A/N: Here it is, ya'll. Part two in EPOV. Hope you enjoy and let me know what you think, please!
My complete, groveling, messy, sore-kneed thanks goes to Soft Ragoo who turns grey skies to blue, caterpillars into butterflies and dog shit into diamonds. Oh, and she pre-reads for me. :-)
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by the amazing Stephanie Meyer who allows us to play with them on a daily basis.
Epilogue Part II-EPOV
If this makes me sound like a pansy, so be it: Our wedding was beautiful. Spectacular. Perfect.
To see Bella walk toward me, down that seemingly endless aisle and surrounded by white lilies and red roses—it took my breath away. I couldn't believe that I started to tear up like a pathetic wimp.
How could I not?
Her curled brown hair was hidden by a thin white veil that sat perfectly on top of her head, her big brown eyes were spilling over with shiny tears, and she had that perfect bottom lip snagged between her teeth as she approached me. As much as Charlie and I respected each other, I still caught the glint of warning in his eyes when he handed her over to me. "Take care of her," his eyes said, "because she is precious to me."
As we said our vows, our promises, to each other in front of the twenty five people we had invited to the small church wedding, I must have been glowing. My eyes burned from unshed tears and my cheeks ached from the constant grin on my face. What in the hell was this girl—this beautiful, perfect girl—doing in this white dress, saying these things to me? To me?
Does every groom have that same thought in those vital moments where you're making promises to protect and obey and punch through every bad spot in your future together, as one unit? Did every groom have those "Does she really know what she's getting herself into" moments?
As I pulled her to me, and sealed our marriage with a long, deep and satisfying kiss, the questions withered from my mind. There wasn't a need to wonder anymore why she moved halfway across the country for me or why she desired to be near me until she no longer had breath in her lungs. Nothing else mattered but our clasped hands as we strode down the aisle, grinning like fools at our friends and family. We were in this together, no matter what. I hadn't felt that at peace with my life since before I found out that my mom had Schizophrenia.
Speaking of my mom, she looked quite at peace herself this evening as she sat beside me on the porch swing. The same porch swing that I had sat in many times as a child, swinging back and forth so fast that it was amazing the thing was still attached. I had lost the black suit jacket an hour ago and the navy tie around my neck had been loosened by Bella's hands right after the pictures had been taken.
"I'm happy for you, sweetheart," she said, squeezing my knee.
"Thanks, mom," I said with a grin. "When you're ready to leave the center, there's a room waiting for you up—"
"Oh no," she groaned, "I'm not imposing on you and Bella."
"You wouldn't be imposing," I argued. "Bella even said that—"
She shook her head. "When I leave the center, I'll be ready for a place of my own. There's the community near the hospital that is set up for people like me."
I hated how she said "people like me" as if she were contagious.
"That's on the other side of town, though," I told her.
She sighed, annoyed at my prodding. "Have a little faith in your old ma, huh?"
I smirked and kissed her on the cheek.
"You ready to go, Lizzie?" Carlisle asked from the doorway of the house. "You have to be back by 7pm for—"
"I know, I know…group therapy," she grumbled and rose from the swing. It creaked as the weight of her body released the rusting chains from their duty. "Are you going to let me smoke in your precious car?"
Carlisle scowled at her but responded with, "As long as you keep your window down."
My mom smiled and winked at me as I rose from the swing. I gave her a tight hug and for a moment, I forgot where she was going and why. It was just me and my mom, embracing as family. Then I pulled away and looked in her weary, green eyes which spoke volumes of the pain she had lived through. She was the strongest woman I had ever met; Bella came in a close second. How had I been so lucky?
"You take good care of that wife of yours," she said, nudging my ribcage with her elbow, "Cook for her every once and a while and if she does something to piss you off, don't hold it in—talk to her about it."
"I promise," I said.
"I don't expect a visit for at least a week. I know you aren't planning on going on a honeymoon but that doesn't mean you should be doing anything but boinking."
Carlisle choked on something and his face turned red. My mom watched him with an amused smile then turned back to me. "The man is in his fifties and he still gets all fidgety when I bring up sex."
I was getting a little fidgety myself but she paid no attention to me. She walked off the porch and I could hear their conversation as they walked to his SUV that was parked in the grass.
"No one wants to hear their sister talk about…that," Carlisle defended himself. "How would you like it if I talked about my sex life to you?"
She shrugged and smiled at him. "It would be better than listening to all my fellow patients down at the center drone on about how horrible their lives are." She climbed in and before he shut the door, she added, "At least I hope it would be better."
I waved to them as they drove off, thankful that she was able to be here because otherwise, it wouldn't have happened. It had been a promise Bella and I had made to each other on the beach of Miami in front of the house where we were reacquainted with each other. The three people, who were required to be here, had been here to witness our nuptials.
"Hey, what's up with the frowny-face?" Emmett asked from the door way. He held two bottles of beer by the necks between his sausage-like fingers. "You just got hitched! You should be celebrating the fact that you are guaranteed sex for the rest of your life!"
I rolled my eyes as Emmett handed me a beer; sweat dripped from the glass bottle as the unusually warm weather warmed its contents.
"To sex for life," Emmett said holding up his beer.
With a chuckle, I clinked my beer to his and repeated the toast out loud.
"Sex for life? Who gets sex for life?" Jasper chimed in as he stepped onto the porch.
Emmett scoffed and put a hand on Jasper's shoulder. "Not you, my friend."
I helped Jasper out by explaining Emmett's theory on his reasons for celebrating marriage. Everyone knew that Jasper was going to marry Alice, except for Jasper. Growing up in a home with parents who detested each other seemed to do a number on the poor bastard and Alice was paying for it. She seemed okay with it but a girl like Alice doesn't wait forever.
"That's ridiculous," Jasper announced. "Just because you're married, doesn't mean that she's always going to give it up. In fact, I bet it fizzles out after you put that ring on your finger."
Emmett barked out a laugh and said, "If that happens, then you've married the wrong girl. In fact, it gets sooo much better!"
Jasper grimaced. "Don't talk about my sister like that. In my eyes, that woman is still a virgin."
Emmett raised his eyebrows as he studied Jasper. "Dude, the girl is married to me—how in the hell could you see her as virginal?"
Jasper put his fingers in his ears and started reciting The Pledge of Allegiance. Emmett continued to torture Jasper by shouting women's body parts in his face followed by the name of his wife. Across the street, Mrs. Whitter shot us a frightened glance.
I kicked Emmett in the shin. "Stop it, Emmett, or my neighbors are going to think I'm as perverted as you are."
Emmett rubbed his shin. "Shit, Edward, that fucking hurt!"
We both looked at Jasper who had his eyes clenched closed, his fingers still plugged in his ears and he was singing Enter Sandman like a pro. Without hesitation, Emmett and I got up quietly and left Jasper on the porch, wallowing in his own insanity. Fuck the neighbors.
"I better go find Rosalie," he told me and slapped me on the shoulder with his large palm. "We're trying to get pregnant."
I raised my brows. "That's great, Em!"
He grinned and wandered off before I could make sure they weren't going to try right now. I wouldn't mind if they made use of one of the guest rooms but not while there were still people here, including Bree and Charlie.
Before I could catch up to him, I overheard a soft crying sound coming from the kitchen. I poked my head in and saw Esme, holding Bella who had her face tucked into the crook of Esme's neck.
"Bella?" Bella jumped at the sound of my voice and pulled away from Esme. Her cheeks were blotchy and wet with tears. "What happened? Are you okay?"
She laughed and rubbed her palms over her face. I wanted to kill whatever it was that made her cry. I wanted to squash every problem and every worry that ran through her head. Seeing her tears and watching her face scrunch up with mental anguish was like letting someone kick me in the chest. Repetitively.
As Bella took deep breaths and tried to regain her composure, I glanced at Esme. She shrugged at me but I could see through it. Esme knew what made Bella cry but she wouldn't be the one telling me.
"Oh, I'm fine, Edward," Bella said, her voice broken. "I'm just emotional, is all."
"What are you so emotional about? Did someone…did Renee say something to you?" My hands turned to fists when I thought about that woman saying something hurtful to Bella on her wedding day. It was bad enough that she was present, even if it meant that Bree could be there as well.
Bella shook her head frantically as Esme handed her a fancy wedding napkin from the table. "No, it's not Renee, I promise."
"Do you want to go outside? We can talk about it?" I asked with my hands on her small shoulders.
She looked at me, considering my offer but declined with a shake of her head and a small smile. "Honestly, I'm fine—I just got caught up in the moment. I'm just really happy, Edward."
I quirked an eyebrow. "You didn't look happy."
Bella shrugged as she looked into my eyes. "What can I say? Estrogen sucks."
"You're sure that you're okay?" I asked, rubbing her arms with my hands.
I could tell by the look in her big brown eyes that she had lied when she answered, "Yes."
Due to my lack of vacation pay at my job, I had only been able to take a couple days off of work for our mini-stay-at-home-honeymoon. The day I went back, I had to pry my lips from Bella's at the front door and I waved as I pulled my car out of the driveway. Watching her wave from the doorway to our home, pride and happiness swelled in my heart. A man holding the leash of a Golden Retriever ran by on his morning jog and I had to stop myself from rolling down my window and telling him, "See that gorgeous girl in the fluffy blue bathrobe and tangled hair standing on that porch? That's my wife."
Nine hours later, I strolled through the door and immediately went in search of Bella. She had called me at work to ask me about directions into a certain part of the city and suggestions for dinner. Over the phone, her voice was different and I had a feeling it was related to the tears in our kitchen just hours after our wedding. On my way home, I had made a deal with myself to resolve the issue that evening no matter what I had to do: Begging, bribing and demanding were the tactics I would use—not necessarily in that order. I figured that mostly I'd be begging but I kept the other two in the back of my mind.
It was unusually quiet. Typically, Bella enjoyed listening to music or the sound of the TV, even if she wasn't in the living room to watch it. She said that a quiet house made her mind wander to worrisome things: Our finances, missing her friends, her lack of employment.
Then it hit me—the reason she had been crying. She was scared. This was entirely new to her: The city, the people, and the environment. She missed the familiarity of the home she grew up in and the people she depended on.
"Of course," I said to myself as I continued searching the house.
Finally, I found her in the upstairs bathroom with the door locked and closed.
"Bella, I'm home!" I yelled through the door. "What are you doing?"
Something fell, making a loud slapping noise against the tile.
"Uh…I'll b-be out in a second," she stuttered. "Could you turn the stove on for me so the water can boil?"
"Sure," I answered.
After I'd turned the burner on for the stove, I sat at the table to wait for Bella. Ten minutes later, just as the water was starting to bubble, she appeared in the kitchen looking exhausted.
"Can we talk?" I asked.
She avoided my eyes and opened up the cupboard. "Yeah, of course—what do you want to talk about?"
"I know why you were upset after our wedding," I told her and she snapped her gaze to me. With a crook of my finger, I asked her to join me at the table and she obliged. "It's obvious what is happening, here."
Her eyes grew wide and her face grew pale. "It is?"
I pressed my lips together and nodded.
"H-how is it obvious?"
I smirked and she narrowed her eyes. "It's okay to be sad, Bella; I expect that you're going to miss Alice and Jasper and Charlie. Just because you're homesick, that doesn't mean that you're not happy with me. I understand that," I told her.
The look on her face told me that I was clueless: Her shoulders slumped and her gaze fell to her feet.
"You're…not homesick?" I asked.
"Well, yeah, I miss my family but…but that's not what…" she trailed off, the words getting caught in her throat.
I waited for her to continue but she found her feet more captivating than our conversation at the moment.
"You know that I'm not the kind of person who likes to push, Bella, but it's killing me that you're upset about something and I don't know what it is," I said. "Did I do something?"
She let out a humorless chuckle and exhaled. "Well, kinda-sorta-not-really," she replied.
"That is no help, whatsoever."
When she looked up at me, her eyes nearly broke me. They were shiny with tears and pleading with me for a reprieve. My eyes pleaded right on back for honesty and conversation.
"Can...can I show you?" she asked.
I shrugged and held my hand out, palms up. "Show me, give me a hint, write it with cooked spaghetti across the table for God's sake—just let me in, Bella!"
The corner of her mouth twitched. The cooked spaghetti request was a little far fetched but I was desperate. I would have settled for a decoder ring at that point, which would have made me feel pretty fucking pathetic.
She stood from the table and held out her hand. I took it anxiously in mine and she pulled me to my feet with little effort. Her hand trembled in mine as she led me down the hall and toward the bathroom where I had found her when I arrived home from work. Suddenly, in the doorway, she stiffened and I nearly pummeled into her from behind. With her body filled with tension and her hand squirreling to get out of mine, fear ran through me.
"Please let go," she mumbled over her shoulder.
I squeezed my hand into hers, trying to form an inseparable human chain. Finally, I'd got her to talk to me and I wasn't going to let her go.
"Bella, you have to—"
With strength I didn't know she had, she pulled her hand free from mine. Sweat on my palm had left it feeling cold and empty as she hurried into the bathroom and slammed the door in my face. Something crashed in the bathroom and I wasn't sure if she mentally or physically caused the calamity. It didn't matter.
I opened my mouth, prepared to bribe or even threaten, but I was interrupted by the sound of Bella retching. It was a God-awful sound that made my own empty stomach lurch with nausea.
"Oh God," I said to myself.
Bella was obviously sick. How sick? And why did she feel the need to keep it from me? One answer sprang to my mind which made my knees so weak that they collapsed from under me. The wall behind me caught my weight and I shifted slowly to the floor.
She was dying.
My mind wandered to that day in Jacksonville, catching the glimpse of Bree in that hospital bed with all those tubes hanging out of her; the paleness of her skin and the protrusion of bones sticking out all over her frail little body. I couldn't lose Bella and there was nothing I wouldn't do to keep her in my life.
"Oh God," I repeated, wondering if the being I was speaking to would laugh in my face if I started praying now, after all these years of ignoring Him.
The sound of running water broke me from my thoughts. In that moment between praying and Bella opening the door, I regretted for the first time that we hadn't taken the money; if we signed those contracts and taken that money, we wouldn't have to worry about insurance coverage or hospital bills.
The lock clicked and the door squealed open slowly as the sight of Bella filled my vision. I didn't realize until now how exhausted she looked and I mentally cursed myself for not paying closer attention. She had been so tired and now the vomiting.
She furrowed her brows at my position on the floor but instead of using words, she plopped down next to me on the hardwood floor of our hallway. I opened my mouth to speak but nothing would come out; the dryness in my mouth and throat was almost suffocating.
"So…I take it that you figured it out," she mumbled.
I looked over at her and frowned at the bags under her eyes and the paleness of her face. "Have you been to a doctor?"
She swallowed and started wringing her hands together on her lap. "Today…I went to a doctor today. When I called you for directions, it wasn't for a job."
My head fell back against the wall with an audible thump. "Do they…what did they say?"
"Two months along," she said, avoiding my eyes.
My stomach heaved without warning and I headed for the bathroom. I barely made it to the toilet before I gagged, saliva dripping from my mouth. Unfortunately, Bella was right on my heels and witnessed how unmanly I could be in stressful situations. Dry heaving in front of the woman you love is never enjoyable—unless you're in a Fraternity and then it's considered heroic.
"Edward," she said in a broken voice, "I'm so sorry."
Why was she apologizing? "Why are you apologizing?"
She sobbed into her palms and I was too much of a fucking weenie to hold her. My gut was clenched tight in a fist, the acid from my stomach burning my throat. Vomiting all over your wife, especially your dying wife, would not be good.
"I didn't mean it…I didn't do it on purpose," she cried.
Okay, now I was confused. "I'm confused."
She stopped sobbing and took her hands away from her face. "How are you…what do you think is going on?"
I screwed my face up in agony, just thinking of saying the words out loud. When I didn't respond, she stuck her thumbnail in her mouth and proceeded to gnaw on it.
"Bella, you're killing me here; just tell me—"
Then I saw it, sitting on the bathroom vanity in plain view. When she saw that I had noticed it, she started pacing which wasn't a grand gesture in a bathroom three feet wide.
Stupid question number one: "Bella, what is that?"
Which brought on stupid question number two: "What do you think it is?"
While I was glad that I wasn't the only one posing stupid questions, it did frustrate the fuck out of me. However, to keep on track, I asked stupid question number three: "You're…you're not dying?"
Her eyes bugged out of her head and she halted the fingernail chewing. "You thought I was…" her face screwed up into a mixture of pain and worry, "…dying?"
I gasped out a breath. "Yes, but you aren't, right?"
She glanced at the stick on the vanity and then her eyes returned to mine. "Not unless you strangle me because of this."
With force that I couldn't control, I barked out a laugh and she jumped. The cup on the sink that held our toothbrushes flew a couple feet and hit the wall. The second time I barked out a laugh, she had prepared herself. Then I was laughing so fucking hard that my stomach muscles twisted into themselves. When I looked up at Bella, she wasn't laughing.
"Oh shit," I said, rubbing my palms over my face. I decided that my little prayer in the hallway had worked so I threw in a "Thank you, God" as she stared at me with concerned brown eyes.
"You do realize that I'm…I'm…" she stuttered.
My eyes flew to the stick. "You're pregnant, right?"
She nodded slowly and stiffened, bracing herself for…I wasn't entirely sure what she was bracing herself for. Then, the realization of what she was saying, hit me: She was pregnant.
"You're sure?" That would be categorized as stupid question number four.
She nodded again and squeaked out another apology.
I stared at the white tile on our bathroom floor and thought about this revelation. Ten minutes ago I had been positive that Bella was fighting for her life when in reality, she was carrying my child. My stomach clenched again and I gagged into the porcelain toilet in front of me, my face turning red from embarrassment and shame: I had the same reaction to both sets of news.
"I have to go check to see if the water is boiling," she mumbled, then walked out of the bathroom like a zombie.
I should have gotten up and went after her. The powerful side of me was poking my limp body with a hot poker and screaming obscenities at the weak, shocked man on the bathroom floor. With my eyes squeezed shut, I let my head rest on the edge of the cold bathtub behind me. My mind struggled to wrap around the fact that I was going to be someone's father but more so the realization that my genes would be passed down to this helpless child.
Flashes of memories cluttered through my brain: My mother crying in a heap on the kitchen floor when I was fifteen because it wouldn't stop raining long enough for her to plant her Petunias, screaming at my Dad because he was an hour late, laughing at nothing in particular and then cursing all in the same breath. I remembered the way she used to talk, non-stop, as she made dinner every night. When I was eight, I thought she was talking to herself and I found it amusing but as I aged, I was introduced to one of her hallucinations who also happened to be a fantastic chef.
Pregnant. Baby. Pregnant.
Then I remembered the fierce hugs she would give me every day when I got home from school. There was never a time that I felt unloved; never a time that I wished for a different mother. It wasn't easy but there were no regrets in that department. Throughout her entire life, she had never let Schizophrenia take over—as a mother—until she attempted to take her own life just short of two years ago.
As the mental slideshow slipped into the present and toward the future, I thought of my wife: The slow expansion of her tummy as my child grew within her. I imagined her holding a baby with dark brown hair to her breast and smiling at me as she filled his belly with life; Bella, learning to sew little pink dresses with Esme at her side to coach her; my beautiful wife chasing a toddler down the hall covered from head to toe in multicolored finger paint.
Suddenly, one just wasn't enough.
I hopped up with newfound strength—stopping only to rinse my mouth quickly with mouthwash—and stomped into the kitchen. She turned around, spoon in hand, to face me when she heard my feet on the floor behind her. I opened my mouth to speak but she raised the spoon in the air as if she were prepared to brain me with it.
"Before you say anything, just let me tell you that I didn't plan this. I forgot to make my appointment to get my birth control shot a few months ago and I'm…I'm so sorry." I opened my mouth but she shook the spoon in her hand. "I know that you…we didn't want children so I know that you're probably upset about this. It took a lot for me tell you because I don't want you to be angry with me and…and I'm scared that…"
I cocked my head as I looked at her. "What are you scared of, sweetheart?"
Her face pinched tight in thought as she chewed on her lip, considering her answer. A tear fell from her dark lashes and traveled down her cheek and under her chin. I wanted to hold her and kiss her and tell her that she had nothing to worry about.
"I'm scared that you won't love the baby because….because you won't want it."
Hormones really do a number on a woman.
"Are you going to whack me in the head with that spoon if I get close to you?" I asked.
She looked up at the spoon in her hand as if she had forgotten it was there then she quickly set it on the stove.
"No, of course not," she mumbled.
I walked up to her, brushing the trail of tears off her cheeks with my thumbs. "How could you think that I wouldn't love this baby more than my own life? How could you think that I would be angry with you about this?" My own voice broke with unexpected emotions.
"I was just so scared," she sobbed.
I pulled her to me and embraced her, feeling her body tremble against my own sent a shockwave of distaste through my veins. In a silent vow to myself, I promised that I'd never be the one to cause her to shake like this—at least while not in the throes of passion. In fact, I promised myself that I'd do everything in my power to keep anything from making her feel this uncertain or powerless as long as my heart beat in my chest.
"You have nothing to be sorry about," I whispered in her ear. Spaghetti sauce bubbled on the stove behind me and I was sure that the spaghetti had welded itself into one big chunk of pasta. I pulled away from her to look into her eyes, and smiled. "We're going to have a baby."
She let out a mixture of sob and relieved sigh. "You're not mad?"
"Mad?" I asked, wiping the tears from her eyes again with my thumbs. "I'm incredibly fortunate and ecstatic."
"But you didn't want—"
"I know what I said but believe me when I say this now: I couldn't be happier."
"This says that he's as long as a carrot," I announced and compressed the urge to grab a carrot out of the fridge and hold it up to Bella's growing belly.
"How much does she weigh?" she asked, looking around the book she was reading. The morning sickness had passed after the fourth month and she told me that she felt better than she normally did, even before the pregnancy. Of course, when she was vomiting, I'd get the accusation look that consisted of narrowed eyes and pursed lips; but now that she was feeling great, I received zero credit. None of those look-what-you-did-to-me scowls when she was keeping food down and her energy level picked up.
"This says that he doesn't even weigh a pound, yet."
We decided to not find out the sex, even though—at 21 weeks—we weren't yet far enough along for the ultrasound to pick it up. So, I had taken to saying "he" and Bella called the baby a "she". It wasn't by preference, because neither of us cared as long as he was healthy but it was better than saying "it".
She smiled and placed a hand on her belly. "Ooh! She kicked! Come here!"
I stood so fast, the office chair I had been sitting on tipped over with a loud crash. Bella laughed as I made my way to the floor beside the couch where she was sitting, and replaced her palm with mine. She laid her hand on top of mine and pressed it into her belly. I felt nothing.
She frowned and said, "She stopped."
Bella had been feeling the little internal nudges for a few weeks but every time I made an attempt to connect, the baby would stop moving. I let out an exasperated sigh but didn't move my hand.
"You calm her down," she told me, running her fingers through my hair and over my scalp. "She knows you're here and it makes her feel safe—just like it does for me."
I grinned at her, soaking up the love that I felt coming from her as she looked at me. Typically, Bella was beautiful and she took my breath away but as a pregnant woman, she was something from a fairy tale: Her eyes glistened, her cheeks glowed and her body changed as our child flourished within her.
"Did you talk to Charlie today?" I asked.
"Yeah, he's coming in a few months for a visit," she said with a grin. "He wants to see me all blown up and looking like a whale."
"I bet he didn't say it like that—he probably wants to have a memory of you while you're pregnant."
"Yeah, well, I'm going to be grouchy and bloated," she grumbled.
I smiled at her from the floor as my hand traveled under the hem of her shirt and along the tight skin of her belly. She let her head fall back and she moaned at the feel of my hand on her skin.
"You could gain five hundred pounds and still be beautiful," I told her.
She laughed and said, "I'm going to hold you to that."
I leaned over her, and pressed my lips to her forehead, then her nose and finally onto her lips. The kiss started out gentle, and was meant to be reassuring but it grew quickly into a frantic grind of tongue and teeth. My hand went north in her shirt, finding the soft flesh of Bella's growing breasts.
"Oh Edward…please…" she begged against my lips.
Pulling my lips from hers, I stood and scooped her up in my arms. She didn't protest but instead, wrapped her arms around my neck to pull herself closer to me. I carried her to the bedroom, my dick growing painfully hard against the zipper of my jeans.
Until recently, Bella had been too exhausted and sick to make love and even though we were getting back into the groove, my body still craved her touch as if we were living thousands of miles apart, again. The way she caressed my scalp with her fingertips; the way she moved her mouth over the skin of my neck; the strong grip of her hands as she pulled my shirt over my head sent my body into excited shudders. I worried each time that I wouldn't satisfy her because my own body was on sensory overload.
We stripped the clothing off of each other in a slow, tormenting manner and she pushed me gently onto the mattress. I laid on my back, watching her climb over me, her smile so sexy that it should have been illegal. I groaned as she sunk down, my hard cock twitching as it entered her slick, wet channel. With my hands on her hips, I stilled her for a few moments so that I could last for her. She shot me a knowing grin as her hands roamed through the hair on my chest.
Then she started moving and it was pure ecstasy; not just the feeling but the vision of her rocking on top of me. Her head fell back and her breast pointed out, hard and erect as the muscles in her thighs clenched and unclenched. I looked down to find one of my hands had wandered to her stomach, where our baby grew underneath the layers of muscle and skin. For a moment, it felt odd to make love as my hand stroked so close to our unborn child but then she came. The muscles surrounding my cock exploded into a spasm, milking me which made it too hard to keep from filling her with my own orgasm.
"Fuck, Bella," I grounded out through clenched teeth.
She opened her eyes and looked down at me. "I love you, Edward."
With our chests gasping for breath and our eyes glazed over from post-coital satisfaction, she climbed off me and lay down on her back, beside me. I turned on my side and subconsciously let my hand rest on her lower abdomen.
Ever since she had told me she was pregnant, overprotective caveman-like tendencies sprung up from within me. I'd never club her over the head and drag her to our bedroom by her hair but I found myself grunting more and swearing to kill any motherfucker who even looked at her wrong. We had gone out to dinner the week before and I almost pummeled our waiter for glancing at her chest. Bella found it slightly amusing but I had never been prone to violence so it was concerning for me. How would I react if some old fart gave my child a nasty gaze if he wouldn't stop fussing in public? I feared ending up in jail for assaulting someone with a Golden Buckeye Card.
"Do you think she'll inherit my ability?" she asked, softly.
I kissed her cheek and sighed, "If he does, we'll be the perfect parents for him. You'll know exactly how he feels and you'll be able to teach him some control before he reaches an age where it will matter to him."
"You don't worry about it?"
I shook my head and mumbled, "I worry more about my genes getting passed down."
Bella ran her fingers through my hair and smiled at me. "This baby will be perfect, no matter what, okay?"
"I just can't comprehend watching a child go through what my mom has gone through her entire life," I told her. "It's a struggle for her just to have a normal conversation sometimes."
"She has some pretty amazing people helping her fight and she's doing really well, now. If our little guy…or girl is born with Schizophrenia, we'll know what to look for and we'll help them through it." Her smile grew and she ran a fingertip along my jaw line and added, "I hope he's as pretty as his daddy."
I snorted. "Pretty? Guys aren't pretty! How could you—"
Something nudged against my hand and I froze.
"Did you feel that?" she asked, looking down at my hand that was resting on her abdomen. "Oh! There she goes again!"
"I felt it!"
A slow smile spread across my face as I felt the tiny little pushes and kicks against the palm of my hand. In that instant, it hit me: Nothing would keep me from loving this little person. That's all that mattered.
"I really want to go to sleep," Bella whispered through cracked, dry lips. "Are they done yet?"
Apparently, Morphine and an Epidural made Bella very sleepy. It didn't help that her water broke just as we were going to bed at one in the morning. It was now five and, the OBGYN had just arrived for the Cesarean. The little nugget in Bella's belly was stubborn, and had decided to stay head up so we had scheduled a C-section for the following week. The baby had other plans however, arriving five days before he was due.
"Hey guys," Doctor Phillips said underneath a surgical mask, "looks like the little stinker has bad timing and bad direction."
I laughed but Bella had started to snore. With a nudge to her shoulder, her eyes flapped open wide and she blinked a few times.
"Did I miss it? Is she here?"
"No, sweetheart, but Doctor Phillips is here so it's going to be soon."
And soon it was: Nine minutes later—at twelve after five in the morning—Charlotte Elizabeth Masen was born into the world. She was protesting wildly and kicking her legs as if she were hoping to connect with something to show her disgruntlement toward the harsh cold air of the delivery room.
After they had done the APGAR twice, they handed her to me and I held her out for Bella to see with shaking hands.
"Oh, my God!" Bella said, sleepily, "She's perfect!"
I looked down at the red, shriveled face that looked similar to a newborn piglet and I cried, shamelessly.
"Yeah, she really is."
"Charlotte Elizabeth Masen! Get down here, now!" Bella had grown a serious set of pipes since Charlotte had reached the age of thirteen. The sound of her summon made me jerk with fright every time, even though it wasn't my own name being called.
Bella stood in the hallway to my childhood home, looking up the stairs for signs of life. There were none. Our daughter was no fool—she knew when she was in trouble so she was pacing in her room, reaching into her brain for excuses.
"What is it?" I called out from behind my desk.
Bella focused her narrowed eyes on me and her features softened minutely. "Look what I found in her jeans pocket!"
She held out a crumpled up pack of cigarettes and scowled at me.
With a similar expression formed on my face, I stood next to Bella and screamed Charlotte's name again. I could picture her—pacing the floor of her room—as she chewed on her fingernails, panicking. Her long, curly rust colored head of hair pulled tightly on top of her head and her brown eyes wide with fear. Bella didn't get angry often, but when she did, there would be consequences.
Bella called her name again and I shrunk a little beside her. The woman was the perfect mother—loving and stern but she also allowed Char to have her own mind. I still wondered, to this day, how I had gotten so lucky.
Charlotte hadn't experienced any symptoms of Schizophrenia but she was still young. We had looked into genetic testing, but after reading through the process we decided that it might be painful for both her and my mom. We didn't want her thinking that we looked down upon her for being stricken with the disease. My mom had been doing so well for the past five years: No relapses and living in a community with some much needed Psychiatric support. She enjoyed telling our daughter about the days of her father, hiding store-bought eggs in the limbs of their trees and also, stories about the Grandfather that she would never get a chance to meet. It made me feel good to know that Char could get to know him through the one person who knew him best.
Stomping on the hallway floor caused Bella to glance my way. "What should we do?"
My mouth fell open and closed then fell open again. "Ground her?"
She made a face. "Will that work?"
I let my shoulders fall a little. "I thought you had a plan since you called for her."
An oopsie expression quickly took over her face. The stomps were getting closer and we were running out of strategy time. "Uh…how about we…just uh…"
"Talk to her?"
She shrugged. "Sounds good but use your awesome fib-finder to make sure she's telling the truth."
I smiled at her. "Don't I always?"
Charlotte stomped down the stairs and stopped short when she saw the looks on our faces; then her gaze dropped to her mother's hand.
"Oh…no…" she stuttered.
Bella nodded and raised her eyebrows. "So?"
Charlotte bit her lip and I suppressed a grin because she looked so much like Bella when she did that. I cleared my throat and tried to focus on the task at hand.
"Uh…I'm holding them for someone."
Bella put a hand on her hip and I snuck a glance at her ass.
Char scratched the back of her neck and shifted her weight from foot to foot. "I don't know…one of my friends at school."
I narrowed my eyes at her and studied her for a moment. "You're fibbing, Charlotte."
Her mouth dropped open. "How do you know?"
With a quirked eyebrow, I explained, "That's a lame excuse and you must think I'm an idiot if I'm going to divulge my fib-finding secrets to you."
She frowned at her shoes and her shoulders slumped. "Okay, I was just…trying it out. You know, experimenting with it."
Bella sighed. "Did you like it?"
"No, it sucked and I won't ever do it again."
I prayed that she'd say the same thing after her first date in a couple of years.
"Fib-finder says that she's telling the truth," I said, grinning.
Char rolled her eyes. "You are so un-cool, Dad."
"I'm throwing these out," Bella grumbled. "And you're grounded for two months."
As soon as the words left Bella's mouth, I felt myself hunkering toward the ground. Bella grabbed my hand, and searched the room for the impending catastrophe. Ironically, it was the framed photo of our wedding day that Charlotte's brain chose to take its anger out on. The picture flew from the wall and I closed my eyes, listening for the crash of glass. Nothing happened.
I opened them to see the picture floating peacefully toward Charlotte who grabbed it out of thin air with an apologetic look on her face. Bella had saved it. The two of them made me feel so ordinary sometimes but they were quite the pair. If anything, they were entertaining.
"Sorry, I lost it," she said, looking at the picture.
Bella released my hand and walked to her, grabbing her up into a strong hug.
"This is your home, Char, so don't apologize. You have a right to be angry about things and in time, you'll learn more control," she murmured.
"What if I don't?" she asked into Bella's shoulder, and sparing me a watery glance. I smiled reassuringly at her, even though the real encouragement came from the woman who held her, fiercely, in her arms. "I may not grow up to find someone like you found Dad; what if I grow up and I'm some freak?"
Bella released her and smiled at her. "You are going to be extraordinary—with or without a man like your Dad."
Char grinned through some tears and handed the picture to her mom.
"You're still grounded," I announced from behind them.
Charlotte frowned and stomped up the steps.
Bella wrapped her arms around me and sighed into my chest.
"I remember thinking the same thing when I was her age," she murmured. "I thought I was going to end up as some circus freak."
I kissed the top of her head and pulled her tightly to me.
"And look at you now, Bella. Look at you, now."
A/N: I'm working on my next one...I'm 17 chapters in and I (hopefully) will be posting the first one soon. Here's the summary:
Consign Me Not to Darkness~
Bella has just escaped from the grasp of a torturous relationship and she finds herself in the slums of Chicago. She's a shadow of who she used to be and has the anxiety to go with it. With some help from some unsuspecting neighbors and a gracious shop owner, she starts to turn her life around toward hope but her past isn't far behind her. It's a story of finding hope in the most unlikely places and learning to grow from the most horrible of experiences.
I hope to see you guys there! Thanks for being the most amazing readers in the whole freaking fandom. Big hugs. Virtual smooches. And a nice slap to each of your asses for just being absolutely fabulous. :-)