I sat on Edward’s bed, patiently listening to the tragically handsome vampire fumble slightly with his words.

He had a throw pillow in his clutches that he used to busy himself, with hands so manipulating that I feared for the stuffed fabric’s safety. “So you see,” Edward said as he finished up his explanation, “it was more of a reflex than anything. A reaction. I didn’t want to hurt you,” he insisted, nearly pleading for me to understand. I pried the pillow away and crawled onto his lap, wrapping my arms around him to comfort both of us. “I know. I know you never want to hurt me.” I truly was not upset with him. “We’ll just have to be more careful,” he sighed. I sighed as well; I wasn’t pleased about this either. Much to my displeasure and probably his, I knew that I wouldn’t have the nerve to bite him again anytime soon. In any capacity. “I have tangible presents for you as well,” he murmured after a moment, seeming relieved yet resistant to bring up what he perceived to be the next evil on my list. “You didn’t have to do that,” I argued weakly, knowing that I already agreed to any gifts. “The song was perfect.” “I know, but everyone else has or will give you something you can see and touch. I want that too,” he confessed as he played with my fingers. “Besides, they are very reasonable and useful gifts.” He sounded quite proud of his choices, effectively sparking my curiosity. “Where are they?” I asked, my transparent eagerness betraying me. Edward just grinned boyishly before disappearing from under me. He returned a moment later with both a silver and gold package stacked in his hands. I opened the silver one quickly, pleased that wrapping paper was no longer on the Cullen’s list of ‘banned materials for Bella’. “A journal?” I questioned, pleasantly surprised. The leather book had the words “Ma vie” pressed into the front. “My life,” he explained as he ran his finger over the French.

I opened the book eagerly, only to be met with expensive, blank paper. I furrowed my brow in disappointment. Edward smiled grimly and shook his head. “Not my life, sadly. I never got a chance to write one.” “I don’t understand,” I forced out amid my confusion. “I do have some notes from after my change, but it’s mostly chicken scratch that would only make sense to me... and it’s not very extensive, anyway. There’s only a short window..” He paused and the grief on his face increased. “Once we’re a vampire, we don’t forget new thoughts and mental notes to ourselves. But previous human thoughts, especially images, are a problem. They get less clear if we don’t think about them often. Perhaps because they are so fuzzy to began with. In any case, I drew some pictures of my mother and father many years ago, when I realized--” “Edward,” I whispered, nervous yet oddly desperate to interrupt his somber spiel. It hurt to see him this way. “Sorry,” he murmured as he took my hand in his. “I want you to remember. Your experiences, your childhood... I’ll remember the things I’m involved with and what you tell me, of course, but you should have something from your point of view as a resource. When you’re changed, you should think back right away, when the memories are most fresh. The only problem is that you need to remember what you want to remember. What to look for in your mind. And I think being able to read your old journal will help you tremendously with that.” His eyes burned into mine intensely, filled with determination and his own regret. I nodded vehemently as tears pricked my eyes. “Thank you. I’ll write everything I can,” I vowed. He nodded once and pulled me closer so he could kiss the top of my head. “Your parents are here. I can give you the other present later.” I thought better of protesting. Besides, with the suddenly heavy atmosphere, my curiosity was no longer at a dangerously high level. “Okay,” I whispered against his chest. “I love you,” I reminded him. “I know,” he chuckled lightly. “I love you, too.” We got up and lazily made our way down the hall, passing Alice on the way. She handed me a piece of paper and I looked at her quizzically. “For Renee,” she explained briefly before disappearing. Slightly bewildered, I looked at the computer paper and instantly understood.

The unmistakable sound of my mother’s voice told me that she was in the kitchen, even without an all-knowing vampire at my side. We hurried down as much as possible with our slow human pace, though one of us was pretending. “Hey mom,” I smiled at her before gaping slightly at all of the food covering the counters. “Hey sweetheart,” she greeted back before approaching. “Happy birthday!” Esme made a discreet exit, leaving the three of us alone. “I think Mr. Cullen is showing Charlie the backyard or camping stuff,” my mom shrugged as if it were all the same. “Okay,” I replied, not sure of what to say before remembering what was in my left hand. “Oh, here’s our house.” I offered her the print-out Alice gave me. “The realtor sent over an email yesterday.” “Oh it’s so beautiful!” she squealed. “Just as I expected.” Her brow wrinkled as she looked closely at the photographs before giggles escaped her. “Is that a white picket fence in the background, Bella?” she asked, not quite believing the implications of the cliché. “There’s nothing wrong with the fence,” I muttered defensively. I frowned and Edward rubbed my back soothingly. I knew he was containing himself, deeming it inappropriate to give my mother the death glare. I certainly would never want to be on the receiving side of that look. “Oh sweetie,” my mom chuckled. “You and I are so different.” Her eyes sparkled and showed that she meant no harm, like usual, while she pointed out our contrasts. I remained silent. This blunt yet truthful comment would have upset me when I was younger, but now I accepted the facts. Yes, we were different. And I was going to be okay because of it. Edward squeezed my hand and I smiled softly at him, adjusting the thought to include my angel. We were going to be okay.

*** Charlie eventually wandered inside the house to snag some food, but came into the living room once he was accosted by Renee. Apparently, it was time for more presents.

“This is from your father and me,” Renee explained excitedly as she thrust the heavy rectangular box into my hands. I opened the well-wrapped gift, shocked to reveal a brand-new laptop inside. “You’ll be going to college soon and everyone needs one of those, so I’ve heard,” Charlie mumbled shyly yet proudly. My heart swelled at his awkward comment, happy that he approved of at least some of my plans. I felt a little bad that my parents had been the ones to buy me an expensive laptop since money meant so much more to them than it did to the Cullens, but they were probably just happy that they didn’t have to worry about my tuition. When the financial aid packet arrived, I explained to a concerned Charlie that Edward insisted on paying for the both of us. My dad was clearly a little abashed that my boyfriend could financially support me better than he could, but he also couldn’t hide his relief. I looked at the gift in my lap and smiled. My ancient desktop truly was on its last leg. And the fact that this came from my parents made me appreciate it even more. “And we’ll be expecting you to send us pictures on it often, from your trip,” my mom chirped. I nodded in agreement. “Thanks so much. I love it,” I assured before giving them each a hug. I escaped to the kitchen to raid some hors d’oeuvres for lunch, only to be met by Alice groaning with exasperation. “Well I hope you’re happy! The party is all blurry now,” she accused, flailing her arms before storming out. I grinned as I filled up my plate. Yep. Very happy.

It was getting closer to the time non-family members would arrive so Alice was fluttering about, making last-minute adjustments to everything. She had us guys help her lay out the food for appearance-sake. I was pleased that the heavy catering trays formed a nice buffet spread along the living room wall. Alice’s idea was quite genius, really. Compared to a dinner party, it would be much less noticeable that we weren’t eating. And if anyone did question us, we could pretend to have snuck food earlier.

Renee walked around casually, sizing up the scene. She was internally comparing this party to Bella’s circus-themed 9th one, complete with a clown and Bella always at the center of attention. I shook my head, holding back an exasperated smile. No wonder she is traumatized by the idea of birthday parties. After observing the two of them these last few days, I could see that Renee really did love Bella a huge amount. It was a relief to see that she would give up her life for her daughter, considering that Bella had done the same for her in Phoenix, even if Renee never knew it. Yet I was still sure that I loved Bella more than any human could, bias or no bias. “I’ll get it,” Alice murmured too quietly for any human to hear as she discreetly walked to the door, before the bell even rang. In walked Sue Clearwater a moment later, looking rather guarded for being a visitor at a harmless birthday party. Of course, she knew that we could be anything but harmless. Seth was also with her, which caused Bella’s face to light up a little. He was a sweet kid. I watched Bella awkwardly greet Sue. They had the official ‘meet the girlfriend’ lunch yesterday, but it seemed to do little for their closeness. Sue already viewed Bella as a stepdaughter, however, and was quite protective of her considering their limited contact. She hadn’t said anything, but she wanted Bella to stay away from me. I held back a growl. I’d want her to stay away from me, too. I almost expected her yesterday to threaten to tell Charlie, but she must have realized it wasn’t the right time. I didn’t care much anymore. Charlie couldn’t keep me away, and neither could Sue’s mangy pack. And if it meant that Bella could keep contact with her father, maybe it was for the best.

Angela and Ben arrived after getting slightly lost on the way, so the intimate party was now in full swing. A certain Quileute had not shown up yet, but I wasn’t too worried. Jacob was never very punctual these days; he had too much to do. And Alice was still irritable as heck, so I took that as a good sign. I spared a moment to simply take in the room, smiling softly as I viewed my small group of loved ones. Sue was a bit of a plus one, but if she was Charlie’s loved one I knew that eventually she would become one of mine.

Ben and Angela were play-fighting over the mini photo album my mom brought from Florida, thinking it would be cute to pass it around at the party. I found out that most of the Cullens had made a leap for it right away while Edward and I were in the kitchen with my mom. Luckily, there wasn’t anything too embarrassing in it; it mainly featured my toddler years. Earlier, my dad drank in the snapshots eagerly as well, like Renee had never shown him those ones before. Seeing the emotions run across his face had made me suddenly feel bad. Charlie deserved a grandchild to brag about. He was responsible enough, and he already missed out on so much of my childhood. Still, I didn’t think now was the right time to tell Charlie about our childless plans, being that the subject had not come up with us recently. He definitely did not want me to have a child when I was this young, anyway. But if he asked about birth control again, I didn’t think I would have the strength to lie to him. At least he would get step-grandchildren from Seth. And maybe Leah if she ever got off of her bitter harpy soapbox, as Jacob liked to call it. I didn’t think she was that bad. But I didn’t have to hear her thoughts or interact with her often, either. I suppose the latter will change soon enough. I wondered idly if the pack’s kids would all be wolf pups, or if there would even be any vampires in Forks by then. The thought made me sad. I didn’t want to leave forever. I hoped to come back someday, but I didn’t want to wreak havoc on the tribe’s descendents, either. I tried to push away the thoughts for now, and did my best to locate Edward. I wanted him next to me for the rest of the night. I finally spotted him and started to make my way over when I was interrupted by my mom. She placed her hand on my forearm to stop me and I obliged, somewhat begrudgingly because of my previous target. But all annoyance left me when she spoke. “He’s different, isn’t he?” Her hushed tone made her seem so knowing, so intuitive. It scared me. Edward whipped his head around, leading us to make eye contact from across the room. I had no other boyfriends for her to compare him to. So that could only mean... I nodded hesitantly. “I’m very happy,” I assured both of them with a tight throat, knowing that was all I could offer my mother. She hummed in agreement, the knowing look still on her face. I turned to the kitchen in what would look like a search for unobtained food or drink, but really I just needed to breathe.

I wasn’t sure of time passing as I set my hands on the marble island for support, but it didn’t seem long before I wasn’t alone. Pale hands were placed next to mine, effectively holding my back to Edward’s chest. His nose gently pressed against the curve of my head. “Are you okay?” he breathed, ticking the back my neck. “Does she know?” I whispered in answer. Had my harebrained mother really figured it out? Edward ran his lips over my sculpted curls before turning me around to face him. “Of course not.” He looked at me worriedly and took my hands. “She just knows that I’m..” “Different,” I finished in a lackluster voice. He nodded. “She has quite the imagination. I don’t think she’ll soon be able to pinpoint anything exact. And even if she does, she knows better than to say anything. She respects that you’ve made your choice.” His voice had quickly faded to a whisper, and it held a small amount of reverence that he had certainly never shown for Renee before. Yet he also looked disapproving, probably because he thought Renee should try to protect me from strange or dangerous boyfriends, mythical or not. Little did he know, I was the one trying to keep Renee from strange or dangerous boyfriends for years. All things considered, Phil was a godsend. “We should probably get back out there, hmm?” Edward suggested softly as he pressed his forehead against mine. “Wait..please..?” I clutched his hands more tightly. “I just need a minute.” “Of course. You are the birthday girl, after all,” he grinned. My mouth turned up at the corners. We both knew he would give me most anything I asked for, birthday or not. I was sure that he was making me spoiled. “I think you could use another present,” Edward concluded as he glanced at my face. “Ah yes, the answer to everything,” I responded in a mock-knowing voice, smiling to take the bite out of it. “I think it really is just what you need,” he said confidently as he hooked my arm in his like a gentleman. He led us up the staircase when no one was looking, and we slowly made our way to his room on the third floor. I noticed that the house seemed so much bigger when I wasn’t being whisked about in someone’s arms. I plopped down on his bed, pathetically feeling almost winded. He offered me the shiny gold present sitting on his desk. “Here you go.”

I opened the wrapping paper gingerly and revealed an unwrapped iPod. I smiled thankfully. “I hope you don’t mind, but I added my favorite songs. You can delete everything you don’t like. Aside from Linkin Park, Debussy and some other CDs around your room, I realized that I don’t quite have your musical tastes figured out,” he admitted apologetically. “And when we went to that house party, I never made myself ask you which song you liked that played... Anyway, I think you’ll like the first song, at least,” he grinned shyly. He took the gadget out of my hands and pressed a few buttons before handing me the earbuds. I put them in hesitantly, but should have known that Edward already checked the volume. The notes of my unforgettable lullaby sounded out and I silently climbed into Edward’s lap. I closed my eyes as it played in its entirety, including the new ending. I enjoyed it even more with Edward’s protective arms around me. I very nearly fell asleep before Edward’s massaging hands on my arms got a little rougher. “I think you are missed downstairs, sweetheart.” “Okay,” I sighed and kissed his cheek. “Thank you for the iPod; I really like it.” “You’re welcome, angel.” He picked me up bridal style and I glanced at his face, surprised. “No one will be the wiser for the first flight of stairs,” he explained before shutting the door behind us. *** Jacob and Aubrey finally arrived right when Sue was leaving. Charlie sent her home because he noted how uncomfortable she looked, and thought she was sick. Sue didn’t exactly put up much of a fight, but I wasn’t offended. She gave me a nice Quileute necklace before she left. Seth wanted to stay, luckily, so Charlie offered to give him a ride later. “Hey Bella!” Jacob boomed from the entranceway. I giggled and met him halfway. Aubrey trailed behind. I was quite surprised that she decided to come, but figured that was a good sign for Jacob. “This is for you.” He handed me a tissue paper-wrapped gift that resembled a sack with the excess paper sticking out of the ribbon at the top. “Aww thanks, Jake. You coming was enough of a gift, though.” “Sure, sure. Don’t be stupid. It’s a birthday. You get gifts on your birthday.” I grinned at his reasoning and tore open the paper. I pulled out a tribal-looking keychain. “It’s for good luck,” he explained as I hung the key ring on my pointer finger to better look at the charms. “My dad and I make them.” “Thank you. I’m always in need of luck, it seems.” Aubrey snorted at that and I met her eyes,

daring her to continue. “Hon,” Jacob admonished, and the sound of a pet name coming from his mouth completely disarmed me. Aubrey sighed and mumbled a sorry before turning away and heading for the drinks. “I’m sorry about that.” “It’s not a big deal. I’m just glad you came.” “Wouldn’t miss it.” A silent moment passed before he spoke. “You’re still leaving me to supervise your truck’s renovations when you leave in two weeks, right?” “Yeah,” I answered, somewhat surprised that he remembered our exact departure. “Unless you’re too busy, of course,” I added quickly. “Are you kidding? I wouldn’t trust anyone else to do it. Your truck may be old as heck and only go 55 miles per hour, but I still was the one to rebuild the engine and stuff. So it’s like my somewhat-embarrassing love child that I secretly care about and still want to do well.” I burst into laughter at his serious tone, wiping away the moisture being forced out of my eyes. It felt so good to laugh. “What?” Jacob asked, making me laugh harder. When I finally got a hold of myself, I realized that both of our significant others were glaring at who we were conversing with. I hurriedly broke contact with her eyes. “Umm, maybe you should go see Aubrey,” I urged reluctantly. “I don’t think she’s happy about our love child.” Jacob chuckled but agreed, wandering off to tame the beast. I made my way over to Edward, hoping that I wasn’t in trouble. “So why did Aubrey snort?” I asked without quite looking at his face, good offense being my goal. “She thinks you don’t have the right to hope for luck when you are mixing your future with such dangerous, ill-fated creatures willingly,” he answered dryly. I made a strange choking sound crossed with a laugh, which honestly was only a small step above a snort. “Seriously? That’s a little hypocritical, don’t you think. I mean, she’s just as heavily involved with the pack as I am your family, so all she’s missing to make it just as dangerous is a trusty

cold sidekick.” “Bella...” Edward started hesitantly. I cringed internally, but gazed up at him so he could continue. “Alice wants you to do something, but I think you should say no.” I raised my eyebrow, sure that he was going to say something else about Jacob. But Edward just looked pointedly to Alice in a deserted corner of the room, so we made our way over warily. When we reached her, she opened a small box on the floor and held up 3-inch-heel deathtraps. “I want you to wear these,” she said with authority. “Alice,” I scolded with an air of defeat. “Just for an hour,” she whined, her voice adding something in a whisper that sounded an awful lot like “or two.” “Alice!” I whisper-shrieked. “You don’t have to,” Edward insisted next to me. “Oh come on, the party is winding down anyway and I did so much work...” “Oh fine,” I sighed. “One hour. But keep a lookout for any sprained ankles in that pretty head of yours,” I bargained. “Yay! Thank you.” Alice jumped up and down, and I wondered if anyone could resist that pixie’s endearing excitement. “You let her get away with too much,” Edward warned after she danced away. “I know,” I mumbled as I slipped on the new shoes and sadly stuck my ballet flats under a table. “Just don’t let me fall.” He grinned mischievously and grabbed my arm as if to steady me. “But catching you is so much fun.” *** “I have to go,” Jacob apologized, nodding to Aubrey who was shuffling her feet on the other side of the room. Despite his words, he was still clearly conflicted and seemed to be asking for permission. I wanted my best friend to stay, especially since it seemed like he just got here. But I knew that he was making an effort with Aubrey, and they were already on thin ice. “It’s okay,” I tried to smile easily. “Just promise that we’ll spend lots of time together before my trip.” “Absolutely. I’m really going to miss you, Bells,” he confessed as he pulled me into a chaste hug. I waved off my desire for one of his authentic bear hugs, accepting that I would only be getting those from Emmett from now on. I also waved off the fact that my heart tugged when I watched him slip out of the front door. I sighed and led Edward to the couch, suddenly feeling tired. We settled in comfortably, with our sides flush and his arm around my waist.

We chatted about everything and nothing for a brief amount of time before he suddenly stood up with his untouched glass of sparkling juice. “Where are you going?” I asked, worry slipping into my tone. “I’m going to make a toast,” he answered casually, slipping away before I could protest. I blushed as he politely announced his intentions to the rest of the room. “As all of you have noticed so far, Bella is unlike anyone else,” he started slowly after pausing. “She’s witty, brave, warm, loving, selfless, mature, stubborn...” he named with a grin. “And absolutely captivating. “I know she’s had hesitations about attention and gifts in the past, but her birthday is actually my favorite holiday. Because if she hadn’t been born that day, I wouldn’t be blessed with such happiness and love. She has truly turned my world upside down. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have no interest in the world, upright or not, if she’s not in it.” He turned slightly toward me and met my eyes before continuing. “Bella, love, I know this has been a difficult year. Sheer beauty was mixed in, yet still, quite tumultuous.” He apologized to me with his eyes. “But I promise you that all of your future years will be better. I can promise that because I’ll personally see to it; I’ll be there every step of the way. As long as you’ll have me.” He had turned almost somber at the end. My eyes pooled a little and I found myself standing up to meet him at the front of the room. I took his hands in mine and looked up. Gazing into topaz, everything seemed so much simpler. I knew what I wanted. What he needed. My mouth opened without a second thought. “Edward Masen Cullen, will you marry me?” I nearly had to keep from gaping, myself, at the words that had fallen out. But I also knew that it was right. So right. Edward’s face remained stoic for half a second and then...I had never seen so many emotions flicker across someone at once. Confusion. Shock. Awe. Joy. Ecstasy. Gratitude. Pride. Love. Endless Love. Then he crushed his lips to mine, blocking my view. Somehow, he had never kissed me like this before. Like I was his prize, yes. But like he was my prize as well; he surrendered some dominance to me.

He finally knew how much I really loved him and was letting me show him. Eventually I had to break away for air so I got a nice view of his glorious face again. “I’ll take that as a yes?” I gasped. “Yes.” He kissed me softly. “Yes. Yes,” he whispered, as he touched my face. “May I go get your ring?” “Yes,” I answered with the same weight he had used. I smiled bigger than I probably ever have and I must have mirrored him perfectly. As he rushed away, I turned and realized that both of my families and my friends had been frozen, staring and grinning at us. Everyone erupted into squeals at once, even Renee. I blushed as always but for once I didn’t care. Alice tackled me with a lot of pixie force, but I somehow managed not to fall over. And in heels, no less. She should be proud. Alice seemed genuinely surprised as she beamed at me, which was quite rare. But even she couldn’t have seen this coming, because I didn’t either. Edward was back a little too quickly, but I doubt anyone noticed. He gracefully yet humbly knelt before me on the hardwood floor. I gasped when he opened the small velvet box in his hand. It was the most beautiful ring, and I couldn’t believe that I had shied away from it for so long. It perfectly matched the necklace he gave me a few months ago, only the necklace was made of a web of gemstones, not diamonds. “It’s beautiful,” I whispered, watching the diamonds sparkle from the florescent lights. “You’re beautiful,” he murmured after he kissed my left hand. Then he easily slipped his mother’s ring onto my trembling finger. Yes, this was going to be a very good year.

The End of the beginning.

________________________________________________________ Awws. I’ve actually had the proposal planned and somewhat written since July. I don’t know if I’ve said this, but when I get inspiration, I write sections no matter how far in advance. In fact, this month and last, I figured out how I’ll end my whole trilogy, though I haven’t written it down yet. (You’ll never torture it out me!)

Ahem. Anyway... Surprised by this ending? Pleased? Let me know, but try not to leave spoilers in the comments. I’m going to spruce up the whole story before I post the sequel, but I’m hoping that it won’t take too long. If you’re curious to know, they won’t be married yet for their first year of college, but they will still quite enjoy their picket fence. And Edward didn’t get a chance to explain why he was glaring at Jacob this chapter (not that he ever needs a reason), so here’s why: He was jealous of his ability to make Bella laugh so hard. Bella never seems so carefree with him. That’s all; he doesn’t think she’s going to run off with him. Thanks for reading, everyone. :) It was my first attempt at fanfiction, or anything this long for that matter. I hope you’ll stay with me as I write about these crazy kids.