Everything went well for the next couple of months. At least, everything went as well as it possibly could. Edward and Rosalie continued to work on their relationship, still fawning over eachother, and I picked up a few extra shifts to get away from them. Working, all though it completely stressed me out sometimes, helped me clear my head.
Jake somehow managed to convince me to give him my phone number. He claimed it was in case of an emergency. Even though that was practically a lie, I gave it to him anyway. He deserved credit for trying. Harold still thought he needed training, so we often had the same shifts together, and Jake usually followed me around like a lost puppy, asking questions that he already knew the answers to. I couldn't decide whether to be annoyed or flattered.
Aside from being constantly pestered by Alice and her incessant reminders about the upcoming school dance, and Edward growing increasingly distant, nothing had changed.
On a Thursday afternoon, Esme came home unusually early, huffing as she carried her bags through the door.
"Oh, good, I was hoping to catch the both of you here," she said, while pulling her hair into a ponytail and kicking off her shoes.
"Hey, Mom," Edward mumbled, looking over at her lazily. We both were completely lounging on the couches in the living room, watching reruns of an old sitcom that wasn't really funny.
"How was your day?" I asked, peering over the edge of the sofa. My hair was falling out of my bun, loose strands of hair covering my face. Esme leaned over, brushed my bangs back, and kissed my forehead. She sat down next to Edward and sighed as she wrapped her arm around his shoulders and kissed his cheek.
"Oh, it was just a day," she replied, chewing her lip nervously. Edward gazed over at her.
"What is it?" he asked, hesitant.
"I need the both of you to do me a favor," she started.
"Sure, anything you need," I said, sitting up and beginning to refix my hair.
"Well, as you both know, your father and I - er, Carlisle and I - are going to a conference this weekend in Portland. A colleague of his, Leah, is going as well, but she needs someone to watch her child, so I volunteered you two to do it." She flashed us a quick smile and fussed with her blouse. Edward shot up in alarm.
"Mom!" he exclaimed. She threw her hands up, ready to argue.
"I wasn't thinking when I offered! And it's only for two days..."
"Two days?" he cried.
"Oh, come on Edward, it can't be that bad. I mean, how old is she?" I asked, trying to be optimistic.
"Well, she's almost three."
"Esme!" I cried, joining Edward's side of the argument. "Two?"
Esme put her hands on her hips and glared at us. "You're both seventeen years old, you can handle this responsibility. I'm sure you can afford to sacrafice one of your precious weekends, and don't try and tell me you're working, Bella. I know you aren't. And Edward, you can put your social life on hold for a little while."
"But, I don't know anything about babies, and why would she trust two complete strangers with her child?" he whined.
"Honestly, she's two. Not six months old, and Leah will provide you with a very extensive list of certain instructions and phone numbers. She hasn't been in town very long. She has no family here, and this conference could be the pinnacle of her career. Most of watching her is just a combination of maternal instincts and common sense. Between the two of you, there should be no problems. Leah will be bringing her by tomorrow around five. I expect the both of you to be here. No excuses."
"Ugh," Edward sighed, putting his head in his hands.
"Whats her name?" I asked, my palms sweaty.
"Her name is Emily," Esme said, standing up from the couch. "I'll order takeout tonight."
"Babysitting?" Emmett burst out laughing, spraying sandwich bits everywhere. "Oh my god, your life totally sucks."
Alice smacked his arm and scowled. "Shut up, Em. Imagine if Mom made us do that." She took a bite of her salad and chewed quickly. "You know this means you can't go dress shopping this weekend, right? We don't have much time left."
"Yes, Alice," I sighed, "I'm well aware of that fact. Three weeks is more than enough time for you to find a dress, and I'm not going, so you're welcome to find something without me."
Alice groaned and rolled her eyes. "We'll talk about this later."
The rest of the day went by too quickly. My stomach churned nervously the entire way home. Edward was brooding while he drove. "Are you as nervous as I am?" I asked.
"How bad can it be? I mean, we only have to make sure she doesn't eat potting soil or jam her fingers into any electrical outlets," he replied sarcastically.
"We have to feed her, and bathe her, and put her to bed, and -" I started to list.
"I know, Bella," he said hotly. "My mom obviously trusts us, I'm sure we'll be okay. Spongebob works wonders for kids from what I hear, and we have gummy bears and fruit roll-ups."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," I mumbled. I still raced into my room and hid anything dangerous valuable in the closet as soon as we got home. Without a doubt, Edward did the same thing. Because I still had a couple of hours to kill before Leah came over, I decided to bake a few things, some snacks for Emily to munch on that weren't processed in a factory.
I preheated the oven and pulled out the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies, beginning to mix everything together. When I finished, I set the bowl aside and began to mix together some sugar cookies, tossing in some rainbow sprinkles for aesthetic purposes. When I was scooping chunks onto the baking sheets, Edward came up behind me and dipped his finger into the bowl, scooping out a large chunk and eating it immediately.
"Yum," he said, going for seconds. I smiled and swatted his hand away.
"Dont eat too much. Chances are, you'll get sick and I'll be stuck doing this all alone." In the back of my mind, I knew I shouldn't have been so nervous. I'd babysat many times before, and I was good with kids. I was more worried about Edward not being able to handle it. He wasn't terrible with kids...he just wasn't 'Edward the Purple Dinosaur'.
Just after the cookies had finished cooling on the rack, the doorbell rang. "I'll get it!" Esme called as she hurried down the stairs. She'd come home early again to pack for the trip. Moments after that, an adorable little girl, sporting blond pigtails and a teddybear, tumbled her way into the kitchen, almost knocking into me.
"Emily!" I heard someone, obviously her mother, call. Seconds later, a tall woman bearing a striking resemblance to the little girl hurried into the kitchen and scooped her into her arms.
"I'm so sorry," she huffed. "She's so excited. You must be Bella." Leah extended her hand toward me and I grasped it.
"I am, you must be Leah," I said with a smile. Emily buried her head into Leah's shoulder, making her tiny pigtails bounce.
"I am, and this is Emily. Emily, say 'hi' to Bella," she encouraged. Emily picked her head up off of Leah's collarbone and peered at me for one second. She grinned and then buried her face again.
"Edward!" Esme called. "Leah and Emily are here!" She popped into the kitchen, emulating an unnatural ammount of energy for five o'clock in the evening. "Oh, Bella, you made cookies," she said with a smile. "Bella is fantastic in the kitchen."
When Edward came downstairs, Leah handed over several lists of telephone numbers in case of emergencies, explained their daily routines and any odd quirks Emily had. She also gave us details about her favorite foods and anything else we could possibly know about her, like the fact that she was almost potty trained, but not quite there yet. She'd also brought along a crib, high chair, and car seat for our conveniences.
"She doesn't normally sleep in a crib, but I couldn't fit her bed in my car. be fine though," Leah explained. The baby was happily chewing on a cookie when she kissed her goodby an hurried out the door.
Carlise and Esme soon followed, leaving the three of us to ourselves. I'd been mentally preparing myself for pure hell the moment the parents left, but Emily was perfectly content slobbering on freshly baked goods.
"The cookies were a good idea," Edward commented, maneuvering awkwardly around the little girl who was perched on our countertop.
"She's pretty quiet," he mumbled, pulling a waterbottle out of the fridge. A few hours later, we both realized just how wrong he was.
By the time it was 8:00, Emily had managed to dump a cup of grape juice all over herself, flick macaroni and cheese along the entirity of the wall, and hurl chicken nuggets at me and Edward.
"She's a demon!" Edward exclaimed as I scrubbed caked cheese off the wall in the dining room. I shot him a glare and quickly glanced at Emily, who was kicking away in her high chair.
"Do you really have to say things like that? She's right there, Ed. And she's probably only acting out because she's insecure without her mom here. Haven't you noticed how she keeps calling me 'mama' and then throwing something at me when I don't magically turn into Leah?"
He stared at me, silently, before shuffling over to Emily and plucking her out of her seat. Though he looked uncomfortable, he held her against his chest, swaying slightly. My heart lodged in my throat as I watched her slowly relax in his arms. After a few moments, he carried her over to the living room, where he flipped on Nick Jr.
"Maybe you should get her bath ready?" he asked softly. I was dumbfounded. Digging through one of the many diaper bags Leah had dropped off, I marveled in Edward's drastic behavior change. Once I got ahold of the baby wash, I hurried upstairs to get everything ready for her, suddenly feeling incredibly calm. She cooperated while we gave her a bath, only fussing when I had to rinse water over her head to get the shampoo out of her hair.
"Look at these pajamas I found for her," Edward said, laughing as he walked into the room. He held up a pink onesie with teddy bears all over it. After carefully drying her off and changing her into her special night time diaper, I helped her into the clothes and carried her to my room where Edward was snapping her crib together. She reached for her blanket as soon as she saw it draped across the foot of my bed.
"Bug!" she cried. Like every child, she'd come to know her baby blanket by a special name, which just so happened to be Bugaboo. It was difficult getting her to bed. Emily was terrified of falling asleep without her mother there. Everytime her eyes would flutter shut, she'd startle herself away and cry out for mama. It eventually took us calling Leah and letting Emily hear her voice before she fell alseep.
Edward excused himself from the room while I changed into some more comfortable clothes, returning in his own pajamas and bearing two plates of finger foods.
"I thought you might be hungry," he whispered, dimming the lights in the room. "I know I am."
I nodded and eyed the plate, my mouth watering. "Thank you," I mumbled, patting the spot next to me on the bed while shoving a mini corndog into my mouth. He scooted next to me and chewed on his food slowly.
"Would you mind if I stayed in here with you tonight?" he asked, his voice quiet.
"Huh?" I squeaked.
"I don't really feel comfortable leaving you alone with Emily tonight."
My eyebrows pulled together in confusion and I swatted my bangs out of my eyes.
"Oh, you don't think I can handle it?" I hissed, irritated. Edward placed his hand on my shoulder to steady me.
"No, I don't think you would have any problems handling it. I just don't feel like it's very fair if I leave you alone with her and she keeps you up. Leah did say she wakes up a lot throughout the night."
"Oh," I said softly, instantly regretting my mini blow up. "Thank you."
We finished eating together, and I couldn't help but glance nervously at Edward every ten seconds. It wasn't like we hadn't ever slept in the same bed before - we'd grown up together. Knowing that he was in a serious relationship with an inhumanly gorgeous girl, knowing how out of control my feelings for him were, knowing we'd never be anything more than friends, all of those factors were more than likely contributing to my anxiety.
I crawled under my thick blankets and felt his hand graze across the exposed skin on my stomach, sending shivers down my spine.
"I haven't asked Rosalie to the dance yet," he whispered, rolling over to face me. I looked over at him, surprised to find his eyebrows knit together.
"Why not?" I mumbled. Rose had seemed perfectly at ease when Alice was blabbering on about her plans for an after party and what type of corsage she wanted.
"I don't know," he answered. "I'm not sure if she really wants to go."
"Oh, trust me, Edward. She wants to go. What are you waiting for?" I pulled the blankets tighter around my shoulders.
"I'm not really waiting for anything, Bella. I think she's just assuming we're going together." He sighed and shifted around.
"Is that a bad thing?"I asked.
"No, it's not a bad thing. I just don't know whether I should ask her or assume she knows we're going together."
My heart sank. "You should ask her," I advised, pretending to yawn so the conversation.
"Goodnight, Bella," he whispered, kissing my forehead gently before rolling back over.
"Goodnight," I whispered back, closing my eyes and slowly settling into a light slumber. It felt like I had just fallen asleep when I was startled awake by a sharp, piercing cry. I jumped out the bed and hurried over to the crib, picking up Emily before her cries escalated.
"Shh," I comforted. "It's alright, you're okay." I held her against my shoulder while she whined, rubbing her back mechanically until she fell back asleep. Then I slumped back to the bed and curled into a ball, exhausted.
I woke up because my legs were completely tangled in the sheets. When I realized that I was also stealing the majority of the blankets, I did my best to rearrange them over Bella's tiny frame, not being very successful. With a sigh, I climbed out of the bed and pulled the blankets over her. Just for good measures, I looked over at the crib in the corner of the room and nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw Emily standing up, her tiny hands laced through the bars.
I shuffled over to her and picked her up. She felt so tiny in my arms, so breakable. It was ludicrous how such a fragile, innocent little girl could be such a... liability at all times.
"What are you doing up?" I whispered. "Can't sleep, huh, Emily?" She just stared at me. "Yeah, neither can I."
This time, Emily pointed over at the bed. I looked over and saw the alarm clock. It was 2:47 am. "Yes, it's early in the morning," I stated. She squirmed in my arms and pointed again, popping her thumb into her mouth.
"Oh, you mean Bella?" I asked. Emily smiled at buried her head into my chest. "She's pretty, isn't she?" I asked.
"Pretty!" Emily shouted.
"Shh!" I said quickly, wanting to cover her mouth before she made any more noise. "You'll wake her up, silly girl. And you should go back to sleep, too." Clearly not understanding, she bounced in my arms happily, her blond curls framing her face.
"No, Emily," I said, trying to sound firm. "Sleep."
It took almost an hour before I got her back in the crib. I knew I should have been tired, but I just didn't feel like it. Emily had this way of making you think. I gazed over at Bella, sleeping soundly, only occasionally muttering something, her hair fanned out across the pillow and her shoulders. She looked so peaceful, but at the same time, terrifyingly vulnerable, like the weight of the world would suddenly come tumbling down and crush her. I felt the sudden urge to hold her in my arms, to cradle her and keep her safe. If only I could tell her what I knew, then everything might make sense to her. I just didn't have it in me to do it.
It was only lately that Bella seemed so lost. Ever since her birthday. I wanted nothing more than to be able to fit the tattered pieces of her life together. I wanted to be the one to make everything okay for her. It was obvious, at least to me, that she was not okay, and every time she said she was "fine" was a lie. She'd been throwing herself into that back breaking job waitressing - a job she didn't even need - and completely throwing herself into her school work when she wasn't working.
We hadn't spent any quality time together lately, though I couldn't blame Bella for that. Rosalie and I had spent almost every day together, always going out on some form of a date. Whenever I'd get home after being with her, Bella would either be asleep or busy doing something spectacular, like cooking up a masterpiece in the kitchen or studying until she fell asleep on top of her textbooks.
I ran my fingers through my hair and shook my head. Get a grip on yourself. It's Bella, she's not going anywhere. After crawling back into bed, I wrapped my arms around my pillow and forced myself to go back to sleep knowing that I wouldn't be much help tomorrow if I didn't get any rest tonight.
"Emily! No!" I was startled awake by Bella's frantic cry and I felt her body lurch out of the bed. I popped open my eyes, panicking, and saw Bella grab the small child, who was perched dangerously on the edge of the bars, trying to climb out.
"Are you crazy?" she hissed. "God, you probably don't even understand what I'm saying. No climbing," she ordered. "Use your words. No climbing." I sat up and moved forward just as Bella slumped back onto the bed with Emily in her arms.
"Everything okay?" I asked, scooting closer to her. She growled and looked over at. me.
"No. She just tried to dive off of her crib onto the floor." She ran her fingers through Emily's tangled curls. I looked over at the alarm clock.
"Well, it is 8:30, Bells. She's probably been up for a while," I tried to reason. Bella shot me a glare and I cringed.
"Well...if it's any constallation, you're hair looks wonderful like a hay stack," I said, flashing her a grin.
"Thanks," she said dryly. I reached over and put my arm around her shoulders.
"Hey, I'm just kidding. Relax," I said smoothly. "She's been ready to party since 2:30 this morning."
"Seriously?" she asked. "Why didn't you wake me up?"
I shrugged and stretched out my arms. "It was no big deal. I was up anyway."
"Because...?" she asked. "Edward you have bags under your eyes. You need sleep."
"I wasn't tired," I lied. She stared at me, silently demanding the truth. "I just had a lot on my mind and was up thinking, then Emily kept me company for a while."
Bella sighed and stood up. "I'll watch her for a few hours. Go back to bed," she ordered. I stood up in protest.
"No, really, I'm not tired. But I am hungry. How about breakfast?" I asked, quickly changing the subject. She sighed and agreed, thumping down the stairs while Emily sang a happy song that was unrecognizable. Just before I was going to follow them, my cell phone rang, buzzing on the nightstand.
"Hello?" I asked, holding the receiver to my ear.
"Hi, Edward. This is Leah, I'm just calling to check in, is everything going okay?" she asked.
"Absolutely," I answered, quickly. "Bella and Emily just went downstairs to make some breakfast."
"Oh, that's great ," she sighed into the phone. "Has she been causing any problems?" she asked, sounding nearly hysterical.
"Not at all," I lied. "She's an angel, and we haven't run into any problems." The conversation ended shortly after that and I hurried downstairs to help with breakfast. I found Bella standing in front of the griddle with pancakes forming on them. Emily was on the counter next to her with her hands submerged in the batter bowl, an adorable grin on her face.
"Um...Bella?" I asked, careful not to startle her.
"Yeah?" she replied, pleasantly.
"You do realize that she's elbow deep in pancake batter, right?" I asked.
"Yup," she replied, twrirling her spatula. "She wanted to be my helper."
"Okay," I said, biting my cheek to keep from laughing. "How about I go clean her up while you finish?"
"Sounds great," she replied shortly, and I plucked Emily off the counter and carried her while she wiped her fingers all over my shirt, giggling at the stains.
That was how the rest of the weekend went.
By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, Bella and I were exhausted. Leah thanked us over and over again when she came to pick Emily up, raving at what a wonderful job we did. To be honest, watching her wasn't a bad experience at all, it was just tiring. I collapsed the moment I hit my pillows after that, only waking up the next morning to Bella's soft knocking on the door.
I groaned and rolled over, burrowing my head into the down comforter.
"Edward?" she inquired, slowly cracking open the door. I grunted and shook my head, stubbornly.
"Do I really have to get up?" I complained. "Can't you get my dad to write us a note or something?"
"Er, no," she said, shyly. "But I made breakfast, and you've still got some extra time. Maybe you should take a shower, it'll wake you up," she suggested. I looked up at her and offered a small smile. She turned to leave, almost making no noise.
"Bella?" I asked, trying to get her to stop. She looked over her shoulder and raised an eyebrow. I sat up, letting the covers fall from my shoulders and looked directly at her, trying to work past the grogginess. "Thank you."
"For what?" she asked.
After getting ready and driving us to school, I decided I'd take Bella's advice and ask Rosalie to the dance. I wasn't really looking forward to going, at least, not with Rose. She was great in every aspect, but she just wasn't the girl for me. That much I could tell—she was a good distraction. And, of course, she agreed without hesitation when I casually asked her.
School was especially boring for a Monday, and our lunch hour wasn't very eventful. Alice babbled happily, buzzing with excitement while announcing her party and shopping plans. Rosalie chimed in, throwing her ideas out there, and then they both dragged Bella into it, making her promise she'd go with them. I saw her shoulders wilt, but she agreed after a heavy argument.
"Why don't you and Emmett go as friends, Bella?" Rosalie threw out there.
"I actually have a date," Emmett said, talking for the first time the entire break.
"With who?" Alice demanded. "I'm your sister, why don't I already know this?"
Emmett rolled his eyes. "I'm going with Lauren." The table got quiet. He peered over at Bella, who was ripping her napkin into shreds. "Sorry, Bells," he said, reaching over and squeezing her shoulder.
"It's okay, Em. Don't worry about it," she said, quietly. I felt a rock drop into the core of my stomach as I saw her face crumple. By the end of the day, I so desperately wanted to check on her, to make sure she was okay. I spotted her waiting at my car, playing with the necklace I'd given her on her birthday.
"How was the rest of your day?" I asked, pulling her into a hug. She shrugged in my arms.
"It was fine, yours?" she asked, walking around the car to get inside.
"It was boring," I replied sliding into my seat. We drove home in silence, steady raindrops plopping on the windshield.
"Bella, are you sure you want to go to the dance?" I finally asked. She looked startled.
"Yeah, I'm sure. Actually, I'm thinking I might ask friend of mine to go with me as my date," she said, staring out the window. Now I was the startled one.
"Oh, who?" I asked, trying to delay my response to not sound too concerned.
"His name's Jake."
Hi everyone! Sorry for the late update, I was on vacation and couldn't get to a computer. The website doesn't let me upload files from my iPhone, so I couldn't do anything until I got home. Anyway, please let me know if you have any questions.
Just thought I would let everyone know: Edward DID NOT confess any form of undying love towards Bella in this chapter. He's simply being very protective. I thought you guys might like to see Edward's perspective for a change.