Chapter 29

Isabella Pov


~ August 17th, 2012 ~

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We sat silently at the kitchen counter, each of us lost in their thoughts. I had picked up my spoon and was playing with my ice cream while Edward just stared down at the marble countertop, his hands cupped in front of him. At some point, he sighed and shook his head as if trying to chase away the toxic thoughts plaguing his mind. He got up and walked over to the windows, gazing outside.

"So, what did he want this time?" he broke the silence, not looking at me. "What did he tell you?"

"Same old, same old," I replied, trying to sound nonchalant. "He told me you're a bad person; that you're not good enough for me; that you're going to break my heart, ruin my life… blah, blah."

I was telling the truth. As always, James had bad-mouthed Edward but that was about it. He hadn't said anything else of importance to me and he certainly hadn't threatened me. I knew Edward perceived him as some sort of vengeful psychopath, but I just thought he was being paranoid. James' bark was definitely worse than his bite, and I was used to his strange behavior by now.

"That bastard," Edward muttered under his breath.

I put down my spoon and walked over to him. "Let's not talk about James anymore, okay?" I suggested, gently rubbing the small of his back. "It's making you upset and that's the last thing I want or need right now. How's your back?"

"Better," he said, peering at me sideways.

"You're lying," I stated flatly, and could feel his muscles tense under my touch.

He sighed, turning to face me. "I'm not. It's better, I swear."

"Edward, you need to see a doctor," I insisted. "It's only going to get worse if you don't."

"I know and I will," he retorted, his expression letting me know he wasn't pleased with the direction our conversation was going.

"When?" I pressed on, determined not to back off on this. Not this time.

"When I have the time," he said dismissively, heading over to the kitchen counter and busying himself with the ice cream tub. "Are you done here?"

I frowned at his back. "You can make time if you want; you know that. What's really going on? What are you so afraid of?"

He put the tub back in the freezer before washing the spoon I had used, not answering.

I huffed, annoyed. "Edward, please talk to me. Communication, remember?"

He stilled with his back to me, his head hung low. After a moment, he placed the spoon on a dry kitchen towel before turning to me.

"I just…" he began, his hands gripping at the counter behind him as his concerned eyes met mine. "I know that if I see a doctor now he's going to tell me I need surgery."

"You can't know that for certain. That's the worst case scenario. Why do you have to be so negativistic all the time?"

"I'm being realistic, Isabella. You're four months pregnant, and I can't have you taking care of me after my back surgery. I won't do that to you."

"So what, you're going to wait until I'm seven months pregnant to have it?" I asked petulantly, folding my arms in front of me. "I really don't get you. I may be pregnant but I'm not disabled, alright? I can take care of you if needed. In fact, I don't even know why we're talking about surgery. We can't know for sure you're going to need it. Just go to the damn doctor already and find out what's wrong with your back, because you're really starting to piss me off."

"Okay, fine, calm down."

"No, I won't calm down until you promise me you'll make an appointment. I worry about you all the time, and it's not healthy for me or the baby. Promise me, Edward. Promise me you'll see a doctor."

He was quiet, just staring at me as if trying to figure out whether or not I was being serious.

"Promise me, damn it!"

"Okay, okay, I promise." He held his hands up in surrender to placate me. "I'll make an appointment on Monday. Happy now?"

"Yes," I said in a softer tone of voice, relieved that I had managed to convince him. "Thank you."

He shook his head as if he couldn't believe how quickly he had capitulated under the pressure I was putting on him. "What time is it?"

"Ten fifteen," I replied, glancing at my phone.

"Did you get any sleep?"

"Yeah, I woke up about an hour ago."

"You had ice cream. What about dinner?"

I shrugged one shoulder nonchalantly. "I skipped dinner."

His brows knitted together in a deep frown. "You know I don't like it when you skip meals. You need to take better care of yourself now that you're pregnant."

I rolled my eyes at him. "I'm fat; I really don't think I need the extra calories."

"Says who?"

"Your mother," I said simply.

He blinked rapidly a couple of times, his frown melting away as his expression softened. "Whatever she said to you, I don't think she meant it like that."

I chuckled dryly. "Oh, trust me, she did. She even mentioned Rosalie being 'thin as a toothpick' when she was carrying Jessica."

He sighed, closing the distance between us as his arms wrapped around my waist. "You know she's not well."

"That doesn't mean she has the right to call a pregnant woman fat. I have developed enough self-esteem issues without her help."

"Jesus Christ, Isabella; you're not fat, you're pregnant," he said, trying hard to keep his voice level. "Did you expect to still weigh 110 lbs. at almost seventeen weeks?"

"Well, no, but…" I trailed off, toying with his chest hair, my eyes downcast.

"But what?" he asked softly, cupping my chin and forcing me to look at him. He clearly wasn't happy with my attitude.

"Will you still find me attractive in a couple of months?" I inquired doubtfully, voicing my biggest fear.

"I told you, I'll always find you attractive no matter what," he said firmly, holding my gaze like he wanted to cement his words into my head. Then the corners of his mouth arched up in a smirk. "I actually find the baby bump and the few extra pounds incredibly sexy."

I bit on my lip, remaining silent.

"You don't believe a word I say, do you?"

"Not really." I smiled timidly.

He sighed exaggeratedly. "You're really something, you know that?" Then his hand that was around my waist descended towards my butt where he squeezed lightly. "How about I prove to you just how attractive I find your body?"

"Well, if you put it that way…" I chuckled, tugging on his chest hair playfully.

He chuckled back, leaning down to kiss me. "I love you."

"Mmm, I love you, too," I said, wrapping my arms around his neck and rising on my tiptoes to kiss him back. We kissed for a long time, all the while his hands firmly glued to my butt where he kneaded the flesh gently.

That night, as he took me to bed, I felt just how much he loved me. We kissed, touched, laughed, and for the first time in a while, he made love to me. It may have lasted an hour or it may have lasted all night; I wasn't sure. What I was certain of was the intensity of the act itself and his complete dedication as I enjoyed the beauty that can only be found in the arms of a lover who truly cherishes you.

As we looked into each other's eyes, I knew he saw me and I saw him. There were no walls, no barriers; just us, loving each other.

~~ 0 ~~

The next day, around noon, I was still in bed watching TV when Edward came out of the bathroom wearing only a white towel around his waist. His hair was damp from his shower and his eyes were sleepy from having gone to bed so late in the morning; he looked hotter than ever. I let my eyes roam freely all over his body, enjoying the view. He smiled at me knowingly in return as he walked over to the built-in closet and started pulling out clothes.

"I have to go see my mother," he said over his shoulder, pulling out a green polo t-shirt and holding it up for examination. "Do you want to come with me?"

"No, actually I was thinking about paying Angela a visit," I replied, stretching my arms over my head lazily. "I miss spending time with her."

Besides, I was in no mood to have to put up with Esme again. I'd had enough of her for the time being.

"That's a good idea," Edward encouraged, carefully placing the selected t-shirt on the back of an armchair along with a pair of dark jeans. "Go see your friend, have some fun."

"I will," I assured him, eager to have an activity that would take my mind off all the crap I'd had to deal with lately.

As soon as Edward was out the door, I picked up the phone and dialed Angela's number. She answered on the first ring.

"Hi, stranger," she greeted enthusiastically. "Long time no speak."

"We spoke yesterday, Ang," I said with a chuckle.

"Hardly. You and pretty boy were in a hurry, remember?"

"Yeah, anyway, are you working today?"

"Nope. I'm free as a bird. Why? What did you have in mind?"

"I was thinking I could come by. If you're not too busy, that is."

She snorted into the phone loudly. "Busy, yeah. Ben's been playing his stupid video games since he woke up this morning, and I've been slowly dying of boredom. I was about to do some laundry just to kill time."

"Your life is so exciting," I joked, smiling widely. Talking to Angela always put me in a good mood.

"I know," she said flatly, and I could almost picture her rolling her eyes. "You're so lucky you don't have to do your own laundry. You don't have to clean or cook or even work. I want a guy like Edward, too. You said he has two brothers, right? Maybe you can set me up with one of them."

"I heard that!" Ben yelled somewhere in the distance.

"You were supposed to!" Angela yelled back, stifling a laugh.

I shook my head, my eyes set on the ceiling above me. "You're insane."

"I know," she said, and I could feel the grin in her voice.

"I'll see you in an hour or so?"

"Can't wait."

After hanging up, I slowly dragged myself out of bed and headed for the bathroom.

I brushed my teeth then took a long shower, scrubbing every inch of skin I could get my hands on before shaving my legs and finally rubbing some lotion on them. When I was done, I brushed my hair and put on Edward's bathrobe before stepping back into the bedroom just in time to hear my phone beep, signaling I had a new message.

I was surprised to see it was from Edward.

Don't forget to have breakfast… or lunch.

I smiled to myself, quickly typing a reply.

I won't. Love u.

I barely had time to put the phone down before it beeped again.

You won't forget, or you won't have lunch?

"Jeez Louise," I murmured under my breath, typing another reply. "Always so freaking controlling."

I won't forget to have lunch. Stop worrying. Love you.

He didn't reply back after that, and I made my way towards the kitchen, opening the fridge and peering inside unenthusiastically. I craved pancakes but was too lazy to make them, so I just grabbed a container of yogurt and a box of granola, mixing the two into a bowl. When I was done eating, I washed the bowl and picked a banana from the fruit basket, heading back to the bedroom to change.

I arrived at my former apartment around three in the afternoon. I still had a key but decided not to be rude and rang the doorbell anyway. Ben opened the door, clad in shorts and a ratty sleeveless shirt. His dark hair was a mess and he was holding one of those wireless Xbox joysticks.

"Bella, hey." He smiled, stepping aside to let me in.

I gave him a brief hug. "Hi, Ben."

Just then Angela came running from the bathroom, the door slamming behind her.

"Out of my way!" she yelled happily, and Ben took a step back as she launched herself at me.

I squealed, not expecting the sudden impact as she hugged me tightly.

"Look at you!" she exclaimed, pulling back to take me in. I was wearing a bright yellow summer dress and platform sandals, and by the way she was looking at me, my outfit clearly had her approval. "You look so damn pretty. The pregnancy is really becoming you. And you have a tan! I haven't seen you with a tan in years."

"Thanks." I blushed. We talked on the phone several times a week but hadn't had time to see each other since Edward and I came back from Europe.

"How's my niece?" She patted my stomach gently.

"I hate to break it to you, but we found out it's a he." I smiled down at my baby bump then looked at her. "And your nephew is doing fine."

"Oh man," she lamented, making a face. But then, almost immediately, she grinned widely, waving me off. "I'm kidding, that's so great! Did you think of a name for him yet?"

"No." I shook my head. "We just found out a couple of days ago."

"Can I suggest a name?" She said, grabbing my hand and dragging me towards the living room, Ben following right behind us. "I bought this book '100,000+ Baby Names', and I found a few that I really like."

She gestured for me to sit on the couch as she took the spot next to me. Ben settled on the floor in front of his video game, his back to us.

"Okay, shoot," I urged curiously.

"So, if the baby was a girl, I was going to suggest Amelia or Elizeé, but since he's a boy, I'll go for Aidan or Matthew."

I nodded approvingly. "Aidan is nice."

"Right?" She grinned, flashing me her white but slightly crooked front teeth.

"Although, I like Matthew too. It's a good name. I think Edward would like it as well."

"Great, we have a name for him, then," she said triumphantly

"Hey, don't get too excited just yet. I have to talk to Edward first."

"Well, hurry up then," she said, leaning against the back of the couch and folding her legs Indian-style. "I want to start knitting him tiny sweaters with his name on them and stuff."

I laughed loudly, briefly distracting Ben from his video game and causing him to throw us a quick glace over his shoulder. "You don't know how to knit a sweater, Ang."

She waved me off dismissively. "I'll learn. I mean how hard can it be, right? I already bought the knitting needles and wool. I have pink, blue, yellow and white wool."

"Awwww." I placed my hand over my heart, really touched by how sweet and caring she was being. My hormones were threatening to take over, so I gave her a watery smile and dabbed at my eyes before enveloping her in a bear hug.

"God, I missed you," I said into her hair, my voice muffled and rough with emotion.

She patted me on the back gently. "I missed you, too. I miss you every single day. You're the only roommate I ever had. Living with Ben is great, but we both still have some adjusting to do."

I pulled back to look at her. "I know what you mean. I love living with Edward, but we have a lot of adjusting to do, as well."

"Yeah." She smiled sadly, her eyes gliding over to her boyfriend. "Hey, Ben?"

"Yeah, babe?" he replied, not even glancing her way.

She huffed, getting annoyed with him. "Don't be rude, offer Bella a drink."

"Hmmm?" he said distractedly, his thumbs hitting the buttons forcefully.

"Ben!" she snapped, and he startled, his head immediately whirling in our direction. "I said go get Bella a drink."

"Oh, right." He pressed pause and stood up, scratching at the nape of his neck. "So, um, what can I get you, Bella? I think we have some apple juice, water, beer…"

Angela groaned, irritated. "Are you being serious right now? The woman's pregnant and you ask her if she wants beer?"

"Sorry." He gave me a sheepish smile, his gaze drifting over to my stomach. "I'm just… I'm not used to you being pregnant."

"It's alright." I chuckled softly. "I'll have some iced water please."

He started jogging towards the kitchen, and Angela rolled her eyes, the corners of her lips betraying her masked amusement. "Not that I plan on getting knocked up anytime soon, but when I do, I'm definitely not having Ben's kids."

I laughed, knowing she was only joking, and she angled her body towards me, her smile getting bigger. "So tell me; how's life with Cullen? Is he treating you well?"

"Yeah, I like living with him. Although… we kind of had a huge fight a couple of days ago."

"Oh." Her brows drew together in a small frown. "Why?"

I told her everything that had transpired between Edward and I since the ultrasound, and by the time I was finished with my little story, Angela was staring at me, unseeing.

"Wow," she murmured. "Looks like you went through a serious rough patch."

I sighed. "Yeah, story of my life."

"But you guys are okay now, right?" she asked, sounding a bit concerned.

"Yeah, we're good, don't worry. We talked, and I think he finally got that I won't accept that kind of behavior from him again."

Angela was quiet for a little while, contemplating what I had just told her before she spoke again. "Look, Bella, you know I'm always on your side, no matter what, but try to put yourself in his place. He's been manipulated by that she devil he calls mother his entire life. His family is seriously fucked up. The only person he ever truly trusted was his wife, and she died before her time. It's going to take some time for him to open up and trust another woman like that again. It's obvious he loves you, or else he wouldn't have asked you to marry him, baby or not.

"You know what I see in him? I see a man who's hiding behind that huge wall he built around his heart because he's too afraid of getting hurt again. You managed to knock down part of that wall when you came into his life, but part of it is still there. You just need to push a little more and eventually it will crumble just like the rest of it."

"When did you get so philosophical?" I questioned teasingly, although I knew she was probably right.

"I'm serious. I really believe he loves you a lot. He may have his flaws, but he's a pretty decent guy, and decent guys aren't easy to find these days." Angela smiled and clapped her hands together. "But enough serious talk. How about we go out, do something fun just the two of us?"

"Won't Ben mind if we leave him here?" I asked apprehensively.

Angela shrugged. "He can't wait to have the apartment to himself so he can have his idiot friends over. And speaking of Ben, where the hell is he? He was supposed to bring you your water like fifteen minutes ago."

As if on cue, the door to the kitchen opened and Ben emerged holding my glass of water.

"Sorry for taking so long," he apologized, handing me the glass. "I was on the phone with a friend."

"Don't worry about it."

"We're going out," Angela announced, getting up.

"Yeah? Where?" Ben asked, and even though he was trying to be cool about it for the sake of their relationship, I could see a lick of suspicion flash through his eyes.

I guess old habits die hard. He had always been very possessive of her which was the main reason she had decided to break up with him almost a year before. But he was making an effort, and I had to hand it to him; his question was more inquisitive than accusatory. He was really trying to be a better man because he loved her so much.

Angela sighed, closing the distance between them and placing a light kiss on his lips. "I don't know, but I'll probably be home before eight, alright? I'm going to take a quick shower and change clothes. Bella, I won't be long."

When she was out of sight, Ben turned to me. He smiled, but it didn't quite reach his eyes.

~~ 0 ~~

Sometime later, Angela and I found ourselves at Café des Architectes. I was hungry and she wanted dessert, and since Café des Architectes was one of the best restaurants I knew in Chicago, I had managed to convince her to give it a try.

"Wow, this place is… wow," she whispered in my ear as one of the hostesses led us to our table. "Are you sure we can afford it?"

"Relax," I whispered back. "I have both mine and Edward's credit card. The prices are a little steep but the food is amazing."

She grinned insinuatingly. "Okay, since you're paying, I'll knock myself out."

"Please do. Edward is continuously nagging me that I never use the credit card he gave me when we came back from Europe."

We sat at the table, and the hostess placed the menus in front of us before departing.

"So how does it feel being jobless?" Angela asked, picking up her menu.

I did the same, browsing through it slowly. "I've been so immersed in family drama that I didn't even have time to think about it. It feels okay, I guess. But it's only been like two days since I quit. I don't think I'll miss the actual job of selling books, but I will miss that feeling of being independent. Now I depend entirely on Edward, and I'm not sure I'll ever get used to it."

"You hate it, don't you?"

I smiled because she knew me so well. "I don't hate it, but I don't love it either. I've just accepted it. I'm used to taking care of myself, you know?"

"I know, but maybe it's time you start trusting someone else to take care of you," she said, giving me a pointed look. "You see, both of you have trust issues you need to work out."

I shrugged, letting my gaze roam aimlessly around the spacious restaurant. "Yeah, maybe you're right."

"You know I'm right."

All of a sudden, my eyes landed on a familiar face, and my knees went weak even though I was seated. A cold chill ran down my spine as my heart started galloping wildly. Running into her merely a day after practically jumping at each other's throats had to be the shittiest thing that could have happened to me.

"Oh no," I breathed, nervous as hell.

"What?" Angela asked, staring at me in confusion.

"Edward's sister-in-law."

"Where?"

"Over there." I nodded in Rosalie's general direction, and she followed my gaze.

Angela glanced between Rosalie and her companion, an extremely beautiful blonde, her brow furrowing. "Which one?"

"The blonde," I replied dumbly, not really thinking. I was too focused on trying to figure out whether or not she had spotted me as well. Judging by the calm manner in which she conversed with her friend, I suspected she hadn't.

"They're both blonde," Angela retorted dryly.

"Oh, right," I answered, making an effort to tear my eyes away. "The one in red."

"Hmmm." She cocked her head to the side, analyzing Rosalie for a second before throwing me a conspiratorial look. "Oh yeah, now I remember her. She looks like a major biatch."

"She is, and I know this first hand." I chuckled uneasily, letting my eyes wander back to their table. Only this time, I was met with Rosalie's icy stare. She had definitely noticed me now.

"Oh crap," I whispered furiously, hiding my face behind my menu.

Angela sighed. "She saw you, didn't she?"

"Yep," I said to the menu, trying to look like I was actually having a hard time deciding what to have. "I think we should leave. Like right now."

"Oh no, we're not going anywhere."

"What?" I gritted through clenched teeth. "I'm not in the mood for this, Angela. I've taken enough bullshit from Edward's family. I really want to go."

"You can't just let her bully you around. Grow some balls, damn it. Besides, we didn't even get to order, and I'm not leaving until I've devoured the expensive food you're paying for."

As if on cue, our waiter decided to show up just then. He propped himself in front of me almost strategically, thankfully blocking my view of Rosalie.

"What can I get you ladies?" he asked, smiling down at us.

Angela gave me a pointed look before redirecting her attention to her menu. "I'll have the Spring Greens and the Duroc Pork Tenderloin."

He nodded, jotted down her order then looked at me expectantly.

I sighed, realizing there was no way out of this. I just hoped Rosalie decided to ignore my presence rather than cause a scene in the middle of such a high class restaurant.

"And I guess I'll have the Spring Greens and the Skuna Bay Salmon," I said half-heartedly.

"Would you like dessert?"

"No," both Angela and I replied in unison, causing the waiter to crack another smile.

"Drinks?"

"Just water for me," I replied, putting down my menu. "Flat."

"And a glass of Pinot Grigio for me, please."

"Good choice," he said, picking up our menus. "I'll have your drinks in a minute."

He scurried off, and my eyes immediately searched for Rosalie. She was still discussing with her blonde friend, her chair now at a different angle. She was sitting almost with her back to me, only a small portion of her profile visible from our table. Apparently she was as willing to acknowledge me as I was to having a root canal procedure performed on me by a psychopath.

Angela rolled her eyes at me. "Can we please at least pretend that she's not here? Let's just ignore her. She seems to be doing the same thing."

"Yeah," I said, looking away as the waiter placed our drinks in front of us. "Let's just… enjoy our dinner."

She let out a sigh of relief. "Thank you. We have a lot of catching up to do. I want to know more about your trip to France, about being pregnant… about everything."

We chatted for a little while, and I tried to relax and enjoy our evening together. Sometime later, our waiter returned with our entrées, and the food looked and smelled so delicious that I was glad I had stayed.

I was enjoying my first bite and listening to Angela praise the food when we were interrupted by my phone starting to ring. I had never been happier to see Edward's name flash on the display.

"Hey," I answered softly.

"Hey, where are you?"

"Um, I'm at Café des Architectes with Angela. You?"

"On my way home. But… I could detour and join the two of you for dinner if you wanted me to," he replied playfully. He sounded like he was in a much better mood than the previous days, which meant things with his mother had settled down some.

"Yeah, sure," I said eagerly. "That would be great."

"Really? I was actually joking but if you insist…"

"Just hurry up." I knew my voice had a stressed edge to it.

There was a small pause before he spoke again, his tone of voice no longer playful. "Is something wrong, Isabella?"

"Rosalie is here," I said succinctly.

"Ah, well," he paused again, "I'll be there in ten minutes."

As I hung up, Angela peered at me curiously. "He's on his way, isn't he?"

"Yeah."

"I figured."

I gave her an apologetic look. "Sorry, I really don't want to ruin our little get-together, but I'll feel much better knowing he's here if Rosalie decides to finally acknowledge me."

"Are you afraid of her or something? I'm not judging you, I'm just curious."

I chuckled, shaking my head. "No, I'm just afraid I won't be able to control myself around her. She tends to bring out the worst in me." I took a deep resounding breath. "And it's important for me and the baby that doesn't happen."

Edward arrived twenty minutes later. He pulled the chair closest to me, leaning over to greet me with a kiss.

"Hey, sorry I'm late. I had to stop at the gas station. Hi, Angela."

"Hey." She waved, taking another sip from her wine.

"Where is she?" he inquired, scanning the room subtly.

"Over there." I nodded in her direction just as carefully, offering him a tight smile.

As soon as his gaze found her, his brow furrowed. "What the hell is she doing with Lauren?" he said, almost to himself.

"That Lauren?" I asked, remembering the fight we'd had because of her.

He gave me an apprehensive look. "Yeah."

"Great," I muttered, tossing my napkin on the table furiously. "Just what I needed."

"I don't know what Rosalie's doing with Lauren," he said defensively. "They're not even friends."

I suspected Rosalie might have had an agenda where her dinner date with Lauren was concerned - but decided to keep that theory to myself… at least for the time being.

"How's Esme?" I abruptly changed the subject, trying to take my mind off the fact that the woman sitting a few feet away was the one Esme favored for the role of her future daughter-in-law. She hated me but she had always loved Lauren.

"Mad at me and everyone else for locking her away in that clinic."

A low 'hmmm' was all I could get out. In fact, I wanted to yell at him I was glad that monster he called mother was in that awful place. But I knew I couldn't do that, so I just went back to enjoying my first course. I was fuming inside, but I was trying really hard not to show it.

The waiter came back to take Edward's order, and he decided to have the same as I did. He and Angela made small talk while I just sulked away, from time to time, throwing Lauren a fugitive glance.

Sometime later, I was pulled out of my dark thoughts by a familiar voice.

"Good evening," Rosalie spoke, her voice matching her stony expression.

I startled and dropped my fork on the table with a loud thud. Everyone stared at me, and I blushed, apologizing.

"Rosalie," Edward greeted with a stiff nod, standing up like the gentleman he was. "Lauren."

"Oh, Edward, it's so good to see you," Lauren gushed, smiling at him like the Cheshire cat. "You look better than ever."

I took a moment to analyze her. She was tall, tan, had skinny legs a mile long, shiny blond hair, blue eyes and by the looks of it, a very nice pair of silicones. To sum it all up, she was pretty much every man's wet dream.

"Thank you; you do too," Edward replied politely, gesturing towards me. "This is my fiancée, Isabella, and her friend Angela."

She looked down at me, her smile now forced. "Oh. I didn't know you were engaged."

"Neither did I," Rosalie stated coolly, piercing him with her intense stare.

"Oh, it's… it's not official yet…" he stammered, probably just now realizing what he'd said. We both knew he shouldn't have said it, but I was sure glad for the opportunity to rub it in.

Lauren laughed skeptically, rubbing his upper arm. "Is that your way of saying she refused you?"

I stared at her hand on my boyfriend, wishing I could just get up and bitch slap her. She was being deliberately flirty with Edward, and I was just about to put her in her place.

I plastered a fake smile on my face. "No, he just can't decide what ring to get me. I said I wanted the ring to be a surprise and he's been searching for that perfect diamond ever since. He's very picky, you know."

My reply seemed to have the desired effect. She removed her hand and pursed her lips, her attention focusing on me. She studied my face for a minute as if trying to decipher whether or not I was lying.

"Did you set a date yet?" she asked, watching me attentively.

"No, but I want a summer wedding," I said promptly, not breaking eye contact. "Don't worry you'll get an invitation when the time comes."

"Probably after the baby is born, right?" Angela chimed in, and Lauren's head snapped in her direction.

"Baby?" She now looked like she was in shock. "What baby?"

"Oh, you didn't know?" I said sweetly, rubbing a hand over my stomach. "I'm four months pregnant. Edward's going to be a father."

"Oh." She followed my movements with wide eyes. "Wow. Uh… congratulations, I guess."

"We should leave," Rosalie snapped, obviously irritated. "Lauren just wanted to say hi."

"Yeah," Lauren said, throwing Rosalie a reproachful glare. "We really should go. It was nice meeting you."

"Yeah, you too," I said, waving.

"I'll see you around," she told Edward before pushing her bag higher up her shoulder and walking away with Rosalie in tow. Clearly she was mad that Rosalie hadn't told her about the baby, and I wondered why.

"Why do you keep telling people I'm your fiancée?" I asked Edward as he sat back down.

He shrugged. "Does it bother you?"

"No, but it's not true."

"I like the sound of it. I like calling you my fiancée instead of just my girlfriend. Besides, you already agreed to marry me… someday."

"I don't remember agreeing to it," I replied, half teasing, half annoyed that the two harpies had ruined my evening.

He stared at me for a moment, not sure whether I meant it or not. "You didn't turn me down either. If it bothers you that much, I'll stop calling you that."

"I told you it doesn't bother me," I said with a sigh. "It's actually kind of… nice."

A knowing smile crept its way to his face as he took my hand in his and kissed the back of it. "One day, you'll say yes."

~~ 0 ~~

On Wednesday morning Edward and I found ourselves at the hospital yet again. Edward had kept his promise and made an appointment for his back. We were both nervous to hear what the doctor had to say, and even though he didn't like admitting it, Edward knew just as well as I did that ignoring the issue was not an option anymore. Instead of ameliorating, his condition was getting worse with each passing day.

"See this?" the doctor said, pointing to the screen. "This is your herniated disc at the L5-S1 in the lumbar spine. This tear in the disc ring has resulted in the release of inflammatory chemical mediators which is what's causing you severe pain in the lower back region. To better understand what's happening, imagine the soft cushion that sits between the spinal vertebrae being pushed outside its normal position.

"Now, a herniated disc wouldn't be such a big problem if it weren't for the spinal nerves that are very close to the spinal discs. The sciatic nerve is the most commonly affected nerve, causing symptoms of sciatica which is what you've been experimenting since the crash."

"How bad is it?" Edward asked, his thumb rubbing nervous circles in the center of my palm. "Do I need surgery?"

The doctor sighed, crossing his arms over his chest. "Unfortunately, yes."

"Great," he spat, letting go of my hand to tug at his hair. "Just… fucking great."

"Considering the results of the physical exam and your symptoms, I think the best solution is surgical intervention. You are entitled to ask for a second opinion, of course."

Edward shook his head, starting to look desperate. "This is me asking for a second opinion. The doctor I saw right after the car accident told me it was going to heal by itself, with time."

"Usually, about 50% of people with a herniated disc in the low back recover within a month. You haven't. In fact, your condition seems to be deteriorating. Back pain alone isn't reason enough for surgery, but persistent pain in the leg as well as weakness and limitation of daily activities definitely is."

I gave Edward a disapproving look. "I thought the leg pain was gone. You didn't tell me you still had it."

"Going to the chiropractor made it less intense, but it's still there. Not always though. Just… sometimes."

"Have you taken any medication for the pain?" the doctor inquired, sitting at his desk and jotting something down.

"Yes. It helps, but after a while the pain is back. It's been two and a half months since the accident. I should have gotten better by now, right?"

"That's correct." The doctor nodded, peering at Edward over the rim of his glasses. "But don't worry; surgery is not as bad as it sounds. You're young and in good health; I can guarantee you'll make a quick recovery."

"Good, because being disabled for too long is the last thing I need or want. Too many people depend on me."

"I understand. Well then, let's discuss surgery. I'll be out of the country for the next week or so, but we can make an appointment for as soon as I get back."

Later, as we were heading back to the apartment, Edward reached over the gearshift to take my hand in his. He had been silent since stepping out of the doctor's office, and I knew he was stressing over his impending plight.

"We should go to Forks this weekend," he said quietly, keeping his eyes on the road.

I glanced over at him. "Are you sure you'll be able to make the trip with me?"

He huffed, annoyed. "I have back pain, I'm not invalid, Isabella. Of course I can make the trip with you."

"I just don't want you doing anything that could aggravate the situation and cause you unnecessary pain."

"I'll be fine."

He let go of my hand and pulled his Blackberry out of his pocket, hitting a few buttons before bringing it to his ear. "Victoria, I need you to book me two first class plane tickets to Seattle. Friday morning… Yes… Okay, thank you. I'll be at the office in about half an hour; I need to drop Isabella off first… Yes, have the files ready by then."

He hung up, placing the phone in my lap. "It's done. We leave on Friday morning."

I smoothed my palm over the hair at the nape of his neck. "Thank you."

He smiled, but I could tell it wasn't genuine. His fear of surgery was putting a damper on his mood. "You're most welcome."

Glancing out my window, I couldn't help the excitement starting to bubble inside.

I was going home.


A/N Loved it? Hated it? Let me know.

Also, next chapter stays in Bella's POV.

As always, thank you for reading!

~Andreea~