Eight Years, Eight Months Later…
"Oh, Eddie! You're so talented! My car has never run better! I owe you more than I could ever pay."
Edward smiled politely and led his overly flirtatious customer toward Manny, his cashier.
"Regular tune-up and an oil change," Edward told Manny as he placed the paperwork on the counter. Then he turned to his customer and courteously attempted to disengage. "Thanks, Stacey. Manny will take care of you from here and get your keys back to you."
"Well, if he's even half as good as you are, I'm sure I'll be in great hands," Stacey said, batting her eyelashes at Edward.
Edward was so uncomfortable, and Manny was so taken by Stacey's voluptuous curves and low-cut, tight fitting, V-neck shirt that they failed to see a very disgruntled, very pregnant woman leaning against the wall behind them, watching the nauseating display.
"Oh, Eddie, I almost forgot," Stacey reached out and grabbed Edward by the arm. "My friend is having one of those anti-Valentine's Day parties on Friday. It should be a lot of fun. Whaddya say? Wanna go?"
Edward paused, as if deliberating his answer. "What's an anti-Valentine's Day party?"
"You've never heard of those before?" Stacey's tinkling laugh dripped from her lips. "Instead of that whole Cupid and couples scene, everyone just comes and hangs out…sees what happens…"
"Well, since I'm a marri-"
"He's not single," the overly pregnant woman interrupted Edward as she pushed herself off the wall she was leaning on and walked over to the cashier counter.
"Oh…h-hey, Bella," Manny greeted nervously as his eyes volleyed between Edward and Stacey.
"Hi, Manny," Bella said without taking her eyes off Edward. Therefore, she couldn't see the way Stacey was looking her up and down.
"Hey, babe," Edward leaned over and gave Bella a kiss on the lips. Ready to take off?"
"If you're all done here," she said as she tossed an annoyed glance over her shoulder at Stacey.
Edward stifled a grin at Bella's show of jealousy. "Bella, this is Stacey Chiles. Stacey, this is my wife, Bella."
"Oh," Stacey forced a show of humiliation. "I didn't know you were married, Edward. You don't wear a wedding ring."
"Occupational hazard," Edward said as he held up his left hand to reveal the name 'Bella' tattooed on his ring finger. "Besides, I can't lose this."
"Huh. I didn't even notice that…" Stacey trailed off. She then turned her attention to Bella, or rather, Bella's belly. "Wow. So I guess this is yours, too, huh?" she gestured at the unborn.
Edward noticed the way Bella's ire was about to overcome her and he quickly shut down the interaction, let Manny know he'd be back in a few hours and then grabbed Bella's hand and led her out of the shop.
"Who does that bitch think she is?" Bella asked loudly once they were outside.
"Just a customer, baby," Edward said.
"She called me fat."
"She did not call you fat."
"Wow!" Bella mimicked Stacey. "That's how she said it when she looked at me. Like she couldn't believe I fit through the roll up door."
"And what the fuck kind of person says, 'I guess this is yours' to a guy's pregnant wife? What the hell was that?"
"I think she was just embarrassed because she didn't have a chance in hell."
"A chance in hell of what?" Bella turned and looked at Edward as she plopped down in the passenger seat of their car and fastened her seatbelt.
Edward recognized that tone. Bella was on the warpath, and now that Stacey was out of her line of fire, she was going to zero in on the next available target: him.
"Competing with this very lovely, very beautiful, very sexy woman right here," Edward leaned in for a kiss.
"Don't patronize me, Eddie," Bella said as she moved away from him.
"Don't what?" he scowled. His patience with Bella's sensitivity was wearing thin.
"You're just saying what you think I want to hear."
"And that's bad because….?"
"Because you don't really feel that way," Bella huffed. "I know I'm huge, Edward. Here you are, getting better looking with every passing day, and I'm getting fatter and flabbier."
"You're not flabby," Edward said, his eyes on Bella's breasts. They were perhaps the biggest perk to pregnancy thus far. They were huge!
"So I'm just fat, then?" Bella asked him.
"Bella, you're going to have a baby, that's what you are," Edward sighed. "And I think that, and you, are beautiful. Now, if you don't believe me when I say that, that's on you, but I believe it and I mean it."
Edward shifted his car into reverse and prepared to move out of his parking spot. As he did so, Bella's warm hand came to rest atop his.
"I'm sorry. I'm a huge pain in the ass, aren't I?" she apologized.
"Yes. You are," Edward said right before leaning over and stealing the kiss she'd denied him earlier.
"I can't help it. The girls next door at the deli tell me all the horror stories about all the women who come in and ask them about the hottie at the auto shop."
"How do you know they're talking about me? Jason has girls falling all over him," Edward said of his second-in-command employee.
"They're talking about you. The girls wouldn't tell me about it if they weren't talking about you," Bella stated. "Besides, I'm not blind. I know you're attractive, Edward."
"And I know I'm happily married to someone that I find pretty damn attractive as well," Edward grinned as he attempted to steer the conversation in a new direction. "In fact, I plan to show you just how attracted I am to you as soon as we get home."
"Edward, we just had sex less than twelve hours ago," Bella reminded him.
"Yes, and in about two and half weeks from now I'm going to be cut off for a month so I'm stockin' up."
"Six weeks. The doctor said we can't have sex after the baby is born for six weeks," Bella corrected.
"I read on the Internet that people can have sex four weeks after the baby is born. Four weeks is a month, therefore, I'm going to be cut off for four weeks and four weeks only, thankyouverymuch."
"It doesn't matter what you read. It depends on what my doctor said."
"Well when's your next appointment? I'm gonna ask her myself."
Bella smiled as she ran her hands over her belly. The next week marked the beginning of her weekly visits to her doctor, a signal that her pregnancy was quickly coming to an end and then she and Edward would be parents.
It was a terrifying notion.
"My appointment is Thursday. You can't come because you gave Jason the day off. Remember?"
"Oh yeah," Edward said. He'd thought about asking Jason to take another day off instead, because he kind of wanted to go with Bella to her appointment. She'd mainly gone to all of the appointments by herself, and now, as things were getting closer to D-day, he wanted to have a few of his own questions answered, and if he was being honest, some fears calmed.
He knew that Bella was more concerned with the development of the baby and how 'it' was growing. An erratic heartbeat early in the second trimester had required Bella to have an ultrasound at sixteen weeks and it had been too early for the technician to tell them if they were having a boy or a girl. It also exhausted their allotted sonogram with their insurance company, which refused to pay for another ultrasound unless a complication required it.
So in addition to not knowing if he was having a son or a daughter, Edward didn't know if everything that had happened was supposed to happen. And though he could ask Bella what the doctor had said, certain topics were taboo – such as Bella's size.
Ever since Bella's pregnancy had been discovered, Edward had begun to take note of other pregnant women he'd seen around town, and none of the women he ever saw were as large as Bella. It wasn't that she was fat, as she liked to call herself. It was simply her belly. Round didn't even begin to explain it. Even from the back, the view of which hadn't changed much, the sides of the orb was visible, and from the front, Bella looked like she was about to fall forward from the weight.
Though he did his best not to make comments when she complained, secretly Edward was a bit concerned with how large Bella had gotten. But when he'd asked what her doctor had said about her growth, she'd only rattle off the foods she was encouraged not to eat.
"She treats me like I'm sitting on my duff eating cake all day," Bella had said one day of her doctor. "If I eat any more fruits and vegetables, I'm going to turn into one."
Edward knew this statement to be true. Bella was very careful with what she put in her mouth, and if he complained about her eating habits at all, it was when she didn't eat, even when she was hungry, because she feared that she was eating too much.
"Do you want me to reschedule?" Bella asked, returning Edward to their current conversation.
"Nah, that's alright. I'll try to move some things around," Edward said.
"Are you getting scared?" Bella asked in a quiet voice.
"Not scared. Just nervous," Edward downplayed his emotions. He was definitely scared. In a few weeks' time, someone was going to be depending on him and Bella for their very existence.
"Me too. I'm hoping that birthing class this weekend will make me feel a little better. It's hard not knowing what to expect."
Edward had forgotten all about the labor and delivery course at the hospital that Bella had signed up for. Hopefully that would answer all of his questions as well, and just like Bella, he hoped it would make him feel a little more confident for what was coming.
Once they were home, Edward hurried to Bella's side of the car to help her out before trailing her into their apartment. As soon as they were through the door, the aroma of chili greeted them.
"That smells so good," Edward said appreciatively.
"It's a crock pot recipe I got from your mother. She said it was one of your favorites."
Edward lifted the lid off the cooker and inhaled deeply. When he was satisfied from the smell, he returned the top and leaned over Bella flirtatiously. "It's okay, baby. You don't have to butter me up with my favorite foods. I'll still let you be on top later."
Bella pushed him away playfully and went to the cabinet to grab a can of steel cut oatmeal. While Edward would get to feast on a meal of spicy chili and cornbread, Bella planned to settle down with a bowl of oatmeal with a hint of maple syrup.
"Live a little," Edward told her when he saw her oatmeal. "You can't cook this delicious chili and then not eat any."
"It gives me heartburn that keeps me up all night."
Edward pointed his spoon at Bella. "I wouldn't mind if you stayed up all night. That'll give me lots of time to recharge."
Bella rolled her eyes at his innuendos, which were his way of really driving home the point that he wanted to have sex. However, despite her responses to the contrary, by the time they made it to bed that night, she was just as hot and bothered for him as he seemed to be for her.
She was nearly salivating as she watched his naked form kneel between her legs, his rock hard cock inching toward her. But after only seconds of contact, she stopped him.
"Ah! You're too deep," she winced.
"I'm not even halfway in," he told her. But it wasn't going to be enjoyable for him if it was painful for her, so he rolled her to the side and entered her from behind.
"Damn," Edward uttered in a harsh whisper. Either he was extremely horny, or Bella's pussy was warmer, slicker and tighter than usual. "Mmm…that feels so fuckin' good…" he murmured as he began to roll his hips with each thrust. He could feel Bella start to pull away from him, so he rested his hand on her hip to anchor her and maintain his rhythm.
"Shit," he swore when he began to feel her insides constrict around him. "Why haven't we done it this way more often?"
When Bella didn't respond, Edward leaned over and looked down to see if her euphoric bliss was so great that it rendered her speechless. But bliss was not the expression he saw blatant on her face.
With her eyes shut tight and her lips pressed firmly together Bella looked to be in the epitome of pain.
"Baby, you okay?" Edward asked, still moving against her, but with less vigor.
"Are you close?" she asked him through clenched teeth.
"Does it hurt?"
"I'm fine, but I'm done if you're holding off."
Edward hadn't been holding off, but he recognized that Bella hadn't given him a direct answer, which most likely meant that she was uncomfortable. So after lifting up Bella's shirt so he could get a birds-eye view of her tits, he grabbed a handful of the supple flesh and pumped his way across the finish line.
"Oh…fuck!" Edward gasped when he was done. "I can't live without that for a month," he panted.
Bella struggled to sit up and paused to catch her breath. "Can you help me up?" she asked, anxious to stand up so she could breathe again. The baby was pressing against her lungs and she was having a hard time taking a deep breath.
"What's the matter?" Edward asked when Bella leaned into him and rested her head against his chest.
"Just a little dizzy," Bella said. "I think I stood up too fast."
"Are you okay? Do I need to call someone? The doctor?"
Bella laughed and Edward grew indignant of her jeering. "Calm down, Edward. I'm fine. My center of gravity is off, that's all."
"Well, shit," Edward grumped, "you're acting like you can't even stand up straight. You've never done that before."
Bella kissed him on his chin and waddled off toward the kitchen in search of a late night snack. When she returned to the bedroom, Edward was sitting up, barely concealed by his boxer shorts, reading the latest issue of Park or Ride magazine.
"That reminds me, you still haven't told me if you like the name Parker," Bella said. They'd made it up to the letter 'p' in the book of baby names and so far all they'd done was decide on the names they didn't like.
"Sounds like a rich kid's name."
Bella just shook her head and gave up. She'd learned early on in their discussion that it was useless to try to understand Edward's reasoning when it came to his dislike of certain names. He had a method that only he understood.
"Okay, well what about Penelope?"
Edward laid down the magazine and looked over at Bella like she was crazy. "Are you serious? You seriously like the name Penelope?"
"What's wrong with it?"
"It's got four syllables. That's too many."
"I didn't know we were counting syllables."
"No on Penelope."
"No. It reminds me of that airhead on that TV show you used to watch."
"Well then what? You're not helping me come up with any baby names, Edward."
"I need to see the kid first. I've not named a single thing in my life without seeing it first. Why should I start now?"
"This isn't a car or a pet hamster, Edward, and I think we should give some thought to what we're going to call our baby for the rest of his or her life. I, personally, would feel more comfortable if we had some idea of what we might pick."
"I read that a baby doesn't have to have a name until it's five years old."
"Oh would you stop looking up random shit on the Internet already!" Bella tossed a pillow at him and went into the living room to watch a movie. She was too tired to watch a program in its entirety, but the bed was too uncomfortable and she knew she'd be spending the night in her recliner anyway.
A program about a cannibalistic man hosting a dinner party was the only thing on television that didn't make her think of birth defects, stillborn babies and SIDS. After about fifteen minutes, she drifted off to sleep only to wake up three hours later when she dreamed that a crazy man had thrown her into a vat of boiling water in an attempt to serve her to a party of unsuspecting people.
"What the hell?" she asked aloud when she looked down and realized that she was wet. "Now I'm pissing myself?"
She struggled out of the chair and made it all the way to the bathroom before realization struck.
It wasn't urine on her pants.
"Edward!" she called frantically, suddenly very afraid. "Edward!"
"What?" his irritated, groggy voice called from the bedroom.
"My water broke!"
"Well…get another one and I'll fix it in the morning."
"What the hell, Bella! I'm tryin' to sleep, here!"
"Edward, the baby's coming!"
There was the sound of blankets being tortured and then a definitive thud followed by a murderous, "Fuck!" Seconds later, Edward appeared in front of Bella rubbing his side and squinting from the brightness of the light.
"The baby's coming?" he asked.
"I think so," Bella nodded, a look of fright coloring her face. "My water broke."
"W-what does that mean?" Edward gestured wildly.
"It means we have to go to the hospital."
"Okay…um…shit…where the fuck are my pants…" Edward disappeared back in to the bedroom only to return and reach out for Bella, who hadn't moved an inch. "I'm sorry, babe, are you alright? Do you need me to do something? Are you in pain?"
"My stomach feels kind of tight, but other than that, I just need some dry pants and underwear."
Edward did his best to come up with something, but Bella ended up settling on a nightgown with leggings underneath.
They managed to remember Bella's bag, the camera and an outfit and blanket for the baby as they headed out the front door.
"Is this really happening?" Edward looked over at Bella with a look of sheer panic on his face.
"I-I think so," Bella stammered nervously. Suddenly a tightening grip seized her belly and she inhaled and exhaled deeply. "Yeah…yeah, I'm pretty sure it's happening."
Edward maneuvered the icy roads as fast as he could in the wintery conditions, all the while asking Bella if she was okay every few seconds.
"I'm good," she'd answer him quietly with no hint of the mocking sarcasm that had been present earlier in the day.
When they arrived at the hospital, Edward fled inside, telling Bella he'd be right back. He thought it was his job to check-in and then bring Bella inside, but the nurses on duty quickly scolded him and followed him out to the car with a wheelchair for Bella.
"Has labor started?" a young, male nurse asked Bella.
"My water broke…I think," Bella said quietly.
"Well let's get you inside and have a look," the nurse said.
"Who's having a look?" Edward asked as he eyed the nurse suspiciously. Was this guy just trying to see Bella's good and plentys?
The nurse simply cast an annoyed glance in Edward's direction and before Edward could respond, Bella stifled a yelp and began rubbing at her belly.
"What's wrong? What is it?" Edward asked her as he juggled all the things they'd need for their stay.
"I'd say that was most likely a contraction," the nurse smiled down at Bella.
She closed her eyes and let out a deep breath – hoping that that would be the worst of it.
Of course, it wasn't.
A part of Edward had thought that maybe Bella was simply overreacting, or that she'd eaten some of the forbidden chili and mistook a bad case of heartburn for labor. But when the nurse had crammed his nosy head between Bella's legs and pronounced that she was already dilated to seven centimeters and that she was going to have her baby that day, Edward kicked in to high-panic – so much so that the nurse threatened to put him in a room of his own.
"I already have two patients," he said of Bella and the baby. "I can't handle a third."
Bella saw Edward's patience wearing thin and she quickly gave him a task to complete. "Can you call my dad?" she asked.
Edward did as he was asked and after he'd alerted Charlie, he called his parents and Bella's mother, who wasn't prepared to come for a visit for two weeks.
"They're on their way," Edward said of Charlie and his parents. "Can I get you anything? Are you okay?"
But Bella didn't answer because a different nurse had come into the room to hook her up to a multitude of different machines and to check her vitals.
"Have you only had one ultrasound?" she frowned down at Bella's chart.
"Yeah. Why?" Bella was uptight with worry that something was going to go wrong.
"Oh nothing, Honey. You're fine and your doctor should be here soon. Lucky for you, she's on call tonight."
That news eased Bella's mind a bit. She'd been slightly worried that her doctor would be off when she went into labor and she'd get some stranger who knew nothing of her history.
"How ya doin'?" Edward asked for the millionth time.
Bella sighed as she reached up and lightly stroked his cheek. He was afraid, she could see it in his eyes and she knew a simple 'I'm fine' would not help him at all.
"I'm actually a bit anxious. I need something to take my mind off what's coming, you know?" Bella asked.
"Wanna play cards?" he asked.
Bella's eyes lit up at the prospect and Edward fished a deck out from Bella's overnight bag.
"Texas Holdem?" Edward suggested and Bella nodded.
The card game worked to keep Bella's mind focused off the pain until the contractions came so regularly and intensely that she couldn't concentrate any longer. Fortunately for Edward, his parents and sister arrived then and he was able to have someone nearby to ease his own case of nerves.
"You look beautiful," Esme told Bella after kissing and hugging her son. "I don't think it's fair for a woman to look as beautiful as you do when she's in transition."
Bella tried to smile at Esme's obvious exaggeration, but a transaction hit her then and it was so sharp and so painful that Bella cried out.
Edward felt completely useless as he stood wringing his hands, nearly turning in circles.
"Can't you give her something for the pain?" he yelled out the door toward the nurses sitting at the nurses' station.
"I feel like I can't breathe," Bella whispered to Edward with wide eyes.
"She can't breathe!" Edward started yelling to no one in particular. "Somebody help her! Where is the fuckin' doctor already?"
"Edward," Carlisle put a calm, reassuring hand on Edward's shoulder. "Calm down. Otherwise you're just going to get Bella more upset than she should be."
A beeping sound alarmed at that moment and a nurse fluttered in to see that Bella's blood pressure had elevated quite quickly.
"Feeling a little anxious, Mama?" she winked at Bella. "You're doing fine."
"I feel like I can't take a deep breath. Is that normal?" Bella asked, frightened.
The nurse was eyeing Bella's levels when Bella's doctor, Dr. Ramey, walked in the door.
"It's a beautiful day to have a baby, methinks!" she called cheerfully.
"Oh thank God you're here!" The nurse bolted over to her, then, catching her lack of professional decorum, smiled at Bella and then quickly muttered a few things to the doctor who was making her way to check Bella.
Whatever the nurse said to the doctor was enough to alert Carlisle, and his expression hardened as he crossed the room to get a look at the equipment Bella was hooked up to.
"It could be…" he muttered to himself before glancing in Bella's direction.
Feeling as if everyone was talking over his head, Edward was just about to shout his demand to know what the hell was going on when Dr. Ramey walked over to Bella's bedside and said with a grand smile, "Are you ready to do some pushing?"
Edward looked at Bella wearily, and when she nodded he felt his entire body grow heavy with the anticipation and ignorance of what lie ahead. Despite that, he held out his hand to Bella and she took hold of it, squeezing it once for the security it brought her.
Carlisle and Maddie went out in the hall to wait with Charlie, who poked his head in long enough for Bella to know that he'd arrived. Esme remained at Bella's request and Edward was calmed as much by her presence as Bella was.
At least until things got grueling.
With each push, Edward was sure that he couldn't withstand another one. Bella was openly crying now and he kept watching the doctor for some sort of signal that something was out of the ordinary, but she just kept cheering Bella on.
"The baby's crowning, Dad. Would you like to see?" Dr. Ramey asked Edward.
"Crowning? Is that good? Is that supposed to happen?" Edward looked between Esme and the doctor.
Dr. Ramey chuckled. "It means we can see the baby's head. C'mon. Have a look."
Edward moved down to the end of the bed and immediately wished he hadn't.
"Is there supposed to be that much blood?" he asked in horror.
"Edward, it's fine. This is all normal. Everything is going as expected," Esme said in a calming tone when she took in the chalky pallor of Edward's skin.
Bella endured a few more pushes before her son was freed from her womb at 7:04 a.m.
Esme immediately started celebrating when Edward cut the umbilical cord and Carlisle and Charlie moved in to catch the first glimpse of their grandson.
But Edward wasn't celebrating with them. He took one look at Bella and knew that something was not okay.
"Bella?" he rushed to her side. "Bella, you did it, Baby. You made it, Babe. He's great," Edward said, hoping for a response from Bella that would tell him she was alright.
He stood over her staring, willing her to smile or ask him if the baby had all his fingers and toes liked they'd planned, but Bella did nothing of the sort.
So focused was Edward on Bella that he didn't hear the bedlam going on around him. Shouts about heartbeats being in sync and the uterus contracting…still in labor…oxygen levels dropping…mother in distress…baby in distress…emergency…operating room…
Suddenly, medical staff was all over the place, moving machines and wheeling Bella out of the room.
"What's going on? What's happening?" Edward shouted as he moved after them.
"Sir, I need you to sign this," a nurse thrust a clipboard full of forms at Edward.
"Everything's fine, Mr. Cullen," Dr. Ramey began.
"Everything is not fine!" Edward yelled. "If everything was fuckin' fine, my wife would be giving me shit about not picking a damn name for our son instead of laying unconscious in a fuckin' hospital bed!"
There was no time for Dr. Ramey to remain back and console Edward. Carlisle stepped up and restrained his hysterical son as Dr. Ramey disappeared through the swinging operating room doors.
"Why isn't anybody telling me shit?" Edward asked his father in an elevated voice. "Dad…"
Fear and fatigue took its toll then, and Edward crumpled against Carlisle like a little boy taking solace in his father's arms.
"It's okay, Edward," Carlisle soothed him. "Bella is going to be fine. The doctor is taking care of her first, and then we'll get updated on what's happened. Have faith, son. It'll all be fine."
"What if she's not?" Edward shouted through angry tears. "She is my whole world! What am I gonna do without her? I can't do this without her!"
Carlisle continued to encourage Edward until a nurse came down with the formal explanation of exactly what had gone wrong.
"Your wife is fine, Mr. Cullen," the nurse began when she took in Edward's appearance. "And so is your daughter."
Charlie had joined them in the corridor minutes before and Edward merely assumed the nurse was addressing him when she referenced a daughter.
But the nurse kept talking…
"The baby was lodged against Bella's rib cage…dislocated ribs…Bella went into shock…vitals are okay…baby girl with strong heartbeat…breathing fine….healthy…"
"Whoa, whoa, slow down," Edward rubbed his hands over his face as he tried to come to grips with what the nurse was trying to tell him. Dr. Ramey then walked up, much too chipper, in Edward's opinion, for the nightmare that he'd just gone through.
"What a surprise, huh?" she asked as she hugged him. "Twins!"
It appeared as though she was telling him, through her demeanor, that he should be happy, but how could he be happy when Bella was…where was Bella?
"My wife – where is she? How is she?" he asked.
"She's in recovery. Come on, I'll take you to her." Dr. Ramey filled Edward in as they walked. "She appears to be doing well. The anesthesia hasn't worn off completely, so she's still a little groggy, but she's asking for you."
At that information, Edward partially relaxed. He was glad to hear that Bella was asking for him, but he needed to see her with his own eyes to know for sure that everything was going to be okay.
The beeps and diagrams on the machines Bella was hooked up to seemed to indicate that she was, in fact, fine, but Edward just wanted to hear her voice. So badly he needed to hear her!
"Bella?" he leaned over the bed rails and whispered. "Bella, it's me, Sweetheart. I'm right here."
She stirred a little bit and her eyes fluttered but didn't open. "Edward?" she whispered.
"Right here, baby," Edward said eagerly as he touched her hand.
"Edward?" she whispered again, but then she was out – fast asleep.
"Is that supposed to happen?" Edward asked Dr. Ramey, who was fluttering around, making adjustments.
"Oh yes. She's just been through a very exhausting experience. Her body desperately needs the rest. She'll be fine, Hon," she said. "But in the meantime, there are two very important people who cannot wait to meet you."
It had been hours and still Edward felt as if his world had stopped the minute he caught sight of two little bundles that lay side-by-side in makeshift beds labeled "Baby Boy Cullen" and "Baby Girl Cullen".
For twins, they couldn't look less similar. Aside from their most obvious difference, their gender, everything else about them seemed to be opposites as well. Dark, spiky hair adorned the head of his son, where his daughter only had a light coating of what looked like strawberry-blonde fuzz accentuating her scalp. Edward recognized his own skin tone reflected back at him as he viewed his children, but with their eyes closed and their tiny mouths and noses snuggled against their blankets, that was the only similarity he could see.
Suddenly his son began to whimper and squirm.
"I think that's your cue, Daddy," said a nurse who had come into the room to check on the babies. She came over to where Edward was standing, lifted his son from his bed and handed him to Edward without waiting for permission.
It felt odd to experience such a momentous occasion, bonding with his children, without Bella present. And, at least on a subconscious level, Edward had been trying to avoid doing just that until she was out of recovery and back in her room. But now, alone, and without the fawning eyes of excited but loving family members, Edward took a seat, pulled back the blanket and took a long hard look at his baby boy. He looked at his small toes and knees, his lean legs, his smooth belly, his slender, long fingers, his tiny elbows and ears and finally, two ice-blue eyes that, staring back at him, pierced him to his very soul.
"Um…hey," Edward said softly, feeling extremely vulnerable under the intense gaze. "I don't know if I'm what you were expecting…but, here I am." Edward felt silly for his one-sided conversation, but something inside of him propelled him to keep going.
"One day, hopefully many years from now, you're probably gonna wish you could have a different dad – one who lets you stay up all night and watch TV or play video games, or lets you eat chocolate cake for breakfast; let's you dye your hair green and turn your stereo up as loud as it'll go; doesn't make you do your homework…well we're not compromising on that one. All that other stuff we can work out, but you aren't gonna mess up school. Not like I did. You're going to be smart and go to college and get a job doing anything in the world that you want to."
Baby Boy Cullen just blinked in response as Edward smoothed his hand over his son's head and held him just a little bit tighter. "And even if there is a day that you think you won't want me around, I'll still be there, because there isn't anything you can do that will ever make me give up on you. I mean, if my dad could hang in there, then we're definitely gonna be okay, because I don't think anyone was more difficult to raise than I was."
Edward heard a throat clearing and looked up to see his mother and father standing in the doorway, waiting for an appropriate time to interrupt.
"We thought you might want a little help," Esme smiled as she walked over to Edward. He handed over his son and moved quickly to his daughter, whom, because of the way she'd entered the world, he hadn't gotten to spend as much time with.
"And that goes ditto for you," Edward said as he lifted her from her bed and gazed into her deep brown eyes. "Oh, and you can't date…ever."
Charlie, unassuming as always, had slid into the room quietly and was standing behind Edward looking over his shoulder.
"Oh, sweet karma. I remember saying the same thing when Bells was born," he chortled softly. "Got my wish for a long time, too. Until, one day this young, foul-mouthed punk walked into her life and never walked out."
Edward looked up to see Charlie smiling down at him.
"And I won't walk out on her," Edward said solemnly. "Not for anything."
Just then there was a lot of noise at the entry of the room as Bella's bed was wheeled back into her room. She looked like she'd had a rough day of it, but her eyes were open and when they landed on Edward they filled up with tears of joy…
…as did his.
Edward held his just-fed son over his shoulder and patted the baby's back as Bella carefully placed their daughter against her chest to nurse.
"Is that painful?" Edward asked as he watched her try to get the hang of breastfeeding. Bella had turned forty shades of scarlet when a lactation consultant had tried to give her hands-on instruction for how to get the baby to latch on.
"Kinda," Bella answered. "And I'm afraid the pain meds they have me on are masking most of it. Who knows what it'll be like when I feel the full effect."
"Hopefully you'll be used to it by then," Edward said optimistically.
The room got very quiet then, and Bella watched her baby suckle in silence as her eyes watched over the perfection of the little baby who had taken her quite by surprise. She smiled at the softness of the newborn skin and looked over to see if Edward's face showed the joy and awe that she was sure hers did.
Yet Edward was not looking at the baby in his arms or the baby in her arms. His eyes were on Bella, and the expression on his face was one that she couldn't place.
"I love you," he told her insistently.
"I love you, too," she replied with an expression she reserved only for him.
"You scared me to death today," he whispered. "I thought I was losing you."
"Psshh, you think it'll be that easy to get rid of me?" Bella smiled at him.
"I'm serious, Bella. I can't…" Edward cleared his throat to conceal the way his voice broke. "I need you with me. Always."
"Good. Because I plan on being around for awhile," she laughed. She'd had a frightfully horrendous day, but she knew she didn't want to dwell on the negative side of things. For she sure that if she had the opportunity, she'd do it all over again if it meant that she got to have this moment with her husband and their two new additions.
"Well…I guess Baby Boy Cullen and Baby Girl Cullen isn't going to do for much longer. You've seen them. Have you come up with any names yet?" Bella asked.
Edward shook his head and resituated his son so that he could look upon his face. "I just know that I want their names to mean something. Like, your dad said your name means 'beautiful'. And she's beautiful," Edward nodded toward his daughter. "Just like her mom. What else mean's beautiful?"
Bella had no idea off the top of her head, but the 'Name Your Baby' book was tucked neatly in the side pocket of her overnight bag. Edward got up to lay his son in his bassinet and retrieve the book for Bella. She accepted it in exchange for her baby girl, who had finished eating and was now ready to be burped.
"What do you think of the name Edison?" Bella asked after a few moments of reading through the pages.
"For a girl?" Edward crinkled up his nose.
"No, silly. For a boy. Do you like it?"
"I don't know. What does it mean?"
Bella smiled. "Son of Edward."
Edward smiled, too, and even though he tried to hide it, Bella saw the pride still lingering on his face two hours later when they penned their children's names on the certificates of birth:
Edison Michael Cullen and Beau Elisabeth Cullen.
Three weeks later, Bella and Edward still felt like they were flying by the seat of their pants with parenthood, even though the help in their house had basically been around the clock. Because of Bella's cesarean section, she wasn't able to lift or bend over and though Edward had a full week away from the shop, business and finances mandated that he return after six days.
Esme stayed with them for the first two weeks, until Renee was able to arrive. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending upon whether Bella or Edward was asked, Renee had no deadline on her visit and was able to stay as long as Bella needed her. On most days her help was gratefully appreciated, because even though they were very small, the Cullen twins were a lot of work.
However, they were also a lot of fun and Bella and Edward enjoyed all the new opportunities for laughter their presence opened up. One day in particular, Edward came home with a pair of his and hers "Mute Button" pacifiers, which he promptly placed in Edison's mouth to stifle a bout of crying.
"How are you feeling?" Edward asked Bella later in the week when he found her sitting in their bed with the babies sleeping soundly in their seats beside her.
Edward closed the door and took a seat on his side of the bed. Renee had gone to town to do some shopping so it was the first time they'd had alone as a family since they'd brought the twins home from the hospital.
"I'm okay. Not as sore," Bella admitted.
"That's good," Edward enunciated through a yawn. "So what did you all do today?"
"Well, they ate, pooped, peed, cried and ate," Bella laughed. "And I fed, cleaned, cried and fed some more."
"And yet still your day sounds better than mine."
"Why? What happened?"
"Well, Jason didn't come in again today. His sister's boyfriend attacked her last night. She's in the hospital with broken ribs and a broken jaw, but she won't press charges."
Bella sighed and shook her head in dismay as she looked down at Beau. "I sure hope she has the good sense to fall in love with someone who's nice to her and treats her well."
"If she doesn't, he'll disappear in the middle of the night without a trace," Edward said with a vengeful expression on his face.
Bella smiled but didn't comment. She had a faraway look in her eyes, as if she were remembering something that happened long ago.
"I was always nice to you, right?" Edward asked, noticing Bella's distant gaze.
She couldn't help but laugh. "Sorry, I was just remembering how we met."
"Well, I know I was a jerk then, but afterwards…I was good to you, right?"
"After you settled down a bit, yes, you were great to me."
"Bella…I don't know if I ever told you…ya know…that I'm sorry for all that stuff and that if I could change—"
"Absolutely not," Bella said in a tone that only a mother could pull off. "If you could change anything, I certainly wouldn't want you to. Everything that we've been through together has brought us to this exact point, and that is exactly where I want to be with you. Always."
Edward wove his fingers with Bella's before lifting her hand to his lips gently, silently thanking her for the words that gave him the strength and conviction of his value and worth. He knew, as she did, that he didn't graduate at the top of his class, nor did he know the difference between a stock and a bond, but none of that compared to what he did know and what he would know for the rest of his life: the honor of fatherhood and the love and friendship of a good and truly beautiful woman.