BARREN

At forty-eight, she's too old to have a child without complications. High risk, that's what Edward thinks, even as he says to Bella, "Renée will be fine. Women have children late in life all the time now."

"It's my fault."

"I suspect it's Phil's," he tries to joke.

Bella doesn't smile. "She'd never have another baby if she didn't think I was dead."

"You can't know that."

Bella doesn't say anything. Though it annoys Edward that she won't share her thoughts, for she is able to as a vampire, he waits for her as patiently as he can. They sit together for hours, statuesquely still and silent as only their kind can be. One's sense of time is relative to life expectancy.

"I want to help her," Bella whispers.


Edward gives Bella what she wants, because he always does if it is in his power to do so. The only restriction is that there shall be no direct contact with Renée. Behind the scenes, the Cullens pull strings to improve Renée's medical care—though Rosalie refuses to help. She doesn't like to be reminded of a life she can't have.

Edward doesn't particularly like it, either.

The pregnancy is hard. A human body can only support so much life when it's ever-nearing death. By the sixth month, Renée is bedridden, but she remains in good spirits, which helps.

Edward says nothing as Bella sneaks into her mother and stepfather's room each night. He's decided such things are of their nature. Like him, she will hunt and skulk and, because she's compassionate, protect rather than injure.

He remains outside, wondering how and when he'll pull her from the human world she no longer belongs in. Legally, medically, she doesn't exist. She is not Isabella Swan. She gave that up. For him. She died. For him.

Hands in his pockets, he stares at the heavens and worries.


"She's so big," Bella laughs. They're in their hotel room, hiding from the Florida sun for the next twelve hours.

"The baby's kicking more," she says, smiling, "and I think she had the hiccups last night. I could hear them!"

Edward forces a smile as she describes the wonders of motherhood, but he drops the pretense when she returns to her book. It's one about expecting. She tells him it's so she'll be able to recognize anything that might be wrong with Renée, even though, of course, he or Carlisle would know before she would.

She's so hopeful, so excited.

Too hopeful. Too excited.

Too invested.

What will he say if Renée or the baby doesn't survive? And how can he express how much he wishes he could give her these wonders, if only he could ensure her health, if only he could provide them at all?

They've talked about children before, but in a nebulous fashion, one clouded by unrealistic, newlywed bliss. Ten years have passed, and while their love remains a force of nature, like wind and rain, forces of nature are slaves to harsh realities.

Whether she sees it or not, he sees a desire taking root in a place where no child can ever hope to grow.


The baby is delivered by Caesarian section, all seven pounds, three ounces, of her. Ten fingers. Ten toes.

Renée whispers a name over a head of fuzzy brown hair. "Ella."

Edward. Bella. The children she thinks are lost.

He hides in a hospital bathroom stall, his head in his hands. What kind of man am I? Selfish. He's taken so much.

Worse, he wouldn't change a thing.


"It's time to go," Edward says as they watch a sleeping Ella Dwyer.

In truth, he's paying less attention to the baby than to his wife. The expression on her face isn't one of a proud daughter or sister. It's a look of longing that claws at him.

I can't give her what she wants.

They've been here too long. They might be sighted if they aren't careful, or become trapped by the sun. He can't even give her the sun; would that he could give her galaxies.

Jacob could have given her the sun.

"Just a little longer," she pleads, touching glass that separates them from tiny, wriggling bundles.


A little longer turns into several weeks. Renée's depressed. She sleeps all the time, doesn't like holding the baby, cries when no one's looking. She's falling apart.

Bella is the one to pick up the slack in the middle of the night. Ella never cries when she's held to Bella's chest—no matter how cold or lifeless it is. The tiny girl has no sense of self-preservation. This only seems to call to Bella.

Troubled, Edward watches as his wife soothes her baby sister in the same rocking chair he'd once held her in; at some point, the piece of furniture had made its way back to Renée.

"Here," Bella says, holding out the baby. "Sing to her."

He hesitates, his eyes darting between a porcelain face of perfection and chubby cheeks. Finally, he embraces his own longing, embraces warmth and innocence.

"Hush, little baby, don't say a word…"


Clothed in dark hoodies, they stand under a shade tree, watching six-year-old Ella chase a soccer ball. She's oblivious to her guardian angels. Edward knows she's seen them over the years—they visit more often than they should—but to her, they're imaginary friends, fading fast. Unnecessary, if they were ever necessary at all.

"She's really not ours, is she?" Bella says.

"No, she's not."

"I wish—"

"I know. I'm sorry."

Bella takes his hand. "I love you."

He smiles wistfully. "I feel I should be sorry about that, too, but I'm not."

"Me either." She sighs unevenly. "I should let go, shouldn't I?"

"We can't be part of her world," he tells her.

This time she believes him. And so they wordlessly depart, fading like imaginary friends, abandoning fruitless desires as they go, for those who cannot sleep should not dare to dream.