Chapter 1: "A New Beginning"

Disclaimer: The proprietary elements of Breaking Dawn, including its original treatment and all of the characters, belong solely to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.

Bella's POV

I raised my eyes to the brightness of the morning but did not open them at first. The warmth of the sunlight on my cheeks seemed to percolate my hazy thoughts until lucidity gradually dawned and, sleepily, I returned to myself. I'd had the most amazing dream. I remembered it in perfect detail, which was unusual for me. I dreamt I'd given birth to a little angel—a daughter who very closely resembled her flawless father.

Where was Edward? Before I could register that thought—before I could even open my eyes and process the anomaly of waking without his arms around me—I heard it. It was a sound so angelic, that at first I wondered if I might be dreaming again. But no, this was real. I recognized the cry instinctively, and my reaction was almost visceral. Every part of me yearned to comfort her. My daughter. Elizabeth Alice Cullen.

I opened my eyes then and drank in the sight of her. She was swaddled in a velvety, pale pink blanket, and Edward was cradling her against his chest. She had only cried out because he'd momentarily shifted his gaze from her face to mine as I stirred.

"Good morning, sweetheart," he whispered. And then, to Elizabeth, "Look, Mommy's awake!"

More angel than man, himself, as he stood with his skin glowing softly in the first golden rays of morning, Edward rocked the baby gently back and forth, murmuring something low and soft—a lullaby, I guessed, by the way his lips moved. There was a deep joy in his eyes as he gazed back into Elizabeth's small, heart-shaped face, and the corners of his mouth turned up slightly as he sang the quiet melody. I recognized the expression on his face at once—pure adoration; he was head over heals in love with her. But instead of mild jealously, I felt nothing but elation. It hadn't been a dream.

I smiled to myself and watched the two of them together. It was as if I'd been transported from here to eternity—and back again—in this single, timeless moment. Where he stood near the floor-to-ceiling window, having just introduced Elizabeth to her very first dawn, Edward looked more at peace than I'd ever seen him. This moment, marked by the perfect brightness of his hope, was the reason I'd traversed the long, shadowed valley—endured the waiting night. The promise of our happiness now was the rationale behind what Edward (and others) had considered "madness" just two short weeks ago.

Admittedly, there'd been nothing sensible, much less natural, about my blurred nightmare of a pregnancy—Edward was right to have worried that I might not survive it—but as I gazed at him now, holding our infant daughter in his arms, there was no doubt in my mind that the miraculous 'end' had justified the faith-promoting 'means.' Sweeter still was the realization that Edward's motivation from the time we left Isle Esme had always been his love for me. I understood his initial concern for my safety—he was certainly justified in that—but only now was I realizing exactly how difficult the entire process must have been for him. In hindsight, I could see that his willingness to acquiesce and allow the life-threatening pregnancy to continue must have been excruciatingly painful. I cringed at that thought but was immediately comforted by the fact that the depth of his limitless devotion now encompassed the tiny angel he held in his arms. It was a new beginning for all of us.

"You slept soundly," Edward crooned, as he leaned to kiss my forehead. "How do you feel this morning?"

"I…I don't know, yet. Okay, I think."

"Careful," he cautioned, as I tried to sit up.

"Ow."

He grimaced. "That's what I thought."

Cradling Elizabeth in one arm so that he could put a hand on my shoulder, he gently pushed me back against the pillows. In one sweeping motion, he brushed the damp hair from my forehead, then trailed his cool fingers across my cheek.

"Carlisle warned that the recovery might be a little…uncomfortable," he cringed. "But don't worry, love. We have medications on hand that will ease the pain. I'll get you something right away."

"No—wait, Edward," I began, reaching for him as he turned and started towards the door, the baby still in his arms.

"What is it? Are you all right?" he asked, concerned—immediately at my side again.

"Could you maybe leave Elizabeth with me?" I almost begged, half-extending my arms. His answering smile was dazzling.

"Absolutely," Edward beamed, then added apologetically, "Please forgive my thoughtlessness, my mind was elsewhere."

Supporting her head carefully, he placed the baby in my waiting arms. "I've been holding her since we moved the two of you from the library last night, and I've just grown accustomed to having her with me."

He stroked the baby's silky, dark hair and smiled down at her before continuing, "I'm sure she's hungry again—she's been eating every couple of hours. Why don't I bring you both some breakfast in bed? I'd rather you not take morphine on an empty stomach, anyway."

"What has she been eating?" I asked, a little surprised.

"Amazingly, Elizabeth's been very accepting of what we've offered her, so far," Edward explained. "She seems to prefer blood…" he paused, observing my reaction (but there was none), "…as Rosalie suggested she might initially. But, a few hours ago, Carlisle brought in a bottle of iron-fortified infant formula, and she drank that, as well."

"Wow. So…vampire cravings, but a human digestive system," I murmured, somewhat bemused.

"It would appear so," Edward answered. "Carlisle wants to try restricting her diet to 'formula only' today and see if she protests. He's theorizing that if Elizabeth can adapt to extracting the nutrients she needs exclusively from human food, she can (and should) be weaned from the other completely."

I nodded. It was a lot to take in. And I was really starting to feel the pain now.

Sensing my discomfort, Edward quickly excused himself, "You're hurting. I'll be right back."

Elizabeth and I became reacquainted over the course of the next fifteen minutes—it felt good to have her in my arms again—and I could see why Edward had been reluctant to let her go. Once or twice I thought I saw her smile as I whispered how much I loved her and cooed about what a miracle she was. She was unbelievably alert. And there was a disarming intelligence behind her eyes. I couldn't deny that she had me wrapped around her little finger well before her daddy returned with our breakfast.

Edward entered the room with a smile on his face, not at all surprised that I was so ridiculously enamored with the little bundle in my arms. He was holding the handles of an ornate silver tray, and the mouth-watering aroma of steaming eggs, fluffy pancakes, crisp bacon, and several different types of fresh fruit wafted into the room with him. As he placed the footed-tray beside me on the bed, I noticed that a single red rose stood erect in a small vase next to the lead-crystal goblet of orange juice and a bottle of infant formula.

"That looks and smells wonderful," I smiled up at him. "Unfortunately, I don't have quite the appetite I did on the island—all this can't be for me. Are you expecting someone?"

"Jacob's coming by later, but there's more in the kitchen if he's hungry," Edward stated matter-of-factly, reaching for the bottle. "I want you to get as much nourishment as possible—you need to regain your strength."

"Sorry, baby girl," I sighed, touching her button nose, "I'm afraid your breakfast isn't quite as beautiful as mine."

Edward winked, "Elizabeth doesn't have any teeth."

"I bet it won't be long, though," I sighed more deeply, gazing at her face.

"She is…remarkably advanced for a newborn," Edward agreed thoughtfully, noting my unease.

"What do you think that means?" I breathed.

"Don't be concerned, love" he soothed. "Carlisle's monitoring her carefully—taking measurements every three hours and doing lab work every six."

"Let me guess, the library's a full-blown neonatal laboratory now," I smirked, but I'm sure the expression didn't touch my eyes.

Edward grinned. "It won't be long before we have enough data to plot Elizabeth's post-partum growth patterns and make some preliminary predictions. Until then, there's no need to worry. Here, let me take her so you can eat."

As Edward reached for the baby, Elizabeth's brown eyes focused on his smiling face, and she lifted her tiny hands slightly towards his. My breath caught, and Edward's gaze met mine. If he felt anything besides fatherly pride at her day-old abilities, he didn't allow me to see.

I, on the other hand, was starting to panic. How long could the baby continue to develop at such a rapid rate? Would Elizabeth mature beyond her years and die of 'old age' decades before her time? I shuddered at the thought.

"Eat, Bella," Edward encouraged softly, as if he could detect the foreboding shadows that were gathering surreptitiously in the corners of my mind.

I put a forkful of hot eggs in my mouth. The ache in my stomach wasn't quite nausea, but I didn't have the appetite I probably should have. I only forced myself to eat so that I'd be able to take something for the escalating pain.

"Everything's going to be all right," Edward soothed again. "You'll see."

I smiled back at him, hoping against hope that he was right.