"Faith Precedes the Miracle"
Disclaimer: The proprietary elements of Breaking Dawn, including its original treatment, all of the characters, and the dialogue templates employed here, belong solely to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.
"Did you say something?" Edward asked in a puzzled tone.
I hadn't heard anything but, then again, that wasn't saying much. My ears were only human. Edward's hearing, on the other hand, was excellent. He never missed a thing.
Which is precisely why this was so strange.
He was staring at me, and I was staring back. We were both confused.
"Me?" I asked after a second. "I didn't say anything."
He moved onto his knees, leaning forward over me, his expression suddenly intense in a whole different way. His black eyes focused on my face.
"What are you thinking about right now?"
I stared at him blankly. "Nothing. What's going on?"
"What were you thinking about a minute ago?" he asked.
"Just. . .Esme's island. And feathers."
"Say something else," he whispered.
"Like what? Edward, what's going on?"
His faced changed again, and he did something that made Jacob's mouth fall open with a pop and caused Rosalie to gasp as she came back into the room.
Edward, very lightly, put both of his hands against my huge, round stomach.
"The f—" He swallowed. "It. . .the baby likes the sound of your voice."
There was one short beat of total silence. No one seemed to be able to move a muscle, not even blink. And then. . .
"You can hear him?!" I gasped, too loudly. The baby reacted to the sound of my voice, and I winced in response.
Edward's hand moved to the top peak of my belly and gently rubbed where the baby had kicked. I stopped breathing.
"Shh," he murmured. "You startled it . . . him."
My eyes widened in wonder and I instinctively placed my hand on his. "Sorry," I exhaled in a whisper.
Edward was listening hard, his head titled towards my bulging abdomen.
"What's he thinking now?" I asked eagerly.
"It. . .he or she, is. . ." He paused and looked up into my wide eyes. His eyes were suddenly soft, liquid onyx and filled with a similar awe—only his were more careful. "He's happy," Edward said in an incredulous voice.
My breath caught. I couldn't help it. Tears overflowed my eyes and ran silently down my face and over my smiling lips. With his free hand, Edward tenderly brushed the tears from my cheeks.
As he stared back at me, his face was not frightened or angry or worried or any of the other expressions he'd worn since our return. He was marveling with me.
"Of course he's happy," I breathed, taking Edward's hand from my face and pressing it to my stomach, where the baby had moved again. Our baby. His and mine. Edward leaned in closer.
Rosalie, hovering behind the couch, cleared her throat abruptly—an obvious warning for Edward to keep his distance. He ignored her.
But the baby reacted as before. This time, we felt it together. One corner of Edward's mouth twitched slightly in response, but the smile didn't touch his eyes; they were still anxious as he scrutinized my face for the slightest sign of pain or discomfort. I sucked in another breath of air and continued undeterred, "How could he not be happy, all safe and warm and loved?"
Edward relaxed just a little as he read my expression: I'm absolutely fine, better than fine, I assured him with my eyes. Slowly, hesitantly, the crooked smile I loved best crept across Edward's face, and he touched his forehead to mine.
He sighed. "I love you."
"Bella, I'm trying. . ." he began, struggling for words. "I wonder. . .maybe if—"
"Shh," I whispered, touching his lips lightly with my fingertips. "Edward, I. . .I know this has been. . .difficult for you. I'm so sorry."
"Don't," he stiffened. The hard mask had returned to his face. "Do not apologize for any of this, Bella, or I'll go insane. This is my fault. All of it."
My eyes narrowed. I kept my voice low, so that I wouldn't startle our baby again, but I had to make him understand. The floodgates opened and the words tumbled out, swirling in a surging torrent of fresh tears: "This. Is. Not. Your. Fault." I said through my teeth for what felt like the hundredth time. "Edward, I wish for just one second you could feel the love and joy that I feel. I know you're suffering; you hurt when I hurt, I understand that. You feel helpless and frustrated and desperate and afraid. I know. I'm scared, too." I swallowed, "But, oh, Edward! If you could just see things as I do, you'd understand that. . .well, it's all worth it. That must sound so trite and over-simplified to you. I-I don't know how else to explain it. . .to me, this is nothing short of a miracle!" I was gasping for breath by the end, and my mouth felt uncomfortably dry. I slumped back against the pillows and concentrated on the uneven rise and fall of my chest and shoulders. I drew in a long, ragged breath with some difficulty, then deliberately blew it out. It was getting harder to breathe.
"Bella, shh. . .please don't strain yourself—" he began, laying one gentle hand on the side of my neck and caressing my face with the other.
"Edward, there's more. . .let me finish," I interrupted, but he was already shaking his head slowly back and forth.
"We've been through this, Bella," he groaned quietly, his voice thick with emotion. "If I were to lose you now. . ." he tried to explain, but the words stuck in his throat and he couldn't finish. His face sagged forward into his hands, but not before I glimpsed the searing agony that burned in his eyes.
I reached for him, but he didn't move. "You won't lose me," I crooned. "Listen to me. Edward, listen to him." I paused as I heard his quick intake of breath, then I continued. "Our baby can communicate with you now. That makes all the difference." He raised his head and blinked twice; I waited again, touching the dark circles under his eyes. "Edward, this child. . .what you've given me, what you're giving us. . .is a gift. Our miracle. In a matter of days, the suffering will be behind us and we'll have brought a new life into this world together."
"I want to believe that, Bella. More than anything. But—"
"All I'm asking for is a little faith," I whispered, as I reached down and curled my fingers around the underside of my bloated belly. He appraised me warily, keeping his eyes focused on my face. Worrying, always worrying, that I might be in pain.
"I love you, my precious Edward Anthony," I breathed.
"What did you call him?" Edward asked curiously.
I blushed. "I was hoping. . .well, that you wouldn't mind. Your father's name was Edward, too."
"Yes, it was. But—" he paused and then said, "Hmm."
"He likes my voice, too."
"Of course he does," my tone was almost exultant now. "You have the most beautiful voice in the universe. Who wouldn't love it?"
I heard a door slam behind me and realized that Jacob must have had enough. I cringed, but couldn't bring myself to feel anything but growing optimism. Hope. It was as if an acute ache in my heart had finally started to subside.
I gazed into Edward's eyes and smiled. His answering smile, though brittle, was dazzling.
"Do you have a backup plan?" Rosalie interjected then, leaning over the back of the sofa. "What if he's a she?"
My fingers moved instinctively to my stomach. Edward's hands followed mine and rested lightly there, but his eyes never left my face.
I smiled sheepishly. "I was thinking, maybe…Elizabeth Alice."
Edward's smile widened, his eyes brighter than before. He was so beautiful that he took my breath away. Again.
"Well, that's convenient," Rosalie chortled. "Whether it's a boy or girl, the initials will be the same: EAC," she enunciated each letter with smug satisfaction.
Edward snorted. "You would consider the child's monogram."
"Of course," she retorted unashamed. "One must consider such things. It would be a gross oversight to ignore something so fundamental."
He rolled his eyes.
"Edward?" I breathed suddenly, still a little dazed. "Would you do something for me?"
"Anything," he answered, concerned now. "What is it?"
"I. . .this is silly, but. . .would you hold me?" My voice broke on the last two words.
Before I could take another breath, his arms were reaching for me. And Rosalie was on her feet.
"Bella," she began in a tone I didn't care for, "I don't like this—"
Edward's head whipped in her direction and his low hiss stopped her cold. "You don't have to," he growled.
In the same instant, Emmett appeared out of nowhere, moving to stand beside his mate. He placed a firm hand on her shoulder.
Rosalie just glared.
"Don't, Edward, please. Rose, it's okay now," I soothed. I knew that Edward would not hurt this baby. And if I could trust him, then so must she.
But she wasn't listening. She shrugged out of Emmett's iron grip and took a step towards us. Was she suicidal?
"It could be a trick, Bella—think about it," she continued arrogantly, condescendingly. "It's getting close now."
What happened next was almost a blur. Low growls erupted from everywhere at once. In less than a heartbeat, Edward had whirled around to face Emmett and Rose, crouching into a spring, with his fingers curled into steel claws at his sides. Emmett had re-positioned himself protectively in front of Rosalie, braced for a fight. And Carlisle, Esme, Jasper, and Alice were suddenly in the room, as well, ready to intercede.
There was a long, tense moment of silence.
"Breathe, Bella," Edward reminded me over his shoulder. But I couldn't. I had to think of a way to stop this before anyone I loved got hurt. As I looked around at the anxious faces of my family, my head started to spin. I was suddenly very dizzy. And I felt sick. I was going to lose it.
"Leave. Now." Edward hissed sharply in Rosalie's direction, his words cutting through the momentary stillness like knives. His tone had Emmett taking an automatic step backward, but Rosalie stood her ground. Emmett stopped then, not willing to retreat another millimeter without her.
I became aware of Jasper's calming influence settling upon us, but Rosalie and Edward seemed completely unaffected.
"This has gone far enough," Carlisle spoke softly, but the authority in his voice was undeniable.
Emmett nodded once in agreement, "Let's go, Rose." Then he chuckled, and everyone seemed to thaw out in response. "Give them a minute, for crying out loud! They're technically still newlyweds, you know."
Jasper grinned and Alice giggled.
Rosalie's expression did not change, but Emmett's hands were on her upper arms now, moving her towards the door. The rest of the Cullens filed out ahead of them. Alice winked and shot me an encouraging smile.
"I won't be far. . ." Rosalie growled in defeat, glaring back at Edward. Then she spun on her heel and disappeared with Emmett and the others.
Edward straightened stiffly and ran a shaky hand through his bronze hair. He turned to face me, but his expression was unreadable. Maybe exhausted, if that were possible.
I cleared my throat and struggled to pull myself into a more comfortable sitting position. He was instantly at my side.
"I'm sorry about that, Edward. She's only trying to help."
He didn't respond. His black eyes were cold, his mouth a hard line.
For one brief second, I wondered if sending Rosalie away had been the right thing to do. But then, I was sorry for even thinking it.
I needed my husband.
I moaned softly—it hurt to move. A lot.
"What can I do?" Edward whispered frantically. I didn't answer right away, I still couldn't speak. He was desperate, almost panicking now, "Isabella, let me help you," he pleaded.
Guilty tears stung my hot cheeks as they overflowed my eyes. An anguished sob escaped my lips. Edward fell to his knees and took my left hand, his eyes wide and tortured.
"Are you hurting?" he choked. "Bella, are you in pain?"
"Edward, I. . ." my voice trailed off. I was weeping uncontrollably now.
His face went whiter than his usual pale, and fresh panic shot across his features.
"Bella!" He begged, placing his hands on either side of my face. "Please tell me what's wrong!"
"I'm s-s-sorry. . .so sorry, Edward. You deserve. . ." and then I gave up, breathless, ". . . could you. . .just hold me?" I didn't have the strength to articulate what I was really feeling. The anguish, the guilt. The situation with his family was my fault.
Without a second's delay, he slid deftly behind my pillows and gently maneuvered me into his lap. Surprisingly, his careful movements caused me no pain at all. My legs curled comfortably to the side of his waist, and I melted into his chest, nestling my face into the cool, smooth skin of his neck. I was in a near fetal position, cradled in his soft embrace, as he carefully wound one strong arm around my torso for support. His other hand was pressed lightly, soothingly against the side of my protruding belly.
"Better now?" he whispered after a few moments, clearly shaken by my sudden bout of hysteria.
"Yes, thank you," I murmured apologetically, the tears still trickling down my flushed face. "I. . .I don't know what's wrong with me."
"Shh," he whispered. "Please don't cry. You don't have to be afraid of anything now, Bella. I promise to protect you. . .and our baby."
I clung to him then, crushing the collar of his shirt. He held me carefully and hummed my lullaby, stroking my face, my arms, my hair, until the tears stopped and I eventually could relax enough to sleep. I didn't deserve him. Not after everything I'd put him through. Yet, somehow, he was still willing to do anything in his power to protect me, to protect us. There was no doubt in my mind that he would keep that promise now. Comforted by this overwhelming sense of security, aware of it even in sleep, I rested better than I had since we were on the island. My deep slumber was interrupted only occasionally—whenever the baby made an abrupt movement and I awoke with a start—but Edward lulled me back into unconsciousness by tenderly caressing my stomach until I felt no pain at all. As he held me in his arms, I realized that this bore a striking resemblance to my happy place. Why had I ever left? How had I imagined that I could do this without him? I was such a fool. Bringing our miraculous child safely into this world would take both of us.
When I finally opened my eyes, Edward was staring off into space, his face blank as he listened. We were still alone in the room, and it was quiet. I took his hand and waited.
"What?" I finally asked, a little impatient. "What's the baby thinking now?"
At first Edward didn't answer, he only grinned and maneuvered out from behind me so that he could kneel down on the floor. Gently, very tenderly, he leaned forward and laid his ear against my enormous belly. I counted to one hundred in my head.
He smirked at something—what? And then he busied himself adjusting my pillows (very meticulously arranging them to provide maximum back support) before re-tucking a blanket around my legs. He sat at my feet without a word.
I stared at him dejectedly, pretending to pout, and folded my arms across my giant tummy with an exasperated "Hmph."
It worked, he laughed. I'd forgotten how sweet a sound it was. . .music to my ears.
"He loves you," Edward winked, finally giving in. "He absolutely adores you." He was staring straight ahead, eyes unfocused. . .still listening.
Then he focused his gaze on me. He looked into my eyes for a long time, lightly tracing his fingers along my jaw, from my ear to my chin, back and forth. I thought I might explode with the love I felt in that moment—the adoration and the devotion. He must have seen it in my eyes. Pressing one gentle finger under my chin, he lowered his lips to mine.
"So. . .he adores me?" I asked when he let me breathe, much too soon. He handled me as if I might break.
"Naturally," Edward responded, flashing his crooked smile, "As I do." It was good to see the life returning to his features.
"Like father, like son" I sighed, gazing back at him, totally content.
"Mmm," he murmured, kissing me lightly on the lips.
Then, switching gears, he placed a cool hand on my forehead, stroked his fingers along my neck to my collarbone, and swept my hair behind my shoulder. Almost businesslike. In the next moment, he was on his feet. Pacing?
"Tell me," he began as if he were starting at the top of a list, "How are you feeling now? You slept for quite a while. Are you hungry at all? Thirsty? You feel a little warmer than usual—too many blankets, maybe?"
I blinked once, and he continued.
"I want you to try eating something if you're able, but first let's get you settled upstairs. You'll rest better in my old room, and I believe the linens on our bed are freshly changed."
I just stared.
"Shall we, then?" he smiled, bending forward to gather me into his arms.
I snorted and leaned back a fraction of an inch. He raised one perfect eyebrow.
"Edward, I like it down here. I really hate being in bed all day! You know that." My mouth slipped into an automatic pout—drat.
He grinned again.
"Sorry, love," he said, touching my cheek. "But, I want you to rest in our bed. This couch can't be comfortable anymore; it clearly fails to provide ample upper and lower lumbar support." He waved his hand dismissively towards the furniture and arched his own back in mock discomfort. I rolled my eyes and giggled at his theatrics.
Something was definitely different. There was a new light in his eyes, the shadow of his previous doubt all but gone—or, at least, it seemed to have faded considerably. I basked for a moment in the surprising brightness of his hope and carefully considered my response. I'd do just about anything to keep his spirits up—and he probably knew it.
He was such a cheater. "Okay, I'll go quietly, but only if you promise to stay with me every minute. . .no matter what Rose says," I winked, attempting to match his mood.
"Of course," he smiled, squeezing my hand. "I promise."
"We stay together no matter what," I murmured a bit more seriously as he gently lifted me into his arms.
"Together," he agreed, wincing only slightly as he added, "Until the baby is delivered. In the meantime, I'll handle Rosalie. Don't worry about a thing between now and then."
He paused, noticing the fresh tears shining in my eyes. I wonder if he realized that they were tears of pure joy.
"Together, forever," he amended. "And forever. . .and forever. . .and forever," he whispered softly, kissing my cheeks over and over again, as he carried me up the stairs to his room. "I won't be separated from you, Isabella. Not now. Not ever."
(See next story in the three-part series: "Anticipation")