I'm so glad you guys are still with me here. I know Bella's reaction has been confusing to some of you, so I hope this chapter helps. Also, thanks as always for all of your words and reviews - it really means a great deal to me.
HollettLA and DeJeanSmith are incredible. I don't think I can properly portray how much of a difference these two make in this story. Your time, energy, and thoughtfulness are amazing and I thank you so, so much. Any mistakes are my own.
Glupi idota = Stupid idiot in Polish
I don't own, I just play.
Chapter 5, Tiny Dancer
I was nearing the end of my first trimester. The nausea had subsided, but my constant cravings hadn't. All I had wanted for the past weeks were Muenster cheese and tomato sandwiches with chocolate milk. I was happily munching away at my favorite snack in the dining room with Edward when we heard the crash. We looked at each other, confused. When we heard the second crash, though, we both shot up.
"Kitchen?" he asked, concerned.
I nodded my head.
Edward ran toward the sound quicker than I could. When I finally walked through the kitchen door, I gasped. There, on the floor, was Lydia… and she wasn't moving. A collection of broken dishes lay to her right. A spilled pot of steaming soup lay to her left; her arm was covered in the stuff. The soup pot was resting on her legs. Edward was leaning over her, his knees in the broken porcelain on the ground.
"911, Bella, quickly!"
I made the call to 911, told them what was happening, then immediately called Paul, our driver, to come and help us. Edward, meanwhile, had his head to Lydia's face listening and feeling for any air escaping her lips. When Paul arrived, he pushed Edward away and started CPR. The EMTs showed up mere minutes later. Within seconds, they had her head stabilized and had her strapped to a gurney. After asking us some basic questions, they left the apartment.
"What hospital?" Edward yelled at the EMTs as they rolled Lydia out of the apartment.
"St. Luke's" came the distant reply.
"Come on, I can get us there in minutes," Paul said as he made his way to the elevator.
I grabbed my bag and was ready to go as Edward came rushing toward us, zipping on a hoodie. As we made our way down in the elevator, he pulled the hood over his head and tied the thing tight, covering as much of his face as he could. We could hear the ambulance making its way down the street as we rushed into the car. It was fifteen minutes later when we made it to the emergency room. I ran up to the woman behind the desk.
"An older woman was just rushed in, she was unconscious."
"Do you have a name, please?" she asked, pleasantly enough.
"Wait just a moment."
That "moment" was one of the longest in my life. I looked over my shoulder. Both Edward and Paul were standing by the wall. Edward had his back to the room, trying to stay hidden.
"I don't know much yet, but it looks Ms. Ossowski had a heart attack. She's with the doctors right now."
"Is she conscious?"
"Are you family?"
Yes! Everything in my body was screaming for me to say, "Yes." But we weren't and there were simply too many things we didn't know about Lydia to claim that we were.
"No, I'm... I'm her employer." It sounded cheap and insignificant, even to my own ears.
"I'm afraid there isn't very much I can tell you without a family member here."
"But, she's important! Please, we need to know!" I couldn't help the tears from falling.
The nurse finally relented. "All I know is that the doctors think she's had a heart attack. Do you know how old she is?"
I looked over to Paul, who was looking at me. I mouthed, "How old?" to him to relay to Edward. I could see Edward shrug after Paul asked him.
"I'm not really sure, in her mid-sixties, I think." I said, sniveling.
"Okay. Do you have any way of getting a hold of family?"
"Yes, yes, of course!" I said enthusiastically, just happy that I could something.
The nurse gave me a sympathetic smile and handed me a tissue from behind the desk.
"I'll keep you posted with as much as I can, miss..."
"Bella, please just call me Bella."
"All right then, Bella. Listen, it's not strictly allowed, but I can put you in the family waiting area."
All I could do was nod, I was so overwhelmed. As we made our way to the small, almost private, waiting room, I pulled out my phone. Once inside the relative calm of the new waiting room, any semblance I had of control disintegrated and any hopes I had of making a call were dashed by my blubbering. Instead I handed the phone to Paul and asked him to call Katie, Lydia's niece-in-law, while Edward hugged me.
"Shhh, shhh, she's going to be okay."
I didn't have the best track record when it came to mothers, though. And more than anything, Lydia felt like a mother just then. Why, oh, why, hadn't I lied and told them we were related? All I saw in my head were ashes. I could see them floating on the desert breeze and landing willy-nilly on the red earth. Edward's arms suddenly turned into my father's arms. I was wearing the same black linen dress I had so many years ago. There was a button missing near the bottom making the slit a little higher than I wanted it to be. I remembered fussing over it and eventually yelling at Sue because she told me to ignore it, that it was time to leave for the hills for the ceremony.
"Bella, come back to me, please." I heard a familiar voice plead.
"I should have said we were family, Edward. She is, you know."
"I know. I know too well."
"Oh, Edward, what are we going to do?"
"We're going to get her the best damn doctors we can find, and we're going to make sure that she's back on her feet in no time."
"I called Katie. She and Maria are on the way," Paul said beside us.
Maria was Lydia's eldest child; that much I knew. Katie was at the DMV, of all places, that day. She needed her damn thing renewed and also wanted to change her address from New Jersey to Lydia's place near our apartment, where she was living full-time. Time just dragged on. We saw the nice nurse only once again. She came into to let us know that they were still "working on her." We had been sitting there for almost three hours when Katie came rushing with who I knew had to be Maria, Lydia's daughter. She had Lydia's perfect skin and all-knowing hazel eyes. Edward, Paul and I all stood to greet them.
"Have you heard anything?" Maria asked me.
"Only that they're still working on her. They..." I started to lose it again. "They wouldn't tell us anything because we're not family," I said, breaking into tears again.
"Glupi idiota!" she said angrily in Polish before pulling me into her arms.
"I should be comforting you," I said pathetically over Maria's shoulder.
"We're in this together. She thinks of you as family. Who am I to argue with the woman?"
When I felt Maria shaking in my arms, I squeezed a little tighter. Soon, Katie was hugging us, too. Once we had calmed a bit, we pulled apart. Maria went to Edward and spoke with him while Katie and I held hands and sat next to each other. Thirty or so minutes later, we heard a gaggle of people in the hallway. The nice nurse turned the corner, followed by what must have been twenty people of various ages. Those eyes and that skin couldn't be denied, though. There was one man who I was sure was Lydia's youngest son, Oskar. He was holding the hand of a pretty young woman, still in her nurse's scrubs. The police officer I assumed was her middle child, Feliks. The rest I could only guess were various other family members and friends.
I looked to Edward. I was afraid he would be overwhelmed or afraid of exposing himself. But instead, his hood was down and he stood stoically - if not a little stiffly - as the crowd engulfed the small waiting room. Maria let everyone know what we knew, which was next to nothing. She introduced Edward and me, and even Paul who had refused to leave. Soon enough, we were being kissed and hugged by Lydia's family. None of them so much as flinched because of Edward. When the doctor finally showed up, Edward and Feliks looked up from their conversation just as Maria, Katie, Oskar and his wife, Gloria, looked up from ours.
"Who can I speak with in regard to Mrs. Lydia Ossowski?"
Everyone stood up, including us.
"Let me try this again. Are Mrs. Ossowski's husband or children here?"
Feliks, Maria, and Oskar raised their hands.
"Can I please speak with you?"
Solemnly, they made their way toward the doctor then all four disappeared around the corner. Silence settled over all of us. Sitting there, I felt Edward's large, rough hand find mine. Although he didn't show it like I did, I knew he was just as upset and scared as everyone there. I touched my belly and let my fingers spread over my stomach.
"Do you need something?" Edward asked me softly.
I shook my head no, even though I was thirsty.
"Let me get you some water."
"I can get it," I said, not wanting him to feel uncomfortable walking around the hospital.
"Why don't I get?" suggested Paul to our left.
Before we could protest, he had gotten up and walked out of the waiting room. I hadn't noticed that I was rubbing my stomach until Edward mentioned it.
"You've been doing that a lot since we came back from Santa Fe."
"Doing what?" I asked.
"Rubbing your stomach."
"No, I haven't."
"I'll do you one better, you've been speaking to your tummy, too."
"Oh, please..." I started, but then stopped and thought.
He was right. I said good morning to my belly every morning - every day since Santa Fe. Was it more than that, though? Was I speaking to the bundle in my belly more than I thought?
"When you're watching TV at night, you rub it. I've heard you humming in the bathtub, too."
"Humming in the bathtub?" I said, memories threatening to flood my brain.
"Yes, it's sweet, actually."
"What have I been humming?" I asked in a daze... I already knew the answer, though.
And as he said, "I'm pretty sure it's Elton John's 'Tiny Dancer'," I mouthed the name of the song with him.
"Bella? What's wrong you look pale all of a sudden."
"I'm fine, its nothing."
Before he could hound me, though, Maria and her brothers walked back into the room. If I looked pale, they looked positively ghostly. Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong. Oskar and Feliks were holding Maria up. Everyone stood. You could hear a pin drop. As soon as Maria was seated, Feliks spoke.
"Mama isn't well."
That was all he said. It was all he had to say. It didn't matter what she wasn't well with, she was suffering from more than a heart attack and it was serious.
"Edward, would you please go offer them our spare rooms for as long as they need them?" I said robotically.
"Yes, of course… of course. Good idea." he said solemnly, before walking over to the three siblings.
My hand found its way to my tummy again. As my fingers splayed wide across the expanse, I rubbed gently. It calmed me, comforted me.
"Now what, tiny one?" I asked as I looked to my hand over my stomach. "What do we do now?" I was perfectly aware that I was speaking to the life in my stomach. And, as if I wasn't overwhelmed enough, I realized that I had been speaking to my child for months, looking for responses to questions that no one could answer.
Maria took us up on our offer. They were going to move Lydia to a hospital in New Jersey as soon as they could but, for the time being, Maria would stay with us. Everyone handled pain differently; Maria's coping mechanism seemed to be frustration. That night she dabbed her pizza furiously with paper towel after paper towel, never seeming to get it just right. Through her jagged actions, bits of information slipped out about her mother. She needed to vent and we were there for her. After all, she couldn't find two people more used to sadness then us.
"She never took care of herself. Never!"
"I mean really, a woman her age, living the life she lived."
She took a bite, huffed, and then went back to her dabbing.
"It's been yearssince she had a check-up with her doctor. Years! Did she listen to me? Noooo."
She took another bite, seemed satisfied, and then took another.
"I told her at sixty-five, then sixty-six, then sixty-eight. I begged her! I thought for sure after her seventieth I could convince her, but nooooo."
"Maria, Lydia is seventy years old?" I couldn't help but interrupt her rant. I was shocked!
"No, of course she isn't." Maria huffed.
I let out breath. Thank God!
"WHAT!" Bella and I exclaimed at the same time.
"Yes. Didn't you know? How old did she say she was?"
"She never did say," I said, utterly surprised. "I just assumed. I thought she was in her early sixties at the most, but seventy-three? I would have never let her work so much, or at all had I known, Maria. I hope you know that?"
"Edward, she loved working here and taking care of you, and then you and Bella. Even if you had known and told her she should stop working so much, it wouldn't have mattered. She would have shown up Monday morning and put in even morehours. If she wasn't working, or moving, or doing something, anything, she went nuts!"
"When was the last time she saw a doctor?" Bella asked.
"I can't remember. She's as healthy as a woman half her age... well, at least we all thought so. I kept telling her that all her years of work and looking after other people was going to catch up with her, but she never listened. And now? They think she has some kind of cancer and it's serious. Really, really serious. And what are the odds that a woman her age is going to simply shake this off and come out healthy the other side?"
Maria had worked herself up to a state. Her face was red, her breaths were short and clipped, and she looked on the verge of tears. Bella's arms were around her in a second. As she held onto Maria, Maria seemed to calm a bit. When Bella pulled away, she took Maria's hand and said, "I think you need a good night's sleep. Let me show you the guest room, okay? I'm sure I have something you can sleep in. There are towels and all that good stuff already in there."
"Sleep sounds perfect, thank you. Both of you. You've been wonderful. To Mama, too."
I tried not to get too choked up. That woman saved me when no one else could. The very least I could do was put her daughter up in a time of need. Before Bella and Maria had made it out of the kitchen, I stopped them.
"You have to let me know if there's anything I can do. I mean anything. I can get the best doctors, the best hospitals, anything you need. If you need help with bills or need the apartment or anything. Just promise me you'll let me know, okay?"
She nodded, and Bella looked a little misty-eyed as she smiled softly. A moment later, they had gone, and I was left to clean up the greasy pizza. When I got back to the bedroom, Bella was humming as she pulled on her nightgown. I knew the tune - it was the song she had been humming for months. I hadn't mentioned anything until then. It was a private moment she shared with our child. Even if she was unaware of it, somewhere deep down, she knew. I didn't want to ruin their quiet moment.
I got undressed and took a shower, scrubbing the hospital off of me. As I dried off and brushed my teeth, I realized how quiet it was in the bedroom. Normally Bella would have the TV on. After stepping into a pair of boxers, I walked into the bedroom. Bella was standing in from the French doors, just looking out at the city.
"Do you know what kept going through my head while we were in that waiting room?" Bella began.
"I kept thinking, what if it was you? What if you were in the emergency room being worked on by doctors, and I couldn't see you or even get any information about you because we're not related? Do you have any idea how horrific that would be?"
I did. I thought about it almost daily.
"What if something happened, and you couldn't get in to see us?" she continued.
I knew immediately who she meant by "us." She meant her and the baby.
"Then I thought about something you said months ago. We were in Santa Fe, and we had that fight about getting married. Afterward, I told you that your answer to everything was baths?"
"Yes, and I told you your answer to everything was ice cream."
"But I added something else, too. Do you remember?"
I hadn't forgotten. Not at all.
"You said ice cream and running away," I answered, as if the mere words tasted bitter.
"Then you said, 'your not running away now'."
"And you're still not."
"Not physically, anyway." She said cryptically.
"I don't understand."
Bella turned around, walked to the bed and sat down. She was eerily still, as if her entire body was holding in a breath. As she stared off into nothing, she started talking.
"You're braver than I'll ever be Edward. Maybe that's because so much was taken from you, that when opportunities come, you grab them. When my mother left me, everything became scary. I ran away from home because I was scared of her memory. I didn't make friends because what would happen if they left, or died, or just decided they didn't like me anymore? I resisted every good thing that came my way because I was afraid of how fickle life is and how easy it is to lose the things you love."
"Please let me finish," she asked, finally looking at me. "Then one day, I was tired of the fear. I said yes to people. I changed the way I looked and, for the first time in my entire life, I fought for something. I fought for you. As soon as I had you though, what did I do? I got scared and found a way to ruin us."
"But you didn't."
"No. An angel named Lydia came and forced me to see the truth. Then things were great, right?"
"Things are still great, Bella." I reminded her.
She smiled a sad little smile and shook her head, gently.
"No, they're not. I may not be running out that door right now, but I'm still that same scared girl who left her home all those years ago."
I sat next to her on the bed and took her hand.
"Bella, beautiful, you need to tell me what you mean."
"I've been speaking and singing to the baby for months now, haven't I?"
Her eyes questioned mine, needing an answer.
"I was so wrapped up in my own stupid fears that I didn't even realize it."
"What fears, Bella? Tell me please," I begged.
Bella shifted suddenly as if uncomfortable.
"What happens if we lose this child?"
"You mean a miscarriage?"
"That and a million other things. What if it dies in its sleep? What if it gets on the balcony and falls off? What if we find the wrong babysitter, and she shakes the kid to make it shut up, but kills it instead. What if I fall in love with it just to lose it?"
The fear and sadness in her face nearly crushed me. All I wanted to do was wrap her in my arms and tell her it would all be okay. But I couldn't promise her that, and it was unfair to lie.
"I don't know. But why would you deny yourself this gift all over a collection of what ifs? What ifs that you can't control, by the way. Bella, people die. People get sick. People come out of horrible fires mutilated and forever changed. There isn't a damn thing we can do about it."
"Is that supposed to make me feel better?" she asked, horrified, her eyes wide.
"Well... yes! Bella, if it meant never having to go through the pain of losing her, would you rather you never knew your mother? Would you rather that you never had tea parties with her? Or painted her apartment some awful color for the tenth time? Would you have rather had an ice cream cake like every other kid on the block, or one of your mother's awful vegan inventions? Would you trade all of that love and those memories for a life without pain?"
"No," she answered immediately.
"Exactly, no. And if you think for one second that I would take back getting on that infernal yacht if it meant never loving you, then you're insane."
"Do you mean that?"
"Do you mean everything in regards to your mother?"
We sat there in silence. Her right hand was in mine, but her left found its way to her stomach, and she started humming "Tiny Dancer" again. I couldn't help it and started humming along with her. She looked startled, and then stopped.
"I was doing it again, wasn't I?"
"Yes. Why 'Tiny Dancer?'"
She looked down at her hand on her stomach before looking back up to me.
"It was the song my mother sang to me before I went to bed."
She smiled, remembering something, and then continued.
"She hated normal lullabies. She said they were wimpy and insipid. 'Tiny Dancer' was her favorite song. She wasn't an incredible singer, but her voice was sweet and soft, and she sang that song like she meant it every single time. When I was scared or worked up about something, all she had to do was start humming it, and I would calm down. The first time I heard Elton John sing it, I was furious!" She laughed. "I was so angry that this guy on the radio had stolen my mother's song! I ran to her, crying, and yelled that someone had taken her song away. After she explained to me that it was really Elton's song, I was furious all over again that she had stolen it from him!"
I could see her, too. A tiny little Bella, red in the face, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"Edward, I'm still afraid, I think it's going to take more than one talk to fix that."
"I get that, Bella. But you know how many people have got your back, right? The baby's back for that matter, too. And don't worry about hospitals and not being able to see me if something happens, okay? We'll work it out. We'll always work it out. I can promise you that much, beautiful."
She was smiling her wonderful smile again. She squeezed my hand. We hadn't worked out everything, but it was a start. I meant what I said, too. I couldn't promise her that tragedy wouldn't strike, but I could promise her that no matter what, we would fix it… together. Her smile grew as we sat there - her hand in mine, her other over the baby.
"What? What is it?" I finally asked, desperate to know what was going on in her head.
"Edward?" she asked innocently enough, that precious smile still on her lips.
"Yes, Bella?" I answered back, also innocently, my own smile growing.
I know you all hate me right now. Believe me I get it. I hate cliffies as much as the next person. That being said... it was a good one, right?
I also know you hate me for what's happening to Lydia. I'm sorry about that, too, but I have a plan. I can only hope you continue to trust me.
What was your lullaby growing up? Mine was The Beatles' "Hey Jude."
Reviews are like surprise marriage proposals... eye opening.