I wrote this story, Stephenie Meyer created the characters.
Ever heard the saying better late than never? Well, I guess it applies here. This chapter was supposed to be posted months ago, but my writing schedule had other plans for me. I'm so sorry, but here is the irrevocably last chapter of Starting Over. It has been a trip over almost 1½ years, and I want to thank you all for adding me to your alerts and commenting.
Dazzled Eyes22, betaed most of this story, but not the first chapters. Just wanted to mention that, because they are not up to par with the work she does for me. However, I owe her a lot and the fact that I now complete this story.
Thaiger Lily pre-read and offered a boost of confidence as always.
I hope you enjoy, and please check out some of my other stories.
Rolling over in bed, I followed the soft call of Edward's loving voice. However, rolling was about as hard as shoving a boulder up a mountain. "Get some more sleep, sweetheart," he whispered.
"Thanks," I croaked, while trying to get more comfortable. Edward leaned down and placed a reverent kiss on my bloated stomach.
"Not much longer before we see each other." He rubbed his palm over my tortured skin. "You want me to get you anything?"
"I'm good. Just wish I could sleep," I groaned and stretched my aching back. I wasn't in any pain exactly, but the night had been unbelievably uncomfortable. My body felt like it had been infested by an alien dead set on mangling me until I cracked. Well, my body kind of had been taken over by an alien. I was pregnant… again.
"I know, baby. You've been tossing and turning all night." He paused, looking at me with astonishingly and soft green eyes. "Do you think you're having contractions?"
I sighed and shrugged. "No, I just think my body is over this whole pregnancy thing."
Edward sat up beside me. His warm and tender hand swept over my stomach, across my breast and stopped at my face. The pad of his thumb ran over by cheekbone. His gentle touch always told me that he loved and treasured me. Our physical connection often made words unnecessary.
"You don't want me to call the doctor? Just to check and see if everything is okay?" he asked. I thought for a moment, before I sighed again, losing a little hope this ordeal would be over soon.
"I don't think it's the real deal yet. It doesn't feel like contractions, just the fact that I'm thirty-nine weeks and four days pregnant. I'm sure I'm not meant to feel comfortable in any way," I snidely answered. "Besides, it's Christmas and I don't want to bother Dr. Gerandy if it's not necessary."
He rolled his eyes. "Okay. I'll make sure the girls have some breakfast. Get some sleep," he ordered, though his tone was playful. Edward even winked at me.
"Are you flirting with me?" I smirked.
"Always," he answered without a hint of shame. "Now sleep, gorgeous." He repeated using that firm, but teasing tone again.
"Yes, Sir," I mocked back. "Just kiss me before you go." Edward snickered.
"Always." The kiss was slow and tender and his lips were soft as they moved against mine.
Edward threw on some pajama pants, a shirt and closed the door silently behind him. I lay still for long moments, just gazing at the spectacular view. It was still dark outside, but the city lights illuminated snowflakes, as they drifted silently from the sky. Since we lived in the penthouse on the 33rd floor, we never closed the blinds. No one really had a chance in hell of seeing in. Though, we had a perfect view over New York.
Pulling my legs up, I was once again reminded about how heavily pregnant I was. My bladder was about to explode. Tipping my legs over the edge of the bed, I clumsily hauled my body from the mattress. I padded to the bathroom to relieve myself, hoping that today there would be a sign that I was going into labor. Perhaps, this would be the day I would see a trace of blood or something telling me that the baby was coming, but sadly no. I had to accept that everything was the same as yesterday.
My fingers were so swollen I could hardly bend them. I also hadn't been able to do an inventory of my feet for quite a while, but the way they felt, they had to look like a surgical glove that had been blown up. Edward told me every chance he got that I was beautiful and a spectacular sight. I didn't doubt the latter for a second. I was spectacularly huge.
Trotting back to the bed, I was relieved when I curled up into the warm sheets again. Minutes later, the door soundlessly slipped open and in came my girls.
"Hey, Mommy. Daddy said you were sleeping," Elizabeth said softly. Her curly hair was like a puffy cloud around her head.
"No such luck," I answered and smiled. I lifted the sheets and let them both climb in.
"Can I feel the baby, Mommy?" Esme asked and put her small hands to my belly before I could even answer. I dipped my nose into her hair, inhaling Esme's sweet and childish scent.
Things had changed a lot over the years. Elizabeth was seven years old now and Esme was five and both had a tendency to be a handful, but they filled our lives with so much joy every single day. The old apartment had been traded in for a luxury condo a few years ago. Now we had space, privacy and plenty of room for our family, which was direly needed. Jasper and Alice were still my roommates and even Emmett and Rose had joined us. Sure, we had roughlt ten thousand square feet in the heart of New York, but there were also people to fill it. Some days, this place was a madhouse, well, mostly depending on the kids. Elizabeth and Esme had the company of Emmett and Rosalie's kids at all times. On occasion, that was a recipe for disaster.
"Mommy, can we go swimming?" Esme asked, beaming up at me. I giggled when her fingers walked over the side of my belly.
"Yes. Please, Mom," Elizabeth chimed in. "Thomas and Taylor says that Uncle Emmett will take us," she continued, while innocently twirling a lock of bronze hair around her finger and batting her lashes.
"Did you ask Dad?" I countered. It wouldn't be the first time they got a no from Edward and then asked me, or vice versa.
"We didn't ask Dad," Esme blinked artlessly.
"Did you ask Uncle Emmett?" I raised a brow.
It wasn't the swimming trip that was a problem per say, more that together the four of them were creative at times to get what they wanted. "You can go ask Emmett and if he says it's okay, then you can go."
"Yay!" they squealed, while crawling eagerly from the bed and running from the room. "Remember Grandpa will be here later."
"We will," they called back in their high soprano voices, but they were already out the door.
Normally, I would go and play with them. As soon as this baby was born, I wanted to go back to being a full-time mom again. It was just that now I was a liability to those around me because I was so big.
Closing my eyes, the thoughts of the past kept flooding my mind. The years had been good to us. Edward hadn't quit acting completely, but had worked on two movies since we got back together. These were projects we both agreed upon, but he worked mostly as a composer and worked from home.
I still manage the bookstore, though lately Angela was running the show because of the new baby. The store was doing well, not that we needed the money because Edward still had a serious nest egg, even after dropping just short of twenty million dollars on the condo under my huge protests. The amount of money was nothing to him, but dizzying to me. Years down the road, my black AMEX still had a strange way of staring at me. I wasn't comfortable with it by a long shot. Though, I will sheepishly admit it has its perks.
The slim gold band around my right hand ring finger, correct that, the ring that is now secured on a necklace I wear at all times is proof that Edward kept his promise. Days before Esme was born, we got married. It had been nothing elaborate, just a quiet and simple ceremony held at home and dinner with the family. Alice was very perseverant and had made many protests, but I put my foot down. I wanted it to be low-key and nothing to fuss over and I got my way. Since I had already been down the road and had a big wedding before, I'd learned this time to do what was important to me and for Edward. He wanted it to be kept a secret, so the press wouldn't get wind of it. However, Alice was adamant that she should make my dress, so I picked my battles. We spent the evening locked away, either alone in our bedroom or soaking in the bath, just like we wanted to. It was simple and just for us.
Edward and I spent about four months of our honeymoon on Broken Beach as soon as Esme was old enough to travel that far. We still have Broken Beach, our secret haven where we go whenever we get the chance. That place is ours literally and figuratively. That beach and house belong in our hearts.
I picked up Edward's gray sweats, which were the only thing I had worn for days, because my body felt like I had been pulled through the wringer. The next thing was a t-shirt of Emmett's, which he had gracefully lent me the other night, because even Edward's shirt frayed at the seams now. I wasn't entirely convinced that I wasn't carrying twins.
I shuffled barefooted down the long hall, past the spanking new nursery that was just sitting ready and waiting, Esme and Elizabeth's rooms, one of the guest bedroom, a spare bathroom, the TV room and finally, to the kitchen. The apartment Edward had invested in was a monstrosity and I was still convinced that he had a brain hemorrhage when he bought this. He claimed he got a good deal, but I claimed he lost his sanity for a moment.
Moving closer to the open concept kitchen and living room, the voices got louder.
"I got to pick up Charlie at three. When are your parents coming, Jasper?" Edward asked.
I frowned. We were having a house full of people since it was Christmas and I wasn't going anywhere in my condition. So all the family we could gather was coming to see us this year, even my mother. We got along better now and she was so different with the grandkids than she ever was with me.
So, I admit, it was nice to have the space on days like these.
"I think they'll be here by two?" Jasper added. "They want to spend the day with the kids."
Grandparents and their grandkids I had learned had a very special bond. Jasper and Emmett's parents adored all the children in the house. Even though Elizabeth and Esme weren't biologically theirs, it made no difference to them. Besides, Edward had lost his parents so young, so they sort of filled places where people had been so tragically lost. I guess we all had our ways of honoring his family, and it was only logical that we named our second daughter after his mother.
"Ugh, that will give me the chance to pop out and get the last of the Christmas shopping done later." Rose beamed. "I promise myself that I will do it early every year, but my plan always seems to fail." I could detect the smile in her voice.
The beginning of my friendship with Rose had been a difficult one. I never disliked her, but she just didn't warm to me. It had gotten worse over the months after she and Emmett married. She hardly spoke to me and when she did, her tone was cold enough to make water freeze. However, her hostility came to an abrupt end and I never knew why, but as far as I knew having her almost lose everything, meaning Emmett, had made her stop and think. It took a while, but finally we were able to have a conversation and watch a movie together. When she insisted that I needed my nails done, I didn't protest because we were living under the same roof and I wanted get along with her.
"Morning everyone," I murmured.
Coming into the large room, Edward quickly conjured up a warm smile for me. "You should be in bed," he said softly. "I distinctively remember giving you that order." I didn't miss the heavily sardonic timber in his voice. I looked up, batted my lashes at him.
"You know I'm not really good at doing what I'm told," I teased.
"Yes, love, I learned that a while ago." He placed his arm over my shoulders. "You need the rest, though" I tilted my head back, knowing that Edward kissed my hair every time I did that. His lips were soft as ever as they graced the top of my head softly.
"I know, honey. I just feel so restless. I wish that you were right and that there was some reason to call Dr, Gerandy." I let out a heavy breath. "I just wish that it would happen already."
Edward cocked a brow at me, before he lowered his head and whispered in my ear. "Well, if you're that pumped up, I read somewhere that sex is the best way to induce labor. So if you want, I'd be more than willing to escort my beautiful and impatient wife back to the bedroom."
A blush crept into my cheeks.
Alice cleared her throat. "Okay, I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that."
"Who are you kidding, we all heard it, Alice," Rosalie chirped. "Now the question is, what are you going to do about it?" She looked at me with twinkle in her eye.
This time, I blushed to my scalp and was kind of happy that Emmett wasn't around. He would make a meal out of this, no doubt. I looked up at Edward, but he just seemed unfazed by it all.
Rosalie continued unabashedly. "If you want to know, I'd say hell yeah to his very kind offer, Bella."
"I'll keep that in mind," I countered, trying to sound sassy like Rosalie because she could always brush people off, but I was hopeless at it. Edward snickered.
"You do look like hell, Bella," Alice chose to comment much to my dismay. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. I just had a bad night and couldn't sleep because the baby keeps pretending I have no ribs. Besides that, my back is killing me," I complained.
Rose smiled indulgently. "You should listen to Edward, Bella. Those bags under your eyes need their own zip code by now." I made a face at her. "Crap, I didn't mean the sex this time, but the sleep part. Sorry." She shrugged. I tried to suppress my smile. "I think I'll join Emmett and the kids at the pool," she announced before she strode off to their section of the apartment, probably looking for her swimwear.
I pulled back from Edward, before going for the fridge and pulling out the orange juice. "So are you still making dinner tonight? If you need anything, I'll lend you a hand," I said to Jasper, who was sitting at the breakfast bar and tapping away at her computer.
"Yep. I'm on top of it and if not, I'm sure my lovely wife will pitch in." I didn't miss the brush off. Lately, I had almost been treated like I was handicapped. No one let me do anything.
"Bye, y'all," Rosalie called as she slammed the front door behind her minutes later.
I bit back my wince, as there was a sharp snap in the lower part of my stomach. Refocusing, I shook the carton, detecting that it was almost finished before emptying it. Closing the fridge, Edward was gaping at me. I widened my eyes at him waiting for him to say something, but he didn't. The room went silent for a moment then Alice cleared her throat, but it was Jasper that spoke up.
"What?" I asked, turning to face Jasper.
Edward left his coffee cup at the counter, while his face looking strange and full of anticipation. "Uh, honey, did you pee your pants or would that be your water breaking?" He pointed down towards my legs.
Quickly, I peeked over my belly and cast a glance down my pants the best that I could manage. How could I have missed this? At the junction of my thighs, a vastly increasing dark spot spread on the fabric. Staring at it, I felt fluid trickling down my legs, before soaking into the fabric. Oh my god!
"That would be my water breaking," I mumbled, as I appeared hypnotized at the darkening pool that seemed to increase in speed and start to drip on the floor.
"Yay!" Alice beamed and scurried off her chair.
"Are you going to panic again?" I mouthed at her, bringing up a joke from when Elizabeth had been born. Then I looked up at Edward, whom seemed unusually pale. "Are you?"
"Uhm… er… I… uh, I hope not," he barely breathed. Esme was delivered by C-section because she had been breech. It had all been planned and the wait hadn't been like this. Edward hadn't been through the natural process before, but I had tried both. "So what happens now?"
I was strangely calm, going completely into practical mommy mode. "We wait for the contractions and then we'll have a baby," I answered lamely. "Alice, can you take Elizabeth and Esme if something happens before they come back and we're not here? Jasper, will you pick up Charlie instead of Edward?" I asked as I looked my husband. "I'm going to have a shower and finish packing for the hospital and you get to call the doctor because apparently you were right." I smiled before I looked down quickly. "Could you also get me a towel, so I won't leave this mess all over this place?"
He gaped at me. "That's it? Get you a towel?" he asked, appearing unconvinced. It was like he expected everyone to start jumping around and boiling water.
I studied him for a moment. "You expected me to start screaming and writhing in pain from the very beginning?" I teased.
"I think so." He suddenly laughed, seeing the absurdity of it all.
"Trust me, that part will come later. For now, could you get the towel, please?" I pointed down to the increasing puddle of fluid gathering on the floor and smiled sweetly. "Then you can do your I told you so dance," I threw in.
"Oh good, that one was just about a second away," he teased. He pulled me into a quick embrace. "This is fantastic, baby. I'm so excited."
Holding the towel to my crotch, I moved back through our bedroom and into the bathroom. Suddenly, I realized this was probably what had been going on all night. That was why I had been so uncomfortable. I was going into labor.
I left my sodden clothes in a pile at the door and turned the water on. I hit power on the small radio, before pumping up the volume of the music. I needed the noise to distract me a bit. Getting under the spray, the warm water washed down my body and I took a few moments to really let it settle in my mind and heart that the baby was coming. I smiled a little. This was it. Finally. Now, I just needed to wait for the contractions to start.
While running my fingers through my hair and getting the sods out, I started to feel pain mounting around my midsection, a tension running over my lower back. Okay, perhaps I didn't have to wait too long for the contractions to start. After I finished rinsing my hair, I was washing my body when a sudden pain took a turn for the worse and I had to brace my hands against the wall. It had a bit of a sting to it. I tried to breathe calmly and wait for it to subside.
This was kind of fast and intense.
I took a slow deep breath, so I could relax again. It didn't last long though. I barely finished rinsing off the soap when pain began to rip through my body. It never let up or allowed me to catch my breath. I tried to control the coming contractions by breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth, but something was wrong. Something was seriously wrong!
Gnashing my teeth and attempting bite back the burning sensation, I crouched down while still supporting my weight against the wall. I didn't have a watch, but I was pretty sure there was a mere twenty seconds between the contractions. This was too fast. Everything was happening too fast. I stared at the water sliding down the drain, detecting the faint reddish color of blood. I sat for a moment waiting for a break and trying to gather my thoughts. Panic was the worst thing for me right now. I was probably delusional and reading all the signs wrong.
Reaching up to shut the water off so I could get out of the shower my body was suddenly ringing with pain. Okay, there was no doubt about it. These were contractions. The nasty and all consuming contractions I remembered from when I was in labor with Elizabeth were back with a vengeance. Sitting back, I screwed my eyes shut doing everything I could to breathe through them. One breath after another dragged in through my nose and wheezed out through my teeth. This hurt like a bitch. It could only have been minutes with intense contractions that took no mercy on me when the change came. Oh no! There was a violent pressure aiming downwards through my pelvis.
How long had I been in the shower? Five minutes, perhaps ten? I didn't know. My head was no longer clear and all I felt was the numbing pain. I had a clear understanding this was happening too fast. I settled on my back on the hard floor.
"Edward!" I called loudly. There was no answer. Another contraction encroached on my body, only intensifying the pressure on my backside.
"Edward, get down here! The baby is coming!" I tried to get up, but it was abundantly clear that I couldn't stand nor was I going anywhere. Between my legs, it felt like I was about to explode. This was so different from the first time. Back then, I had no clue what was happening or how fast and this time I had no doubt that the baby was minutes from being born. I could feel the head painfully making its way down.
Oh, why hadn't I listened to Edward when he wanted to call the doctor an hour ago?
"EDWARD!" I screamed at the top of my lungs, but it was fruitless. I was in one corner of the apartment with the music running loudly. If he was still in the kitchen, there was no way on Earth he would hear me. What if he had gone down to the pool to tell the girls the baby was coming? "Edward," I sobbed, feeling lonelier than I ever had before. The searing pain, the pressure and the fruitless calling all added up to one thing - I was having this baby alone and right now.
The downward pressure intensified with each painstaking second and I could do nothing, but push. I couldn't hold it or revoke my scream that bellowed from my lungs and ricochet off the tiled walls.
Pushing with everything I had in me, I felt the baby move through my pelvis. The need to push let up for a moment. I panted and cried for Edward again. "Please, please hear me," I called weakly between sobs. I hauled in a long breath and screamed. "EDWARD!"
I was out of breath when the need to push returned seconds later. Once more, I knew the baby was moving down and getting closer. I paused, trying to catch my breath for a moment. My head felt like it was going to implode from the exertion.
With nothing to hold on to and just lying on the wet floor of the bathroom, I knew I had to stop wishing for Edward or someone to come to my rescue. No one would expect this to happen so damn fast. I needed to do this on my own and for some reason this felt instinctual, like my body knew exactly what to do.
I focused all my energy, clenched my teeth and growled like an animal with the next contraction and pushed, while feeling the insane and splitting sensation at my thighs. Hopefully, I didn't have too much longer to go.
"Jesus Fucking Christ, Bella!"
That profanity was the sweetest thing I had ever heard. He could have read me the most beautiful poem or played the loveliest aria on his piano and it wouldn't hold a candle to his words right this second. "What the fuck is happening?"
To me, it was quite obvious. "The baby is coming a little fast." I took another breath, knowing I had only seconds before I needed to push again.
"You were in the kitchen ten minutes ago," he mumbled in total bewilderment. His eyes were wild and panicked as he gripped his hair. "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck…" he chanted. Then, he seemed to get with the program. In my foggy state of mind, I saw Edward rush to me, landing roughly on his knees between my legs. "Oh, Christ! Shit! Fuck! I can see the head, Bella. The head is almost out." He paused, hauling in a few deep breaths."There's hair. A lot of hair, sweetie." I felt him stroke my thigh, which was comforting.
"Is it red?" I asked of all things.
"No. It's brown… like yours." He looked up at me, then down again. The momentary break was over and the pressure returned. "I'm going to get a towel."
"There's no time," I growled through my teeth. I screamed with the feeling of flesh being ripped apart, but I kept pushing, following the pain in my body. It suddenly stopped.
"Don't give up, baby, just a little more," Edward suddenly prompted. "The shoulder is stuck." I glanced down at the blood and gore that was staining the floor. Edward's one hand was cradling the baby's tiny head while the other furiously tried to free the shoulder. I gathered some incomprehensible portion of strength and pushed with all that I had in me. I had no doubt when the shoulder slipped and the baby was free of me.
I struggled to sit up some, while staring dazed at Edward. He quickly grabbed Emmett's discarded and soaked t-shirt to swaddle the baby in. "It's a girl," he mouthed staring down at her awed. His pointer finger looked obscenely huge as he stroked her cheek. She was so tiny. Awkwardly, he tried to show her to me.
The small scrunched up face was still and her eyes were closed. "Make her cry, Edward." My voice trembled and fear shot through my veins. The room was too still, even with the blaring music. Why wasn't she crying? Was she breathing?
"I don't know. Rub her skin, hold her upside down or smack her bottom. Something!" I was a hairsbreadth from getting hysterical.
He worked with lightning speed. He quickly unwrapped her again, while gently squeezing her arms and legs, rubbing her pink skin and making friction. I drew the sigh of my life, when her small chest expanded and a sharp scream filled the room.
"Alice! Jasper!" Edward called, as he pulled the shirt around our tiny girl again.
"What the hell is with all the screaming down here?" Alice's tone was light when she came in from the bedroom. A high shrill scream ripped from her when she clearly took in what just happened. "Holy shit! Jasper, call 911," she yelled instantly.
"And call Dr. Gerandy back and tell him he needs to come here instead of the hospital," Edward added.
Jasper was a second behind Alice going right for a phone and vanishing out of the room again. She spoke so fast that it was hard to pick up the muffled words from the bedroom.
"Get some towels, Alice," Edward said. Quickly she tore some out of the large closet handing them to Edward. Swiftly, he wrapped it around the baby, before handing her to me. Alice propped a towel under my head to alleviate the stress on my back and neck from the hard floor, before she placed one over my body.
I didn't care. I only cared that the baby was still screaming and had a pretty flushed pink color. While having the new baby in my arms, I felt emotions started to squash me with relief. We were all okay. I stroked my fingers over the matted almost black mass of hair. Her eyes were puffy and narrow slits. She had the sweetest chubby cheeks and bared gums as she screamed. I hushed her lightly, hoping she wasn't frightened. She looked nothing like Elizabeth or Esme.
Edward sat back on his haunches, before gripping his hair for a moment. "I can't believe I left you alone. I'm so sorry I wasn't there, honey."
"Don't be sorry, Edward, no one knew it would happen like this." I hoped to soothe his discomfort that was clear as day on his face. "We're all okay."
His eyes were elated and repentant at the same time. "What a rush. I don't think I ever had my adrenaline pump like this." We both took a deep cleansing breath. "Bella, you're bleeding," Edward said quietly looking down.
"I'm supposed to." Now there was only the charming and delicate business of the afterbirth to deal with. Alice quickly procured a lace and some scissors to cut the cord. A few minutes later, it basically popped out on its own landing on the floor.
Both Edward and I froze when we heard small feet running over the wooden floor in the bedroom. "Emmett, keep the kids out," I cried panic-stricken. The bathroom floor was covered blood, looking like a massacre. They should not see this.
Emmett popped his head in. After the way that his eyes widened in horror and his pallor plummeted, I wasn't sure if he was going to faint or not. "Fuck me. This is one thing I never wanted to see." Standing at his feet was Esme, but he luckily had his large hand covering her eyes. "Rose. Take her. I think I need to puke." I knew the other kids couldn't be far behind.
The last I heard was Emmett muttering something like, "fuck, I'm glad we adopted."
Jasper came back in, squatting down beside us. "I called Dr. Gerandy. He'll be here in five minutes." She looked at me with utter astonishment and admiration for a moment when she stroked my wet hair. "You know how to keep it interesting around here. Are you okay?"
I nodded, though I was sure it hadn't really dawned on me that I just gave birth at home and on the bathroom floor of all places. I cradled the baby closer in my arms.
Suddenly, there was a flurry of EMT's. Dr. Gerandy mixed in with a lot of questions and examinations. Reluctantly, I let go of the baby when I handed her over to Edward while the doctor made sure that everything was okay. I wasn't bleeding too heavily and to my amazement, I didn't even need a single stitch. As I slowly got to my feet, it was surreal that less than an hour ago I had gotten out of bed to use the bathroom and here I was having given birth. It merely felt like my muscles were a little sore from a run. It was all somewhat overwhelming as I once more turned on the shower to clean myself up.
We were alone in the bathroom now where it was eerily quiet and the music shut off. Edward sat on the closed toilet with the baby in is arms, his gaze kept wandering from me to the bundle in his arms and back to me.
"You are one astonishing woman," he murmured. His eyes were soft and adoring as his point of interest shifted once more. "You are so incredibly strong, Bella. I couldn't be more proud that you are the mother of my children. I can't believe we have three daughters now."
I tipped my head back and let the warm spray hit my face. "It is a little daunting and I will need time to get used to that." I smiled internally. "I think I need to go on the pill again." I smirked at him.
"Are you saying that three's enough?" he asked softly. His eyes were fixated on the newest member of our family. He stroked her cheek as she slept. He looked up at me and I shrugged.
"Well, we have two kids that were conceived by accident and one that was planned and let me remind you that the one you're holding now took forever make." It had taken two years to get pregnant again and it was only when we gave up the idea of having more kids that it happened.
Edward smirked and gave me a mischievous look. "I rather enjoyed that," he murmured.
I blushed at his comment. I've been with the same man for five years and he could still make me blush like a schoolgirl. I turned the water off and reached for the towel. "Me, Too. Though, I think it's safe to say that we hardly control what happens in the future. C'est la vie. At least until she can walk, I think we need to take precautions."
"Yeah," Edward sighed. Carefully, he exposed a little of the baby's head and ran his fingers over the silky hair. He looked up again. "Are we still status quo on names?" he asked. "Because I got nothing."
I made a wry face. "I'm still clueless. Maybe in a few days…" I bent down and dried my legs. We had no clue what to name her.
"Don't you need any help at all?" he looked at me with a wondrous look. "Aren't you sore? I saw this head coming out of you close up and trust me, it scared me."
I stopped drying off. "Are you okay, Edward?" I asked when I realized no one had shown him any concern. Sure, I had experienced the physical pain that I knew was inevitable, but Edward could hardly have expected to deliver his own daughter on the bathroom floor.
He lifted a hand and waved me off. "I have a strong stomach." Suddenly, his gaze was on me with the utmost sincerity. "I think it was kind of amazing that we made her and that we brought her into the world. It's sort of like coming full circle." He smiled warmly, before he stood. Balancing the baby on one arm, he opened the drawer and fished out a pair of comfy panties for me. In the cupboard just above, he procured one of the large and horribly unsexy pads hoarded for just this occasion. He handed me the necessities before I would basically need another shower. This was Edward in a nutshell, where most men dug in their heels and refused to acknowledge something as simple as their wife's period. He had basically no reservations at all. He once said it was all part of the package.
I tried to suppress my smile remembering the first time we made love after Esme had been born. I had been insecure about the jelly-like feeling of my stomach and the scar from my C-section. I felt awkward from the extra weight. Besides that, I was breastfeeding and just as things had been getting interesting, I had been leaking like an old broken faucet. I had wanted to run from the whole thing and hide in shame because I couldn't control the running milk, but Edward assured me that it didn't bother him and that he understood and once we were done, we would just have to change the sheets. I had been reluctant at first, but once I relaxed, I had given in everything turned out fine. Long story short, Edward was always able to make me feel comfortable, loved and cherished, no matter the situation.
"Time to meet your sisters," he whispered when he held the swathed bundle to his face and whispered to the sleeping baby. "They already love you so much, sweet chubby cheeks."
Back in a pair of clean sweats and a shirt, I felt human again. Edward laid her down on the bed where Elizabeth and Esme waited patiently and unusually quiet to see her. Carefully, Edward unwrapped her and the girls were beaming.
"She's so small, Daddy," Esme said and frowned. Then her face turned a little disappointed. "She's not much fun to play with."
"In a few months, pumpkin, she'll be more fun to play with," Edward answered.
I threw my wet hair into a bundle to get it off my back. I sat down on the bed carefully, just behind Esme. Elizabeth reached out her hand, but hesitated. "Can I touch her?"
"Of course you can, honey," I answered.
"She won't break?" Elizabeth asked with her hand hovering midair.
"I promise you that she won't. She's small, but tough. You can hold her hand or stroke her cheeks," I suggested. She nodded thoughtfully and took a few moments before she gently laid her hand on the baby's cheek. I watched as my oldest girl carefully familiarized herself with her small and newborn sister. When Esme had been born, Elizabeth had only been two years old and barely paid the new baby any more attention than she would an old toy. Now it was different, very different. She had the same look of wonder on her face that Edward had. Carefully, she leaned down and placed her head next to the new baby's. She suddenly seemed so big, though Elizabeth would always be my baby.
Edward pulled the phone out of his pocket and began quickly snatching a few pictures.
"Mom, I think it's the wrong baby," Esme said suddenly. She looked up at me with big worried eyes and I probably looked back just as shocked as she was.
"Why do you think that?" I asked, while feeling totally confused why she drew that conclusion.
She pointed to the baby. "Carlie's hair should be like Daddy's," she stated pointedly.
I blinked. "Carlie?" I mouthed and looked at Edward who seemed just as befuddled.
Esme nodded assertively, not a shred of doubt in her eyes. "That's her name. I made it up from Grandpa Charlie and dead Grandpa Carlisle. They look the same, Mommy. I can spell Charlie, Aunt Rosie teached me. "
"Taught," I amended instinctively, while my head was suddenly a bit fuzzy. Carlie? I looked to Edward again. His eyes were wide and incredulous. Both girls knew about Edward and what happened to his family more than a decade ago. Edward had made sure of it. His answer to the loss had been to reach the girls on their level by making scrapbooks with pictures and both girls knew who they were named after. So when it came to this child we were at wits' end what to call her.
"I like that name," Edward said after a while, breaking into my musings.
Carlie, I repeated in my head. "It's perfect," I whispered. I pushed back the sudden wave of emotion and a few tears. "Now why is it that you think Carlie is the wrong baby?"
Esme rolled her eyes. "Her hair is brown?" she stated it mostly like a question.
I smiled at her reasoning. It was exactly the logic of a five-year old. "What color are your eyes, Esme?" I asked.
"What color are Mommy's eyes?"
"What color are Daddy and Elizabeth's eyes?"
"Green," Esme answered without hesitation.
"Exactly! That's because both of you girls have gotten a little bit of both of us. That's also why Carlie has brown hair. She got that from me."
"You have pretty hair, Mommy."
"Why thank you, sweetheart," I murmured into her ear. Esme leaned back into my embrace. She frowned again.
"I miss your big belly, Mom."
I tried to suppress my giggle. I wasn't going to miss that at all. I was already feeling slightly relieved. It was easier to breathe and I would need to use the bathroom so much less now.
There was a knock on the door and Thomas or was it Taylor that poked his head in. It was hard to tell. Emmett and Rosie's twin boys were impossible to tell apart. "Dad gave us a new computer game. Let's play," he said enthusiastically.
Both girls bounced off the bed, while running for the door squealing excitedly. With a flick of the wrist, the house was back to its normal noisy state.
"You want to see the baby?" Edward asked.
Seeing the brown leather bracelet about the boy's arm, I knew it was Taylor who came into the room. It had been easier in the beginning when Emmett insisted that Thomas' hair was cut shorter to tell them apart. "Uhm, sure." He shrugged. Taylor walked over to the baby and took a quick glance, but it was clear that he wasn't really impressed. With that, the kids left the room.
"The novelty wears off fast," Edward murmured, while smiling softly at me. It wasn't quiet for long as Rosalie peeked in.
"I don't mean to disturb, but the boys were dying to get the girls to play. I also wanted to let you know that Alice left to get your dad from the airport, Bella. I'll keep the girls entertained for a while, if you want to catch a nap." Rosalie smiled softly. It was strange to think that once she would raise her hackles just at the sight of me. Now, she was soft and caring.
Thank you, Rose," I answered softly.
"I'll give you some space, but that little bundle is mine the first second I get the chance," she threatened playfully.
As typical Alice, she just took charge without encouragement and attended to details like my father left in an enormous city airport all by himself. Charlie preferred fishing and the peace and quiet of Forks opposed to the hassle of a major city. It unnerved him. Basically, our family and the extended parts all worked like a well-oiled machine.
Edward picked up Carlie, balanced her in his arms and sat back against the headboard of the bed. He patted between his legs, gesturing for me to join him and I did. We often sat like this when I was breastfeeding Esme. The physical connection of his bare chest to my back was indescribable. They were some of my most treasured times.
I pulled my shirt off, haphazardly unwound my girl and cradled her against my chest. That was when her instincts took over and her small mouth started bobbing over my chest. She was searching. With a little assistance, Carlie latched onto my breast and started suckling. I watched her for a moment and my heart was overflowing with emotions. I leaned my head back against Edward's shoulder. "What a day," I whispered.
"What a Christmas," Edward retorted. Gently, he started stroking my neck. "Now there's just the rest of the family to deal with today and I'm already exhausted."
Silently, we watched as the baby fed on the small amount colostrum that I had been producing for the past few weeks. Slipping further down the bed, we both closed our eyes, just for a moment.
"Mommy," a soft soprano voice whispered. "Mommy, Grandpa is here," Esme called a little louder.
Slowly, I peeled my eyes open. The baby was sleeping soundly nestled into the crook of my arm and Edward's cheek was squashed against my shoulder with his hand resting on Carlie's stomach. He blinked rapidly as he woke up.
Behind my two girls, who were now so big compared to their younger sister, there stood my father. His brown eyes were soft and his mouth was stretched into a warm smile.
"Hey, Dad," I murmured and tried to stretch.
"You're giving Edward a run for his money with all these girls. I just had one and that's hard enough to keep up with." He paused his unusually wordy greeting. "Congratulations, honey. You too, Edward," Charlie said warmly.
I looked to Esme, who snuck her hand into her grandfather's. "Sweetheart, why don't you tell Grandpa her name?" I asked proudly. That was enough encouragement to set off a flood of explanations from our middle child. Elizabeth stood to the side.
"Can I hold her, Mommy? I promise I'll be careful," she said sweetly.
"I know you will, darling, and of course you can hold her." Edward sat up, while picking up the sleeping child.
"Come sit with me." Edward and Elizabeth's soft murmurs were amongst my favorite sounds in the world. Patiently, he explained how to support her head and why it was important.
"Dad, can you give us a second? I just need to get dressed." I clutched the sheets to my chest, as I was still naked down to my waist. Making a quick trip to the bathroom, I was still amazed that I wasn't terribly sore, as I quickly got ready. I tamed my hair the best I could and put on some clean clothes once I was back in the bedroom.
Together, we all went into the living room where voices were many and filled with warmth and laughter.
"Mommy, do we get one present today? Pleeeeaaaase," Esme whined.
"No, that's tomorrow, baby," Edward answered.
The room was decorated with silver and gold trinkets, a giant tree and other Christmassy knickknacks. Alice had, as usual, gone all out. The table was set, while the delicious smell of food slowly wafted throughout the room.
Standing here, I was amazed how much my life had changed after losing my first love. I had almost given up on life for a while. I certainly never expected to ever find a family as big as the one I had now. Their beautiful faces, how everyone always smiled, had twinkles in their eyes and their voices were filled with happiness when they spoke.
Without Edward, I would probably never have fully found a way back to life, certainly not one as full as this. This was my life now.
"I love you, baby," Edward whispered in my ear.
"I love you, too," I answered, feeling tears brim in my eyes.
He winked at me, while placing a soft chaste kiss on my mouth. "I know you do." He hefted each of the girls under his arms and made them squeal with childish joy. I looked down at the infant in my arms. She was still sleeping soundly. Perhaps we wouldn't stop at three.
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Take care all of you out there.