I walked by myself along the winding river, taking in the sights and smells, the air weighted heavily with humidity, feeling like I was finally home. I knew I had missed Forks, and still smiled at the thought, but was surprised with the sense of calm that being here gave me. It was like a weight that I didn’t know was pressing upon me lifted the same moment our plane touched down. I don’t know now how I managed to stay away for almost three quarters of a century. I have said a thousand times that home is wherever my family is, and while that is one kind of truth, having my family back in Forks was my true sense of home. Well, almost my whole family.
I stopped to turn around just before the treaty line, and sat down, more from habit than need. I didn’t struggle the way the others did in the human world – having to remember to move, shift, and fidget in human ways – I found that I still found comfort in many of my old same human habits. I tucked a stray piece windblown hair behind my ear and listened, becoming perfectly still, winding through a mental playlist in my mind of memories of this forest.
Our meadow. Running. Baseball. James and the nomads. The tent. Jacob. The pack. Hunting. Renesme. The volturi. My dim human memories were still vibrant when compared to what other vampires described, and I flashed through them all at once in an instant. I went through the playlist again, more thoroughly, remembering not just the images but the feelings associated with them. I was back in the tent with Edward and Jacob when I felt him there.
The rest of the family told me it was not that I actually felt him. I was smelling him and misinterpreting the sensation. In atypical Bella fashion I told them each they were wrong. It was not my sense of smell, although powerful, that told me when Edward was close. It was the rest of my body, the essence of who I am, who I was, who I will be acknowledging that I was whole again. Even Alice couldn’t help rolling her eyes at the last part.
He was coming around, following my path along the river, and smiled as I turned. I knew he had been tracking my scent through the trees from the cottage. His teeth gleamed, the rainbow of colors reflecting, and his skin seemed to dance with colors under the long sleeved shirt he wore. Would I ever get tired of looking at him?
I rose to greet him and he chuckled quietly at my face, clearly giving away the fact that I had been ogling him.
“What?” I asked, pretending that I wasn’t in on the joke.
“I just had a flashback. We were back in the cafeteria at school and you were listening to that horrible girl tell you about my family. Your expression then matches the one you have now.” Edward smiled at the memory.
“Yes, well. Some things never change. You still make my heart skip a beat.” I smirked and he laughed out loud at my joke. My heart had not been beating, skipping, or anything in between for ten decades and we were both intimately aware of that fact. He took my hand and we walked back the way we came, never getting within a few hundred feet of the Quileute treaty line. Our families had found a comfortable common ground since Jacob had imprinted on Renesme when she was born, but we were always careful to be respectful of the Quileute land.
Edward told me about his day working with Esme, and the disagreement they had about a wall and the colors of the new office. He was excited to be reopening the design firm here in Forks – well, opening for the first time as far as anyone here knew, but he was asserting himself more with Esme and Rosalie this time and so far, it had been tense.
I sympathized, trying to balance my need to be supportive of my husband and not wanting to get in the middle of the fights surrounding the new family business. Thirty years ago we collectively decided that we could not continue to do high school over and over. Ironically, I was the biggest whiner of the bunch, and I only had done the complete routine four times. We starting noticing that modern medicine had caught up enough with us. Since everyone seemed to be having so kind of cosmetic surgery, people looked younger for longer. We capitalized on this, and proclaimed our ages to be ten years older than we had in the past. It was easier for Esme and Carlisle, but all of us managed it with some age appropriate clothes and clever stories. Whenever someone questioned our ages beyond the norm, one of us would let it “slip” about some work we had done. It was not a stretch – our father was a surgeon and had access to the best of everything, Edward and I were parents of an adult child, and our other siblings had been acting for so long it was just another character for them.
Esme used our new cover story to begin an interior and design firm. Rosalie found that she shared Esme’s passion, although her taste was completely different. What was once a frustration for them both now was a partnership. They split the clients between them based on the client’s tastes; clients who preferred open floor plans and neutral colors gravitated towards Esme, while Rosalie kept a pulse on the newest trends helping the more modern clients. The business was now being recreated for the fifth time, and while I had hoped this would be the smoothest transition, I knew better.
Edward was still venting his frustrations about his day when we arrived back at the cottage. I knew letting him get it out was important, but deep down I was surprised the height of the half wall in the lobby and the color of the conference room paint could cause such uproar. Esme, Edward told me, was trying to be the mediator between Rosalie and Edward, and I smiled picturing my mother in law trying to negotiate with the two hardest headed people I knew.
Edward’s phone buzzed with a text message from Alice, interrupting his litany. It read, “It’s going to be 4 ft. high and burgundy. Give up now.” I chucked and Edward raised his eyebrow at me, annoyed I was not soothing his mood and telling him how right he was. I shrugged.
It had only been four months since we had seen Alice and Jasper, but we had not lived together or even near each other in more than ten years and I missed them both terribly. Seeing a simple text message from her made me miss her even more.
“I’m sorry. I know it’s hard. But you have to get along with her. It’s not fair to make Esme play referee,” I said, trying to play the role of soothing wife.
Edward took off his shirt and flopped on the couch, throwing one arm over his eyes. “I know, but she’s stubborn just for the sake of stubbornness. You should hear her now; she treats the humans better than she treats me.” He was clearly exasperated. I was trying my best to stifle another laugh – Rosalie is being nice to humans? Maybe we had landed in another dimension instead of back in Forks?
He jumped to me in a flash and pulled me onto the couch with him. “I know you want to laugh, so go ahead.” I heard the smile in his voice as he spoke the words into my neck.
“No...I mean yes…I want to laugh, but not at you.” I pulled his face from my shoulder and made him look at me. “Edward, you have to be patient. This has been Esme and Rosalie’s baby for thirty years and I know they are excited about your office joining theirs, “ I paused as Edward hur-um-phed, “Ok, Esme is excited and Rosalie will tolerate it, but you will all have to get along. In the scope of everything, who cares about the wall color?” I explained calmly and watched him take a deep breath in and then open his amber eyes.
I smiled tentatively, and he pressed his forehead to mine. “I know you’re right. I think I am having a harder time than I expected being back here.” My forehead creased and before I could say anything, he went on, “Of course I love being back here in some ways, Bella. But I am finding I miss Alice and Jasper even more, it’s not Forks without them. I am still afraid that someone is going to recognize us - that we came back too soon. And it’s strange but as much as I complained about it, I see now it was easier to move around when we just had to worry about high school enrollment and forged transcripts. “
I knew he was right. Transferring the family business was hard and getting harder. They could never market their business on line, for fear that someone might recognize them, and now with the new international databases finding out about anyone or any business were a few clicks away. Even things that were once held as private information was available – fingerprints, blood type, date of your last medical exam with prognosis, balance on your credit cards – and on record. Whereas we were once paying the likes of J. Jenks to create a few forgeries for us, we were now paying for several hundred forgeries, web hackers to create false histories in databases, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to professional vampires who specialized in taking care of vampires who needed to fake their death and handle the estate. Crime scene investigators and DNA databases had made the old methods obsolete. These companies didn’t have a lot of clients, most of us were still nomads, but those of us that chose to live in covens or families provided those vampires with a luxurious life.
I patted his hand on my face and whispered how much I loved him, over and over. He seemed to calm at my touch and reluctantly got up put on a fresh shirt and go meet Jacob and Renesme.