WARNING: Heartfail ahead; read at your own risk.
Time seemed to move in spurts, as it often does when there is nothing really pressing on the schedule. Some days seemed to fly by while others crept along at a snail's pace. Occasionally, I felt like I was trapped in a very luxurious prison – admittedly, of my own making. Most of the time, however, I was content in my cozy little cocoon overlooking the ocean. Sometimes I watched the waves ebb and flow, thinking that my days seemed to mirror them, swaying back and forth in a never-ending pattern that could be simultaneously mind-numbing and relaxing.
The most memorable event had been the jam session at Edward and Emmett's place. I had been a little nervous about going since I wouldn't know anyone but Edward. I had met Emmett briefly, and I knew that his girlfriend, Rosalie, worked with Edward at Savannah Smiles. That didn't really count, though, since I had never really spent any time with either of them. And there were also the people from the college where Edward went to school who I knew were much younger than I was. My apprehension turned out to be unwarranted. In the end, it was a wonderful evening. Edward's friends were really nice, and they all made me feel welcome. Especially Tanya. She seemed to really like me and made sure I was included in everything-even the sing-along. What could have been terribly awkward ended up being a lot of fun-and musically educational. I was unfamiliar with the indie music Tanya and some others seemed to favor, but I had to admit that it had started to grow on me-especially the way Edward played and sang it. He could probably sing the phone book, and I would like it.
Before I knew it, a week and a half had gone by, and it was the morning of my appointment at the OB's office. I woke earlier than necessary, my body's inner clock superseded by the excitement of receiving confirmation that I was going to be a mother. A single mother, but a mother nonetheless.
I took a long, leisurely shower and blow-dried my hair before dressing in a white baby doll tee, dark blue shorts, and white sandals. It was still a bit early for breakfast, and I wasn't really hungry yet, so I stood for a few minutes on my balcony watching the ocean and listening to the waves. There was a soft breeze that ruffled my hair from time to time, just enough that I knew I would need to brush it again before going down to breakfast.
When my stomach finally started to rumble, I went inside and closed out the brisk sea air. I fixed my hair again and grabbed a book and my key card before stepping out into the hallway. The elevator ride down made my stomach lurch, and I made my way to the Dolphin Reef for the breakfast buffet.
I was practically alone-other than the morning staff. There was very little noise above the metallic percussion of the hot trays of food being set out for the hotel guests who trickled in on this early Monday morning. I set my book down at a table near the windows and filled my plate, avoiding the greasier foods and opting for a lot of fruits and whole grains.
As always, the food was delicious, and I was halfway through my meal before the dining room really started to fill. I returned several smiles as people passed me with their own plates, chattering at each other about their plans for the day. I had no one to share my plans with today, and for a moment, the loneliness threatened to crush me down. But then I thought of my precious little one who would be with me, sharing all my days in another six months or so.
I finished my breakfast and made my way to the quiet hotel lobby where the comfy chairs sat. I had a lot of time to kill before my two o'clock appointment, so I had decided to read the new book I found at a local bookstore. I settled into the most secluded chair and opened to the first chapter.
The hours passed; people came and went, but I barely registered their presence as I became more and more engrossed in the tale of a terrorist plot involving a nuclear bomb lost somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean near Tybee Island.
Without warning, I felt a sharp pain in my abdominal area that took my breath away for a few seconds. It passed quickly, and I returned to my book. About ten minutes later, though, I felt the same pain again, this time a little bit longer. I wondered if maybe I had eaten something that hadn't agreed with me, but I didn't have any urge to go to the bathroom, so I settled myself more comfortably into the cushy seat and started to read again.
When it happened again a few minutes later and once more a few minutes after that, I began to worry. I had begun to notice that the pains felt less and less like gastrointestinal cramps but more and more like menstrual cramps.
This can't be happening, I thought.
The fifth time I felt them, I decided to go to the bathroom and check if I was bleeding. I hadn't felt any wetness, but I had been concentrating so much on the pains that I hadn't really thought about bleeding until then. A quick trip to the ladies room showed not even a little spotting, but while I was there, I had the worst pain of all. It left me gasping for breath, and I couldn't deny that somethingwasn't right. I didn't know what to do, but I knew I couldn't stay in the bathroom all day. And it finally occurred to me that I should probably find a hospital and have it checked out. Unfortunately, I didn't really know where the nearest hospital was, and I was in no state to try to find it.
I washed my hands and walked out of the bathroom with a half-formed idea to get my phone from upstairs and call Edward or Tanya to see if they could come get me. If not, then I would have the front desk call a cab to take me there.
As luck would have it, the first person I saw when I got back to the lobby was Edward. He was tucking an envelope into his shirt pocket, and I almost sobbed with relief when I remembered that he came to pick up his paycheck on Mondays.
"Edward," I called.
He turned with a smile on his face… until he saw me.
"Bella, are you okay?" he said, rushing to my side and cupping my elbow with his hand.
I must've looked like I was about to faint; I certainly felt like it. I had a nearly uncontrollable urge to scream at him, "Would I need to go to the hospital if I was okay?" But he didn't know about my need, so instead, I shook my head and asked, "Can you take me to a hospital?"
"What's wrong?" he asked.
I just shook my head again and asked if he would take me.
"Of course," he said, glancing toward the front desk at Charlotte who was watching us with an odd expression on her face. "Can you tell me what's wrong, Bella? Are you hurt?"
His eyes raked me up and down, searching for some sign of injury, as his hands fluttered around my shoulders and arms. It seemed like he wanted to touch me to see where I was hurt.
I shook my head again and blurted, "I'm pregnant, and I think I'm hav– I think I'm losing the baby." The last word was just a whisper as my heart broke at the thought of losing this last connection to my husband.
I followed Edward's gaze to the front desk where Charlotte stood with her mouth hanging open and her eyes as big as saucers. When she realized I had seen her, she snapped her mouth shut and turned back to her computer. Edward wrapped an arm around my shoulders and led me to the chair closest to the front doors. Another cramp gripped my abdomen as he gently urged me to sit.
"I'm going to go get my car," he said. "Wait right here, okay?"
I nodded wordlessly and sat in the chair, clutching my arms to my belly as if that would stop the pain, while Edward sprinted out the hotel entrance to the parking lot. Although it couldn't have been more than five minutes, it felt like I sat there at least an hour. Then Edward was back, leading me out to an old silver Volvo which stood idling beside the curb in front of the valet stand. He helped me into the passenger side and was just about to slide in and shut his own door when it suddenly occurred to me that I had no ID with me.
"Where is it?" he asked when I told him.
I described where I had left my purse and handed him my key card. As he raced back into the hotel, I sat in the car and wondered at my ability to recall things so clearly during this moment of crisis. It was so different from my last catastrophe when I had barely been able to recall my own name.
He was back sooner than I expected, handing me my things and speeding out of the driveway. I don't remember much about the drive to the hospital in Savannah, other than the fact that Edward drove much faster than I'd ever seen him go before and that he kept glancing over at me and asking if I was okay. Not wanting to worry him any more than I already had, I simply nodded and said, "Yes."
When we got to the hospital, he parked in the first available space closest to the ER entrance. He went with me up to the window where I gave my ID and insurance information to the receptionist. I explained my symptoms to her, and she asked if I was bleeding. When I answered negatively, she just nodded and entered it into the computer. She told me I could have a seat in the waiting room, and they would get to me as soon as they could.
Edward walked me over to the uncomfortable chairs of the waiting room. He wrapped his arm around my shoulders and squeezed gently. I rested my head on his shoulder and fought not to cry. The waiting room wasn't very crowded, but it still took an hour or more before they called me back to take my vitals. I stood to follow the nurse but stopped when I realized Edward was still seated.
"Did you want me to come with you?" he asked when I just stared at him. I must have looked panicked because his tone was soft like the kind someone might use with a frightened animal.
"Yes," I said, adding silently, I'm scared.
He placed his hand on my back and followed me into the triage area.
"I'm sorry," the nurse said to Edward. "Relatives only."
"I'm her fiancé," Edward lied smoothly.
She pursed her lips but nodded and allowed him to come with me. After she recorded my blood pressure, temperature, and pulse, the nurse asked me what my symptoms were. I told her what I had told the receptionist. She asked some questions about my family's medical history and then gave me a plastic cup and a little white packet before pointing me in the direction of the bathroom. I followed her instructions and placed the urine sample in the appropriate spot before returning to the curtained area where Edward waited for me. He stood awkwardly beside the bed.
"Are you okay?" he asked again, and I suddenly realized that he kept asking because he didn't know what else to do – just like the night we first saw each other – when he he'd first asked if I was okay.
I tried to smile, to let him know not to worry too much, and took his hand in mine. I needed to feel a connection to someoneat that moment. I knew I was losing the last connection I had to my hus—to Jake.
Edward pulled me into a hug and softly kissed my forehead before releasing me. Our hands stayed linked between us.
A few minutes later, the nurse came back and handed me a hospital gown. "Put that on, and I'll be back to get a blood sample from you. Then Dr. Staten will come do a pelvic exam," she said, pulling the curtains around the bed closed.
Edward and I shared one panicked look before he dropped my hand, parted the curtain, and said, "I'll just wait out here."
My laughter at the expression on his face before the curtains closed in front of it sounded almost hysterical to my ears.
I didn't waste any time changing into the ugly, uncomfortable hospital gown. My clothes were folded at the head of the bed, and I perched on the edge before I called, "You can come back now."
Edward slipped in between the flaps of the curtains and came to stand beside me again. The nurse wasn't far behind him, saying, "Mrs. Black?" just seconds before she stepped into the confines of the curtains.
She made quick work of securing a rubber strap around my left bicep and sticking a long needle attached to a plastic cup-like thing into my vein. It stung a little. She attached first one vial and then another. Then she pressed a cotton ball over the puncture site and slipped the needle out. I hardly felt it at all. Securing a strip of medical tape over the cotton, she said, "Dr. Staten will be right in," and then released the tourniquet.
No more than thirty seconds after she had left, a deep male voice said my name and then parted the curtains. He introduced himself and then asked me my symptoms just like everyone else had.
I nearly screamed at him to look on the chart. Somehow I managed to stay calm and relay the information he needed. He asked when my last period had been and if anything traumatic had happened recently. I explained about my husband's death which caused him to raise an eyebrow at Edward, but he didn't say anything about it.
"Well, we are going to do a pelvic exam just to rule out any problems."
He left the cloth enclosure, and Edward quickly asked, "Bella, would you like me to leave?"
Under normal circumstances, I would've said yes, but I just didn't think I could deal with this by myself. I knew it was a thoroughly awkward situation for Edward, but I selfishly asked him to stay. When he hesitated, I said, "Just stay up here by my head and look at me."
"Well, that won't be hard to do," he joked. Then turning serious, he said, "If you're sure…"
He nodded and moved up to the head of the bed. Dr. Staten returned with a rolling stool to sit on, the nurse, and all the necessary tools for the pelvic exam. Edward's eyes widened when he saw the speculum, so I grabbed his hand and whispered, "Just look at me."
As the doctor began his examination, it suddenly hit me that I was having a gynecological procedure done in the presence of a man I had known for barely five weeks. As much as I liked Edward and as much as I loved Jacob, I was abruptly angry at them both. Mostly at Jacob for leaving me to go through all of this on my own, but also at Edward for being the one to witness so many of my low points. I closed my eyes, unable to look at Edward during such an exposed moment. But I could still feel his eyes on me.
Edward squeezed my hand in what I assumed was supposed to be an effort to offer me some comfort. Instead, if angered me further. I didn't need to be reminded that he was present for this. I felt exposed and vulnerable. I bit my lip to prevent myself from snapping at him. Edward was trying to be a good friend even in such an awkward situation.
When the doctor was finished, he and the nurse left, telling me that I could get dressed again. Edward helped me sit up, squeezed my hand, and then followed them out so I could change in privacy. I was back in my shorts and tee in no time and pulled the curtain opened before settling back on the bed. Edward stood beside me, somewhat awkwardly this time.
"Thank you," I said, at a loss for what else to say.
The doctor was back soon, without the nurse this time, as another cramp hit me.
"Well, Mrs. Black, I am happy to tell you that everything seems normal," he said. "We'll have to wait for the results on the blood tests to be one hundred percent certain."
"Then why—" How could this cramping be normal?
"The urine test was negative," he said. "But—" he glanced down at the chart he held. "The blood test will confirm it, but it appears that you weren't pregnant."
"You're wrong," I said.
"Mrs. Black, did you have a positive pregnancy test prior to the cramping?"
I glared defensively at him as if he had caught me in a lie. I had never actually had a test; that was supposed to happen that afternoon at the OB's. Finally I shook my head and mumbled, "No, I never actually took one."
He nodded as if he had expected that response. "Sometimes women who suffer from severe stress and trauma, such as the loss of a loved one, experience missed periods," he said, sounding like he was reading it from a medical pamphlet.
"Why the cramps then?" I challenged.
"I suspect that you will have your period in the next day or so."
"No." He was wrong. He had to be.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Black." He paused as if unsure what else to say.
I just stared at him while my mind screamed, Why are you sorry? What's it to you? It's not your baby, your last connection to everything in the world!
"We'll call you if anything abnormal shows up in the blood work," he said. "We are running an hCG level, but the urinalysis is ninety-nine percent accurate. It's doubtful that the blood tests will show that you're pregnant. I will, of course, call you if the tests find anything different."
I nodded, not caring one way or another. What difference would it make? Everything I had to live for was gone now. It had all been ripped away. Again.
I heard the doctor's voice again, but I didn't comprehend what he said until Edward answered, "Yes, I'm driving her back."
The doctor nodded, apologized again, and then left.
"Bella, are you ready to go?" Edward asked when I didn't move.
I nodded again and allowed him to lead me out to the parking lot to his silver Volvo. We rode in near silence, the radio turned down so low it was barely a hum.
"Have you eaten?" Edward asked as we passed a fast food restaurant.
"I had breakfast."
"Bella, that was at least six hours ago." He waited for me to respond. When I didn't, he asked, "Are you hungry?"
"Do you want to come over to my place?"
He sighed in frustration.
"Just take me to the hotel," I said.
He nodded and said, "Okay."
When we got back to the Ocean Plaza, he asked if I needed him to help me up to my room.
"No," I said. "Thank you."
"Are you going to be okay?"
I finally looked at him. His face was tense with worry for me.
I will never be okay again,I thought but said, "I'm just going to rest in my room."
I nodded. "Thank you, Edward. I couldn't have made it through this day without you."
"Are you sure that I can't do anything else?" he asked.
I shook my head.
He searched my face for a moment before nodding. He tried to smile and offered, "Call me if you need anything."
I assured him that I would. I lied. But he believed me and left me at the hotel entrance. He said that he had some errands to run but that his phone would be on in case I needed anything. I nodded again and turned toward the elevator.
I don't remember going up to my room, but when I got there, I shut the door and made my way into the bedroom. The digital clock showed that it was almost one thirty in the afternoon. I had an OB appointment in a half hour.
I dialed the number of the doctor's office.
When the receptionist answered, I said, "This is Bella Black. I have a two o'clock appointment, but I need to cancel it."
"Would you like to reschedule, Mrs. Black?" she asked.
"May I ask the reason for the cancellation?"
"I'm not pregnant," I said and pushed the OFF button. I collapsed onto the bed, clutching my phone, curled into the fetal position, and sobbed.
"How long has she been here, Pete?" I heard behind me several hours later.
The bartender mumbled something in return. I turned slowly and saw Edward coming up beside me. I only caught a flash of his expression – disappointment? – before he smiled at me, tight around the corners of his mouth.
"Edward!" I called brightly, motioning him closer.
"Hey, Bella," he said softly, taking one step nearer to me.
I tipped my shot glass back, barely feeling the burn as the liquor slid down my throat. I motioned with the glass at the bartender, silently asking for another.
Edward murmured something as the bartender poured more vodka into my tiny glass. They really needed to get larger glasses. I would have to find the manager and let him know.
I felt Edward's hand on my shoulder as I slung back this new drink and smiled at him, squinting to see him more clearly. "What brings you here?" I asked, wiggling my glass above the bar again.
"I was coming in for my shift," he said, staring intently at me.
"Oh, so I guess you can't have a drink with me?"
He shook his head slowly, and somehow it didn't seem like he was saying "no" but rather that he might be upset – with me?
I rubbed my forehead, trying to make sense of his actions, and wobbled a little on the barstool. They should get proper chairs here. I would have to mention that to the manager as well.
I looked down at my glass, ready to take another drink, but it was empty this time. I tapped it sharply on the smooth wood.
"Bella, don't you think you've had enough to drink?" Edward asked.
I looked back at him, still squinting, and shook my head. "There isn't enough liquor in the world for me tonight." Then I turned to the bartender and said, "I need another," since he clearly wasn't getting the message of the glass.
"Why don't I help you up to your room, Bella?" Edward said, forestalling whatever the bartender was going to say.
"Yes, please," I answered, thinking that I could drink even more there – drink until I passed into that blessed oblivion. I had a nice in-room wet bar and – I couldn't drink there. Alice had made sure of that. Silly Alice; she had no idea how badly or why I needed to drink now. I hadn't told her about – No, I can't think about that. I won'tthink about that now. And I couldn't drink in my room anyway because –
"They'd know, Edward," I whispered. "They can't see me like this," I told him, grabbing onto his button down shirt to steady myself.
"Who can't?" he asked, putting both hands on my shoulders to keep me upright.
"The maids," I said, exasperated. Couldn't he follow a simple conversation tonight? "I can't sleep here tonight. They'll know, and I can't let them know," I insisted.
"But I don't have anywhere to go," I said. But I didhave somewhere. "I have a house, you know," I told him. "Here on Tybee. We bought a house together."
I let go of Edward's shirt and patted my hips and rear. My keys were here somewhere.
"Bella, I really think you should –"
"They can't see me. I'll just go to my house."
I slid unsteadily off the barstool and shoved my hands into my jeans pocket. No keys. And my back pocket only had the key card to my room and my Visa card. "Damn," I said. "I guess you'd better help me up to my room so I can get my keys," I said, patting Edward's shoulder.
"Bella, you're not driving anywhere tonight."
"But I can't stay here, Edward. I just – I can't!"
He and the bartender exchanged words and then Edward led me away from the bar.
"Where are we going?" I asked, half-protesting. I couldn't go up to my room.
"I know you can't, Bella," he said, answering my thought. Is he a mind reader?
He continued, "Come on, I'll take care of you."
I smiled at Edward, coasting along with him as he led me… wherever he was leading me.
"You're so good to me, Edward," I murmured, leaning my head on his shoulder.
Harsh light, stabbing sharp little knives into my brain through my eyes, made me squint. I snapped them shut and lay still, listening to the muffled sounds in the distance. Dishes clinking, chairs scraping across linoleum, hushed voices – all the normal sounds of a home. Sounds I hadn't heard in over three months. If it weren't for the throbbing in my head and the pasty feeling in my mouth, I would swear I was dreaming.
I opened my eyes just a slit and slowly peered around the room. I lay on off-white sheets – definitely not the pristine white of the hotel. The window letting in the light daggers was covered in creamy, half-opened miniblinds. The walls reminded me of French vanilla and were bare of any decoration. Small lamps peeked just above the level of the mattress. Turning my head to the side, I noticed that the lamp nearest me stood on an uncluttered off-white table with dark brown drawers. Across the room stood a matching dresser and a dark brown desk holding a computer. The comforter tucked up to my waist was dark brown with light cream stripes.
Oh, my G – I was in Edward's room. I recognized all the brown and cream from the night of the jam session when Rose let me use his bathroom. I slept with Edward?
I sat up in shock, but the headache intensified, and I suddenly felt dizzy. I laid back down, slapping my hands over my forehead and eyes.
What have I done?
The door opened just a crack, and I peeked out from under my hand.
Edward's eyes peeked around the door, followed by the rest of him when he saw that I was awake. He held up a steaming mug, offering it to me.
I sat up slowly, tugging the sheets up with me, and leaned back against the pillows. I reached for the cup, realizing that I still had my tank top on. But where were my jeans?
Edward handed me the coffee and asked me how I was.
"I'm…" I wasn't really sure how to answer that. I knew I had gotten completely trashed the night before, but I wasn't sure just how I had ended up in Edward's room. Without my pants on. I decided that I needed a few more details before I could decide how I was this morning.
"Did we…?" I couldn't verbalize it.
He furrowed his brows in confusion at my half-question. And I knew the instant that he realized what I was asking. He raised his hands as if in surrender and took a couple of steps back toward the door.
"No," he said, shaking his head.
I sighed in relief and took a sip of the hot coffee.
"I slept on the couch," he explained. "And Rose got you… um… ready for bed." He indicated my jeans which were folded on top of his dresser.
Thank goodness Rosalie had chosen to stay over with Emmett last night. It was bad enough that Edward had seen me in a hospital gown and drunk off my butt. I wasn't sure how I would handle him seeing me stripped to my underwear as well.
I took another sip of coffee and asked the next most important question . "How did I get here?"
He rubbed the back of his neck with his left hand before answering my question with one of his own. "What do you remember about last night?"
Sipping again, I thought back. I had gone downstairs to eat but had wandered into the bar instead of the restaurant. Starting with a screwdriver, I had quickly progressed to straight vodka shots. Although I had no idea how many I'd had, I vaguely remembered Edward coming into the bar shortly before the bartender cut me off. The rest of the night was pretty fuzzy.
I told all of this to Edward who nodded as though not surprised. And then he filled in the blanks…
"I offered to help you up to your room, but you insisted that you couldn't sleep there… Something about the maids couldn't see you?" He shook his head, puzzled.
I blushed and groaned. "Yeah, don't ask. It's just… stupid, drunken… whatever."
"Fair enough," he said with a slight smile. "And then you decided to drive to your house?"
I chuckled at the way each of his details seemed to end with a question mark. I must have confused him last night.
"Did I really say that?" I asked.
"Yeah." He smiled again. "You said you have a house on Tybee and that you'd just sleep there. But you couldn't find your keys –"
"I do have a house. We bought it… a while ago," I finished uncomfortably.
He nodded and then said, "Well, it was obvious that you'd had more than enough to drink…" He trailed off, then muttered something I couldn't quite hear. I did catch the name Peter and the words irresponsible jackassin the middle of his mumbled rant.
"So you brought me here." It wasn't a question anymore. It was clear that my friend Edward had taken care of me, just as he had yesterday morning. When my world had fallen apart all over again.
Which reminded me… "Is Rose still here?" I asked, not knowing how late in the day it was, and wanting to thank her for helping me – us – out last night.
"No, she left this morning."
"This morning? You mean…"
Edward grinned and affirmed, "Yeah, you slept the whole morning."
I groaned again. "It's fine, Bella," he said. "You had a rough day yesterday."
"Yeah." I took another sip of coffee.
Neither of us said anything for at least a minute. We just stared at each other in a slightly awkward silence. My hungover brain couldn't seem to form any more coherent thoughts.
Edward finally broke the silence. "I guess you probably want to get dressed, huh?"
"Yeah," I said, latching onto his idea to end the staring contest.
I set my coffee cup on the nightstand as he retreated from the room and pulled the door shut behind himself. I slid out of the bed and grabbed my jeans from the dresser before heading into the bathroom to pee and dress.
And that's when the doctor's prediction came to be. The cramps from yesterday really were the harbinger of my long-overdue period. And I was completely unprepared.
Without any other resources to hand, I stuffed a wad of toilet paper between my legs and pulled up my underwear. I didn't really think I would find anything useful in Edward's cabinets, but I figured it was worth a try. I knelt down and peeked in all the cabinets and drawers. Nothing. But I noticed that he was very neat and tidy.
Sighing heavily, I walked out of the bathroom and peeked around the bedroom door to call Edward's name. I prayed that I wouldn't blush, but I knew it was a futile hope. If ever there was a time to be red with embarrassment, this was it.
He came to the door quickly, eyebrows raised at the anxious tone of my voice and, I'm sure, the look on my face.
I tried to will the blush away. Of course, it didn't work, so I decided to just plunge ahead and ask, "Is it possible that Rose might've left behind some… um… " But then I couldn't.
Edward's puzzled expression would've been comical under any other circumstances. In this case, however, it simply added to my mortification.
"Oh!" he finally responded, and his eyebrows shot up as he realized what I was too embarrassed to ask outright. "Let me ask Emmett."
I wished I could bury my burning face in the door as he turned to find Emmett and ask if Rose kept any feminine sanitary products in their apartment.
Could this day get any more embarrassing?
He was back in less than a minute, a pad in one hand and a tampon in the other. I hadn't thought it possible, but I felt my face get even redder as he said, "Um... here you go–" I snatched them from his hand and hid them behind my back "– and I'll be in the kitchen when you're… um…"
"Can I have some toast?" I asked, saving us both from further embarrassment.
"Toast. Coming right up!" He turned around and called over his shoulder, "see you in a few," as I shut the bedroom door behind him.
I slumped down on the bed, staring at the covers, wishing they could shelter me from the drama that had become my life. Although I really needed a shower, I had no change of clothes, and I was uncomfortable enough with the situation as it was. No sense making it worse by taking a shower in Edward's bathroom while he was making me toast and, no doubt, trying notto think of the girlie products he had just delivered to me.
Straightening up, I took another sip of my cooling coffee before crossing to the bathroom. I felt my abdomen begin to cramp, and as soon as I spotted the pad and tampon on the countertop, the reason I needed them in the first place crashed over me, this time on an emotional level. I realized I was crying again, grieving for the little piece of Jake I had thought I would get to hold onto.
It's not fair!I screamed silently.
If I couldn't have my sun anymore, why couldn't I at least have a ray of him? Was it too much to want that small connection? But that wasn't to be.
I stared at myself in the mirror, allowing the feelings to rush over, around, and through me. For just a few moments more, I wallowed in them. And then I realized that – even without a baby to nurture and care for – I still had things to live for.
Although I had let myself go last night and reverted to my destructive coping mechanism from four months prior, I couldn't continue to do that to myself or my friends. I knew that Alice would be devastated when she learned what I had done. And Edward had been disappointed when he found me so drunk; I remembered the look in his eyes. And Tanya… She was my newest friend, and although she didn't know the whole story, she seemed to respect or maybe admire me for coping with my tragedy as well as she thought I was.
Even more importantly than my friends, however, I needed to live for myself. I was still young, and I had a career I really enjoyed. Although I had been neglecting it of late, I truly loved being an editor, and I had clients depending on me, which gave me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. There was something exhilarating about helping authors take their ideas and bring them to fruition, especially when my part of the process made them better writers the next time around. Not that the money really mattered, but I was paid well for my services, and I enjoyed the little luxuries it afforded me. My life – while not as full as it once had been – was rich in so many ways, and I recognized the waste it would be to throw that all away.
Taking a deep breath, I wiped the tears from my cheeks and ran a hand through my tangled hair. I looked my mirrored self in the eye and said, "Starting over. Right now."
After a quick and awkward breakfast of toast and coffee, Edward drove me back to the hotel. Hoping to dispel some of the discomfort that had settled over us, I invited him to join me for an afternoon of lounging on the beach, but he claimed that he had some things to take care of. I thanked him again for taking care of me and asked when he worked next at the hotel bar.
"Well, since Maria covered my shift last night –"
I gasped. "You missed work because of me?"
He shrugged dismissively. "It's cool. I'm picking up her shift tonight," he explained, pulling up in front of the hotel.
"I just feel bad –"
"Bella. Don't. I'm just glad I could be there for you."
"Me, too," I told my legs.
"Hey," he said, lifting my chin with one cool finger, "don't worry about it. That's what friends are for, right?"
I nodded and smiled a little. "I can't thank you enough, Edward."
He shrugged again. "You don't have to, Bella." Then he asked, "Are you going to be okay today?"
"Yeah. I'm just relaxing on the beach. No worries."
He squeezed my hand and wished me a good day, and I stepped out into the sunshine.
After a much-needed shower, I had a light, late lunch and then took my bathing-suited, sun-blocked, saronged self down to the beach to relax under a huge umbrella. I alternately read and rested, and before I knew it, it was dinnertime. A quick trip back upstairs to rinse off the lingering sand and to change into something more suitable for the dining room, and I was back down to eat dinner.
I waved at Edward as I passed the bar. Settling into my favorite spot by the window, I perused the menu and settled on the catch of the day with rice pilaf and steamed vegetables and a virgin strawberry daiquiri. The waitress came back with my drink, smirking. She set it down on a napkin in front of me and patted the little paper square before walking away.
I glanced down and saw the hand written message on the napkin:
Good choice! ~E
I couldn't hold my chuckle back. When I glanced up, I realized that he could see me from the bar.
I raised my glass in salute to him and took a sip.
Wednesday morning, I woke up as the sun crested the horizon, streaming softly in my bedroom window. It warmed the room slowly and gently. It wasn't harsh like the previous day's midday sun had been. It reminded me of the warm, comfortable feeling Jacob's presence had always given me. I smiled, thinking of him for the first time without the overwhelming anger or misery. I was still sad that I couldn't roll over and snuggle up against him, but the ache in my heart was a little less intense than it had been. And that's when I made the decision.
I showered and ate breakfast then picked up my phone and scroll down to the Ts. Clicking the newest entry, I listened to "Float On" while waiting for her to answer.
"Hey, Bella!" she greeted.
"Tanya," I said. "I know this is kind of sudden, but are you busy today?"
She chuckled lightly. "For you, sweetie, I'm always available."
I grimaced a little at her effervescence, reminded slightly of Alice, who I still needed to call.
"Would you help me move into my house today?"
"You bought a house? Seriously? Are you settling here permanently, Bella?"
"Actually, I've had it for a while. I just wasn't – it wasn't ready for me to move into it."
"Sure, I'd love to help you."
I smiled and thanked her. "I really don't have a whole lot to move, but I don't want to go – I'd like to have some company… if you don't mind."
"Of course not," she assured me. "What time do you need me?"
I told her that I still had to pack up all my stuff at the hotel – not much really, but it was amazing how spread out it had all gotten in the last six weeks.
Tanya said she had a couple of things to take care of that morning but that she'd be over around lunch time.
"Perfect," I responded, and we said our goodbyes.
I spent the rest of the afternoon gathering up all of the things Alice had packed for me, stuffing it all somewhat haphazardly into my suitcases and tote bags. I hadn't really purchased anything since coming to the island, so it all pretty much fit.
Tanya showed up just as my stomach began to rumble, and I met her down in the Dolphin Reef for lunch. We talked about how her classes were going and reminisced about how much fun the jam at Edward and Emmett's had been.
"You'll have to come to Jinx or The Wormhole with me sometime," she said as we finished up our lunch. "We'd have so much fun!"
I murmured a noncommittal response and waved the waitress over for our check.
Now that it had come down to it, I couldn't wait to get out of this hotel. It had been a luxurious shelter during my personal storm, but I was anxious to get back to a place I could call my own. So I paid the check and led Tanya up to my room where all of my bags stood just inside the doorway, ready to be taken down to the rental car.
I listened as she oohed and ahhed over the sunken tub in the bathroom and the gorgeous view from the windows. Although I had made the bed that morning, she quickly mussed it up as she bounced onto the softness of the mattress and duvet.
"Are you sure you want to leave this place?" she asked with a smile. "I can imagine holing up here for the rest of our lives."
"It's nice," I said, "but at the end of the day, it's just another hotel. I'm ready to get back to a home of my own."
She smiled. "Fair enough."
She bounced off the bed and grabbed a couple of my bags for me. We managed to drag them downstairs by ourselves, but the porter insisted on taking them out to the car for us.
The next few minutes seemed like an indistinct blur as I closed out my account at the front desk and suddenly found myself in the car with the radio cranked as Tanya and I pulled out of the hotel parking lot and sped toward my new house.
NOTE: The book Bella was reading is called Incident at Tybee Island by Rowan Wolfe. I have not read it, but it sounds interesting.