Jar of 303 Hearts
Every bone in my body ached as I trudged up the stairs to the apartment I shared with Bella. The books filling the bag slung over my shoulder shouldn't have weighed more than ten or fifteen pounds, but combined with the tonnage from my thoughts, it felt more like I was carrying the Earth, Moon, and entire universe on my back. Is this how Atlas felt as he bore the entirety of the world? How did he manage? Because I was rapidly approaching my breaking point, and I had only been burdened with my load for a little over two weeks.
February had dawned bright, happy, and full of promises for the future Bella and I had taken a step toward just before Christmas. We were caught up in basking in the newness and excitement of our engagement, adjusting to living together as a couple, and trying to plan our July wedding. All in addition to my hectic school schedule and Bella's new full-time work hours. We were also super busy reminding ourselves that we couldn't get married if we went to prison for murdering Alice for calling one or the other of us every five minutes about said wedding planning.
Life was a crazy blur of activity, but Bella and I were happy—as was my dick, finally … thank you very much. If only we could have lived in that blissful bubble for a little while longer. I knew it wouldn't have lasted forever, but all I was asking for was a few more weeks–months or years would have been preferable but unrealistic–before we had to acknowledge that the world didn't revolve around us. That kick to the crotch came several days before Valentine's Day.
"Bella?" I stalked out of our bedroom, hollering for her and gripping my phone so hard I was afraid I might crush it. "If that fucking evil troll doesn't knock her shit off, I swear I'm going to—"
"She's just trying to be nice, Honey." She tried placating me with a smile, but it did nothing to soften my scowl. "We all know I'm shit at planning—especially on this large a scale—so we should be grateful Alice is able to help as much as she is," she huffed in exasperation. Bella met my scoffing snort and eye roll with one of her own. "Alright, so maybe she's getting a bit carried away, but—"
Was she serious? "Carried away?" I choked on my laughter, completely undeterred by the bitch brow being thrown my way. "Carried away?" She narrowed her eyes at me, but I didn't care. "Oh, no, my love. Carried away was when she wanted to wrap all the seats in silk cloths and satin ribbons. Carried away was when she tried to convince you that your dress needed to have one of those dragging parts—"
"Yes … thank you … when she wanted your dress to have a train that ran the entire length of the aisle. No. She's passed 'carried away' now and moved on to 'lost her fucking mind'!"
"Surely it's not that bad, Ed–"
"She wants to hire a dramatic landscaper to replace the chairs with benches made of giant logs and hang what would probably amount to every fucking flower in the state of Washington from log arches, the trees, the guests … us! She said some damn thing about creating a fairytale setting or some other bullshit. I don't even fucking know."
Bella's eyes bugged out and her jaw dropped, and I ate that shit up like a smug bastard, feeling like she was finally seeing my side of things. My triumph didn't last but a few seconds before she shook her head and plastered an understanding smile on her gorgeous lips. "Okay … yes … that's a bit excessive, but—"
Dramatic music blaring from the hunk of plastic and metal still clutched in my fist cut Bella off and had me glaring down at the shiny screen and snarling my sister's name through clenched teeth.
"The Imperial Death March? Really, Edward?" Bella chuckled and shook her head at me as she rose from the sofa, picking up an empty mug off the coffee table and practically skipping into the kitchen, leaving me to deal with my walking, talking afterbirth.
"What the fuck do you want now?" I growl-shouted into the receiver as soon as I'd mashed my thumb over "accept" on the touch screen. "I already told you we don't–"
A catchy, breathy sob cut me off. It was followed by some unintelligible and garbled gibberish that faded away to be replaced by Jasper's irate voice. "Listen, you son-of-a-bitch—" he sighed dramatically at the renewed hysterical babble in the background. "No, Baby, I'm not calling your mama a bitch." He spared a few more soothing words for the jabber-monkey before returning to me, venom lacing his every word. "I don't give a fuck how annoyed you are with your sister, you do not speak to her that way."
Who the fuck did this asshole think he was? "Excuse you, but I'll talk to her any fucking way I—"
"Fuck you, you cock-sucking bastard! Your sister needed you tonight, but once again, Edward 'fucking douche nozzle' Cullen has to be the center of the damn universe and make everything about him."
"You better step the fuck off."
Bella came back into the room, worrying at her bottom lip and casting a concerned look my way before coming over and wrapping her arms around my middle. Her presence did little to calm my rising ire as I stood there, tight-lipped and livid, listening to Jasper call me every vile name he could think of only to hang up on me after telling me to eat shit … and to call my parents.
"What's going on?" Bella whispered, tightening her hold on me.
Instead of answering her, I brought an arm up around her shoulders and squeezed. There was too much rage vibrating through me to form words that wouldn't be hurtful, and she didn't deserve to bear the brunt of my mood. After several deep breaths that were only marginally helpful, I raised my phone and dialed my folks.
Stopping outside the door to my apartment, I heaved a deep, weary sigh. That was just over two weeks ago, and life had yet to return to some semblance of normalcy.
Bella had been battling a stomach bug for the week prior to the news of Nana Cullen's passing, but she had seemed to be coming out of it. She had still felt fatigued almost all the time and didn't have much of an appetite, but she was no longer vomiting all day, every day. As far as I knew, she was doing just fine at holding down food again. That changed when I relayed Dad's news.
For the past two weeks, at least twice a day, she was in the bathroom throwing up. When she didn't have her face in the toilet, she would just sit and stare off into space, sometimes crying, other times mumbling silent conversations with the ghosts in her head. I'd tried to comfort her the best I could—holding her as she silently wept at night, holding her hair as she emptied her stomach yet again, anything I could think of to ease her pain—but nothing helped. I hadn't wanted to leave her alone today—had wanted to continue to be there to see her through this latest loss—but I couldn't miss any more school.
Had it only been Bella's illness and depression, I didn't think I'd have felt so worn down, wrung out, and sick of it all, but that wasn't the end of it. Everything with Alice was still shit, too. I'd tried to talk to her later that night, but she hadn't answered her phone—neither had Jasper. I'd attempted to corner her the next day at Mom and Dad's when we all met to go over to Nana and Pops' house, but she'd evaded me at every turn. She wouldn't even stand beside me in the receiving line at the funeral. How was I supposed to make things right again if she wouldn't acknowledge my existence?
Unwilling to dwell on it any more today, and unable to avoid entering the apartment any longer, I dug my keys out and unlocked the door. As soon as I was inside, I heard the unmistakable sound of Bella getting sick, which I was—sadly—used to, but the new sounds of choking, coughing, and bawling that accompanied it prompted me to throw my bag and keys on the floor and sprint to the bathroom.
The partially open door slammed into the edge of the counter as I shoved it out of my way, heedless of the damage I was doing to either surface. My only concern was getting to the shaking, spluttering woman across the room and making sure she was alright. I had been a barreling locomotive in my bid to reach Bella's side, but now that I was here, I slowed and gently knelt beside her, gathering up the stringy hair hanging down in her face and pulling it back.
"Bella, Honey, what's wrong?" I asked as I used my free hand to root around in one of the cabinet drawers for an elastic tie for her hair.
The question sounded stupid in my head and was even more asinine out loud, but it seemed the most appropriate thing to say at the moment, and I was too panicked to come up with something more intelligent. In lieu of a real answer, she pointed a shaky finger up to the sink before reaching to flush and laying her head on the slightly padded, plastic seat. I wasn't sure what she wanted at first, but then I saw a wash cloth folded over the faucet.
"Okay, Baby," I whispered against her damp temple, kissing away the tears trickling down her cheek with her continued, but now silent, sobs.
There was a mess of trash on the counter, but I swept it aside with my forearm and wet the wash cloth with some cool water. Dropping back down beside Bella, I gently ran the cloth over her forehead and exposed cheek.
"No," she rasped out on a hoarse moan, trying to push the rag away and pointing up at the counter again. "Up b—by …" she sniffled, swallowing back the fresh round of tears, and lifted her head to look at where her limp hand was flailing toward "… b—box."
Baffled—and a bit exasperated that she kept attempting to swat my hand away whenever I neared the back of her neck with my swipes—I placed the scrap of material on Bella's forehead and stood, looking for whatever the fuck she was talking about. My eyes swept over the contents of the laminate surface until I found the box amongst the litter I'd pushed out of my way a moment ago. I picked it up and examined it, a single word printed in big, bold letters across the front immediately catching my attention.
Diving into the wad of papers I'd left in a semi-scattered pile, I rooted around for and found the little piece of plastic the box belonged to, lifting it up to the light. I didn't know what I looked like in that instant, with my bugged-out eyes flipping between the two perfectly straight lines in the center of the stick and Bella's face, but it was enough to make her cry all the harder and bury her head in the arms she crossed over the toilet seat, the wash cloth making a disgusting splatting sound as it slid off of her and hit the floor.
"Bella?" Why was there suddenly no saliva in my mouth? "Is this… ? Are you… ?" I shook my head, hoping if I rattled my brain around, I'd be capable of asking an intelligent and quasi-coherent question. "Are you pregnant?" Well, I'd gotten one out of the two … unlike Bella.
Her arms were waving about—first in huge, chaotic arcs then in tiny, swift jabs and circles and back to the wild swings again—emphasizing the words she was saying, but I couldn't understand her. Bella was blubbering in a high-pitched, keening gibberish between deep, stuttered, body-shuddering, gasping breaths. I thought I caught "baby," "not ready," and "big as a house," but she could've been summoning demons for all my slow brain was able to comprehend.
I tossed the pregnancy test and its box onto the counter and sank to my knees, folding Bella's still twitching and unyielding body into my arms–wild gesticulations and all. "Sweetheart …" I kissed her forehead and made a futile attempt at capturing her thrashing extremities "… are you trying to say we're having a baby?" I mentioned I was slow-witted, right?
"Yes," she wailed in response—directly in my ear, I might add—right before she collapsed against my chest in a heap of convulsing whimpers, snivels, and vague, indistinguishable mumbles.
The cold, hard tiles of the floor were uncomfortable, but I arranged us the best I could so that Bella was cradled in my lap, my back braced against the side of the tub, and rocked her from side-to-side. Occasionally, I'd whisper bits of nonsense into her hair or ear, doing everything I could to calm and soothe her. Finally—about an hour after my ass had gone numb—she quieted down, all the tension draining from her body as she drifted off to sleep.
Being careful not to wake or drop her—my left leg almost gave out on me as sensation returned to that ass cheek when I stood—I carried her into our room, laying her atop the comforter on our bed. As soon as I released her, she rolled over and snuggled into her pillow, clutching it to her cheek like a teddy bear. It took me only a minute or two to remove her socks, shoes, and pants—leaving her in just a T-shirt and panties—and strip down into just my boxers and undershirt. Grabbing the quilt Bella kept folded on the chest at the end of our bed, I climbed up, curving my front to her back, and covered us with the blanket. We needed to talk, but we needed this nap more.
At first, I couldn't pinpoint what it was that had woken me, but the further I drifted out of the fog of dreamy sleep, the more aware I became of the physical world around me. We had shifted positions as we slumbered to where I was laying on my back with Bella plastered to my side, her head and one arm on my chest. And I discovered that what had coaxed me from oblivion was the leg she'd hitched up and over my pelvis, her knee flush with my farthest hip bone, and her slender calf rubbing between my legs as she ground her center on my hip closest to her.
Not that what she was doing wasn't fan-fucking-tastic, or that I minded being molested in my sleep in the slightest–this was pretty much my favorite way to wake up. I didn't wanna come on Bella's leg—not without her being awake to enjoy it as well, anyway. As gently as I could, and my dick cursing the loss of friction it had been enjoying, I rolled us over so that our places were reversed.
Leaning over Bella as she slipped back into peaceful sleep, I couldn't help myself from bending down and running my nose along her jaw, enjoying the deep, contented sigh it elicited from her. Having done that much, I saw no harm in planting several feathery kisses along the smooth column of her throat and trailing my lips down to the collar of her shirt. I held no compunction about exploring the mountains and valleys of her breasts, my breath ruffling the cotton of her top as I meandered down the plane of her stomach. And I could find nothing wrong with raising that covering to expose the waist of her dainty undies and smothering the area just above them with wet, warm, open-mouthed kisses that drew deep moans of pleasure from Bella that I could feel reverberating up and through my lips.
With a final, soft kiss to the space directly between her hip bones, I scooted up an inch or two and set up camp just below Bella's belly button. The more I kissed, sucked, and licked, the more her body came to life. Tiny fingers speared through my hair, their blunt nails gently scraping and scratching in rhythmic strokes along my scalp. Hips bucked. Legs slid restlessly. And the most decadent, erotic, and cock-hardening sounds drifted up from the body writhing below me … until it all stopped.
"Edward?" Bella lay stiff as a board, one of her hands moving from my hair to shove weakly at my shoulder. "What are you doing?"
"Showing you how much I love and appreciate you."
Her pushes became more forceful and were joined by the tapping of her other hand on the back of my head which I had buried in her navel, laving and nipping at the tiny divot. "I'm serious, Edward." Her entire body quivered and quaked with the unsteadiness of the breath she took. "Didn't you hear … I mean… . Aren't you… ? Shouldn't we… ?" With every unfinished, unarticulated question, tension filled Bella until I thought she was going to shatter into a million pieces, and her breathing became quicker, shallower. "Don't you think we oughta—"
"Hey, Bean …" I pressed a deep, emotion-filled kiss to the nearly invisible swell above Bella's panties, right where our baby was currently growing "… could you tell your mama to relax and let Daddy take care of her?" Bella's sharp intake of breath drew my eyes to hers, but I continued to talk to our child–who didn't even have ears yet, but that was irrelevant. "Because Daddy would really like to show Mommy how much he loves her right now."
"You're really not upset?"
I shimmied up the bed until I was eye-to-eye with Bella, tucking the quilt in around us as I gathered her close and kissed the tip of her nose. "I'm really not upset. If anything, I'm excited." I couldn't have stopped the grin that spread my features wide if I'd tried.
That's all it took for Bella to unclench and sag into the mattress, an uncertain smile playing at the corners of her lips. "I thought you'd be unhappy."
"Why?" I pulled back some so that I could see her face more clearly.
She huffed and rolled her eyes as if the answer were obvious but verbalized her thoughts anyway. "Well, how about because we've just gotten engaged?"
"So?" I didn't understand why that was an issue. "Does it matter how long we've been engaged? We've been together for eight months and in love for almost a decade—even if at least one of us didn't realize it."
"Okay … fine." We both chuckled, as much at the inside joke as the fact that we could joke about it in the first place after so much pain. "But what about money? I've only just started working full-time, and my salary isn't that great, and you're not making anything right now."
"We've got my trust."
She sighed dramatically as if I were a simpleton. "It's not inexhaustible, Edward, and until my benefits package kicks after six months, neither of us having insurance. That means we're going to be paying a lot of medical bills out of pocket during that time."
While that was true, I knew there was plenty in my account to meet our immediate needs—and then some. I didn't see this as an issue. "We'll be alright, Honey. There's plenty there for what we need."
"Well, what about the apartment? We can't have a baby here. There's only one bedroom, and we don't have a yard."
"So we'll move."
"But what about–"
Her words and breathing were growing more manic with every her rebuttal, and there was only one tried and true way of forestalling the full-blown panic attack that was brewing: I covered her lips with mine, stealing my tongue inside when she gasped in surprise, and kissed her silly. Withdrawing my tongue and placing a few more chaste pecks on her swollen and slack mouth, I smiled down at her dazed expression, my chest pressed tightly to her heaving breasts.
"Whatever it is that comes up, we'll face. We can totally do this—just look at how far we've already come. We just had a semi-adult conversation with little to no miscommunication."
She smirked up at me, slithering her leg up and around my hip and rubbing her heel along the crack of my ass as one of her hands came up to caress my cheek. "An adult conversation that didn't involve your dick as a third-party participant."
"Oh, he's in there. He's just biding his time."
Her hooded eyes drifted over my chest and down to where I was pressed against her thigh. When I could once again see her gorgeous chocolate depths, they had turned to molten pools, boiling over with desire. The tip of her tongue stole out to graze along her bottom lip at the same time she tightened her leg around me.
"Well, maybe we should let him have his say, then."
"You sure you want to do that? He's got quite the acceptance speech planned."
"Acceptance speech?" Her body trembling beneath me, as well as the crinkling around her eyes, gave away the bemusement she tried to hide by biting her bottom lip.
Rising up on my elbows so that I was hovering over her, I smirked down at her. "Yeah … I mean … if it weren't for Dick, we wouldn't have Bean." Her entire bottom lip disappeared into her mouth, and she was full-on vibrating in her efforts not to laugh, but now that my cock had the stage—as it were—he refused to be played off by the music. "For starters, Dick would like to thank Victoria's Secret for those skimpy little panties you parade in front of him, testing his will-power. He'd also like to thank—"
One of her hands flew up to cover my mouth as body-shaking guffaws wracking her body, and the joyous sound of her amusement filled the room. "Shut up, Dick, and just make love to me."
Neither Dick nor I hesitated, and we both agreed that being inside Bella was way better than any award show trophy.
Much love, thanks, & appreciation to my amazing pre-reader, caz12771, & my fantastarific betas Alice's White Rabbit & Tammygrrrl for making this look better than it actually is! :) Any mistakes are my own as I tinker after they all work their magic.