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Sixteen days.

My mouth became dry as I stared at my computer screen, reading my mother's email

I'm looking forward to seeing you in two weeks.

She was arriving two days before the wedding.  I tried not to flinch as the word wedding crossed my mind, but my eyes still twitched.  It was all happening so fast.

A wedding was my idea, I reminded myself.  Edward had been perfectly happy to elope to Las Vegas, but I knew that my parents deserved more.  Neither of them was happy about our marriage plans, but they both eventually agreed to silence their concerns and participate.  They would never know that this was much more than a wedding - it was a goodbye.

Following our marriage, Edward and I were leaving for Alaska.  Everyone in my human life believed that it was to attend the University of Alaska Southeast, but it was much more than that.  When we got to Alaska I would cease to be human.  Edward would make me immortal - a vampire like him.

A lot had to happen first before Edward would sink his teeth into me, starting with the wedding.  Alice had been excited to be allowed to plan our nuptials, and I'd been spending most of my time trying to keep her from going overboard.  The wedding was under control, I thought.  The reception was another matter, though.

Since the only place large enough to host a sit down dinner in Forks was at the high school, Alice had elected to erect a huge tent in the field right next to the church.  I was pretty sure that the tent was going dwarf its neighbor, by the sound of it.  She had a caterer coming from Seattle to prepare and serve the dinner and a popular jazz band flying in from who knows where.  I tried not to think about how much money she was pumping into the Washington economy with this event.

Edward's main task had been to choose his groomsmen.  He asked Emmett to be his best man, Ben Cheney, and of all people, Tyler Crowley to join him.  I could only imagine what the bachelor party would be like with that combination of humans and vampires...

My list was similarly short.  I had selected two more bridesmaids, an easy task.  Angela and Jessica were both thrilled to participate.  Jessica had questioned our decision to marry so soon, but Angela, always thoughtful, didn't say a word, and helped quell Jessica's curiosity.

Only two items remained on the must do list.  We were still searching for the right ring for Edward's hand, with no luck.  And then there was my gift to him, which was proving to be incredibly difficult.

I had considered asking Alice to look into the future and see my choice, but that seemed like cheating.  I should be able to do this myself.  But what could I give him that could possibly symbolize my love...that I could afford?

I pondered these questions while staring at my computer screen.  With a click Google eventually appeared, and I quickly had a list of the standard gift ideas for grooms before me.  Cuff links, money clips...nothing looked appealing.  The MP3 player caught my eye, but that sounded more like a birthday present than a wedding gift.  I filed that one away for Christmas.

It wasn't any easier that Edward never left my side.  Not that I wanted him to leave, but thinking up and preparing a surprise in front of him sort of defeated the purpose.  Frustrated, I shut down the computer and turned toward my love.

Edward was sprawled out on my bed casually perusing a paperback.  I watched his face for a few minutes, his mouth turning up at the corners as he read.  Then a smirk.  "What are you reading?"

"Shakespeare.  Something a little lighter that Romeo and Juliet, though."  I could hear the smile in his voice as he held the book up so I could read the title.  Much Ado About Nothing.

"How appropriate," I said, giving him my own wry smile.  He rolled his eyes and then brushed my cheek.  As he did, I caught his hand and lightly kissed it.  "You look thirsty today."

His eyes looked like shiny black pearls.  Gone were the dark, black holes of the past; there was always a glint in them now, even on the darkest days.

"You don't miss much, do you?"  His face grew serious.  "Would you be comfortable with me going hunting with Emmett and Jasper for a day or two?"  He studied my face, trying to read the reflection of my thoughts.

I was still gnawing on the wedding gift problem and replied, "I think that's a good idea.  I can visit Esme while you're gone."

His surprise was apparent. "Are you getting more comfortable with me leaving?"  A flash of worry crossed his face.

I reached up and stroked his icy cheek. "Of course not.  But you may be surprised to learn that there are one or two things I need to do without you before the big day."  The word ‘wedding' still didn't roll off my tongue well.  I shot him a sly and hopefully sexy glance.  I wondered if he knew that I'd already acquired my honeymoon lingerie...

"Ahhh," His eyes lit up as he scooped me up in his arms and tickled my ear with his nose.  "Mmmm.  This marriage thing gets better and better."  He softly caressed my neck with his lips.  My heart fluttered to my throat.

"This is definitely one of my favorite parts."  I let out a throaty laugh, and he joined me.  It was so nice to be totally at ease together.  We cuddled silently for a moment.  "Not that I'm trying to rush you out the door, but when are you planning to go?"

He set me down so I could look him directly in the eyes.  "Would tomorrow be too soon?  I can go anytime that you please, but since you seem to have plans anyway..."  His voice trailed off with a seductive lilt.

"I need to find out if Esme is available.  I would like to spend some time alone with her.  If it's alright with her, then you're free."  I reached up and kissed him, savoring his irresistible taste.

He flipped out his cell phone and quickly dialed home.  After a quick conversation, he smiled and turned to me.  "Alice and Rosalie are hunting as well, and Esme would be delighted to spend the day with you.  You are also invited to sleep over tomorrow night."

The next morning Edward drove me to his house.  For once he wasn't pushing my old truck as fast as possible.  We discussed where he would be hunting.  Edward remained overprotective of me, and even though it had been quiet and threat free for a while, he still wasn't going too far away.

 

Esme met us at the door, and I turned to Edward.  "Off you go," I smiled.

We kissed, a long, lingering kiss, and he whispered in my ear "I'll miss you, my love."

"I love you.  Hurry back."  I squeezed his cold hand, and he turned to go.

Esme's delight at our affection was apparent as she teased, "I'll miss you too, Edward."

Edward headed to the garage to meet his brothers.  "Love you too, Mom," he tossed over his shoulder.

"Have fun," Esme beamed.  She put her arm around me as we walked into the house.  "So what would you like to do?" she asked.  "I would have thought you would want to go out with Alice while Edward was gone."

I looked at her, enjoying the warmth of her smile.  "I love Alice, but she can be a little, well, intense.  I was hoping that you and I could spend some time together, Mom."  I gave her a squeeze.  Esme's face was radiant.

"That sounds wonderful, Bella.  Did you have anything specific in mind?"

"I am having a really tough time finding the right gift for Edward.  Could we go to Olympia and just stroll the stores and talk?  I'm hoping inspiration will strike, and I would really enjoy your company."  Esme was so calm and warm, I knew that an afternoon of shopping with her would be a relaxed and comfortable experience, and I would be able to think.

"Absolutely," she said and led me to the garage.

The drive to Olympia was marvelous.  Esme shared story after story about her kids.  I told her about my childhood growing up with my mother in Phoenix and spending summers with Charlie in Forks.  The hour and a half it took to get to Olympia only seemed like a few minutes even though Esme drove slowly by Cullen standards.

We looked everywhere: antique shops, book stores, even the mall, but I was still unable to find any inspiration for a gift for Edward.  Esme only confirmed that my century-old fiancé wanted for nothing.  We ended up walking through a park in the center of the city.

Even in the gray that was Washington the flowers were brilliant, and everything in the park was in full bloom.  Esme knew the names of each variety, pointing out the subtle variations in the different blossoms.  We stopped at a particularly pretty display of daffodils and Esme sighed, "These are exactly the flowers that were in my wedding bouquet."

I hesitated.  I knew that she had been married more than once.  "When you married Carlisle?"

"Yes," she gave me a knowing smile.  "It was the summer of 1922, the beginning of the ‘roaring twenties'.  Carlisle proposed to me on New Year's Eve, right at midnight.  Our wedding was very small, held in a garden not unlike this one.  We chose evening, and mixed candles with all the flowers.  Edward was handsome, of course, as best man, and my friend Lena was my maid of honor.  We invited a few friends from the hospital where Carlisle worked."  She sighed as she remembered.  I could see the whole scene in my mind.

"I wish I could've been there, it sounds beautiful," I said.  I resisted the urge to compare our plans to what Esme had.  Then a question came to me.  "What did Carlisle give you for your wedding?"

A twinkle lit in Esme's eyes.  "Would you like to see?"  I cocked my head, confused, but her smile got wider as she guided me to another flowerbed of daffodils.  These were white with ruffled petals, each with a drop of red at its center.  She pointed at the nearby sign, which contained the Latin name of the variety, and below, the common name, Esme's Hearts.

"Wow.  He had a flower named after you?"  I was in trouble...

"Yes.  Carlisle knew how much I loved daffodils, and had a friend who was a grower in Wales at the time.  Carlisle worked with  him for months to develop this strain of flower."  If she could have, she would have shed a tear.  "They still take my breath away."

Impressed as I was, I was beginning to feel very small again.  I had nothing that could come close to this for Edward.  He probably was planning something at least this elaborate for me.  A question burned on my lips. "And what did you give Carlisle?"

"I dabble in painting pictures.  I painted a portrait of him."

"I've seen it in his office, haven't I?"  I remembered the picture hanging near his desk, with its remarkably vivid eyes.  "It's wonderful."

Esme smiled humbly.  "Thank you."

I stood staring at the flowers, doubting I could come up with anything that special for Edward.  What would I do?

"A penny for your thoughts," she whispered.  I just frowned at the lovely plants.  "You'll find something special for Edward, something that is special from you to him, I'm sure."  She seemed to read the frustration directly out of my mind.

There was a twinge in the back of my brain. "Esme, have you become a mind reader, too?"  I relaxed my face and my thoughts.

"No," she chuckled, "I can't read your mind any more than Edward can, penny or no.  But you have a very expressive face, Bella.  It's one of the things that Edward loves about you."

I reached around Esme's waist and gave her a hug.  "I'm really looking forward to being a permanent part of your family."

"You already are, dear, you already are."

As we headed back to the car, the twinge finally emerged as an idea.  Maybe small is the key.  I only needed a few things to make this work... 

"I think I've got it! 

Esme waited patiently while I made the arrangements, carefully keeping her from any information that might tip Edward off, should he read her mind.  Alice would probably give everything away anyway, but I had to try.  I met Esme at the car, triumphant, and she smiled with so much love that I had to hug her.

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