Bella was barely a year older than her sister, but despite their close age, the two were polar opposites. While Bella had always loved science, Rosalie loved public relations. Bella always avoided the spotlight; Rose was a cheerleader in college and thrived as the center of attention. Bella was a dog person; Rose preferred cats.
Even their look was different. Where Bella was shorter and was a lighter brunette, Rosalie had gotten their father's height and their mother's beach blonde hair. Bella had been the child with the big brains, and Rosalie had always been strikingly beautiful.
They grew close after their parents divorced, and even closer once they rented an apartment together during college. For their college years they were inseparable, but then Bella graduated and had to leave the college apartments. Rosalie found a house a year later, but Bella didn't join her. She knew the only person Rosalie wanted living with her was fiancé, Emmett.
"Didn't want to go stay with dad?" Rose joked, hauling Bella's bathroom duffel in to her house.
Bella laughed and followed her, "I feel like he wouldn't respond to any more two AM texts well."
Rosalie laughed, obviously remembering their drunken nights in college when they would call and text their poor father.
Rose dropped the bag on to her guest bed with a thud. Bella frowned at the site of her dirty bag taking up Rose's beautiful white comforter. She idly wondered how much the thing had cost. Rose had been hired as soon as she graduated as a PR rep for their university. She loved her job and it provided her with a comfortable life style. Bella was so proud of her baby sister.
"So tell me more about surrogacy. This baby won't biologically be yours, right?"
"Right. Esme's ovaries are fine. She said that she just has some condition with her uterus. She wasn't specific about it, but she can get pregnant, she just can't carry a baby to term. So they'll pull eggs from Esme, sperm from Carlisle, and then implant the embryo into me. I'll just carry it around for nine months. I'm going for implantation in November and if all goes well I'll give birth some time in August."
"Wow! And you just decided this today?"
Bella smiled and sank down on to her new bed.
"They're amazing, Rose. I mean, when I saw the ad I thought it was a great gig but then I met them and just knew I had to do it. I told them tonight that I was in."
"That's fantastic, Bella. I just can't believe it. Who would have thought you'd sign up to be a surrogate?"
Bella sighed. "It wasn't exactly my plan in life, you know? I figured I'd meet Prince Charming in college, get married right after, and be pregnant with a baby of my own by now. I guess this is the next best thing, right? I still get to be pregnant with my friends, and I finally have a paying job."
"Oh, Bella," Rosalie said, scooting closer to her sister on the comforter and throwing an arm around her. "I didn't realize you were still so obsessed with that timeline we made."
Bella sighed, remembering the "plans" she used to draw with Rose when they were little. Job by 23, married by 24, baby by 27, and so on. She was 27 now and had met none of her checkpoints.
"I'm not obsessed with it," she denied, "I just wish I had been able to keep up with all of you guys. But that's not even what this is about anymore. You have to meet Esme, Rose, you'll immediately see why she deserves a baby."
"Well, I'm glad you're sure about it. This isn't a job to jump in to."
Bella nodded her agreement.
"Speaking of timelines, Emmett and I set a date, finally. May 12th."
"Wow! You've got a lot of planning to do before then," Bella commented.
"Oh, please," Rosalie said, then laughed at herself. "What do you think I've been doing as an engaged woman the last year and a half? All I need to do is book a venue and send out invitations. Everything else is done." Her eyes drifted off for a moment. "Of course, you will be pregnant by then, so I'll need to get your maid of honor dress altered again."
The words stung, just a little bit. Bella was the older sister. She had always imagined she would be the matron of honor at her baby sister's wedding. Being a maid of honor instead reminded her again of the timeline.
"I'll be six months along then. How much will I be showing?"
Rosalie shrugged her shoulders and patted Bella's duffle bag.
"I don't know. We'll talk to the alterations lady as soon as we know you're really pregnant. That lady is a magician with fabric."
Bella smiled at her. "Okay, sister. It's late. Go to bed and I'll see you in the morning. I love you."
"Love you too, Bee. Goodnight." Rosalie yanked the duffel bag off the mattress and pulled the comforter down before giving Bella a hug and leaving her alone.
Bella let out a soft sigh and slipped into bed, already dressed in the pajamas she had put on hours earlier.
Bella stood behind her sister at the front of a large, packed auditorium. Rosalie wore a beautiful white gown, but her back was turned to Bella. She tried to look over Rosalie's shoulder to see what was occurring in front of her, but she wasn't tall enough, even on her tiptoes.
Out of slight frustration, Bella tapped on Rosalie's back, eager to see what her sister was looking at. Rosalie turned around with a vibrant smile, but it faded when she made eye contact with her.
"Oh, will someone please help Bella to a seat?" Rosalie asked, looking to the women Bella hadn't noticed standing behind her. Someone reached for her and pulled her off the steps. She sat her down in the front row.
From her new seat, Bella could see everything. She could see Emmett, standing across from her sister and wearing a dashing black tux. Edward stood behind him dressed similarly. God, he was still so handsome.
It dawned on her in a single moment of clarity. She was at her sister's wedding.
Bella wondered why she was told to sit down. She looked side to side and noticed nothing out of the ordinary. However, when she saw her ankles, she gasped. The skin covering them was wrinkled and spotted. She moved her hands to her lap and inspected them as well. They were shriveled up and clearly belonged to an eighty-year-old woman. She looked around, desperate to see her face in any reflective surface.
Then the pain came. Her left arm ached horribly and her neck and jaw soon followed. Her breath cut short and her heart began to beat more rapidly than she knew it could. Without her will, her lungs let out a scream of dying breath before stopping completely. She fell over on the chair next to her just as Rosalie said, "I do."
A sharp noise sent Bella flying up from her sheets. She had died of a heart attack. At her sister's wedding. How morbidly ironic.
The nightmares were getting worse. She sighed and moved her legs back and forth under her sister's blankets. The sheets felt as smooth as water on her skin.
She jumped up in surprise as the shrill sound of her cell phone ringing again scared the daylights out of her. She recovered herself and found it stuffed under one of the several pillows left on the bed. She answered without looking at her caller ID.
"Hello," she said, trying not to sound out of breath. Her heart was still racing from the combination of her nightmare and her angry sounding ringtone.
"Is this Bella?" She didn't recognize the voice immediately. She sat up a little straighter in bed, as if whomever she was talking to could see her.
"This is she."
"Bella, this is Alex, from Jefferson and Son's Attorneys."
Her nose wrinkled as she wondered why on earth Alex would be calling her. She had interviewed at their office nearly three weeks ago. She obviously hadn't gotten the job.
"Good morning, Alex. How are you today?"
"I'm doing very well, Bella, and how are you?" Bella bit her lip at the word "well." It seemed like such a formal way to describe your state of being, but she liked the way Alex had said it.
"I'm doing alright. What can I help you with?"
"Well, actually," Alex said, pausing for a moment. "Arthur hired a new secretary right after you interviewed, but only because he was a friend of the boys. It obviously didn't work out. It's honestly a miracle he lasted as long as he did. With the boy's pick out of the way, Arthur gets to make his choice for secretary. That choice would be you. Are you still interested in the position?"
Bella let out a little scream of victory. "Yes! Yes, I can even start tomorrow, if you want. What time should I come in? And what do I wear?"
She bit her tongue, stopping her rambling. You just got hired, damn it. Don't ruin this.
Alex chuckled at her. She hoped that was a good sign.
"If you can start tomorrow that would be wonderful. We open at eight, so you should get here a little before then. Once you're trained, you'll be the one opening the office in the morning and setting it up for the day. The blue blouse you wore to your interview was perfect. Something like that should be fine on a day to day basis."
Bella felt her cheeks heat. He remembered what she wore, and she was slightly flattered.
Alex cleared his throat before speaking again. "And, uh, Bella? This isn't exactly appropriate of me to say, but I might warn you to keep it conservative. The slightest hint of, um, cleavage, may be too much for Robert or Ronald to handle. You obviously know how they can be."
Bella laughed. He made the word cleavage sound like it was a dirty word or something. He was so old fashioned.
"I can handle that," Bella promised. Not like I've got a lot of cleavage to show off anyway.
They chatted for a few more minutes before Bella ended the call, promising to see Alex the next morning. She scrambled out of bed and checked her hair in the mirror before rushing out to the kitchen where her sister was cooking breakfast with Emmett.
"Guys," she sang, sliding in to the kitchen with a bright smile. "Guess who just got a job?"
Rosalie smirked at her. "Isn't the surrogate thing kind of your job now?"
Bella froze. Could she do both? She'd choose surrogacy over secretary, but she would eventually need a job after her nine months were up.
"I didn't think about that," she admitted. "Oops."
Emmett laughed at her. Bella smiled in spite of herself. She obviously didn't think of surrogacy as a job anymore. She realized it was more like a gift for a wonderful family.
"Who would hire your sorry ass?" Emmett asked. Rosalie punched his arm.
"Thanks, Rose," Bella said, still cheery as she poured herself a cup of coffee. "The law office called me today and offered me the secretary position. I start tomorrow."
"That's great, Bee! I'm glad for you," Rosalie said.
"You think they'll be mad that I'm getting pregnant? It was kind of the one thing I told them I wasn't going to do."
Rosalie shook her head and rolled her eyes. "Why you went on that rant, I still don't know. But they can't fire you for it or anything. It's illegal. I feel like a legal office would probably know that's a rule."
Bella nodded. "Good point. I imagine they're sticklers for law enforcement."
"Didn't you say one of them knocked up the last secretary? I doubt obeying the law is what they're best at," Emmett said. He shot her a wink and Bella snorted in to her coffee mug.
Bella's cell phone started ringing again from the bedroom. She set her coffee cup down on the kitchen counter and jogged back to the room just in time to answer the call.
"Bella! Good morning, I hope I didn't call too early." Esme's voice practically glowed. Bella smiled at her new friend. She always seemed so happy.
"Not at all," she replied. "What are you up to this morning?"
"Oh, just running a few errands, but I wanted to call and see if you had any lunch plans today. Are you free for a girl's date?"
"Gee," Bella deadpanned, "let me check my schedule." She clicked her tongue while she made an elaborate show of checking an itinerary they both knew was blank.
"Turns out I'm wide open. Where did you have in mind?"
Esme listed off a few bistros that Bella had never heard of. She found it funny that she had practically lived her entire life in Rosemont and was still completely unaware of its fancier restaurants.
"What about that place at The R Hotel? They hired a new chef last month and Carlisle says he's just amazing. I've yet to try it out," Esme eventually suggested.
"That sounds fantastic," Bella agreed, eager to see the business that Carlisle built from the ground up.
They settled a time to meet and said their goodbyes. Bella looked at the clock and saw she had several hours before their lunch date and started picking out some clothes for the day.
She dug through her duffle bag and found the least wrinkled shirt and pair of jeans she could and set about finding her makeup bag when she heard an odd noise come from the kitchen. She heard something shatter and immediately worried about Rose.
Without hesitating she darted out of her room and towards the kitchen. By the time she remembered Emmett was over it was too late.
"Oh, my eyes!" Bella screamed when she saw Emmett's naked ass. Rose sat on the counter totally nude with her legs wrapped around him. Her hair was a mess and her eyes were wide as saucers. Bella turned away from the scene and ran back to the guest room as fast as she could.
She slammed the door shut and immediately turned on the radio, unsure if Emmett and Rose were planning on finishing what they had started and unwilling to hear anything more if they were.
She wondered how much vodka she would have to drink to forget the image that was still present when she closed her eyes.
Emmett's ass needed a tan.
"Oh, my God, Esme. It was terrible. I'm not sure Alzheimer's could wipe out this memory. The image of them having sex is forever burned in my brain."
Esme laughed behind her hands while tears ran down her cheeks.
"What did you say when you saw them later?"
"Nothing! I waited until I had to leave, then I bolted out of the bedroom and got straight in my car."
"That's terrible. I'm sorry I'm laughing."
Bella smiled at her. "If it was anyone else, I would laugh too. I'm not sure I can stay there another night. I couldn't bear to see that again."
Esme wiped her eyes and took a long sip of her water.
"Well, what would you think about moving in with us? I promise we'd limit sex to our bedroom. And bathroom." Esme winked at her.
"I couldn't ask that of you, Esme. I have no idea when I'll get my first pay check from the law firm, and I can't afford a new place until I get paid."
"Bella, you could stay with us as long as you wanted. We have way too many bedrooms to leave them all empty. And if timeframe is an issue, I have some news for you."
Esme leaned slightly forward and Bella found herself mirroring her posture.
"We've already spoken to our case manager, Jessica, about setting up a contract for you. Once it's ready, we'll let you have as long as you need to look it over. We'll even hire an attorney for you to help interpret it all. As soon as you sign that contract, you get the first installment of your paycheck from us. And that should be more than enough to pay a deposit on an apartment. It may even cover a few months rent."
Bella idly wondered exactly how much the Cullen's planned on paying her, but she was too proud to ask. Instead, she slowly nodded her head, thinking over Esme's offer and deciding to accept it almost immediately.
"When do you think the contract will be ready?"
"It could be as early as tomorrow, Bella."
The air rushed out of her lungs. Her stomach tightened in anticipation.
Tomorrow. She could be signing a contract to become a surrogate as early as tomorrow. She couldn't believe how quickly everything was happening.
Calm down, she told herself. You're sure about this.
"Are you freaking out?" Esme looked worried. She lifted her hands and started picking a cuticle while looking Bella straight in the eyes.
"Yeah," Bella said with a heavy breath. "But not enough to want to back out."
A soft sigh left Esme's lips.
"Don't worry about anything, Bella. We'll be there with you every step of the way."
Bella nodded and smiled at her.
Their lunch ended nearly an hour after she expected it to. With a tight hug and a plan to move in the next day, Bella drove back to her sister's house.
As soon as she parked her car, Rosalie appeared in the front doorway.
"Don't you have a job or something?" Bella asked lightly, hoping to avoid all talk of the scene she had witnessed that morning.
"We got the day off so they could update the computers. It's why Emmett was over earlier today."
Apparently avoiding was not Rosalie's plan.
"Bella, I'm sorry about this morning. We shouldn't have been so careless."
"Rose, don't be an idiot. You're engaged. You live alone. You're allowed to have spontaneous sex, and you shouldn't have to worry about your bum sister walking in on you."
Rose's cheeks grew darker and darker as Bella made her impromptu speech.
"I still feel badly, Bee."
"Don't. Besides, I talked to Esme today. If it's okay with you, I'd love to stay one more night, but then I'm going to move in to their house until I can afford a place of my own."
Rose's eyes popped open.
"You don't have to leave!"
Bella grinned and pulled her sister in to a tight hug.
"I know that, Rose. Esme just has more room, and this way you can still have some sexual freedom in your own house."
Rosalie lightly smacked Bella's arm and shook her head while she chucked.
"Okay," she agreed. "But I'm helping you move. I want to see your new pad."
"Deal. I'm going to take my stuff over there after I get off of work tomorrow."
Rosalie nodded and led her in to the house.
"I'm so excited you got that job, Bee."
"Me too," she agreed. "I hope I like it."
You cannot have a crush on a coworker, she reminded herself for the tenth time that day.
Alex flashed a wide smile at her from over her desk and she knew she was fighting a losing battle.
"So how do I transfer a call again?"
He reached over the counter to her desk and pushed a few buttons on the phone while she tried to quickly write everything down on her little notepad. This job took more work than she realized.
She looked down at her notepad and counted the tasks she was expected to complete every day. She stopped counting when she got to twenty.
God, I hope I don't screw this up.
"Thanks," she told Alex when he finished transferring her fake phone call.
"No problem. Ready for a quiz?"
Bella's eyes grew wide. "Not in the slightest," she replied.
"Try," he said, shooting her a wink.
No crushes, Bella.
"Code to the alarm?"
"Good. How does Robert drink his coffee?"
"Black, three sugars."
"Perfect! See? You've got this down. How do you transfer a call?"
Bella wrinkled her nose. "I find Alex and ask him to do it."
He laughed at her and she found herself joining in without thinking about it. It was nice to laugh with Alex. She might even say it was easy to laugh with him.
A clearing throat broke their bubble and they both looked up to see Ronald standing at the end of the hallway.
"How's that petty theft case coming, Alex?"
"It's going well, Ronald. Just need to finish up the closing arguments and we should be set."
"Great," he said gruffly. "Can't wait to read it."
Without another word he turned and disappeared in to his office. The door shut slowly behind him.
"Well, I guess that means I have to leave you here for a while. Let me know if you need anything," Alex said. He pat his hand on her counter top once before retreating in to his own office. His door stayed open.
Bella sat still at her desk for half an hour, reading and rereading her notepad, before she grew bored. She looked around the office before pulling her cell out of her purse. There was a single text from Edward.
Hope your first day has gone well. Let me know if I should order ukuleles. ;)
Bella smirked and shot back a quick reply.
As long as I don't get caught texting on the clock, I think I'm in the clear. –Bee.
She threw her phone back in her purse and returned her attention to her notepad. She figured she could waste the next few hours trying to organize the list and rewrite it as nicely as possible.
Bella was ready to finish her day at work and start moving in with the Cullen's as soon as possible. She sighed in happiness, grabbed a pen, and began rewriting.