Author's note: I've been thinking about Esme and how she became such a mother figure when she's really only a few years older than the rest of the family. I'm a mother/baby nurse and I realized that Esme was changed right at the time her body had the highest level of prolactin (aka "the mothering hormone" responsible for producing mother's milk). She is frozen in mothering mode, which Edward refers to as compassion. Her maternal instincts are heightened, so her vampire ability is supermom. She knows what each of her "children" needs and she provides it. I've finally gotten these into chapters (thanks RemedyX) and I've made a few minor changes in some of the chapters.

A Mother's Choice

The gasping breaths from the frail infant in her arms tore at Esme's heart. She held him to her swollen chest. He had been unable to make any attempt at nursing for hours. She had tried dribbling milk in his mouth, as the doctor had suggested, but he was too weak for even that. The doctor had tried to be sympathetic, but offered little hope.

Why was this happening to her precious child? Was it because her parents were right and she should never have left Charles? That couldn't be right, Charles had beaten her after she told him she was pregnant. She remembered curling up around her stomach to protect her unborn child. Only her need to protect her child could give her the determination to leave him. Thankfully, her cousin had taken her in with open arms, but after her parents had written, she knew she had to make a clean break from family ties to save her child. The proprietor of the small boarding house she was staying at had been very kind to the poor war widow. She had been so hopeful that she had finally found a new beginning.

Her thoughts drifted back ten years to another doctor. If she only knew where to find Carlisle Cullen, he could save her baby. He had been so kind to her when she broke her leg. He would never strike a woman, or try to crush her spirit. He would have protected her and cherished her while she was pregnant. Their child would have been healthy and beautiful. She roused herself from her daydream with a start. How could she me mooning over someone she hadn't seen in a decade, when her child was fighting for his life?

She pressed her lips to his cool forehead. She couldn't seem to keep him warm, no matter what she did. He gave a rattling gasp, and then lay still in her arms. Esme screamed in anguish, a harsh, guttural sound. Her landlady, Mrs. Olsen rushed up the stairs and gathered Esme in her arms. "Hush now, he's gone to a better place. You did all you could. You're wore out from not eating or sleeping." She rocked Esme in her arms, while Esme sobbed for what seemed like forever.

Later, Esme stood dully as her tiny son was prepared for burial. She stopped Mrs. Olsen as she began to change him, and said, "This is the last thing I will ever be able to do for my son." With tears streaming down her face, she washed him and dressed him in the gown that she had made for his christening. Then she wrapped him in the white blanket that she had crocheted for him during her pregnancy. The local undertaker arrived shortly after she finished and told her that he would be ready for viewing later that evening. Esme nodded without expression. After he left, she turned to Mrs. Olsen and said, "Thank you for all your kindness. You have been wonderful to me, but I need some time to be alone now with my grief." Mrs. Olsen paused, looking at her with concern, then said, "I'm just downstairs in the kitchen if you need me." Esme smiled wanly at her.

Once she was alone, Esme changed into clothing that was more suitable for outdoors. She was almost able to fit back into her normal clothing, since the stress of the past few days had caused her to lose so much weight. She slipped out of the house without attracting any attention and began walking, a plan half formed in her mind.

She couldn't go back to her family or Charles. The only thing that had made her life worth living was gone. She thought about the layette that she had lovingly made for her son, the unneeded milk in her breasts, the empty crib in her room, and tears streamed down her face. She began climbing.

When she reached the top of the bluff, and looked down, she hesitated briefly. All she had thought about since becoming pregnant was being a mother. She had imagined watching her son grow and learn. His first step, his first word, his first love. Maybe he would share her love of music and literature, or perhaps he would love sports. Now, that future was denied to her. She had no hope for another future as long as Charles Evanson had a claim on her. Her choices had dwindled down to this last one. She stepped forward, her last thoughts focused on motherhood.