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I hurried down the staircase towards the kitchen taking the steps two and three at time in my haste. I bounded off the bottom step clearing half the distance to the kitchen and rounded the table in one sinuous movement reaching for the door. As my fingertips found the cold brass knob the door abruptly opened stopping me in my tracks. My hands flew up and caught the door securely before it smacked me in the face. My breath came out in a huff of embarrassment as I stood face to face with my new husband.
He looked every bit the definition of tall, dark, and handsome as he peered down at me curiously, his full lips turned up at the corners fighting a smile. He paused still not having made it completely thru the door as I took his measure quickly. He was uncharacteristically dressed in what looked like designer jeans and a white button down shirt with long sleeves that he had rolled up to his forearms. He was also wearing shoes, which was even more of a rarity, but overall a nice change from his day to day shirtless and barefoot ensemble. I cocked an eyebrow at him showing my approval and peered around the door opening it further so he could come inside. He ducked under the door frame and I quietly shut the door behind him. He had a long black garment bag thrown over his right forearm.
“Where’s the fire?” he said jokingly. He laid the garment bag across the back of the kitchen chair and pulled out another across from it and sat down folding his arms behind his head.
“Shh! I’m hiding from Aunt Alice,” I said panicking. I reached behind his head grabbing one of his wrists and attempted to pull him out of his seat, “If we leave right now maybe we can get far enough away that she won’t follow us.”
His eyes passed over my frame from head to toe and he smiled widely.
“Where exactly were you planning on going?” he asked raising an eyebrow, “Don’t get me wrong I like it, but this seems like more of an indoor outfit.”
In my rush to escape I realized I didn’t think my plan through very clearly. I still wore the white satin corset top and thin, satin,slip shorts that fashion decreed under the last atrocity of a dress my aunt had me try on. All I had covering me was a short ivory silk robe that I hadn’t even bothered to tie in the front. I also wasn’t wearing shoes.
I had been up to my ears in a sea of ribbon, taffeta and endless lace since Jacob and I had agreed have a formal wedding ceremony so our families could celebrate the nuptials with us. I thought I would be able to endure Alice’s lust for fashion and be able to go with the flow, but I had used up my last reserve of patience a few hours ago and needed a break.
One of the only conditions that Jacob and I had laid down was that we wanted the ceremony to take place on the beach in La Push, and my family and our new friends happily obliged. It was a Quilute tradition and Jacob’s parents had been married there years ago, plus it was fitting since that is where our make-shift ceremony took place only days before. I thought that condition would keep Alice’s visions of grandeur slightly subdued. I was wrong.
She had pulled out all the stops yet again. We had a gourmet cake she commissioned by a baker in Seattle that had over two hundred tiny handmade, sugar spun flowers covering the entire surface. She had florists all over Forks and Port Angeles working around the clock to construct an all white orchid and rose covered gazebo. Top label designers over-nighted the most opulent and overpriced bridal gowns to our home, which she weeded through and scrutinized until we had at least fifty ‘respectable choices’ to pick from.
I tried every shape and every style imaginable while she and my aunt Rosalie pinned and pulled fabric in every direction. I tried on Grecian style dresses, mermaid style dresses, dresses with so much taffeta I looked like a bridal ballerina, and ball gown styles that had so much volume in the bottom they rivaled the southern bell hoops skirts in Gone With the Wind. And I still hadn’t found a single dress I liked. I wasn’t sure how much more of this I could take. If I had to put on one more set of crinolines I was going to scream.
I looked down again at my skimpy garments and quickly closed the robe in front of me.
“I suppose it won’t do me much good” I murmured dejectedly under my breath. “She’d find me anyway.”
He reached up and grabbed my arm that I had wrapped around my waist and pulled me down onto his lap. He pulled me against him and made a show of petting my head like a traumatized child or an injured animal.
“Aw, did Alice turn you into Bridal Barbie?” he asked playfully.
I sat back away from him so he could see my face, conjuring up the most pitiful expression I could muster, and nodded at him. His booming laughter filled the entire kitchen as he set me on my feet and I stuck out my bottom lip in a mock pout.
“It will be over before you know it,” he reassured me.
“What is that?” I asked trying to change the subject. I pointed to the garment bag he had slung over the back of the chair. Jacob walked past me picking it up by the silver hanger and unzipped the front revealing a sleek, neatly pressed, black tuxedo.
“You aren’t the only one she is playing dress-up with.” He replied calmly but his face was twisted in obvious distaste. I shot him an apologetic expression.
“Leah picked it up for me earlier today. I had to put my foot down on the bow tie, though.” he continued, “the wedding is on a beach, for crying out loud! It is hardly a black tie event.”
“I know, tell me about it,” I hissed quietly throwing my hands in the air. “Jake, you should see the dresses she and Rosalie have been making me try on. I look ridiculous! I have been swimming in ruffles and rhinestones for the last two days. Any second I could lose my sanity.”
We both stopped talking as we heard footsteps coming down the staircase. I turned to see Emelia’s tiny frame hanging over the banister, an eager expression on her face as she looked back and forth between Jacob and me.
She had already fallen into perfect step with my family in the short time she and the other vampires had been here. Her enthusiasm was absolutely contagious and she and I had become fast friends. She and my mother had been my strongest ally’s against Alice and Rosalie’s quest for the perfect wedding. She assisted them holding pins, running last minute errands, complimenting Alice’s choices where needed, but she had an undeniable finesse at redirecting them when she saw my annoyance with their grandiose ideas. I passed her my ever-grateful thoughts every time she was within arms reach of me, and every time she responded to my visions with an elated smile.
In fact, Emelia was enthralled with everything I did. The first day, after I woke up, she was perched outside our bedroom door insisting we hunt.
We took to the forest with ease clearing the river and moving north. She ran beside me, encouraging me to display my speed and strength for her. I ran faster than I normally would have if I had been alone, but it was completely exhilarating. We even raced a few times and she won, of course, but she was still amazed at the speeds I was able to reach. She also asked me to jump and leap and I conceded to all her tests and she responded each time with her enchanting bells of pealing laughter.
I took down several types of prey for her observation as she stood against a tall spruce marveling and complimenting my agility, before we took to running again.
We ran West back towards the house in a different direction toward the hills and clifftops. I pushed myself to match her speed, and was surprised at how much faster I had become in a matter of hours. She looked over at me, clearly impressed, but then shot me a quick winked and hurtled herself forward at a blinding speed. I lost sight of her momentarily but I focused on her scent and followed with another burst of speed of my own.
I pulled myself up short as I came to a sheer cliff face that rose up over the river. I could tell from her scent that she was still around and I imagined she probably used her speed to propel herself up the groves that were carved into the rock leading up the left ledge of the cliff.
I peered around me in all directions. The trees made a moist canopy, leaning their thick branches over toward the cliff, nearly blocking out the clouds, except for a small narrow opening between the tips of the branches and the top of this massive rock formation. I could have begun the climb up the rock or taken to scaling the tree branches, but my competitive nature got the best of me.
I bent my knees so that I was crouching low to the ground and propelled myself upwards, as if I could fly, and easily passed through the narrow opening between the tree tops and the rocky cliff. I looked down past my feet and caught sight of the cliff top some forty feet below me as I began my decent back down, landing soundlessly on my feet. Emelia was standing somewhere close by and let out an expected, appreciative laugh. I whirled around to face her wide-eyed.
“We have been out here all day and you wait until now to show me this?” she trilled excitedly. “Have you been saving that little trick for such a moment?”
I was practically shaking with a mixture of fear and excitement. I looked back over the side of the cliff marveling at the daunting height and then up to the air trying to measure with my eyes how much further I had launched myself. The apex of the cliff was easily twenty feet above the tree tops and I had gone even higher.
“No, I didn’t know I could do it” I said. I was surprised to hear my voice shaking.
I wasn’t even slightly afraid. I felt amazing and purely ecstatic that I had made such a proverbial leap with my physical abilities. My mental abilities had evolved drastically, but I thought I had tapped out on my physical abilities. I wondered idly what else I could do.
Emelia came over and put her doll sized hands on my shoulders pulling me out of my reverie. She turned me so I was facing the Eastern side of the formation and pointed out over the span of the forest towards a small clearing that was free of trees or rocks. I took a rough measurement of the distance and swallowed hard. It was easily half a mile and I was peering down at it from a greater height. On foot it was probably a greater distance.
“Now, let’s see if you can get down,” she looked at me playfully when she said it but I could feel the fear creeping up the back of my spine. She took in my expression and reached up on her tip toes to pat me on the head reassuringly.
“Take a running start. Watch me.” She instructed.
She backed up five or six strides and shot herself forward and off the edge of the cliff, planting her foot firmly and bounding outward into the air making a perfect arc. She looked like she hovered at the top of her ascent before she fell silently back to the ground. I heard her feet hit the mossy ground in the clearing and her voice ring out loud and clear over the tree tops.
“See…nothing to it!” she shouted. “Your turn”
I walked over the edge again and peered over to see how high I was. Probably a bad idea- I froze in fear looking out towards the clearing. The wind had picked up and I pulled my long hair out of my face with a shaking hand.
“I’ll be watching you....I won’t let you fall” her voice rang out again swirling in with the wind.
I took a deep breath and backed away from the edge and crossed the flat surface to the opposite side of the apex. I blew all my air out determined not to chicken out and sprinted forward across the rock with the same effort I had used to match her speed in the forest. I planted my foot on the edge and pushed off sailing high into the air. The view was spectacular! I could see all the way across the river to the roof of our house. The wind swirled all around me licking the skin on my face with a thin spray of moisture and as I reached the top of my ascent, pausing for a split second in mid-air, I took in a deep breath tasting the cool damp air around me and soaking up the color of the metallic sky.
I tucked my legs up under me in a graceful movement as I felt the air letting go of me and letting me fall back towards the ground. I looked down and realized that I was already directly over the clearing, and my earlier forward momentum would send me past the clearing into the thick brush of the treetops. I began to panic. I straightened my legs getting ready to brace myself against the impact but the sudden movement effected my position in the air and I flattened out helplessly, with my back facing to the ground. I looked around frantically and for the first time felt the fear of what I had done. I was plummeting towards the ground at a rapid pace and I had could now see the tops of the trees above me. I closed my eyes and waited for the jarring impact, but instead the wind and the centrifugal force dissipated and I found my self hovering only a few feet from the ground.
I looked to my right and saw Emelia shaking with silent laughter, her arms outstretched in a cradle position. She moved her right arm up slightly above the left, and to my astonishment I felt my shoulders lift and I was righted on my feet. I looked around obviously shaken and also irate at her laughter.
“You should have seen your face!” she taunted my between chuckles. She continued her jeering all the way back to the house. I tried to be angry with her for teasing me but even though I could have died I had to admit, to her, it probably was pretty funny.
I pulled myself from the embarrassing memory and snapped back to around to look at her still staring at Jacob and I in the kitchen. She smiled warmly at me from the banister on our massive staircase, but her attention was directed at Jacob,
“Hey Jake, you clean up good!” she exclaimed loudly. He beamed at her and stood up doing a mock runway turn showing off his clothes.
“Thanks! I had to go into town to try on my tux and they have a strict “shirt and shoes required” policy.” He took a small bow after she let loose low wolf whistle and I couldn’t help but laugh at the duality. She quickly turned her attention back to me.
“You better get back up here before Alice starts ordering more dresses.”
“ I didn’t realize there was a single dress ever made that isn’t already in this house,” I replied sourly.
I leaned up and kissed Jacob’s cheek and started out of the kitchen toward the stairs but he grabbed my hand as I passed stopping me.
“Leah asked me to give you this,” he said as he pulled a slimmer gray garment bag from under his tuxedo bag. “She didn’t want to send it at first because she thought you probably already have a million choices and she didn’t want to impose, but I told her you’d probably appreciate a different perspective.”
“Of course, I want to see it,” I said emphatically and I unzipped the bag while it was still in his hand. My breath caught in my throat as I took in the simple white satin dress dangling from the hanger. Jacob saw my flabbergasted expression and smiled softly.
“This is the dress Leah was going to wear, but obviously her situation changed. I haven’t looked at it yet and she said if you liked it she would be honored if you wore it.”
“Tell her I think it is beautiful, “I whispered through my tears. I took the bag from his hand and followed Emelia up the stairs to try it on.