All the usual disclaimers apply.
This chapter is rated M for a reason.
Thanks to azure0610 for all her fantastic beta work and to aerobee82 for pre-reading!
Chapter 40 – Epilogue 2
"She needs to be in bed no later than ten o'clock every night. She'll have to be at the gym early every morning and if she's tired she's more likely to hurt herself," I said.
"Got it," my father absently answered while searching through the cabinet for his favorite coffee mug. It was half past ten in the morning and Charlie and I had just finished eating a light breakfast. Edward was shopping with Daniel and Sue was upstairs helping Elizabeth pack.
"I would also prefer you limit sleepovers to the weekends. Elizabeth's going to meet a lot of girls and she's going to want them to spend the night, but she won't get the sleep she needs if she's up all night talking and giggling with her friends."
"Oh, and don't forget that it's best for her to eat dinner as soon as she arrives home from the gym. I don't want her going to bed on a full stomach. It's not good for digestion," I added.
"Got it," Charlie said as he poured himself a cup of coffee.
"And remember, be sure to allow her to host as many unsupervised parties as she would like. In fact, why don't you and Sue take a hotel room one weekend and allow Elizabeth and her friends to have the house to themselves."
"Dad!" I all but yelled. My father fumbled with his coffee cup, nearly spilling his coffee as his startled eyes met mine.
"What? What is it?"
"Did you hear what I just said?" I asked, clearly exasperated.
"I did!" He assured me, not so convincingly. "I told you, I've got it, honey. There's really no need to worry."
"Well then, you just agreed to allow Elizabeth free reign over the house one weekend while you and Sue stay in a hotel," I pointed out in a clipped tone of voice. I was trying hard not to be too annoyed with my father, but it worried me that he didn't seem to take any of my instructions seriously. This was my daughter we were talking about, after all. Well, mine and Edward's daughter, anyway. And we were about to spend the next several months apart from her, a decision I'd made rather reluctantly, and one I still wasn't entirely happy about.
"I did?" My father innocently asked behind raised brows. I could have sworn I saw him smirk.
"Dad," I gently admonished while simultaneously slapping his thigh with a wet dish rag. "Would you quit yanking my chain? I'm being serious here."
Charlie smiled broadly before placing his mug on the counter top and pulling me into an awkward hug. At 37 weeks pregnant, it was all but impossible for me to participate in a hug if it wasn't done from the side. My greatly swollen belly had a tendency to get in the way.
"Bella, Bella, Bella," he murmured as he placed a tender kiss to my temple. "I managed to raise you up just fine, didn't I? Have a little faith in your old man. Sue and I have this well under control."
I sighed, realizing that Charlie was right. Deep down, I knew that he and Sue would take good care of Elizabeth. I had no doubt she'd be just fine. I trusted my father implicitly, but it still didn't make the idea of sending Elizabeth away for the summer any easier.
I reach out and pat Charlie's stomach with my hand.
"I know you do," I said, trying to sound as convincing as possible. I wanted my father to know I had faith in him and Sue. "I just can't help but worry. It's just that I'm sending one baby in one direction, and my other in another. I'm not sure what I'm going to do without them," I admitted with a sigh.
This was the honest truth. In the twelve years since I'd given birth to Daniel and Elizabeth, I'd never spent more than a week apart from them. To conceive of spending an entire summer away from them was nothing short of impossible. My children, along with Edward, were my entire world. We'd always been together, the four of us, since the day we'd welcomed them into the world.
Daniel and Elizabeth were born four years after Edward and I were married. We hadn't planned on waiting that long to have children, but unexpected infertility meant we had to participate in several rounds of in vitro fertilization before our beautiful twins were born. It was a long and difficult pregnancy for me, once I finally did become pregnant, but all the trials and tribulations had been worth it the moment that Edward and I held our babies in our arms. Our lives had been forever changed through the presence of two highly energetic and always entertaining children.
Daniel Charles, named after my brother and father, was the first of our children to be born. From the moment he arrived in the world, he was quiet and thoughtful, always the one to sit back and observe rather than burst onto the scene like his sister. Daniel reminded me so much of Edward. He was good and kind, almost to a fault, and his patience knew no bounds. In that sense, he was definitely his father's son. But it was my propensity for stringed instruments that he'd inherited. His love affair with the cello began at birth when only its soulful sound could soothe him when he cried. He was playing Bach by the time he was four, on a specially modified instrument hand crafted in France and given to him by his doting grandfather, Xavier. Today, at the tender age of twelve, he was about to leave to spend a summer in France, learning the finer art of performance under the tutelage of Xavier. Xavier and Daniel were thrilled. I, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck.
"You're going to enjoy your summer with Edward and your new baby, and before you know it, we'll all return home and you'll be wondering where the simpler days of caring for just one child have gone," my father teased.
"Hmm?" I said, shaking my head in confusion. My father threw his head back in laughter, pulling me to him and squeezing me hard before reaching for his cup of coffee.
"You said you weren't sure what you were going to do without Daniel and Elizabeth. I've just answered your question for you," he said, winking at me as he took a sip of coffee from his mug.
"You're probably right," I agreed. "I just worry about Elizabeth. She's so strong willed. She's not always easy to deal with."
"Sort of like her mother?" My father offered, and I couldn't help but smile. Charlie was right. If Daniel was a carbon copy of Edward then Elizabeth Renee was me through and through, right down to her soulful brown eyes and mane of mahogany hair. Elizabeth had also inherited my tenacity, and my strong desire for order and control. These characteristics generally served her well, but also meant she didn't respond well to being told what to do. Elizabeth was always certain she was right, and was reluctant to accept redirection or feedback. My father and Sue were used to this, but then again, they had never spent an entire summer as her primary caretakers before.
I have to admit that in the beginning, when Elizabeth had first been asked to train in Salt Lake City for the summer, I was reluctant to agree to let her go. I had just found out that at forty years of age, I was unexpectedly pregnant with Edward's and my third child, a little girl we soon decided to name Isabella Grace. Elizabeth's summer camp coincided with Grace's birth. There was no way I would be able to go with her to the camp, and I couldn't fathom sending her on her way with Edward. Edward and I had created Grace together, and together we would welcome her into this world. But Elizabeth was insistent…she really wanted to go.
How could I say no? It really was a fabulous opportunity for her, I couldn't deny that. Unlike Daniel, Elizabeth didn't have a musical bone in her body. But she was a gifted gymnast. Gymnastics was as great a passion for her as music was for me, and training in Salt Lake City could play a pivotal role in helping her to achieve her dream of becoming a U.S. Olympian. Still, I wasn't sure how we'd make it work, until Charlie and Sue had offered to take her. A week later, Xavier called, offering to take Daniel for the summer. He'd been asking me if Daniel could visit for the summer for several years running, but I'd always graciously declined his requests. I wasn't ready to be away from him for so long, but I realized that maybe now it was time to let go…if only just a little bit. My babies were growing up, and I didn't want the impending birth of their sister to prevent them from following their dreams. So, I'd agreed to let both Daniel and Elizabeth go, for the first time ever.
"Am I really being difficult?" I asked a little guiltily as I scooted onto a bar stool. At nearly full term, I was almost always uncomfortable now, my lower back in particular causing me a great amount of discomfort. Charlie turned toward me and smiled. It was a loving smile, indulgent even, and I knew at once he didn't mind my admittedly over-protective tendencies.
"No, honey, you're not. You're just being a good mother. I wouldn't expect anything less."
"Good mother? Who said anything about a good mother?" Edward's teasing words took me by surprise and I smiled widely at the sound of my love's voice. I smiled even wider as I felt his arms slip around me from behind. They traveled along my sides before coming to rest atop my belly.
"Bella isn't a good mother, she's a fantastic mother," Edward stated as he bent to kiss my cheek. Charlie chuckled softly beside me, nodding in agreement.
"I stand corrected," he said, his hands thrown up in mock surrender.
I felt Edward smile against me in response to Charlie's gesture. He gave me a little squeeze as he did so, and I sighed in contentment. Edward had only been gone for a couple of hours, but at my late stage of pregnancy, I tended to fret when he wasn't near. Thankfully, he was home now, and we'd be together for the rest of the day. Nothing could have made me happier. Even after all these years, I was happiest when I was together with Edward. My love for him hadn't faded over time. In fact, it had only grown stronger.
"Where's Daniel?" I wondered as I ran my hands along Edward's arms. I followed the length of them to where his hands lay before twining my fingers with his own.
"He's upstairs, finishing up packing," he said, and I couldn't help myself. I had to ask.
"Did you buy him enough underwear and socks?"
Charlie raised a brow at my question, fighting hard not to smirk, and I shot him a warning glance to which he merely rolled his eyes.
"Sorry," I mumbled. "I can't help it."
"Can't help what?" Edward moved from behind me to stand between my legs. He placed his hands back on my belly and began rubbing them slowly back and forth. Grace rewarded him with a tiny kick and Edward's face brightened with joy.
"I can't help worrying," I said. "We're sending them away, Edward. We're sending our two babies away…"
And just like that it happened. One moment I was completely in control of myself, and the next minute I was a sobbing mess. Charlie took my little breakdown as his sign to leave and Edward gathered me into his arms.
"Hey, hey," he murmured while placing soft kisses about my face. "What's wrong?"
"Stupid hormones," I muttered, pressing my fingers to my eyes in an attempt to stem the flow of tears. I hadn't been so hormonal while pregnant with Daniel and Elizabeth, but throughout my entire pregnancy with Grace, I'd cried at the drop of a pin.
"This isn't hormones," Edward said, his lips moving closer to my mouth. He kissed either side of it before closing his mouth over mine. He held it there for a moment, sucking softly and catching a quiet sob before gently letting go. It was almost enough to distract me. Almost.
"You're right," I admitted, my head falling against his chest. "I'm just having a really difficult time accepting that as of tonight, we'll be all on our own. This is harder than I thought it would be."
Edward sighed, squeezing me to me as tightly as he dared. Grace protested, kicking him in the stomach, which caused us both to laugh. It felt good, and helped to relieve some of the tension we both felt.
"It if makes you feel any better, I'm having a hard time too," he murmured.
"It just feels like we're splitting our family up, at a time when we should all be together," I said.
"I understand," Edward said as he gently swept the hair from my face. "But our children are growing up. We can't always be together. This camp is important to Elizabeth, and the starting date was non-negotiable. And you know in the fall…"
"I know, I know," I said, waving my hand in front of Edward to let him know I didn't really want to talk about the fall. Edward would be leaving us in the fall, heading to South America for three months to shoot his latest film. It would be the first time we would all be apart. Ever since our children were born – before that even, Edward and I did everything together. He selected several projects a year to work on, and I followed along, homeschooling our children and playing with local orchestras to pass the time. In between films, we returned home to the Santa Ynez Valley, where we now owned a home very close to where my father and Sue lived.
"All I'm trying to say is that our family dynamics are changing," Edward gently pointed out. "And I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing. Of course, I'll miss the twins like crazy. But I'm really looking forward to a summer alone with you and Grace. It will give me some time to get to know her before I have to leave."
I noted a distinct change in the tone of Edward's voice as he spoke about leaving Grace. In many ways, I thought this was more difficult for him to come to terms with than leaving Daniel and Elizabeth. In Edward's mind, and I suppose in part of mine too, Daniel and Elizabeth had reached an age where it was to be expected they would spend time apart from us. But Grace would only be several months old when Edward left, and he'd so enjoyed the twins as babies. I knew it was killing him to have to leave her behind, but we'd both decided it was for the best. It was becoming increasingly difficult to juggle life on the road with Elizabeth's Olympic aspirations and Daniel's musical training.
"You're such a wonderful father, did you know that?" I said, reaching up with my hand to run my palm along Edward's cheek. My thumb traced across his brow in the process, smoothing out the worry lines there. "Grace is going to adore you."
Edward smiled lazily at me, bending forward to kiss me. "Feel better?" He wondered as he continued to press small kisses to my lips.
"A little," I admitted. "If you keep that up, I might just forget what I was upset about."
Edward needed no further instruction, and as if we were horny teenagers sitting in the back seat of a car at a drive in movie, we made out in the kitchen, Edward's body pressed as close to mine as possible. My legs wound around his thighs, holding him tightly to me as his tongue stroked mine, and I sighed in utter contentment as I felt his hands thread through my hair. This right here was all I ever needed, I thought. Seventeen years later, this man still grounded me. His touch, his voice, his embrace were all I needed to sustain me even during the most difficult of times. Some things would never change, I reasoned. Edward was my rock, solid through and through.
"Geez, do you two ever stop?" Elizabeth's shrill voice interrupted my increasingly hot make-out session with Edward. I wasn't thrilled with the interruption, but then I reminded myself that in less than three hours time she'd be on the road to Utah, so I reluctantly pulled away from him, only to meet Elizabeth's accusatory stare. "It's getting to the point where I don't want to bring my friends over," she exclaimed, though the sparkle in her eye told me she was only teasing. "There's something not normal about the two of you."
Edward laughed out loud at Elizabeth's comment, pulling her into a side hug.
"Sweetheart, my greatest hope is that you'll know a love like your mother's and mine one day," he said as he reached out to tousle her hair. Elizabeth rolled her eyes, but she willingly hugged Edward back.
"So, do you think you could tear yourself away from dad long enough to help me finish packing?" She asked me when she pulled away from him. I pretended to have to give it some thought, just to get a rise out of her, but she quickly caught onto my game.
"Come on mom," she said while grabbing hold of my arm. I cast a glance over my shoulder as Elizabeth led me from the kitchen and Edward smiled warmly at me.
"Love you," he mouthed.
"Love you, too."
At the top of the stairs, Elizabeth pointed out a large pile of clothing outside her bedroom door.
"This is for Goodwill. I decided to clean out my closets while packing."
I surveyed the pile of clothing before me, shaking my head in disbelief. Elizabeth owned a ridiculous amount of clothing, thanks to her doting Aunt Alice. Alice was the mother of two boys now. She had given up hope of ever having a little girl, so she spoiled Elizabeth as if she were her own.
"Are you sure none of these fit?" I asked. Some of the articles of clothing still appeared to have their tags attached.
"I'm sure," Elizabeth assured me. "Besides, Aunt Alice just sent me a package of new clothes the other day. Come on, you've got to see this bathing suit she sent me!" Elizabeth dragged me into her room, which was covered from floor to ceiling in clothes, and gently sat me on her bed.
"Take a look at this," she said excitedly as she draped a bathing suit across my enormous belly. I couldn't help but laugh. My stomach had somehow morphed into a display table. My laughter was short-lived, however, when I more closely examined the suit.
"Oh no. Oh no, no, no, no, no. This will not do at all. This…this…" There were no words to describe the tiny scrap of fabric lying across my belly. I couldn't even believe Alice had thought to send it. It left very little to the imagination, to say the least, and there was no way I was going to let Elizabeth wear it. Ever.
"Mom, what's wrong?" Elizabeth cautiously asked, clearly worried by what I'd said.
"Honey," I began, trying my best to placate her. "Whatever happened to that nice, one piece Speedo suit you wore last summer?"
"Mom!" Elizabeth screeched. "I wore that suit for swim team. It doesn't do anything for me. It's not sexy," she complained, and I'm pretty sure all the color drained from my face.
"It's not sexy?" I repeated in disbelief, because I couldn't believe those words had just left my daughter's mouth. Twelve year olds were not even supposed to know what sexy means! Of course, give the current day and age, Edward and I had had the talk with the twins at the beginning of the year. We wanted our children to be armed with all the necessary facts for when the time came that they did decide to become sexually active. But never in a million years did I dream that six months later I'd be discussing whether or not a bathing suit was sexy with my twelve year old daughter.
"No, it's not," Elizabeth insisted before dropping onto the bed beside me. She heaved an expressive sigh before fiddling with the strings on her sweatpants. "How will I ever convince a boy to like me if I don't make an effort to look pretty?" Elizabeth spoke so quietly, I wasn't sure I'd heard her right. What was supposed to be a carefree morning spent helping Elizabeth pack was quickly turning into anything but. I reached out and gently stroked Elizabeth's hair and she laid her head on my shoulder.
"Honey, can I ask what this is all about? Since when are you worried about boys?" I supposed it was a silly question, because at Elizabeth's age, it was a given that boys would burst onto the scene at some point or another. However, until now, our home had remained blissfully free of any pre-teen, hormonal drama.
"Since Christopher Waters kissed Cindy Smith," she mumbled, and suddenly it all made sense. Chris and Cindy were on the team at Elizabeth's gym, and apparently there was a whole lot more going on at gymnastics than I'd ever imagined. Suddenly, I felt sick to my stomach. Elizabeth was about to leave for an entire summer, to participate in a co-ed gymnastics program in an entirely different city. What if she met a boy that she liked? What if he tried to kiss her? My mind reeled with the possibilities, and they all led to one final thought - I wouldn't be there to help guide her, to point her in the right direction or answer her questions if such situations did arise. But then Elizabeth said something that threw me for a loop, something that was entirely unexpected, and as much as I worried about spending the summer apart, her one single question told me she was going to be just fine. This kid was much more perceptive than I gave her credit for.
"Do you think I'll ever meet somebody who loves me as much as daddy loves you?" She asked.
"Why do you say that?"
"Because Chris isn't very nice to Cindy. He kissed her, but then he says mean things about her behind her back. I'd like for a boy to like me, but I don't want to be treated like that," she said. Elizabeth lifted her head from my shoulder then and peered up at my face. "I know I tease you and daddy about kissing each other," she said while blushing a brilliant shade of red (she was my daughter after all), "but I like the way he looks at you, and the way you look at him. You look at each other like…like…"
"Like we're in love?" I offered, and Elizabeth smiled softly at me.
"Yeah…like you're in love. But a special kind of love, a different kind of love. None of my friends have parents that look at each other like you and daddy do. And I just wonder if I'll ever find someone to love me as much as daddy loves you."
I pulled Elizabeth to me again, surprised by the depth of our conversation but at once relieved that she seemed to get it…she seemed to understand that love meant being cherished by another and being treated with respect, it didn't mean kissing a person then running in the opposite direction and talking badly about them. If Elizabeth could just hold true to that belief, and wait to be with a boy that respected and cared about her, she might just avoid the major pitfalls of teen romance. A mother could hope, anyway.
"I hope you do, honey," I said, though I was well aware that the type of love that Edward and I shared was the exception these days, rather than the rule. "There are no guarantees in life, but I can promise you this. If you remain true to yourself, and wait to become involved with a boy until you meet one that treats you with kindness and respect, there's a pretty good chance you can have what your father and I have too."
"I hope so," Elizabeth said, burrowing her head into my chest. "He makes you happy. I like that. That's how a relationship should be."
"He does, sweetie. He makes me so happy. And you're right, that's precisely how a relationship should be."
Several hours later, Elizabeth was on her way to Salt Lake City and Edward and I were preparing to drive Daniel to the airport. He had a 7 pm departure from L.A., on a direct flight to Paris. It had taken a lot to convince me to let Daniel fly half way across the world as an unaccompanied minor, but Xavier promised me he'd be waiting for Daniel the moment he landed. Daniel would also be assigned his own stewardess, who would look after him in flight. For his part, Daniel was thrilled. He was nearly thirteen after all, almost a teenager he reminded me on a daily basis and he was perfectly capable of flying alone.
Traffic cooperated with us on our journey into the city and after checking Daniel in, we found ourselves having an early dinner inside the international terminal while waiting for his flight to board.
"No more American cuisine for me," Daniel said while digging into his fajita. "As of tomorrow, I'll be dining on fine wine and cheese, fresh baked croissants and crepes," Daniel teased. I raised a brow in his direction and Edward tossed an olive from his salad into Daniel's drink.
"Watch it, cheeky boy. Your mother and I still reserve the right to keep you home with us," Edward warned, though his smile gave him away. He wasn't really serious.
"I could think of worse ways to spend my summer," Daniel replied with a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders, and I couldn't help but smile.
"You know it's not too late," I offered while scooting my pasta around my plate. I wasn't really eating it, just playing with it. At nine months pregnant, there wasn't much room left for my stomach. I could eat an orange and feel full. Besides, I wasn't really hungry. As of tonight, Edward and I would officially be childless. Well, that wasn't exactly true. As if to prove that point, Grace gave a firm kick to my belly. Edward chuckled beside me. His hand lay protectively over my belly, and he had felt her kick too.
"Mom," Daniel said with a roll of his eyes. "I said I wouldn't mind spending the summer with the two of you, not that I wanted to." Edward laughed at Daniel's comment, but I couldn't help but frown. Of our two children, Daniel most closely approximated a mama's boy. Though I hadn't realized it, there was a part of me that had hoped Daniel might back out of going to Paris. It was such a big step for him, to travel half way around the world without us. But apparently he was okay with this, and I knew I needed to be okay with it too.
After dinner, Edward went to check on the status of Daniel's flight while Daniel and I took a seat in the large waiting area. I sighed once seated, feeling the stress of the day catch up with me. Edward had suggested we take a hotel room in L.A. tonight, but I had declined his offer, preferring instead to drive home. Grace wasn't due for several more weeks, but I didn't want to chance going into labor in L.A. I wanted to give birth in our local hospital, close to home, and not at Cedars Sinai. That had the potential to turn into a media circus. Even though Edward was considered past his Hollywood prime (though I vehemently argued against this), he was still a fairly common household name. He didn't draw quite the attention he used to, but he'd already had to sign a handful of autographs this evening and I was sure there would be more to come.
"I'm sorry I'll miss Grace's birth," Daniel said while reaching out to rub my belly. "Promise me you'll send pictures as soon as she's born?"
"Oh, sweetheart, of course I will," I said, working hard to fight back the tears. I didn't want for Daniel to feel guilty about leaving. Traveling to Paris and studying with Xavier for a summer was an opportunity he shouldn't pass up. Grace's birth was still several weeks away. If she went past term, it could be as many as five weeks away. If Daniel waited for her to be born, he could miss half his summer in Paris. I knew that…logically I knew that. But it didn't make it any easier to say goodbye. Thankfully, Daniel tactfully directed the conversation away from his impending departure and instead, focused on baby Grace.
"So, do you think she'll play an instrument?" He wondered as he pulled his cello to his side. We'd purchased a separate ticket for his cello, as I always did when I traveled with mine. We couldn't afford for his instrument to be tossed about in the luggage compartment. In fact, I was pretty sure it was one of the provisions of our insurance agreement. Neither Daniel's cello nor mine could ever be checked as a piece of luggage. Our instruments were simply too expensive to take careless chances with.
"I don't know," I answered him with a shrug. "I thought for sure that Elizabeth would play, but nothing could interest her less."
"Yeah, not to mention the fact she's completely tone deaf."
"Daniel," I gently chided, though I couldn't help but laugh. It was true. Elizabeth couldn't carry a tune to save herself.
"Chances are she'll play," Daniel decided with a firm nod of his head. "Elizabeth's just an aberration."
"Daniel!" I reprimanded again, this time with more force. Daniel nudged me in the side with his elbow and smiled.
"I'm just yanking your chain, mom," he said. "Even though it's true," he added with a mischievous smirk. But I didn't bother to reprimand him again. Daniel knew what he was doing. He loved to ruffle my feathers, to see just how much he could get away with. He was testing the waters, as all pre-teens do, and I wondered if maybe the teen years might be more challenging that I had originally thought.
"Well, I think given your parent's and grandparent's disposition towards music, it's a good chance Grace will play something."
"I hope so," Daniel said with enthusiasm. "Wouldn't it be awesome if we could form a trio? You, me and Grace. She could learn to play to violin."
Just like my brother, I thought. A single tear slipped from my eye as I considered the possibility. Life had come full circle for me in so many ways over the years. Dare I hope to play in a family trio again? A mother and her two children…a daughter and a son. It would be more meaningful than words could ever express, and I found myself saying a silent prayer that Grace would indeed take to the violin.
"It would be beyond awesome," I agreed while bending to the side to place a kiss to Daniel's temple. He blushed at my public display of affection, but he didn't pull away. And whether it was because he wanted to indulge his teary-eyed mother or because he desired the affection himself didn't really matter. All that really mattered was that we were spending the last few moments of time before Daniel's departure, together. "It would be a dream come true."
We arrived home from dropping Daniel in L.A. in record time. Edward drove, and I had a sneaking suspicion he sped most of the way. I fell asleep not too long after leaving the airport. Well, cried myself to sleep is probably a more accurate way of describing what happened. I was a bit of an emotional wreck when we left the airport. To his great credit, Edward didn't say a thing. He just held my hand and rubbed my thigh as we sped along the highway, knowing instinctively that I needed some time to myself. Edward knew that I'd eventually share my feelings with him. I always did. I never held anything back. Not anymore. Not since he'd climbed that mountain with me, so many years ago. Our relationship was stronger because of it, and I knew that it worked both ways. Edward was always open and honest with me, too, even when he knew it would cause an argument. The thing was, arguments could be worked through. But when you stopped communicating with the one you love, well that was a recipe for disaster.
Edward flipped on the lights in the foyer as he helped me into the house. My back was killing me, and the fact that I'd eaten very little at dinner was starting to catch up with me. Luckily, Edward had stopped off at Subway and ordered me a meatball sub on the way home. Meatball subs were my thing with this pregnancy. I hadn't craved much with the twins, but Grace seemed to like meatballs. Maybe that's why I gained so much weight with her. Somehow, I was nearly double the size with Grace than I had been with the twins.
"Why don't you take a minute to eat your sub," Edward suggested as he guided me into the kitchen. "I'm just going to go turn down the bed, and I'll be right back."
I looked on at Edward questioningly. He never turned back the sheets.
"What's going on?" I asked, suddenly suspicious.
"Nothing," he murmured while placing a kiss to my temple. He then commanded me to sit and eat, which I did without further ado.
Edward scuttled off, only to return fifteen minutes later. I was a little disgruntled at having been left to eat my sub on my own, but when I saw him standing in the doorway, his shirt noticeably absent from his chest, my mood improved tenfold.
"How was your sub?" He softly inquired, a small smile tugging at his lips.
"It was fine," I said, doing my best not to let my eyes wander to the noticeable bulge in his silk pajama bottoms. I failed miserably, of course, and Edward's eyes darkened as he followed my line of sight.
"Are you tired?" He asked, and I shook my head no.
"I was hoping you'd say that," he said, his voice low and husky, and he extended his hand forth, beckoning me to come to him. I did as he asked, and as I placed my hand in his, he pulled me to him, kissing me softly on my lips.
"Do you have any idea how much I love you?" He murmured while guiding us towards the stairs. He was walking backward, his lips still attached to mine, which was no small feat in and of itself. I was never particularly graceful to begin with, and I was a certified bull in a china shop while pregnant. True to form, I stumbled over a discarded pair of shoes at the landing to the stairs, and Edward laughed freely as he caught me in his arms.
"Careful, love," he warned. "If you're going to go into labor tonight, I prefer it be through means other than tripping over a pair of shoes and falling to the floor."
"Oh?" I asked with raised brows. "And what means would those be?"
Edward pulled me flush against his body then, making it perfectly clear what means he was referring to. Feeling him up against me like that drove me crazy. There was something about being pregnant which made me crave sex more than usual. Edward didn't complain, though he'd initially had his concerns. When we were first pregnant with the twins, he'd felt funny about having sex with me. He worried, unnecessarily, that he would hurt the babies. Even when the doctors assured him that wasn't the case, he held back, preferring for us to pleasure each other orally as a substitute for actual sex.
By the time my second semester with the twins rolled around, I was damn near desperate for sex. My body was consumed by raging hormones and I physically needed Edward more than I ever had before. One night, while he lay asleep, I more or less attacked him. He awoke to me straddling him and moving above him provocatively while fondling my breasts. I hadn't yet taken him inside me. I would never do that without his permission. If he truly felt it best not to have sex with me while I was pregnant, I would abide by his wishes, but hell if I wasn't going to try with all my might to change his mind. And if there was one thing I knew that Edward couldn't resist, it was me, hovering above him, breasts in hand, fondling myself as he looked on.
We'd had sex that night, much to my extreme pleasure and relief. And when Edward saw how blissed out I was afterwards, he did a complete 180 with regards to what he thought about pregnant sex, determining that sex was in fact a complete necessity in assuring the comfort and happiness of our unborn children. If I was on cloud nine, our babies must be too, he reasoned. Thus began several months of some of the best sex of our lives. Unfortunately, I was put on bed rest at seven months with the twins. Thankfully, that wasn't the case with Grace. Edward and I had been green-lighted on intercourse up until labor commenced, and I intended to take full advantage of it.
Edward led me up the stairs by my hand, despite the fact I strongly protested the absence of his lips. When we arrived at the top, he pulled me to him again, smirking as he placed small, teasing kisses to either side of my mouth. I was frustrated, wanting him to kiss me more forcefully, but he seemed intent on guiding our activities this evening and I decided I would let him. It had been a while since we were alone. Given that our children would be gone for the summer, we hadn't left them with my parents for awhile now. This meant we had to wait until late at night to have sex, and these days, both of us were likely to fall asleep before that happened.
We reached our bedroom door, and Edward paused for a moment before swinging the door open. I was immediately taken aback by the sight before me. Somehow, in the time it had taken me to eat my sub, Edward had managed to light half a dozen candles in the room. My eyes wandered to the bathroom, where I noticed the soft flicker of even more candles from behind the partially closed door. I looked up at Edward and he stared down at me, his hand coming up to sweep my hair over the side of my shoulder.
"Undress for me," he murmured. "Let me see you." His voice was low and husky, yet laced with complete and utter devotion. When he spoke to me like that, it never failed to humble me. He stepped away from me, asking me with his gaze to carry through with his request. As my hands traveled to the hem of my shirt, I suddenly felt self-conscious. At 37 weeks pregnant, my belly had ballooned to the size of an exercise ball. Ironically, I'd never been this large with the twins. Two babies and I'd only gained thirty pounds. With Grace, I'd tipped the scales at forty pounds over my normal weight. I wasn't sure why this was the case, though I had a sneaking suspicion all the ice cream I'd eaten this pregnancy had something to do with it. My hands hesitated, and Edward noticed, his eyes narrowing as he watched me closely.
"Bella?" He asked, his voice shifting now to one of concern.
I mumbled a quick apology, slowly lifting my shirt up and over my head and discarding the article of clothing onto the bed. I stood there then, my eyes shifting about the room, anxious about meeting Edward's.
"Take your bra off." His soft words carried through the air between us, and as if I had no will of my own, I reached around to where my bra fastened in the front and unhinged the clasp. It popped open, revealing my swollen breasts, which only served to make me feel even more self conscious.
"What's wrong?" Edward murmured, his eyes narrowing when I refused to meet his gaze.
"I'm sorry," I apologized again. "I don't know what's come over me. I just…I feel huge," I mumbled while fiddling with the button on my shorts. Edward's eyes immediately softened, and in a single stride he stood before me and then lowered himself to his knees. His hands came up to cradle my belly, and his lips peppered soft kisses about the taut skin.
"She's awake," Edward chuckled as Grace's little foot nudged him in the mouth, and I couldn't help the tear that trickled down my cheek and splashed onto my stomach. Edward looked up at me then, and the love I saw reflected in his eyes nearly caused me to lose it.
"Oh, Bella. Don't you know by now how precious you are to me? How much I adore you and worship this body?" He murmured before placing a single, soft kiss to the center of my belly. "You will never be more beautiful to me than you are when you are carrying our child," he said as he rested his cheek against my belly. I swallowed back a sob…a good sob…an I feel so loved type of sob, before threading my fingers into Edward's hair.
"I love you," I whispered.
"And I love you," he answered me back.
Edward rose to his feet then, and removed the remainder of my clothes on his own. The process took longer than normal, as Edward felt it was necessary to back me against a wall and slowly work me with his fingers while he kissed me slowly, his warm tongue sliding languidly against my own. I came quickly, and it wasn't until my body had stopped shaking that he'd pushed my shorts and panties to the ground.
We took a bath together, where Edward once again brought me to orgasm. I lay with my back against his chest, his erection pushing against my back as he fondled my breasts with one hand and my clit with the other. I'd wanted to go down on him in the tub, but he wouldn't let me. I refused to take no for an answer when we stepped out of the tub, however, gripping the towel that was wrapped around his waist in my hand and giving it a firm tug. Somehow, I managed to gracefully fall to my knees, and I'd taken him into my mouth before he had a chance to protest. He was so hard, his erection begging for release after already having given me two orgasms of my own. It hadn't taken long before he was grunting and groaning and spilling himself into my mouth.
Edward led me to the bed afterwards, and we lay side by side, touching each other intimately and whispering sweet nothings into each other's ears. Soon, our language turned more colorful, and words like fuck were being thrown freely around. I could feel Edward, slick and hard against my stomach, and when he told me to get on my hands and knees, I did so willingly. It only took him a moment to position himself behind me, and soon he was slipping inside, filling me completely until his hips were pressed against my behind.
"Jesus, fuck," he muttered, his hand coming around to press between my legs, but I gently pushed him aside, preferring to make this feeling last as long as possible. If he touched me like that right now, I would come immediately.
"You want it slow?" He murmured as he began slowly pulling out and pushing in, and though it was sweet torture for the both of us, I nodded my head. Edward's hands rested on either side of my stomach, and he gripped me lightly there as he moved slowly in and out.
"So fucking perfect," he whispered, and I knew he was referring to our union. He loved to take me this way, to watch himself slide in and out of my body with ease. I liked watching too, though my view was all but obstructed by my belly now. So instead, I turned and looked over my shoulder, and watched Edward watching us. I bit down on my lower lip, the look of pure ecstasy and lust in Edward's eyes driving me to the edge. He looked up then, and when his eyes met mine, he unexpectedly erupted in me. I reached between us, to between my legs, where I quickly brought myself to orgasm with him before we both collapsed onto the bed.
A little while later, I awoke with a start to the distinct feeling of a contraction gripping my abdomen. I sat up, wincing as I did my best to breathe evenly, in and out, through my mouth. Though it was several weeks early, I was in labor - there was no doubt about it. When the pain of the contraction faded away, I glanced at my watch, noting the time before nudging Edward in the back. He mumbled something incoherent, his eyes fluttering open for a moment before quickly falling closed again. I nudged him again just as another strong contraction gripped my body. I cried out a little, and Edward was instantly awake. His eyes flew to mine, and he immediately knew I was in labor.
"Is it time?" He asked in a panic, and I nodded my head. The contractions were less than three minutes apart. It was definitely time to head to the hospital.
"But it's too soon…you're not due…"
"Edward!" I all but yelled, interrupting his ramblings.
"Trust me – it's time!"
"Okay, okay, I'm on it!" He stammered as he stumbled out of bed, and I couldn't help but laugh as he raced around the room, slipping off his pajama bottoms and pulling on jeans. Another contraction hit, and my body tensed as I rode it out.
"Give me five minutes, and we're out of here," Edward said as he bent to swiftly kiss my lips. His eyes were alight with joy and anticipation, and he smiled broadly at me as I bit down softly on my lower lip. "We're going to have a baby," he announced, wonder evident in his eyes, and with that he disappeared into the bathroom, leaving me sitting on the bed.
As I sat on the bed, my hands wrapped protectively around my belly, I couldn't help but think how happy I was, despite the fact I was also in an incredible amount of pain. Life was good. It was better than good…it was fucking awesome. I had everything I'd always wanted, but never dared to hope for. I had the most wonderful, loving husband, two beautiful children with a third on the way, and a warm, close-knit family. And to think, that in the end, it had all been the result of a single chance encounter seventeen years in the past. It was a chance encounter I would forever be grateful for. It had brought me Edward and it had brought me life, in more ways than one.
With this final epilogue, Chance Encounter is officially complete.
Thanks so much to all of you for sharing this amazing journey with me.
I have started writing a new fic entitled The Sound of Silence. This fic has not yet posted. I am writing ahead several chapters before I begin to post. I'd like to stick to a regular posting schedule this time around, so chapters will be shorter. (It's also why I'm writing ahead!) At present, I plan to start posting sometime around the 1st of June. Here is the summary for the story: At 22, I was pretty sure I had my life figured out. But then I met Bella, deaf since birth, and my world was cast in silence.
With regards to The Preacher's Son, I am going to be taking some time to re-write what I have already written. I would like to tell the story entirely from EPOV. It will take me some time to re-work the first few chapters, but when they are ready, I will upload them onto fanfic and commence with writing the rest of the story. This story will be told, but I cannot guarantee when.
Finally, I have a rec for you. Throughout the process of writing Chance Encounter, I have met so many wonderful people. One such individual is my good friend and pre-reader, aerobee82. She has recently posted her own fic, a story entitled Antiques Roadshow, which I am recommending you all check out. Her Edward is positively adorable, and I love her Bella too (this is rare for me, lol). Here is the summary for her story: I took an antique in for appraisal, only to find a much rarer treasure. I met Bella Swan on Antiques Roadshow, and PBS would never want for funds again. Canon couples.
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