Disclaimer: All characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.
Chapter 29: Harvest
I almost fell over as I tried to slide my foot into my shoe and simultaneously put on my earring. I was almost never late – chefs are always on time – but tonight I couldn't seem to get it together. It was the night of the annual Harvest Ball, and I'd procrastinated getting ready all day. I really wasn't in the mood to hob knob and schmooze.
In addition to feeling completely exhausted, I felt like a cow. I'd spent over two hours in the maternity store trying on dresses for tonight. When did designers decide that pregnant women are happy looking like meringues? I finally did find one I liked. It was a deep red silk, with a cowl neck and a bodice that hung loosely over my gigantic growing form.
I sighed as I looked into the mirror, knowing that it was just the baby making me so big, but unable to help feeling like I looked like a house – a McMansion, actually. The baby wasn't due for a few weeks, but the novelty of being pregnant was long gone.
I walked into the kitchen, where I found Edward drinking a glass of scotch and playing with his phone. He looked up when he heard me coming and smiled widely.
"You're gorgeous," he said, pulling me into his arms for a hug.
I rolled my eyes and huffed. "I look huge."
He reached between us and put his hand on my belly. "No, you look beautiful." The look on his face when he touched me was indescribable.
We hadn't been planning on getting pregnant so soon after the wedding, but when it happened, we got really excited. I saw a side of Edward I'd never seen before – paternal pride. It suited him well.
We'd decided to wait and find out the sex of the baby, but the curiosity was killing me. Would we have a little boy with sparkling green eyes? Or would we have a little girl with brown eyes who worshipped her daddy? I knew whatever it ended up being, Edward would be a great dad. I couldn't wait to meet him or her.
Edward had procured a car and a driver to take us to the Ball, even though I told him I'd be our designated driver. He always liked this event because it was where we first met, and as a result, treated it like some sort of anniversary.
In the back seat of the town car and headed to the Ball, Edward put his arm around me, and I leaned into his shoulder and sighed.
"Are you tired?" he asked, rubbing my leg.
"No, I'm just feeling huge. How much bigger can this baby get?"
"Hey, that's my baby in there." He kissed my neck and all was forgotten.
As we got closer, and I could see the twinkle lights in the trees and the glow from the tent, I remembered how I'd felt when I came here the first time. I'd been nervous about making a good impression and had been so flustered by Edward. How different things were two years later.
Confidential had been hugely successful, and I was able to promote Alice to executive chef and hire a replacement soux chef to help while I was out with the baby. I didn't know what my plans were down the road, but I did know I couldn't keep up the rigorous schedule the restaurant demanded with a newborn; I had to have some help. Alice was a perfect fit. She knew the restaurant so well and supported my vision. Of course, I would always be involved, but I trusted the day to day operations to Alice.
Edward had been amazing since we'd moved in together and gotten married. It was hard to remember the cold, closed off man he once was.
"Hey, what are you thinking about?" he asked, pulling me from my thoughts.
"You hated me when I first saw you here. Remember? You scowled at me the whole night." I cocked my eyebrow at him as I teased.
His expression turned serious, and he grabbed my hand, intertwining our fingers, squeezing tightly. "You'll never know how sorry I am that I lumped you into the same category as Aro. I was so wrong about you."
I pulled our joined hands up to my mouth and kissed his knuckles. "I spent a lot of time wondering what I'd done to make you hate me."
"I know. I was an idiot. All we needed to do was just talk."
"You know, even when you were being a complete dick to me, I still thought you were amazingly sexy. I would shamelessly stare at you. God, how I hated that! You had this strange hold over me."
He smiled, and I knew he loved my backhanded compliment. "The feeling was entirely mutual. You were like this magnet that I couldn't draw away from."
"What made you change your mind about me? When I look back, I just remember things being so hard for us...and then something changed."
He hung his head. We'd talked over the time we'd been together about our first encounters, and I knew he felt incredibly guilty for treating me poorly. "I couldn't stay away from you. Even though you were with Peter, I just wanted a piece of your life. I couldn't help it."
"You have all my life now." I reached up and touched his cheek with the back of my finger.
"I do. How I got this lucky I'll never know, but I'm not about to question it. Whatever hardship I had to endure to end up with you was 100% worth it."
"Do you have any idea how many nights I stayed up thinking about you?"
He grinned mischievously. "Yes, I remember you used to fantasize about me."
"Used to fantasize? Who says I ever stopped?"
His eyes changed from playful to lustful as he leaned in and kissed me, softly whispering against my lips. "You'll have to tell me all about your fantasies, love. Just thinking about it makes me want to skip the party and go straight home."
I giggled as his lips tickled me when he spoke. "That's all I have to do to get out of this? Damn."
He laughed, but I knew this night was important to him.
The party was actually much better than I expected. Rosalie and Emmett were there, as were Edward's parents. Even Jane and her boyfriend Alec made the trip from Los Angeles.
Toward the end of the night, Edward pulled me over to one of the benches on the side of the tent and sat us both down. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a small box and an envelope and handed them both to me.
I looked up, surprised, as I took the box. "Edward…what…"
I set the box down and carefully opened the envelope. Inside was a written letter in Edward's handwriting. I looked up at Edward, and he nodded, encouraging me to read.
My Dearest Bella,
I'm writing this letter to you because I know I could never say this in person. (You know I'm not good at saying how I feel). I wanted to give this gift to you at the Harvest Ball because it always reminds me how far we've come. How, with perseverance, we overcame the odds and made a wonderful life. Nevertheless, you captivated me back then, even when I didn't know you, and I remember it like it was yesterday.
Last night, I stayed up reading in bed while you were asleep next to me. I watched you sleeping so peacefully. You looked happy, which, in turn, made me happy. That's all I want for you – to be happy. I know you're ready for the baby to be born, but seeing you pregnant with our baby fills me with a sense of pride I've never known. Thank you for being the mother of my child, for giving up your body for our baby. I can't imagine embarking on this journey with anyone else.
I know I said it on our wedding day, but I want to vow to you again that I will always love you. You are my family, and nothing will ever change that. Before I met you, I was bruised, merely existing. You made me live! And you continue to make me live. I see the world differently now that you're in my life, and I will never take you for granted.
Accept this gift as a way for me to express what I never thought I'd be capable of feeling. I love you, and I can't wait to meet our baby.
The tears fell from my eyes, smearing the words he'd so carefully written. Suddenly, I didn't care anymore that I was uncomfortable, or that I hadn't slept in weeks, or that I was as big as a house. All I cared about was that we were a family, and our family was about to get bigger. I was overwhelmed with happiness.
"Are you going to open it?" Edward asked, nodding at the box as he lifted my chin.
I wiped my tear as I picked up the box and opened it. Inside was a beautiful pendant with two diamond-studded circles embedded in one another. It was understated but incredibly beautiful.
"It's beautiful," I gasped. "I don't know what to say. You really didn't have to do this."
"I wanted to."
"I love it. But, the note…" I faded off, shaking my head, because I'd never be able to express what his words meant to me.
"I meant every word." He looked at me with such love in his eyes; I had no doubt about his sincerity. I never did. We'd come so far and been through so much together, but we'd come out of it stronger than ever.
"Help me put this on?" I asked, removing the necklace from the box and handing it to him.
"Of course." He smiled as I turned and lifted my hair. His hands came around my body and slipped the necklace around my neck. Once it was clasped, he kissed my shoulder. "It looks perfect on you."
I turned back around and hugged him tightly, never wanting to let go. "Will you take me home? I just need some time alone with you tonight."
"Sure. Anything you want."
We said our goodbyes, and I collapsed into the back seat of the car. Being on my feet for such a long time was getting harder and harder on my ever-expanding body. Edward cradled me in his arms as I faded off to sleep.
Before I knew it, he was shaking me lightly. "Wake up, love. We're home."
I smiled but my eyes were still drooping. "Mmm, home." Home was where Edward was.
I slid into our bed, making my fortress of pillows around me. The last couple of weeks had been increasingly uncomfortable for me. I was hardly sleeping, and no matter how much I tried, I couldn't stay still. I felt bad for Edward, because I knew he wanted to be intimate, but I just didn't feel up to it. He was remarkably understanding. As I struggled with the pillows, Edward laughed as he always did, but he didn't say anything.
"Goodnight, baby. I hope you sleep well," he said with a smile as he kissed me.
"Goodnight." I wasn't feeling even remotely confident that a good night's sleep was in the cards.
I had no idea what was happening when I work up. It was still dark, and all I knew was that I was uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. The sharp pain in my belly got stronger until I was gripping my pillow just to make it through.
The baby's not due for a few weeks, I rationalized with myself. This was just one of those many unpleasant things about pregnancy I had to endure.
The next time the pain hit, I changed my mind. This was labor.
Edward was asleep next to me, and I didn't want to be one of those women who ran to the hospital too early and was sent home. Then the pain hit again, and fuck, I knew this was not a false alarm.
I leaned over and kissed Edward's cheek. "Baby, wake up."
I shook him lightly. "Baby, I'm serious. Wake up."
He rolled over and grumbled.
I shook him harder. "Baby, it's time!"
He bolted upright, seemingly programmed to move upon hearing those particular words. "Holy shit! Are you sure?"
I nodded, internally chuckling at the panicked look on his face. "Yeah, I'm sure."
He was so cute as he frantically packed our bags, all the while trying to tend to me. I gave him some instructions through gritted teeth.
By the time we got to the hospital, I was in more pain than I'd ever imagined. Edward was great, not letting my tantrums and outbursts get to him in any way. He was always solid, unflappable.
The next several hours were a blur. I was focused on the task at hand and surprised by my lack of nerves. Then the doctor told me it was time to push, and all the nerves came to the forefront. The moment I'd been waiting for was upon us.
Edward sensed my panic and gripped my hand. "You're going to do great, baby."
I nodded, but the fear was still very much there. I just wanted to get through this and know that the baby was okay.
After only a few minutes, the baby was born, and my head hit the pillow in relief.
"It's a girl!" the doctor declared happily.
Tears flowed down my face as I saw my daughter for the first time. She was so tiny and so beautiful! The doctor put her to my chest, and Edward's hand came to her tiny back.
When I looked up at Edward, he had tears in his eyes. I'd never seen him cry before, but this moment was so overwhelming for both of us. It was the culmination of ten months of anticipation.
He leaned in and kissed me. "You did it! She's so beautiful!"
I sighed. I did it.
Edward kissed our daughter's tiny forehead. "Welcome to the world, Chelsea Elizabeth Cullen."
He took our tiny daughter from my arms and held her. The look of wonder in his eyes would forever be burned in my memory. She was the product of our love, and the struggles we'd endured to get here seemed like ancient history.
The bronze-haired, mysterious man I'd admired from afar that night so long ago at the Harvest Ball had weaved his way permanently into my life, and I could never have imagined being this happy.
A/N: So, that's the end! *sniff* I hope you enjoyed it. I was feeling enormously sappy when I wrote it (can you tell? LOL). There are pics from the epilogue on my profile.
Thanks so much to all my readers, who've stuck with me through broken noses and numerous delays. I want you all to know that I appreciate the support so much! I hope you'll stick with me for my next adventure.
What's that, you ask? Well, I've currently got an entry in the Erotica Contest (link is on my profile). It's anonymous, so I can't tell you which one, but I hope you'll take a look and vote for your favorite. Also, I'm writing another one for an upcoming contest as well. I will probably write at least one more full length fic, I'm just not sure what about yet. So, send me your plot bunnies if you have an idea for a fic.
I can't end this without profoundly thanking my team. Viola Cornuta and TwiHart, my betas, you have NO IDEA how much I appreciate your support and help. It was so much more than correcting my grammar! It was about collaboration and emotional support as well. Thanks so much from the bottom of my heart. And what can I say about my pre-readers: ellierk, dana1779, sunfeathers and scsquared? You guys give me the courage to post my stuff and not worry that people will hate it. Thanks for your constant support!
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