BPOV—THREE YEARS AGO
"Are you sure you're ready to go back?" At the sound of Edward's voice, I felt myself tense up. Looking over my shoulder, I found him standing in the doorway to our bedroom with a frown on his face. I wanted to make him smile, but how could I when I couldn't even muster up the strength to do the same?
Shaking my head, I turned back to the mirror, running my hand down the front of my red shirt, and trying to ignore the feel of the scar from when they'd ripped me open and stole my daughter from me. "I have to. My leave is up and they won't hold my job any longer."
"Don't," I snarled, turning and glaring at him. "I don't want to hear it."
"Fine," Edward gritted, pushing away from the doorjamb and walking away. "Do whatever the fuck you want."
Sighing, I sat on the edge of our bed and placed my hands on my knees. Like I ever got what I wanted. I wanted to be holding my daughter, to kiss her fat little cheeks, and smell the fresh sweetness that came with a newborn, but I didn't get that. I'd never get to have that and all because Esme Cullen stole that from me.
Tears filled my eyes and I tried to keep them from falling, as I had too many times over the last eight weeks. The school had been gracious enough to give me my maturity leave so that I could recover from the emergency caesarian and fall down the stairs, and while I took the time off, it hurt. Edward and I were supposed to be changing a million diapers, learning how to cope with two in the morning feedings, and everything else that came with becoming parents. But no, we would never get that chance and all because Esme Cullen was a bitch.
Just thinking about that woman had my blood boiling. I'd put up with a lot from her, from name calling to downright degrading me at every turn. No matter how many times she tried to hurt me, I'd put on a brave face and brushed it off because I didn't want to be the one to cause Edward to lose his parents. Turned out, it wouldn't be because of me. No, Esme and Carlisle were the only ones to blame for everything. They'd killed Charlotte, killed any chance Edward and I had of ever having a baby, and killed the thin thread of hope they had of Edward, Emmett, and Alice ever respecting them again.
"I'm leaving," Edward said. I looked back at him. "I have a meeting with command."
While I'd been trying to heal my body and heart from the damage Esme Cullen inflicted onto me, Edward had thrown himself into his job. At least he had something to make him forget Charlotte.
Nodding, I replied, "Okay. Guess I'll see you tonight."
"Bella, I . . ." Edward started, but then shook his head and sighed. Turning, he left me sitting there without another word. My heart ached for him.
Pushing myself off the bed, I slipped my feet into a pair of black flats and grabbed my keys off the dresser. I took another deep breath before I turned and walked out of our bedroom, but before I could turn down the short, narrow hallway, I found myself standing in the doorway of what would have been Charlotte's bedroom.
My breath caught in my chest as I pushed the door open and stepped inside. Since Edward and I rented our apartment, we hadn't been able to paint the white walls, but in the end, we decided it didn't matter. One afternoon in the early part of the summer, Edward and I had taken a walk down on the pier. In a small shop, we found a series of black and white photos of the beach. I'd fallen in love with them so Edward and I splurged and bought them for the baby's room. We'd added a dark, mahogany crib with sage green blankets, a matching dresser and a rocking chair that sat in front of the window.
I'd found myself in this room so many times over the last few weeks, letting my tears fall into the blankets that should have been warming my daughter, keeping her as snug as a bug.
I felt cheated.
Turning, I ran out of Charlotte's room and through the living room, and out of our apartment. Heading to the stairs, I hoped that I wouldn't run into Emmett, Rose, Jasper, or Alice, but as my luck would have it, just as I stepped off the last step between the second and third floor, Emmett came around the corner, nearly bumping into me.
"Whoa," he said, reaching for my arm. However, I stepped away from him. Emmett shifted his eyes down to mine. "Sorry, I didn't see you."
"It's okay," I muttered, bringing my hand up to my chest. "You off to work?"
"Yeah, I have a meeting with a contractor who's interested in building my new club. Not sure if they're going to work out, though. From the research I've done, they're not great about keeping on schedule."
"Oh." I wasn't sure what else to say. Clearing my throat, I shifted from one foot to another. "Um, I'm gonna be late, so . . ."
"Yeah, of course." Emmett stepped out of the way and frowned. "Bella, if you need anything —"
"I know," I gritted. "You've told me before."
Pushing past Emmett, I rushed down the last flight of stairs and out of the building. The memories of falling down those steps were fresh in my mind, and every time I crossed over them, I felt like I was reliving the worst moment of my life. Gasping for air, I walked over to my car and leaned against the driver's door. Would the pain ever go away?
Shaking my head, I opened the door and climbed into my car, heading down to the school. The parking lot was already almost full of cars. Parking next to Angela's sedan, I shut off the engine, but just sat there. I wasn't sure I was ready to be here, back with my students, but what else could I do? Sit at home? Watch daytime television? Read fan fiction? No, I couldn't lock myself away from life anymore.
"Stop being a coward," I murmured under my breath. "Not like they're going bite."
Closing my eyes for a moment and taking a calming breath, I slipped out of my car and headed inside the school. I stopped inside the office, finding Jacob Black standing in front the mailboxes. He looked over at me, and pity poured out of his dark eyes. Just what I didn't need today.
"Hello, Bella," he said, reaching out to me but dropping his hand to his side. "It's great to have you back."
"Yeah, thanks," I said, trying to keep the emotions roaring inside of me from filling my words. "I'd better get to my classroom."
"If you need anything," he stated.
"Let you know. Yeah, I know," I groused.
Reaching around him, I pulled my mail from my box and headed down to my classroom. I passed several teachers from the upper grades, ignoring the ways they stared awkwardly at me. Not a one of them understood just how much I hurt, how hard I found it to climb out of bed every morning, or slide between the blankets at night. And I hoped they'd never understand. Losing a child was something nobody should ever have to go through — not ever.
When I got to my classroom, I found most of my students and their parents standing outside of my door. Tears pricked at the corners of my eyes, as they looked back at me, huge smiles filling those tiny little faces.
"Mrs. Cullen!" Amelia Gaines squealed and ran over to me. Before I could prepare myself, she'd wrapped her arms around my waist. The tears I'd been trying to keep from falling betrayed me and cascaded down my cheeks. "I missed you!"
"I — I missed you, too," I whimpered, trying to control myself. One by one the rest of my students came over to us, joining our hug and murmuring how much they'd missed me.
"Okay, boys and girls," Angela called out from the doorway to our classroom, "let Mrs. Cullen come in so we can get started."
Slowly, they released their holds on me and I walked passed their parents, trying to smile, and into my classroom. The moment the door closed, I released the breath I'd been holding. "Thanks."
"You're welcome," she simply replied before turning and walking over to my desk. Angela picked up a stack of papers and began placing one on each desk.
I walked over to my desk and sat down, stowing my purse in my bottom drawer. It was as I bent forward that the framed picture sitting in the corner caught my eye: one of our ultrasound pictures. My hand shook as I reached out and picked it up. It was during my twenty week scan and Edward and I had opted not to find out the sex. It just hadn't been important to us; all we cared about was having a healthy baby. Shaking my head, I let out a soft sob.
I wanted Charlotte back.
Placing my hands on the mattress of my hospital bed, I tried to push myself up, struggling against the deadweight of my legs. It'd been a week since I'd woken up, almost two weeks since I had walked into my classroom for what I expected to be just a normal morning at school. Instead of spending the day teaching my children about the days of the week or the months of the year, we had cowered in the corner, praying for Edward to save us. Had he? Had he really?
I wasn't so sure. Yeah, we were alive, but at what cost? I let that man beat me just so that he wouldn't touch my children. While I didn't regret taking each hit, the fact that my legs were now useless made it hard to see the upside. I was tired of people robbing me of my life.
"Hey." I looked over as Edward walked into my room, sliding the glass door closed behind him. Garrett had insisted on keeping me in the ICU, where he could keep a closer eye on my progress as he called it.
"Hi," I murmured, trying to smile at him. "Where you been?"
Edward walked over and sat on the edge of my bed, taking hold of my hand. "Um, Ben called. Angela had the baby last night."
"Oh." I wasn't sure what else to say. While I'd struggled with Angela's looming pregnancy constantly being thrown in my face, I was happy for my friend. "Are they okay?"
Edward nodded and grinned. "Yeah. They are now the parents of a seven pound, six ounce baby boy."
"That — that's great," I murmured. "Name?"
"Well, that's the thing. He refused to tell me," Edward replied, cryptically. "Angela was hoping that you'd be up to coming up and seeing her."
I tensed. I hadn't left my room once in the last week and that wasn't due to a lack of trying on Edward and Garrett's part. Both of them had tried to get me to allow them to push me up and down the hallways, trying to get me out of my hiding spot as Garrett often worded it. Shaking my head, I felt the tears burning at the corners of my eyes and stammered, "I — I c — can't."
"You can," he murmured, bringing his hand up to my face and brushing off the tears that were sprinkling down my cheeks. "I'll be with you."
I sucked my lip between my teeth, trying to stifle my cry. "Promise?"
"I promise," he whispered, and for the first time in two years, I believed him with he gave me his word.
Nodding and leaning against his hand, I said, "Okay."
With a relieved smile, Edward climbed off of my bed and went over to the corner where the wheelchair Garrett had brought for me was sitting. He'd left it in here, stating that I could use it when I wanted. Up until now, I hadn't wanted anything to do with it. Still didn't, but seeing as my legs were useless, I didn't have much of a choice.
Locking the brakes, Edward slipped his arms under my legs and back, lifting me out of my bed and placing me in my chair. Thankfully, I'd changed out of the nasty hospital gown they'd put on me when I was brought to the hospital, and into a pair of plaid pajama pants and a T-shirt. Of course, it made going to the bathroom difficult, but Edward was always here to help me — for now at least.
Once Edward had me in my chair, he moved to the back and pushed me over to the door. He slid it open and pushed me over the threshold. Like they knew I was venturing out, I saw Emmett, Rose, Jasper, and Alice standing at the end of the hallway. I still hadn't let them into my room, still hadn't spoken a word to them.
Rose pulled away from Emmett and started toward me, but I clenched my hands into fists and whimpered, "Edward, go. Please."
"Okay, baby," he murmured, pushing me toward the elevator. The doors opened and he pushed me in, pressing the button for the maternity floor. "You know, sooner or later you're going to have to talk to them."
"I know," I groused. "I'm choosing later."
Edward didn't reply, which I was glad about. It was irrational — this I knew — but I just couldn't handle looking at them and knowing that while my life was falling apart once again, theirs were perfect — always perfect.
A few moments later, the elevator stopped and the doors opened once again. Edward pushed me out, passed the nurses' station and down the hallway to Ben and Angela's room. I took a deep breath as he opened the door and maneuvered me into the room. Ben was sitting on the bottom of Angela's bed with their baby in his arms. She was laying back on the bed, eyes wide and watching her husband and son bond.
Envy bit at me. Even after three years, I still grieved for the loss of our daughter.
"Bella," Angela breathed, looking over at me. Bringing her hand up to her mouth, she started weeping. "T — thank G — God you're okay."
"Yeah, just great," I jibed, shifting my eyes to the ground. I wasn't okay; I was far from being okay. My body was covered in bruises, I had a near constant headache that Garrett assured me was normal and would go away as my body healed, and my legs were useless. Nothing about me was okay. "Um, congratulations."
"Thank you," she murmured.
"He's okay, right?" I asked, shifting my eyes back to hers. "Healthy and everything?"
"Yeah, Charlie's healthy," Ben uttered. I snapped my eyes over to him. "We wanted to honor your dad and Charlotte."
"Oh," I whimpered. Edward placed his hand on my shoulder, and I knew he was feeling the same as me.
"Is that okay?" Angela asked. "Because if not, we'll find a new name for him."
I shook my head. "It's fine," I wept. "C — can I hold him?"
"Of course," Angela chirped, immediately.
Ben laughed at how eager his wife was and stood up, walked over to me, and placed baby Charlie in my arms. I'd be lying if I said my heart didn't break at the feeling of him in my arms. I never got to hold Charlotte like this, not with her squirming in my arms, and soft whimpers trickling out of his mouth. Charlie was beautiful. He had a headful of black hair and dark black eyes.
"You two did good," I murmured, shifting my eyes over to Angela and Ben, who was standing by his wife and holding her hand.
"Yeah, he's beautiful," Edward agreed. "Thank God he looks like Angela."
"Thanks," Angela said, laughing. She looked at Ben, who nodded, before continuing. "Bella, Edward, we were hoping that you'd be Charlie's Godparents."
"What?" I gasped.
"Um," she stated, taking a deep breath. "We know you're dealing with a lot, especially right now, but . . ." Angela trailed off. "Bella, I watched while you nearly gave your life for your kids. I know you're angry right now, but I need to know that if something happens to me or Ben that Charlie's gonna be left in the hands of someone willing to give their lives for him. Please, be his Godparents."
"I — I don't know," I cried.
"Can we think about it?" Edward asked, placing a hand on my shoulder. "It's a lot right now."
"Of course," they both muttered quickly.
Charlie started fussing so Ben came over and lifted him out of my arms and carried him over to Angela so she could nurse him. Edward and I took that as our cue to leave. A few minutes later, we were back in my room and I was back on my bed. Edward had settled down next to me, and taken hold of my hand once again.
"Tell me what you're thinking," he said.
I shook my head. "Nothing really. Just . . . everything, I guess."
"Baby Charlie?" he asked.
"Yeah," I murmured. "Do you think we should accept?"
Edward released a heavy breath. "I don't know. It's a lot to accept."
"It is," I muttered, placing my hands on the mattress and pushing myself up again. Only this time, when I did, I felt something — something I hadn't felt in a week. "EDWARD!"
"What?" he yelled, jumping to his feet at the sound of my frantic voice.
"I — I . . ." I began to cry. "I can feel my toes."
Thank you for all the reviews. I apologize for the delay but as usual, a mixture of real life and work got in the way of all the fun.