*Formatting was messed up. Hopefully this fixes it.*
I wrote this last September for the BatB comp and posting it here now in honor of this story's second birthday. Thanks to BeLynda for betaing this for me.
As always, this story is for Andrew and Emily.
I jump internally but keep my professional demeanor. You must be tough to make it through this marathon of a year. Mine started last July and I am three-fourths of the way done with my intern year. It's consisted of blood (not mine), sweat and tears (all mine, and some Charlotte's). She was so used to having her mommy around at dinner and bedtime and I threw her routine into a complete tailspin eight months ago.
Luckily, her daddy makes sure he is there for everything I can't.
Making the decision to go back to school for my last year and a half meant uprooting Charlotte again—to Seattle this time, then back again to our old home in Forks to do my residency.
My husband might have pulled some strings. Nepotism is only bad if you aren't benefiting from it, and normally I wouldn't but … Charlotte. She needs to be with the family we found in Edward's parents, and of course, Alice and her now-husband Jasper. And for the last three years ... Charlie. He's retired and settled in Port Angeles where he now works with Carlisle.
Many sacrifices have been made so I can finish what I started.
I am now in my second day of my OB rotation and I am working under Kate.
Yeah, that Kate.
"Cullen. Are you deaf?"
That's her yelling at me. Internship is like boot camp for baby doctors.
"No, ma'am. How may I be of assistance to you?"
She thrusts a chart at me, "Irina Douglas, 28. Thirty-two weeks pregnant. She's been admitted with preeclampsia and early onset labor. Our goal is to keep her pregnant for another three weeks, minimum."
I nod as I thumb through her file.
Kate hesitates at the door. "Look, I know we have a history of sorts, but this patient is special. Her first child died as a result of an accident. I thought you would be a good match for her."
Now, I hesitate. Part of this job is to remain objective and unemotional and I didn't know if I could be either in this type situation.
"You don't have to do it." Her tone is doubtful.
"No, I can do it. I will do it. Of course."
She smiles tightly and leaves me to it.
I go in and do a quick perusal of the area. The room is empty except for the patient. She looks defeated and I know exactly how she feels.
"Hi. I'm Dr. Cullen." I shake her hand.
"Another doctor? This place is full of them."
"The joys of a teaching hospital." I grin.
I notate her vitals and then pull a chair closer to her bed.
She eyes me suspiciously. "You're not a shrink, are you?"
"No. Though, that is my next rotation. Why do you ask?"
"Because Dr. Denali thinks I need to talk to someone."
"Well, she gave you me instead."
"I was sort of in your place a few years ago. Single mother, dying daughter." I am deliberately casual.
Her eyes well up. "My Emily was okay until a driver thought a text was more important than paying attention."
"How old was she?"
"Six," she whispers. "She was brain dead so…"
I nod, trying to keep my composure.
"I just wanted to die," she admits.
"I know the feeling all too well."
"But your daughter is okay now?"
"Yes! She's amazing."
"Emily was such a great kid. So sweet and giving so I donated Emily's organs and I have tracked them all down except for one. That's why I'm here. To find out where Emily's heart is."
I burst into the conference room. Instantly dozens of pairs of eyes are on me including my husbands. He's up and immediately at my side.
I ignore him and make my way over to Kate. "Did you know when you sent me in there?"
She retracts from me as far as her chair will let her go.
"Excuse me, Dr. Cullen?"
"Don't you 'Dr. Cullen' me. Did you know who she was before you sent me in there completely unprepared?"
She looks past me to Edward, confusion clouding her eyes. I instantly deflate and fumble around for a chair. I sink into it and I lose it. I vaguely hear Edward telling everyone but Kate to get out. Then I hear him ask Kate, "What the fuck did you do to her?"
"Nothing," she hisses. "I thought she would have something in common with Irina. I need my patient to stay pregnant. I thought having a kind face and genuine sympathy would help her blood pressure."
I laugh, though it's hollow and slightly maniacal in sound.
"Bella, what happened?"
"Oh, I have something in common with her alright."
"Her daughter was Charlotte's donor."
"How did she find us?" Edward asked.
Kate has been excused with the strict instructions that she is to keep her mouth closed.
"She didn't find us. She just knows where the heart was sent to."
"There's protocol for that. The correspondence is supposed to be through the transplant coordinator with limited information. We haven't received a notice. This is totally unethical." Edward ranted, thrusting his hand through his hair.
"Unethical? We stole that heart!" I hissed.
"No, we didn't."
"You manipulated lab reports in order to move Charlotte up to first place." I retort.
"Do you wish that I hadn't?" His eyes are flashing.
I deflate for the second time that day. "No." I sigh.
"And that other patient received his heart two days later and is doing well."
"I know." Another sigh.
"Besides, she couldn't know all that anyway."
He crouches down in front of me. "Look, I know this has always bothered you and I know I'm to blame. And I'm so very happy you chose to overlook it, so we could be together."
"I am just as much to blame over that as you are. It's just … karma. Everything is perfect, and I guess I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop."
"Are you sure it's Charlotte she's looking for? Maggie does heart transplants often enough. Maybe it's another recipient."
"Emily died the day of Charlotte's surgery."
He settles onto the floor and looks up at me. "So, what do you want to do?"
I look away, take a deep breath then look back at him.
"Her baby saved our baby's life. We owe this to her."
"Okay, let me just confirm what we already know." I shoot him a look. "I need to make sure." He insists.
I nod. "I don't know if I can go back in there."
"Bella, you have to."
"It's the job." I quote.
"Yes, it's the job."
"Did I scare you off earlier?" Irina asks as I look over her vitals again.
My smile is weak at best. "No," I lie, "I had to check on another patient. But I'm all yours now. Well, until my pager goes off."
"Oh, good. People tend to get uncomfortable when I talk about Emily."
"Because she's dead. They say they don't want me to get uncomfortable or upset so don't talk about her, but really they are the ones uncomfortable."
"They don't know what to say."
"Exactly. But she existed, and I loved her. I love her. Present tense. Always present tense. Then there's the whole 'you must be replacing her with this baby' conversation."
"People can be assholes." I commiserate.
"No, they just don't know. And I hope they never do."
I settle down next to her bedside. "Tell me about Emily."
"I'm sure you have much better things to do than coddle me, Dr. Cullen." She smiles wistfully.
"I'm not a coddler, Miss Douglas. I sincerely want to know."
"Okay. Well, she was five. Energetic. Smart. She was in kindergarten. She had the most expressive blue eyes and she never failed to make me smile. I was a single mom." She looks down at her belly ruefully. "I still am. One-night stand." She shrugs.
"No judgement here. Been there, done that."
"Did you marry him?" She asked, gesturing to my ring finger.
I look down fondly at my wedding set. "No. Someone else came into my life later."
"Judging by the look on your face, I'm guessing a great someone."
"Yes, he's a wonderful husband and father."
"Maybe someday that will happen to me." She says wistfully.
"I have no doubt that it will."
My phone indicates I have a text, so I pull it out of my pocket to read it.
'It's been confirmed.'
I close my eyes and take a deep breath.
'What are you going to do?'
'Nothing right now. Talk later.'
"No, it's not bad. Just something I have to take care of later."
She nods then lays her head back into her pillow. She's defeated. I can see it in the way her shoulders slump. The look on her face. Her whole demeanor.
Despite our differing physical appearances, I was her three years ago. Though, she has suffered a far worse fate.
I put my hand over hers causing her to look over at our hands then at my face.
"I will do everything in my power to make sure this baby is okay." I assure her.
Tears spring into her eyes but she nods, swallowing thickly.
"Charlotte, can you scrape your plate then go get ready for your bath?" I ask.
She pouts. "I don't want to take a bath."
"Well, I don't want a stinky little girl."
"But, Mommy," she whines.
"Charlotte, what did Mommy say?" Edward asks.
"Oookay." She looks down at the table, this time pouting because her daddy got involved.
I used to be her favorite, but I get it. He's one of my favorite people, too.
She scrapes her plate then trudges up the stairs of our home.
We had it built during my last year of medical school, so we could come home. It is slightly excessive, but I could only rein him in so much.
He waited until she was out of earshot. "So?"
"We tell her. She deserves to know, and I want her to know. I also think we should let her meet Charlotte."
"Why? I don't really see the point in that."
"You don't see the point of letting her meet the child her child's heart went to?"
"My job is to protect Charlotte," he counters.
"And my job isn't?"
"I didn't mean it like that."
"Then what did you mean? Look, I refuse to shelter her. I say we let Charlotte decide."
"Are you serious? She's six years old and way too young to make a cognitive decision like this."
"You're making this too complicated, Edward."
"This is complicated, Bella."
"I know that, but I've been a parent longer than you have. Can't you just trust me on this?"
"Don't you throw that up in my face. I am her legal father which means I get a vote."
"No one is disputing that, Edward."
He gets up, his chair scraping the floor.
"It sounds like you are."
I sigh as I watch him go to his office. I rub my temples. Yesterday, everything was so easy and now, it's not.
Wonder if this is the karma I've been waiting on.
I have to be at rounds at five this morning, so I didn't see Edward before I left. He came to bed late, then acted like he was sleeping this morning. His rigid posture told me he was faking. I swear, he can pout better than Charlotte when he doesn't get his way.
Regardless, he was right. He is her father in every way but biological and he has this deep-seated fear something will take her away from him.
I look around to make sure Kate isn't close by then pull out my phone.
'If you don't want Charlotte to be involved, that's perfectly fine. But I am going to tell Irina today after I get off, so I might be late getting home. I love you.'
I wait a few minutes but come out of my hiding spot after no reply. I'm not sure if he's still sulking, or busy. Guess I will find out tonight.
Work passes quickly, and Kate tells me she assigned another intern to Irina today due to obvious conflict of interest. I just nod and take my next assignment, though my mind is distracted. Kate finally calls me out on it and I tell her I am going to confess to Irina this evening.
The doctor in her doesn't agree, as news like this could send her patient into the premature labor she was hell bent on delaying. The woman in her tells me she understands.
Kate really isn't that bad after all. Not that I'll ever admit that out loud.
I finally make it through my day and find myself hesitating once more outside this hospital room, for much different reasons than yesterday morning. I knock lightly and am told to come in. I peek around the door and she smiles when she sees me.
"I was wondering where you were today."
I walk all the way in and make my way over to the chair I occupied for much of yesterday.
"How're you feeling?" I ask.
"Better. Talking to you yesterday helped some."
The look on my face must have alarmed her. "What's wrong?"
Might as well rip the band aid off.
"I lied to you yesterday."
"You lied… how?"
I put my head in my hands and take a deep breath.
"You did run me out of the room yesterday."
She looks at me sympathetically. "I remind you of what could've been, don't I? I get it."
"No. Well, yes. But no."
"Then I'm afraid I don't understand."
I nod, because of course she doesn't.
"I know who has Emily's heart." I blurt out.
Everything in her stills. Her limbs, her eyes, her breath. It all stops. Then her breath hitches.
"Okay. I understand there are privacy laws so that's okay."
I shake my head. "You don't understand."
"That's because you aren't being clear, Dr. Cullen." She's frustrated.
"I know. I just didn't ever expect this to happen, which is crazy because who wouldn't want to know where their child's organs are?"
"Dr. Cullen, who has my daughter's heart?"
"Okay. Charlotte." She breathed her name like it was precious. "Can you tell me anything else?"
"Her name Charlotte Elizabeth Cullen."
"Cullen? But that's your name."
"Yes. She's my daughter." I clear my throat to try to compose myself. This woman doesn't need my tears.
I can see she's processing as dozens of emotions flit across her face. Anger is one of them. Betrayal. Despair. Sadness. Acceptance. I wait for them all in the tiny silent room.
"I'm sorry." I whisper finally.
"What for? You were just protecting your child."
"There is no reason to protect my child from you. You made this unselfish choice to save lives and my daughter was blessed to be one of them. I will forever be grateful to you for that."
"It was my pleasure. Emily's heart was the best part of her and I hope Charlotte uses it well. Um… is there any way I could meet her. Just for a minute. We don't have to tell her who I am or anything but…"
"Her father … She…"
"Is right here. Charlotte, we want you to meet someone."
My head snaps to the door where my husband and daughter are walking through it. I stare beseechingly at him but he only winks.
"Hello, Irina. I'm Edward Cullen."
She looks at him a little dazed. Not sure if it's all the information or him. Then she looks at Charlotte and her whole face changes to awe.
"Hi, Charlotte. My name is Irina."
"Hi. Are you a friend of my mommy and daddy? Why are you in the hospital?"
"Oh, I'm going to have a baby and your mommy…"
"Yes, baby, she is our friend." I interrupt with a wink at Irina.
That's good enough for Charlotte and she climbs on the bed to chat Irina's ear off. It's the happiest I've seen her since I met her.
Edward walks over to me and I lean against him.
"You didn't have to." I tell him.
"I know, but it's the right thing to do." He kisses my forehead and then we just watch them bond.
Then Edward intercepts.
"Charlotte, do you want to know who Irina is?"
"She's your friend." She says in a 'duh' voice.
"Well, yes but she is so much more important than that." He looks to me to finish.
"Charlotte, you know how you got a new heart?"
"Yes. Someone gave it to me."
"That's right. Irina's daughter, Emily, gave it to you."
Charlotte looks at Irina, then at me, her brown eyes sad and welling with tears. "That means she died."
I have never sheltered my child from much, so there are some things about which she may know too much for her age, but I needed her to always know why she is still here.
She places both hands on Irina's face. "I'm sorry," she whispers. "Do you wanna hear?"
"What?" Irina asks, sniffling.
"Do you wanna hear my heart? Mommy listens to it all the time."
I slowly take my stethoscope from around my neck and place the ear tips in Irina's ears. Then I slowly place the chest piece over my daughter's scar.
Irina starts sobbing but her eyes are so full of gratitude and love. Charlotte places her hand on Irina's and brings it up to her chest right under where I am so she can feel and hear.
Oh, my precious child.
I look over at Edward and find him leaning against the wall, his eyes wet as he looks at us. "Thank you." I mouth to him.
He just smiles at me in that way of his.
Later, once Charlotte is in bed, I'm cuddled up next to him.
"You know, I never really believed in miracles." His fingertips are traveling softly up my arm in a distracted pattern. "Never really believed in anything. Then you happened. You and Charlotte. And it's like they're everywhere now."
"It's Charlotte. She's the miracle."
"No. I don't think so. I mean, she is a miracle, don't get me wrong, but it's you. You raised her to be this kind, wonderful little girl. You stood up to me when I did you wrong. You accepted help from me when you didn't want to—for her. You fought for her. You have brought me such joy, joy that I thought I would never feel again. So, it's you, Bella. You're my miracle."
I crane my neck to look at him. He has his thoughtful look on.
"Wow, tell me how you really feel." I tease.
"I'm being serious." He objects. I sigh and sit up, untangling myself from him. He makes a sound of protest.
"I know. And I've had enough of the serious for one day. We gave a woman peace today. Charlotte is healthy. You are thriving in your career and I'm Kate's bitch." I make a face. "Life is just about perfect."
He laughs and tightens his arms around me.
"Only just about? Well, that won't do. What can I give you to make it absolutely perfect?"
I think about it for a moment. I mean, I know, but I don't know what he will think about it.
He stills then looks at me. "Really?"
"Yes. I mean, I would like to wait to start trying until my intern year is up. But once I'm a second year, then yeah. I never wanted Charlotte to be an only child, Edward."
He remains silent.
"Say something. If you don't want to…"
He places his finger on my lips to quiet me. "I do want to. More than anything."
"Okay. So, we will start trying in a few months then."
"Sounds perfect," he agrees.
More silence but not uncomfortable.
"Can we start practicing for the trying now?"
I giggle and roll on top of him.
"Nothing would make me happier."