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Not Without You
Chapter 33: Flood
The rain outside the window hit heavy and huge, like over-sized water balloons breaking and splashing against the glass. So strong, it crashed thorough the window and began to pour into our room fast and quite beautifully, like a waterfall. Everything else had vacated--the desk, the chest of drawers, the screen, the baby's crib, even the door was gone, or filled in by sheetrock. There was no way out. Edward was sleeping soundly next to me. I shook his arm.
"What's happening?" I asked.
He lifted up onto his elbow, his head in his hand, as he looked around the room.
"Our room is flooding," he said, as if he'd said the sun was shining, and wondered why I bothered waking him to ask the question.
"What should we do?"
By this time, the water had reached the height of the bed. Perhaps, at this point in a dream such as this, the bed might act as a raft. But not in my dream. In my dream, the bed disappeared out from under us, leaving us both flailing about in the rushing water.
"Edward," I called as we separated, overtaken by waves shoving us under.
He didn't answer because he couldn't. And he couldn't because he was sinking. He didn't appear to even be trying to swim. Had he given up already?
"Edward!" I called again, with a gulp of water. I dove down after him, working every muscle in my body, reaching with fingertips and pointing with my toes to get to him. He was so far away. I swam harder. I caught his arm and kicked my way to the surface of the water, now just a few feet from the ceiling. The sound of Edward's gasping breath was like music--a symphony. I could hear it--strings, brass, and bass. But soon the symphony turned into a different sound, a desperate sound, a familiar sound--the sound of my baby crying.
In some dimension between dream and reality, as I tried to get to Masen, my mind revealed to me that Edward was not only drowning, but I was allowing it. I would tell him today about my intention to look for a job. My plans to help him. I exited my flooding dream and entered my bedroom, where I was still soaked and freezing. I shivered in my cold sweat and wiped myself with the sheet, as the sounds of Masen's cries hit me all over again. They were real. I wasn't dreaming anymore, but he was still crying. I shivered my way to those sounds that drilled through my heart from the kitchen. Edward was pacing the floor, whispering to Masen and rubbing his back.
"What's wrong?" I asked, my voice coming out thick and damp.
"He has a fever. I gave him some baby Motrin. I'm just waiting for it kick in."
I reached for Masen. Edward handed him over. Our baby was warm, warmer than I remembered Jasper ever being. Masen was a heater on my skin, chasing my goosebumps away.
"Have you taken his temperature?"
"Maybe I'll give him a bath."
"That's a good idea," Edward said. "Will you be okay?" His eyes shifted past me, toward our room. "I really have to finish studying."
"You haven't finished yet? What time is it?" I looked at the clock on the microwave to answer my own question. It was just after 3:00. "Why didn't you wake me?"
"I wanted you to get some sleep, Bella. Besides, I was already awake."
"Okay. Go study," I said. "I'll start the bath."
After returning from work, Edward had spent the night poring over his books. He'd been focusing so much of his attention on his other classes that he'd allowed himself to fall behind in his ethical reasoning course. It was one of those courses he'd thought was common knowledge until he found himself way behind in the reading on the eve of an exam.
As the tub filled, Masen's cries had mellowed, and I sat on the covered toilet trying to nurse him. He only took a little before turning his head and refusing any more.
Instead of his usual splash-all-over play, Masen sat still in the bath, staring ahead. He looked like he was about to fall asleep in the tub. I rubbed him down with a wet cloth. After the bath, he felt cooler to me. I was exhausted and achy myself, but I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep unless he was next to me to feel and monitor, so I brought him to bed, clad only in a diaper, and we fell asleep next to each other under the glow of Edward's desk lamp. Edward took a moment to kiss us both before we drifted off.
"His temperature is down," Edward said through a cave of darkness.
It was nearly noon when I awoke, Masen still asleep beside me. I felt his head, and he was burning up. Hotter than last night.
"Masen?" I said, my hand on his chest, shaking him gently. He didn't move, and his breathing seemed fast.
"Masen!" I shook him a little harder, and he stretched his legs with a moan, but didn't wake up.
I kissed him, and his forehead scorched my lips. Without pausing to dress him or take his temperature, I pulled on some jeans and shoes, held Masen close, and rushed out the back door to Edward's car. It would be much faster than taking the shuttle. The air was cool outside, and it seemed to refresh Masen as he opened his eyes for the first time.
"Mase? How are you doing, little sweetie?"
He closed his eyes again, his hot head against my shoulder. I felt the warmth through my shirt. Checking my watch, I saw that Edward wouldn't have been through with his exam yet. What should I do? Should I interrupt him or should I wait to hear what the doctor said? Edward had been up all night studying. He couldn't blow this exam. If I called, and it was nothing, he'd come anyway. He'd leave mid-test.
I called Emmett to ask his advice, but he didn't answer, so I left a message filling him in on Masen.
At the hospital, they admitted Masen right away, in front of others who had been waiting. In his room, it took two doctors and two nurses to check him out. I stood there, wringing my hands and biting into my lip. Why more than one doctor for a fever? Just bring the fever down; give him something. But they didn't. And every time I asked about him, someone or the other would tell me that they were working on it.
They kept hovering over him, testing him. They checked his temperature, his heartbeat, his eyes, his ears, his throat. A doctor removed his diaper and examined it, asking me when the last time he'd urinated was. I told him I couldn't be sure. Edward may have changed him in the middle of the night while I slept. They hooked Masen up to an IV, and that was when I lost it. Tears streaked my face all at once, as quickly as the water had broken through our bedroom window in my dream. Dry cheeks one second, soaked the next.
My tiny baby, all helpless in the bed, sleeping and hooked up.
I touched his face. "Mommy's here, Masen, and I love you, baby."
I struggled with my phone, fumbling over the buttons for Edward's correct number. I kept hitting the wrong ones.
"You need to take your call outside the room, love," the nurse said, and I wanted to scream at her for calling me 'love.' Instead, I shook my head frantically at her, standing firm in my spot, my eyes darting to Masen, while stretching my thumb over the numbers.
"You may come right back in when you're done." She guided me out the door and shut it. I stood, facing the brown door, so close I could make out the patterns in the wood grain. My finger came to it and rubbed over the grain, softly and gently, as if the door was my baby's face. Edward answered on the first ring.
"Edward!" I sobbed.
"Bella? What's going on?"
"I n-need you. Masen needs you."
"Love? Calm down, okay?"
I did the opposite, feeling near hysterics.
I tried to answer, but all that came out were sobs.
"Turn around, love."
My turn was slow, but as soon as I saw him standing there, my phone was on the ground and I was in his arms. "You're here."
"Emmett sent me a text."
"Edward, I didn't know it was this bad."
"Nobody has told me anything. They've hooked him up to an IV, though. That can't be good, can it? Do you know? Because Carlisle, maybe he--"
"It means he needs nourishment or fluids. It's not good, but it's not necessarily horrible either. Okay? Calm down, and let's go find out what's happening." He picked my phone up off the floor and guided me into the room.
Edward demanded information, his arm tight around my shoulders. The doctor with black-rimmed glasses pushed onto his forehead came over to us.
"Your baby has a virus, and the high fever has caused moderate dehydration. We're working on re-hydrating him and bringing the fever down."
"Is it because… he hasn't been eating as much? He wouldn't… he wouldn't nurse." I looked at the doctor. "Should I have known?"
"Those are signs, yes, but they're also normal viral symptoms that rarely lead to dehydration this quickly. High fevers use up large quantities of fluids, and he subsequently lost more water through sweat and tears. You're not to blame, Mrs. Cullen. You brought him to us in plenty of time."
I glanced over at Masen on the bed, still looking so small on it. I wanted to lie with him. I wanted him to feel me.
"How high is his fever?" I asked.
"It's under 104 now, which is a good sign, considering that when you brought him here, he was nearing 105."
I swallowed something thick in my throat. It didn't feel like saliva.
"How far under 104?" Edward asked, never a fan of generalizations.
The doctor pulled a clipboard off the sink counter and looked it over. "The last we checked, it was 103.7."
Edward nodded. "Can we check it again?"
A nurse heard his question and automatically reached for the ear thermometer. "103.1," she said a few seconds later.
"That's good, Bella," Edward whispered. "It's still going down."
I nodded. My nodding didn't stop.
The doctor squeezed my upper arm. "We've caught it early enough, and we're giving him everything he needs right now. He's going to be fine, Mrs. Cullen."
I turned to Edward and cried into his chest, in relief.
"Bella, he's okay. You know that, right, love?"
"Yes," I said, enclosed in Edward's arms.
"What's wrong, then?"
"If anything ever happened to him-"
"Nothing's going to happen. Masen is fine, Bella. He's going to be just fine. Would it make you feel better if I tried calling my dad?"
"No. I'm okay. I'm just so relieved."
I pulled away from Edward to show him that I was okay. And just as I did that, my stomach started to feel queasy. I swallowed. The air around me grew hot. The room was so hot. I looked at Edward to see if he felt it, too. He was looking back at me. I held my stomach.
"I don't feel… righ…"
Blackness. Arms caught me before I hit the ground. Voices were loud in my ears, vibrating through me like the pounding bass of a drum.
"Doctor!" Edward said, and it sounded so slow.
Someone put me in a chair. I felt it beneath me. Someone else, or maybe it was the same person, bent me forward and told me to breathe. I took a breath and saw the ground. I took another breath, and the room began to lighten again.
"Bring her out here," the doctor said.
Edward lifted me and laid me down on a rolling bed just outside the room. I lay on my side, my eyes open.
"What happened to me?"
The doctor's face lowered to my level. "You've felt the height of emotions," he said. "First panic and then relief. It's not uncommon to pass out during trauma like this. I see it a lot."
"I want her examined," Edward said.
"It's okay," I said. "The doctor says it's normal. We need to focus on Masen."
"Bella, don't argue with me. You've been continuing to lose weight, you're paler than I've ever seen you, and you just passed out. Whether you care or not, I want to know that nothing is wrong."
"Do you agree to an examination, Mrs. Cullen?" the doctor asked.
Tears found my eyes again, and I nodded. "It's Swan," I said. "Isabella Swan." I couldn't take hearing them call me Mrs. Cullen at that moment, because it wasn't true. And my fault or not, that fact hurt.
Edward took my hand and I clung to his fingers.
In the examination room, a few doors down from Masen, I changed into a hospital gown, peed in a cup, and then a nurse checked my vitals, and had me fill out a questionnaire form, while interrupting me to ask about my symptoms. I asked her about Masen, but of course she didn't know the answers because he was in a different room.
When she had me step onto the scale, I made the mistake of looking as she weighed me. I closed my eyes fast, but it wasn't fast enough.
"What?" Edward asked me as I made my way back to the bed.
I shook my head.
"Bella, something obviously happened just now. Tell me what it was."
"I weigh ninety-eight pounds, Edward. Are you happy?!" I closed my eyes and brought the inside of my wrist to my forehead.
Edward was clearly taken aback. We both knew I was thin, but just how thin, we weren't sure. I hadn't weighed myself since my ring stopped fitting.
I touched his chest. "I'm so sorry." I shook my head. "I'm sorry I yelled at you. Of course you're not happy."
He put an arm around me and kissed my cheek. "It's okay, Bella. That's why we're here. We'll get to the bottom of this." His hug was tight. He was holding me, but it wasn't for me; it was for him. I tried to hold him back just as tight.
A new doctor entered. He was Japanese and appeared young for a doctor--more like the age of most students I saw around Stanford. And his white coat, appearing too big for him, didn't do anything to help that. I looked closer at him. There were lines in his forehead. Did he really look too young to be a doctor, or was I just older? Not so much in age, but in mentality, in life experience.
He checked my chart. When he spoke, his voice was soft. "You're underweight," he said, not looking at me. "And your temperature is lower than I'd like it to be. I'm ordering blood work." He popped his pen and wrote hurriedly on some form, then handed it to me. "Do you know where the lab is?"
"I'll take her," Edward said.
"No. You go with Masen," I said. "I'll be fine by myself."
I asked directions to the lab. The last time I'd had a blood test, I was pregnant. I'd grown accustomed to them back then, but enough time had passed that I was nervous all over again. I had to look away when the needle was inserted into my arm. It seemed to take forever. How much blood did they need? I'd glanced over the form when the doctor had handed it to me. Two areas were checked, and acronyms I had no idea the meanings of were written in at the sides.
I returned to the exam room--an easier find than the lab had been--to wait for the results, which I was told would take about an hour. Edward took turns visiting my room and Masen's, and informed me of Masen's progress, whose fever was now down to 100.6. I looked at the clock. We'd been at the hospital for four hours, and I wondered how many more hours we would spend here. I lay down on the bed in wait of my blood test results. I didn't technically need to be lying down; I wasn't that sick. But I did so anyway and I closed my eyes, remembering that morning's dream, which in turn, had me thinking of my mother.
Growing up, many a morning, she'd greet me with the question,"Do you remember the dream you had last night?" My answer was usually yes, and she would smile.
"Was it good or bad?" she'd ask.
I'd answer her honestly, because it wasn't really important to her which kind of dream it had been; it was only important that I'd remembered.
"A child who remembers her dreams every night is a happy child," she'd say.
I didn't ask where she got that information, nor did I challenge her because there seemed to be truth enough in her theory. I was happy, after all.
"I'm doing well," she'd say, nodding to herself.
As a mother, she had been doing well back then, so well in fact, that now, a random thought of her could take me by surprise as I remembered how suddenly she'd stopped "doing well" the moment she learned of my pregnancy. It had worked like a switch: good mother/poor mother, and no in between. Although, since graduation she'd put a bit more effort into our relationship than before. She'd kept in touch, talking to me about any and every issue except for my present or my future. Typically our conversations would revolve around her life or Masen's most recently reached milestone--safe subjects for our now delicate relationship. We were much like an electrical cord with a tear in it. One wrong move or yank, and sparks would fly--they'd burn.
I opened my eyes, restless now in my wait for the results and my worry for Masen. I found a nurse and asked if I could wait in Masen's room.
Holding the backside of my gown closed, I bent over and felt Masen with my lips. His skin felt nearly normal to me, only slightly warm. I took a seat next to Edward, and we linked fingers, watching over our resting baby.
"Your test?" I said to Edward.
His fingers brushed my arm. "Don't worry about it," he said.
"You left it?"
"I completed enough of it before I got Emmett's text. I won't get an A, probably not a B either, but I didn't fail."
"But you studied so hard."
"Bella-" his eyes bore into mine "-the only thing that matters to me right now is the health of the two people I love most in the world. Everything else is trivial. Don't make it more than it is."
"Drowning," I said.
"You're drowning. You take on too much for one person."
"Right now, yeah, maybe I'm drowning. But before my fiancée and our baby were in hospital beds, my head was above water, Bella."
The doctor entered with a manila folder, and motioned for me to follow him. I didn't want to leave Masen. I took his fingers. If only he'd look at me and know I was here.
"Will you stay with him, Edward?"
"I won't move until you come back." He kissed me. "Be well," he said against my forehead. "Please be well."
Back in my own exam room, cold and empty, my doctor opened his folder and checked it over, as if he didn't already know what he was going to say. His pause made me nervous.
"Your results show that your red blood cell count is low. You have iron deficiency anemia," he said, and this time he looked at me. "Your red blood cells carry oxygen to your organs, so when you are low on red blood cells, your body isn't getting the necessary oxygen. That explains your fatigue."
"Anemia? But that's not bad, is it? I've heard of it before."
"It's treatable. Untreated it could develop into severe iron deficiency anemia, which, in some cases, requires a blood transfusion. I've written you a prescription for iron supplements, and I suggest eating food high in iron. Red meats would be the best for your body to absorb the iron it needs. How much weight have you lost and in what amount of time?" he asked.
"Fourteen pounds in… three months."
"Your appetite has decreased since then?"
I nodded. "Sometimes I can't eat," I said.
"Any changes in your menstruation?" He lifted a page on my chart and seemed to answer his own question. I saw him give a nod. "You're breast feeding. Any changes in your milk supply?"
"I haven't been producing as much, but I thought it was natural because Masen was drinking less."
"Do you produce enough to fill him or are you supplementing with other liquids?"
"I give him milk in a sippy cup during meals," I said.
He brought his hand to his chin and nodded. "Have you been through any recent trauma or life changes?"
I began listing my changes: the move to Stanford, leaving my father, my strained relationship with my mother, Edward starting school and work, Alice and Jasper leaving, my feelings of confusion and inadequacy.
"Emotional stress can be a cause of appetite change," he said. "But at the same time, the anemia may increase the effects of your stress, so what we have here is a cycle." He made a circle with his fingers that reminded me of my elementary science teacher showing us how the earth rotates the sun. "With the right diet, vitamins, and tackling the causes of any anxiety, we can get your health under control. What do you do for you?"
I thought hard--I squinted, I reached, I drummed my fingers over my leg. "Sometimes I take a bath," I said, though I couldn't remember the last bath I'd taken.
"You need to work on you. Some mothers feel selfish when they take time for themselves, but it's a must for your mental health. In this case, it would be selfish of you not to think of yourself. Do you understand?" He paused and looked at me with his head tilted and his lips pulled tight.
"Until your appetite increases, I want you to eat high protein and high calorie foods, and take your iron supplements regularly. We need to get your weight up at least ten pounds. If you find yourself feeling full quickly, I suggest eating five or six smaller meals throughout the day, rather than three main meals. Breastfeeding also uses up a lot of your calories, which is likely the reason your weight gain attempt hasn't been working for you thus far."
He gave me a list of high calorie, healthy foods, and warned me away from turning to junk foods just for the calories. I also received a list of foods to avoid because they would absorb the iron that I needed. It appeared I had some studying of my own to do. I left the office with a stack of papers and a lightness that came from simply knowing that I had a name or a reason behind my recent afflictions.
When I entered Masen's room both he and Edward were sleeping--Masen on his bed, Edward in a plastic chair, the side of his head against the wall. My little baby was still hooked up, but the doctors and nurses were gone, which gave me hope that he was nearly over this. I felt his head and his cheeks; they felt cool, and I breathed easy. I kissed him, then sat by Edward, pulling his head to my shoulder. He'd had even less sleep than I'd had the night before.
"Bella," he said, and kissed the side of my neck.
I reached up and placed my hand on his cheek, holding him against my shoulder. "Rest," I said.
"How are you? What did the doctor say?"
"I'm anemic," I said, and Edward lifted his head. "I'm okay. I have a bunch of reading material, vitamins, and a diet or several to follow." I raised the stack of pamphlets and multi-colored papers in my hand.
He lifted my opposite hand. "Anemia," he said, kissing my wrist. He held my wrist there, as if attempting to replace the red blood cells I lacked through his lips.
"I called Emmett. I hope you don't mind. I needed to talk to someone. I was going crazy."
"Of course I don't mind."
"Masen's already better, you know?"
"I know. You should rest, Edward. You have school tomorrow. We can talk about this later."
He pulled me by my arm onto his lap and held me almost too tightly. "Bella," he whispered into my hair.
It was dinnertime when we entered our apartment. Emmett had burgers waiting for us, and he stood up as we walked in. He hugged me, then took sleeping Masen from Edward.
"Do you mind if I put him to bed?" Emmett asked. And that touched my heart so deeply that I couldn't tell him no. Edward and I followed him though, because none of us wanted to be away from Masen. Edward even moved his screen out of the way.
We ate our hamburgers seated on the bedroom floor. I took my vitamin and ate as much as I possibly could. I couldn't finish the burger, and I wrapped the remainder and refrigerated it so I could eat the rest later.
Edward and I went to bed early; he ignored his studies.
"Did the doctor explain your weight loss?" he asked.
I chewed on a fingernail. There was no way to avoid telling him. I had to be honest.
"He thinks my appetite change is due to emotional stress."
He turned onto his side, his head resting on his hand, and he took my finger from my lips and brought it to his. "What is it? What's been bothering you?"
"It's just me. My thoughts. I brought it on myself. It's okay now, though."
"No it isn't." He sat up. "You weigh ninety-eight pounds. You're anemic. It's not okay. What is on your mind? Why do I have to pull it from between your teeth whenever something is bothering you? This is fucking scaring me, Bella." His voice grew firmer and louder. "You owe it to Masen and to me to take care of yourself, or talk to me if something is wrong. Please?" He seemed angry and sad at the same time. His eyes watered and he kissed my forehead.
"Edward, Edward." I pulled his face down so that his lips met mine and I kissed him. "I love you."
"You love me, but you won't talk to me. Even now?"
"The doctor suggested that the stress began with all the changes in my life happening one after the other, and then increased because since we've moved here, I've felt… less than adequate."
"You've always been more than adequate."
"To you, Edward. I believe that's how you see me, but to me it's different. And maybe it's because of what other people have placed in my mind. Maybe people like Phil and my mom got the wheels turning, but this is how I feel about myself, and as much as I try to fight it, I can't. I have to do something with myself. Something productive and helpful to you and our family."
"Something like what?"
"Like get a job."
"You don't have to."
"Do you want me to talk to you, or not?"
"I'm sorry." He squeezed my hand. "Sorry. Yes, talk to me."
"It's been plaguing me for a long time that I don't contribute anything to our family. And you do it all. I hate it."
"You take care of Masen. He's so happy. You contribute more than you know by being the mother you are. He needs you."
"He needs me, yes, but he needs you too. I want to go to work."
"Do you have something in mind?"
"I want to ask Caius again about the job at the bed and breakfast. He says the owner sometimes lets him bring Riley to work. And Masen hasn't made it to the top of the list at the daycare yet."
"You've thought about this."
"Almost everyday," I said.
"Bella, I don't want you to over-exhaust yourself, but if not working is plaguing you and making you unhappy, then work. I want you to do whatever makes you feel good."
He pushed hair back on my head. "Most of all Bella, I want you to fucking talk to me." He squeezed his eyes shut. "I'm sorry for swearing, but goddamn it, look what it's come to. Your health is at stake."
I brought my hand to his face. "I'm sorry. Masen and I both sick at the same time, and you have school and work-"
His fingers wrapped my wrist, and slid up and down my skin. "Stop. Stop thinking and talking about me. Start thinking and talking about you. That is my point. Can you do that for me?"
"None of this matters if you're not well, if you're not here. Sometimes I think Stanford means more to you than it does to me."
"And that is one reason I have trouble opening up to you, Edward. I'm afraid that if I admit that I'm the slightest bit unhappy, you'll quit school. You've even said you would give it up for me before."
"I'm not going to just walk out, Bella, but if it comes to your health, losing you, then I would give it up. Of course I would."
"I'm okay. It's anemia, I have vitamins. I'm not going to die."
"Bella, have you ever had to sit in the hospital wondering if I was okay? If something really horrible was wrong with me? If I was sick or incurable or anything close to that?"
I looked down and shook my head. "No."
"Then don't blow off my worry for you, okay?"
"You're right. I didn't think of it that way."
"Come here, love. Come here." He lifted me into his arms, his hand gripping my hair at the base of my neck, holding tight. He took a deep breath. "I'm glad you're okay, though. Of all the things going through my mind that could have been wrong with you, anemia wasn't one of them, but in comparison to what was in my mind, it is absolutely the lesser of all the evils. I'll help you through this. You'll get better, love."
"I'm sorry that I let myself get sick, Edward."
"Bella, no, no… you didn't let yourself. It's not your fault; it just happened. But if you're ever not feeling right, you have to tell me about it. Don't pretend anymore."
I lay back, my head on the pillow and I brought my arm over my eyes. "Edward, can I tell you something?"
He moved my arm from my face. "Tell me anything."
"Pretending is something I've always done. Even when I was younger, I would pretend everything was fine when I knew it wasn't. Like when I moved to Forks, before I met you, I didn't like it at all and I missed Phoenix, but I never told my mom or my dad because I didn't want to make either one of them feel bad. It's how I cope, and it's hard to stop."
"I know it's something you've always done. I've been trying to get you to stop for a while now. But if it's how you cope, you can see now that it isn't working, can't you?"
I turned over onto my side, my back to him. His hand drifted over my hair and down my back.
"You never have to pretend with me. I don't want you to."
"I'll try to stop," I said.
"Bella, turn around and face me. I need you facing me right now."
When I turned, he lay with me, pulling me into his embrace, his forehead resting on mine.
"Are we okay?" I asked.
"You and me? We're more than okay. We've been through a lot today, but Masen is better--he's almost well--and we've got each other, don't we?"
"Yes, we do." I kissed him. "We always do." Then I climbed out of bed.
"Where are you going?"
"To get Masen."
I brought him back to our bed, where Edward and I slept close, our hands clasped, Masen between us.
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