Forgive my horrendously late update, and also, my lack of a Beta. I will be getting back into the swing of using Labeano2002's expertise asap, as long as she'll still have me. Thank you all for your patience, and encouraging reviews. You guys are what keep me writing. I should hope to be updating Essenza Del Lupo next. Can't wait!
Props to The Office-I got my post-baby bliss muse from their episode The Delivery Part 1 and 2.
Hope you guys enjoy this.
The Beatles- Here Comes the Sun (my music muse)
Edward spluttered unintelligibly, pressing his lips to my ashen forehead. I was panting with exertion, the task of shooting a baby out of my vag like it was a t-shirt shot out of a cannon at a sporting event really had me spent of energy. I stared down at the wrinkly pink lump of skin and tiny limbs I cradled in my arms.
Her face was scrunched up like she'd tasted something sour, her mouth stretched into an oval as she screamed, cried, and gurgled. It was bizarre; but nothing could take this moment from me. For some reason, she was actually mine, she belonged to me, made from my own.
I realised, with frightening clarity, that there isn't a day I would have done differently in my past, not if it meant I could hold my daughter in my arms.
"Oh, God..." Edward murmured, his chin resting on my shoulder.
I turned my head slightly to watch him from the corner of my eye.
"...what?" I questioned, surreptitiously counting her fingers and toes, making sure her head wasn't square or she'd sprouted fangs.
"She's beautiful." He answered easily, and I could have sworn his expression was exasperated, his tone implying that our baby's beauty was a burden to him.
"What's so bad about that?"
"Now, I'll have to buy two shotguns," he muttered miserably. "I thought it was bad enough fighting them off of you, now I'll have to lock you both up to keep the admirers at bay." He whined, his head falling into the crook of my neck in genuine resignation.
I rolled my eyes and shook my head.
"She can't help it if she has hot-as-fuck genes," I countered with a smirk, noticing that the female nurses still lingering in the room raised an eyebrow at my language.
By the time they shot my fiancée a look of calculating contemplation; they realised I was right.
"She's so cute!" I crowed.
She'd calmed down now, her eyes squinted shut and her mouth lifted in a scowl as she realised she wouldn't be going back to her warm cocoon inside me. The lease is up, you ain't moving back in.
Her hair was a thick, matted, mop of brown and copper. I could imagine holding her up to the sunlight and finding gilded strands of red and gold in her hair. She got the best of both of us, hopefully she wouldn't receive my perpetual stubbornness, and Edward's constant martyr complex.
"I just want to eat her all up," I hissed with excessive fervor.
It could have been the exhaustion, or it could have been the morphine...
"O-kay, time to get Mommy some food before she scoffs down our child." Edward chuckled.
I tightened my hold on her, though, feeling my body shake with euphoric laughter. A day that couldn't, by anyone's standards, get any better.
"What time is it?" I asked, my words fractured by a rib-crushing yawn.
I was so tired that it made my eyes water. Oh, no, wait, I was just weeping.
"Hmph! I hoped the fucking emotions would be under control the second I dropped the kid from my womb—what the hell?" I sniffled, wiping my eyes on Edward's collar.
"Your shirt's inside out, baby," I commented distantly.
He didn't seem to care at the moment. He sighed contentedly, his arm resting around my own as we held a new life between us, untouchable, uncorrupted, simplicity and complexity in a bundle of impossibility.
I leaned my head against Edward's, revelling in this moment, sad that there wouldn't be another like it, but gloriously satisfied that it happened. This little, sweet, pocket of joy and warmth. She enveloped my heart so fast that I hadn't had time to catch my breath before I was in love with her.
"Uh, no need to fuss!" I murmured apologetically.
I was sitting on the edge of the hospital bed, attending to the little pink lump (we hadn't named her yet) that was lying face-up in her plastic crib. I was frazzled and tired, growing frustrated with myself as I couldn't get her to stop crying.
"Come here, sweetheart." I trilled lightly, doing a 'baby-voice' as I lifted her up.
I patted her diaper, and felt no extra baggage.
"Nothing in the trunk..." I said to myself, sticking my tongue out to her as she whined and carried on in express dissatisfaction.
"Oh, now you're just milking it." I sighed, wondering if she inherited that little gem from me, or her father.
I placed her against my chest, her chin resting on my shoulder as I gently pat her on the back, whilst simultaneously swinging us.
"Do you like that?" I asked in surprise as she calmed down.
"Well, you could have just said so." I frowned, placing her back in her crib and re-swathing her back in a tight cocoon with her soft blanket; pink spaceships.
Edward said they were just ovals, but I beg to differ.
I plucked a few dozen wet-wipes from my nightstand, pausing briefly to sniff the bouquet of lilies next to the lamp. The gift card read a lovely congratulatory note from Edward's co-workers. Carmen had yet to visit me, and I was wondering with silent disappointment if she actually would.
I managed to get most of the vomit off of my shoulder, throwing the wipes in the trash as I clapped my hands together lightly, rubbing them as if preparing to lift weights. I psyched myself out a little, stretching my arms and rolling my head around to crack my neck.
God damn, my muscles were not co-operative today.
"Fuck these hospital cots." I muttered to myself, glaring at the uncomfortable mattress before turning my attention back to the child at hand.
"Alissa?" my fingers curled around the edge of her crib, trying the word out in my mouth to see if it fit.
Unsurprisingly, she stuck her tongue out, her hands covering her face as if she wanted nothing more than to guard herself from such a horrible name.
I pursed my lips speculatively, rummaging around in my brain, dredging around in the sleepless depths of memory where I'd kept my baby-name ideas.
I let my fingers fidget with her hands, poking her adoringly, without actually looking like a disturbed mother with Munchausen's Disease.
She grabbed a hold of my ring finger, tugging it up to her face like she was smelling it.
"Argh! You're strong!" I commended admirably. "You're gonna kick some ass when you're bigger." I grinned down at her.
She seemed to (as impossible as it was) understand my words, if not verbally, then she certainly registered the sentiment in my voice, the strength of love for her that I couldn't fathom, and probably never would, the endless ecstatic vibrancy she reflected inside me.
Her small mouth closed delicately, her legs stretching out and coiling back, kicking against the sides of her plastic prison as her blanket unravelled from her feet. I mustn't have wrapped it tightly enough.
She paused her movements, her eyes opening a slither, before widening slightly.
"Hey there, beautiful." I smiled, laughing at her dumb-founded expression.
A small bubble of content squeaked from her lips, something, I think, that resembled happiness.
"You're much too young to be laughing, missy, but keep doing it!" I bit my lip and stared in amazement.
"Don't grow up, I'm begging you." I sighed, leaning my elbow against the plastic rim and placing my cheek against my fist as I watched her.
She still had my left hand in her power, my ring finger caught in a death grip by her right, pudgy fist.
"How about Carol? Bertha? Shelby? Bobby Jo?" as I looked at her, I swear she was about to puke again.
"I think you're being picky, baby Cullen. Whoah, hey, I just remembered, I'm getting married soon! Feels important, although it should be easy, right?" I beseeched her.
"The Cullens—they like me, it should be alright. I'm still going to wear white, though, damn if I wore some has-been-matronly-three-times-divorced peach wedding gown just because I ain't no holy virgin anymore." I shook my head.
She gurgled a little, her head rolling against the crib's mattress. I fingered the hospital band wrapped around her wrist, 'Baby-Cullen-Swan' printed over the paper inside the sleeve of plastic.
I sighed again, gazing at her. I brushed my fingertips against the downy, baby hair around her head.
"I know Rosalie likes me, Alice loves me; it's bizarre...Alice was my freaking teacher! And now, I'm marrying her brother, who was also my teacher. A situation that I will kill you for, if you get involved in. We don't need this apple falling too close to the tree."
She smacked her lips lightly, drool pooling at the corner of her mouth.
"I know I'm being hypocritical; I just wouldn't want you to go through what I did, despite the sheer worth of the outcome...
"Maybe one day you'll ask me how I met your Daddy. I might tell you the truth. I'll tell you how his position was an obstacle, and probably how we never should have been together. I'll also tell you how impossible that was of happening. I was enamoured with him from the beginning. And, despite his best attempts to deny himself, he was in love with me, too. I'll tell you how real true love is, how insane it makes you; and perhaps you'll meet your second-half, your protector, your equal. They may take care of you, but you will also take care of them. And if it's real, then there is nothing, not time, space, or death can destroy what is always there."
Her eyes opened, as if in understanding; her irises an exact, if not more beautiful replica of her father's eyes.
A glistening green, shot through with flecks of illuminating gold and hazel.
A life shined in them; precarious, fragile, but with the strong thumping heart of a determined soul. I couldn't say what was in her path, what a long one I hoped it to be; I could only promise she'd have Edward and I with her, watching, from our respective posts as she traversed this life, beginning the way we all have.
I've read a lot of books. I'm an English teacher/professor/extraordinaire. It comes with the territory. I've read fiction, and non-fiction, poetry, religion, crime, fantasy, self-help, Pyschology, traditional literature... I couldn't count how many times a character, or real-life protagonist has dealt with the very real issue of children, and child-birth.
I never thought I would have children, or even entertain the thought of a long-term relationship, let alone a child with my ex-student. The peculiar thing is, I never, honestly, saw Isabella Swan as one of my students, as a pupil, or as a child. Of course, none of them are children, they're adults in a child's institution. And, I, by law, had to treat them so.
Stupidly, and almost career-destructively, I pursued Bella, against all better judgement. I had almost made the unconscious decision to court her, before she hardly made it necessary.
"I hate you!"
"Why?" she shrieked, eyes hollow with disbelief, and a shaking indignation.
"For making me love you so much!"
...but it was all simple, yet frighteningly complicated from there. An everyday contradiction embellished by words of kind devotion and unions of vivid passion, whilst being prodded and pushed to extremes by the cruel, disguised manipulation of others.
I had a pile of quarters in my palm, carrying them to the vending machine in the waiting room outside the maternity ward. The walls were pink and feminine, the nurses at their stations were all wearing pink scrubs. It was kind of blinding, but familiar and comforting, I guess. If it looked like any other part of the hospital, I suppose the only thing a woman in labour would be reminded of is death, and illness, and disease. Not a pleasant environment at all.
I pictured Bella's hand around mine, squeezing harder than I thought possible, the stress and adrenaline pumping through her was increasing her strength. She probably felt as if she was getting nowhere, but she was definitely amazing.
I had made plenty of trips to the ice-machine. If Bella was half-lucid before labour, I'd just swipe them over her forehead and she'd hum in relief. I downed the rest, shaking from head to toe, terrified and excited as any expectant father may be. I was dreading anything going wrong, but so incredibly anxious to see her finally, to hold her, to hold them both, that I was giddy, and only slightly crazy.
Bella was crazy! She had acted so calm and collected when she woke up with blood on our sheets. Which, reminded me, I had to clean them...
I was so insane with worry, so used to any abnormal sign being a bad one.
But when our baby girl appeared, there was nothing else. I have a daughter.
"I have a daughter," I mused, enthusiastically, to myself.
I shook my head, unable to wipe the huge grin off of my face. It was making my cheeks ache, but it was impossible to get rid of. I tried to think of something that could make me feel differently, and I couldn't.
She had my eyes!
Mine! They were all mine.
I approached the machine, lining up behind one man who must have been in the same shoes as me.
He was pushing a button for lemonade, the machine groaned in protest, the light behind the large plastic sign flickering before turning off completely. It swallowed his money and he just stared at it, outraged.
"Damn it," he whispered to himself, unaware of my presence.
"Fuck," he added, a helpless lilt to his tone. "Damn, fuck... Damn it!" he shouted, pounding his fists against the machine.
"Whoah," I coaxed lightly, putting my hands out towards him. "Hey, buddy, shh...here, have my quarters," I offered.
He turned around, pink-faced and horribly fatigued.
"Why me?" he asked, although I deduced he must not have been talking about my strange charity.
He was dressed in what must have originally been a suit, his tie loose around the neck, his sleeves rolled up to his elbows and appropriately dishevelled.
He registered my flushed face, my glistening bright eyes and a forlorn smile appeared on his face.
"You a new Dad?" he asked softly, resigned.
I took his hand and dropped my change in it.
"Yeah," I smiled. "Just this morning."
He glanced at the wall behind my head where the clock hung: eleven twenty-three a.m.
He looked down at the money I'd just dropped in his palm and he grew even redder, his ears turning scarlet with emotion that I didn't know how to react, so I just stood there, awkwardly, as this stranger started sobbing over a pile of coins.
"Hey, man," I murmured gently, albeit cautiously before I laid a hand on his shoulder.
He sniffled, not even trying to mask his internal destruction. I lead him over to the seats lined up against the wall and forced him down into one, taking a seat in the next one over.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Garret," he muttered, wiping the back of his hand under his runny nose.
He ran his fingertips through his black hair, scruffy, short, but probably usually gelled and kempt.
"Do you need me to call someone for you, Garret?" I offered politely, not sure what to do in this situation, besides being overly nice.
"No, I-I'm here with my wife." He explained, shaking his head and leaning his forearms against his knees. "She's uh, she..." his face screwed up in desperation, a fierce grief.
"Hey, it's okay." I attempt to console, despite my lack of knowledge for the man.
"She's in recovery right now; but our baby didn't...he...he...we found out he's sick, he has Down Syndrome..." sobs racked through him, so raw and so guttural, that it made my stomach churn uneasily.
"And I can't even pay for soda." He added dismally, the small mundane problem usually wouldn't be something to worry about, but in Garret's situation, probably amplified his helplessness.
But, I had no idea how to comfort him, having no idea what he was feeling, what he was going through.
"Listen, Garret. I have no idea what you're going through, I can only offer advice that you probably don't even want to hear..."
He remained silent.
"Don't give up." I murmured, lacing my fingers together between my knees.
He nodded, wiping at his blotchy face to remove any trace of tears.
"I love her, I love Shannon, I do." He promised, as if reassuring me of this fact was vital.
"Then you already know what to do." I told him.
He let out a deep, shaky breath and mumbled, "Yeah."
I gave him another pat on the back and stood up, planning to take the car out for a few minutes so I could buy some food, and call Charlie, and Renee.
"Hey, wait!" Garret protested, his hand grasping my elbow.
"What's your name?"
"Was it worth it, Edward? Would you think it's worth it? All of this stress, and pain, do you get anywhere, in the end, is it worth it?" he asked, his eyes pleading for the answer to which he thought I spoke gospel.
Perhaps I did, because I told him what I thought, and I knew it to be true.
"It was worth it. It is worth it. You fell apart in front of a stranger, and all you needed to hear was 'don't give up', and you agreed. Simple words, my friend, they made you feel better because you already knew them. You already know it's worth it. In my personal opinion, however, I can't wait to take my baby and her mother home."
"What if she was sick? Like my son?" he asked glumly.
"Then I'd be even more determined to make it work."
His head bowed and he let go of me. I walked away, feeling bad for the guy, and how lucky I've been treated.
His turmoil lowered my mood as I left the hospital quickly to run some errands, anxious to be back with Bella and our daughter again.
Charlie was exultant, and swift to make plans to fly down, as was Renee.
I assured them, they'd both be welcome to stay with us in our apartment until Bella and the baby were settled back in.
I bought a huge bunch of carnations and freesias for Bella. I went a little crazy when I drove past a baby boutique, spending a little over half an hour (the longest I've dedicated myself to shopping) rummaging through a dozen racks of pink, purple, yellow, white and green Onesies.
I also snatched some balloons and set back to the hospital, sprinting back to Bella's room before she got worried about where I had gotten to. I'd also picked up some coffee along the way, so my arms were completely full.
I was still feeling awful for Garret, who wasn't in the waiting room when I walked by. I smiled sadly at the plethora of goodies I'd splurged on for my new family, wondering what Garret and Shannon were celebrating.
I walked in as Bella finished feeding the baby, buttoning her gown back up as she sat up in bed, propped up by pillows.
"Hey! Where have you been?" she immediately demanded, although cheerfully.
I stared at her, and my sadness for a stranger's tragedy was gone. I had something beautiful, and I was so grateful that they were both safe and healthy.
"I bought you these," I grinned, placing her flowers on the table and depositing the coffee right next to it.
"Oh my God, I love you." She ignored the flowers and went straight for the coffee. "I love you, honey."
She re-thought her actions, before she offered the baby to me.
"She needs to be burped, sweetie, how about you do the honours?"
My eyes must have lit up with a thousand watts, because she grinned and gently, she handed her over to me before she attacked the coffee cup, moaning into it.
I grasped her gently, her small body so unfathomable, so tiny, so warm and so part of me. I lifted her so her face was above my shoulder.
"Here, take the puke towel," Bella held it out to me and I placed it under her chin.
I began patting her back while Bella 'ooh'd' and 'aah'd' over the baby clothes I'd picked out for her. A small hiccup issued from her mouth and she was spent. As I swayed her gently, she fell asleep on my shoulder.
I must have been on a twenty-four hour adrenaline high and was now swiftly crashing into exhaustion. I guess I realised then, that I hadn't slept since bringing Bella in last night.
I yawned then, and Bella put her coffee down, beckoning me over. She shifted aside and held her arms open for our baby girl as I lay down on my side next to her, my feet almost dangling off the end.
I cuddled them both close to me, lavishing in the feeling of 'home'.
"How about we call her...Eliza? Eliza Marie Cullen. Marie for your grandmother." I mumbled into Bella's hair.
We both looked down at our girl, her mouth stretched comically as she lay unaware in our arms.
"It's no Bethany Rae, but I guess it is pretty enough." She joked.
"I think it's beautiful."
She turned her head sleepily towards me as my eyes half-closed, kissing me.