Author's Note: Holy chapters, Batman! It's been a wild ride, loves. I can't believe how well this has done. I'm shocked, ecstatic, and all around honored to have received such wonderful reviewers and readers over such a short time. This is the last chapter, so I hope it'll be a good way to cut things off. Cheers and much love.

Chapter Twenty-Six: Z is for ZESTFUL

Zestful: having a spirited love of life

Isabella sat on the edge of her bed, leaning forward slightly despite the difficulty. The young woman was the picture of discomfort; writhing her ankles together anxiously and ringing her circled fingers around her wrists guardedly, all the while conscientiously biting her lower lip. She could feel herself trembling, shaking with uncertainty and worry over the events to come.

"This is happening too fast," she mumbles, just loud enough for the man behind her to hear. "I don't think I'm ready for this." Her voice is shaky and she stumbles over her words pointedly, fiercely wiping tears away from her face as they fell.

Phineas peers over the young woman's shoulder, glancing at her large and swollen stomach, heavy with the couple's first child. He smiles, joking gently. "It's a little late for that now."

Isabella tries to smile for Phineas' sake but fails miserably, her face still contorted meekly with her fear. She sniffles, wiping her nose on the sleeve of her sweater childishly.

"Hey," Phineas says softly, crawling onto the bed and wrapping his arms around Isabella's shoulders in comfort. Isabella clutches onto Phineas' hand as the young man places a fleeting kiss to her temple. "It's going to be just fine. You're going to be just fine."

"It's not me I'm worried about," Isabella responds airily, laying a softly placed hand on her abdomen.

Phineas smiles as he stands, returning to his position on the other side of the bed. He readies a bag as he speaks. "The doctor said everything is perfectly fine. He already told us the baby looks healthy."

"Just because someone looks healthy doesn't mean they are," Isabella returns desperately, turning to look over he shoulder at Phineas. The man's eyes meet hers briefly before returning to his task at hand. "Even a doctor can't foresee complications during childbirth."

"Maybe," Phineas relents, cocking his head slightly. "But, come on, Isabella. Think about it for a second. The baby is already two weeks overdue. We're going to the hospital for induced labor. The entire thing is going to be controlled, sweetheart. The doctors know what they're doing. Have a little faith in them. Have a little faith in yourself, will you?"

Isabella nods, sighing; a shuddering breath, but a relieved one just the same. "Okay," she agrees.

"Okay," Phineas mimics, leaning across the bed to wipe a tear off of Isabella's cheek with his thumb. Isabella smiles gratefully, leaning into his touch. "Stop worrying," he states firmly.

Isabella nods again, readjusting herself to face Phineas on the other side of the bed. Phineas courteously assists her, offering his arm for support. When Isabella ceases her movement, Phineas holds up Isabella's bag.

"Do you have everything you need?" he asks, unzipping the bag to shuffle through its contents.

"I believe so, yes," Isabella confirms quietly.

"Okay," Phineas grins, straightening from his leaning position. With a clap of his hands he adds, "Then we're good to go. Are you ready?"

Isabella blinks slowly, slumping her shoulders. She nods delicately, hesitantly. "Yeah," she mumbles. "Yes. Ready as I'll ever be."

"That's my girl," Phineas smiles, placing a kiss to Isabella's forehead.

All in all, between Isabella's reluctance and Phineas' taking care of last minute details at the last possible second, getting out into the car wasn't too much of a strain for either party. As soon as the bags were packed, seatbelts were fastened and everything was secured in sufficient working order, they were off.

The ride to the hospital began quietly enough, which was strange for the couple at hand. It was odd for there to be silence. It was unlike Isabella to say nothing and even more unlike Phineas to keep his mouth shut. Isabella didn't complain, however, instead retreating into the depths of her mind where her frenzied thoughts ran free and wild.

All of these thoughts held a common concept; Phineas and Isabella's child. Their son. It wasn't that Isabella was particularly unhappy to be expecting a child at such a young age, but she would have been more comfortable under different circumstances.

She did have to admit, however, that she had it much better than some. Phineas was stable and supportive, which was more than some fathers were. She was thankful for the young man, and for their child, but still her nerves gained the upper hand, thoroughly getting the better of her.

Apparently the silence doesn't go over as well for Phineas, because he fidgets most of the way before he finally speaks. "You're quiet," he finally states.

"Thinking," Isabella mumbles in return, staring out the window mindlessly. Not much can be seen, truly. It's just past six in the evening, but the lateness of the year makes the sky dark with the impending nightfall.

Normally planned labor was scheduled for early in the morning, when the mother is well-rested and eager to have the procedure over and done with. Isabella, on the other hand, requested the child be born in the evening. Isabella had spent a good part of the day resting, just as the doctors advised. The hours she spent awake were filled with worry and failed attempts at mental preparation. There was no disguising her unease.

Her doctors warned such stress could potentially harm both Isabella and her unborn son, for even they were wary of the young woman's worry and knew spending an entire day fretting the events to come would be a less than productive route to follow. Isabella did not relent, however, claiming she believed the night would be cooler and prevent her from overheating. Not an entirely false claim, but not entirely truthful, either.

Phineas nodded, accepting Isabella's short answer, knowing he would get no further response so long as Isabella remained stubborn. "I called everyone before we left," he says finally. "Our parents will be there when we are, and everyone else is on standby. As soon as the baby is here and you feel well enough, I'll give everyone a call. Okay?"

"Okay," Isabella replies dully, leaning her weary head against the window. Her breath leaves puffs of cold white markings on the glass.

"Hey," Phineas speaks, resting a hand on Isabella's knee and caressing it gently. Isabella turns her head in Phineas' direction. "Relax," he insists.

Isabella offers a small smile, but Phineas looks unconvinced. Still, the young man turns his attention back to the road ahead.

They arrive in no time, and it doesn't take long for the nurses to organize themselves and locate Isabella's room. Phineas fills out forms while Isabella changes, and before the couple gets the chance to relax, the doctors are in and rambling about the procedure and what needs to happen.

The physicians talk slowly but Isabella and Phineas get lost easily in the medical terms and before the doctor has the chance to finish, Phineas cuts her off by simply telling the woman to "do what needs to be done." And with that, if Isabella wasn't miserable enough already, she is now. Only one hour in and Isabella is already wishing she was far enough along to receive a killer dose of pain medication.

Isabella has her eyes closed tight, inhaling through her nose and exhaling out her mouth, each breath quivering a little more than the last. She opens her eyes slowly when a rustling sound meets her ears, raising her chin to meet Phineas' softly smiling face. He holds out a plastic cup, which Isabella takes curiously.

The young man skids around the edge of the hospital bed, taking a seat by Isabella's side. Isabella tilts the cup to meet her eyes. "Ice chips?" she asks.

"Yeah," Phineas chuckles. "You probably don't need them just yet, but I know that's what the guy always does in movies. Gets her the ice chips and holds her hand."

"Will you be doing that as well?" Isabella asks as she places the cup on a small bedside table. But of course, not before placing several small slivers of frozen ice in her mouth.

"I'll do whatever you ask of me," Phineas explains, his lips curling. "Do you want me to?"

"Please," Isabella replies. "And thank you," she adds, motioning to the cup next to her, nodding appreciatively.

Hours begins to pass more quickly as Phineas holds Isabella's attention. Distracting the young woman gets more difficult, however, as Isabella's discomfort grows greater and more frequent.

Phineas is in the middle of speaking when Isabella cries out for the first time, clutching determinedly to Phineas' sleeve as she lunges forward in a sudden burst of pain. She whimpers and tears as the pain persists, panting heavily as it subsides.

Doctors take note of the pattern that develops as Isabella's snivels slowly grow into uncontrollable wails. Phineas notices that the young woman's weeping is amplified even more so when she is informed there isn't much time.

The nurses disperse as they ready the procedure, giving Phineas and Isabella a few last minutes alone. Isabella's forehead is caked with sweat, her bangs clumped to the side with the moisture. Her face is flushed and she is noticeably paler than usual, despite the heat of her body. She appears to be panicked and miserable.

Phineas takes her hand, placing a lingering kiss to the woman's knuckles. Isabella looks to her side, her chest heaving with baited breath. She gasps and hiccoughs violently.

"Shh," Phineas soothes, running his thumb over Isabella's wrist. "Honey, you need to calm down. Everything is going flawlessly. You're doing fine."

Isabella coughs, her panting becoming softer and less wild. "You seem so calm," she manages, "Why do you seem so calm?"

Phineas chuckles, looking to Isabella with dancing eyes. "I'm not," he admits. "I'm just as nervous as you."

Isabella manages to lift an eyebrow despite her tightly contorted face.

"Okay, minus the stress of actual childbirth," Phineas corrects. His face softens as his smile dissipates and his tone turns serious. "But I have a hunch it's not the labor you're worried about."

Isabella exhales, leaning back against the bed as she is given momentary peace. "It's nothing," Isabella insists sadly. "Like I said before, it's just… everything is happening so fast."

"You've had nine months," Phineas points out.


"I know," Phineas chuckles. "I know. I'm kidding." Isabella looks away, not angry, but not amused, either.

Phineas notices, so he continues. "Isabella," he says. "Isabella, look at me." She does. "This is going to work out. We're young, I know. But we've got everything we need to raise a happy child. And everything we need to begin a long and happy marriage. We're going to be okay."

Isabella keeps her blue eyes locked with Phineas'. She does not blink. "How are you so certain?"

"I'm not," Phineas replies honestly. "But I'd like to be. I believe in myself, Isabella. And in you, and in us. This will work if we want it to. You do want this to work, don't you?"

"Yes," Isabella replied instantly, her brow wrinkling. "Yes, of course I do."

"Then you've nothing to worry about," Phineas assures, smiling kindly. Isabella hesitantly returns the gesture.

Her happiness doesn't last long, however, as she is hit by another awful contraction. She wretches in pain, curling into herself. Doctors and nurses are suddenly surrounding her, blurring the woman's line of view and only increasing her unwelcome rush of adrenaline.

"Phineas," she cries, reaching blindly for the young man's hand. He finds hers first, taking her thin fingers into his grasp, encasing her entire hand in between both of his. Isabella feels her nails digging into the palm of Phineas' hand, undoubtedly leaving dark indentations. Her own knuckles are white with the pressure, her grip bound and merciless.

"I've got you," Phineas replies. "Clear your mind, baby. Think positive thoughts. You can do this. I believe in you, Isabella."

Isabella nods and groans, trembling as the doctor shouts orders and gives rapid-fire instructions. She's told to push, so she does.

Her mind is clouded until she rids her thoughts of negative feeling, triggering her imagination. And suddenly, reality seems a million miles away and time stands still.

A beat.

Isabella sees a small boy. He's running across a field of tall grass, arms spread wide. Isabella sees herself, lifting the boy into the air as he crumples into her arms. Their matching ebony locks and heartfelt laughter intertwine and mingle with one another, ringing through the calm air. She sees how he loves her.

A beat.

Isabella hears Phineas soft voice. She sees herself peeking from behind a doorframe, watching as the young man lies in a small bed alongside that same little boy. She watches two pairs of matching midnight eyes as they skirt across the colorful pages of a storybook. She hears the contented sigh of the glowing little child.

A beat.

Isabella tastes chocolate ice cream. It's cold but melting fast. She and Phineas help the little boy wipe the confection off his sticky hands, licking the cream away with a playful flick of the tongue. Isabella tastes the dessert when Phineas places his chocolate coated lips to hers.

A beat.

Isabella smells freshly cut grass. They're flowers, actually, but more like weeds. She accepts them just the same, however, when the little boy hands her the dirty dandelions in a messily arranged bundle. She places a kiss to the small boy's cheek, their matching button noses colliding gently. She smells the nature on his skin.

A beat.

Isabella feels a heartbeat. The small boy is sitting on Isabella's lap. He seems to be speaking, but she doesn't hear him. Her ears are ringing with the sound of the rhythmic harmony that makes her breath come easier with every gentle thud. She smiles. She feels the life she created.

A beat.

Isabella's mind calms as she finds strength. She sees the light at the end of the tunnel and she feels that same belief Phineas was talking about only minutes before.

A sudden cry rings throughout the room. Isabella's eyes snap open and her pain dissipates as if by magic. Reality snaps back to life and Isabella's usual thought process returns. She has the ability to think clearly again, but only one thought reigns:


It's good.

Author's Note: END. WOOHOO! Cue noisy fireworks, messy glitter and rampaging confetti. So they have a baby now. Talk about going out with a bang. Anyway, definitely not one of my favorite chapters, but it gives the happy ending I needed. This story is officially finished, and after this, I'm probably never going to read it ever again. Bahaha. I cannot even begin to convey the gratitude for all the fantastic reviews I've received. I've gotten way more than I could have ever anticipated, and they're just the daily pick-me-ups I'd needed. Thank you all so much. Reviews are appreciated though not expected, as per usual. So for now, I bid adieu. Much love, Danielle.

Coming Up Next: My Newest Story!

Title: "Meant to Be"

Chapters: Nine (Including Prologue and Epilogue)

Summary: Alternate Universe. Isabella is a bright young woman making a living as a motel maid in freezing cold Canada. When a handsome stranger's flight is delayed due to weather conditions, he is forced to stick around until the sky clears. Will he be the excitement Isabella needs? And is he really a stranger? Isabella's POV.

Sneak-Peek of the Prologue:

Before I know it, hours had passed and I've lost all sense of time. It isn't until the loudspeaker rings out again that I realize how long we've been talking.

"Attention, all," the voice calls again. "We're nearing our destination. Arrival time is predicted at a quarter of an hour. Prepare all belongings for dismount. Thank you for traveling. Ontario welcomes you. Thank you for your time."

When the voice clicks away, I await the man's voice to come streaming back again. I am surprised when it does not. Instead, I see that the man has shrugged further into his seat. He looks contemplative as he stares soundlessly out the window. He appears almost frustrated.

Disappointed by the sudden lack of conversation, I turn my head to the side dismally. I see that same passenger from earlier that evening asking to have the heat turned up, to which the same elderly attendant once again complies, and I giggle lightly. "There you go," I say, addressing the young man before me. I use my thumb to point over my shoulder and behind me. "You freeze the whole trip and that woman doesn't decide she's cold until there's only fifteen minutes left."

"I'd say it's one half timing and the other half's luck," the man calculates, chuckling.

"Apparently neither are on your side today," I surmise, smirking.

"Oh," the man drawls, tilting his head and grinning in my direction. "No. I wouldn't say that. There has to be something special looking out for me, seeing that I at least got to spend the entire ride with you."

I blush furiously, allowing my hair to cascade down my face in front of my eyes, brushing my scarlet cheeks. I stare bashfully out the window for a moment before ruffling my brow. "We left the station at eleven," I observe confusedly. "It should be almost seven by now. It's strange for the sun not to have risen already."

"Oh," the man chuckles. "I forgot. Today is the Winter Solstice. The longest amount of nightlight in the entire year."

"The longest night of the year," I mumble. I turn my head towards the young man, my hair sweeping across the bridge of my nose. "Then why does it feel as if it is the shortest?"

To be continued… Look for the complete Prologue! Full chapter to be posted in due time, as I'm taking my time with this one. Once the first chapter is posted, updates will be every Friday. I'd love to hear any comments, questions or concerns. Until then, all my love.