In September there was an auction to raise funds for a woman by the name of Stacie, who is battling cancer. She was new to her job, and under the probationary terms of a new employee, not covered by health insurance yet.
A number of authors from Twilight and other fandoms got together and raised money to support Stacie during her recovery. You've probably seen fics posted from some wonderful authors out of this effort.
This outtake from Breakfast at Tiffany's was an off the screen fundraiser we did with some of the diehard BATgirls. They came together, and contributed $620 to the Support Stacie effort. In return, we will be creating two outtakes, both flash forwards in the life of BATward and Welliebella, as they jokingly call them.
We thought it appropriate that we post the first one on Sweetest Day here in the states – we all know how Welliebella felt about the commercialism of Valentine's Day, and found the timing ironically appropriate. We hope you enjoy.
Characters are not ours.
Breakfast at Tiffany's
- B - Black and White
"Just a few more minutes, Bella. This one doesn't want to hold still. I just need one more set of measurements."
The ultrasound tech pressed the wand a bit harder into my stomach. I winced, desperately trying to ignore the dull ache in my bladder.
"There we go," the tech muttered to herself, "got you squirmy."
She paused, smiling.
"Hmm, nice glory shot. Want to know the gender?"
My eyes darted up to the clock. 3:45. The appointment had been for 3:15.
He wasn't coming.
"Will I be able to tell from the picture?"
"Yes you will. I'll make a note on it if you want."
I bit my lip in attempt to hold back the tears that threatened to spill over.
"Could you do that and put it in an envelope please? I'd like his or her father to be present too."
The tech nodded and put the wand down.
"Not a problem. We're all done. You can go to the bathroom and get dressed. I'll get these to your OB. They'll follow up with you, but from what I can see everything looks great. Nothing to be worried about. You are carrying deep and have the good fortune of being tiny during pregnancy."
I laughed, but it wasn't a reflection of my good humor. "I don't feel tiny."
"You never do, honey." The tech extended a hand to help me up. "But it's all worth it."
I had a hard time reflecting her optimism.
After going to the bathroom and getting dressed, I powered up my phone to check my messages. There was an email from Irina, letting me know about a meeting that ran late. She tried, but cutting it short could have been a deal breaker.
I couldn't be mad at Edward. I'd been the one to him encourage him when his dad decided to move into retirement. He wanted the position, but he would never have made the move without my blessing and encouragement. I'd known full well that there would be infinite demands on Edward's time. But I guess I never really stopped to think about what it could really mean.
His schedule had been crazy since just after Thanksgiving, and I'd been okay with it at first. The economy was so volatile, and he was doing everything he could to keep CI stable. Carlisle had always treated CI's employees like family, and Edward felt the same responsibility.
I'd handled the crazy hours, the missed dinners, the last minute changes. But that was when it was just the two of us.
There were about to be three, and Edward had missed his first chance to meet his child.
Demetri waited for me in the parking garage as I left the doctor's building. He took one look at my face and stared straight ahead, not saying a word. He knew me well enough to read my moods, and he didn't engage me in conversation.
Once settled in the back seat, I pulled up Edward's private line. It rang four times before switching over to Irina.
"Hey honey, how did it go?"
I sighed. I really wanted my husband right now, but I couldn't be rude.
"Fine. The baby is healthy, and there was plenty of amniotic fluid. He or she just feels the need to constantly cuddle into my spine. That's why I measured so small. No cause for concern; everything looked good."
"Oh thank goodness. I know everyone was hoping that was the case." She hesitated for a moment, as if debating how to proceed. "He really did try to get there, Bella."
"I know, Irina. I know. Is he there now?"
"No, he's still tied up. I can tell him you called."
"It's okay. I'll leave a voicemail on his cell phone."
We chatted for a minute more before disconnecting. She reminded me of a dinner commitment Edward had with a company CI was trying to acquire. I would be on my own tonight.
I said goodnight to Demetri and took the elevator up to our floor. The sun was setting over the park, casting long shadows through the floor to ceiling windows. I always loved this time of day in the apartment. I loved the way the fading rays of light reflected off the photos, casting prisms across the wood floors. I remember my first day here, how natural and comfortable it all felt. The apartment hadn't changed much since then. More pictures of family, the piano, more books, if that's possible. But the soul was still the same.
I quickly changed out of my clothes, grabbing one of Edward's dress shirts and a pair of yoga pants. Once upon a time I'd worn his shirts to be provocative. Now it was purely for comfort. I was six months along, or twenty four weeks, however you want to phrase it. There had been a few scares of late, and I was miserably uncomfortable. Simple and comfortable was my idea of perfection.
And to be honest, it was a way to have Edward close, even when he wasn't here.
I curled up on our bed and flicked on the TV. It was about impossible to find a comfortable position these days, so I'd bought a few giant body pillows to help support my back. Draping myself across one, so that I could lay on my side, I spread the ultrasound photos out on the bed beside me. Five black and white images displayed different outlines, different perspectives of our child. I ran my fingers over one profile shot, the silhouette of a snub nose, a fist close to the face, as if he or she were sucking their thumb.
A noise from the television caught my attention. An old Neil Simon movie was on; the characters young, and in love, totally impetuous. They were so passionate and believed that love could conquer all, but so complete clueless.
It could have been Edward and me early on. When things were simple and complicated all at once. But how we had things to anchor us and remind us of what's important.
We'd some how slipped away from that over the past few months. We didn't fight, we didn't argue. The time simply became less and less.
Out of habit, I started to spin my charm bracelet. I still wore it all the time. Lately it had been a bit of a lifeline for me. A reminder of how things had been once upon a time. And hope that someday soon we could get back there. I wasn't naïve enough to expect that we could return to the early days. But it had to be better than this.
As I reached out to retrieve one of the ultrasound photos, the red of the jasper bean caught my eye.
It was the same shape as the image in the photo. Something we had made together.
That's when it hit me.
I rolled over, grabbing my phone off the bedside table. A few quick clicks and I was looking at my calendar.
There was time.
I could pull this off.
I'd remind him. I'd take a page out of his book, and make him remember what was important.
Relief washed over me, and I curled back up into the pillow, closing my eyes. I let plans form in my head and hope fill my heart until I drifted off to sleep.
- E - Ball Breaker
My head was pounding. It had already been a killer week.
The man hired to replace me in Mergers and Acquisitions wasn't helping anything. He was an up and coming executive my father suggested for the job despite some indication that he was not aggressive enough. I should have trusted my gut because I was now sitting in a meeting that just wouldn't quit, without much luck in turning things around.
We had to win this one. CI was doing better than most companies, but we weren't immune to the downturn. There had been layoffs and restructuring, but we'd weathered the storm with less cuts than others thanks to cost reductions and streamlining of operations
I started out the day with one goal. I was going to get out in time for Bella's ultrasound. I simply had to. The whole thing was already a month overdue, but my schedule kept requiring her to push it back. When she measured small at her last appointment, her OB insisted she make it to this appointment no matter what. So Bella made the same request of me. She was genuinely scared, and while I was optimistic, I kept trying to reassure her.
I wanted to be there; I honestly did. I had every intention of cutting out in time. After lunch, I headed in for another round with some big wigs of a company we were trying to make a deal with, and Irina gave me that look.
"Don't forget, you only have two hours before you need to be in the elevator and out the door. The appointment is at 3:15."
"I know. You've reminded me five times today alone, and I think you set my calendar to remind me every fifteen minutes."
"Don't be silly. It's been every hour. Just don't miss it, Edward."
"I won't. Give me some credit."
In the end there were some things I simply couldn't control. At three o'clock, the meeting had gone from bad to worse. If negotiations had merely stalled, I would have rescheduled for the next day, but we'd reached a boiling point; tempers were heated, and threats were issued. The V.P. was practically cowering in the corner. I blamed myself for waiting too long to take control, believing it was his job to handle things, but I had to salvage this. Peoples' jobs were at stake.
Irina texted me at the same time my calendar reminder popped up yet again. I sent her a quick message back under the table.
Out of my hands. Can't get out.
At that point, I turned my phone off and dug in. Two more hours, several pots of coffee, and one plan to fire a V.P. later, we had a deal.
I rushed out of the conference room and hit my office to grab my coat since I had a dinner meeting in twenty minutes.
Irina looked up at me and shook her head.
"Don't give me that. I tried. Someone has to keep this place in business if everyone wants to keep their jobs." I was harsh, but sometimes Irina acted more like a mother than an assistant. Usually, I didn't mind, but I really didn't see how I could have done anything differently.
"If that makes you feel better, Edward, you keep believing that. Have a nice night. Tell Bella congratulations on your healthy baby."
"The baby's okay?" I smiled in relief.
"Yes," she answered curtly. With that she stood, pulled her coat from wardrobe next to her desk, and stormed out.
She could be mad all she wanted; I didn't have time to dwell on it.
I made it through dinner. The conversation droned on, and my headache never got any better. Just before dessert, I headed to the bathroom to splash some water on my face. That's when I remembered I never turned my phone back on.
It lit up with messages and texts including ones from both Irina and Bella. Irina's tone got increasingly more biting and insulting. Bella's didn't. It was conciliatory and disappointed. By the end, I almost wished she'd been mad. My chest grew tight, and the pounding in my head turned to searing pain.
I let her down.
If she'd yelled at me or told me I was a pig, I would have had a counter argument, but there was nothing I could say to "I'm sorry you missed it."
I sent Bella a quick message apologizing, but I needed to get home to her.
Thankfully, dinner wrapped up shortly after because by then I couldn't focus anymore. It wasn't so much missing the ultrasound that bothered me. I didn't quite understand the big deal. I knew the baby would be fine. I couldn't see much on those anyway, and I figured we'd meet the baby soon enough. It was more that she'd been there alone, scared, and waiting for me that I couldn't stand.
When I got home, I called out, but there wasn't an answer. I grabbed some Excedrin from the kitchen cabinet, and took off my tie.
I could hear muffled voices in the bedroom. I'd never been one to watch T.V. in the bedroom, but Bella often left it running as background noise, even while she read.
"Hey," I said tentatively, not knowing how she was going to react to me.
She was lying on her side, and for a second I thought she was ignoring me, but as I got closer, I could see the rise and fall of her breathing was slow and deep. She'd fallen asleep. She looked so peaceful, curled up in a little ball. Lights and T.V. still on all around her.
I moved over and lifted her legs, to slide them under the covers. Her hand held a grainy black and white picture, and there were several more strewn across the bed. I picked one up and drew a sharp breath.
I don't know what I expected. Squiggly lines or shadows, but this was the perfect profile. I sat down at the end of the bed and examined the photo. A tiny hand was practically waving at the camera. I noticed the nose was already almost an exact copy of Bella's. I had no idea you could see that at this point.
I studied each picture. My headache dissipated as my heartache grew. It was more than letting down Bella. This wasn't an abstract concept anymore. This was a baby. My baby. Our baby.
I gathered the pictures and set them down on the night stand. Shedding my suit, I turned off the lights and the T.V. and crawled into bed. I reached out and put my hand on Bella's swollen stomach. I traced the shape of the profile I'd just seen in the picture. I let me hand go flat and whispered to both of them, "I'm so sorry."
- B - Green
It was the smell of coffee that did me in.
I'd been standing at the refrigerator, debating what I could handle for breakfast, when the scent of fresh brewed coffee hit my nose.
My hand flew instinctively to my mouth, and I moved as quickly as I could towards the guest bathroom.
Edward was coming out of our bedroom, knotting his tie as I fled down the hallway. He'd been in the shower when I woke up.
He frowned as he saw me coming, stepping clear so that I could get to the toilet in time.
I slammed the door and dropped to my knees, dry heaving. With nothing in my stomach, there wasn't a whole lot to come up.
Edward must have followed me into the bathroom. I felt him pull my hair back from my face, his hand rubbing slow circles in my back as I tried to calm down. Ever since I was little, I hated throwing up. I worked myself into borderline panic attacks when I had the stomach flu. Here I was in my six month of pregnancy, going on my fifth month of morning sickness. It was pure hell.
"Hey, you okay?"
I shook my head, refusing to let go of the porcelain. I could feel the bile start to rise again.
"Can I get you anything?"
The concern was evident in his voice. I shook my head again, afraid that opening my mouth to speak would set me off.
He sighed and stood. I know he just wanted to help, but I was petrified I was going to throw up again.
The moment he opened the door, the scent of coffee came wafting back in.
"Shut it!" I shrieked, helpless to fight the visceral reaction to a smell I had always loved. I leaned over the toilet, dry heaving yet again.
The bathroom door slammed shut.
A few minutes later, the apartment door did too.
He didn't say goodbye before he left.
I lay curled up on the bathroom floor for another ten, fifteen minutes. When I was confident I could move around without getting sick, I stood, rinsed my mouth out and splashed water on my face. Then I hesitantly made my way out into the apartment.
The coffee maker was off. The pot empty in the drainer. All traces of the sent masked by a ginger candle burning next to the sink.
A note lay on the counter.
I needed to get to the office. Call me later. I love you.
The office consumed him these days. He felt the overwhelming need to please everyone, to save everything. And he couldn't accept that would be times where he couldn't.
I watched as he pulled back into himself, distracted by too many people stretching him in too many directions. I knew he wasn't intentionally missing out on the important things, and I'm sure there was a good reason for him not making my appointment. There always was. But I needed to remind him of what was important. That we were important. He needed to find his center again.
I grabbed the phone off the charging cradle and punched in a number. She answered on the second ring.
"Hey Irina. Is he in yet?"
"Yes, he blew in with a thunder cloud over his head. Is everything okay?"
"Yeah, just a misunderstanding." I opened a cabinet door and pulled down a box of saltine crackers. "Can you do me a favor?"
She laughed. "For you, anything. If it means he gets out of this funk, even better."
"I am going to have Demetri drop something off tomorrow morning. Does he have a spot open in his calendar?"
I could hear Irina clicking and typing. "First thing."
"Can you dummy up a phone call? Some reason for him to be in his office?"
"Will do, Bella."
"Thanks. Can I talk to him now?"
"Hang on." She put me on hold. A minute later Edward picked up.
"A puking woman sends you running for the hills, huh?"
He hesitated for a beat before answering, "I didn't think you wanted me there."
"No, I just wanted you to shut the door. The smell of coffee was what set me off."
Edward chuckled, and I could hear keys clicking as he spoke.
"It's probably a good thing you stayed in the bathroom then. You forgot to put the basket in to catch the grinds, and it went all over the place. It was pretty disgusting. If the smell didn't get you, the mess would have."
That would explain the pot in the sink.
"I'm sorry I yelled at you," I replied sheepishly. "It's just…you know how I am about throwing up."
"I know." Edward hesitated before continuing, "I'm sorry I missed yesterday."
He didn't offer a justification. There probably was one. But neither of us wanted to go there right now.
"I'm working from home today. I have a manuscript to read. Call my cell if you need me?"
"Will do." Edward was quiet for a moment, and I just about hung up. "I love you, Bella. You know that, don't you?"
"I love you too, Edward."
I could hear Irina in the background. He was going to be late.
"Go to your meeting. I'll talk to you later."
I placed the phone back in the charging cradle and glanced up at the clock. It was 8:30. I needed to get moving, there were things to do.
Three hours and one stop later, I walked down Fifth Avenue, watching the people as they filtered by. It made me nostalgic for my old commute. The walk from the subway station to work. The few moments of peace in front of the Tiffany's window every morning.
We hadn't been by the window in a long time. Not since our engagement, actually. I'd been too busy to stop and think about how much I missed it, and how much it represented in our relationship.
The Valentine's display was up, and pedestrians stopped to admire the baubles in the window. Their dreams of what some day could be. That had been me once upon a time.
But instead of stopping at the window, I let myself into the store, weaving through the bodies lining the cases. I knew exactly what I needed to do. There were three pieces to the first message. One part came from here; one would be picked up the morning of the delivery. The final rested in the bag at my feet.
"Hey Bella!" Jess Stanley stood to great me. Her attitude had changed after the entire incident with Jane. Free of the guilt and the need to protect her sister in law, she turned out to be a lovely woman. Under different circumstances, I might have called her a friend. "What are you doing here?"
"Hoping you can help me out." I plopped down in a chair, setting the bag carefully on the floor. "Can you help me with some gifts?"
"Sure, it's my job." She shifted to her computer. "What do you need?"
"Jess?" My tone caught her attention, and she shifted back to face me. I pulled a small jar out of my bag and sat it on her desk.
She studied the jar for a moment, before shaking her head.
"No. Not again." There was humor in her voice. But she was serious.
"Not in the window, but yeah, again."
Jess sighed and pulled out a note pad.
"Okay, rattle 'em off."
We spent the next hour talking through my plan and searching through the store for the things I needed. She rolled her eyes at my one hard rule, but in the end found what I needed. With one exception, the items we picked out were some of the most inexpensive things in the store.
"I can't decide if this is the most romantic or most saccharine thing ever," Jess teased as I slipped the first note into the bag.
"I've written notes for the first two. Someone will be by tomorrow to drop the other off for cleaning. "
Jess took the note cards from my hand, "I am surprised Esme didn't insist on buying a new one."
"No, of all people, she gets it." I braced my hand on my desk to stand up. "I miss seeing my toes. I don't know how you did this a second time. I can't wait for my first time to be over."
"It's all worth it. Trust me." She picked up the jar and examined the label. "I could have told you they don't sell just plain strawberry. Allergies, you know."
I smiled and moved towards the door. "It's okay. He'll get the point."
- E - Sprouts
I didn't have time to think about the night before, the morning, or the phone call. It was that kind of day. Not a spare second to let my mind winder. After I hung up with Bella, I was inundated with paper work, conference calls, a lunch meeting, and more paperwork. Everything was a fire that needed to be put out immediately.
Irina was apparently still upset with me because she stuck to one or two word answers all day. She didn't make a single dig; she just looked at me with silent indignation.
By late afternoon, I'd had enough.
"Irina, you are neither my wife nor my mother. They are both still speaking with me, and I expect you to do the same."
"Of course, Edward," she said with an innocent smile. "Is there anything else I can get you?"
"No, thank you. Hold calls again. I'm digging in for awhile. I have to review more files."
As she stood up to leave she mumbled something under her breath.
"Did you have more to say?" I asked, calling her out.
"No, sir," she answered with a mock military tone.
"Irina," I warned.
"I'm sorry, Edward. It's just . . . if you keep this up, your wife won't be talking to you. And I wouldn't blame her one bit."
"Irina, could you just give me a break?" I think she was waiting for me to say more. I only added. "Please?"
She left without saying another word. About an hour later, she buzzed me.
"Your father is here. Are you too busy to see him?" I could almost see the expression on her face. I bet she was feeling rather smug in her choice of words.
"How's my schedule look?"
"You're clear until 4:30."
"Fine, send him in," I exhaled in defeat.
I typically welcomed a visit from my father, but time was tight, and sometimes it seemed like in his semi-retirement, he forgot what it had been like in this position.
I continued to sign some papers while I waited for him to enter my office and sit down. I didn't bother getting up from my desk.
I glanced up, and nodded toward the chair in front of my desk, and he walked in quietly and sat down.
"You look like hell, Edward," he announced.
I looked at him, startled by his direct admission.
"What do you mean?"
"You're going to be an old man long before you turn forty if you keep this up."
"Not you too."
"I'm afraid so," he said. I took a depth breath and set my pen down on my desk. I picked it back up again wanting the comfort of knowing where the pen came from. I had a feeling what was coming.
"Let me guess. Did Irina call you in?"
"Not exactly. I had a meeting, but when I saw her in the hall earlier, she might have mentioned that it would be a good idea if I stopped by. I'm glad she did."
"You know I appreciate that everyone has an opinion on how I'm doing, but honestly, I'm not sure what you all expect. This isn't exactly a 9 to 5 position. You of all people should know that."
He nodded, and leaned back in the chair. "Yes, you're right. It's not an easy job, and the hours can be brutal."
"I sense a 'but.'"
"You know me well. But . . . you're going to have to learn to prioritize and delegate if you're going to make it."
"I thought you approved of the job I've been doing. You just said the other week that everything was looking good."
"Edward, you're steering the ship remarkably well, but be careful what you leave behind in your wake."
I shook my head and looked out the window, pushing myself away from my desk slightly.
"It's hard, Dad."
"I know, son."
"I missed Bella's ultrasound yesterday."
He opened his mouth, shut it, and then nodded.
"Honestly, there was nothing I could do. I couldn't get out of that meeting."
"Edward, trust me. I do understand the strain you are under. I raised you and Emmett with the same stress. I encourage you to look back though. You'll have to go back farther than I'd like. As you know there were many not so pleasant years between us, but when you were a boy, do you remember me missing any of your events? Birthdays? Vacations?"
"Just remember. Business can always be rescheduled. Life, not so much."
I closed my eyes for a second. When I opened them, I could see the genuine concern on my dad's face.
"Perhaps I retired too soon."
"No, it's okay. I'll figure it out. I have to."
"Be careful of words like that. 'I have to' can be a powerful excuse if you let it. I'll let you get back to work. Thanks for humoring an old man with a little of your precious time."
I laughed at him and stood up to shake his head. "Thanks, Dad."
"Did Bella find out whether we're having another granddaughter or a grandson?"
It was the first time it occurred to me that I didn't have any idea. "I . . . don't know. I saw pictures, but I'm not sure if she asked."
He gave me a half smile, and with his signature wave, he was out the door.
It was another late night, and Bella and I barely got five minutes to talk. She seemed so uncomfortable, so I rubbed her lower back, while she was falling asleep.
"Hey," I said softly.
"I forgot to ask. Did you find out what we're having?"
"No, the tech wrote it down and put it in an envelope."
"Oh, when were you planning to look at it?"
"I don't know. When it feels right?"
I kissed her hair and slipped my hand around to trace her stomach like I had the night before. Sleep came easier than usual.
The next morning, we were both rushing out the door. Bella asked if I had time to walk to work, and I had to beg out. Irina insisted I needed to make an early morning phone call, and I could not be late.
Demetri was tied up with something so I ended up having to walk anyway, but with no time to stop or enjoy the walk.
"Am I late?" I said practically running to my office.
"No," Irina smiled. "I think you're just in time. Go get settled, I'll buzz you shortly."
I hung my coat, opened my briefcase, and situated myself at my desk.
There was a knock at the door instead of a buzz. "Come in, Irina."
"Actually, Edward. It's me."
I looked up to see Demetri walking toward me carrying a small box. It was blue. Robin's egg blue. His other hand held a coffee cup.
"What are you doing here? I thought you were tied up."
"I was. I had to bring you this." He set the box and the cup down in front of me.
"Oh, well I'll have to open it after my phone call."
"Edward?" Irina called. "This is your appointment. Come on Demetri, let's let him open it."
I looked at her, my confusion evident. She smiled and nodded toward the box.
There was a handwritten note with my name written in Bella's handwriting.
I decided to nickname the baby Bean, since that's what he or she looks like, all curled up in the pictures. A tiny little bean that is going to turn out to be an amazing little person, just like his or her daddy.
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I love you.
I took a sip from the coffee cup just to see. Mint mocha.
I gently lifted the top off the box to see a small jar of baby food. A miniature silver spoon with an apple shape on top leaned against it. I pulled both of them out of the box. The apple I understood. Our seed. Our fruit. Something new, just like the bean I'd given her. But the baby food confused me. Until I saw the flavor.
So I tried. I left work as early as I could, and I grabbed take out, but when I got home Bella wasn't there. I sent her a quick message, and she reminded me she had a dinner meeting herself. Deflated, I pulled one carton out of the bag and tossed the rest in the refrigerator.
I was on the couch with my laptop and about thirty open windows when I heard her key in the door. She came shuffling in quickly, tears in her eyes.
"Bella, what's wrong?" I asked moving my computer off my lap and jumping up off the couch toward her.
She held her hand up. "It's okay. I just sneezed."
I might have raised an eyebrow, but she kept walking.
"I don't understand."
She turned abruptly. "Fine. I sneezed in the elevator, and I think I peed my pants in the process. So, now I'm going to go change my underwear. Happy?"
It was the completely wrong response, but I laughed. Here I thought she had some deep emotional issue, or it was something in our marriage. She gave me a dirty look and proceeded to the bedroom.
When she didn't come back out, I ventured down the hall, and she was already curled up in bed.
"I'm sorry I laughed at you; I was just relieved it wasn't something more serious."
She sighed. "I'm sorry I snapped. The stupid hormones have me so on edge, and I feel like I'm losing control of myself. Literally."
I sat down at the end of the bed to rub her feet. "Thanks for my delivery."
She adjusted so she can see me. "You liked it?"
"Yes, I liked it a lot."
She smiled and as usual, it didn't take long for her to drift to sleep.
The next morning I had an offsite meeting, but when I got to my office there was already a blue box sitting on my desk. This time the note was much longer.
Life seems to conspire against us these days. Your schedule, me falling asleep at ridiculously early hours…there are a million and one reasons, but none of them seem like they are good enough to accept.
I don't like where we are at. I miss you. I miss your laugh and your useless little factoids that used to drive me crazy. I miss sitting on the beach at your parent's house watching the waves crash in after a storm.
I hate seeing the spark and light fade from you.
But I feel selfish in saying that, because it minimizes what you are doing, which is not an inconsequential thing. You are so noble, and you have such a big heart. I know you are trying to make things better for everyone, including us. All the work, the late hours, the things that you miss aren't because you don't want to be here. It's because you feel like people need you, that they depend on you. It's what makes you who you are.
I was thinking the other day about when we first started dating, and you explained what the charms on my bracelet meant to you. You described the tear drop as a representation of what had passed. Your way of recognizing what had gone before, as well as the opportunity to start anew. Part of starting new was us. Part of it was fixing things with your family. With your dad.
I sit back and watch you step into his shoes, and I am so proud of you, of what you've accomplished and how passionately you do it. But it makes me sad and a little angry too. So many people need you and depend on you. But I do too. And so will the baby someday. I don't want him or her to ever worry about how important they are to you. You can be there for everyone that you work with. But we need you too.
I love you. I want to be able to watch you teach our child how to throw a football or pants Uncle Emmett. All the things that you loved so much about your childhood and your family. I want us to have that too. I want to sit on the beach and watch you splash in the waves together. To sit in the library with a book, teaching him or her about pirates and fairy tales and happily ever while we look out at the greatest view in the world.
It only works if we are both there. I can't do it without you.
The first email you ever sent me, you quoted my Shakespeare. I turned it around on you with Shel Silverstein. It holds true now, just in a different way.
There's woulda coulda shoulda, and there's the did.
Please be my did again.
Come home. Come back to me.
My shaking hand fumbled opening the box to find the most delicate baby hair brush in the shape of a wave. My phone chimed a fifteen minute warning to the next meeting. I was hitting the button to dismiss when the date caught my attention. February 10th.
My head fell into my hands, and I tried to process it. I hadn't realized what she was doing with the gift yesterday. Or why exactly. I opened a drawer and pulled out the items that came the day before. I lined up the jar, the spoon, and the brush on my desk. There were all kinds of meanings in these simple gifts. They mirrored sentiments I'd expressed to her years ago in the week leading up to Valentine's Day.
What hit me in that moment wasn't the symbolism; it was the size. Such a small spoon for a small mouth. The softest bristles for the most delicate skin. I had an absolute moment of panic. She told me what she needed, what our baby needed. Could I do it? How could I be a 'did' when I didn't feel like I had the time or energy to?
But Bella was sick and tired and emotionally spent, and she still did. I'd promised her ages ago I always would. I kept my promises, especially to her.
- B - Reconnections
I closed my eyes and let the steam work out the knots in my body. I knew pregnancy would change my body, but I hadn't been prepared for the extremes. The random aches, the cravings, the desires. Everything was intensified.
I'd started taking long baths at night, soaking in the giant whirlpool tub while the warm water worked out the aches. I'd turn up the music so that it would stream into the bathroom and light a candle and soak in the dark. It was almost like sensory deprivation, the buoyancy relieving the weight, the pressure, the discomfort.
Because the music was so loud, I didn't hear Edward come into the room.
"You look so peaceful."
I opened my eyes to see him standing next to the tub. His tie was off, his hair a mess.
"Is something wrong? Why are you home so early?"
He frowned for a moment, and then peeled off his suit coat. Without taking off his pants or his shirt, he toed off his shoes and climbed into the tub, leaning in so he could kiss my forehead.
"What are you doing, Edward?"
He didn't answer me, simply dropped his face lower so that he could gently brush a kiss across my nose.
"I love you."
A knot started to form in my chest. I had forgotten all about today's delivery, about my letter. He'd made an attempt to talk last night, and I'd been so tired that I'd barely responded. And then to receive that today…
"I'm sorry." Sorry wasn't enough.
"Shh." He kissed me again, and I could feel the desperation in his actions. It tripped something in me, something wholly unexpected.
Our kissing grew more insistent, and I began to struggle with the buttons on his shirt and his pants.
"Are you sure about this?" He whispered against my mouth.
"I'm pregnant, not a nun. And I need this. I need you."
We shifted around in the tub, somehow managing to get the wet wool of his suit pants off. I climbed into his lap without hesitation and held on to him as tightly as I could. It wasn't about sex, or anger, or anything that simple.
It was re-establishing a connection. Letting the other know that it would all work out, that we would be okay. He whispered 'I love you' against my neck as I cried out his name.
And then we were both quiet and still.
"I do love you. You know that, don't you?" Edward asked, his head buried against my shoulder. He was looking for reassurance. It wasn't about him loving me, but me believing it.
"I never doubt that, Edward. It's a constant for both of us."
I felt him nod, and his arms tightened around me. The wet cotton of his dress shirt sticking to my skin as I tried to shift.
"You probably aren't very comfortable, are you?"
"No, but I don't want to move."
Edward laughed and kissed my shoulder. "Come on, let's get you dried off. We can warm up some of the take out I brought home last night and talk."
We managed to disentangle ourselves and get out of the tub without face planting on the floor. Edward went to heat up last night's Chinese food while I dug around in his closet for something to wear.
"Now I know where all my t-shirts keep disappearing to," he chided me as I entered the kitchen.
"I hate maternity clothes. Your stuff is more comfortable anyway."
He kissed the top of my head and grabbed a bottle of water out of the fridge.
"You know, I like you in my clothes."
"It's a little different when I'm pregnant."
"No it's not." He twisted the cap off the bottle and took a drink before offering it to me. "So I understand what you sent yesterday and the parallel. And once I got over the massive sense of failure at today's I see the parallel to your bracelet, but I feel like I am missing something."
"Can you give me a boost?" I placed my hands on the counter. Edward bent over, cupping his hands so I could step in and push myself up into a seated position on the granite.
"You always took that charm to be something negative, a reminder of the bad things. But tears aren't always bad you, know?" I paused as I took a drink of water. "But more importantly, the recognition of the stuff that happened before got you somewhere. And it gave you a chance to get back the things you love, including your ocean view. Plus, if you really want to go deep and theoretical, both tears and ocean water contain salt."
The phone cut into my words.
"I'm not answering that. Nothing outside of this apartment tonight, okay? Just us."
I sat on the counter, drinking the rest of the water while I thought about the last hour. It felt like we were turning a corner. There were still a lot of things to be said, but just the fact that he'd come home early, and where we were now spoke volumes.
As Edward dug through a drawer looking for chip sticks, I formed a plan in my head. My plan would still work. It just needed a few tweaks.
"Mmm?" He responded distractedly.
"You doing anything tomorrow morning?"
He smiled and extracted two black lacquer sets of sticks.
"Is it bad I'm not sure what day tomorrow is?"
"Saturday. You doing anything?"
"Just spending it with you. Why?"
"Well, I told Jess I'd pick something up. Was thinking we could take a walk, maybe get a cup of coffee?" I could see the look of doubt flash across his face. "I won't hurl. I promise. If I you are worried about it I can wait outside."
"What, do you think I'm the random type of guy that will stand in line to buy you coffee while you bask in the sun?" He set the chop sticks on the counter and leaned over to kiss my forehead again. "Don't answer that. It makes me sound pathetic."
"No, it makes you cute."
- E - Same Old Places
"So Bella?" We were done eating, and I was clearing away the take out items. She looked up at me. "You really didn't look at the envelope?"
Her brow furrowed, but I glanced at her belly and recognition hit her. "No, I thought we should do that together."
"When do you think the time will be right?"
"Are you that curious? Does it matter?"
"No, I mean. It doesn't matter. But aren't you curious?"
"Oh I am. This is going to sound bad, and I'm not trying to make you feel guilty, but I was all set to see it on the screen the other day, and when you weren't there it just seemed more anticlimactic if that makes sense. I know I won't be able to wait long, but I'm spent tonight, and I want to be able to take it in when we look."
"Fair enough. And if you wanted to wait until he or she is born, it's okay. I admit knowing there's an envelope around here somewhere is awfully tempting."
"Esme's told me stories about you at Christmas. No going digging you hear?"
I laughed. "Scout's honor . . . or prep school honor I suppose."
Work stress melted. Bella and I were just us. Comfortable. Happy to be together. We stayed up later than usual. We talked about mundane things like childcare and diapers and swollen feet. We laughed. Bella cried at a commercial, and then laughed again. It was the best night we'd had in ages.
When the morning came, Bella's energy was boundless. It was also infectious. With temperatures in the low thirties, the walk to the coffee shop was invigorating. Bella's cheeks were red from the brisk air, and I swear she really did have a glow about her lately. I didn't know how she could possibly be anymore beautiful.
"I think I'll just play it safe and wait outside," Bella said.
"Do you want anything?"
"How about tea? Nothing smelly." I reached out and palmed her cheek for just a moment before going inside.
The line wasn't long, but I reached into my coat pocked to pull out my phone so I could check email while I waited. And I found something unexpected.
An envelope. I pulled it out and stared at it. It only took a second to realize what it was. I ran my fingers down the edge. Then I put it back in my pocket.
"That was a short wait," Bella said when I handed her a drink. "Anything unusual?"
She took a sip, avoiding eye contact.
"Nope. Nothing at all." Two could play the surprise game.
Tiffany's wasn't busy yet. We were greeted enthusiastically, of course.
"I know last time, our big finale was here, but I can shake things up a little." She handed me a box Jess had left for her. "No note this time. I don't think you'll need it."
I may be a man, but I admit, I had to fight the urge to cry when I opened the box. The starfish cufflinks were the most direct comparison to the lapis starfish I'd given her. Our love was infinite. Expanding even.
"They're perfect. I almost wish I were wearing a suit now."
"Yeah, you don't have a tie for me to pull on either," she teased.
"We can still kiss can't we?"
"As if you have to ask."
We were in the middle of the store, so the kiss was simple, sweet. Sometimes, those were still the best kind. I pulled away and reached into my pocket. Holding out the envelope, I asked, "Is this the right time?"
Her smile grew wide and she gave a little chuckle. "It's the perfect time."
- B - Behind Door Number One
"Who's going to open it?" He held the envelope elevated between us.
"You." I answered without hesitation.
"Yeah. Right here. It's appropriate in a way."
Edward took a deep breath and slipped a finger under the corner of the envelope, tearing open the top. He hesitated for a moment before pulling out an ultrasound photo.
I watched his face for a reaction. He frowned, his brows furrowing as he studied the photo. Then he snorted a laugh and shook his head.
He turned the photo so that I could see it, valiantly trying to hold back laughter.
"Not even born yet, and he's packing. He's definitely a Cullen."
I swiped the photo out of his hand so that I could study it.
There was no mistaking that silhouette.
"You're dad is going to flip. He's bad enough with Haley. A boy? Oof, this is going to get interesting."
Edward pulled me into a hug, picking me up and burying his face in my hair.
"Screw my dad. We're having a boy." He hesitated for a moment than laughed, "I swear I thought we were having a girl."
"Are you disappointed?"
Edward sat me down so that he could run his hand along my cheek.
"No, nothing about this could ever disappoint. Ten fingers, ten toes. So long as we have a healthy kid, that's all I care."
He kissed me on the forehead and tugged me out of the store. "You feel like heading up to the townhouse? Mom and Dad are in this weekend, and I'm sure Mom would love to see the pictures."
"Yeah, that sounds good. But I don't know if I can handle 30 blocks."
"It's okay, we'll get a cab. It will give me a chance to call Emmett and gloat."
"You are terrible," I chided him. I tried to check him with my hip, but my stomach threw me off balance, and I stumbled into him.
"Careful Gracie. I don't want you falling and hurting the boy."
- E - How Do You Define Family
My parents were overjoyed. It wasn't about the gender. No one really cared, but it was fun to give Emmett grief about having a future Yankee player.
We decided Saturday was an "us" day, and we took in a movie. Sunday we both ended up working several hours. She was on the couch with a manuscript, and I was in the home office pouring over research that had been handed to me Friday.
By Monday I started to feel my tension return. I knew the 'to do' list hadn't gone down over the weekend. I wore my cufflinks as a reminder of what I needed to do. It was what I wanted too.
I almost forgot there would likely be another delivery. This one came in a shiny new blue box, but what was inside was more than thirty years old. It had been cleaned up, but I recognized my baby cup right away. My mother kept it in a curio cabinet in the music room. I might have thought it was a replica save for the EAC engraved into the side.
No note accompanied it. She was leaving it up to me to find meaning now. I had to think back to the bracelet. I'd sent her the silver E charm after she learned my name. She was reminding me who I was. It wasn't in a title.
So the next day I was ready. I'd looked at her bracelet several times before bed, trying to memorize the order of the items. Floating heart was next. The form in which it arrived did surprise me. It was a sterling silver bookmark, slid into the page of a new book by Jasper Whitlock. No more Jack Hale. I was aware he was working on something new. I couldn't' take my eyes off the cover. It wasn't the actual picture, but I would recognize the scene anywhere. The picture of the four musketeers: Jasper, Tanya, Emmett, and me. It was a rendering. He'd titled the book, "Beach Combers," it was the story of four friends and their adventures. Our days on the beach had been filled with make believe quests and imaginary exploration. I could only imagine how he had woven them into this tale.
I opened the cover to see the picture of Jasper. Older, wiser. He had the traditional headshot, but he'd also included a picture of him, Alice, and Peter relaxing on the beach as well. I had a moment of jealousy.
He'd found the balance that I desperately needed to achieve. I knew Bella wasn't sending me these items to make me feel worse though. She wanted to give me perspective on what should be important. I looked back at the front cover and I thought about where those four friends had gone after that moment and where they were today. It all worked out, but it wasn't without heartache. I couldn't save my son being hurt, and chances were I'd be the source of some pain.
All I could do was love him unconditionally and to be there for him. It didn't seem so hard when you put it like that.
- B - Like Father, Like Son
"Carlisle, this has got to stop."
"Come on, Bella. It's fun. And now that we know the gender, I can get him the right kind of books."
"I read to him every night as it is. There is no way I can finish all these before he's born! And it will be years before he's ready for some of these!"
I sat in front of a pile of books. Call of the Wild, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Treasure Island.
"I guess then I shouldn't tell you that a box of all his Hardy Boys books are being dropped by the apartment tonight, should I?" Carlisle glanced down at his lap. He didn't try to hide his smile.
Like I would ever refuse them.
"How's he doing, Bella? I stopped by last week, and I almost didn't recognize him."
I sighed and ran my finger over the spine of a book.
"Not sure how best to answer that one. He's trying so hard to be perfect. To make everyone happy. We talked about it this weekend, and I think he gets it, but I am not sure if he realizes that he doesn't have to keep everything under control."
"He is a bit of a control freak."
I raised my eyebrows at Carlisle. He smiled and shook his head. It was his way of acknowledging he was too.
"Emmett went through something similar when Haley was born. It's hard to know how to strike that balance. Going from being an individual to a couple is hard enough. But to go from a couple to parents is entirely different. It's scary."
"I have a hard time imagining Carlisle Cullen being scared of anything. I'm pretty sure Edward would say the same thing."
Carlisle winked at me, and reached out to grab a copy of Jasper's new book off my desk. "I was terrified. From being afraid I'd be a bad father them, to worrying about doing enough for Esme, I felt like the constant screw up. Don't tell Esme, but I did drop Emmett once."
"It explains a lot." We both said in unison, laughing.
"I think he just needs to know that it's okay to not do things right every time. So long as he's true to himself and there for the little guy, that's all that matters. Everything else will work out." I hesitated, not sure how he'd take what I wanted to say. "He wants to do right by everyone, to not let anyone down. He doesn't know how to fail."
Carlisle nodded his head in understanding. "That in and of itself is a failure, Bella. But I think I know how I can help."
He patted the left breast pocket of his jacket. It didn't matter that he was moving gracefully into full retirement, he still wore a suit whenever he went into CI.
"When he was little, he thought I could do no wrong. And for years, he thought that all I did was wrong…"
"Carlisle, it wasn't like that."
He held his hand up to stop me.
"I know, Bella, trust me, I know. My point is that Edward lives in absolutes. And in my experience, the only things in life that are absolute are family and love. Everything else will figure itself out."
- E - The Next Generation
"Your one o'clock is here," Irina buzzed.
"Give me two minutes, and then send him in," I responded. I finished dotting a couple of I's, and shuffled my papers.
"Oh no need to tidy up for me," my dad announced.
"Yes, I didn't want to interrupt you without scheduled time. I had Irina squeeze me in. It seemed to stress you out too much the other day."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to . . ."
He held up his hand. "It's okay. I'm actually here to deliver a gift."
He sat down, and reached into his pocket. "Did Bella send you?"
"Yes, but this is something I thought about giving you anyway. She said it couldn't be more perfect for the final piece. That means something to you right?"
"I think so."
He held out a silver object with two fingers. He gave it a little shake to demonstrate what it was. A rattle. A round silver rattle. Endless. Unbreakable. Like the jade circle.
This one had the face of the man in the moon etched on it.
"Do you remember me telling you that I was over the moon after you were born? Having two boys?"
I nodded, still examining the intricate object.
"Well, I came across this one day at Tiffany's. I was looking for something to give as a gift, just from me. I felt like I should do something. Fathers back then were less useful in the baby stage. Of course, Esme never let you actually use it, but she seemed touched by the sentiment."
"You bought this for me?" I asked.
"Yes. Do you have any idea what Bella wanted with all this? She said she had a big plan."
"I think so," I answered slowly. "I know that she wanted to remind me that I'm not alone, and that it's not all about me."
"I'm sure that's a part of it. I want to remind you of something as well. You can't be perfect, Edward. You will fail. Heaven knows I did. You will not please everyone all the time. But you have to decide who you're willing to let down."
"Huh," I huffed. "Funny, you telling me I can't be perfect. I always thought that's what you expected of me."
"I can see how you thought that, but you see in my eyes, you already were perfect. I just never told you. Now you know." He paused searching for something. "I like to think I did a little better than my own father. You'll do better than I did."
"I just want to do my best. I don't want to let him down."
After he left, I turned my chair to look out the window. She sent me two gifts today. I knew what the date was. I just hadn't figured out the right way to respond to all of this. I turned around and pulled up my calendar. It wasn't good. My afternoon was packed, but if I was going to do this right, this was the time to do it.
Several phone calls, a little bribery, and a pat on the back from Irina later, I left the office. I asked Bella if she could clear out early, and sent Demetri to pick her up. I was waiting out front when she showed up.
"What's going on, Edward?"
"Happy Valentine's Day, Bella."
"I was beginning to wonder if you forgot."
"I couldn't. I just didn't know how to show you what it meant to me."
She looked around me to the building. "What is this place?"
"Come on, I'll show you." We walked into the office, and she inhaled sharply. The pictures that adorned the walls clued her in. "I don't want to start missing the important things now, so I thought maybe we could have a do-over. They do the 4-D kind here, and I have such a hard time seeing those grainy black and white ones."
She grabbed my tie before I could start another thought. It was a greater struggle for her to reach me now, so I had to help out by leaning down more, but the effect was the same.
- B - Introducing…
"He has your nose."
"No he doesn't! Mine looks like a ski slope. He has yours."
"So long as he doesn't have the guy's from the copy room, I really don't care." Edward leaned in closer to the screen. "I wonder what color his eyes are."
"We won't know for a few months."
"I know that! I meant when he's born."
I snorted. So many things he didn't know. "That's what I meant. His eyes will be blue when he's born. They change over time."
"They do? That's kind of cool." He continued to stare intently at the screen. "I hope he has your smile."
"I hope he has your brother's coloring," I shot back.
"Hey, I like my coloring!" Edward protested.
"So do I, but a red headed kid and sunscreen? No thanks."
The tech wiped the gel off my stomach and let me know she was done. Edward braced my elbow and slipped a hand behind my back to help me straighten up.
I laughed and swung my legs over the edge of the table. "When am I not these days?"
"Good. I made dinner reservations. We have some stuff to go over." He pulled a sheaf of papers out of his topcoat pocket and handed it to me.
"A list of names. I know you; you are going to be an absolute pain in the ass about finding the perfect name. I figure we have three months to figure it out."
"Me be a pain in the ass, Mr. Perfectionist?"
Edward laughed and slipped his arm around my shoulders. "Only when it's important."
To reinforce his point, we had the perfect Valentine's Day dinner. Pizza with extra mushrooms, seltzer for me, red wine for him. He'd have stopped and bought a box of pop tarts on the way home, but I really had to go to the bathroom.
He was waiting for me on the couch when I got done. Just an end table light was on, casting a warm glow throughout the living room.
"Come here." Edward held his hand out to me.
When I got close enough, he reached out to push my sweater out of the way to run his fingers reverently over my stomach.
"Do you think he can hear me?"
"I think so. I've been reading to him, and he definitely reacts to my voice."
Edward stared at my stomach for a moment before leaning to kiss it gently.
"Let's get a few things straight here, okay bud? We root for the Yankees, you'll go to college anywhere you want, and Uncle Emmett is always wrong. You stick with those facts, and we'll be good. Got it?"
As if on demand, my stomach flexed as if the baby was acknowledging Edward's instructions.
"See that? He's listening to me already." Edward grasped my hand, and pulled me down into his lap. One arm supporting my shoulders, his free hand resting on my stomach.
"Thank you." His voice was hoarse, and I immediately knew what he was thinking.
"You just needed a little reminder is all. I may too someday."
He studied my face, his hand tracing along my cheek. His non verbal way of telling me he loved me. Always had been, always would be.
I stared at his lips, waiting. A kiss almost always followed the hand on the cheek move. Some things about him were predictable, and I was fine with that.
"It's really hard to kiss you when you bite your lip, Bella."
I threw my head back, laughing. I felt his lips on my neck.
I guess I was predictable too.
And that wasn't a bad thing either.
Original GiftsNew Gifts
1. Strawberry Key Chain1. Jar of Strawberry Banana Baby Food
2. Jasper Bean2. Apple Baby Spoon
3. Crystal Tear Drop3. Wave Baby Brush
4. Lapis Starfish4. Silver Starfish Cufflinks
5. 'E' Charm5. Edward's Baby Cup with EAC Engraving
6. Sterling Floating Heart6. Floating Heart Bookmark on Jasper's Book
7. Jade Circle7. Man in the Moon Baby Rattle