CHAPTER SIXTY-ONE

BPOV:

All I could think about while I listening to Edward explain about giving Tony a room in his new apartment was, I'm not liking this conversation; make it stop! I was not ready to hear about a new room for Tony, because a new room simply means not HIS room, the room in MY house. It stands for time my son will spend away from me, and after being without him all week, I can't imagine Tony being away from me any time soon.

Apparently my facial expressions gave my internal thoughts away, because Edward was quick to diffuse the situation. He gave me legitimate reasons, the main ones being that Tony needed male-bonding time, and me needing a break from motherhood every once in a while to enjoy myself. And while those reasons were okay, they didn't impress me. If I were countering I would say, 'Tony has Jake for male-bonding.' Or, 'I love motherhood. Why would I want a break?' But there was no time to counter because Edward hit me with the one reason I could not argue; fairness.

"But, um, now that I'm here, and going to be somewhat apart of his life, I just figured that it was fair that I could spend some time with him too."

In one simple statement, Edward gently shoved my mistake in my face, thus gaining himself the upper hand. He was right; this really was not something I could deny him, being that I've denied him so much already. Like four years' worth of this so-called "male-bonding time". Reluctantly, I gave in….what other choice did I have? We were trying this being friends thing, where we would have a cordial relationship for Tony's sake. A flat out no would have set our progress off course.

Things were quiet after that; my bedside visitor offering no further conversation. As minutes ticked by, all that was exchanged between us were quick glances. The silence was starting to get awkward, so I offered up a silent prayer for someone to come and rescue me. Not a moment later, a knock sounded at the door, and I could have cried with joy when I saw it was Angela, my savior.

Joy? Hmmh. I'd venture to say you're slightly bummed by the interruption missy, my internal dialogue mused. Ohhh dear lord. Add another symptom to the list of what's wrong with Bella. Apparently my body is at war with itself regarding whether I want Edward around. I guess my being wishy-washy proves that I shouldn't be in Edward's presence for any long periods of time; I need to become accustomed to him again. Seeing him has really set me back. I feel like a dazed fan that's in shock after seeing their obsession in real life. Not that I was obsessed with him, but his presence just seems very "knight-in-shining armor" and I feel like I'm dreaming. Maybe I am dreaming…seriously, can someone pinch me? Did Edward really come all this way because I was hurt? Am I really sitting in a hospital room, discussing additional living quarters for my son? Quarters that will be in his father's home, a father he doesn't even know about? Yeah…things like this only happen in fairytales. I think if you put yourself in my position, you'd be a little dazed and confused too.

I figured Edward was going to leave so Angela and I could talk; or write; or whatever I'm doing these days to communicate. But she surprised both Edward and me when she asked him to stay. Last I heard she was on Team Bella, but whatever. Edward must have won her over with his boyish charms while I was sleeping.

The conversation excluded Edward at first because we got to talking about motherhood and babies and all that jazz. It's important for expecting mothers to socialize with other parents to get all the know-hows and what-nots. I mean, it wasn't a subject I brought up intentionally to hurt him or anything. I didn't even realize that we had left him out; but Angela was quick to bring him back in and make him apart of the dialogue.

While Edward explained about decorating his apartment with a room for my son, I choose to take that time to watch Angela and her facial expressions to see what her thoughts on the situation would be. Right now, I'm not sure which direction she'd choose. Angela and I haven't always seen eye to eye when it came to me withholding Tony's existence from Edward. But for the last four-plus years, she's been my best friend, and I really wanted to see her stand by my side through this ordeal, as any best friend should. Of course Angela can't make it easy on me, keeping her facial expressions calm. She simply replied, "That's a good idea. You never can be too prepared. Right Bella?" And just like that, the attention was brought back on me.

While her face didn't give any secrets away, her eyes asked all the questions she couldn't ask aloud with Edward still in the room. Questions like, 'How are you doing? What do you think about this development? What am I supposed to say? Is there anything else Edward left out that you talked about? Where do you and Edward stand?' Obviously I couldn't exactly spit out answers to these questions. Instead, I just gave her a steady gaze back, hoping I portrayed that I was absorbing the information, and that it was really too soon to tell how this was going to change things. Worried that too much time had passed, I simply answered generically. "Ye-a. Go-od id-ea."

Sure…..good idea...if you say so, my internal dialogue mused again. But you want to know what wasn't a good idea? Angela bringing up Edward needing more things for his apartment; things that he kept in his home all the way in Chicago. I mean, I know Edward has to leave, or that he will leave eventually. After all, he has a practice, he has friends, a life all in another state in the middle of the country. Learning he has a son doesn't change one's entire lifestyle. But when the less rational side of me thinks about losing Edward again, especially after I just got him back, if you can even say I have him now, made my heart clench.

Edward claimed it would be a short trip since he wanted to get back in time to help Tony take care of me, so I know that Edward is coming back, but then how long will that be for? When does this happy little scene expire? After a month? Two months? Do I really want the chance to get comfortable with Edward again just for him to up and leave, and abandon not only me but our son too?

Yet here I am thinking about trivial things when the adults in the room are trying to figure out what's going to happen with Tony. You can tell how distracted I was because I offered Jake as an option, and I obviously don't want my son to stay in the love-shack, especially since my accident ruined Jake's honeymoon as it is. Of course Angela has to call me out on my mistake, causing my ever annoying blush to claim my cheeks. Well excuse me! It's been a long long time for me! And since sex isn't exactly on my brain anymore, you can't really fault me for forgetting other people still have it.

All of a sudden, I was ripped from my inner ramblings with Edward's next statement. "Actually, I was kinda thinking maybe Tony could come with me, to Chicago. It would only be an overnight trip, so it wouldn't be that long and I don't think he'd get homesick."

Tony? He wanted to take Tony? No, he couldn't take Tony; I'm his mother. He needs to be with his mother! This is what I was afraid of with Edward being here. He was only here to claim what is his. I can't let this happen. He can't take my baby!

In the background, I heard my heart rate increase on the monitor, betraying the inner panic I was currently experiencing. Edward stepped closer, and was quick to add, "I'm going to bring him back Bella. I wouldn't do that to you. I just thought maybe he'd like a little adventure, and I'd like to show him my hometown. Show him where his grandparents and aunts and uncles live. You know, that sort of thing. Let him get to know me in my natural habitat or whatnot."

Edward was trying to talk some sense in me, but I was only picking up every couple of words. My brain was sensing danger, and all I could understand were threats. Was Edward saying he thought Tony would like Chicago to be his hometown? Was he trying to persuade me in his favor by throwing the fact that Tony would have a surplus of aunts and uncles and grandparents around if he were to move there? Was it natural for Tony to be with his father? To calm my increased heart rate, I took deep breaths while simply repeating the mantra 'I am Tony's mother. He lives with me. Edward can't take him away,' over and over in my head.

I turned to my savior and saw Angela was watching me, obviously picking up on the fact that I needed her to help me here. She was just getting ready to turn around and ask Edward to leave when he took the initiative himself, and said, "I know that this is a big request Bella. So, why don't you think about it? I just ask that you give the idea a fair chance. I think this would be a great opportunity for me and Tony; a start in the right direction, if you ask me. So, think about it. And, uhh, I guess I'll leave you to it." With a nod in my direction, Edward turned and walked out of the door and the tense situation.

The first thing I did when Edward left my room was sob. In the last five minutes, my emotions have been all over the place, and my body simply couldn't handle it. Angela was instantly at my side, trying to calm me down. "Breathe Bella. Take deep breaths. You are okay. You are fine. Just breathe," she said, while petting my head and watching my monitors. The last thing I needed was a band of nurses to come running in my room to figure out what was wrong with me. I really didn't want to explain to them that right now what I was dealing with wasn't a physical problem, just an emotional one.

Once I gained enough breath, I sobbed, "To-ony" but that was all I could get out before I became too winded again. Angela realized that I was in no state to have this conversation verbally, and grabbed the whiteboard. Screw the doctor and his orders. Desperate times calls for desperate measures.

"What just happened?"I wrote, adding what seemed like a billion question marks to emphasize my confusion.

Angela sighed, and took my hand in hers. "A lot of 'whats' were brought up in the last few minutes. Can you be more specific?"

"He wants to take my son away."

Angela shook her head, "Tony's his son too Bella, if you have forgotten; it takes two to tango."

Rolled my eyes at her, and wrote, "Gee thanks for reminding me." Angela's chuckle under her breathe alerted me to the fact that my rosy red cheeks had returned.

"I'm sorry, I don't mean to joke at your expense, but you know me. When things get tense, I try to insert humor. Anyways, moving on. Whether you'd like to admit it or not, we knew Edward was going to make a return trip sooner or later to Chicago."

Reluctantly, I wrote "Yea…but I never thought that the trip would include Tony."

"True, that wasn't how I foresaw things going. But," she said, followed by a prolonged pause, "while that request came out of nowhere, I don't necessarily think it's a horrible idea."

I snapped my head in her direction, and said "WH-AT" to the best of my ability. There was no time to write a response down to that answer. Angela must be out of her mind!

"You heard me missy. Edward is trying here. That's more than I expected from him. This situation that you're all in is messed up, but it could be worse. Instead of yelling and screaming and suing or whatever else Edward could do, he is peacefully trying to be there for both you and for Tony. I'd say you're lucky all he asked for was a short trip to Chicago."

I let what Angela say sink in. She was right. Edward could take me to court and show the world what a terrible mother I've been denying him his paternal rights. But he wasn't fighting. He was being civil, asking for little things; a bedroom for his son, a trip across country. Ok, maybe they weren't little things, but the main point was he was asking for my permission, not just taking his son and running.

And while this all made perfect sense to me in my head, I still couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that Tony could be leaving me. Picking up the marker, I wrote, "Tony's never been away from me."

Angela scoffed at this message. "Newsflash Bella…Tony's been away from you for a week, and he's managed to survive."

"That doesn't count; I was unconscious and had no control over the situation. Tony needs stability right now. He needs his mother."

"Is this really about control Bella? Or maybe it's the fact that you don't want Tony and Edward getting to know one another?"

"What? I never said that..."

"I know you never said it Bella. But I'm trying to understand. If that's not the problem, then what is? Why all the hesitation?"

"I'm scared Angie. I'm scared. I'm scared for Tony. I'm scared for what this will do to him. I'm scared what he'll say when he finds out I've kept him from Edward. I'm scared what will happen to our relationship now that Daddy's in the picture. I'm scared of what will happen when Edward decides he's ready to call it quits. That will crush me-my boy." Crap….did I really just write me there? Must have been a Freudian slip…..maybe Angela didn't catch that.

"And you. It's okay to admit it Bella. I know you. This isn't all about Tony, as much as you wished it were. Before, when I first knocked on the door, I couldn't tell if my interruption was wanted or despised. There was tension, yes….but there was some sexual tension mixed in with everything."

"Ohh please Angela. You're pregnancy hormones are making you see things."

Angela laughed at this remark, and said, "Fine…maybe it wasn't that bad. But Bella, you wrote me there….you couldn't cross that out quick enough to hide it from me." When I didn't respond, Angela laughed again, and said, "Oh so you did think you could pull that one past me huh? Nope, you definitely wrote me there. Plain as day, I saw the letters M and E."

"Oh Hu-sh" I muttered, tired of her making fun of my slip up. Of course this only made her laugh harder at my expense.

Once she managed to contain her giggles, she added, "You know, Edward being here opens the door to several opportunities for you as well as Tony."

I did not like her emphasis on the word you, and was quick to shoot that idea down. "What do you mean? Its not like that for us anymore."

"So defensive. Maybe you want it to be," she jested, before adding, "I'm not saying kiss and make up. But you don't have to be enemies. You can work together. And you've already shown me that it's possible. Like, when Edward was telling me about you letting Tony have a room in his apartment. That's a big step, but you worked it out like two responsible adults."

"I guess…I could always use another friend" I wrote, though my heart dropped as I stared at the last word.

Distracting me from my inner musings, Angela added, "And since it's 'not like that' for you guys anymore, father/son bonding times gives you the opportunity to be a young single female who has nights out on the town."

"But I don't want to be a young single female. I want to be a Mom."

"Honey, you don't have to choose. You will be a Mom regardless of where Tony is. When you're at the high school teaching during the day, are you a Mom?"

"What?" What is she talking about? Has she lost her mind?

"When you are teaching, away from home and away from Tony at the day care, are you still a Mom?"

"Yes, I guess…" I'm an English teacher. You think I'd pick up on the analogy. Oh well….

"No….there will be no I guess answers. You, my friend, are a Mom…but you are also a teacher, an employee, a friend, etc. You can have more roles and still be a mom. Understood?"

I gave her a nod, which seemed to satisfy her. With a short lull in the conversation, I inquired, "So you think I made the right decision in letting him do a room up for him?"

"Yes. Now with Edward around, having a room in both homes shows that you guys are ok with this set up, and are amiable. Therefore, Tony will be comfortable being in either place.

"But more comfortable at home with me!" I was quick to add.

"Bella, of course he'll feel most comfortable with you. You are his mother; you've shared a bond since the womb. And you're the only parent he's known of since birth. You will always be his number one. But he needs a Dad in his life, so you need to share him."

"And….this trip. If it were you, you'd say yes?"

"I believe I would. It's only for one night. And if you want to get technical, they'll probably spend more time traveling than on the ground in Chicago. You could probably even classify it as a day trip."

Leave it to Angela to make even the worst sounding ideas seem pleasant. "True."

"And you know Tony will want to call you ever five minutes to tell you about everything. You won't even have time to miss him."

Not having to erase my bored, I simply underlined my previous response, "True."

"So…." Angela prompted, staring back at me and my dry erase board. She wasn't going to leave the matter there. She was going to make me say it. When I didn't respond right away, she cleared her throat, and said again, "SO…"

I tapped my pen against the board a couple of times, willing myself to take the plunge, and make a decision regarding this trip. With a deep breathe, I scribbled out "I guess we'll have to Google what the weather is like…."

I didn't even get a chance to finish writing before Angela answered. "I can look up what the temperature is in Chicago right now."

"Of course you can," I mocked, as I watched Angela grasp around her purse for her beloved Blackberry.

"Oh Bella, I knew you'd make the right decision!" Angela gushed as she scrolled through her phone. Well, at least one of us did, I thought to myself.

With Angela distracted by her phone, the reality of the moment crashed down upon me. I just agreed to let my son go to Chicago with his father. I felt less anxiety about the trip now that Angela and I worked through the matter. And for a second, I felt good about the situation, and the way it was handled.

But that feeling disappeared just as quickly as it came because now that I made a decision, a slew of new questions presented themselves. My son's travel experience is limited; will he be okay on an airplane without me? Who will pack up a suitcase for him? Will Tony understand that I can't come on this trip? Should I tell him about Edward before they leave?

The last question was followed by a definitive no in my head. Now is not the time to be dropping bombshells. I need Tony to be focused and prepared for this trip; not all out of sorts. I just need to make sure Edward is on the same wavelength.

Focusing back on Angela, I noticed that she now was scribbling information down on the pad beside my bed as she read things off her phone. I called out to gain her attention, "Ang-la". She was so absorbed in her work, that me vocalizing her name startled her.

"Huh? What? Yes…are you okay? What's up?" she rushed, covering all her options in one breathe.

Picking up my board, I wrote, "I'm fine. Can you find Edward?"

Setting her phone down on the table, she rose and said, "No problem. I'll go track him down." And then she was gone.

In her absence, I took a moment to appreciate the silence and look at all the joyous things surrounding my room. A smile came to my face as I saw the plethora of get-well cards from my students, as well as some tacky flower arrangements here and there. It made me feel loved to know there were so many people in my life who were affected by my accident. However, that smile fell when I saw my Quileute dream catcher in the window of my room. Jake had made that for me back in high school to help keep away the nightmares. And it did; just knowing it was nearby would bring me such feelings of peace and contentment. But looking at the woven piece of artwork now made me think about the future nightmare that will come once Jake finds out about this Chicago trip.

Maybe he'll be understanding, I thought, as I sat back and waited for Edward's arrival. But then again, for as long as I've known him, Jake has been quick to react; only thinking about consequences later. This has the potential of getting ugly pretty quickly. I'll just have to deal with Jake later on.

I know that I can't make everyone happy. The only person I care about pleasing right now is Tony, and given his adoration of the Cullen Clan, I think a visit to Chicago will be just the thing to make him smile.

And as I looked up to acknowledge the knocking visitor at my door, I pleaded to myself, "Please don't make me regret this decision."