me. "Look. He's wearing a sweater. Cute huh?"
She rolls her eyes and they go back to playing pass the bunny. The truck doors slam as we park and they race to the house with it. Grace trailing behind. Smaller legs. You know. Jacob stops and lets her piggy-back and I knew there was a reason I loved that kid.
A hand finds mine. "Don't be mad."
"You didn't even try to say no."
Not even the corner of his smirking mouth will save him. "I can't help it. The word 'daddy' is like an instant killer to all my sensibility and rational thinking."
"Yeah. I see this."
He laughs and kisses my hand as we go up the steps. "We'll just consider it an early Easter present."
"Edward, Easter isn't for another six months. You are weak. Just say it. I am Edward and I am weak."
He smiles and goes to lean in for a kiss. I pull back, but I am obviously playing. Like I wouldn't kiss his ass.
"Did you want me to buy one for you? Are you jealous, mommy?" His arms wrap around me, not letting me escape. I laugh, because he is stupid.
"No. Shut up. And don't try to get frisky with me. We have a house full of kids."
He is going to say something back, but pauses. His face sobering up. I am pulled into him, his arms tighter and chin on my shoulder. A soft voice that means shit he says.
"That might have been one of the best sentences you have ever said, Bella."
I know what he means, but I carry sarcasm like it has small legs. "Good, because I'm defiantly not giving you any pussy after you failed me on the bunny-buying shit." I pull away and he is smiling. I pat his chest. "Have fun chasing after Thumper or whatever the fuck they'll name it, Edward."
It's like, I know this shit. Because for the rest of the night, until I am tucked beneath our covers, waiting for his ass and he is still looking for where the hell that damn rodent has run off too.
But this bed, it just isn't complete or right without a pair of feet rubbing against mine. The covers get my frustration as I toss them aside. The wooden floors feel just as amazing on my bare feet as the grass. Probably, because I am the one who cleans them. He has his head tucked under a piece of furniture. Grace is holding a flashlight.
I shake my head. "Maybe he went back to his homeland."
As soon as he makes a face at me, I walk away, down the hall, trying to find a white ball of fluff somewhere.
I call to him, quietly. "Here you little fucker. Where are you? I would like to go to sleep please. And fuck the shit out of my b…" Feet stop. I am looking into a scene, that if anyone other than me were watching - particularly, a male, green-eyed version of me - it would not end well.
On the other side of the glass, out on my back porch, in my white swing that is normally reserved for Sunday and Ice-tea and story telling, is the sweetest goddamn thing I have almost ever seen.
"You find him, Sweetheart?"
I turn around to the sound of Edward's voice and hurry down the hall, pushing him back towards the living room. "No. Let's go look out front. Seriously, he might have escaped and made friends with my flowers."
I keep walking, tugging him along to where it's safe…and away from Jacob holding his teenaged hands to Bree's teenaged face and kissing her like she is the angel he swears she is.
The day we became closer to we
"Are you sure this is safe?"
Edward is amused at my terror. "Yes, baby. Give me your hand." He steps into the gondola before me and then helps as I place one foot inside and then the other. We sit and then the man starts off down the water. My eyes dart around, wondering what lies beneath the dark water all around us.
"Nothing is going to eat you. I promise." He kisses my hand and then leans into my ear. "Unless you'd like something to."
I pull back with my eyes a bit wider. "Your dirty jokes are getting closer to actually being dirty jokes, Edward. I'm proud."
He puts his arms around me. I relax into his hold and comfort. "We should have done this a long time ago."
"No. We shouldn't have. We're doing it now because it is supposed to happen now."
I feel his quiet laughter. "Yes, Ma'am."
"I miss Grace."
"Me too, but she'll be fine. I'm sure she having the time of her life with Esme and Alice, tonight."
"Ugh. I don't like our kid wearing clothes that cost as much as my college debts."
His arms squeeze tighter. "Thank you."
I turn my head to look at him. "For?"
"For always saying she is ours." His mouth touches mine. "For being a wonderful mother and my best friend."
I kiss him back, but smile. "I'm Jacob's best friend. Watch it."
He smiles. "Fine. For completing me in life. Is that better?"
"Are you trying to have a Jerry McGuire moment under the bridge with me, Edward?" I point to the bridge as we pass under it. It goes dark and for those few moments of pitch black and his tongue speaking to me, I want a major, major pause button.
The thing about Italy is, they have pastries that make Alice's bakery seem like it doesn't even deserve to be called a bakery. I might or might not be thinking about that shit, as we sit for breakfast in one of the little café's.
Staring at her.
Grace was returned to us last night with enough Italian designer tags to pay off our house. And the neighbors.
I might be feeling a little evil.
Although, she does look super cute. So okay, Alice's bakery is not utter shit. It just isn't this place. Fuck therapy and all it's rational thinking.
"So, we were thinking about going sight-seeing this morning." Esme rests down her coffee or café. You choose. "Will you all join us?"
She makes a face that clearly reads, 'since you allowed the tickets I gave you more than five years ago to expire and I lost a shit load of money.'
Edward funded our trip to make up for it. He has serious guilt issues. I just have a heard time saying no when his mouth is speaking things to me. Especially, when it is in between my legs. Alas, family trip to Italy.
This is where Grace gets that shit from. Her way. Edward.
"Actually, I wanted to take Bella somewhere," Edward replies.
My ears are shocked. See my prior thoughts.
"But, Darling, I really think we should all spend time together. This is supposed to be a family vacation. I mean, it's not like we get to see you all very much. You know, since you moved away from us and all."
And okay, I lied. That's where Grace gets that shit from. And damn. Mama Esme is good.
"Ma, please. We will do something together later. A nice dinner or something. But I'd like to spend the afternoon with Bella. We already have plans."
"We do?" I ask surprised.
His face looks tired. "Yes, love. We do."
Esme is not a quitter. "Well, then we'll just join you." She turns to Carlisle and starts going on about how to rearrange their day. Edward is palming his face and looking pretty annoyed. Grace is just lost in all her Italian pastry Heaven.
Alice smirks at Edward…and I….I feel rather left out of the loop.
We all walk together, looking at architecture and history and it is all very amazing and shit, but truthfully, I feel a bit small here. I don't know much about this stuff, other than it looks pretty. And I feel a little stupid when I don't understand what people are saying and asking me. I cling to Edward's arm and just follow them around.
By noon, Grace's legs have officially had enough. Edward puts her in the stroller and Esme pushes as we continue on our journey of never ending sight-seeing. She and Alice are babbling back and forth, laughing and lost in conversation. Carlisle is trying to keep track of the map that clearly shouts we are tourists. I just keep on walking, until Edward's feet stop and my arm can't go without him. I look back in question.
He just watches me.
"What?" Nothing. "Um…" I look the other direction. "We're gonna lose your parents." And his face tells me that perhaps that is the point. His hand, pulling me towards him confirms this. I laugh a little. "Edward."
His expression changes, softening and doing something makes my heart sting in my chest. Warm. His hands cupping my face, makes it go faster. His lips closer to mine give my skin braille letters of nervousness.
That's all he offers as his eyes do shit to my insides. My lungs that want to breathe heavier. Or not at all. The soft tips of his fingers over my cheeks.
"You know I adore you, Sweetheart?"
A tiny laugh leaves my mouth. I nod. "So do I."
Closer. "Do you?"
Softer. "Of course."
A pause and his fingers slip from my face, down to my hands. He walks backwards and pulls me along, into where the space in the street is wider. Where most people take pictures because there is something worthy of taking pictures in this spot. What, I couldn't tell you. But they all seem to do it.
His expression is amusing. "What are you doing, Cullen?"
But he doesn't answer, just allows that small smile to reside in the corner of his mouth. When we reach the middle of the circle, he stops. He holds my hand in his.
"Do you remember your condition for moving to Virginia?"
I nod. "The tree. Yeah."
His free hand goes into his pocket. He pulls out his cell-phone and flips it open. A few buttons and then he hands it over. There is a picture. Of a tree. I look back to him.
"It's ours. They planted it while we're here. I wanted it to be a surprise for when we got home. Not only because it was my end of the deal to hold up, but also because I know how hurt you were when Charlie's tree was destroyed in the park." I smile and go to step forward so I can hug him, but he shakes his head. "I'm not finished."
He takes his phone back and drops it back to his pocket. Something else drops. His knee. And the phone must have exchanged places with the box in his hand.
"It actually occurred to me after I spoke with the guy planting it, how much it is like us. He was warning me that there is no guarantee if this tree will live or die, because you when you take a tree or plant from the ground, from all it knows, it can get sick and die. Sometimes you can save them if you catch them in time, see the signs, but usually they die.
"The point though, is that your taking a chance. There's no guarantee of what will happen. And if we never took a chance, Bella, we might have died. And we wouldn't have what we have now.
"And this tree, I think it's going to live, because it's going to get a lot of love and care, so next year, when its roots are strong and able to hold the million lanterns and other tacky shit my mother will surely want to hang from it, I want to be under it.
"I want to have you across from me and Grace in between us and I want to be telling you that I love you and I'll always love you. What I'm asking is, if you'll marry me under that tree. Under our apple tree?"
And if a light ghost of wind went by, I might just float right away with it. My knees are definite failures. And I fall to them, into him and hug him like he is my protection. Like I don't see his family over his shoulder, taking pictures like the other idiots all around them. And like I never want this moment to end. And as my eyes find my other eyes, and they smile at me…
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