A/N: It's funny how simple and inspiring just a few words can be. I've been in a writing funk for a long time, so back in December I asked my Twitter followers for some single word or single phrase prompts with the intent of combining them together into a story. This story was the result. After I finished writing it, I began to think about what I could do with it and after speaking with my friends, we all agreed that this would be a great theme for another Beautiful Bellies fanfic contest.
This story is NOT part of the contest, however, I decided to post it simply to give an example of one way how the prompt words can be used. If you would like to participate, please read the Official Rules at: www (.) fanfiction (.) net / ~beautifulbellies
Or at: twilightenablers (.) blogspot (.) com
Beautiful Bellies Contest
List of prompts used: Braxton Hicks, Yahtzee!, pjs, pink octopussy, puppy
Characters/pairing: Edward/Bella (or Rosalie/Emmett, whichever)
Word Count: 9926
Summary: If someone would've told me a year ago that I'd be ringing in the New Year in a hospital room, I would've told them they were crazy. New Year's Eve is meant for parties, drinking, and stealing kisses from hot guys. Yeah… this is so not what I wanted to be doing.
My hope is that this story will help inspire all of YOUR Muses! Thanks to sshg316 for giving me a couple of the prompt words and also for working like crazy to get this beta read for me (and spent even longer on my tense issues). Also thanks to ilovealion & Lucette212 for giving me the rest of my prompt words. It was their words that truly inspired the idea for this challenge.
"I swear to God, if they try to tell me that these are just Braxton Hicks contractions like they did last time, I will seriously kick some ass."
I couldn't stop the roll of my eyes even if I wanted to. My sister can be so overdramatic that it isn't even remotely funny. "Yeah, you do that. But I really think that this is the real thing this time." At least I'm praying to God that's the case. I swear she has dragged me into the hospital no less than four times this week. She needs a frequent flier card. After four visits, your labor coach gets a free massage. That could work, right? I should get something for agreeing to this torture.
At the very hint that her labor pains are, in fact, legitimate, the switch is flipped, and Rosalie's demeanor changes instantly from bitchy and demanding to pleading and hopeful. "You really think so? How do you know? Oh, I hope so, Bells, I really hope so." Gah. Her voice sounds almost airy and wistful. I'm suddenly having visions of a fair young maiden locked in a tower, awaiting her dashing hero to rescue her. All that's missing is Rose twirling those stupid shiny, golden curls of hers around her finger.
Yeah, I don't scale walls.
Oh, it is right on the tip of my tongue to answer her question truthfully. It really and truly is, but for some reason I have the feeling If I said, "because you're acting like a whinier bitch than normal" wouldn't go over all that well. I mean, seriously, it can't hurt that bad! She's barely just started this whole labor thing.
Okay, maybe that's completely unfair of me. I mean, I'm not the one carrying a 10 pound bowling ball in my stomach 24/7. But I'm also not the one who insisted that we spend all damn day walking through the overly crowded mall because "my doctor said to walk, and it's just too cold to walk around outside." Did I mention that it was New Year's Eve? Have you ever been in a mall on New Year's Eve? I don't recommend it. Anytime between Thanksgiving and January 2nd, I avoid the shopping mall as if I can catch the plague just by passing through its doors. Too many damn sales. Seriously. Stay home. Shop online. Amazon and eBay are my best friends. It will save you your sanity, I swear. But did Rosalie listen to me?
Umm, yeah, that would be a big, fat no.
Now I think I'm just as tired and cranky as she is. I'd say that at least I don't have to go through however many hours of labor like she's going to have to endure, but that would be a lie. I promised her that I'd be her labor coach months ago, so now the poor nursing staff is going to get stuck with two whiney, bitchy women for the price of one. And I can't have an epidural or pain medication or… ugh. So not fair. Can I go home yet?
"No, you can't. And quit your complaining. I'm the one in pain here."
Yeah, have I mentioned that my brain-to-mouth filter is glitchy? Because it totally is. "You're right. I'm just cranky. It's been a long day."
"You're telling me. I'm the one carrying around an extra 40 pounds."
And whose fault is that? Umm… I may let some phrases slip from my lips, but I'm not stupid enough to say that at least. Placating her is a much wiser move. "Yeah, you're right. I know. I'm sorry." I sigh and turn my gaze to the white walls. Despite my desire to harass and irritate my sister, as any younger sibling would, I truly do care about her. Because of that, I really want to bring up the taboo conversation topic, but I can't decide if it's best mentioned now or if I should wait until after the baby is born. Women get sentimental and mushy after giving birth, don't they? Will she be more susceptible to rational thinking then or now? I squeeze my eyes shut and rub my face with my hands. I hate not knowing the answers.
"Quit working yourself into a tizzy and just spit it out," Rose says, immediately noting my change in demeanor.
I raise my eyes and look directly into her cold steely gaze, take a breath to steady my nerves, and just spit it out. "You need to tell him."
I watch as my sister's face does a perfect imitation of our father's the night he came downstairs for a glass of water and caught me making out with Tyler Crowley on the sofa. In quick succession, Rose's face goes from a creamy white to a lovely shade of puce before settling back down to a simmering red. Yep, dad would be proud.
"I did tell him," she spits with as much venom as I think any one person can infuse in just four little words.
"Yeah, you told him, but—"
"But nothing! He gave me $500 and told me to call him when I'd taken care of it. I never called him. Even a moron could figure that much out."
I sigh again and just shake my head. Rose is a bright girl, but when it comes to her ex-boyfriend, she can be pretty thick. So can he, for that matter. He never told her she had to get rid of anything. Granted, the fact that he gave her a paper printed with directions from our apartment to the clinic from Google Maps was pretty stupid. But in his defense, he was just trying to be helpful. I just can't convince Rosalie of that. After telling him off, she told him that she'd "take care of it on her own" and then proceeded to cut off all communication with him. From what I've been able to gather, I don't think Emmett ever really knew what he did that pissed her off so badly. After all, ever since my sister was in high school she's said she wasn't "the motherly type" and that she never wanted children. She made it abundantly clear to any man she dated, including Emmett McCarty. So why would he think that she'd quickly change her mind the moment the little stick had two lines instead of one? From what I know of him, he's a decent guy, and I just can't see him abandoning any girl he knocked up by accident.
Whatever. It isn't my problem. Well, it is… because I have to live with Rose. And in a couple of days, I'll be living with a newborn, too. Joy.
A smack on my arm turns my attention from my inner thoughts to my sister. "You're supposed to help me though the stupid contraction, not daydream," she snaps when I look back at her.
Looking over at the strip of paper spitting out of the machine, I see that, sure enough, she's just had a contraction, and they're coming along at a steady pace. "See? I told you that this was the real thing."
Instead of getting smacked again, my sister's grin is enough to light up a room.
"But I want my doctor," Rosalie insists with a whine.
Just moments ago the nurse announced that Rose would actually be admitted because she really was in labor. She had been eccstatic. Now we're back to the whining. Seriously? Does nothing please her?
"I understand that Miss Hale," the nurse says in a placating tone, "but Dr. Denali simply isn't available tonight."
"She said she'd be here."
"Did she say that she'd specifically be here on New Year's Eve? Or did she tell you that she does her best to be at all of her patient's deliveries and if she was available she'd be here?"
I see the very moment that comprehension fell. And from the look on her face, it seems that the nurse does as well. I have the feeling Dr. Denali used those exact same words, not only to my sister but to each patient who comes through her office. Smart woman.
"Don't worry, you'll like Dr. Cullen. He's very good," the nurse assures her.
Rose's teeth clench, and I can tell she's fighting with herself as to whether or not she wants to argue her point again. She was very adamant when she went in search of an obstetrician that she had a female physician. I tried to make some joke that there isn't a man in Seattle who hasn't already seen her pink octopussy—a term that I once heard one of my mother's boyfriend say when I was seven. I'd promptly told Rosalie, and we've joked about it ever since. Although, it's probably pretty important to mention that it wasn't until I was fourteen before I actually understood what we were joking about… Oops!—but I was smacked harder than normal for that remark. Yeah… apparently there are some things that you should never joke about with a pregnant women, and promiscuity is definitely one of them. How men put up with us I'll never know.
Now, after all of Rose's plans, she'll have to go through all of this with some stranger delivering her baby. I feel bad for her over that. Despite my teasing remarks earlier, I know how important it is to her that everything moves along in a particular manner. My sister is what most people would consider high maintenance. She's a bit of a control freak. And trust me when I tell you, you do not want to be around a Rosalie who feels out of control. Honestly, it makes me wonder how she's going to cope with a child. If I know anything, it's that children are the very definition of unpredictable. The only saving grace I have to look forward to during her labor is that no sooner do we arrive in the labor suite then she had her epidural in place.
Yes, my future is looking brighter indeed.
"Holy shit, that hurts!" she cries as she comes down from a contraction. "I thought the epidural was supposed help!"
"It will take about 15 minutes to set up," the nurse replies. "But it should be starting to take some of the edge off with each one."
Ugh. Yeah, things really aren't going my way. It makes me start to think about how the rest of this whole 'having a baby' thing is going to go… yeah, it isn't looking too promising for me. I really should've gone through with my original plan and bought her a puppy when she first told me about her pregnancy. That would've been a healthy reality check for her. Knowing Rose, that would've been enough to at least give her some idea what she's getting herself into.
But I also know that my sister is a loving, caring, and determined woman. She will succeed, she'll be sure of that, and she'll do a damn good job in the process.
There's a quick rap on the door before it opens. "Who is ready to have a baby?" It's just a moment later when the most handsome man I've had the pleasure of meeting peers around the drawn curtain. "Is it safe?" he asks.
"Like it matters," Rosalie mutters.
It's my turn to smack her this time. Of course, she whips her head around to look at me, and I'm blessed with her smirk; it's a smirk that I unfortunately know well. It's the kind of look that only one sibling can give to another, and that the recipient knows they are about to walk over a bed of hot coals to the other's amusement. I named Rosalie's look "The Smirk of Evil Intensified" back when we were both in high school. It has lived up to its name time and time again, and all I can do now is stand aside and wait to see what's running through that sinister and calculating mind of hers.
"I'm Dr. Cullen," the man says as he pulls the curtain aside and walks fully into the room. He extends his hand out to Rose and graces her with a megawatt smile. He's handsome. Did I already mention that? Regardless, it's worth mentioning again. Dr. Cullen is handsome. He has this reddish-brown hair that is begging to have my fingers run through it. Only my fingers, mind you, no one else's. He's sporting a crooked smile that could be mistaken for a cocky smirk if not for the playful sparkle in his emerald green eyes. (The guy is totally wearing contacts; no one has eyes that color.) What I can't get over is that this man looks that good simply in blue hospital scrubs… I wonder what he looks like in a suit.
"I'm sorry, what?"
"Hmm?" I ask as soon as I realize that Dr. Cullen has turned his attention from my sister to me.
"You said something about a suit."
I shrug in some strange attempt to appear indifferent, which in hindsight will turn out to be a pretty stupid move. "I'm sure you just misunderstood me."
"Yes, don't mind Bella. She's been so worried about me today that she can hardly think straight anymore." Then Rose grabs my hand. "Don't worry, sweetheart. Dr. Cullen said that things are moving along really smoothly and we should get to see our baby soon."
"Well, yes, of course," Dr. Cullen says, shifting from side to side and turning his gaze down to carefully examine his shoes as if he's suddenly uncomfortable. "I'll just leave you to it for now. The nurse will be back in shortly." He's out of there before my brain has a moment to process what in the heck just happened.
"Rose? What in the hell was that?"
"Serves you right," she says with a chuckle. Then she pokes my chest. "Don't drool over my doctor again."
"Umm. Did you just imply that you and I are a couple?"
"You were drooling. Then you said something about wanting to dress him up in a suit."
"Well, I didn't mean to say that last part."
"Bell, you are the same girl who accidentally told Mr. Banner that if he worked it he'd have that hot geek-nerd thing going on for him—you have no brain-to-mouth filter. So, of course you said that about Dr. Cullen."
"Well, I couldn't understand why Mr. Banner was single—he totally could've worked that nerdy-geek thing to its full potential. It's not my fault that the geeky persona was to hide his slinky lingerie fetish. Seriously, you try seeing that man in a hot pink teddy and see how you manage to ever be able to function in normal society again."
"Thankfully I don't have to see Banner—you did a lovely job of explaining every little inch of that outfit and how it, quote 'hugged his non-womanly curves,' unquote. One might think that you'd never seen a man wearing pjs before." Somehow she manages to say that last bit as if had blown that entire situation out of proportion. Umm… I don't think so.
Back in high school, I happened to stumble upon Banner one night when he was getting ready to cyber with some other weirdo on his computer. Though, if I'm being entirely honest, "stumble" might not be the best choice of words. It's more like I happened to be hiding in his hydrangea bushes while some of my friends TP'd Mr. Banner's house. I still have nightmares of that little outing. Moving on.
"And back to Dr. Cullen, did you even look at him? Wow!" Yep, there's the drool Rose was complaining about.
"Of course I looked at him. Sorry, I just can't get over the little fact that in a few hours he's going to be getting an up close and personal view of my lady parts, so I'm trying not to think about how hot he looks."
Then she pauses and looks at me, as if she suddenly sees something very interesting in my face. I can't figure out what in the hell her problem is, and I wipe at the corners of my mouth, suddenly worried that there is still some mayonnaise on there from the chicken sandwich I scarfed down at dinner. Rose shakes her head slightly and then plasters a grin back on her face.
"Well, I have every intention of looking. I've been in the middle of a dry spell because somebody thought that it'd be a great show of sisterly solidarity if we didn't go out while you were knocked up. You do realize that even in the Victorian Era confinement didn't last the entire duration of the pregnancy, right?"
"Your dry spell started long before that," she says with a snort.
I open my mouth to spout off a witty retort but quickly snap it shut when I realize I got nothin'. Damn, I hate it when she's right.
"Well, you're moving right along. Right about seven centimeters," the nurse says as she pulls her hand out from under the sheet.
"I think that you'll be ready to start pushing in another couple of hours."
I glance at the clock and groan… then I yawn. It's already just after 10. After walking all damn day and Rosalie's trip down here to the hospital the night before, I am more than just a little bit tired. And if the birthing class we attended was even remotely accurate, which I'm pretty sure it was, then we have a couple of hours of pushing before I have any hope of getting to sleep. I'm not even going to think about the stupid cots I know they have available for partners to sleep on. The only reason I'd be sleeping here is if I'm too tired to safely drive myself home… and that's what cabs are for anyway.
"How will I know when it's time?" Rose asks. She sounds timid and, if I'm not mistaken, a tad bit worried now. Her epidural must be working really well if she's wondering how she'll know when it's time for her flashdance.
"You'll likely feel some pressure, but even if you don't, we'll have a pretty good idea based on the monitor."
Rose just nods her head, but I can tell that shit's starting to get real for her. Now is not the time for a snarky comment. Damnit. And I really want to tell her that it should be freaking obvious when there's a kid coming out of her. Oh well. Maybe later.
Yay. Dreamy doctor dude is back!
"So," he says as he walks (strides, saunters, take your pick) into the room. "My colleague and I are making a little wager about which one of us will get to deliver the first baby of the New Year. What do you say about helping me out, eh?"
"Anything you say, doc," Rose immediately answers.
"All right, then," he says, clapping his hands together and then rubbing them as if he's about to win big down in Vegas.
"What are you going to do?" Rose asks after a good thirty second pause. "Are you going to give me something to make this speed up a bit?"
"Oh, no, no. I don't think that's necessary. Besides, I don't want The Newt to cry foul and hang it over my head claiming that I cheated. I just want you to be ready to push with your life." He glances at the monitor strip and looks back at my sister with a grin. "I think it'll be soon."
"Newt?" I had a sinking feeling….
"Yeah. Dr. Newton. He's just finishing up his residency and is going to be going into practice with Dr. Thompson's group."
I quirk my lip and look at my sister, raising my eyebrow in question. Her face breaks out in a matching grin, and we both shout, "Yahtzee!" before laughing hysterically.
Dr. Cullen and the nurse share a knowing look and smile. "I take it you know Mike."
I nod, but I'm laughing too hard for my answer to be even remotely coherent.
"Has he always said that whenever he wins a bet? Because I swear it drives all of us f— crazy." Nice save there, doc.
I nod furiously as I gasp for breath. "Oh," I finally manage. "He." Breath, laughter, gasp. "Has been." Gasp, laugh. "Been doing that." Breath, breath. "Since high school." I wipe at the tears that are rolling down my cheeks.
Dr. Cullen continues to smile. Then he points at me. "There's a story there. I want to hear it after we're done here. I just don't think you could get through it without another fit of hysterics." He then turns to Rose. "Ms. Hale, if you keep laughing like that, you're going to push that baby against your not-quite-dilated cervix, and it'll swell and slow things down. If we're going to win this little wager, then we can't have that," he says in what sounds like a mock-stern tone.
Rose instantly sobers. Apparently threatening that she can prolong her labor is enough to calm her down. I wonder if Dr. Cullen was serious or if he just wanted to show off that he can get her to do what he wants. The smirk and wink he throws my way makes me think it is the latter.
"Come on, Rosalie, push, push, push, push, push," the nurse says as she holds my sister's left leg, while I'm stuck holding the right. "Eight, nine, ten, and rest."
She's been pushing with every contraction for the last thirty minutes. God, this is taking so long.
"You try it," my sister snaps.
"No, thank you." Rose is right; I have no filter. One of these days it is going to earn me more than just a smack on the arm. "Is anything happening down there?" I ask the nurse.
"Yep. His little head is just playing peek-a-boo. A little bit more and we should see crowning. Do you want to see?"
"Eww. No. Just…" I shake my head rapidly from side-to-side to both reiterate my point and to try to shake the disgusting images that my brain is suddenly conjuring. "No."
The nurse chuckles.
"Okay, it's time again," my sister says, and seconds later we're helping support her legs as she tries to do what looks like a wonky sit-up while the nurse counts up to ten again.
In case it isn't glaringly apparent, Dr. Cullen was wrong about the laughter, because almost immediately after he left following our brief fit of hysterical laughter, Rose announced she was feeling tremendous pressure and felt like she needed to push. Sure enough, she was fully dilated. It took the nurse a bit to get the room set up to go. Even though Dr. Cullen said he was hoping for a near midnight baby, the nurse confessed that she was sure it'd be a few more hours before Rose was truly ready to deliver.
"Newt's gal is pushing," Dr. Cullen announces as he walks into the room without preamble. "Oh, I guess we are, too." He shoots a look at the nurse, and I can tell that he wishes he had been privy to that little tidbit of information.
The nurse just shrugs. "I wanted to see how things were going to go before calling you, but we're getting close."
"Again," Rose snaps.
Dr. Cullen grabs a sterile glove from the drawer and sits down on the foot of the bed. "That's it. Wow. The heads right there."
"Damn," Rose says after the contraction ends, and she drops her legs and rests back against the bed. "That fucking hurts."
Oh, yeah, it turns out that her epidural is doing a great job at keeping the pain out of her contractions, but she is definitely feeling the burn down below. When she complained to the nurse, the nurse told her she could call the anesthetist, but it was easier to push if she could feel something. She then started going on and on about all of these patients she's had in the past who were so numb they couldn't figure out how to push, and in the worst case scenarios, they wound up having a c-section.
So, I choose to ignore Rose's comment and commence with staring at Dr. Cullen. "Your wife must hate that you have to keep such funky hours," I state as off-handedly as I possibly could manage.
"Oh, I'm not married."
"How about casual friends?"
His eyes do that sparkle thing again, and I know he caught my attempt at being flirty. Then he shakes his head and grins. "Not outside of work or family. I actually just moved here less than two months ago. Dr. Whitlock wanted to take some time off for maternity leave, and she decided that when she does return she doesn't want to return full-time. And Dr. Denali is expecting her first in late spring. They decided that with all of those changes it was time to bring someone else into their practice."
"Hello! Woman in labor here!"
Attention whore. Yeah, again, I know better than to let my sister hear that, though I'm pretty sure she knows exactly what I'm thinking, because as soon as her contraction is over, she gives me a calculating look and narrows her eyes. When I look over at Dr. Cullen, he seems to be looking anywhere but the two of us.
"Here's another one," the nurse announces.
I dutifully grab her leg, and just before I start counting, I catch an evil glint in Rose's eye.
As I count, instead of suffering through the contraction quietly like she's been doing, Rose starts cursing and muttering up a storm. "Shit. God. This hurts so bad. Make it stop." All pretty harmless, though I can't see how she's actually pushing much this time, what with all of her jabbering, and then I get it….
You know how in movies, books, and television shows whenever a woman is in labor there is always some big dramatic scene where she curses out her husband for putting her through this torture? I always hate those scenes. So stupid, and I'm sure it almost never happens. But… yeah. At the peak of her contraction, my sister glances at me before squeezing her eyes shut and yelling, "Fuck! This is all your fault. I swear to God, Isabella, I'm never letting you touch me again!"
Umm… What? The room is now deadly silent save for the sound of the baby's heartbeat on the monitor. And then it sinks in. I open my mouth to defend myself, but I look at Dr. Cullen first. The poor man, you can tell that he is trying very hard to figure out how in the world me touching Rose would get her into her current predicament. I can't help it, and for the third time in one night, I burst into a fit of laughter. Rose quickly joins me. However, this time it is quickly controlled as her next contraction hits and she's pushing again.
"Let's break down the bed," Dr. Cullen says after her contraction. Clearly he is choosing to ignore Rose's latest comment and getting down to business. Hell, it's pretty damn obvious he's doing everything in his power to keep from looking at me. "Can you pull up Newt's strip?" he asks the nurse.
Moments later, there's another monitor strip up on the computer underneath Rose's. Then everything starts happening at once. Suddenly there are closets and cupboards opened to reveal a stainless steel table full of instruments, what looks like a weird flat crib with a heat lamp over it, a large lamp to shine right on Rosalie's hoo-haa, a full length mirror, two other nurses (I almost wonder if they've been stored in the closets as well), and Dr. Cullen takes the bed apart so that Rose's ass is now hanging over the edge and Dr. Cullen is sitting on a stool with a perfect view of said hoo-haa. The only thing missing for him is a catcher's mitt.
Wow. How did all of that happen? My heart pounds in my chest from a sudden surge of adrenaline. This is real, and suddenly it's happening so quickly. I've been frustrated with my sister for much of the pregnancy, but I've never really taken the time to actually think about what having a baby around will be like.
"With this next contraction, I need you to push with everything you have," Dr. Cullen says.
Five contractions later, my nephew is born.
Dr. Cullen tries to pass off the scissors to me to cut the cord. Eww. Gross. And no thank you.
"It's the rite of passage for all fathers… well, partners… whatever," he stumbles.
"Yeah, we're so going to talk later," I say under my breath.
Dr. Cullen cuts the cord himself and then busies himself doing… whatever it is that doctors do down there after a baby is born. Whatever it is, though, it's messy. In the meantime, one nurse stays by my sister's side, while the other two are poking and prodding the baby over in the corner.
"So, what time do we have?" Dr. Cullen asks.
"12:03," the nurse announces with a grin. "According to the chart, Newt's baby still isn't out."
"Don't you mean Yahtzee?" I ask cheekily in an attempt to get Dr. Cullen to pay attention to me again and flirt.
"I'll be sure to shout Yahtzee out at the desk when I see Newt," he says with a wink.
Yay! Winks are flirting, right? Yes, yes they definitely are.
It's funny. The entire labor process lasted for hours. The pushing was a nightmare. Then the delivery was so chaotic that I could barely focus on what all was going on. And then after all of that… nothing.
Rosalie is sitting in the bed—a put back together bed, no less—all cleaned up in a new gown, her legs mostly working again, and she's nursing her son. The lights are dimmed, and the room that had been a chaotic madhouse not long before, now has a calm and relaxing atmosphere. All of the things that had come out of the closets are now back in their rightful place and hidden behind closed doors. I wonder if the two extra nurses are hiding out in one of them.
People come in a few times to check on my sister, but now the room is peacefully quiet.
And I am bored.
"Go get yourself something to eat."
I nod. "Yeah, I probably should. Do you think the cafeteria is open?"
She shrugs. "I heard the nurse say something about taking her lunch soon. I'd think they'd have to have a cafeteria open, don't you?"
It turns out that the hospital's cafeteria is open, but like the rest of the hospital, it's relatively quiet. I grab myself a sandwich and some decaf tea and sit down in the corner. For the first time in hours, I'm able to take a deep breath and let the day slide away. I'm really not a bitch. I'm just tired, and frustrated, and annoyed. It seems like my life has been in this odd state of limbo for well over a year now, and I just haven't been able to manage to get it back on track. That started back when I caught my boyfriend sleeping with my then roommate. Needless to say, I kicked them both out of not only my apartment but my life. It took me ages to trust Jake because of my own parental abandonment issues, and now that's all but obliterated. Add in Rosalie's drama, and I'm a complete mess.
"How come you're down here instead of up in the room?"
I turn my head to look up at the now familiar voice and smile. "Because I had to get away by myself for a little bit."
"Oh, I'll just…"
"No, Dr. Cullen, please sit down. I just needed to get out of that room for a while."
He looks unsure for a moment before he nods and sits in the seat across from me. "Having a baby is a sudden reality check for a lot of new parents, I think. And please, call me Edward." He holds out his hand for me to shake.
His hand is warm and, for some reason, almost calming… like home. All thoughts of what I was about to say fly right out the window. I wonder what it would feel like to have those arm wrapped around me.
"Are you okay?"
"Umm, yeah. Sorry," I say as I shake my head. It's only then that I realize I still have a tight hold of his hand. I release it quickly and do everything I can to try to stop my face from reddening. Yeah, it'd be easier to stop a freight train. "Sorry," I repeat. "What did you say?"
"I asked what you guys named the baby." Edward seems oddly amused by my confusion. I wonder if I can pass it all off as a lack of sleep.
"Oh, yeah, I don't know. I don't think Rose has decided yet. I thought he should be named Hobart after Barry Hobart." At Edward's blank stare, I add, "You know, Dr. Creep." He blinks at me. "From Shock Theater." Yeah, Edward has no clue, and really, most people don't. You'd have to either be a diehard B-horror flick fan (like me) or be a resident of Ohio to know who Dr. Creep was. "So, I love stupid classic horror movies—they make me laugh. Dr. Creep was one of the classic horror hosts, like Elvira." That sparks some recognition, and like most men whenever they hear the name Elvira, he immediately glances at my chest.
"Anyhow, I lost. Rose doesn't share my affinity for horror flicks. She's been waffling between two names, but…" The truth of the matter is, I think that my sister is waiting for Emmett before she finally slaps a name on their child that will have to last him a lifetime. And really, I think it matters whether his last name is going to be Hale or McCarty. But I also think all that is on a subconscious level of thinking for my sister. She truly doesn't know.
Edward just shakes his head. "How on earth do you even know about this Dr. Creep person?"
I laugh at his clear confusion. Poor guy. "When I was a kid, before I moved in with my dad and sister, my mom and I moved around a lot. We spent about six months in Dayton, Ohio where that show aired. My mom was dating this guy who had a library full of video recorded episodes of it. I got hooked. Then when I was older I started going to horror movie conventions."
"That sounds like fun."
I cock my head to the side and study his face for a just a moment. He's being sincere. Really, it's one of the few times I can remember where someone didn't mock any of my odd interests.
Edward smiles. "I've always been a fan of the old Star Trek series. Not the newer ones, just the classics, and they are admittedly corny as hell. And yes, I've even been to a few conventions of my own."
"Oh, Dr. Cullen, I think I like you." I quickly realize what I just said, though, and before I let it settle in too deep, I change the subject. "So did Mike ever get that baby delivered?"
"Last I heard, they were back for a cesarean. I haven't even gotten a chance to see him to rub his nose in it."
"That's awful." When Edward's face sobers, I clarify. "I mean that she had to go have surgery, not about rubbing Mike's nose in it. What happened?"
Edward glances around the room, maybe to see if there was anyone else around. Other than the lone man at the register and a person in the back cooking, there isn't another soul in sight. "I'm only telling you this because of what I said to Ms. Hale earlier. Remember how I teased her about pushing before she was fully dilated?"
"Let's just say that Mike jumped the gun in his effort to outdo me."
I think about it and let my mind run over the conversation from earlier that evening. "So the cervix swelled? Oh! That's horrible!"
"Shh. I saw a bit of the monitor, and I heard his attending doctor talking to him. It seems more than likely that the cesarean would've been the outcome anyway. Usually there are more factors to take into consideration. Once he realized what he'd done, she stopped pushing, but the baby hadn't been tolerating the labor all that well to begin with. There are always several issues that come into play when making a decision like that."
"You really weren't supposed to tell me any of that were you?" I ask, although I really already know the answer.
"No, not even a single word."
"I won't say anything, I swear."
It's his turn to study me for a moment before nodding to himself. "I know you won't. For some reason I feel like I can trust you."
I smile. This impromptu meal feels like a date. I've almost forgotten what those feel like. When Rosalie commented on my dry spell earlier, she wasn't exaggerating. And not only is this feeling like a date, this is feeling like a date where I know I want to see the guy again, and again, and again. It's been even longer since I've experienced that.
However, as soon as I think those things, the silence suddenly grows awkward as Edward begins fidgeting with his coffee cup. "Umm," he says as he drags his hand through his hair—that hair that I've been desperate to touch, ever since I first laid eyes on him. "I—"
But I don't find out what he's about to say because something catches his eye at the other end of the cafeteria. "Hey, Mike! Yahtzee!"
I turn my head and laugh at the flushed red cheeks of the blond-haired guy I went to high school with. He really hasn't changed. Quickly, he walks over to our table. "Hey, man. You won fair and square," he says as he shakes Edward's hand. Then he turns his attention to me, giving me his classic smarmy smirk. There is no way he remembers who I am.
"I didn't win anything, Mike. It was all Bella's girl—" Then he looks at me. "Or wife? I never did ask, I'm sorry."
I choke. I've been sipping my tea slowly over the course of our conversation, and for some stupid reason I thought it was a smart idea to take a drink of my tea while Edward was talking. And now poor Edward is covered in tea. I begin coughing as my body tries to clear the few droplets of liquid that have entered my trachea. Yeah, not comfortable.
"Bella?" Mike asks in the middle of my coughing fit. "Bella Swan?"
All I can manage to do is nod my head.
"Oh, wow. You're gay! That explains a lot!"
My eyes feel like they bug out of my head, and I shake my head from side-to-side rapidly. "No! No!" I barely manage to squeak out.
"You have no reason to be embarrassed, Bella," Edward says in this incredibly soothing tone as he reaches across the table and grasps my hand. I instantly feel that soothing calm when his hand encases mine, and in only a few seconds, I feel as if I can actually breathe. Edward again looks uncomfortable after having touched me, and I pull my hand away from his quickly.
"I'm not gay," I say to Mike, though I'm staring right into Edward's unnaturally green eyes.
"Oh, Bella, I won't tell anybody back home if that's what you're worried about. I think it's great that you have a family."
I turn my head and look at Mike. "I'm not gay, Mike. It was Rose who just had a baby."
Comprehension dawns on his face, and his eyes widen in what I can only assume is a touch of fear. He looks over at Edward and immediately assures him, "Yeah, she's definitely not gay. And… yeah… don't mess with Rose." Then he turns around and rushes out of the cafeteria.
Yep, that was definitely fear, I think with a slight smirk.
"What am I missing?" Edward asks.
"Oh, Rose is my sister."
The look on Edward's face at that moment shifts from concern to a cross between annoyance and relief. The poor man looks horribly conflicted, and all I want to do is calm him in much the same way he'd soothed me. I reach for his hand, but he pulls his hands off of the table, so I sit back in the seat. "I didn't mean to deceive you or anything. She was trying to get under my skin, and it seemed stupid for me to argue with everything she said. It either just makes me look even more—I don't know. Guilty? Or like I don't care about her. This labor or day or whatever is about her, not about me, you know? Plus, though I like to deny it, I really wanted her to have something else to focus on, and teasing me, trying to get under my skin, was distracting for her."
After taking a minute to absorb my explanation, Edward slowly nods his head. "I can understand that," he allows. Then he cracks a smile. "Besides, I've been sitting here for the last half-hour trying to figure out how to explain to you that, unless you're a fertility specialist, Ms. Hale couldn't have become pregnant from anything that you personally did."
With my laughter, the tension that has been building between us over the last little while dissipates, and I feel myself relax once again.
"Your sisters?" he asks.
I nod my head. "Yep."
"You two look nothing alike," he notes as looks at me in obvious curiosity, then takes a bite of his sandwich.
"She looks like her mother. I look like our father. It's a long, boring story."
Edward smiles and wipes his mouth with his napkin. "Did you two grow up together?"
After taking a sip of my tea, I sit back in my seat and sigh. "Not really. I didn't even know I had a sister until I was six."
I then went on to explain to Edward how Rosalie's mother hadn't told our dad that she was pregnant before she took off. Dad got together with my mom, they got married, had me, then Mom left with me in tow. A few years after that a social worker showed up at Dad's work to inform him that Lillian Hale and her daughter, Rosalie, had been in a car accident. Rose had been fine, but the mother had died on impact. So, Rose went to live with Charlie. We only saw each other when I'd go visit Dad over the summers and the rare holiday until I moved in permanently when I was thirteen.
"Wow," Edward says in awe. "And I just have a boring little story."
"I doubt it's boring," I reassure. I mean, how could anything about this man be boring?
"Yep. My parents were high school sweethearts. They got married before the start of their third year in college. They put each other through med school. They had 2.5 kids, well, they had two kids and a dog, along with a nice house in the suburbs, all complete with a white picket fence."
"That's not… well… okay, pretty standard, but I stand by what I said before, nothing about you could be boring."
"You didn't say 'nothing' about me could be boring," he points out.
"Well, I thought it. That counts for something."
Edward grins and I get the impression that he liked the direction that my thoughts going. "Okay, I'm dying to know. What is this story about Mike saying Yahtzee?" he finally asks after a pregnant pause. Changing the subject is usually a conversation saver.
So, I go on to tell him. "Originally Mike had been trying to recreate one of his favorite lines from the TV show, Friends. In the show, one of the characters told some story about how this guy she'd been with would shout 'I win!' when he… ummm… peaked. According to Rosalie, for some reason Mike thought it would be 'epic' if he—well, when he finished? Yeah, I'm talking about finish finished—he shouted 'Yahtzee!' But he didn't take into account my sister, who was a mix between mortified and disgusted and embarrassed. So, she did the only thing she could think of, and she went out with him again. Only that time, she took one of those mini-cassette recorders and recorded his, umm, declaration. The next day she played it over the loudspeakers at school."
"Oh, God, that's jus—"
"Yeah, I know," I say with a laugh. "Rose was suspended, Mike was mortified. The entire thing was… well… pretty epic. But he tried to play it off and denied that it had anything to do with sex. He claimed that he said that anytime he won something—and I'm talking about just a simple game or something here. Nobody believed him, so then he went out of his way to say it every time he won anything, or scored well on a test, or well, anything. After that, it just stuck. Apparently he never stopped."
"She really did that with him again after that?" Edward asks with a clear mix of horror and fascination.
"Uh. Yeah. You'd have to know my sister, I guess. But…" I shrug. How could I explain my sister? She's not a slut, but for whatever reason, she also never thought of sex as that big of a deal. Unlike me. I swear that woman and I really are as different as night and day sometimes.
Edward just nods his acceptance before he rubs his hands together with glee. "Oh, I love having information to hold over someone. No one could figure out why Mike says that, and it drives everyone around here crazy."
"You know, since he just saw me here and he knows that Rosalie was the patient you delivered earlier tonight, he might just fear you for a bit."
A wicked glint appears in his eye. "If I play my cards right, then he'll fear me for more than just a bit. Do you think there's any chance that your sister still has that recording?"
"Oh, Dr. Cullen, I like the way you think."
*thump, thump, thump*
I sigh as I snuggle deeper into my covers and try to find a thread of the dream I was just having. All I could remember was that it had something to do with Dr. Edward Cullen. Guh! If only I actually stood a chance with that man. But that's not going to happen. As I left the table after our meal in the cafeteria, he said he'd call me… but then never asked for my number. Really it's okay, I wouldn't expect him to call anyway, and even if he did… well, the likelihood of me actually going out with him is slim-to-nil. I don't trust men not to hurt me, lie to me, or cheat on me. The only reason I was able to flirt so freely with Dr. Cullen in the first place is because he thought I was gay. Oh well. But at least I now know I can readily pull up some images of him in my dreams.
*thump, thump, thump*
"Nooooooooo," I moan into the pillow. This is my last day of freedom before my apartment will be invaded by a little person who doesn't know the meaning of the word quiet. It's not fair. I want to sleeeeeeeep.
*thump, thump, thump*
"Gah! Fine!" I shout, grabbing a pair of sweatpants from my dresser to cover up my boyshorts. I have no desire to give my neighbors a show.
*thump, thump, thump*
"I'm coming! Damnit. Stupid noisy people. Don't they know that last night was New Year's Eve and most people are severely hungover at—" I glance at the clock as I walked past the kitchen "—11:00 in the morning."
Okay, hearing those words come out of my mouth makes me shake my head. Even when I spend most of the night drinking, I'm up before noon. My internal clock rarely lets me sleep past nine. I open the door without even looking through the peephole. Yeah, I really shouldn't have done that. It was a stupid move, and being the daughter of a cop, you'd think that I'd know better. Apparently, not.
I'm greeted with a newspaper shoved in my face. "What?" I ask as I try to push the paper far enough from my face so I can actually see whatever it is that I'm supposed to see.
"What the hell is going on?"
Yeah, I recognize that voice. "Oh, shit." This is not good. I snatch the newspaper out of his hand and look at the front page article.
First Baby of the New Year
The first baby of the New Year for the state of Washington was born last night at 12:03am at Seattle Memorial Hospital…
The article goes on to name my sister (by her first name only, thankfully) and mentions that this is her first child, an as-yet-to-be-named little boy who weighed in at 8lbs 7oz. Yeah, and there with the article is a color photo of my sister and nephew.
"What in the hell were you thinking, Rose?" I mutter under my breath.
"That's what I want to know!"
"Quit shouting at me, Emmett," I snap. "I didn't get home until after four, and you woke me up from a very nice dream, so forgive me for needing a moment to wake up."
"Sorry," he mumbles.
"Yeah, yeah." I sigh. "What do you want me to say?"
"Is it mine?"
I roll my eyes. "That's between you and her. But what in the hell do you think?"
He nods and then rubs his face with his hands. "I called the hospital, but they won't tell me anything. They won't even confirm that she's a patient there! I tried several times, told them Hale, Swan… hell, I even said I was looking for McCarty."
"That's because her status is marked as private. You'd have to know her room number to be able to get to her room."
"Well, I guess after this," he says pointing at the newspaper, "that was a smart idea."
"I didn't even know about this," I admit.
"I thought you said you didn't leave until four?"
"I spent over an hour down in the cafeteria. And she didn't tell me about this," I say as I hold up the newspaper. It's clear the Rosalie kept this from me. She had to know what would happen after the newspaper article. Damnit, I have no idea what to do. Whether Rose consciously made this decision or not, she did it, and now Emmett knows. I swore that I wouldn't get involved in this mess, but thanks to my sister, now I'm smack-dab in the middle. With a resigned sigh, I look up at the big lug who, if I'm being honest, I've missed terribly over these last several months. "Come on inside, Emmett. I need to get dressed, and then I'll take you down to the hospital."
Thirty minutes later—yeah, I thought it best that I shower before leaving home—Emmett is following me down to the hospital. He's been peppering me with questions ever since he showed up at my door. For a moment, I was afraid that he'd follow me into the bathroom and continue talking while I took my shower. That wouldn't have been awkward at all.
As soon as we both park our cars, Emmett is at my side again. "Was it a long labor? How did she hold up? There weren't any complications, were there?" And on and on and on he goes. My head is starting to hurt.
"Emmett, as I've already told you, you need to ask Rose those things. I'm staying out of this."
"I didn't know, Bell," he says softly as I push the doors to the hospital open. "If I ever thought she was going to consider keeping him, I never would've allowed her to walk out. As it was, I was sure she'd come back when she felt better. I'd already decided that I was going to call her later this month. I've missed her."
"You need to tell her all of that."
We take the elevator up to the fifth floor and then step off. After we're buzzed into the maternity unit, I turn to Emmett and poke him in the chest with my finger. "You be nice to her. She's been a wreck for months. I think she's just scared, and she doesn't need you behaving like an asshole the minute you walk in the door."
"Give me just a minute, first."
I knock quietly on the door and then open it up. Rose is sitting in a chair near the window, holding the baby in her arms. She looks so utterly happy that I find myself instantly relaxing and smiling as I walk into the room, allowing the door to close behind me on Emmett.
"How are you doing?" I ask her.
"Really well. He just ate and… Bella, I just can't get over how perfect he is."
I smile broadly. "He looks pretty darn cute to me."
"Oh, before I forget, Dr. Cullen was in here about an hour ago. I think he was disappointed that you weren't here yet. He asked for your number."
"Let me guess, you gave him the number of old dentist?"
Rose chuckles. "No, I actually gave him your cell number. He said he'd call or text when he had the chance today or tomorrow. I think he really likes you, Bells."
"I like him. We had a nice talk last night. But last night you didn't seem too thrilled with me talking to him."
She waves her hand in dismissal. "Did I mention that you were drooling? Because you totally were."
"Yeah, you did. And yeah, I knew. But even you have to admit, he's pretty hot."
"Yeah, sure. And he seems nice. Nothing like he-who-must-not-be-named. That guy was an asshole of epic proportion. Besides, Dr. Cullen asked if there was any way he could get a copy of that tape of Mike."
"I love you, Bella, but you need to stop hiding behind that wall of yours and actually step out and take a chance." Rosalie is eyeing me cautiously. I guess today it's her turn to press me.
"Like you have?" I snark.
She sighs. "I know, but you were already closed in on yourself before I started having issues. You may harass me about keeping you closed up in the apartment, but you started that on your own way before we knew about this little guy. You need to quit hiding behind your sarcasm and actually step out and enjoy life again. Date. Fall in love. Not every guy is a cheating bastard like Jacob."
"Don't say his name," I snap. It just always puts me on edge and brings up too many bad memories. However, Rose is right. I do hide myself, and it's actually been going on for much longer than my break-up with he-who-must-not-be-named. If I'm being completely honest, my compulsion to keep people at arm's length could've been part of what led to Jacob cheating on me to begin with. Before I can say anything else, I hear a soft knock on the door. "Give us a sec," I call.
Rose looks at me in question, and I see my out.
"You didn't tell me about the newspaper article."
Her cheeks flush instantly. "They showed up while you were downstairs. I didn't think much about it."
Conversation successfully diverted off of me.
"I think you considered your options far more than you're willing to admit." I sigh. "Emmett's here, Rose."
"What? How could he get up here? I thought that visitors had to know what room I was in and—"
"I brought him. He saw the paper this morning, and he showed up at the apartment."
It's easy to see that Rosalie wants to be mad about that, but really… it's her doing, not mine.
"You need to talk to him. I'm just… I'm just going to step outside. Are you going home today or tomorrow?"
"Umm. Tomorrow, I think. I still have some questions and—"
I nod. "I'll come back in a few hours." I lean over and kiss my sister on the cheek and then brush my finger over my nephew's chin. "You really are a cutie, little man. See you soon."
One last look at my sister's worried face, and I walk out the door before sending Emmett in behind me. I'm halfway to my car when my phone buzzes with a text from an unfamiliar number.
The grapevine just informed me that you were back on my turf.
I have no idea who this is, I tap out as I open the door to my car and get inside. Though honestly I have a pretty good idea who's texting me.
Sorry, this is Edward, comes the reply a few moments later.
I had to drop off something for my sister.
And you didn't stop to say hello?
I didn't know you were still there.
I'm actually just finishing up my charting. Then I'm out of here unless someone else comes in.
My fingers hover over the keypad for a moment after I read the last message from him. Rose was right earlier when she said that I use humor and sarcasm to hide who I truly am. It's a wall I use to hide behind, to protect myself. I'm great about dishing out advice to my sister and telling her to take a chance and trust Emmett, but I'm crap about taking any relationship risks myself. Outside my windshield I notice a few flakes of snow. I can't help but think about how freshly fallen snow always has a way of feeling like it's truly a new beginning. It's a new year. Time to start over. And if I'm' being completely honest with myself, then I'll admit that I had an amazing time with Dr. Cullen while in the cafeteria the night before. He'd been easy to talk to, and shockingly easy for me to open up to once our conversation got underway. I like him. He's sexy, smart, cute, and very sweet.
Meet me at Starbucks on Main in 30?
See you there.
Maybe it's time to turn over a new leaf. If Rose can work on things with Emmett for the sake of their son, perhaps I can do something for me, too.
You know, aside from helping Edward come up with the best possible way to embarrass Mike.