The Road Not Taken
Epilogue: “She didn’t really seem like that sort of girl,” Tanya commented, her tone just a tad sour, and Demetri quirked a smile.
“I get the feeling there’s a lot more to her than we’ve suspected.” Sequel to The Road Less Traveled by Daintress of tm_switzerland.
15. Chapter 15
Rating 5/5 Word Count 1720 Review this Chapter
Still, he had all the time in the world, and it pleased him to do something for Bella. “I need you to be my mirror,” she said as they entered the store just after sundown. His brow furrowed. Women’s clothing stores were full of mirrors, as he knew from the few times Alice had been unable to convince Jasper to accompany her and had resorted to dragging him along instead.
Rather than admit he didn’t understand, however, he simply nodded and kept pace with her. He watched as she looked at a wall filled with blue jeans and picked three pair, all size four. He held out his hands, smiling his lopsided smile, and Bella handed them to him, grinning back. “Didn’t Alice once say you wore a six?” Edward asked, his eyes traveling from Bella’s figure to the jeans he held. If she could have blushed, she would have.
“I lost a lot of weight when I was pregnant with Will,” she said quietly, her smile falling. “I never quite gained it back.”
Edward remembered only too well how wasted she had appeared as he and Carlisle had labored to save her life that night. That Carlisle had thought it absolutely necessary that he be there was testament enough to how close it had been. The nurses could never have been fast or knowledgeable enough to be any real help to him. One day, maybe he would tell Bella he had been there. Or maybe she already knew. Maybe Jacob had told her, when it was all over. He only smiled. “She’ll be thrilled – you’ll be able to share clothes,” he replied, and the joking worked. Bella grinned again, and giggled.
“Yes, that will please her to no end. Except she’ll hate everything I pick out.” As if to prove her point, Bella chose several long sleeved shirts that Alice wouldn’t be caught dead in. Edward followed her to the fitting rooms, arms laden. On the way, he picked up a few things from one rack, a few things from another, his lips turning up into a smile in spite of himself. She couldn’t wear jeans ALL the time. By the time they’d traveled the twenty feet to where Bella intended to disappear to try on one pair of jeans and one shirt, he had half a dozen dresses, and a few skirts piled on top of the clothes she’d picked out. Maybe shopping wasn’t so bad, after all.
Bella, of course, heard the whisper of fabric behind her as she walked, and just shook her head. She turned towards him as soon as the three-way mirror just outside the dressing rooms came into view. She didn’t even try to look surprised. “I suppose you expect me to try all of that on.”
“You shouldn’t have to. They’re all fours,” he returned laughingly, obviously proud of himself.
“Clearly Alice hasn’t trained you very well if you think that is any guarantee in the world of women’s clothing,” Bella said sarcastically. She sorted through the pile of fabric in his arms, found one pair of jeans and one shirt that she’d picked out, and disappeared behind a curtain, her eyes carefully closed as she passed the mirrors, and turned purposefully toward the floor as she dressed. Everything fit. Of course.
A dress appeared over her door just as she was taking the jeans back off. “Humor me,” she heard Edward’s laughing voice say quietly from the other side. She rolled her eyes and put it on, then came out into the store. Naturally it fit perfectly, as well. She walked passed the mirror to stand in front of Edward instead.
“Well?” he asked.
“It seems to fit,” she replied. “How’s it look?”
Edward’s brow furrowed, and he cast a glance at the mirror she was clearly ignoring. Bella noticed. “You’ve got to be my mirror. I – don’t want to look at myself.”
And suddenly Edward figured it out. He stood up a bit too quickly, but there wasn’t anyone nearby to notice. “Have you honestly not looked into a mirror once since –“ Bella shook her head and bit her lip, and he broke off before continuing more quietly. “Because you’re afraid of what you’ll see? That it will be like mine?” Although she’d been willing to tell him about his soul, he’d elected not to ask for particulars. He was regretting that now. Maybe there WAS something behind his eyes that frightened her.
“No! I’m more afraid that it WON’T be like yours. But even if it is…I don’t think it’s healthy for me to know too much about it, so I thought, if you’d just tell me what looks alright, I wouldn’t have to look.” She took his hands pleadingly as she stared up at him.
Edward leaned down quickly and pressed his lips to hers for just a moment. The open expression on her face was impossible to resist. When he pulled away he smiled at her, squeezing her fingers when he heard her breathing hitch. That would always bring him a surge of happiness he couldn’t explain. It always had. “You’re going to look fabulous in all of it. Wait here.” He left her standing with her back to the mirrors and gathered everything they’d chosen. If she honestly didn’t like something, he’d ship it to Alice, but he wasn’t going to make her try to do this surrounded by mirrors she didn’t want to look into.
After decades of living in the same house as Rosalie, he had trouble comprehending how any woman could be as disinterested in her appearance as Bella. Wasn’t she the least bit curious about the changes in her own body? Was it possible that she had no idea how fantastically beautiful she was? He knew she’d never been particularly interested in clothing, but he also knew that being with him had always made her self-conscious. He recalled the way she’d folded the only picture she had of them together so that she was not visible beside him – as if she couldn’t stand to see herself compared to him. But he knew she’d been blinded by the supernatural, back then. Surely, if she saw them in a picture together now, she would be able to see how completely she out-shined him. Especially in that dress. He threw a glance in her direction as he led her to the nearest kiosk, and made plans to buy a camera before they left the shopping center.
He had the elderly woman at the register ring up the clothes, pulling the tag off the dress Bella was wearing and handing it to her with the kind of smile that ensured she wouldn’t be difficult. Bella only shook her head in bemusement. Only Edward could get away with such things, she was sure. She thanked the poor, bedazzled woman as Edward picked up the bag and stuffed her old jeans and tee-shirt in with the new clothes. Then she squinted at him questioningly as he took her hand and started leading her away from the door through which they’d entered. He hadn’t seemed particularly enthused to be shopping, in the beginning, but clearly something had changed his mind.
They passed all sorts of things that were not the clothes she’d come for. This was not how Bella generally shopped. In fact, it reminded her a lot of shopping with Alice, except that Alice didn’t generally keep a vice-like grip on her hand to prevent her from being distracted from whatever task was currently priority one. Pulling garnered no response from him. She finally had to squeeze Edward’s hand hard enough to actually hurt him, just to get him to let go. He turned to her in surprise, but she just smirked up at him as he shook out his hand. “I wanted to stop and look at those,” she explained, a little exasperated, as she gestured behind them to a display of gloves, of all things. “Alice had a pair that went to her elbows, and they came in really handy on our first trip to Volterra. I thought I’d get a pair.”
Edward chuckled. “Probably a good idea.” He followed her back to the small boutique docilely, and watched as she sorted through the pile, choosing a white pair that actually matched her skin and a cream that looked far more natural.
“What are you so interested in finding, anyway?” Bella asked as he paid for her gloves. He’d pulled her passed a few more clothing stores she might have been interested in, as well as a home store that had beautiful self-contained fireplaces. She’d pulled back particularly hard there, but it hadn’t slowed him at all, and she was afraid to bring her full strength to bear in public. Still, one of those fireplaces would have looked perfect under her mantle. She’d been meaning to get rid of the television she never watched anyway, and there was still, in the back of her mind, a longing for warmth that she rarely thought of consciously. However, it was clear that Edward had been very focused on something, and she was quite curious what it might be.
“A camera, actually,” he said sheepishly. “I thought that maybe we could take pictures of what you try on when we get back, and you’d be able to decide if you like the clothes that way.” The young Asian man behind the counter looked at them oddly, and Bella flashed him an apologetic grin. Obviously they weren’t making any sense.
As they left the store, Edward was chuckling. “What?” Bella asked, wondering what had gotten into him now. Ever since they’d left Forks, he really seemed very light-hearted to her, and sometimes, very young. She hoped, eventually, that she might recapture that feeling for herself.
“You really shouldn’t do that you know – dazzle people like that. It isn’t fair,” he said laughingly, glancing back at the young man who was staring after them with slightly unfocused eyes. Bella almost turned to look, but decided against it. He was surely exaggerating anyway. She just shook her head and let Edward take her hand again, as he led the way to the nearest electronics store.
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