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The Order of the Garter

Summary:
Bella, Alice, Rosalie. Bella's POV. The Cullen girls help Bella get ready for her big day and invite her to join them in a special sisterhood.


Notes:
A garter is a thin band of fabric worn around the thigh. They used to be for holding up stockings, now they're just decoration. A bride traditionally wears one under her gown, which her husband later removes during the reception. The 'garter toss' is similar to tossing the bouquet, with the man who catches it being the next to marry.


1. The Order of the Garter

Rating 5/5   Word Count 1402   Review this Chapter

"Remind me again why getting married requires all this practicing..." I gazed dubiously into the three paneled mirrors in Alice's dressing room, trying to catch her eyes as she fluttered around me like an anxious hummingbird. She was fitting me with the corset that would go under my wedding gown tomorrow, insisting that I try on every piece of equipment she had for me to wear.

"Because you only get one chance to do it the first time. Okay, suck it in--" I obediently took a breath, having a surreal moment of hopeful hysteria when I wondered if vampire strength plus corset equaled broken ribs and delayed nuptials. Unfortunately, immediately thereafter I imagined Edward's expression of heartbroken disappointment, possibly guilt, and obsessive concern for my well-being. No, I was not going to hope for timely disaster. Besides, my luck just wasn't that good.

"Is that all you're going to-- Oof." I blinked, checking the mirror to make sure my eyes hadn't popped out. "Too tight," I gasped.

"No it's not, you'll get used to it." Alice patted my hip sympathetically. "Just look at that silhouette!" She turned me sideways. "And cleavage to boot!" She seemed extremely pleased with the result. I was seeing stars.

"You do want me to walk down the aisle, right?" My voice didn't sound nearly as strangled as I felt. How in the world had women ever worn these things every day?

"Bella..." She paused, examining me carefully. "Okay, maybe I can loosen it a little. Edward will kill me if you pass out."

"Thank you." Alice busied herself with the lacings behind me as I concentrated on taking small, even breaths. The effect was kind of nice, I had to admit, but if we wanted me to make it to the altar (without even considering my usual propensity for mayhem) then I needed to be able to breathe. I felt the lacing give way, and then tighten back up a fraction. A bearable fraction. Sighing with relief, I checked the mirror. Yeah, that was a compromise I was more than willing to make. "Still looks pretty good I think?"

Alice lifted her head, scrutinizing the reflection, tugging at the hem of the corset until she seemed satisfied. "You'll do." She gave me a brilliant smile, going on tiptoe to kiss my cheek. "Let's make sure these stockings are going to work," her lips tugged down into a lovely frown. "I don't want any surprises tomorrow."

"Surprises...?" I raised my eyebrows, surely I hadn't heard that right. But the question merely deepened her frown.

"I'm having some trouble seeing tomorrow clearly," she confessed softly. "I haven't told Edward yet, but it would be hard for him not to know. It's not that I want to worry you..." I swallowed hard, preparing myself for the rest of what she had to say. "But it wouldn't be the worst case scenario if--"

"If all it means is that there's a werewolf or two in attendance?" Alice bit her lip, wrinkled her nose and nodded. I waited to see if the revelation was going to hurt. There was an ache, faint but present, I'd done a very good job of hiding that small piece of me that yearned for Jacob, but it would never simply go away.

"I swear I didn't send any invitations to La Push." She looked up at me, anxious, trying to gauge my reaction. I smiled faintly and tried my best to make it reassuring.

"I know you didn't." The smile strengthened a bit, turned wry. "That's never stopped them before."

"We won't let them make any trouble." She slipped an arm around my waist, and there was steel in her voice and in her golden eyes. "Tomorrow will be perfect. For both of you."

"I know that, too." My smile blossomed, basking in the feeling of sisterly love that radiated between us. My life without Edward meant nothing, but I was coming to realize how vitally I needed this, too. I don't think I could go forward with confidence without this sense of family the other Cullens embraced me with. "I'm so glad you're going to be my maid of honor." Closing my eyes, I leaned my cheek against her cool temple. "I can't think of anyone else I'd rather have standing with me."

I could feel her draw breath to respond, and then pause. "Hold that thought, we're about to get a visitor." Her eyes lit up with surprised pleasure. Startled, I turned towards the door, and barely a moment passed when someone knocked. The door opened a crack, and Rosalie's pale, lovely face appeared.

"Can I come in?" The question was soft and a little hesitant. Alice deferred to me for an answer, and I was suddenly acutely aware of the fact that I was standing there in my underwear and a corset. Oh well.

I nodded. "Yeah, come in."

Rosalie slipped inside and closed the door behind her, moving silently to join us by the mirrors. She was carrying a small, drawstring pouch of brocaded silk, and as she stopped at Alice's side, she looked down at it pensively. "I know I haven't done a very good job of making you feel welcome," she began quietly. "And you already know the reasons why." I did, I even understood, but I had a feeling that further explanation wasn't why she was here. "But..." She looked up at Alice, who nodded encouragingly, and a smile curved her lips. "We sort of have a tradition, and I was hoping you might want to be a part of it."

It was a strange feeling, standing there, looking at this gorgeous creature and sensing that, for this one moment, I held all the cards. It was my choice whether to embrace or deny, to accept the tentative hand of sisterhood she offered me, or crush her hopes. I wasn't sure I liked that, wasn't sure I trusted myself with it. But I realized, after that long moment of introspection, that I would have always said yes. No matter what Rosalie had done or said, I would give her a chance to make amends. That's just the person I am. The Bella that Edward puts his faith in, the Bella that I had to believe would survive the twilight.

"Yeah," I said at last. "I'd like that." The uncertain look on her face brightened, she visibly relaxed, and once again I was astonished at just how beautiful Rosalie could be.

"I'm glad, this is kind of special." She pulled the drawstrings on the bag, and then emptied the contents into her hand. What she held was a garter, lovely white silk, antique lace, and shimmering seed pearls with a beautifully intricate tracery of blue roses embroidered on nearly every inch. "Esme made it, the first time I married Emmett," she explained. "She did all of the embroidery, everything."

"I wore it when Jasper and I got married," Alice chimed in, her eyes soft with the memory. Then her lips twitched with amusement. "Rose has shown it a bit more use than that."

"I like weddings," Rosalie said loftily. "So does Emmett." I had a feeling he liked them more because they made her happy than for himself. But hey, whatever floats your boat. "Would you wear it tomorrow, Bella?" She held it out to me, a peace offering, and an invitation to join them as sisters. "It can be your 'something borrowed'."

Unexpectedly, I felt the prick of tears in my eyes as I reached out and reverently accepted. "I'd be honored." Alice giggled with delight, throwing her arms around us both in an enthusiastic hug. I laughed too, I couldn't help myself, and after a moment I could hear Rosalie's voice join in.

Sisters forever. As I stood there, my fingertips tracing Esme's embroidery, listening to their laughter... suddenly I realized that this marriage thing might not be so bad after all. Not if it bound me to the Cullen family as much as I was already bound to Edward. And as long as there was still a sexy vampire husband in it for me, I just might make it through tomorrow. God I hope so.