S. Meyer owns it.
I walk quietly down the hall to her bedroom, and stand in the doorway. She's already awake and bustling around her room and I can't stop the smile from forming as she scolds Sophie for being naughty. She's very serious in her reprimand. If Sophie were a real baby, I could imagine she'd be quite upset for being placed in time out for the next two years. Such a disciplinarian, my girl.
As she sits at one of the four chairs, around a plastic table adorned with princesses and fairies, she serves tea and cookies to all of her "friends." She's dressed in the gaudiest pink gown and a bright blue feather boa, with mismatched socks. Her hair is everywhere.
She brushes her tiny fingers through her bangs to get them out of her eyes, and it's not hard to guess where she gets her mannerisms (or her charm). I certainly can, and will, take all the credit for those. Her long, brown curls, however, and porcelain skin, the heart-shaped face and chocolate eyes - those are all her mother. And there is one other thing that undeniably came from Bella, too – when she's lost in thought, contemplating something mischievous, or nervous about meeting a new person, she worries her bottom lip incessantly. I've tried to break her of the habit, but I know that it won't make any difference. It's really just the same as a birthmark or eye color – passed down genetically. My attempts to make her stop are half-hearted, anyway; it helps me remember those little things about her mother. As if I could ever forget.
"Rey," I say quietly to get her attention, without scaring her. "Good morning, honey."
She whips around in her chair and she beams at me. "Daddy!"
"Hi sweet pea, how long have you been awake?" I sit on the floor and cross my legs so that I can join in the tea party. She giggles at my silliness and offers me a cup and saucer.
"I woke up a long, long time ago, Daddy. I had to make the cookies."
"Ah, I see. And what kind of cookies did you make?" I take a sip of tea.
"Oh, I have banana and wahmermelon cookies, and my special ones – purple jelly cookies!"
I try not to look disgusted, and instead open my mouth wide, inviting her to put a make-believe special cookie in my mouth.
"Mmmm, honey these are delicious!" I say as I pretend to chew on a mouthful of cookie.
She giggles. "Daddy, you are silly! Those cookies aren't all done yet, now you're going to get a belly ache!"
I grasp my middle and fall over, groaning in mock pain. She laughs and of course, when I'm at my most vulnerable, pounces. "Oof!" I yell as she slams into me, knocking the air out of my lungs. I hold her close to me while she tries to wriggle from my grasp. She doesn't like for me to hold her too long; she's a big girl now.
"Daddy, let go. My cookies are burning!"
"Okay, okay. Get your cookies out of the oven, but then please get ready to go. We're going to see Mommy today, remember?"
"Okay, Daddy," she says, straightening her dress and brushing the curls away from her face.
"Alright sweetheart, I'll be back in a few minutes." I bend down and kiss the top of her head.
I take a few steps down the hall and knock, waiting for permission to enter.
"Come in, Dad," Seth says.
"Hey buddy, we're leaving in a few minutes, okay?" I try to take a quick scan of the disaster he calls a bedroom, before he busts me for spying.
"Yeah, okay. I know. It's Sunday," he says. How do teenagers do that? There's no way for me to prove that what he just said was insulting, but it really felt like he told me to fuck off.
"Okay, okay. See you downstairs." I smile at him and shake my head, before closing his door and making my way to the kitchen. I pour a cup of coffee and look out of the small window, just above the sink. The weeping willow in the back yard looms over the house. Its sad, sagging branches remind me of rain streaming in all directions off the top of an umbrella.
It's two in the morning and the rain pelts the windshield. The wipers can't repeat their swaying motion fast enough to catch it all. I've adjusted the defrost setting and air conditioning about fifty times in the last ten minutes in an attempt to clear the fog from my view. My nervousness and anxiety over what's about to happen has been pushed aside, because I need to make sure that we don't wreck on the way there. Goddamn rain. I use my hand to wipe away the condensation.
"Edward, please. Go faster," Bella pleads between whooshing breaths. Her labor started last night, just some minor contractions, back pain, and a headache. Normal stuff. She wanted to wait it out and do most of her laboring at home. With Seth, we hauled ass to the hospital at the first twinge of a contraction and ended up being there for a few days, waiting. Even at ten years old, it seems we're still always waiting on that kid.
"Bella, I can only go so fast. The roads are wet and I'm trying to get us there in one piece."
"I'm sorry," she says and grabs my hand across the seat. "I wish I hadn't waited so long...oh god...to get to the hospital."
"Are you alright?"
"Yes. No. Please hurry."
"I'm hurrying. Just breathe."
"Edward, stop telling me to breathe. If you don't, I will punch you."
I can't help but laugh. "Yes, my love. I promise I'll stop. Please don't hurt me." For such a small woman, she really packs a punch.
Finally, we make it to the hospital. In less than five minutes Bella is in a wheelchair being pushed to Labor & Delivery by a nurse. I walk next to her, her hand in mine. As we rush through the hospital corridors I call her parents to let them know that it's time.
"Charlie, it's Edward. Bella's been admitted, I think the baby will be here very quickly. I just wanted to let you and Renee know."
"Thanks for calling us. We'll be waiting to hear from you once the little tike is born. Is Seth there with you?"
"No, he's at home - he's too young to be here, and there was no way in hell I could get him out of bed at this hour. I called Alice. She and Jasper came over to the house to watch him. They'll bring him in the morning."
"Alright then. Take good care of my baby, and keep us informed."
"Will do, Charlie. I'll call you soon."
We say our goodbyes and I dial my parents as well. I feel terrible causing such a stir at this ungodly hour but I know our families will want to know that we're here.
"Mom, it's me. I'm sorry to wake you. We're at the hospital; the baby is on the way. Seth is at our house with Jasper and Alice. I already called Charlie and Renee. Can you call Em and Rose and let them know?" I'm almost completely of breath.
"Honey, are you okay? You're talking a mile a minute. Is Bella alright?"
"Yeah, mom. I'm sorry. I'm just anxious. Everyone's doing great. I've got to go though, we're almost at the elevator."
"Okay, sweetheart. Call me when you can. I love you."
"Love you too, Mom."
I turn off my cell phone and we begin our ascent to the maternity floor.
The events of the next hour are a blur. I stay by Bella's side the entire time they're poking and prodding her, giving her the option for painkillers, which she promptly refuses. She had a natural childbirth with Seth and doesn't see any reason why she shouldn't do the same for our second child. Personally, I think she's crazy. I would take the drugs. She's eight centimeters dilated. At my best guess, we're going to meet our second child in less than an hour.
Between contractions, our private room is peaceful and quiet, with only the sounds of the monitors beeping in the background. Bella's face is flushed and she's trying to meditate her way through each painful spike. She opens her eyes drowsily and mouths the words "I love you". Smiling, I mouth the question "what?". She rolls her eyes and squeezes my hand. I tell her I love her too, and bend to kiss her hair, slightly damp with sweat and tinged with her scent. I breathe her in, and repeat myself, both of us sagging together with the weight of the day.
I was right on the money. Almost exactly an hour later her breathing has become ragged and she's telling me that she has the sensation to push. With a huge, overexcited grin I call for the nurse.
Faster than seems possible, an army of blue scrubs enters our room, wheeling in piece after piece of medical equipment; metal trays covered in surgical cloths and strewn with terrifying-looking instruments. I watch with rapt attention as they take Bella's vitals, scan the readings spilling from the diagnostic machines that are tracking her and the baby's heartbeats. I've seen this all before, but it seems like a lifetime ago. When Seth was born, I felt useless; my only job to coach her through this journey, and now is no different. The combination of the anxiety over making sure my wife and unborn child are healthy and well, and the need to be involved somehow, overwhelm me.
Instead, I choose to focus my energies on the brown-eyed girl I love with all my heart. I'm standing at Bella's bedside, holding her hand through the pushing, encouraging her each time a push is unsuccessful.
"I'm so tired," she says, obviously fatigued. "I need to take a break."
"You can do it, sweetheart. I love you. We're going to meet our little girl or little boy soon. Come on, baby."
With barely a spare breath she says, "I love you too, Edward. You're right, I can do this."
She looks up at me with love and determination in her eyes. Bella is the strongest woman I've ever met. If anyone can do this, she can. I know women have babies every single day, but for me, everything about this woman amazes me. She's really sweating now and her face is bright red from the exertion. I wipe the stray hairs away from her eyes. She squeezes my hand hard and begins to push again.
After another twenty minutes of this, we finally make progress. The obstetrician tells Bella to push her hardest, this is the final time. She does so with great effort, groaning in pain as the baby makes his or her way through the birth canal and out into the world.
"Mr. and Mrs. Cullen, you've got yourselves a brand new baby girl! Congratulations!" he says with genuine enthusiasm, as we hear our daughter cry for the first time. Quickly, I look to Bella and she's crying and smiling through the tears. I take her face into my hands and kiss her hard. I whisper against her mouth, "Baby, look what you did. I'm so proud of you. I love you so much." It's hard to keep my emotions in check, but I want to be strong for my wife. She puts her hand against my own and her eyes flutter closed and I see the color drain from her face. Her hand goes limp and falls onto the bed.
"Bella? Honey, what's wrong?"
"Something's wrong!" I yell at no one in particular.
The next thing I know several people are hovering over Bella as she starts to twitch and convulse.
What the hell is going on?
"What's wrong? What's happening to her?" I yell out.
"Sir, please, stand back. We're doing everything we can."
"Please. Please help her," I beg.
I feel as if the floor below me has opened up and swallowed me whole. The room spins around me and I realize my legs are shaky and I'm having trouble focusing on anything. I move to sit down, feeling very much like the odd man out. I'm alone in this room, my wife is unconscious and only these doctors and nurses know what's happening, but they can't tell me anything yet. Suddenly, I realize in the midst of all the commotion, that I haven't even seen or held my daughter. I look around the small room and she's not here. They must have taken her out of the room and into the nursery.
A nurse comes over to me and puts a hand on my shoulder. "Mr. Cullen, are you okay?"
I drag my hands down my face and shake my head. "No, God no. What's happening to my wife?"
"She's hypertensive sir. She had an eclamptic convulsion, which means that immediately after birth her blood pressure sky-rocketed. This ultimately led to the convulsions. We're trying to get her blood pressure under control," she says, in an attempt to soothe me.
I cannot be soothed.
My entire body is wound tightly and my heart is beating its way out of my chest. I struggle to wrap my head around the medical terminology. I can't seem to get the right questions out. I ask her where my daughter is, and she confirms that they took her out of the room. I can see her now, if I like. As much as I wanted to hold my newborn child, there's no way I can leave Bella's side.
The roller coaster of events continues about a half a minute later. She's no longer twitching but I see that both her fists are clenched and her arms and legs are rigid. Her jaw is tight and her eyes are still closed. I don't know if she's conscious. I don't know why this is happening to her. I'm lost in a spiral of fruitless hoping and guessing.
She starts to convulse again, these movements different from the last. They're jerky and violent. Whatever this is, it's getting worse. I want nothing more than to be next to her, holding her but I know that I'd only be in the way. So I do the next best thing; I hold my head in my hands and call upon any and every deity I can think of to save her.
The movements of the staff become a blur of motion circling around me, while I stay rooted to the spot. The words they speak are foreign; I can't decipher what they're saying, except for one, final thing.
My entire world comes to a screeching, shuddering halt.
"Dad. Dad? Dad!"
I'm jolted from my reverie and I turn around to see my son staring at me. "What? I'm sorry. What did you say?"
"Uh, I said we're ready. About fifty times."
"Sorry, I spaced out. Where's your sister?"
"She's in the garage. In the car, already in her car seat. She's ready to go. Obviously," he says, sarcasm dripping from his tone.
"Seth, be nice. She's still a baby. I know that you don't think visiting your mom does any good, but I think differently. And so does Rey. So do your grandparents, and Aunt Alice and..."
"I get it. Okay. Can we go now please?"
I sigh and pull him in for a hug. "Seth, I know this is hard. It's been hard on all of us. We have to keep faith, though. Okay? And I'm sorry for hugging you." I clap him on the back. "We should probably be more manly, right?"
"Yeah, Dad. Whatever you say."
I roll my eyes, knowing I can never win in these situations and nod towards the garage door. He begrudgingly makes his way to the car.
As with every Sunday, my parents, my sister Alice, her husband Jasper and my brother Emmett and his wife Rosalie, are sitting in the waiting area just outside Bella's room. Charlie and Renee are already inside, spending quality time with their daughter. I greet everyone and take a seat. Seth slumps in the seat next to me, trying not to crack a smile while Emmett sneakily makes bunny ears over Rosalie's head.
"What the hell, Emmett?" Quickly catching on, she smacks away his hand. "Grow up." She rolls her eyes at him and then looks pointedly at Seth. "This," she says, and gestures at Emmett, "is not funny. Do not encourage him."
Seth nods his head. He's still afraid of Rose. He'll learn someday that she's all bark and no bite. Well, a little bite.
"Edward, where's Rey?" Esme asks.
"She's at the nurses' station. She needed to ask for a favor. Charlotte's working today. She wanted to rehearse her song with her, before she sang for Bella."
Esme laughs and shakes her head. "That kid is hilarious. You know she's going to be famous one day, right?"
"Oh yes, believe me. I know. She's so excited about singing for her mommy. We've been practicing every day for a week. She wants it to be perfet."
"Don't you mean 'perfect'?"
"No. 'Perfet'. She said, 'Daddy, this song must be perfet for Mommy. Now, help me make it more better.' It was hilarious." Everyone laughs at Rey's antics and quietness settles over the room.
"I'm sure Bella will love it," my mother assures solemnly. My father, a man of few words, smiles at me and puts his arm around his wife. Even such a simple gesture makes my heart twinge with jealously.
Every single Sunday since Rey's birth, we've met here. The entire family comes to spend the day with our beloved Bella. They sit next to her, talk about the weather or current events, sometimes individually or in groups. Alice reads her articles from fashion magazines, and gives her the latest gossip about celebrity couples. Jasper reads her poetry, or sometimes passages from her favorite books. In three years I don't think he's ever repeated one; Bella has quite the collection. Emmett watches football, or soccer, or basketball – any sport he can find – and gives Bella a hard time for not understanding what's going on. Rose paints her toenails or gives her a massage, all the while telling her that marrying a Cullen should make them both eligible for martyrdom.
My mother and father usually go together. The same for Charlie and Renee. I think a lot of the time, they enjoy the peace and quiet with her. I'm sure she's heard every family story from both sides, five times over. Seth sometimes chooses to sit in the waiting room the entire time, playing video games or texting. He's thirteen, I don't expect much more from him. He was very dedicated to spending as much time as possible with his mom the first year after she fell into a coma. I was impressed by it, but I didn't know the toll it would take on him. I didn't see it until he started to withdraw and didn't want to come to the hospital at all, other than on Sundays. Rey, of course, has undying devotion to her mother, a mother who's never spoken to her, never seen her, never held her. She's exactly like Bella. She doesn't need Bella to speak the words or pick her up and hug her. She says she can feel mommy's love.
As for myself, I come here every day. It would be impossible for me not to. To say I miss her would be a massive understatement. It's torturous to be able to see her, touch her, and feel the warmth of her body, but to know that she's not really there with me. After giving birth to Rey, Bella's blood pressure went to dangerously high levels, which sent her into a condition called Eclampsia. It's common in pregnancy; I had no idea. Unfortunately for my wife, it came in its most extreme form, putting her into a deep coma spanning the entire life of our second child.
The aftermath of what happened that day came in many forms, good and bad. I spent every waking moment at Bella's bedside. I couldn't parent Seth and I certainly couldn't parent a newborn. I was a broken man. I knew I loved Bella, that I was in love with her. But I often think that we are so intricately tied to one another, that if that bond is severed, we'd both die. I hoped and prayed every day that she would respond, that she would lift a finger, or twitch her lips, open her eyes - anything at all. She never did. She hasn't still.
My entire family helped raise my children when I was unable to do so. Alice quit her job and stayed home with Rey, she cleaned my house, and did my laundry. I never asked her to do a single thing. I will forever be indebted to her. Renee handled everything when it came to the hospital. I don't think I've ever seen a single bill, or filed any paperwork. She tells me what it is, and I sign it. My parents have been my rock, keeping me strong, helping me struggle through the days when I think I have nothing left to offer anyone. My entire family, and Bella's family too, they've been amazing. I wouldn't have been able to do this without them. Our bond as a family was always strong, but now it's become unbreakable. So, on Sundays, this is their time. I wait for everyone else to see her, then I take my turn.
Today is special, however. Rey has been practicing a song for her mom. She's got a beautiful voice for a three year old. Her voice reminds me of tiny tinkling bells; soft and vibrant, yet peaceful and serene.
The evening is upon us and I can see that Rey has tired of coloring and playing with her dolls, and everyone has had their turn in Bella's room. I suggest that we all go in together, even if it is against the rules, to hear Rey's song.
We file in, my little girl holding my hand firmly; she's nervous. It makes me smile. We gather in a semi-circle around her bed. Even though I've seen her every day, each time my eyes meet her frail form it brings a blow to my heart. I swallow the lump in my throat and urge Rey to begin.
"Honey, are you ready?"
"I'm ready, Daddy."
In a stern, deep voice I say, "Quiet everyone. I introduce to you now, Miss Rey Cullen."
My beautiful girl opens her mouth wide and belts out the sweetest rendition of You Are My Sunshine that I've ever heard. She moves around to take Bella's hand in hers. The gesture brings tears to my eyes. My son stands closer to me, and I put my arm around him. There isn't a dry eye in the room.
As she starts to sing another verse she stops abruptly, a tiny gasp escaping her lips. I search her face to find the cause and see that she has her eyes trained on Bella's hand. It twitches. Instantly I'm at her other side, dragging Seth along with me. No one has spoken. We're all wearing the same shocked expression.
"Mommy?" Rey asks timidly.
"Baby," Bella rasps. It's barely a whisper. She flutters her eyelids, and as if already knowing exactly where I would be, her gaze meets mine.
"Hi," I say, tears streaming down my face. Like the windshield. Like the umbrella. Like the willow tree.
"Hi," she returns.
And all at once, creaking from its stubborn, stuck position, my life starts moving again, sparked by a single greeting and her wide, open brown eyes.
A special thank you to grrlInterrupted (who made this way better by spreading her Britishness all over it), as well as MessyBar, boniver115 and MsRason, who made the amazing banner (link is on my profile). You guys rock my socks off! ;-)
Fandom for Preemies raised over $5,000! Isn't that amazing? If you'd like to donate please visit: fandomforpreemies (dot) blogspot (dot) com.
Just a quick note about Eclampisa/Pre-Eclampsia: This is a real condition. The latter being extremely common and causing a large percentage of premature births. I took creative license with the length of the coma – so don't flame me too much ok?
Thanks for reading!