A/N: Huzzah! Something new already! This story is for pipelynn, who rocks my socks & bought me an awesome blankie in the last FGB auction. I hope she loves it. I hope you love it too.
Sincerest thanks go to jessypt for stepping up to beta this bad boy. She's a gem =) If you're curious, the genre will be pretty much what it says above: Drama & Romance. Angst will be minimal. Canon pairings throughout, other than mentions of the characters' history. Yes, there will be lemons eventually. No posting schedule, as this one is a WIP, but I'll try not to let much time pass between updates. Enjoy!
It was nearing dusk ̶ that time of day it sucks the most to be on the road because the sun hovers in that spot where your visor doesn't reach and your sunglasses are completely ineffective. You're forced to practically drive blind, unless you hold one hand out in front of you while steering with the other. But I had to drive. Ruthie would not sleep or allow me to put her down otherwise, so for the fifth time in her short two weeks of life, I was driving around aimlessly. At least it was a break from holding her, and it gave me the opportunity to stop at the Taco Bell drive-thru and get something to eat. I'd practically been living on SlimFast shakes, PowerBars, and fruit I could eat with one hand (apples, pears, and grapes, mostly) since we'd come home from the hospital. There was no one to give me a break, no one to make me a sandwich or hold her for thirty seconds while I went to the bathroom.
I shouldn't complain, though. My little girl, blue eyes and a tuft of fuzzy brown hair, was a blessing. Even though I was doing this all on my own. Even though my asshole ex had completely disappeared. Even though pretty much everything was a struggle right now. Ruthie was beautiful and healthy and, in a matter of moments after I first saw her, had become my entire world. She was still brand new to me, but I could hardly remember what my life had been like without her in it.
The lack of sleep in the past two days had been awful, though. The longest she had slept consecutively had been an hour, and only two of those times had she allowed me to lay her in her crib. So for days I'd loaded her into the car, and after nabbing some fast food, I drove around and ate. I couldn't really take the setting sun any longer, though, so I decided to head home. There were other cars along the divided four-lane highway, but for the most part, it was normal traffic.
I was just a few miles from the turn-off that would lead to my apartment complex when it happened. The big black truck must not have seen me. The impact forced my tiny old two-door off the road, swiveling and spinning over gravel and grass. I screamed and tried to take control with a foot on the brake and both hands on the wheel, but some kind of impact jolted my car to a stop. My head hurt.
As the blackness settled in, I could only think of one thing. The word fell from my lips in a whimper.
It hurt to open my eyes, but I forced them as wide as possible anyway. Wherever I was smelled funny and was really cold. I was in a bed. I was in a hospital room.
I looked around frantically. Where was Ruth? Where the hell was my daughter?
"Oh god, no! No, no, no!"
"Ms. Swan, are you all right?" A petite woman had burst into my room and was staring at me worriedly. I felt as frantic as she appeared.
"My baby! Where's my baby?" I tried to climb out of bed, but she was at my side, gently pushing me back down. Regardless of her delicate care, I could feel the array of aches all over my body, and my breasts were damp and sore from not having nursed Ruth.
"Shh," she soothed. "Little Ruth is fine. She's in pediatrics with our nursing staff. I think the social worker was just in."
Oh my god. Oh. My. God.
"What's wrong with her? Are they going to take her away from me? It wasn't my fault!" I screeched. The poor woman looked frightened, but she determinedly grabbed my hand and squeezed it to reassure me.
"She's fine. As far as we can tell, she didn't suffer any injuries. The social worker is just here out of standard practice. One of the other nurses remembered you from when Ruth was born a couple weeks ago. Since the father's name is not on record and we weren't certain how long you'd be here, we just wanted to make sure the baby was cared for. She's not going anywhere, okay?"
"Okay," I nodded, releasing my breath and wiping at my tears. My baby was okay. I, on the other hand, had a throbbing headache. I touched my temple and winced.
"Here, let me go get the doctor. I'll call peds as well, and I'll see about getting you another dose of something for the pain. I'm Alice, by the way. Just push the call button if you need anything."
Before leaving, Nurse Alice poured me a glass of water from the pitcher near my bed and handed it to me. I drank it quickly and poured another, only then realizing how thirsty I felt.
Thankfully, my doctor and Ruth's came by soon after Alice left. The social worker entered a few minutes later, accompanied by another nurse who rolled my baby in with the same kind of cradle cart they used in the labor and maternity wing. They let me take her into my arms immediately, and I held her close, thanking God she was safe before I shifted my gown to begin feeding her. Nursing was still a little awkward, especially in front of strangers, but nothing mattered more than my baby's needs at that time.
They asked me what I remembered, and the doctors were happy to hear I could recall the accident. I learned that my car had been totaled. I'd suffered a head injury ̶ a concussion ̶ when my car hit a tree and stopped. The impact had left me achy and tender all over, and the airbag deploying caused some bruising and burns on my face and chest. Overall, I was okay. And really damn lucky. If my car had struck the tree at a different angle, I could have died.
I was more interested in Ruthie, though. Miraculously, her doctor believed she was fine. She had been securely strapped into her car seat and showed no signs of injury. She responded to stimuli, passed all the tests they conducted, and would only need to come in for a follow-up appointment in a few days. If she was still okay then, I would just proceed with her regular appointments unless I had concerns in the future. My baby girl was just so small, though. I was frightened about future problems, but everyone was very optimistic.
I just couldn't get my mind past how fortunate we were. We could have died, or I could have been killed, leaving my baby with no one. Had anything happened to her, I'm not sure how ̶ or if ̶ I could have coped.
We stayed in the hospital for almost another full day for observation. The doctor had taken care not to give me any drugs that would prevent me from being able to nurse Ruthie, so I was still able to breastfeed her. By the time they were preparing to discharge us, I forgot that I didn't have a way to get home.
I panicked briefly, stress and hormones setting me off in a crying fit that lasted for at least ten minutes. I could have taken a taxi, but money was tight. All things considered, it was probably going to get worse for a while. Finally, I bit the bullet and called the only friends I had, Kate and Garrett. I hated putting them in that position, but I had no one else. Literally. Thankfully, they were as sweet and caring to me as they had always been and promised to come immediately. I knew they would, but I still felt guilty about it. They had allowed me to continue bartending at their bar and restaurant all the way through my pregnancy. That had been a rough time for me for so many reasons, and I could never repay their kindness. Alice came to tell me when they arrived, and I was escorted down to the ground floor by another one of the nurses.
"You're the one who remembered me?" I asked the tall, brown-haired woman. She looked around my age or a few years older and she had a very pleasant, friendly air about her.
"I am. Angela," she said with a soft smile, continuing to wheel Ruthie down the corridor in her cart. "I'm glad you're both all right."
"Me too," I agreed, forcing a smile. I had no idea what we were going to do for transportation now, and I wasn't looking forward to dealing with insurance companies, but at least we were going home.
As we exited the elevator and made our way toward the general entrance, I saw my friends waiting for me. Kate looked anxious and Garrett wore an expression of concern, but both softened as soon as they spotted us. Kate rushed over, pausing before she pulled me into a firm hug. Garrett rubbed my back and told me he was glad we were okay. We talked briefly before agreeing it would be more sensible to discuss everything in the car, but as I turned to lift Ruthie out of her makeshift bed, I felt the presence of another person beside me. Looking up, I saw a handsome man watching me expectantly. His hand was wrapped around the handle of an empty infant car seat, which he held out toward me.
"Isabella Swan?" he said, though I had no idea how he knew my name. "I'm the . . . my name is Edward Cullen. I'm the one who . . . I was driving the truck. I caused the accident." He paused a moment, assessing my reaction. I had no idea how to respond, but I clutched my baby closer to me as he continued. "You have no idea how sorry I am about everything. When I heard about the baby in the car . . . . I'm so glad you're both all right."
He held the car seat out toward me again, and I looked at it, confused.
"I'm glad we're both okay, too," I said for lack of any better response. I didn't know what I was supposed to tell him under the circumstances, but he didn't seem offended. "But what is that for?"
"It's for you, for your daughter. Any child seat that's been in an accident must be replaced, by state law. It was the least I could do for the time being."
I glanced at Kate and Garrett, who didn't have any children of their own, and it was apparent that they hadn't thought about the car seat. Neither had I. I could tell the one this man had bought was expensive ̶ far above my budget ̶ but I had little choice than to accept it.
"Thank you," I said quietly, dropping my eyes down from his serious gaze. "I appreciate it, Mr. Cullen."
"Just Edward, please."
I peered at him once more and noticed how tired and disheveled he appeared. It didn't matter, though. I'd likely never see him again, and our insurance companies would handle all the other details.
Garrett took the car seat from Edward and shook his hand, telling us to head out to the car and that he'd be there in a moment. Kate wrapped an arm around me, guiding me toward the automatic doors. I wasn't sure why, but I felt compelled to look back. When I did, I saw Garrett still talking to the taller man, and Angela, the nurse, had moved beside them as well, her hand on Edward's arm.
The fresh air brought me out of my daze, however, and I let Kate lead me away from the unsettling exchange.
"You sure you're okay?" she asked me.
"Yeah, I just feel so exhausted. It's so impossible to sleep in the hospital, and the food is terrible."
Garrett joined us a moment later, helping to get Ruthie's seat strapped in. I sat in the back with her, my hand splayed over her little body as I recounted the story of the accident and all the details of our injuries to my friends. They dropped me at my apartment fifteen minutes later and stayed to ensure we got settled before they left. Eventually, however, they did, and it was just my baby and me, as it had been since she was barely a bump inside my belly. Alone.
E/N: The story title, like most of my fics, comes from a song - Make it a Part by Further Seems Forever (though not when Chris Carrabba was the singer). The baby's name doesn't have any particular significance, other than me thinking it's precious.