"I have a surprise for you."
Bella looked up from the paperwork spread out all over the kitchen table. The computers at the office had gone out and she had to figure out the men's schedules for the next week manually.
Why can't they just use their Iphones?
Esme stood in front of her with the Sunday paper. She bounced a little on her heels and smiled brightly. Bella smirked at her excitement.
Without another pause, Esme dropped the paper in front of her and pointed to an ad in the middle of the page.
"I used to live in these apartments before I met Carlisle. I was able to afford them with my parent's life insurance payments and I just loved them. I made us an appointment to go see them today."
"That desperate to get me out of here, huh?"
Esme swatted an arm at her.
"I just don't want Carlisle and I to smother you," she said. "We already spend so much time with you. I can't imagine how much I will hover over you once you're pregnant."
"You could never smother me," Bella said.
In fact, over the last month, Esme had become one of her best friends. She loved living in their home, and she had gotten used to seeing the Cullens every morning and evening.
"It's going to be awfully lonely living on my own again," she said.
"Oh, Bella," Esme said, laying a little hand on top of hers, "it's not like you won't be over here every night anyway."
Bella had to smile at that. She loved listening to Carlisle's stories about the hotels and Esme's gossip about the women that worked at her events and charities. She could sit and listen to the two of them bicker and laugh and just talk for hours.
Plus, she loved the food.
"Okay," she said, "lemme see."
Esme smiled and slid the paper towards her.
Bella looked closer at the ad. It had several pictures of beautiful looking rooms and floor plans along with a phone number and giant "now leasing" banner across the top. She recognized the name of the place immediately. It was one of the apartments she had always loved but never dreamed of affording.
A quick rush ran through her when she thought of the twenty thousand dollars that had been deposited in her account the previous day.
"I can't wait to see them," she said, scooting away from the paper without touching it. "What time do we go?"
Bella stood in the foyer, yes, foyer, of what would be her apartment in just one short month.
Four weeks, and she would be living in a place she had only dreamed of living.
Esme chuckled behind her, no doubt seeing the look on her face.
"Sorry," Bella said with a look in Esme's direction. "I'm just in awe."
The apartment was two bedrooms and two bathrooms of pure beauty. Wood floors. Real wood floors, marble countertops, central heat and air, and walls that actually blocked out the sounds of her neighbors all graced the apartment.
The place was decorated beautifully right now, and Bella knew her crappy furniture currently taking up Edward's garage would put the place to shame. She'd have to do some bargain hunting to find new décor.
She told Esme as much on the way back to their house.
"I don't even own a queen sized mattress, Esme!" She exclaimed, thinking of the full sized bed she had used since she graduated high school.
"How did you ever have someone over without a queen sized bed?" Esme asked with humor and mischief in her eyes.
"Oh, I made it work," Bella joked, hoping to cover the fact that only one man had ever shared that bed with her. The same man that would now rather sleep on his couch than wake her up if she dozed off on his bed.
"Well, we just can't have that in your new place. You'll have to buy new furniture while we're in San Francisco next week," Esme said.
Bella grinned at how casually Esme had mentioned their trip to San Fran. She was trying so hard to play it cool.
"I'm so excited," Bella said, hoping to let Esme know she didn't have to taper down her own excitement.
"Are you nervous about it at all?" Esme asked, turning down the winding road that led to their home.
"Not really," Bella said. "I mean, the actual procedure freaks me out a little bit, but I'm sure the Xanax they will give me will help."
Esme laughed. "It's pretty good stuff," she agreed.
Bella smirked and arched her neck to look at the trees they whizzed past. She always loved looking at them as they drove the last stretch to the Cullen home.
"I'm going to miss this drive," she said, already feeling a little sad at the prospect of leaving the place she had lived for the last month.
"Well that's the nice thing about roads, dear," Esme said, finally pulling up to their driveway. "They'll always be there when you need them. And so will we."
The paper crinkled under her legs and Bella felt the bottom of her thighs start to sweat with her nerves. The soft robe she had been given fell slightly open at the top and she pulled the collar tightly around herself.
A knock came on the door and she jumped a little in surprise before telling whomever was knocking to come in.
Her gynecologist, Dr. Leah Black, peaked her head through the door and smiled brightly at Bella.
"So I hear you want to get pregnant!" she said.
After the physical exam was over and Bella was safely back in her clothes, she was escorted to Dr. Black's office. She sat in front of her desk, surrounded by different models and pictures that made her various levels of uncomfortable before the doctor came in to the room again.
"Let's talk hormones," she said, sitting in the chair next to Bella instead of across the desk from her.
"They're going to suck," Dr. Black said bluntly. "You'll be moody, nauseous and crampy, you may spot, and you may gain a little weight. But it will be over soon, and it's very important you take your injections at the same time every day. We need to prep your uterus to be primed and ready for an egg at the same time that we need to tell your ovaries not to be making any. It's going to be a little confusing for your body until you actually have a baby in there."
Bella nodded, wishing she had taken Esme up on her offer to come with her to the appointment. Dr. Black stood from the chair and walked to a cabinet on the other side of the room. She unlocked a door and pulled out a box the size of Bella's body and returned to her.
Bella watched in equal parts horror and fascination as Dr. Black opened the box and pulled item after item out.
Eventually, when all the needles and syringes and biohazard sharps containers were out on the desk, Dr. Black started talking about each item.
"It's important you take the hormones at the same time every day because the doses you get will only last about 24 hours at a time. While it's important you get your shots every day before implantation, it's especially important you maintain them after implantation. Usually, the ovary maintains a pregnancy for the first six weeks until the fetus produces enough beta HcG to keep the body from menstruating."
Bella kind of zoned out after that. Her attention was only regained when Dr. Black started talking about the actual process of her shots.
She watched carefully as Dr. Black put a needle on a syringe and stuck it in to the small bottle of whatever hormone Bella was going to be putting in to her body. Dr. Black was good about showing her exactly how much she wanted to pull in to the syringe, and how to avoid getting air bubbles in the dose. Then came the part Bella had been dreading for a week. Dr. Black showed her how to clean the back of her hip with an alcohol wipe and how to pinch her body before she stuck the needle in.
Bella was shocked when, instead of demonstrating that part, Dr. Black handed her the needle. All the blood drained from her face when she realized she was expected to inject herself right now.
Dr. Black smiled at her as Bella tried to regain her composure.
"Don't worry, Bella, I'll walk you through every second of it."
Ten seconds later, the needle was out of her skin and in the sharps container. It had pinched, but it wasn't as bad as she had expected. A triumphant smile crossed her face as she earned Dr. Black's approval and packed up her new goodie box.
Goodie box hidden in her trunk, Bella drove to the law office to start her Monday. She was an hour late, but she had told Arthur she had a doctor's appointment and he was more than happy to let her come in at nine.
He was even nicer when Bella told him why she had to see the doctor. Her threw an arm over her shoulder and bragged about what a good deed she was doing. Then he mentioned that maybe she not tell his sons until it was absolutely necessary.
She laughed about that for a few moments and agreed with him.
The soft ping of the security system sounded when she opened the door to office. She had barely taken two steps towards her desk when Alex's head popped out of his office.
"Bella! There you are," he said. He left his office and met Bella at her desk. She looked up at him from her seat while his eyebrows furrowed.
"Did something happen?"
"Oh, no! I told Arthur last week that I wouldn't be here till nine today. Should I have told everyone?"
Alex pulled slightly away from the desk and Bella wondered if she had said something wrong.
"No, it's sufficient to tell Arthur. I just didn't know where you were. It worried me a little."
Bella smiled at his concern. He really was a sweet guy.
"Sorry I didn't tell you, Alex. I had a doctor's appointment this morning. I guess it kind of psyched me out because I didn't really want to talk about it."
"Why would you be psyched out? Is something wrong?"
Bella shot him a questioning glance, but he truly looked clueless. Did he not realize a woman planning to get pregnant would likely visit a gynecologist?
"No, Alex," she said in a tone an octave higher than she wanted. He recoiled slightly at her pitch and she lowered her voice to a near whisper. "I went to get my pre-implant prep stuff," she said. Alex looked at her warily but leaned in closer to hear her.
"I had to see a, ya know, lady doctor. She had to teach me how to give myself the hormone injections and make sure I could carry a baby and all that stuff."
Alex got it, finally. He turned bright pink and pulled away from the table as if it was burning him. Bella bit her lip to stop herself from laughing.
"I, um, I'm sorry I intruded. Yeah. So," Alex brought a hand up to the back of his neck and started rubbing, at a loss for words.
"Alex, it's fine."
He looked to her and Bella waited for him to calm down. Eventually the pink drained from his face and his shoulders relaxed.
"Okay," he said. "Good. That's good."
He went silent, and then he stood there without looking at her. Bella bobbed her head to a silent tune in the awkwardness.
"Well," Bella finally said, unable to handle another minute of the silence. "I'm going to get to work. I emailed everyone their schedules yesterday so they should all be set, but I've got messages to check."
"Oh, of course. I should probably get back to it, too. See you later, Bella."
He walked off and Bella shook her head to fight off any laughing he might hear.
What was it about pregnancy that made men so awkward?
A few hours later, Alex emerged from his office to ask if lunch had arrived.
"It got here a few minutes ago," Bella said, tilting her head in the direction of the break room. "Hope you like Italian."
"I do," Alex said, walking towards Bella's desk instead of to the food he had asked about.
He reached her desk and drummed his fingers on the surface. "Sorry about this morning," he said. "I'm all kinds of awkward."
Bella broke in to laughter.
"You're not awkward, Alex. Gynecology appointments are awkward."
He nodded furiously in agreement. Bella let out one last chuckle and turned back to her computer to complete the mountain of work that had amassed over the weekend.
His clearing throat caught her attention and she turned to face him again.
"Do you want to grab a bite with me?"
"Oh," Bella said, looking back to the computer that was currently holding a time sensitive email. "I'm kind of swamped right now. I was just going to eat at my desk."
"I actually meant for dinner," Alex said in a rush. "At a restaurant that doesn't deliver." He flashed her a nervous smile.
He was asking her on a date.
"Okay," Bella said, showing a reassuring smile of her own. "That sounds like fun."
She rolled her eyes. "Of course. Just let me know when and where, and I'll be there."
"Sounds great," Bella said, actually a little relieved. She was leaving for San Francisco on Sunday, and would be out of the office until Wednesday. That meant if things were awkward, she wouldn't have to see Alex until a few days had passed and things had died down.
"Okay, perfect. I'll see you then." He smiled brightly before his face furrowed a little bit. "Well, I'll see you before then. But also on Friday."
Bella broke out in to laughter. "I get it, Alex."
"Okay, good. See you soon." He patted her desk top one more time before taking off to grab some lunch.
Bella looked around breifly and pulled out her phone to send a quick text.
You were right. He asked me on a date.
Esme's response was immediate.
Told you so. ;)
Bella threw the phone back in to her purse and returned her attention to her emails.
"Are you sure you don't want to wear that dress of mine?"
Esme stood with her shoulder propped on Bella's doorway. Bella stood in front of her mirror and glanced over the dark magenta top and black skinny jeans one more time.
"Yeah, I'm sure," she said. "But thank you." The dress was beautiful, but it was a little more dressy than she wanted to get for a first date.
"Of course," Esme said. "You need to be home by nine," she said with a smirk.
"Oh, I have a curfew now?" Bella flashed her a smirk with her sarcastic comment.
"Not a curfew. The newest episode of Grey's Anatomy is on and you know Carlisle won't watch it with me."
"How could I forget? Of course I'll be back."
Alex picked her up at six on the dot. Bella was still in her room when her phone buzzed with a text saying he was out front. She grabbed her purse and was running out when she remembered her shot.
She sent Alex a text saying she'd be out in just a moment and tracked Esme down to give her the hormones. Since her appointment with Dr. Black, Bella still hadn't been able to inject herself.
Esme laughed at her but took care of the injection quickly.
"You know, pumping your body full of progesterone right before a date probably isn't a good idea, Bella," she said.
"Too late now," Bella said with a smile. She hugged her and promised to be back by nine.
Alex took them to a little café style place just outside of the Chicago city limits. It was a good drive from Rosemont, but they had talked the entire drive without any awkward pregnancy talk coming up.
Bella grew a little nervous when she saw how packed the place looked, but the hostess recognized Alex as soon as they walked in and escorted them to a table towards the back.
Alex thanked her by name, even though Bella was pretty sure she had never said it.
"Okay, mystery man. How are you connected to this restaurant?"
Alex shifted a little in his seat and Bella couldn't help but think he looked a little uncomfortable.
"Did you know I'm adopted?" he asked.
"No, I didn't," Bella said, wondering how that related to her question.
"My parents tried for years to have a baby, but it just wasn't happening. They adopted me and three months later, got pregnant."
Bella nodded, unsure of what to say.
"I know they loved me, in their own way, but Peter was their genetic son. He was theirs in a way I never would be. They never tried to hide that."
"Oh, Alex, I'm so sorry."
"It's fine, Bella. I've had years to come to terms with it. They supported me in ways other people couldn't have. They bought me a car, paid for my college and helped with law school. I just didn't have the support in the way I really craved it, you know? Anytime Peter had a football game, they were there with signs and cameras and were the loudest people in the stands, but they were too busy to even come to my high school graduation to see my valedictorian speech. It's just the way things were. Peter was really theirs, and I never could be."
Bella frowned and looked to her plate.
"My mom had a sister named Kate. She picked me up from school every day and let me spend nights at her house and would cook me huge breakfasts and help me on my homework. She never married or had children, but she treated me like her own. She loved me like every child wants to be loved. She used to own this restaurant," he said, gesturing to the building surrounding them.
"We'd come here every day after school and she'd let me taste test things from the menu. She'd cook up whatever I asked for and let me play in her office or in the kitchen. Then she was diagnosed with breast cancer."
"Oh, no," Bella said softly, and she watched Alex look up to the ceiling like he was trying to prevent himself from crying.
"She tried to keep the restaurant running, but she was in a late stage and the chemo really wore her out. She had always wanted me to take over the place, but I was only sixteen at the time. She sold it to a young couple that had wanted to open a restaurant together for a long time. She always hoped she could come back and still run the menu once she got better. But she didn't get better."
Bella found herself fighting back her own tears. This was the saddest date she had ever been on. The hormones weren't helping, either.
"Anyway," Alex said, straightening his shoulders and lightening the mood a little, "that's why they know me. Most of the people that work here knew Aunt Kate."
"I'm so sorry for your loss, Alex."
Alex smiled at her and then broke in to light laughter.
"I sure know how to start a date off right, don't I?"
Bella laughed and shook her head. "I think you're doing fine."
A waiter appeared then and took their drink and food orders. Bella hadn't even looked at the menu, but Alex ordered for her with a grin.
"So when do you leave for San Francisco?"
Ahh, there's the pregnancy talk.
"Not until Sunday afternoon. You still have time to bolt."
"I don't want to bolt, Bella," Alex said with a teasing tone. "I was just curious."
"I'm going to get fat, you know."
"Yeah, but only for a few months. It won't last long."
"That's true," Bella said, running her finger along the rim of her glass. "It won't last long."
"What happens after you have the baby?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, are you allowed to see it? Or do Esme and Carlisle just pick it up at the hospital and leave? Are they allowed to keep in contact with you afterwards?"
Bella recoiled slightly. "They're my friends," she said in a slightly defensive tone. "Of course they'll keep in contact with me."
"Oh, I didn't realize you were that close with them," he said.
She laughed. "I live with them!"
"I know," he said, "I just thought that was because they wanted you nearby or something."
"Oh," Bella said, "no, I just have a bit of layover between apartments, so they told me I could stay there until my new apartment is ready."
"Yeah," Bella said, "at the end of the month."
"Well let me know if you need any help," he said, and Bella smiled at his genuine offer.
Their food arrived and they fell in to silence as they began to eat. Alex had ordered her some kind of chicken breast on top of a salad and she liked it well enough, though his tilapia looked pretty delicious.
As the evening continued on, they talked about everything. Alex told her about his absolute fear of roller coasters and Bella laughed before admitting she was terrified of clowns. They compared grad school horror stories and complained about trying to find a job in the current economy. They joked about the men they worked with, mainly Robert, who had started dating a woman he actually liked and was trying desperately to behave himself, much to Ronald's dismay.
Bella talked about her parents and her sister, and Alex occasionally mentioned his brother or his mother, Tanya. He didn't speak about his father at all. Bella didn't push.
By the time they left the restaurant, it was already eight fifteen, and Bella would barely be home in time to watch Grey's Anatomy with Esme.
The drive home was much the same as the rest of the evening. It was filled with fun chatter about Bella's new apartment and the woes of furniture shopping.
"Well, really, Bella, if you need any help moving, let me know. You'll be pregnant and useless."
Bella gasped and he threw her a wink and broke in to laughter.
"I won't be useless," she protested. Alex laughed harder.
"I know," he said eventually. "I'm only teasing you."
Bella smiled at his relative ease with her compared to earlier in the evening. They pulled in to the driveway of the Cullen's home, where she saw Edward's car.
Her eyebrows furrowed and she wondered why he was there. Had they scheduled something that she had forgotten?
Alex got out of the car and opened her door before she regained her focus.
He walked her to the door and stopped on the doorstop.
"I had fun, Bella," he said. He looked to his feet and bounced a little on his heels.
"Do you, uh, want to come in for a minute? Say hi to Esme and Carlisle?" And Edward, apparently?
"Oh, sure," he said. She unlocked the door and they wandered in to the foyer.
Loud laughter echoed from the kitchen and Bella followed the sound.
Esme, Carlisle, and Edward were all sitting around the large island with a bottle of white wine between the three of them. Esme's cheeks were flushed just a little pink and Bella had to fight back giggles.
"You're home," Esme said, rushing forward and engulfing Bella in a hug. Bella smiled and hugged her in return.
"Hey, Bee," Edward said, next in line to give her a hug.
"What are you doing here," she asked with a happy tone.
"I was afraid you weren't going to get home in time," Esme said from next to him. "So I called him and made him come over."
Bella gasped in mock horror. "You were going to watch it without me?"
Esme bit her lip and tried her best to look guilty, but Bella wasn't buying it.
"Well, Alex just wanted to say hi to everyone," she said, gesturing to the man that was still standing behind her.
The group all shouted out various hellos and offered hugs and handshakes before Alex leaned in to Bella's ear and told her he better get going.
"Oh, are you sure you don't want to worry about the fate of Meredith Grey?"
Alex laughed and nodded. "I'm sure."
"Well, let me walk you out," she said, and they headed back towards the foyer.
When the front door shut behind them and Alex halted, Bella found herself growing a little nervous. A hand came to the back of his neck and he looked at her with a little bit of a worried glance.
Bella grew even more anxious.
"He's just a friend, right?"
"Who, Carlisle? Of course!"
"No," Alex said, looking down. "Edward."
Bella recoiled a little. "Edward? Of course. We dated in college, and it didn't work. We're just friends."
"Okay," he said. "That's good."
Before Bella could say anything more, Alex's lips were on hers. They were gentle and warm and gone before she could fully realize what was happening.
"I'll see you Thursday," Alex said, offering her a little parting wave before climbing in to his car and driving off.
Bella made her way back in to the house with her fingers running over her lips. It had been a long time since she had been kissed. She forgot the way her lips tingled afterward, and she liked that the feeling lingered on them.
Esme appeared next to her and bumped her shoulder.
"How was it?"
"Pretty good," she said, lowering her hand from her mouth.
"He kissed you?"
Bella nodded and felt herself break in to a grin.
They made their way in to the living room where Edward and Carlisle were sitting. Esme sat down next to her husband and Edward patted the space next to him.
Bella plopped down and curled up in to his side.
"Since when do you watch television medical dramas?" she teased.
"Since I don't get to see you ever," he said, "and since Esme offered to let us make it a drinking game."
Bella laughed and grabbed Edward's wine glass off the coffee table in front of them as the beginning tunes of the intro began. She stole a sip, but Edward didn't protest.
"Have at it," he said. "Come Tuesday you don't get to have wine for nine months."
She frowned a little.
"I am going to miss that."
He chucked the same low laugh Bella loved and pulled her a little tighter in to his side. She wiggled up against him and turned her attention to the TV.
He lowered his mouth to her ear.
"You have to drink anytime someone says 'love,' or 'code,' or anytime someone cries," he said.
"We're gonna need more wine."
He laughed in agreement.
Sunday morning came, as did the nerves. Alice showed up to the house an hour before they left for the airport and checked her suitcase to make sure Bella had packed appropriately. Rosalie had offered to go with her, but Bella knew she had an important appointment with the venue coming up, so Alice was going with her instead.
Angela, now fifteen weeks pregnant, called to wish her luck and offered to meet with Bella when she got back to give her a few tips. She readily agreed.
They got to the airport and made it through security with little fan fair. Carlisle and Esme sat in the row in front of Bella and Alice sat next to her.
It was the first time she had ever ridden in first class.
Alice, who was as scared of flying as Bella was, held tightly to her hand as they took off.
Six hours later, they landed in San Francisco and Bella wrapped a hand around her flat stomach the entire ride to the hotel.
Tuesday morning, Esme cried, Carlisle smiled, and Bella took calming breaths as she mentally prepared to carry a baby that she already loved a little more than she should.
AN: Hope you all enjoyed it. Make sure to check out my new story, Private, I! And follow me on twitter at TayBeeTwi for teasers :)