TwiFic Doctorward Contest
Title: Do No Harm
Prompt #: 3
Genre: Family and Romance
Summary: He had to make a decision: continue to be the compassionate doctor he had always been, or take over the family business, as it was his birthright and obligation. Could he actually have it all? Mafiaward/Doctorward.
Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.
I was seven years old the first time I learned of my father's work, that he didn't have a standard nine-to-five job like my friends' parents. My friend Garrett's dad worked as a lawyer. Another friend, Jasper, had a father who worked on a riverboat. Jasper's dad was what mine called a 'blue collar man,' the real, hardworking type that built this country. My father never hid his disdain for Garrett's dad, though, always calling him a 'shark' and stating that he was a 'filthy bastard.' I never paid much attention to what my dad said, opting instead to play with my friends regardless of their fathers' occupations.
It was a bright summer day, and the sun was beating down on my skin, turning it a bright pink color and causing the red in my hair to shine through. I hated my hair. It always garnered the attention of all the bullies, but my father always told me to stand tall and never take a punch. It felt like we had been outside playing for hours. My shirt was adhered to my back by a thick layer of sweat, making it uncomfortable, and my glasses kept slipping down my nose. I decided to run inside and grab my water guns, wanting to fill them with water from the garden hose, so my mom wouldn't notice.
I ran through the back door, the blast of cold air chilling my skin instantly and freezing most of the perspiration to my flesh. Mom was out with my aunt for the day, getting her hair done while Dad was working from home in his office. I was under strict instructions by my father not to come inside until he called for me, saying his business partners didn't need to hear me over the phone. I crept quietly up the stairs, quickly locating my water guns that were stashed under my bed, before hightailing it back outside. I was almost to the door when a loud bang sounded through the house, causing me to stop dead in my tracks.
The door to my father's office opened, and two large guys stood just inside, laughing along with my dad. They bent down and grunted, lifting a third man into their arms. They were talking and laughing, not caring that there was a lifeless body in their hands.
"Next time, try to get him on the plastic, eh, Carlisle? He only owed you six grand," one man joked, causing the other to laugh before stopping, his eyes wide as they set on me.
I was gripping my water guns in my tiny hands so tightly that the cheap plastic started to crack under the pressure. My father followed his gaze, glancing behind him before doing a double-take. His steely blue eyes fixed on me, narrowing in anger. My stomach started to turn, and I wanted nothing more than to dart from the room, but his gaze kept me cemented to the floor.
"Edward?" He was the picture of calm, not a blond hair out of place, but I knew better. That haunting look in his eye was reserved for when he was extremely upset.
"I– I… I was…" I could feel my bottom lip trembling as the moisture grew in my eyes, blurring the edges of my vision.
"Get him the fuck outta here, would ya'?" my father snapped, and the two guys hurried, disappearing into our basement. I later learned that our basement had been built during prohibition and had been used as a speakeasy. Liquor was moved from the basement into one of the many tunnels beneath the city, with one emptying right into the sewer system.
"In my office." He jerked his head, and I followed, certain I wouldn't be leaving there unharmed.
My eyes snapped open at the sound of my name, shifting on my uncomfortable cot.
"Yeah?" I asked. My voice was thick with sleep.
"Sorry to wake you, but there's an emergency in tent number six. A woman's gone into labor. We can't stop it, and she's only 30 weeks."
I groaned, sitting up and shoving the mosquito net out of my way before I climbed from my makeshift bed. The terrycloth mattress did little for my back, but it kept me cool at night when the temperature dropped to a freezing 86 degrees. Working in Somalia, you never got a break from the heat, but I was willing to endure it all. I was willing to do all of this, to put life back into the world as my father took it away. I grabbed my white coat, pulled it on over my wife beater, and laced up the boots that were issued to me by Doctors Without Borders.
I walked from my tent, making sure to seal it back up in order to keep out the creatures of the night. I made my way over to our medical facility, which wasn't a facility by any means. There was no building, no uncomfortable exam tables with paper barriers, and no cushy waiting room with expired magazines and free water. Instead, we had seven tents, all the same, off-white color with red numbers indicating their position in the lineup. Each tent served a purpose: number one was for equipment; two through four were for triage, which we needed the most; five was for recovery; six for obstetrician and pediatric; and finally seven, or what the locals referred to as the death camp. It was where we kept the perished bodies until their families could collect them.
I pushed the heavy cloth used as a door out of my way and found Luca lying on a wooden table. She was a young, local woman whom I had treated for worms during her first few weeks of pregnancy. The bottom half of her gown was soaked through, and she was screaming in her native tongue while gripping her stomach. I stepped up next to her, explaining to my nurse that I had to check her cervix so that she could translate it to Luca. I started my exam, expecting to meet her cervix with my fingers, but instead, I was met with the unborn child's feet.
"Shit. She's delivering, and it's breech!" I yelled.
Three of the nurses snapped into gear and began running from the tent for more supplies. "Tell her to breathe and not to push!" I yelled at the nurse by her head. She was translating as quickly as possible, but Luca was reacting to her body's request and pushing. My nurses returned, throwing a scrub gown over me while others secured blankets and disinfectant on a small table.
Delivering a baby naturally in a third-world country was hard enough, but a breech baby was a bitch. I had delivered three breech babies in my 14 months here, and two of them had survived. I usually just administered vaccinations, provided general checkups, and sewed up wounds, but every once in a while, something like this happened. Mostly, I had to ensure that they were stitched up and free of infection while making sure the military didn't murder me or blow up our camp.
"This baby is coming. Everyone be prepared." Half of the tiny infant's body was out, just the shoulders and head still inside, when Luca passed out. We saw this too often during labor, a state caused by malnutrition and dehydration. The nurses worked to revive Luca while I worked to deliver her baby without having to cut into the young woman. Luca couldn't have been older than 19, if she were even that old. She had been married off and impregnated twice within my short time here. I pushed on her thin body, relying on the contractions to help her deliver the baby. It was a boy, small, and under five pounds, with ashen skin and pale lips. He didn't cry, didn't move. His eyelids never even fluttered as I pushed on his chest with my fingers.
"Shock him." I motioned to the nurse, Jessica, who moved the small paddles to his chest. They were only suitable for two at a time, generated by batteries, so we liked to space their use out as far as possible. The infant's body bounced with the shock, but he remained lifeless. I continued with the chest compressions, ensuring his mouth was clear and blew a mouthful of air into his tiny lungs. Another nurse administered the oxygen as I nodded to Jessica to shock him again. She waited for them to charge before she pressed them against his chest again. His body jolted once more, and the most beautiful cry filled the air. His slight body shook and shivered, his lungs working overtime as he tried to breathe. I wrapped him tightly in a towel and was getting ready to hand him off, knowing they would secure him with oxygen. As I looked at him for what would most likely be the last time, his little, elfin-like body turned slightly as if he was directing his gaze at me, right into my eyes. It was surreal. His big brown eyes stared into mine as though he was studying me, searching for something, anything. It was unnerving, yet astonishing, how a tiny, premature little boy such as this could look at me with so much interest.
I turned back to Luca, who was now crying, whispering her thanks as she gripped the nurse's hand. I could tell she was exhausted, so I made sure to do my remaining work quickly, giving her three pills to fight off infection, as she would be returning to her home. They never stayed long, only until they could walk around with the help of others, and then they return to their small, rundown shacks. The nurse was translating what I was saying, explaining that the baby's lungs were underdeveloped and we had given him a steroid shot. He would need to stay here until he was breathing normally on his own.
I moved over to wash my hands in the small basin, drying them on a clean piece of linen, and made my way back to my tent to sleep for the next two hours.
The satellite phone next to my bed began to ring after what felt like five minutes. I growled and reached over, quickly answering the call.
"Ed…" Static. "Yo– Whe– Y– Da-" More static.
"What? Hang on." I stepped out of my tent, squinted against the unforgiving sun, and adjusted the antenna. "Who is this?"
"Edward?" My brother's voice came across the line, though it sounded as though he was trapped in a windowless room. These phones certainly did suck.
"You need to get home. Dad's gotten worse." Static filled the line for a second.
"What's wrong with him?"
"They don't know. Just a bunch of shit I don't actually understand. He's askin' for you, though, so you really need to get on back here if ya can."
"Yeah, yeah. I'll let you know.
"Call me when you can."
"Will do." I hit the large red button on the phone, disconnecting the call and glancing around the torn warzone I called home. I hated to leave, especially during a time of unrest. There were so many people that needed my help. The only ones back home that would need me would be my parents. I had made one trip home since arriving here, and that was when my father was first rushed to the hospital with chest pains. The doctors thought he was suffering a heart attack, and my mother was sure he would die. I came back here once he was stable, but I asked my family not to tell him I had been there. I knew I couldn't just up and leave the program for any reason, but I had done my time, more so actually, and the program wouldn't have a problem with me leaving for a week or two if I had to.
The irony was that when I left this place, I would be leaving for another warzone, one that I had no desire to be in.
The family business.
I watched as the plane descended through the clouds, splitting through the fog until it was low enough over the city and I could make out every landmark. I sighed, not wanting to return to New York, at least not under these circumstances. I had been working with Doctors for so long I had forgotten what the United States even looked like. Too much desert, destruction, and death surrounded my everyday life over there. Luckily, they had granted my leave, not that there was anything keeping me from going, other than the locals and the baby boy Luca had delivered. I had already been there much longer than my 'tour,' which had been officially over for quite some time.
I stood up as soon as the seatbelt light turned off, grabbed my single carry-on, and rushed from the plane.
First class always gets to exit first.
Rushing through the terminal and into the airport, I searched for my brother, trying to locate his large body among the sea of faceless people. Finally, I noticed a mop of unruly dark hair standing at least a foot above everyone else.
"Emmett!" I yelled out. He turned, and his green eyes finally landed on me. He broke out in a huge grin. "Hey." When I eventually made my way over, I hugged him briefly.
"Hey, big brother. How you been?"
I nodded as we left JFK and the bank of taxis and busses waiting just outside the doors.
"Good. How about you? You finally get your master's?" When I left, Emmett had been working towards his Master's Degree in Psychology at Columbia.
"Yeah. I'm going to work at the prison for a little while." Emmett nodded, hitting the unlock button on his car. The Jeep beeped in the distance, its lights flashing.
I nodded again, unsure of what to say. Emmett and I had never been that close. He had joined the business with my father when he turned 14, slinging drugs to his buddies at school, letting them sell it, and then kicking the profits back up to him. My father always said Emmett was born for the 'life.' If Emmett was working in the prison, it wasn't because he wanted to change the lives of the inmates. No. He had ulterior motives, I'm sure.
Meanwhile, I stayed as far away as I could, opting instead to go to college at Stanford all the way across the country. I was accepted into one of the most prestigious medical schools after college, Weill-Cornell. Unfortunately, it was back in Manhattan, and I didn't have the money to pay for it. My father agreed to pay for my medical school. My parents only ever wanted me to be happy, but he required I live at home while attending classes. It didn't seem like a bad idea; free room and board, free food, and have my school paid for.
I was gone for close to 80 hours a week, so I never actually saw them. But on my few days off, my father was always finding some way to explain how he was getting older, how he wouldn't be able to stick around forever, and how someone would have to take over the family business. He never pushed the issue when I asked him to stop, but it was always there in the back of my mind.
Once again, my parents paid for everything when I was accepted into the Doctors program, stating how they only wanted me to be happy. But I also knew that with my family's name at stake, they wanted me safe. They knew why I was going, why I wanted to be far away from this life. They paid for my expenses and my travel, and my mother sent me care packages every two weeks. My camp was the best supplied, thanks to their generosity. Because of this, the words of my father would go through my mind every night when I laid down to sleep.
"Someday, someone will have to take over."
No matter how many thousands of miles I put between us, the life I left behind was constantly looming overhead. I knew one day I would have to return, but for a little while, I could forget all of that. I was halfway around the world and away from that way of life. I was just never certain which would be better. On one side were the ruins, starving people and unsanitary conditions that were a part of Doctors, and on the other side was the wealth, luxury, and comfort of the U.S. that the mob provided.
I stepped into the house I had grown up in, glancing around at the unchanged features and furniture. Our senior pictures still sat on the small table in the middle of the foyer, along with a vase of fresh flowers, and my parents' wedding photo. I dropped my bag by the door, following the smells of my mother's lasagna straight into the kitchen. There she stood, looking the same as I remember; dark hair, fair skin, and an apron wrapped around her hips.
"Hey, Ma," I offered quietly, rubbing the back of my neck with my hand. I felt like I was eight years old again. She turned, a smile nearly splitting her face in half.
"Edward!" She rushed over to me, standing on her toes, to wrap her arms around my neck, crushing me to her body.
"I missed you, too," I chuckled.
"Oh, I missed you so much," she muttered, pulling away and dabbing at her eyes. Her hands came to frame my face, much like when I was younger, as she just looked at me. "You look so tired and much too thin." Her voice cracked as she spoke, tears spilling down her cheeks.
"I'm fine. Healthy as a horse." I smiled at her. "It's just hard to sleep over there."
She sniffled and stepped away, walking back to the stove.
"I'm making your favorite." She paused and looked over at me with a solemn expression. "Your father wants to speak with you."
"Where is he?" I sighed.
"It's fine." I shook my head. "Is he in the bedroom?"
"All right. I'll be back."
I knew I had to get it over with, but I didn't want to do it right after getting home. I wanted to relax, have a beer for the first time in over a year, and catch up with my mom and brother. Then, maybe I'd go see my father to discuss his plans for my future. I hadn't even had a chance to take a shower. I stopped in front of my parents' bedroom door, took a deep breath, and knocked.
"Come in," he said from the other side.
I turned the brass knob and pushed the door open, slowly revealing my father. He was sitting in bed, wearing a suit without the jacket, and reading a book. I swear my father never wore pajamas.
"Edward, my boy!" He smiled brightly and dropped the book. "Come in, come in. Sit down." He patted the bed next to him.
I walked awkwardly into the room, feeling out of place as I gingerly sat at the edge of my mother's side.
"So, how was your flight?"
"Good." I nodded. "Long."
He nodded in response, and we sat quietly, an awkward silence filling the room.
"I know what you want to talk about, Dad."
He nodded and leaned back against the headboard.
"I don't think we need to discuss the specifics. You've known your whole life this was your birthright."
I nodded, clenching my jaw.
"I know it's not what you want, Edward, but it doesn't have to rule your life. I think I've lead a fulfilling life; I have a beautiful wife, two amazing sons, a successful company."
"A lucrative mob family," I tossed out nonchalantly.
"As much as you hate to acknowledge it, yes, our family is very powerful in the underworld, and it is your job as my firstborn son to take it over now that I am no longer able," he snapped.
"What's wrong with you?"
"I'm old, Edward. I can't get around the way I used to, and I fall ill very easily. The people who want to hurt me wouldn't have to try terribly hard at this point."
It was hard for me to believe that my father, who had been so strong his entire life, recovering from bullet wounds within seconds and getting back out there, was sitting in bed, like an 80-year-old man, just waiting for death to take him.
"You have until tonight to make a decision, Edward. You can either step up and run this family, or let it fall and be the cause of its demise."
I lay in my old bed, staring at the ceiling as my father's words ran through my head. He needed me to step up, or all of the hard work of my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather would go to waste. I had dedicated my life to saving people. I held the power of hope and healing in my hands. I had chased death away and brought life into this world. Now, here I stood, on the precipice of a decision. I could either continue my life's work or I could fulfill my father's lifetime wish.
I could save people from death's door, or I could hand-deliver them to it.
These were all things I had to consider. My father stated I could do both – continue my work as a doctor and run this family – but I had no experience in the underworld. I would become the laughing stock of all the families. Surely Emmett would be better-suited, but he refused to pass it over to anyone but me. Could I go to work every day, help women and children, and then come home at night and possibly execute a man? I had to think this through, but first, I needed to get back to doctoring.
I was sitting at the kitchen island, eating the large breakfast that Mom had made just for me, when my phone rang.
I racked my brain to place the voice.
"It's Doctor Grenady at Morgan Stanley Children's."
Ah, yes. I had conducted my residency under Doctor Grenady at Lennox Hill after medical school.
"How are you?"
"I'm good. I received your email about an opening. I have one in the neurology department. That was your original specialty, correct?"
"Correct." I nodded.
"Well, if you'd like, you can come down today, look around, and see if you'd like it."
"I'd love to. I can stop by around nine." I checked my watch.
"See you then."
I dropped the phone onto the bar and continued my breakfast, trying to avoid my mother's curious gaze. I finally looked up, meeting her green eyes, and she smiled softly.
"What, Ma?" I laughed.
"Nothing. I just…" She shrugged. "It's good to have you home again."
I fought the urge to roll my eyes. My mom was always so sappy.
"So you're staying? Was that a hospital that wanted you?"
"Yeah, over at Morgan Stanley." I nodded.
"Right. So… You're staying?"
"I don't know. I mean, yes, for right now. There's talk of my sanction in Doctors being shut down because it's become increasingly dangerous."
"Well, you can always stay here or move into the loft downtown."
"I'll probably take the loft."
"I figured you might want to stay there, so I had it cleaned and prepared for you."
"That's why I love you." I stood up and leaned over the bar to kiss her cheek. "I'm going to go get ready. I'll be back later."
"Of course, dear."
I walked through the doors of the hospital, taking note of the bright walls and peppy nurses. Hospitals for children will always be the happiest places; somewhere these kids can have fun while receiving treatment for leukemia and inoperable tumors. All of us hope they can forget for just a little while and enjoy their lives. I rode the elevator to the top floor, where office spaces were located, and tried to locate Doctor Grenady.
When I found his office, I noticed that it was empty, a sign hanging on the door stating he had been called away for an emergency. I sighed and turned looking up and down the long hallway, but there was no one in sight. I decided to give myself the tour. It couldn't be that hard. It was just a hospital after all. The elevator doors opened to the surgical floor, and I was met with a flurry of noise and laughter. Nurses were hurrying down the corridors, some pushing patients; others were carrying stacks of files. I noticed that they all wore scrubs with Disney characters or different cartoons while some had superhero symbols printed on them. When I stepped off the elevator, someone slammed a cart into my leg, causing me to hit the ground.
"Shit," I muttered, trying to rub the throbbing pain from my kneecap.
"Oh, my God! I'm so, so, so, so, so, so sorry!" a feminine voice called out. She rushed over to me, bending down to see what sort of damage she had caused. I tried to wave her off before I looked up to see her face.
She was pretty. Well, not just pretty. She was beautiful, with pale skin, large brown eyes, and long chocolate locks that were braided to the side. She had a mask pulled down below her chin, probably just coming from an acutely sick child's recovery room or on her way to one.
"It's okay," I laughed, standing and ignoring the pain in my leg. "I should've looked before I stepped off."
At my full height, I was probably six inches taller than her. I could see right over the top of her head. She muttered an apology again, red now streaking high on her cheeks.
"Please tell me you're not a parent," she pleaded, her eyes wide.
"No." I laughed again. "I was here for an interview, but it seems Doctor Grenady was taken away on an emergency."
"Oh, yes. His mother fell and broke her hip."
"I'm Bella Swan, by the way."
My eyes widened.
Bella smiled again.
"Oh, my God. It's you… Edward, you're here!" She threw her arms around me, practically knocking me over. I laughed, hugging her awkwardly. She must have sensed my uneasiness, because she recovered quickly, pulling away as a blush lit up her face.
"I haven't seen you in so long, I hardly recognized you," Bella laughed.
I managed to stop myself before I mentioned she had grown up well, because that would've been entirely inappropriate. She did fill out exceptionally well – no more skin and bones with long lanky legs – but she probably wouldn't appreciate me offering up that bit. I remembered her well. She and Emmett were friends growing up, so she was always over at the house. One memory that constantly stuck in my mind was her affinity for our pool and string bikinis. She was cute, but young and shy, just a kid trying to grow into herself. I started to say something so I could stop staring at her, but a shrill ringtone cut me off.
"Sorry. Hang on." Bella reached into her pocket and produced a small flip phone. I half-listened as she answered it, gave a rundown of where she was, and disconnected the call. "I've got to go see a patient downstairs. Would you like to come?"
"Yes, please." I hit the button for the elevator.
Watching Bella work revitalized something inside of me. She was passionate and caring, laughing with the four-year-old child before her throughout the entire checkup. He didn't even blink when she pressed a needle into his vein. It could've been because he was so used to it, or the wildly exaggerative story she was weaving for him about a family of wolves that lived behind her house when she was growing up. If I remembered correctly, Bella lived three blocks away from us, so her house backed up to another one, but he didn't need to know that.
The little boy, James, had no hair and pale skin, more than likely from a Vitamin D deficiency. His eyes were dark and sunken, but he was still so full of life. Ever since I had stepped off that plane, I felt little pieces of myself dying, being chipped away and sold to my father for the small price of my soul. But watching her, watching these children, I felt myself being restored. I felt like I would have a purpose again, and that's all it took for me to decide on the job.
I'll definitely email Doctor Grenady when I get home and accept the position.
Bella turned and smiled at me, before picking up the small basket that held the boy's information, and promised to come back as soon as she could. We stepped from the room, and she led me on a tour around the oncology unit. The doors were airtight, and there was an outside garden, which could be seen through the floor-to-ceiling windows. It was entirely closed off, with clean, sterile air filtering through it. As we stood in the garden, I could see that all of the walls were made of glass, and when they looked up, the kids could still see the sky. That's all that really mattered, letting them still see the world, even if they couldn't be a part of it just yet.
"So how've you been?" she asked while leading me through the surgical unit.
"Good. I just got back actually." I nodded as she pointed out where the three operating rooms were.
"I remember you left for…" She paused, color flushing her throat and chest.
"What's wrong?" I asked, leaning over the desk as she updated her charts.
"Nothing." Bella laughed. "I just realized how creepy it might sound if I told you everywhere you went to school."
I smiled, warmth spreading through my chest.
"No, not at all." My cheeks were starting to hurt from smiling so hard, so I decided to tone it down before I began to resemble the Joker. "You went to Columbia with Em, right?"
"Yeah, for the last two years. Before that, I went to Duke." She rolled those beautiful eyes. "It was my dad's doing. He thought it would get this 'crazy nurse idea' out of my head. Columbia has the top nursing program in the nation, though, so once he accepted that, he was fine. After I was licensed, I came to work here under Doctor Grenady."
"Well, I'm happy you came back." I laughed nervously.
Bella looked up from the computer and smiled at me.
"Me too." She glanced down at her watch. "So, I have to prep for surgery, but I'll be done for the day once that's over. Do you want to grab a drink with me?"
I felt a little taken aback. Bella Swan wanted to have drinks with me. Could I do this without embarrassing myself? I had been in a different country for the last year and a half without any female companionship besides the random nurse every now and then.
"Sure. Yeah. What time do you think you'll be done?"
"Probably around eight. We're removing a tumor, so it'll be a few hours. Is that okay?"
Bella ripped a piece of printer paper in half and jotted down seven numbers before replacing her pen in her pocket.
"Here's my number. Call me about 7:45 and see if I'm done."
"Will do." I nodded and made my way back toward the elevator, hitting the down arrow.
"And Edward?" I glanced back toward her. "It's really great to see you again."
I smiled at her, turning the charm up just a little.
"Likewise, Ms. Swan." I grinned, stepping onto the elevator.
I sat at the bar in my parents' kitchen again, watching my mother flit around the room as she prepared dinner.
"So, is Dad actually that sick? I mean, the man still has a suit on." I ran a hand through my hair. "He certainly doesn't appear to be sick."
"Edward." She gave me the look I often saw when I was younger, right before I had my ass beat. "Your father has issues with his liver. They want to run all these tests, and-" Her voice cracked, and she crossed herself. "They're talking about dialysis, but they're not sure if his body will hold up through it. I just spoke with them this morning. No one is sure where we go from here. We're just taking it one day at a time, one test at a time." She stood in front of the stove, stirring whatever was boiling in the silver pan, and tried to take her attention off the topic. I could see the tears shining in her eyes, but she tried to blink them away.
"I'm sorry, Ma." Guilt weighed heavily on my chest at the sight of her crying.
"It's fine. I'm positive he'll pull through this, but he won't be able to with all the stress he has right now." She smiled brightly, her eyes still shining. "So, have you decided?" Mom asked, whispering as she glanced towards the ceiling. I shook my head, picking at the placemat in front of me.
"Well, you know I'll support you no matter what you choose."
That made me feel even worse, because I knew it was true that my mother only wanted her children to be happy; that was all she ever wanted. The only problem was if I said no, I wouldn't have my parents much longer. Some other boss would put a hit on my father, which would include my mother by default. I didn't know a lot about this life, but I knew that.
"Are you staying for dinner?"
I glanced at my watch. I had an hour before I could call Bella.
"No, I have plans."
"Only back a day and you already have plans?" She smiled at me. "So, who is she?"
I chewed on the inside of my lip.
"Remember Isabella Swan?"
I watched my mother's eyes light up as if I'd just told her I would be blessing this family with a grandchild.
"Oh, Edward!" she squealed. "She always had her eyes on you."
"What do you mean?" My brows furrowed. She always seemed to be smitten with Emmett.
"Every time she came over, she would ask about you. Made it a point to be around you as much as possible." Mom smiled. "Don't you remember her always asking if you wanted to join them for pizza or movies? She frequently asked you to swim with her, but you usually came up with some excuse."
I searched my memory, recalling the few times Bella would find her way to my bedroom, her long fingers tracing over my books and CDs. The first time she came over, Bella came running into my room in just a towel, her whole body blushing while she stumbled through her apology about how she was just looking for the guest room.
But that was a long time ago ‒ several years, in fact. Since then, so many things had changed, including little Bella herself.
"Well, that's interesting." Mom smiled. "You know, she always asked how you were doing after you left."
I nodded, not wanting to add to her excitement.
"And of course, when I told her you were going to that God-forsaken country, she just had to bake cookies. I always added them in with your care packages."
"What?" I straightened, watching the back of her head as she stirred.
"Oh, yes." Mom nodded. "I told you about it in one of my letters."
Funny that I don't remember… I know I would have remembered had she told me.
I ignored the nervousness in my stomach and picked up my phone, quickly dialing the number.
"Hello?" Her melodic voice came through the line.
"Hi, Bella? It's Edward."
"I figured." She laughed.
"I was just calling to see if you were done with work."
"Yep, I actually just walked out. Why don't you meet me at my apartment? I'd much rather relax than try to push my way through a bunch of sweaty people at a bar."
I fidgeted in my seat, trying to calm myself down before I started thinking with my dick.
"Yeah, sounds good." She rattled off her address and asked that I give her 20 minutes.
I walked downstairs, grabbed the keys to my rental car, and picked up the keys for the loft from Mom before leaving. I looked up and down the street, trying to recall the quickest way to her place. In Somalia, I had to remember to check my surroundings for rebels armed with machine guns. There was a large militia known for killing locals and abducting children to build their army. Those men certainly didn't accept foreigners, which was the primary reason why Doctors switched us out so often. I had met 24 different nurses in my time there.
I counted the buildings as I walked by, trying to find Bella's. I finally stopped in front of a brick building and located her name on the intercom. Hitting the button next to "Swan," it was only a few seconds before a loud buzzing sliced through the quiet, signaling the door was unlocked. Walking to the second floor, I could hear soft music floating down the hallway from her cracked door. I knocked softly before pushing the door open.
There she stood, wearing a pair of cotton pants and a black tank top, her hair still braided, and a glass of wine in her hand. Her face lit up, a smile gracing her beautiful mouth and motioning me inside. I closed the door behind me, locking it out of habit.
"Sit." She motioned to the leather sectional. I sat down, sinking back into the plush material and watched her walk to the open kitchen. "Would you like some wine?"
"Please." I nodded. "I can't remember the last time I had any."
She cast me a quizzical look.
"Oh, I'm so sorry. You've been in a third-world country, and I'm guessing wine isn't exactly in excess over there."
I shook my head with a smile.
"Not exactly." I shifted in my seat. "So Mom told me that some of the cookies I received in my packages were baked by you. Bella, you made me cookies?"
A blush slowly crept from the edge of her neck and blossomed over her cheeks.
"That I did." She laughed.
I shifted again when she sat next to me. Bella was a respectable distance from me, but I could still feel the heat radiating from her body.
"What made you want to go there? First you run away across the country, and then come back only to leave the country altogether." She smiled.
I shrugged. I couldn't tell her the truth, although there was a chance she knew about my family, having spent so much time around Emmett.
I wanted to leave, because my father wants me to take over the real family business. You know, the one where I have to deal in illegal operations and probably kill people.
"But now that you're back, why do you want to go from all of that death to a children's hospital, where you're most likely to see more death?"
"For the same reason I joined Doctors, I suppose. I want to help people." I shrugged. "When someone is faced with the decision of hanging on and enduring the pain or just giving up, I want them to hold on. I want to inspire them to hold on. I want someone to look at me one day and say, 'Because of you, I didn't give up.'"
"I just wanted to do something to change someone's life," I offered pathetically, feeling embarrassed.
"I think it's amazing. I don't think I could ever do anything like that; seeing all of that destruction and desperation, the families without anything, no homes or water or food. And the poor children."
I decided to drink half of my glass instead of answering.
"You see that already, Bella, working in the oncology unit of a children's hospital. I'm sure you see plenty of sadness all on your own."
A shadow fell over her face, and I immediately wanted to kick my own ass.
"I'm sorry," I apologized.
"No, don't be. You're right. I do see unfortunate events, but for the most part, I get to see triumphant children and families with tears of joy when we say the treatments are working. It's…" She shrugged.
"Yeah," Bella smiled.
We talked for hours, and by the time fatigue had set in, it was well past two in the morning. She told me about her life since I'd left, and I told her mine. I revealed to her the horrors of working in Somalia, about my first day there, when I had to operate on six children who were all injured during a raid at the local school. I told her about Luca's baby and how he weighed heavily on my mind — the little boy I left behind in Somalia, the last one I delivered. I had no idea if he had been released or whether his lungs were now developed. And about how I wanted to reach out, but there was absolutely no way to get in contact with him. When I left, Luca hadn't even named him, stating it was unlucky to name a baby before bringing him from the hospital. I told Bella how strong this young woman had been.
I stood up to stretch my back, groaning as my spine cracked.
"I want to do this again. Maybe let me take you out for dinner." I smiled, helping her from the couch.
"I'd like that." Bella bit the inside of her lip, her eyes dancing between my mouth and my neck. I raised an eyebrow when she stepped closer. I reached up and pushed the bit of hair that had fallen from her braid behind her ear.
"You really are beautiful." I smiled, and she blushed again. It slowly crept up toward her cheeks from her neck. I bent down and ran my lips over her cheek, slowly making my way toward her mouth. When my lips met hers, I kissed her tentatively, hoping she wouldn't pull back. Much to my surprise, she didn't. Instead she pressed her mouth harder against mine, deepening the kiss.
Before I could stop myself, I buried my hands into her hair, gripping it tightly and attacking her mouth. She moaned into my mouth as our lips, tongues, and teeth scraped against each other's. Before I knew it, I had her pinned to the wall, her legs wrapped around my waist as I claimed her mouth, grinding against her center with my throbbing erection. I moved to her neck, licking, sucking, and biting down the column of her throat. Bella whimpered above me, her nails digging into my scalp, spurring me on. I sucked at her collarbone, trying to tell myself not to leave a mark, but I couldn't stop. Seeing the blood rise to the surface of her translucent skin positioned just over the delicate bone awakened something inside me.
I pulled back, panting as I rested my forehead against her shoulder. I had Bella pinned to the wall, her body fully supported by mine.
"I should go," I whispered into the quiet room.
"Yeah, I um… I have work in the morning," she responded.
I pulled back and smiled, seeing her face, neck, and chest covered in a blush. I slowly lowered her back onto the floor and kissed the crown of her head.
"I really did have a good night." I grinned.
"I'll call you tomorrow."
After a long goodbye and another make-out session, I found myself at the loft. I tossed the keys onto the table next to the door and fished my phone out of my pocket. I had eight missed calls from my father and two from my mother. I sighed, not wanting to return them, but I couldn't put it off much longer.
I was about to hit the number for my dad's phone when my screen lit up with an incoming call. I didn't recognize the number, and the area code was clearly a foreign one, but I hit the answer button anyway.
"Doctor Cullen, this is Angela, the director of Doctors Without Borders."
"Ah, yes. How may I help you Angela?"
She was more than likely calling to see if I would be signing up for another tour.
"Well, unfortunately, your unit was attacked by renegades. It was burned to the ground. As this is the third issue we've had, and with the growing unrest within the country, we've decided to shut down the unit in Somalia for good."
"Was anyone hurt?" I felt my stomach drop.
"I'm not sure. Initial reports are stating that they have only found one of your nurses. There were three children in the camp at the time, including a newborn that was still being treated."
Flashes of Luca's baby flashed through my mind, his tiny body shaking as he took his first few breaths of oxygen.
"Yes, I'm here. The newborn – did they get him out?"
"The newborn that was being treated? Yes, they rescued him and a nurse, but as I said, the initial reports are all we have to go by. They were taken to a treatment center one town over.
"Angela, do you have the number to the treatment center so that I can call there for an update?"
"Of course, Doctor Cullen. I will get it for you."
She rattled off the number, and I hastily wrote it down, my hands shaking as I listened to her.
"In the future, if you decide to return to Doctors, it would be greatly appreciated."
"Thank you." I smiled. "And for the information, Angela."
I glanced at the clock, quickly calculating the time change in my head. I dialed the number and listened to the ringing, praying that someone would answer.
"Hello?" The voice that came over the line had a heavy accent, her greeting coming out more like 'halo.'
"Yes, this is Doctor Cullen. I was working in Somalia before the attack occurred." I spoke slowly, hoping she could understand. "I delivered the boy that you have there. Have you heard anything about his mother?"
"A newborn boy you say?"
"Yes, he was premature, and his lungs weren't developed. He would've been on oxygen."
"Ah, with the medical nurse, right?"
"Yes, yes. He would have come in with a nurse."
"Ah, baby is good. Screaming up a storm. We took the air off him, and he is recovering. Smoke had gotten into his lungs, but he's strong."
"And his mother?"
"No, no. The whole village is gone. His mama… The young woman's body was discovered with her oldest baby in their home. Luca was a friend of this clinic. She brought her children here when she couldn't be seen by you."
My heart sank, and Luca's face appeared behind my eyes. Her children were always so full of life, running into my tents and wanting to play doctor. I would let them treat the other villagers for worms with me. They always took pride in handing out the water.
"Yeah, thank you so much. If you hear anything else, please let me know."
I gave her my number and quickly ended the call, tears stinging the edges of my eyes. I jerked my hands through my hair, tugging on it tightly.
I collapsed onto the couch, Bella's scent settling into the air around me. I closed my eyes, remembering the feeling of her skin against mine. I had accepted the position with Doctor Grenady, and I knew that I wanted to have something more with Bella.
Sweet, beautiful Bella Swan.
I couldn't go back now. My station in Somalia was gone, and my duty with Doctors was over, the decision having been made for me. Sure, I could set out into another location, but they were limited. Most of the places were safe, giving away medication daily, and doctors jumped on those chances. I wanted a challenge.
The unit was gone, but the baby had lived.
I saw this as a sign.
The infant boy, who had fought so hard to come into this world, had almost been taken from it by a senseless act of violence. I dug the heels of my hands against my eyes, as the faces of the people I had left behind played on a loop through my mind
That little boy had been saved while everything around him fell into ruin.
Did God have a plan for him? For me?
Maybe I could still do something decent with my life. Maybe there was a way I could have both lives, as Dad had said.
Early the next morning, I grabbed my phone, hit my father's name, and quickly dialed the number
"Edward." Dad answered with a cough.
"Hey." I ran a hand over the back of my neck.
"I assume you're calling about your decision?"
"Yeah… I am."
"What have you decided, Son?"
After I had spoken tothe woman at the clinic, I made what could be the most crucial phone call of my life
I made the decision to begin adoption proceedings to get Luca's baby to the States. I knew it would be hard, but I also knew my family would support me in every way possible, as they had always done. This boy deserved a good life.
He deserved to live.
His mother had come to me to have her baby delivered instead of leaving it to the village midwives. This had saved his life in the end. It was as if she'd known it was coming. Most of the time, the mothers would stay in the recovery unit until their babies were well enough, but she had been adamant that she needed to get back to her home. If she had somehow sensed something like this, I would like to think she wanted me to make a difference in his life; a life that had already been changed so drastically and he didn't even know it.
I could do this. I could be a caring doctor and father, and still be the head of the Family. And if I was lucky enough, Bella would be by my side and with me all the way.
I would do this.
I couldn't start over, but I could begin now and make a new ending.
I glanced out the window and thought about how much my life would be changing in the next few months. Surprisingly, I was excited and filled with hope, something I hadn't felt in a long time.
I sucked in a deep breath before answering my father.
"Yeah, Dad… I'll do it."
Thank you for reading! Please leave the author some love and remember to come back to vote after May 24th!