I sat in darkness for an immeasurable amount of time. Not complete darkness, as I could faintly make out the soft sunset filtering through the heavy fabric that covered my eyes. The quiet thrumming of the car's engine was the only sound that my ears registered. Normally the silence wouldn’t have mattered to me, but something about it today was driving me mad. Something about the way Edward had looked at me when our trip had started told me that today would be different. It was true that immortality had significantly increased my patience and, in turn, my tolerance for secrets, but today my limits were being tested.
There had been months of whispering and glances stolen over the shoulders of my family members. I had never been left out of anything; Edward made sure of that. It was precisely this matter that had me most perturbed. Edward never kept secrets from me. Neither did Alice, for that matter, but I was positive that she and Edward had been conspiring for some time now. I was also positive that everyone else was in on it, too.
I let out an exasperated sigh and leaned my head against the cool leather headrest of my seat. Edward's grip slightly increased on my hand as he squeezed it. Whether it was to reassure me that my patience would be rewarded or to silence my sighs, I didn't know. To be honest, I didn't really care. My endurance was growing thin.
"It won't be much longer, love," he whispered, lifting my hand to his lips. He kissed it, and I couldn't help but smile. I was momentarily content. I wasn't sure how much longer I could hold everything in without screaming.
As soon as the words left his mouth I felt the car decelerate and slow to a stop. I heard Edward’s door open, shut, and then my own door repeated the pattern. The scent of damp soil was the first to hit me as soon as Edward opened the car door. He took my hand and gently led me outside. Though I had been blindfolded for the past few hours in his vain attempt to keep our destination a surprise, I knew exactly where we were in that moment. The distant sound of birds chirping in the trees and children giggling in a street wrapped my ears in long-absent serenity. Within that same instant, I was bombarded with a wave of forgotten scents: sharp salt water, crisp pine, hearty hemlock, earthy moss, and a delicate floral and citrus note wafting above all the others. We were in Forks, and Alice had been here.
Not wanting to let on that I had figured out his surprise, I turned to Edward. "Where are we?" I asked as innocently as I could.
"You’ll see," he smirked as he led me forward. "We’ve got a little bit of a walk ahead of us."
Now I was confused. A walk? Where? Was he honestly expecting me to parade after him, blindfolded and tagging along like a toddler? As he led me slowly and cautiously, my question was answered. Yes, he did.
Thankfully, instead of making me blindly trudge after him, Edward swept me onto his back and began to run. I was momentarily jealous that he was the one running while I merely hung onto him, feeling like a sloth hanging on the back of a cheetah. But I was more liability than asset in this particular situation, so I let Edward take control and whisk me off to whatever surprise he had concocted.
As luck would have it and as Edward had promised, I did not have much more time to wait. Gently he lowered me from his back and planted my feet firmly on the spongy ground. Even through my dark heavy blindfold I could tell that sunlight was pouring through a canopy of trees. I could hear the quiet babbling of a stream and smell the mellow note of wildflowers floating on a light breeze.
"Are you ready?" he asked, moving to step behind me. I nodded and raised my hands to the blindfold as he untied it. If I had still been human, my breath would have hitched in my throat and my heart would have skipped a beat. But since I hadn’t been human for some time, all I could do was stare in wide-eyed wonder at the unbelievable beauty that surrounded me. In my life, there were two things I could count on to never change: my love for Edward, and the eternal green of the Pacific Northwest. And here I stood, completely engulfed by both.
Our meadow, warm and bright and green. It hadn’t changed in the century since Edward had first brought me here. My eyes almost refused to register the swaying yellow and purple wildflowers, the dust motes spinning and shining in the sharp rays of light that passed through the leaves of the trees overhead. My memory paid it absolutely no justice. The meadow’s splendor was to me like seeing Edward’s face for the first time with my new eyes. I thought I had remembered it, reveled in its majesty, and known every facet, every blade of grass, every rock. I had been blind before. I whirled around to wrap Edward up in my arms, but in the midst of my sensory revelry he had slipped away. A few leaves rustled on their branches through the clearing where Edward had gone, and on a large rock behind me was a white envelope. I shook my head as I went to pick it up. I sat on the rock and slid my finger under the lip of the envelope. Cautiously I removed the paper inside and unfolded it. It was a map. I had to laugh. Edward had given me a treasure map, marked with numbered steps, landmarks around the meadow, and a giant X at the far end. I shook my head and set the map on the rock.
"No cheating!" I heard his voice call from somewhere in the forest.
Huffing a sigh I snatched up the map and deftly followed his detailed instructions. Seventeen steps to the left. Twenty-four steps to the large patch of clover. Three steps past the boulder at the opposite end. He had me wandering aimlessly around the entire meadow. It was pointless. It was annoying. It had "Alice" written all over it.
At exactly three steps past the boulder, a large X had been painted on the grass. Of course. Alice never did things half-way. Lying next to the X was a small shovel. It seemed a bit strange that Edward would have me on my hands and knees, digging in the ground. It seemed even stranger that Alice would have allowed it, knowing it would ruin her glamorous fashions. However, I was not about to argue with either of them. I loved Edward too much to ever be upset with him, and I had learned through the years to just let Alice have her fun.
Soon enough I had a hole big enough to reveal a box. Not just any box. A heavy wooden box ornately carved and inlaid with mother-of-pearl and encrusted with large jewels and gold trimmings. I recognized it in an instant: it had been a gift from Aro nearly a century ago. Until this moment I hadn’t thought about it for years, merely resigning to my belief that it had been lost or misplaced through our consequent moves. How fitting that it was now buried deep in the ground, caked with mud, forgotten and nearly worthless.
A smile crept over across my face as I thought about the Volturi. Beaten, defeated, humiliated, and all but vanished from our world. It almost made me giddy as the memory of their retreat crossed my mind. We had won, and in winning, we had secured a new future for our kind: a future free of oppression, a future free of fear.
Though in the beginning of the Volturi’s fall from grace, there had been whispers of rebellions and uprisings, of finally being able to secure the vampires’ place in the world once and for all. But for all the secretive murmurings of the insubordinate, there were twice as many warnings. Warnings of a clan larger and stronger than the Volturi, a clan who had made the Volturi dissolve their claim as rulers over our world. We knew full and well that we were not larger in number; we were no more powerful than the Volturi by ourselves. But with the help of our friends and their pledges of allegiance in helping us and upholding the laws of our kind, there were reasons to be fearful. Reasons the rest of our kind could not fully comprehend.
I shook the thought from my head. This was no time to think about them. Today was a happy day. Today was my anniversary. Today I celebrated one hundred years of marriage to Edward. Today I would enjoy anything that he had done for me, even if it meant digging in the dirt, alone and miles from civilization, for no apparent reason other than my love for Edward and my fear of Alice’s wrath.
Cautiously I lifted the lid from the box, inexplicably nervous about what I would find. The box was filled to the brim with paper, yellowed with time and smelling of age. One by one I gently lifted the paper from the box. Love letters written from Edward to me, wedding announcements to Rosalie and Emmett’s numerous ceremonies, diplomas declaring numerous degrees from unnumbered colleges, papers from Renesmee’s first time through high school, the announcement of her marriage to Jacob. Faded and delicate, they felt as if they might crumble in my hands.
I sifted further into the pile and pulled out a thick folder that was wrapped with a red satin ribbon. On top of this stack was the invitation to my own wedding, the beginning of Edward’s and my life together. I untied the ribbon and let it drift to my feet. This pile was entirely different from the one before; instead of holding the repeated memories of my immortal family, things that could and would be done time and time again, this pile held the one-time memories of my human family, my human friends: engagement announcements, wedding invitations, birth announcements, obituaries. I hadn’t seen any of these. Angela, Mike, Ben, Jessica, the Quileutes…they were all here.
I smiled as I quickly flipped through the stack of wedding announcements. Mike and Jessica had been married about a year after Edward and me, with Angela and Ben following not far behind. Children had been next and I couldn’t help but giggle with surprise as I read of the birth of Angela’s own twin boys. Mike and Jessica’s divorce notice was of no surprise to me. Neither was their second engagement announcement. But a second divorce notice and third wedding announcement had me shaking my head in astonishment. I felt a stab of guilt as my fingers shuffled through the obituaries of my friends, my father, my mother, Phil, everyone who had said goodbye to me years ago but to whom I had never said my goodbyes.
At the bottom of the pile was my own obituary. I held it in my hands, felt the weight that it suddenly had. My eyes scanned the words, taking in Alice’s carefully fabricated story. Two young college students. Promising lives cut short. Car swerving off the icy road…a frozen river below. No bodies recovered. Nothing to mourn over. Nothing to say goodbye to. Our funeral was the last time I had ever seen my mother. My last memory of her was burned into my brain. I could only remember her face, tear-stained and half hidden in Phil’s shoulder, her body, shaking with sobs, and her heart, broken with the loss that she faced. I had watched her from a distance, Edward’s arm wrapped around me.
"It’ll be easier now," he had reassured me. I had wanted to badly to believe him, but watching the pain I had inflicted on everyone that I had loved, I couldn’t be so sure. As much as I hated it, it had to be done. I had to die to live. Die to love. Live to love. It was a vicious cycle.
Sifting through everything, I couldn’t help but remember what he had once told me: "It gets easier. After a few decades everyone you know is dead. Problem solved." He had been right. We had stayed in contact with the Quileutes through the years. They passed on information to us about how the tribe was doing, how my father was holding up, when new little additions came into the families we had grown to know and love. It continued this way for almost fifty years until our friends grew too old to communicate with Jacob anymore. We only knew that their numbers grew fewer and fewer until one day Jacob told us that he heard nothing but silence. Our old world had died and it was time for us to make our place in a new one.
I set the stack beside me and rifled through the remaining items in the box. How Alice had managed to collect all these was beyond me. Scattered through the remaining items were a few faded postcards, each marking a temporary home for us. Kellispell, Montana. Birmingham, New York. Elkins, West Virginia. Alaska. Never once had we returned to the Pacific Northwest. Until now.
At the bottom of the box, hidden in a corner, was Renesmee’s locket, still glistening and gold. More than my own life. Everything in this box meant more to me than my own life. It was a link to my past, a thousand memories I had missed out on and would never let go. I picked the necklace up and laced my fingers through the chain and gently traced the inscription.
The sun had begun to set behind the trees and shadows stretched their long fingers across the meadow. Twilight. The saddest part of the day, Edward had once said. However, I couldn’t bring myself to feel any remorse as the day settled to a close and night began to creep in.
"A night for celebrations?" A soft voice behind me etched the question into the velvet air.
I rose to my feet and saw Edward making his way across the meadow to me. The sun’s last rays shimmered on his skin and I couldn’t remember a time, in my human or immortal life, when I had ever seen him look more beautiful as he did this very moment.
His arms were outstretched, openly waiting for me to fill them. I happily obliged, closing the distance between us in three long strides. I smiled with contentment as his embrace closed around me.
"A night for remembering," I whispered into his chest. He kissed the top of my head and squeezed me close to him.
"Did you enjoy your surprise?" he asked. I raised my face to look him in the eye.
"Immensely," I replied as I stood on the tips of my toes to kiss him. He smiled through the kiss and when I opened my eyes there was a familiar crooked half-smile lighting up his face.
"What?" I asked, now more suspicious that ever. What more could there possibly be tonight? He had already given me enough. He was already everything I could ever want, everything I could ever need.
"Alice had one more surprise for you."
"More digging?" I asked, skeptically cocking an eyebrow. "Please tell me there’s no more digging involved."
Edward chuckled lightly and turned me around until I was facing the opposite end of the meadow.
"Wait here. I’ll be right back," he promised. He took my hand briefly, allowing himself enough time to kiss it before he ran off. "Five seconds."
A century had passed me by in an instant, but those five seconds crawled by with leaded feet. Time couldn’t pass fast enough until I had Edward by my side once again. Somewhere in the distance I heard hushed voices and a high-pitched giggle. Alice! The leaves began to rustle around the place where Edward had left, and one by one they began to file into the meadow. Alice and Jasper, Carlisle and Esme, Rosalie and Emmett. Trailing a few steps behind and walking at a slightly slower pace than the rest were Renesmee and Jacob, hand in hand. Edward was on their heels, a huge grin plastered on his face.
My feet could no longer stay in their place. It was as if wings were carrying me from where I stood and placing me in the arms of my family. Embraces were exchanged, greetings given, and I knew at that time that our family would never be separated. We were all together, together in the place where everything in my life had started. It was this place that I first fell in love with Edward. It was here that we chose to begin our lives together. And it was here that we celebrated the lifetime of love and devotion that we had been so blessed with.
Gently, Renesmee took her locket from my hand and fastened it around my neck.
"Happy anniversary, Mom," she whispered before giving me a kiss on the cheek.
Jacob smiled at her, and then pulled her close to his side. He draped his other arm over my shoulder in half an embrace.
"Happy anniversary, Mom," he teased.
Edward made his way into the center of the circle and swept me up into a deep, passionate kiss. "To an uncertain future," he whispered, turning both of us to face our family. As I watched them, I knew there would never be a happier moment for the rest of my existence.
"To an eternal love," I sighed before wrapping a tender kiss around Edward’s lips.