CHAPTER 5: MATINEE

"I'll see you next week," Mr. Bradshaw says as she leaves after our massage session is over.

"Yep, I'll be here," I say, dying to have some lunch. I had four clients back to back with no breaks between.

"You are such a doll. That Bella is one lucky lady," she coos.

"I'll tell her you said that," I tease.

"I'm sure she'll be thrilled to hear it," she says with a chuckle.

Grabbing the towel that hangs nearby, I wipe most of the oils off my hands so I can lead her to the door and gently hustle her out.

She's one of my flirtiest clients, and also one of the oldest. The moment she found out my wife was significantly older than me, she tried to capitalize on it. It's annoying as hell. But I put on a good face and distract her as best I can.

I step through the office and walk slowly to the bathroom so I can wash the remnants of oils off my hands before I have some lunch.

I stop to listen and find myself smiling as I hover in the hallway.

"Look, mommy, dat soap is bubbly," Brendan tells Bella as she scrubs the toilet.

"What color is that soap?" she quizzes him.

"Gween," he insists. "And I don't think it's soap. It's juice."

"You can't drink that stuff. It's bathroom cleaner. Do you wanna know what it's called?" She goes along with his running commentary on the bathroom cleaning experience.

"No. I don't weally cawre," he says with a shrug.

She leans over to scrub further down the toilet and his hand suddenly shoves up her shirt.

"Look, mommy, my hand is up you shiwrt."

Oh, man, I cannot stay out of this kind of action.

I gently maneuver behind her and spoon her directly. She startles when I shove my hands up her shirt too and grope her. "Yeah, look, mommy. My hand is up your shirt too," I say smartly.

She starts giggling and wiggling around to shake us off.

Her hands are wet and gross from toilet scrubbage.

"Will you two stop?" she says with a boisterous laugh. "You're going to wake Alec!"

"He's napping. Then I need to bring this to the bedroom, quick!" I hassle her.

"Are you done with your clients?"

I breeze my fingertips over her sensitive spots.

"Nice . . ." I purr at her body's reactions.

"I'll take that as a 'yes'," she razzes back.

"Mommy, I'm hungwy," Brendan whines.

"Maybe daddy can make you a sandwich since he stepped out of the office to eat . . . food," she says, accentuating what I will be putting in my mouth.

"I am pretty hungry for a shake," I taunt her as I go back to groping her more aggressively.

"Sorry, the shop's closed," she tells me with a mock frown.

"Well, good thing I have a key so I can have unlimited access," I say, being a smart ass.

"Dad-dy! I'm hungwy! My tummy is hungwy!" he grouches.

"Fine, little man. We'll go eat," I concede.

He tags along to the kitchen and opens the fridge like he owns the place, which he does, for the most part.

"What do you wanna eat?" I ask as I pull out the fixings for a turkey sandwich for me.

"I want what you have," he says pointing to the meat.

"Okay, I'll make you a sandwich too," I say as I stretch my back a little. It's kinked a little from bending over and working with some of my pickier clients who like deep tissue massage.

"No, not a sanitch. I only want dat!" He points at the meat again.

"Ok-ay . . ." I don't argue. I pull out a slice of organic deli meat and roll the sucker up and slip it into his fat little fist.

"And I want a squawre of cheese on a plate," he demands.

My man knows what he wants.

I hand him a little saucer and he immediately turns it into a hat.

"Look, daddy, I have a hat!" he announces proudly.

I laugh, no energy to get him a new plate without hair oils on it. I figure my little rug rats eat food they find on the floor sometimes if I'm not fast enough, so I shrug it off. It won't kill him.

"I also want some of da cold water like you have," he says, pointing to the pitcher of cold water in the fridge.

I grab his water bottle and start filing it up.

He gulps it down greedily the second I give it to him. His turkey meat is already gone.

I pull out a square of cheddar cheese as I'm assembling my own sandwich and give it to him.

He trots along with it in his hand happily.

"Silly kid," I muse out loud.

Bella joins us in the kitchen, puts away the cleaning supplies and locks them away, washes up her hands real good and gives me a little goose for my trouble.

"I need to start joining on the bathroom cleaning activities more often," I flirt with her.

"You never wanted to clean the bathroom before," she says coyly.

"That's because I didn't know it meant free access to boob-town," I say as I wink at Brendan.

He laughs and waves at me, oblivious to the content of our conversation.

"Why were you cleaning the bathroom just now anyway?" I ask, taking a bite of my sandwich. She usually does it on Monday. It's Thursday, which means it's been cleaned twice this week. Was somebody making a mess in the bathroom?

"Two reasons. One, I'm spotting. And two, I was throwing up this morning. I didn't want to be sitting on the toilet a bunch where I was upchucking. Oh yeah, peeing a ton too."

I smile at her. "You're . . . ?"

"Yeah, you big dope." She pulls the pee-stick out of her pocket and hands it to me. Two pink lines blare at me. "You're welcome."

"Oh, baby! You're gonna love this pregnancy and this baby, I just know it!" I cheer.

She smiles and lets me hug her like a moron as I dance her around the room.

"I love you and your messy kids," she teases.

I kiss her and we are interrupted by pleas for more cheese and meat by Brendan.

Damn, this good news needs proper celebrating.

Bella gives me a coy smile as she makes her way out of the room.

"I'm gonna go take a quick nap before you have to get back to work," she hollers on her way out of the room.

I finish feeding Brendan lunch, then Leesy and wish I had time for a quicky with Bella, but my next client is due in a few minutes.

Against Bella's wishes, I prop the twins up in front of a video so they won't wake her. Alec is still napping soundly, and I'm sure if he wakes up, she'll nurse him back to sleep.

Man, my life is soooo good! Another baby! I should give my boys in my pants a nudge of a high five for being so virile and potent.

~ooOoo~

"How far along is she?" I ask Alice, bouncing out of my chair.

"I already told you I'm barely past two weeks," Bella reminds me at our first prenatal visit.

I want to hear it from our midwife. Bella didn't even want to come. Too early along, but I pushed the issue.

"Two and a half weeks. Jeez, Edward, what's your deal? It's not her first pregnancy. She knows these things," Alice reprimands.

"I know, but I . . . wanna figure out the timing of all of this. I'm due to take my IBLCE exam in July. So . . . let's see . . ." I start running through the mental math.

"The baby will be about four months old then," Bella says.

"Wow, that's perfect!" I say.

"Perfect for who? What are we going to do?" Bella worries.

"You'll figure it out," Alice encourages, petting Bella's hair like she's a small child in need of comfort.

"I'm sure we will, but we need a bigger house which means we need more money. And he needs to cut down on clients so he can study for school and this monstrous exam. I'm already vomiting, which makes me worry it's twins again since I wasn't really sick at all with Alec," Bella bemoans.

"Not necessarily," Alice chimes in, "it could be a sign it's a girl."

"But I wasn't sick when I was pregnant with Cori," Bella corrects.

"Yes, but you were much younger then and it was a different father, so different genes," Alice reassures.

"Yeah, what she said," I say obnoxiously, trying to act the moron so Bella will laugh.

It works. She shoves me over for being such a dork while she laughs at me.

"I need to work. I wanted to go back to the office so he can do school," Bella says, upset at the way things are already turning out.

"We can always use the doptone next month to listen for two heartbeats to be sure," Alice says.

"I don't know. I'll think about it. You know how I feel about ultrasound," Bella says, yawning.

"How we feel," I say, backing her up. "Maybe we should just wait and see. If you start measuring real big like you did with the twins then maybe we could consider doing a scan."

Bella waves her head weakly yes. She's exhausted.

Weaning Brendan isn't going so well. He was up half the night crying, he wanted to nurse so badly. It's already feeling uncomfortable for Bella to nurse him. She's not sure she wants to tandem nurse at all this time, so she's contemplating weaning Alec as well.

It was logical to start with the older child first.

"Go home. Take a nap. Try to take it easy on yourself, mama," Alice says, peering into Bella's eyes and smiling sweetly.

Bella hugs her after she hops off the table and drags herself to the door.

I receive a hug from Alice too whether I want one or not, and go to help Bella out the door.

On the drive back Bella's quiet.

Is she asleep?

Her forehead is pressed up against the window. She's not moving.

But then . . .

Her hand moves to her face and swipes at something.

Oh no, no, no. She's crying.

"Sweetie, what can I do?" I ask, heartbroken that she's not happy about this pregnancy. I figured once she saw Alice it would all change.

I was wrong. And she won't look at me—stays focused outside the car.

"This isn't what I wanted," she says. "I didn't plan on this. I'm getting too old, and I can't even stand the thought of being sick. Our family will fall apart if I'm throwing up constantly and barely able to function. We can't both be there less for our kids. It won't work. You need to be around less, and I need to step up my game at home. But what if I can't?"

"We have family to help us. Cori's older, and the twins aren't helpless. I can have Alec with me sometimes when I'm with clients and—"

"Stop, Edward. Just stop. This isn't anybody else's problem but ours. We created this mess, and we have to live in it," she says, finally turning to me. Her eyes burn with sadness and are brimming with more tears.

"Mess? You call this a mess?" I shake my head in disbelief. "I'm sorry, but I don't see it that way. I call this life. Glorious, sometimes complicated, but oh so much fun, rollercoaster of a life. I like that we find a way to handle the tough stuff. I mean, you gave birth unassisted no problem. If you can do that, then we sure as hell can get through this. It's only eight months. And if I need to wait and take the IBLCE exam next summer instead and start school up again later then that's what I'll do."

"No, baby. I don't want that. You shouldn't have to wait because of me and the kids," she says, shaking her head now.

I pull the car over into a Circle K parking lot and park so we I can look at her as I talk. "Listen to me, Bella." I cup her cheek and rub it lightly with my thumb. "Our family is more important than schooling. That stuff can wait. I can work full time and even take on extra clients so you can rest and take good care of yourself and the baby."

She smiles weakly then cups her hand over mine. "You are the sweetest man ever, but no. You sacrifice all of the time. You know what you want and you've shared your dream with me. It's time for you to go and get it," she says.

This time I can hear the pride in her voice.

"Then that's what we'll do. And I know my mother will want to help, so let's not discount her over pride. She knows what it's like to be overwhelmed as a mother. She'd love to have the kids over more often. Let's work something out with her. I'll make a tentative schedule when we get home so you can nap, I can work and maybe study too. We can see if this is all feasible or not," I offer.

She kisses my palm tenderly and tells me she loves me.

I pull back out of the parking lot and we wind our way back home.

When we step inside Cori is drawing, and Emmett's reading the twins a book while Alec is playing with his puzzles on the ground.

Nobody's sugared up or passed out, so it's all good.

I decide Emmett might need to be in the loop too of possibilities for help.

He doesn't mind helping out for short periods of time.

I think Bella also needs to start up yoga again. She's more relaxed and focused when she's working out regularly and doing her relaxation exercises.

~ooOoo~

"You really made a schedule?" Bella balks.

I nod. "Of course. I want you to stop worrying, and I know you like to be organized," I say.

She rips it out of my hand with an eye roll. I smile like an idiot. She sits on the edge of the bed while I hover over her, standing with my hands in my hair.

Her eyes roam over my plan without any emotion whatsoever.

"Yoga?" she croaks.

That's it? That's all I get for my spread sheet and schedule?

I laugh. "Yes, yoga. What of it?"

"We're barely going to have time to sleep, eat, and breathe and you throw that into the mix?" she asks incredulously.

"Yes, baby, I did. You need to be able to exercise and feel great this pregnancy. It's not like it's a huge stretch to ask Emmett to come over three nights a week for an hour and twenty minutes so we can go together."

Her eyes go really wide. "You're going with me?"

"Yes. We need to have a date night, and I remember how much we enjoyed it in the past. I'm kicking myself for ever letting us fall out of the habit of going." I pause. "Check my schedule on the back."

She flips the page over. A wicked grin spreads over her face. "This is . . . I don't even know."

"It's good, right? I'm taking everything into account," I say, beaming at her.

"It's overkill is what it is. A little too formal too," she says, laughing and shoving the papers back at me.

"Why? I want to make sure the kids don't feel neglected. I want to spend time with you and make sure this is a great pregnancy for you. What's the problem?"

"Nothing," she says, snorting a few giggles here and there.

I smile back. How can I not? I love her laugh. It's very infectious.

I grab her up into a vicious hug and pinch her can. "It's not funny. It's caring."

"It's adorable is what it is." She rubs noses with me and then gives a peck. "A daddy date with each of the kids each night of the week that we don't have yoga. I have no idea how you're going to fit all of this in. Apparently I married Superman."

I give her a squeeze and let her go.

"They don't have to be long dates. Thirty minutes to an hour of whatever they want to do. Some times they might just want me to be in their room playing with them for a half of an hour. I'm offering my undivided attention to every member of our family. This way I'm not ignoring anybody. The twins won't act out. Cori won't be left out because she never complains. And you . . ." I growl, taking my shirt off. "Will never want for anything, sexy mama. Especially when you need my bedroom services. That takes top priority."

I give the flirty eyebrows.

Her libido has began to pick up steam in the last few days, and it's only a matter of time before she's insatiable. One of my favorite parts of her pregnancies.

She follows suit. All of the kids are in bed. The house is quiet, and we're alone. Hallelujah! Who knows how much time we have until either Alec or Brendan wakes up whining to nurse.

I don't care. She's mine!

All mine!

"C'mere," I demand.

She saunters a few paces forward and then smirks. "Why?"

"You know damn well, why, woman. I'm going to remind you how that baby got inside you," I growl and tackle her to the bed.

Thank goodness I had the forethought to lock the door, because I'm gonna make her forget all of her troubles over and over again . . .

Maybe she'll even scream my name, but not too loud. Don't want to wake the kids.

My lips find skin and I'm purring like a cat, content and happy to be stroked and loved.