Hope Springs Eternal Contest

Number of Prompt: 29, but 21 was significant to me at one point, too

Pen-name: XXX

Title: A Kick of Reality

Word Count: 18,389

Rating: T

Pairing: Bella/Edward

Summary: The pain is overwhelming for Bella when she hears that Edward slept with her on a dare. Distraught, Bella takes off in the car, only to end up crushed by a truck. However, it's not just her life in danger – it's her baby's too.

Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight in anyway. No copyright is intended.


January 26th – Present Day

"Mike, shut your face,, or I'll shut it for you," Edward warned in a dangerous tone. Alarm bells went off in my head. It wasn't like Edward to use that tone. Not ever.

"All right, don't get your panties in a twist," Mike Newton replied. I could practically see the smug grin on his arrogant face. He was the very definition of douchebag. He was the sole reason I used to hate Edward Cullen. Mike brought out the worst side to Edward.

"I swear, Mike, if Bella finds out, I will personally kill you with a smile on my face," Edward said in an undertone. I smiled briefly; I liked Edward when he hated Mike just as much as I did. But then my brain actually processed his words.

If Bella found out…

My insides were cold.

Heart stammering, hands shaking, I took a tiny step further into the boy's locker room. The only reason I had snuck out of fifth period was to keep Edward company while the others were sweating it out on the football field. From the classroom window, I had watched him being sent off for head-butting Josh Kelley. Edward took after his brother. Soft as a teddy bear, but with sports, he was a totally different person. I guess there were more sides to Edward than I could keep up with. I saw him sulk off the field and head into the locker rooms. I had no idea Mike had followed.

The silence in the locker room was unnerving. It made my heart sound ten times as loud. I was for sure going to be found eavesdropping. But I needed to know. What was Edward hiding?

"Will you ever tell her?" Mike pressed on despite Edward's threats.

"I mean it, Mike," Edward said quietly. "If you say one more word, I am willing to break my nose to just see you wither on the floor. Your choice." A clatter made me jump, almost making me lose my balance. I suspected Edward had thrown something across the room as a warning to shut Mike up.

Edward was hiding something big from me, and he was going to great lengths to make sure I didn't find out.

From hating Edward completely to being his girlfriend in just over six months, my attitude towards him had done a complete one-eighty. Without Mike Newton as his shadow, Edward was actually someone whom I could actually have a conversation without wanting to slap the stupid cocky grin off his face.

"Fine, but don't come crying to me when Bella finds out that you slept with her on a stupid dare," Mike said just as a locker door slammed shut with enough force to make it come off its hinges.

The words… the very thought… made me feel like I was coming unhinged.

Bile rose to my throat.

The lockers were closing in on me. The nausea in my stomach rolled. Heat rose to my face.

The angered yells beyond the lockers echoed around the room. I heard the scuffle in shaky waves. My hearing was wavering. Every fiber of my being wanted to scream until I was hoarse. I wanted to find Edward and make him feel the pain that was bubbling inside me like a bomb waiting to go off.

Before I could drag my feet further on towards him, a huge kick ripped through my stomach in a wave of pain. It was as if a ton of bricks had been dumped on me.

A kick of reality.

My feet almost gave way. Cradling my stomach, I tried to keep my balance. This wasn't happening. Mike was lying. But then … I had wondered why Edward came to my house that night. It was so random. He knew I despised him.

It had all been a joke.

My breathing spiked into near hyperventilation without warning. The words that I had overheard were starting to sink through me, and I was beginning to choke on them. I couldn't breathe.

The truth was burning me from the inside. The manipulation that I had fallen for. The joke that I had become the butt of. And I fell for his act. Was he lying this whole time? Were they still laughing at me behind my back? But the worse thing was, I had suspected as much the moment I saw Edward Cullen standing on my porch that night.

A jolt pushed against my stomach a second time. Patting my abdomen soothingly, I tried to hold myself together. Usually, I smiled when this happened. It was the only bond I was going to have with the baby. In less than three months, I,, I was going to give it all away.

How could he even face me every day? Tell me everything was going to be okay! It was never going to be okay.

All for a stupid dare!

The bomb that had been waiting to go off inside me exploded. My vision turned red. My body shook violently.

I rounded the corner of the locker room. It didn't take them long to realize that I was watching. And it took even less to figure out that I had heard everything.

Edward was on his feet in seconds, leaving Mike lying all bloody on the grey- tiled floor. Edward definitely looked worse for wear. I didn't feel an ounce of sympathy for him.

"Bella," he murmured, shocked to see me standing before him. "Bella…please..."

Edward and I stared at each other for a long minute. Mike seemed to evaporate from my sight. He no longer existed to me at the moment. The only thing I was focused on was Edward's bloody face. I tried to figure out what he was thinking.

With my intense stare scrutinising every part of him, Edward dropped his gaze and hung his head. "Tell me the truth," I said eventually, my tone surprisingly even.

"Bella, don't listen to Mike. He is such a dick, he likes to…" Edward started to mumble.

It was un-Edward like. Edward never mumbled. He was always too full of himself. Too sure for his own good. His mumbles gave him away.

The truth stabbed at my heart.

Before I could stop myself, I laughed bitterly. "Be a man and admit it, Edward," I barked. "Tell me the truth. You slept with me. On a dare?"

My gaze bored into Edward so deeply, I felt as if he should have been on fire. "Bell…Bella…" Edward met my eyes briefly before looking away. Blood oozed thickly out of his nose.

Ignoring the blood, I clenched my fists. "You can't charm your way out of this one," I said stiffly. "Admit that you came over that night with the intention of getting me in bed."

"It wasn't like—"

"No," I screamed. "I don't want any more lies!" The inferno from the bomb within me was raging uncontrollably. "Look at me," I demanded when Edward said nothing. Slowly, Edward's gaze returned to my face and shamefully stayed there. "I spilled my guts to you that night. Was what you said even true about your real mom? Was it all lies, Edward?"

"It's not…" Edward began. "I…Can we please get out of here and talk about this? You weren't meant to hear it that way. I was…"

"Going to tell me?" I scoffed. "Yeah, sure you were. Now tell me the truth. You slept with me, for a dare? Concocted by that withering idiot, no doubt?" I glared at Mike, but he was feeling too sorry for himself to notice.

Waiting for the answer was agonizing. But slowly, Edward nodded his head.

The small nod was all it took for my world to almost collapse. The wind was knocked right out of me, my lungs aching as the air seemed to disappear completely.


When I was nine, my mom's boyfriend, Phil, locked me in my wooden toy trunk. He screamed at me for spilling the milk, and as a punishment, he emptied out my toy box and threw me in. His vile face was the last thing I saw before he closed the lid firmly shut, locking it so I couldn't get out. Ever since, I hated small spaces. Sometimes, at night, I still woke up in a pool of sweat, struggling to breathe.

After hearing Edward's confession, I stormed off, getting into the car and just driving without thinking about where I was heading. My hands shook as I tried to keep myself steady at the wheel.

My lungs were on fire. I should have pulled over, but I needed to get away. I needed to be as far away from him as I possibly could.

My knuckles were deathly white as I gripped the steering wheel. My foot pushed the gas pedal, the speed odometer blurring out of my sight as I sped up, winding through the empty road.

A another kick pushed against my stomach as I drove aimlessly in anger. With a foot pressing on my stomach, I slowed down and tried to the breathing exercises that I had been taught.


The red tinge wasfading just as another push kicked at my stomach. This time my hand went automatically to my abdomen in a comforting way. The little squirmer that was growing inside me helped with the anger. It helped with my breathing. We had a connection, a bond, and he knew when I needed to keep myself in check.

My breathing almost completely controlled as I slowed down to a four way stop. As the wheels of Edward's Volvo, which I had practically stole since I was without my truck, slowed down, my cell phone buzzed in the seat next to me. With a quick glance to the flashing screen, I was not surprised to see Edward's name glaring at me.

"Yes, because I am going to answer your call right now," I muttered to myself. "I don't think so, Edward!"

With another last glance at the phone, I took my foot off the break and hit the gas slowly. A fourth kick in the stomach left me with sudden panic. Still time it the kick was a pain that I had never experienced before. My heart fluttered uneasily. Clamping my lips together, trying to contain the pain inside me, I tried to ignore it. The phone on the passenger's seat still buzzed away as I crossed the four way stop.


Another jolt of pained creased my right belly, leaving me distracted from the road.

At the same time as I rubbed my growing belly, an abrupt sound screeched from the left.

The noise panicked me. A long, continuous blast of a horn from a truck. It was distinctive. I could be blind and still know the sound from anywhere.

My instincts abandoned me, and I turned in sheer panic just in time to see a green log truck fly towards the tiny Volvo.

My flight instinct took over a few seconds too late, and I hit the gas pedal in attempt to get out of oncoming truck.

The air was knocked out of my lungs before I felt the impact from the back end of the Volvo.. I was awake, groggy, crushed against the steering wheel. TTTThe rest of the car seemed to be crumpling in towards me. Enclosing me.

I was back in my toy trunk. Locked away.

But this time, I had my baby to worry about.


August 7 2011

The noise coming from my nightstand sounded like a jackhammer drilling through my bedroom. Stiffly, I shrugged the duvet off my shoulders and lazily turned toward it. My cell phone was vibrating nosily for my attention. It was barely three in the morning.

"Goway," I mumbled into the phone.

Without glancing at the caller I.D., I answered. "Mmmm?"

"Edward?" the familiar voice replied.

Suddenly, I was wide awake.


Slowly sitting up, the phone still glued to my ear, I turned towards the right side of my bed. A lump had formed in my purple duvet. A human-sized lump.

With my heart stammering and my body frozen over in shock and panic, I gave myself a mental shake before I pulled back the duvet ever so gently. Just an inch. That's all it needed.

"Edward?" the seemingly distant voice interrupted my dazed state.

My eyes averted away. "Edward? You better get home before Mom finds out you stayed out all night."

Shit. Crap. Fuck!


Without a word I quickly pressed "end" on the touch screen and dropped it like a hot poker.

I tried to calm myself down,,, nb but it was so wrong. Edward Cullen was lying in my bed.

My heart skipped a beat

Edward Cullen was lying in my bed.

Closing my eyes, I tried to remember what had happened just a few hours earlier. Before I could piece anything together, the lump in my bed moved, turning fully around. The covers were pulled away from the lump as it moved, exposing his whole head….his neck…his chest.

God. NO!

Heart stammering, I looked down at myself. I was fully naked. My hands quickly felt down my body, feeling down my smooth skin, right towards…

Yep. Naked.

Tearing my eyes away from my own exposed flash, I glanced towards my right. As much of an arrogant pig as Edward Cullen was, he was quite beautiful. His tousled bronze hair flopped out across my pillow, sticking up all over the place like it had its own zip code. His mouth was hanging open, much like mine was, but instead of shock and panic, it retained something that I had never seen on Edward Cullen before. Not smiling arrogantly, with a quick flash of teeth if he was trying to charm you – a move he used several times on the foolish girls at school. His lips weren't turned into a smug smile, or cocky grin. Although the room was only half lit from the street lights outside, I could see his pink, full lips, parted in slumber, showing something of sweet innocence, a rare look on his usually irritating face.

Or it was irritating to me. I was the only girl in school who hated Edward Cullen.

Yet, here he was lying in my bed.

It wasn't something to be proud of. My skin crawled. What had I been thinking? What type of idiot was I?

The alcohol part was clear in my mind. But where did Edward enter the picture? And Charlie? It wasn't like him to not check on me before he went to bed.



"I'll be back by morning, okay?" Charlie said. He was already home when I had arrived back from work. I was startled; he usually got in the door after me.

"Sure," I replied vaguely, my attention on my laptop in front of me. I was too busy digesting an email from my mother. My bitch of a mother. Anger was boiling up inside me, Charlie's words barely touching the surface.

"Bella?" Charlie was by my side. I slammed the laptop forcefully, not wanting Charlie to know what she had said.

"Mmmm?" I couldn't speak properly. I smiled, though, not wanting Charlie to miss whatever it was he had just explained to me where he was going for the night.

"Call if you need anything," Charlie said, eyeing me suspiciously. "I should be back by the time you go to work…if not, then I will see you at the usual time." Charlie fastened his jacket, his face serious.

Right. Murder in Port Angeles. Forks resident a suspect. Charlie volunteering to lend an extra pair of hands as they closed in on the murderer.

"I'll be fine," I said. "Just be careful."

Charlie nodded solemnly. "I just hope I can be of help."

"You will be," I told him, my voice ragged. "They wouldn't have called you otherwise. You knew James. If it was him, you can help."

My father gave me a firm pat on the shoulder before he picked up his overnight bag and set off out the door. The second I heard the cruiser's engine turn on, I headed for Charlie's liquor cabinet.

I was lucky that Charlie was only a beer drinker, and his good stuff, which he gained over the years as gifts, stood untouched in the small cupboard by the oven.

Reaching towards the back, my fingers caressed the neck of a full bottle of vodka. Pulling it out of its darkened home, I raised my eyebrows at the clear liquid. This was the type of drink that my so-called mother's boyfriend would choose. That and whisky. He preferred the stronger stuff.

My stomach turned at the thought of Phil. Would I be as bad as him if I repeated his actions? Anger boiled through me in a hot instant. Thinking about that piece of shit was enough to drive anyone to drink. But it was my mother that had gotten me in a rage before Charlie had begun to tell me he was leaving for the night.

Defending him…how could she?

With my hand shaking, I stood straight and slammed the large bottle onto the counter. Instead of getting a glass, I opened the blue bottle top and threw it on the counter. I watched it bounce away from me and onto the floor.

I held up the bottle and squinted at the liquid inside. I was never a drinker. Hell, I didn't think I had ever been properly drunk. But…

"Fuck it," I whispered to the bottle. "Monkey see, monkey do, right?"

Without another thought, I tipped the bottle to my lips and took the biggest chug my gag reflexes allowed.

Vile. Poison. Burning.

It was as disgusting as it smelled. The moment it passed my lips I wanted to spit it out, but I forced it down my throat, my anger burning harder than the vodka. Fire formed in my throat, followed by a huge blaze in my stomach.

"Gross," I said out loud before tipping the bottle back into my mouth. Before I could swallow the second chug of liquor, the doorbell rang, starling me. In fright, I almost dropped the glass bottle, spilling some of its contents over my hand.

"Shit," I cursed. Wiping my mouth, I settled the bottle back on the counter. Was Charlie back? Did he forget his key? I edged towards the kitchen window, but it wasn't the cruiser that I saw in the driveway.

"What the fuck is Edward Cullen doing here?" A shiny-look-at-me, Aston Martin was gleaming in the driveway, looking extra fancy through the dull foggy day.

In my daze staring at the car, Edward had moved away from the front door and somehow spotted me in the window. We met each other's gaze for a moment, before I quickly backed away from the window.

"Damn it!" Edward Cullen had never been to my house. I despised him. I wasn't a silly little girl who fawned over him with each step he made like the other girls in my grade. Why was he suddenly at my door, ringing my doorbell? A dare? A prank? Were his followers sitting in a car along the road, watching?

Well, screw them. Backing away from the window, I went back to my choice of poison and took a large, unnecessary gulp. The burn was more intense this time, but I didn't immediately want to throw up.

In fact, it made me feel a little better.

A satisfied smile crept over my face as I leaned back onto the counter. Edward Cullen could stand there all he liked; I wasn't going to play dice.

A sharp rap on the kitchen window changed my mind in an instant, though. I looked up to see the golden boy staring into my kitchen, smirking at me. "It's rude to not answer the door when someone calls round," I heard him say through the window.

"And it's illegal to be a peeping tom," I retorted nonchalantly. "Now, get lost!"

Edward's smirk faded, a look of regret landing in its place. "Ah, don't be like that," he said through the glass. "Let me in?"

"Why should I?" I held onto my bottle of vodka tighter. My mom had already ruined my day; I wasn't going to let him tip me over the edge.

"Please?" Edward tried his most famous smile. A crooked grin that had all the girls drooling. Pathetic.

But then I did something that I wouldn't have done if it hadn't been in the heat of anger. I opened the front door and let him inside. "What do you want, Edward?"

Edward took in the small house with his green eyes darting at every nook and cranny. His own house was a mini mansion. Everyone knew that the Cullens, who holed up just outside of Forks, were loaded. "Nice place," he commented as he followed me into the kitchen.
I turned defensively, unsure if he was being sarcastic of not. "Why are you here?" I barked at him, regretting my foolish decision to let him in.

"Is that vodka?" Edward answered, pointing at the bottle in my hand.

"No, it's soda," I said starkly. "Why are you here?"

"Can I have a drink?" Edward looked hopeful. It was then I saw that he had dropped the façade he usually had. He was looking very much like me. He was angry for some reason.

"What, Golden Boy actually wants to do something rebellious?" I asked. Edward's face flashed. I hit a sore spot. Suddenly, I was feeling regretful for opening my mouth. I didn't like Edward much. I always saw through him, but this was the first time I had seen him look…real. Not flashy with his fancy cars, with girls as shadows and his many friends following his every move. For once, Edward looked like someone I could actually relate to.

Wordlessly I handed him the vodka bottle. With a nod of thanks, he lifted the bottle to his lips and took a long hard gulp.

With a ghost of his usual cockiness, Edward jumped up onto my table. I took a sip of liquor before handing it back. "One word," Edward said. He gulped more of the vile drink, wiping his mouth as he set it on the table. "Parents," he finished as I reached back for the bottle.

I laughed bitterly.

"Look at us. W.hat a pair we make," Edward said. "We actually have something in common."

My eyes narrowed. His comment brought me up short. Our parents were nothing alike. Or at least my mother was nothing like his mother. What could have possibly ticked Edward off so much that it brought him to my house? Did his parents cut him off? Were they threatening to take his car away?

We couldn't possibly have anything in common.

"I doubt it," I said coldly. "I bet your mom wouldn't run away with the man that abused you for years."

This genuinely seemed to shock Edward. His mouth fell open as if to say something, but no words came. He closed his mouth and just gaped at me.

"Whoa," he said softly. "I…I didn't know. I'm sorry."

"Right," I said with steel. "Awesome. Now tell me why are you here, Edward? Did Mommy and Daddy take away something? Did they threaten to take your allowance away? What is it exactly we have in common?"

Like the satisfaction of slamming a door after an argument, I took the biggest sip of vodka I could to make me feel better. I was angry, and I disliked Edward Cullen. Yet, he was in my house, staring at me with a blank stare on his face.

"Actually, it's my real parents that are fucked up," Edward said bitterly. Shit. Why was I always too quick to judge? I opened my mouth to apologise for my comment, but Edward shook his head. "See, we do have something in common."

Slipping off the table, Edward walked towards me. I watched his every step. As soon as he was close enough, I could smell him. A sweet mix of honey, orange blossoms and for some reason, the sun. It was better than any cologne I had ever taken a whiff of before.

His closeness took me off guard. I avoided this boy like the plague. Now he was inches from me, staring at me like I was something to eat.

He touched my cheek softly, his warm hand connected to my face like uncontrolled electricity. My heart jumped, and I wasn't one hundred percent sure I was breathing properly.

A soft smile pressed on his lips as he gazed into my eyes. "You are beautiful," he whispered. "I have always known it…but now…" His hand on my cheek moved down my face, slowly, trailing towards my lips. "You're as soft as you look," he said, his other hand touched mine, before pulling the vodka bottle out of it. "I came here because you are different. You are real…you actually have a personality. Unlike Lauren or Jessica." Edward swigged at the bottle and gulped. "You show me yours, I'll show you mine," he said softly, leaning close enough that I could practically taste him.

His presence had frozen all my thoughts. I was barely aware of what he was talking about. His hand touched my shoulder, slowly, gently, rubbing its way down my arm. Shivers of fire were left in its wake.

"Come on. Let's split this bottle and spill our guts," he whispered in my ear.


Present Day

Gulping at the air around me, I tried to focus. The pain screeching through my entire body was agonizing. I wished to just pass out, but the little squirmer was no longer squirming. The car and truck had squished me tightly. I was enclosed completely. How was I even alive, let alone awake?

Moving my hand to protectively cover my budging belly was impossible.

Fear quivered through me more than anything.

"Help," I screamed. "Please help, someone! Anyone? Please!" My thoughts were focused on the baby. The overwhelming feeling to protect him was drowning me, to the point when the pain was no longer an issue. My feelings were second to the need to protect the life growing inside me - depending on me.

Everything that had happened in the last ten minutes, the truth that I had learned about. Whether our relationship was based on a school-boy prank, I didn't care. I wanted Edward.

"Edward?" I called, knowing he was nowhere near me. "Edward, please help! Edward, I need you!" I screamed with a wash of tears. "I don't care, Edward. Please…Please…."

Yanking forcefully, I freed my arm with an almighty roar. "Shit," I sobbed. Although it was discolored, it didn't feel broken. Instantly, I placed my hand over my belly. To my horror, my bulge looked deformed as it was crushed against the steering wheel. Feverishly, I tried to use my hand to pull back the seat, to get myself way from the steering wheel that was squashing the baby and me, but no matter how hard I tried, the lever wouldn't bulge.

"Come on, you stupid piece of crap," I roared as I pulled harder on the seat lever. "Just move, God damn it!"

Blasting on the car horn in rage over and over, when the seat wouldn't move, I was almost oblivious to a voice from outside trying to get my attention.

"Hello? Can anyone hear me? Help is coming. Just try to stay calm," someone shouted inside a gap in the car. I noticed that both the passenger and driver seat windows were smashed in. As I tried to squirm my body towards the voice, I noticed that my left shoulder had large pieces of glass embedded into the flesh. My baby blue sweater was now red.

The pain and the fear were both overwhelming me to the point that I almost lost it at the sight of the red stained sweater. Every second I was in danger, the baby was more at risk.

"Edward," I shouted. "Can you get Edward!"


"Edward," I yelled hoarsely. "Can you call my boyfriend? I need him here!"

September 9

For a whole month following that night, neither Edward nor I had spoken more than two words to each other. It was immediately clear that I wasn't the only one regretting what had happened between us.

So I was surprised when Edward stopped me before going to biology – the only class we have together.

A firm grip caught me around my arm, pulling me backwards, and making me tumble out of balance. Before I fell to the ground, a second hand came to the rescue to hold me upright.

"Hey!" I groaned as I shrugged out of his grip. My cheeks burned at the sight of Edward Cullen standing so close to me, but not in embarrassment. In anger. The pair of green eyes were smiling down at me with amusement.

"Always so clumsy," he muttered with a grin.

"What do you want, Edward?" I glared up at him with as much hatred as I could find. Since that night, I felt the need to hate him even more than usual. Although I knew it wasn't fair, I decided to blame him.

Of course, deep down, I knew it was…a mutual mistake.

It takes two after all…

Still, his cocky grin pissed me off.

Edward tried to gain his composure. "Sorry," he said quietly. "I just thought it was about time we talked."

"About?" I didn't see the point. "It's been a month. What happened…was a mistake, we both agreed on that. Just leave it be."

As I turned to walk away, Edward pulled me back again, spinning me around to face him. My eyes flared, but I bit my tongue as I didn't want the whole school knowing what we were discussing.

"Yeah, that's why I wanted to talk to you. I feel like a jerk just leaving and never even talking to you afterward."

I rolled my eyes as I shrugged. "Save it, Edward. I honestly don't care."

Edward let go of my arm abruptly, his face transforming into the arrogant dick that he was while at school. "Right. Whatever. Don't say I didn't try."

As I walked away, I felt a pang of more regret. But before I could do the right thing and apologize for being a bitch, a wave of dizziness overcame me, and I stopped in my tracks. The corridor felt as if it was emptying of oxygen. The horrible feeling of tunnel vision made the line of lockers in front of me narrow, closing in on each other. My legs wouldn't move. They had become Jell-O.

"Bella? Are you okay…you look…" But I never found out how I looked as Edward's words echoed away from me. Before I met the ground, I saw the memorable pair of green eyes in front of me. Edward's lips were moving, but the only sound I heard was the whooshing in my ears. Then everything blacked out.

A tight pressure on my arm woke me some time later. As I opened my eyes, I instantly realized I was in the hospital. Too many broken bones in past years told me that. So when I spotted the motherly looking woman at my side, after taking in my surroundings, I knew she was a nurse. At her side was a familiar machine, with one of the wires attached to a cuff that was causing the tightness in my arm. Getting my blood pressure taken was sorer than it looked.

"You're awake," the nurse said with a kind smile. "I'm Maxine. How you feeling, hon?"

Trying not to move too much, I shifted my weight a little on the bed to get more comfortable. "Um…" I gulped. I wasn't sure how I felt. "Weird," I said finally just as the machine beeped. Red numbers flashed up on the screen, but they meant nothing to me.

Maxine spared me another kind smile, before she noted the numbers on a chart. "You had a bit of a dizzy spell and collapsed at school. Your body was lacking a number of vital things that it needs, and it just gave in. We gave you some fluids, which seem to be working." The nurse held up a thermometer. "Do you mind?"

Shaking my head, I moved my hair away from my ear before Maxine stuck in the device. Once it beeped, she removed it and recorded my temperature.

"What do you mean I was lacking vital things that my body needs?" I had felt fine before biology. It was only a few seconds of being out of sorts before I was lost into the darkness.

"Bella, do you have any inclination as to why you collapsed this afternoon?"

For some reason I wracked my brains for an answer. But, really, how was I supposed to know? "Um…no."

Maxine nodded to herself before taking a breath. "It is routine to do basic tests on people who come through the doors, unconscious or not. We got some blood from you, which is in the lab right now. But we also did a urine sample through a catheter while you were still unconscious." She was speaking to me slowly, as if I would have prior knowledge to what she was talking about.

"Right, okay," I said. "Then I have a urine infection?"

Keeping eye contact with me, Maxine shook her head sadly. "Bella, we did a pregnancy test."

My world froze. I couldn't move. I couldn't speak. I could only stare at the nurse's mouth, trying to catch every single word that she spoke.

"…And it came back positive," she continued when I made no move to say anything.

A cool hand touched mine. "Bella?"

"No," I whispered.

"Yes," the nurse said softly.

"Do it again!"

I don't know what happened to the nurse, but I soon realised I was on my own. All I could do was stare into space. For the hundredth time in the last month, I recalled the night that Edward and I…

Had sex. There was no two ways about it.

We had sex.

Unprotected sex.

The nurse re-appeared out of thin air, illustrating my lack of attention. A soothing hand touched my shoulder, as if to shake me back into reality. "Bella, if you want us to do another pregnancy test while we wait on the blood work, you need to pee in this." She put a clear tub in my hand. "Usually we just dip the urine, but I think you need to see an actual pregnancy test." Maxine's eyes were watching me warily. "Are you okay? Do you want me to help you?"

It was then I snapped out of it. Of course I didn't need help. Who needed help to pee in a cup? Besides, it was one way of proving her test wrong.

Slipping out of bed and walking straight past the nurse without a word and without taking my time to get used to my legs which were threatening to make me all flat on my face, I went into the adjoined bathroom and closed the door.

Fortunately, the IV had kept me well hydrated, and I managed to fill the tub more than half way. Without stopping to flush or even wash my hands, I carefully left the bathroom and handed the tub to the waiting nurse, who was now wearing latex gloves.

Maxine took the tub and left the room to give me a moment to adjust. I sat on the edge of the bed, my legs barely touching the ground, and stared blankly at the wall in front of me.

The nurse seemed to have been gone for what felt like a week, but when she eventually came back, she was holding what looked like the thermometer that my mom used to put into my mouth as a child to check for a fever. I almost laughed at the comparison now, but instead, I bit my lip, trying to prepare myself for what I was going to see on the stick in the nurse's hand.

Mutually, we both knew what should happen next. She handed me the stick just as I reached for it.

Closing my eyes, I clutched the small white stick in my hand.

"Take your time," the nurse said quietly. It was the incentive that I needed. I swallowed what little saliva in my dry mouth and opened my eyes.

The only pregnancy test I had seen with my own eyes was the one that Renee bought when she thought she was pregnant two years ago. She made me sit with her while she peed on the stick, and together, we watched while only one line appeared. Negative.

With my heart hammering faster than a hummingbird's wings, I glanced down at the stick in my hand.

One is negative….One is negative…One is…

"Two lines," I whispered. Staring back at me were two little blue lines. From where I was sitting, they looked like two bright blue neon lights, flashing "You're pregnant, you're pregnant, YOU'RE PREGNANT!"

Instantly, I dropped the stick as if it were the plague, darted into the bed, threw the covers over me, and closed my eyes.

This wasn't real.

"What am I going to do?" I said in a small voice. "I have ruined everything!"

No matter how distraught I was feeling, no tears seemed to come. Every possibility ran through my mind. Every scenario that I would have to face played around in my mind.

Telling Charlie. Telling Edward. Telling everyone else. Giving up the baby. Getting rid of it. Keeping it. Being a mom. Not going to college. Struggling with money.

Everything played around in my mind. And I hated every single scenario. I didn't want any of them.

Maxine left me alone a few minutes at a time while we waited for Charlie to come back. She promised she would stay with me. I tried to get out of telling him. Put it off, I said. But Maxine convinced me that Charlie would rather know sooner than later.

She promised to stay with me. I needed a buffer. I didn't want Charlie to shout at me, though I deserved it. I dreaded his face when I broke the news.

When coming back from her duties the second time, Maxine brought me a steaming yellow mug. She smiled kindly as she handed it to me. I took it gently in my hand, aware that it was scorching hot, and inhaled.

"Hot chocolate," she said. "It always makes me feel better."

Glancing down at the hot chocolate filled to the brim of the bright yellow mug, a huge lump formed in my throat. Coffee always made me feel better. I wasn't much of a hot chocolate kind of person. Coffee was my band aid. Now I would have to have it in moderation. Pregnant women weren't allowed caffeine in large doses.

The yellow mug seemed to be filled with the screaming truth of the situation. Before the nurse handed me the hot chocolate, I was pretending it was all a dream. Now, the world seemed to be collapsing. One tiny gesture, in aid to make me feel better, had thrown me off kilter.

This was real.

I was really pregnant.

Before I could digest my reality any more, the door opened, and an ashen-faced Charlie walked in. I was shaking so much that the nurse hurried to grab the yellow mug from me.

Charlie and I stared at each other.

"Bella?" Charlie was already filled with anxiety.

"Dad," I whispered. My voice was already shaking. "Dad…" I glanced at Maxine. She nodded subtly in encouragement.

"What's wrong? Have your blood tests come back? Is it serious?" Charlie looked at the nurse for answers, but Maxine didn't say a word. "Bella, please, I'm having a heart attack here."

Biting my lips to stop the flood gates from opening, I tried to think of an easy way to tell my father that I had made the worst mistake in my entire life. That he was right to worry about me. Because apparently I make bad and foolish decisions.

"Daddy," I whispered. The tears came at the very word. I felt five years old again. "Daddy, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry, Dad. Please forgive me…" I was a mess by the time the last word came. Every inch of me was shaking, and I could barely see from the tears.

"Bella, please, tell me what is wrong? What are you sorry for?" I could just make out that Charlie was standing over me, looking down with heavy concern, having no idea how to console his daughter.

I had to make it right. I at least owed Charlie to tell him straight. Taking small breaths and wiping my eyes, I looked up at my father. "I'm so sorry, Dad," I whispered. "I'm pregnant."


The moment my blood tests came back clear, with the exception of confirming that I was indeed pregnant, Charlie ordered me to get dressed. Once the words had come out my mouth, Charlie asked every question that I knew he would. The first being, "Who is the father?"

There was no way I could lie. He would have eventually found out. He was the Police Chief, and I was sure he would interrogate every boy at my school. Charlie wasn't the only one to be shocked to learn that Edward Cullen was the father. Maxine had been standing quietly in the corner of the room while Charlie went into a rage of questions.

When I admitted who the father was, the nurse made a noise of surprise. Charlie swiftly turned and batted his rage towards her. "Where is Carlisle?"

"He's…He's off today, Chief," Maxine replied in a hurry.

"Right, we'll go to him," Charlie stormed.

There was no compromising. I cried more than I thought was possible. I begged, pleaded with everything I had, but Charlie made me get into the cruiser the minute I was declared physically well enough. The journey was one of the worst I could ever recall. I cried the whole way, while Charlie decided to give me the silent treatment. The whole while, he held the steering wheel white-knuckled. The atmosphere had never been so tense between Charlie and me.

It was horrible.

Carlisle answered the door to the large Cullen house, with me, red-faced, in Charlie's shadow. All the years the Cullens had lived in Forks, I had barely seen Dr. Cullen. It was odd to see him in casual clothes: a simple blue polo shirt and plaid pants.

His expression turned from friendly to serious on opening the door. "Charlie, is everything okay?" Carlisle glanced behind my father at me. "Bella…"
Charlie cut off Carlisle's concerns. "Is Edward home?"

Carlisle blinked, confused. "Yeah, he's…"
The front door was opened wider. Inside, I could see Edward frozen in the middle of the living room. His eyes went from my father to me. It was if he had read our minds. And I had read his. In an instant, he knew that Charlie was in the know about us sleeping together. His frozen features said it all.

Before anyone could say anything, Edward's mom appeared at the foot of the stairs to our left. "Is everything okay?" she inquired softly. It didn't take much to realize that everything was not okay, but from the little contact I had with Esme Cullen, she was not the confrontational type of person.

"I'm not sure, Esme. The Chief wants to speak to Edward," Carlisle said. He still seemed to be wondering what on earth his son could have done. He was slower than Edward to guess why my father had dragged me to their home, but probably like Charlie, Carlisle wouldn't have thought his son was stupid enough to have unprotected sex.

"Please, come in," Esme said to Charlie and me still as polite as ever. The two heads of the Cullen household stepped aside and let both Charlie and me into their gracious and ever so warm home.

I had never been into the large house just outside Forks. I had no need to be there until that moment. Normally, I avoided Edward, and he avoided me. And Alice and I were only on a casual conversation basis. We were never really friends. The oldest brother, Emmett, was at university in California with Rosalie Hale. But we were never friends.

Red faced, shaking, and on the verge of tears, I trotted behind Charlie timidly. We both sat on the small loveseat on the gesture of Carlisle as he and Esme. Edward was still standing in the middle of the room. He must have realized he was in the way, so he perched on the arm rest of the other free sofa.

No one said anything to begin with. I wasn't sure where Charlie was going to start. Would he start accusing Edward of things? Would he threaten him?

Edward could only know partly why Charlie was now seated in his living room with me in tow. He couldn't possibly know that he was about to get his life was about to change forever.

For lack of something to do, I stared at my feet. I was too scared to look anywhere else.

"Charlie, Bella, can I offer either of you something to drink?" Esme broke the ice. I shook my head to decline. Charlie must have copied my gesture because he didn't speak, and Esme didn't move.

Finally, after what seemed like a year of agonizing silence from Charlie, he cleared his throat. "Sorry to barge in on you like this, Carlisle, Esme, but I have some news that concerns Edward."

My heart was going way too fast, and I began sweating again. Was this what criminals felt when they were caught? I felt like I had just been accused of murder. Now Charlie was going to drag both Edward and me over steaming hot coals in front of everyone.

"Right," Carlisle said calmly. "Tells us. What did he do?"

It was then I looked up.

"No," I said, finding my voice. It didn't seem fair to let Edward take the heat for it all. "Edward isn't entirely to blame." My face burned red while everyone, including Edward, stared at me. By this time, I noticed that Alice had appeared.

Charlie had turned to stone by my side. I could feel his usually kind eyes burning through me. But I wouldn't let Edward take the blame for this. It wasn't right.

"Can someone just explain, please," Alice said. "We'll decide if Edward is to blame or not." She then looked at her brother accusingly, but the way Edward looked back, it was if they too shared a mind reading connection. Alice then looked at me before she sank back in her chair.

She figured it out. She knew it was me on the phone that night just over a month ago when Edward had not come home. She knew we had slept together. But still, she was about to get a shock when she realized the consequences of that night were.

"Right you are," Charlie said stiffly. "You may as well all know." Charlie paused. For the first time in probably his whole life, he sounded unsure of himself. I made myself look into his eyes. Looking back at me was a whole tsunami of emotions: worry, disappointment, anger, regret, guilt, shock…and worse of all: grief.

My lip started trembling. "I'm sorry," I whispered, trying anything to make it better.

Charlie didn't say anything. He looked away and faced Carlisle and Esme. I saw him open his mouth, about to tell them, before he changed his mind and stared straight at Edward. "Bella's pregnant," he told him in a surprisingly even tone.

Charlie's tsunami of emotions was released onto everyone else.

Shock. Anger. Crying. Lots of yelling.

Everyone started speaking at once. Esme was crying. Carlisle was trying to get his son to respond. Alice was trying to get everyone to shut up. Charlie was yelling at Edward.

I just sat there. Lost. Scared. Wishing it wasn't real.

It was Alice that took over. Sometime in the chaos of people yelling and crying, she appeared at my side. I felt her presence, but I was too afraid to look at her. "Shut the hell up, all of you!" she yelled louder than the others put together. The room fell silent immediately. Everyone stopped and sat down as if they had been scolded by a school teacher.

"Thank you," Alice said. "What is shouting and crying going to solve? Can we keep quiet and just talk like civil adults for one minute, please?"

You could hear a pin drop. No one else spoke for a long moment. Everyone was immersed with their own thoughts. No one was looking at each other either. Instead of my own feet, my eyes had wandered to Edward's white sneakers. Looking at his feet was as close to looking at Edward as I had managed since realizing he knew why Charlie had knocked on their door.

"You're right, Alice," my father spoke, breaking the silence once again. This time, he was more himself. He seemed to have vented out most of his shock and anger. "We need to discuss what we should do now. It's time we all acted like adults. I'm sorry for my part in yelling. I didn't mean to lose my temper."

"Me too," Carlisle said. "We really should take a breath and discuss what we should…"
"No," I interrupted. Everyone was staring at me; I could feel it. I looked up from Edward's shoes.

"No, what?" Charlie said softly, speaking only to me.

I didn't look at anyone directly. But I told them, "No. There is no 'we should' in this." I gestured to everyone in the room in general. "This is an "Edward and me" decision. "

"Come on, Bells, don't be a child. We can discuss this like adults," Charlie said, a little strained.

With sudden determination, I shook my head. "No, Dad. I am being an adult. This is for Edward and me to decide. We got into this mess, so we should be the ones to talk about it first before anyone else gets involved." I knew I was right. I knew it was what we should do.

"Bella is right," Esme said. Her voice was thick with tears. "They are responsible now. They should talk it out together." She looked at her son with a ghost of a smile. "Why don't you and Bella go to the basement and talk? We'll still be here when you get back."

Out the corner of my eye, I saw Edward nod once. With his approval, I scurried out of my seat and followed him without a single glance back to the others.


The basement had been decked out to resemble a place I had only seen on MTV Cribs. It had a bar with stools around it. There was a large pool table in the middle of the room. A line of arcade games on the left wall. A bright red corner sofa in the corner opposite a large plasma TV. Underneath was a glass cabinet with several games consoles placed neatly inside. The walls were decorated with different pieces of bright art. There was so much to look at that my eyes couldn't keep up as Edward led me to the large red sofa.

Sitting down was more welcome than a fresh cup of coffee in the morning. It was so comfortable, but it was the first time since I had seen the two blue lines on the pregnancy test that I felt more myself again. I was able to breathe freely and the tightness in my chest and the handful of worry that was running through my veins seemed to disappear the moment I sat down.

Edward sat opposite me, his eyes trained on mine. Here in the comfort of the basement, I felt able to look at him.

"I'm sorry," he said stiffly. "I didn't mean for this…"
Shaking my head, I stopped him. "Don't," I insisted. "I already said that it wasn't your fault. I don't see why the guys always get the blame. It was a two way street, and we both walked down it willingly."

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Edward sighed heavily. "This wasn't supposed to happen."

"Right. Obviously not. But it was a stupid accident. We were careless. Now we have to decide what to do."

"No I mean…Before I even... It wasn't supposed to…" Edward's eyes flashed angrily. "It was just a…"
"Can we save the regrets for later? I interrupted. "We need to really talk about this. It won't go away."
Edward shook his head sadly. His stare was haunting. "Bella you don't understand. I…You were wrong…It was all my fault…I need to…" he gulped. Our stare held for seconds, before he dropped it and looked away. "Yes. Let's talk. Figure out the right thing to do." Edward took a breath. "Are you okay? When you fainted today…I thought the worst. Was it the…" Edward glanced at my stomach.

"Yes. My body was exhausted, and I had low blood pressure and sugar. Apparently it happens with pregnant women." My eyes went wide. Pregnant women. That was me.

I kept getting those bursts of shocks every time reality hit. I was coping one minute, the next I was trying to deny it, and when I realised it was all true, I was shocked all over again.

"I was worried," Edward said quietly. We fell into silence for a few minutes.

We both knew the options, but neither of us wanted to say it out loud. But the situation wasn't going to go anywhere. The options had run through my head any spare second I had between crying and worrying. But I had never actually got to a point where I knew what I wanted.

"You have had longer to think about it," Edward said, "so, what do you think we should do?"

Closing my eyes, I shrugged my shoulders. "I honestly don't know," I mumbled.

"Do you want a baby?"

"No," I answered so fast that I sucked in a breath in surprise. My eyes flew open, and I stared at Edward. "I mean…I don't know. I mean…" Tears came before I could stop them. Without caring about crying in front of Edward, I let them come.

Edward came to sit beside me. His arm circled around my waist. It was welcome comfort.

"Hey," he whispered. "Don't. Shhh. We can handle this, okay?"

"What do you want?" I asked. "What do you really want?"

My tears were wiped away with Edward's warm fingers. With only the hum of an unseen refrigerator somewhere in the basement, we stayed in silence. Edward held me while he thought. He was back to being the Edward that had come to my house that night. He was different then. It was an Edward I liked. Which was probably why I…well, how we ended up in this mess.

"I honestly don't know what to think, Bella," Edward said faintly. "I can't get my head around it."

"It's so sudden," I agreed. "But we were stupid to think that it couldn't happen. We weren't exactly careful." I sounded bitterer than I wanted to. My tone didn't go unnoticed.

"That 'we' sounded more like 'you' to me," Edward said, shifting away from me. "I thought you said you didn't blame me."

With a huff of annoyance, I flew off the sofa and went to storm out. Edward caught my arm and pulled be back. "Don't just walk away, Bella. You said it yourself - we need to talk this out. So let's have it."

"I don't blame you, Edward. I don't. But I just can't help but think that if you hadn't come to the house that night, then we wouldn't be here now!" My voice was rising. I knew in the back of my mind that I couldn't lay this on Edward, but it made me feel better to do so.

Edward laughed sarcastically. "So you fell on top of me? I can't be held total responsible. I will take my share of the blame, Bella, but not it all!"

"Fine, we are both at fault. Whatever," I said angrily. "Do you want a baby or not?"

"No," Edward yelled back.

This brought us both up short, and we both seemed to calm down simultaneously.

"No," I whispered. "We both said no."

Edward looked as shocked as I felt. "I don't think I want you to… you know…get rid of it, though," he said softly.

Gulping back a fresh set of tears, I nodded my head in agreement. "I know," I said in a tiny whisper. "I don't think I could, even if you wanted me to."

"Then what do we do?"

Edward and I could only stare blankly at each other. But the answer was obvious.

"We give it up for adoption," I said with some reassurance in my voice.

What happened next was not something I was prepared for. Edward broke down in tears, too. He made it back to the sofa and laid his head on the couch pillow and cried. I was stood frozen near the pool table, shocked into a statue.

Eventually, when I was sure he would let me, I crept over to him and knelt by his head. Gingerly, I touched his shoulder It was my turn to comfort him. "Edward?" I whispered. His head lifted up off the pillow, and we met each other's gaze.

"I'm sorry," he responded hoarsely.

"Do you want to…?" I took a breath. "We can talk about this more. This doesn't need to be the final decision if it's not what you want."

Shaking his head, Edward sat up fully. He held out his hand to me and helped me up. I sat by him on the sofa, watching his every emotion.

"It's not that," he said dully. "It's…"
"That you, Alice, and Emmett were adopted?"

"Yeah." Edward wiped his face. He shook himself a little, as if to get rid of the consuming emotions. "But it's the shock, too, you know? When you guys came, I instantly knew by the look on both your faces. But I never expected this."

"Tell me about it," I said. "I thought it was a dream. I am still half in denial. For all I know, this is just a hallucination."

"Well, it's not. But let's pretend me crying was," Edward said with a familiar smile.

"I won't tell a soul," I said. But the pretending was over. We needed to decide what our next step was. "That aside…what are you thinking now?"

"That we should give the baby up for adoption," Edward replied seriously. All grief was out of his tone now. "Let's face it; neither of us is prepared to become parents. This was a mistake. And to put it right, we should give the…" He glanced at my stomach. The right word seemed stuck on his tongue. "…it a proper chance in live with a couple that have wanted a baby for years, but it's never happened."

My emotions were stuck in my throat again. "Exactly," I said thickly.

"We can do this together. We are both strong enough," Edward said in a determined tone. I wasn't sure if he was convincing me or himself. But it helped.

And with that, my future was back in the picture. Adoption was definitely the better of all the choices.


Present Day

Opening my eyes to sheer agony was terrifying. I wasn't sure how long I had been unconscious, but I was still stuck between the crushed metal. Putting my hand over my bump was instinctive, but there was still no movement.

"Come on, baby," I whispered. "You don't have long to go now. Don't give up. We've been through so much. Just a little longer." Gulping back the tears, I tried to reassure the both of us. "It's going to be okay. You're new Mommy and Daddy are going to be overjoyed to meet you, and you'll grow up happy and healthy. Just hold on, okay?"

Grief stabbed my heart. There was no way I was going to go through all the agony of the past six months just to have my baby be lost within me. There was no way I was going to let it happen. Everything was decided. We had agreed that the baby was better off with a mother and father that were ready for a baby. We were too young to do it ourselves.

We had even gotten over our differences and become united, despite the cruel comments aimed at me from the gossips at school. I let myself connect with the real Edward, looking past the jerk I thought he was.

We were strong.

Until today.

There was no room for me to think about that now.

I just wanted to know the baby was safe. So what if he was going to another couple as soon as he was born? I still loved him. I still wanted him safe and well.

Everything that I had been through. The agonizing decision to give him away. All the scrutiny from others. My father's disappointment. All the antenatal classes. All the exams, tests.


I wasn't going to let that be wasted all because my reaction to an oncoming truck was so utterly poor.

Cutting short my internal self-hatred, sirens in the distance gave me some relief. "You hear that, baby?" The wailing got closer, and for the first time I thanked the Lord that Forks was so small. The emergency services were not nearly as busy as the next smallest city.

"We're going to be okay," I whispered to my bump. "Everything is going to…" An excruciating scream wailed out of my lips. My body tensed up as I withered in such a small space, with pain seizing my insides. Whether it was the baby or me, I didn't care. It was too much to bear, and my screams of agony continued.

"Miss? Hello?" the voice from earlier yelled inside the car. "What is it? The EMTs are on their way. Hold on. Your boyfriend won't be long either!"

"I can't hold on," I shrieked. "Get me out of here! I'm pregnant. Please, help!"

"Shit," I heard the man mutter. "I'm sorry; there isn't anything I can do. You are completely enclosed…The truck is…it's a miracle…" There was a pause I closed my eyes. "I'm so sorry…"

Pain in my left side exploded, ripping through me like wild fire. Gripping the steering wheel for some support, I tried not to use all my energy to scream it all out, but it was impossible. My whole body vibrated as I shrieked, my throat screeching in protest.

"Please, Miss, try to calm down. It's not good for the baby," the man tried to soothe. "My name is Ray."

"Bella," I answered through clenched teeth.
"Good to meet you, Bella," Ray said, sounding as if we were talking on the street. "When is the baby due to arrive?"

"April," I said shakily.

"Ah, a Spring baby," the man said cheerfully. "My daughter was a Spring baby. Do you know the sex yet?"

"No," I told him. "But I think it's a boy."
A soft chuckled reached my ears through the crumpled car. "Don't be so sure," Ray said. "Twice my wife guessed the sex of our children. Twice she was wrong."
A small smiled spread across my face. "My dad says that. He thinks it's a girl." Tears reached me without warning. My voice was riddled with grief as I continued. "Not that it matters," I told the stranger through the tears. "We are…giving the baby up for adoption."

"Oh." I nodded to his statement. Yes. Oh.

"Well, Bella, you know that you don't have to fully decide until the little one is born," Ray said softly. I could tell he was as close to the car as he could be without being inside. "You can change your mind at any time. You know that, right?"

Trembling through the pain, I nodded. "I know," I whispered as I circled my hand over my little bump. "I know."

September 13

My birthday was not something I liked celebrating anyway, but as I turned into a legal adult, I found myself discussing very grown up and very scary , apart from Alice, was gathered in the Cullen living room late in the afternoon. The social worker from Port Angeles was sitting fairly at ease on the arm chair, enjoying her cup of coffee, while the rest of us were sitting on eggshells waiting for her to finish explaining the process of what was to come for Edward and me. We had been there for almost an hour already, and she still hadn't quite finished.

By the end, I was so overloaded with information that it actually tired me out.

"So," the social worker, Tanya, concluded. "Any questions?" She looked around the room carefully, watching us for any sign of not understanding what she had said.

Finally, her eyes landed on Edward and I, gazing between us like a tennis match. Edward glanced at me, but I just shrugged. "You have covered pretty much every question I had," I said. "We get to choose the couple. We can change our mind at any time. And we can even stay in contact if that is what we wish."

Tanya nodded. "It's a long process, but it is fairly simple."

"When do we get to see couples?" Edward asked.

"As soon as next week," Tanya replied. "Because you are both still in school, I will make the commute from Port Angeles every time we need to meet. I will bring case files of suitable couples' and you can all take your time reading them."

"Can they make a decision at any time?" Esme asked. So far, she hadn't cried like she did at the hospital before I was about to have a scan. Or at least I suspected she cried, leaving me with a wave of guilt.

"Yes," Tanya said with a smile. "They can choose a couple at any point in the next eight months."

"But nothing is absolute until the baby is born?" Esme pressed.

"No. Edward and Bella have the right to change their mind as I said," Tanya said. "I will come back on Monday with the files, but through the weekend I will put you both in touch with a councillor. And the four of us can work together in the up and coming months."

October 1 – 10 weeks pregnant

Peering over even more potential parents for the baby, Edward and I were exhausted with the amount of growing profiles of couples desperate to have a baby. It was heart-breaking in so many ways. So many people struggled to get pregnant, yet we tried once and it happened. I suppose the world is funny that way. And we wouldn't be the first.

With each day this unknown little creature was inside me, I tried to convince myself in any way possible that what we were doing was the right thing. Did I feel better inside about it? No. But having read endless case files on potential parents, I couldn't deny one thing: the baby was going to be much better off growing up in a family with parents who are able to support them from the very beginning. And parents who have longed for a baby for years. Those thoughts eased my guilt. But only by a margin.

And there are so many people in need for a baby to complete their family. It is so hard to choose. For two weeks we agonised over different couples. And we still hadn't narrowed it down. It was like playing God. It was a responsibility I didn't like having.

Glancing over to the bed, I realised that Edward had fallen asleep. Sighing, I flipped the file closed for a couple who had been trying for six years to have a baby. It was so depressing and sad reading their case files. But I knew that at the end of the day, we were making three lives happier in the end.

Reaching for another file, I flipped it open.

Mr. and Mrs. Mark Duncan.

Starting up at me is a couple with strained smiles. Instantly, my attention was drawn. With the previous couples, their smiles had been bright and happy… But the couple staring at me were smiling, but their effort was filled with sadness, reflecting how they really felt.

Scanning their profile, I read their plight of suffering f so many downfalls. Miscarriages. Failed IVF attempts. A stillborn. Like the others, they had suffered so much. All they wanted was to start a family. With a steady income from both their jobs, they were able to provide fully for a baby. But what caught my attention the most was the woman's eyes.

Startling green.

Exactly like Edward's.

In a rush of hope, I grabbed the couch pillow and aimed it at Edward. Although I was aiming for the head, I managed to get his back, and he bolted up on the bed in a daze.

"I think I have found them," I said firmly. "I have no idea why, but I think I found parents for the baby."

November 21 – 15 weeks pregnant

Our appointment with the OBG/YN, Dr. Kate, to check up on the baby was due, only she was sick and unable to attend. The nurse had a note to tell us to go ahead and get an ultrasound, and the doctor would see us as soon as she got back.

There were more tests than I could imagine being pregnant. But Dr. Kate was really nice, and she made me feel better with each one. But I hated scans. It wasn't because Dr. Kate wasn't the one doing it; it was because I would have to face the baby. Seeing, or even hearing, the baby from the monitors and machines was gut wrenching. It was a close reminder that I was giving the baby away. It was a rub in the face that this was as close as I was really going to get to the baby before it was taken away.

Edward had missed the first one, but he agreed to hold my hand through this one. The technician doing the scan was one I had never met before. She introduced herself, scanned my notes, but didn't say much.

She mumbled a couple things during the scan, mainly to herself because I wasn't listening. Edward held my hand as promised, but I kept my eyes firmly on the wall opposite.

"Everything seems perfect," the woman said. "You are far along enough to know the sex. Have you decided if that's something you want to know?"

A flip switched, and I flew into a rage. "Are you a fucking idiot? Did you not read the part in my notes where it clearly states that we are not keeping the baby? Why the hell would we want to know what the sex was? It would be too agonizing, you complete and utter fool!" I swiped her hand off my belly, dropped Edward's hand, and flew off the bed. Slamming the door behind me, I ran down the corridor. Not sure what was inside, I opened a random door before sinking to the ground and sobbed into the floor until a cool hand touched the back of my back.

"We'll get through this," Edward's voice whispered in my ear. "Together." Kissing the back of my head softly, Edward pulled me from the floor and laid me on his lap, rubbing my back soothingly. "Have a look." Edward dropped a grainy black and white picture onto my lap. My eyes rose away in fear, as if it was something dangerous.

"I don't want…"

"Just take a look." Edward held it to my face for me to have a closer look. I leaned farther into Edward's chest but allowed my eyes to stare at the picture in front of me.

It wasn't just a little blob like I had imagined. It was a tiny human being. Fingers…A little nose...A mouth… All of which were still living inside me.

Incredible. "He looks so…tiny!"

"He?" Edward questioned. "Are you seeing something that I'm not?"

Through the tears, the red face, and sheer hatefulness toward myself, I laughed wholeheartedly for the first time in weeks. "It's just a feeling," I whispered as I circled the tiny creature on the picture. "We should keep this for Sadie and Mark. I'm sure they will enjoy just as much."

Present Day

The sirens were practically on top of me now. They were so loud. But above the noise, the sound I had been anxiously listening out for finally came.


Trying not to move too much, I cried out in relief. It was the best sound in the world. "Edward," I yelled. "Edward, I'm stuck. I can't move and…"

"I'm so sorry, Bella," Edward cut me off. "This is my entire fault. If anything happens, it's my entire fault!"

"No, it's…"

"Excuse me, but you're gonna have to move aside for now," a new voice appeared on the scene.

"What? No, that's my girlfriend in there. She is six and a half months pregnant. I can't leave her," Edward said firmly. "Just help her out!"


"I'm here, Bella," Edward called. "I'm not leaving you."

There was so much commotion going on outside of the car, but part of the now crumpled truck blocked my view. It was worse than the box that I had been trapped in as a child.

"Bella," said another voice. "Do you know my voice? Stan Miles?"

"Yeah," I called. Stan was a friend of Charlie's. I had known him most of my life. He was chief of the fire and EMT department. He even let me ride the truck once.

"We are going to get you out, but it is going to take a little time," Stan replied. "I will be here the whole time and talk you through everything that will happen. And Edward won't leave, so you will be stuck listening to the two of us. First, though, can you tell me where you're having pain?"

"My left side hurts the worse," I cried. "But my baby. I can't feel him move."

"Okay," Stan said steadily. "Just keep calm. It will help you both. Is that all your pain?"

"My head feels like its got knives in it, but the rest of the pains are just aches, nothing too serious," I said, trying to convince myself that everything was better than it felt.

"What is the pain like in the left?"

"Agonising," I replied weakly.

"Okay. Apart from the pain, how do you feel?"

"Lightheaded. But there is so much blood. I am barely keeping myself conscious." I gulped as I stared anywhere but down toward the blood.

"Just keep talking, okay?" Stan said. "The firemen are ready to start cutting the car open. The truck is blocking the front, so we are going to be coming in from the passenger's side, and then open the top. Is there anything you can cover yourself with, Bella?"

My head swayed from side to side, but there wasn't much to look at. "No," I said faintly.

"Okay, no worries," Stan said. "Just close your eyes and try not to worry about the noise. I will be right here, and if you need anything, just yell as loud as you can and they will stop."

Moving my head from side to side had caused my light-headedness to overcome me more than I thought was possible. I was feeling exactly like the day I had collapsed in school. The day I had found out I was pregnant.

"I feel weird," I said in a soft whisper.

"We're going to start now, Bella. You ready?" Stan's voice was distant now. Everything was distant. The whooshing in my ears was back. The pain in my side was worse than ever.

December 19th – 19 weeks pregnant

Since Edward and I had decided to give the baby up for adoption, Alice had been distant. She made sure I was okay, and did things for me, but I knew she didn't agree with our decision. I couldn't bear to ask her, though. Thankfully, she kept her opinion to herself.

It wasn't surprising. Alice, Edward and their brother, Emmett, were all adopted by the Cullens when they were very young. It would be odd if neither of them had more of an opinion on adoption than anyone else, but no one said anything out loud. They all seemed okay with it, especially Edward, but Alice showed it in other ways. Usually she was bubbly and outgoing. Now she was withdrawn near me and only made small talk. Very un- Alice like.

As Edward and I built up a relationship together, I spent more and more time in the Cullen household. I even spent the night sometimes – although I slept in the guest bedroom.

With my growing bump, I became uncomfortable very easily But the nights were the worst. It was becoming increasingly difficult to get to sleep, but for some reason, I found the guest bed at the Cullens home more comfortable than my own. So I usually ended up sleeping there, much to the pleasure of Esme. She was my own surrogate mother, since my own had disowned me once I told her the truth about her boyfriend.

Glancing at the clock, I realized I had been lying awake for almost four hours without even a minute's sleep. My stomach settled my decision to head into the kitchen. As I opened the fridge, the light poured into the rest of the room. A shadow reflected on the fridge, making me jump in fright. Keeping the fridge open for the light, I whipped around to see Alice sitting on a stool at the back of the kitchen island.

Breathing steadily to calm my nerves, I clutched my chest. "You nearly gave me a heart attack," I said shakily.

"Sorry," Alice said quickly. "Can't sleep?"

Closing the fridge without getting anything from it, I leaned against it. "Nope. Baby is making me very uncomfortable."

"I can't sleep either," Alice said. "Do you want me to make you a hot drink?"

"That's okay. Thanks anyway," I said. "Why can't you sleep?"

Alice's silhouette was becoming clearer now that my eyes were getting used to the dark kitchen, so I saw her petite shoulders shrug. We both fell silent. It was as uncomfortable as trying to sleep with a huge belly.

"Alice…" Regardless of whether it would make me feel better or worse, I needed to know what she really thought. "You don't think Edward and I should give the baby away, do you?"

Without much of a pause, Alice said instantly, "No."

My stomach sank, but deep down, I did feel better. "I'm sorry." It was all I could think of to say. She was entitled to her opinion, and respected that.

"Me too," Alice said softly.

"I think Sadie and Mark Duncan will be perfect parents for the baby. It is best for everyone to continue with the decision we have made," I said. "I know that what you went through can't be easy…but…this is different."
"Actually, what I went through has nothing to do with why I don't like the idea of you giving away my niece or nephew," Alice snapped.

Blinking away the shock, I tried to think of something to say.

"I'm sorry," Alice whispered quickly. "I didn't mean that."

With my hormones controlling everything I did I couldn't help it when the tears spilled down my cheeks. "Don't worry about it," I mumbled back.

"No. I shouldn't have said that," Alice said. "It isn't my decision. But I do think you and Edward would make great parents. You hated him. Yet here you are, making a go of it."

"I know, but…" But what? "It is the right decision," I eventually concluded." And I believed that.
"Okay," Alice said softly. "As long as you're sure."

Forgetting about my grumbling stomach, I nodded into the darkness and turned to leave. As I was halfway out of the door, Alice called my attention. I stopped and turned to face her shadowy figure.

"Would you ever change your mind?" she asked. The sadness was etched deep in her voice. I was glad I wasn't able to see her properly; I was too cowardly to actually face her.

"No," I whispered before hurrying back up the stairs.

Present Day

Everything was very stiff. Not only was I stuck, I was unable to move anything. My eyes flew open in sudden panic. I took in my surroundings, I realized things had changed. How long had I been out?

Before I could process anything, I noticed that there was suddenly fresh air, with a breeze kissing my face. With the little movement I could make, I noticed that the roof that had previously been above me was now completely gone. As was the passenger's side door.

I was almost free.

"Welcome back, Bella," Stan Miles said from the seat next to me. Unable to fully move my head, I could only look sideways. He smiled at me warmly. "You passed out for a few minutes, so you missed all the commotion. The fire guys managed to cut away half the car. The next big job is to get you out, and we will be on our way to treat you."

My first thought was that Edward would be mad. Although he had a shiny Ashton Martin, he loved his Volvo just as much.

"What about the baby?" I whispered. My voice was sore from all the screaming.

"I can't tell without the proper machines," Stan replied honestly. "But we will do everything we can, as quickly as we can. How is the pain?"

"Who cares?" I mumbled.

Stan patted my arm gently "Hang in there, Bella," he said. "For now, just hold still. I have strapped you to a spinal board and popped on a neck brace, as you may have noticed. But that's about as much as I can do. I can't give you the strong pain killers I'm afraid…"

"I don't care," I interrupted.

"But, but you can have gas and air to help control the pain," Stan continued as if he hadn't heard me. Instantly, I recognized the machine he was holding to me. I had been shown something similar at a birthing class. It was what I had been planning to use to help the pain through labor. Seeing it while trapped in the car made me panic.

"Hey, it's only for the pain," Stan said quickly. "It will help. Make it a bit more bearable." Without my permission, Stan put the nozzle into my mouth. "Stuck deeply," he ordered.

Complying, I sucked in. The horrible light-headedness overcame me within seconds, but the pain eased slightly. "Thanks," I said with a shiver. Everything had gone from feeling overly hot to absolutely freezing.

"You're cold?"

My eyes drooped heavily. "Mmm."

"Hurry up with that blanket," Stan shouted distantly. I felt him leave my presence for a few minutes.

"Hello, love," said the voice I had been longing for.

"Where did you go?" I muttered through the nozzle.

"I have been here the whole time," Edward said. It was frustrating that I couldn't see him properly, but he touched my arm, which brought even more comfort. "Try to stay awake, okay? I have been beside myself. It has literally been the worst minutes of my life."

"I'm sorry," I whispered.

Edward chuckled without humor but didn't reply. His hand moved towards my bump. I felt his warm fingers touch my stomach. His hand lingered over the baby for a couple of seconds, before his hand slid back into my hand.

Then it happened.

A violent kick from inside my belly.

Dropping the gas and air from my mouth, I hissed sharply.

"He kicked," I mumbled through shock. "He is okay! He kicked! Touch my belly again." Unable to see Edward's reaction was frustrating, but he did as I asked. His hand lay firmly over my round stomach.

"Hang in there, baby," he said loudly, leaning across as close as possible. "Keep fighting!"

This time the kick was stronger than ever. My body sagged internally in relief. "He did it again!" I cried in joy before actual tears ran down my face. "He likes your voice!"

Edward sat in the car with me. He was careful not to jolt me in any way but I could see him properly now without having to strain my eyes sideways.

Edward moved back out of my peripheral vision. I panicked, thinking he was leaving. "Don't. I need you," I uttered, trying to grab him.

"Hey, shh," Edward soothed. "I am not going anywhere. Your dad is here, that's all."

"Daddy?" I choked out.

"I'm right here, Bells," my father's voice came. It was hard to see him, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw his dark blue uniform.

"I'm causing so much drama these days, aren't I?" I said with a tearful smile. "I bet you long for a quiet life."

Charlie chuckled. "Right on, honey." His voice was thick. My heart quivered. Charlie was rarely emotional. "It's like living in a God damn TV show!"

"Don't make me laugh. It hurts," I said. There was so much to say. I felt the need to apologize for anything…just in case. "Dad…I..." I cleared my throat. "For everything that I have put you through…"
"Don't you dare apologize," Charlie interrupted me.

"None of this is your fault," Edward said firmly.

"What's life without drama? Charlie added. "Come on now, Bella. Let's all just focus on what is. No dwelling of all the what ifs. Let me see what the holdup is with the fire guys."

"Wait, Dad," I called.

"Yeah, Bells?"

"I love you. Just know that, okay?" I have put him through too much to not say it. What if something went wrong?

"You, too, kiddo. Always. No matter what."

Charlie's boots were distinguishable as he left the side of the car. I was glad I wasn't fully able to see him. It was hard enough without seeing him upset, too. "Everything will be fine," Edward said. "You'll be out before you know it. And the baby will be perfectly healthy. It will all be okay."

"I hope so," I whispered. Edward clutched my hand gently.

"Bella," Edward began hesitantly. Instantly, I knew what he was going to say. "About…what you heard…"

"Please don't, Edward," I said raggedly. "I don't want to talk about this right now."
"But this is all my fault. If…"
"If I hadn't eavesdropped, then everything would be back to normal." The lie seemed to fall easily off my tongue. But I wanted to feel that way. I just couldn't deal with it now.

"If anything happens…" Edward uttered. "I just want you to understand."

"Let's just concentrate on what is, as Charlie said.

Before Edward could argue, I felt someone else's presence near the car. "We need to cut open the front now that Bella is awake. You'll need to stand back."

Edward and I shared a look. He nodded, his eyes locked in mine with a final look of reassurance, before he backed out of the car and disappeared out of sight, Stan was by my side, wrapping a blanket over me. In his hand was a fireman's jacket. "This is going to be disorienting, but I need to put this back over your head. It will protect you. It will be very loud, but if you need anything, just stick your hand out of the jacket and they will stop."

Everything was starting to fade again, but I managed to nod in agreement. I just wanted out.

Stan put the gas and air back into my mouth.

"Okay, then they will begin. I will be right here the whole time," Stan said. I watched as he went to put the jacket over my head. My world went dark again, but this time I was conscious.

Before I could comprehend what was about to happen, the sound of metal being cut violated my ears. It was a terrible sound, but I kept still and tried to stay awake myself awake. But that was starting to become a huge task on its own.

Every part of my body was feeling weak. The pain welling inside me threatened to make me fall back into permanent darkness. Fear coursed through me. I didn't want to leave. I wanted to stay and fight. My baby was fighting. He strong…like his father.

Underneath the thick jacket, I found the strength to move my hand over my bump. I cradled my large stomach protectively. "We'll be okay," I whispered. "We'll…"

A violent kick poked at my hand. For a few seconds, I felt his little foot against my hand. My heart jolted at the touch between the baby and me. It had happened a few times before, but not for this long.

The sudden, strong kick from my little squirmer seemed to click something in me. Suddenly, everything changed within me. Six months of my determination dwindled in that very moment.

Alice's words echoed through my mind from a few weeks prior. "Would you ever change your mind?"

Dropping the gas and air again, I desperately tried to get someone's attention.

"Stop," I screamed frantically. But it was barely above a whisper. "Stop!" Tears overcame me. With the last ounce of strength in me, I moved my hand out of the jacket into the cold air. "Stop," I whispered faintly.

Instantly, the noise of the firemen's tools stopped, and the jacket was lifted off my head. "Are you okay, Bella?" Stan asked, assessing me with his eyes. His expression told me that I wasn't doing so well, so he didn't need an answer. It was stupid to waste time. But I needed to do this now.
"Edward," I whispered. My eyes closed involuntarily.

When I opened them again, I knew I had lost a couple more seconds.

Edward was by my side, and everything else seemed to be silent around us. I felt as if we were the only two people around.

"Bella, is everything okay?"

"The baby kicked again."

With his eyes regarding me kindly, Edward said, "That's such great news, sweetheart, but they need to get you out quickly. They think you have a ruptured spleen. Bella, this is very serious. To save both your lives, you need to get out as…"

"I know," I interrupted loudly. I had figured they suspected something serious. Stan was always a cheerful person, but I saw the fear in his eyes before he put the jacket over me. But this couldn't wait. "I know it's serious. But I don't know how long I'll keep conscious this time."

"Edward," a voice from somewhere to our right called. Edward looked over his shoulder.

"I know, just a minute," Edward said in a rush. He turned back to me with a solemn expression. "Bella, love, they are hurrying me…"

"I want to keep the baby," I blurted out in a jumbled rush before he could finish. Edward froze. He had understood each word. His eyes locked into mine, looking exactly the way he did when he realized that Charlie knew we had slept together.

"You want to…keep the baby?" Edward repeated slowly.

"Whatever happens, I want to keep the baby. To raise with…"

"Stan!" Edward yelled above me. His eyes were flared in fear. He was staring blew my bump. "Stan, we need to get her out now!"

The disorientation was overwhelming my brain, and all I could think was Edward was ignoring me. Was he even listening?

"Oh," I heard Stan say from somewhere to my right. "Right, boys, we don't have much time. We will lose them both if we don't…"
"What?" I said. "I feel..." Then I lifted one of my hands slowly from my lap. It was wet for some reason. Glancing at my hand, my heart dropped. Blood. Lots of blood. It must have come from my pants. Which meant…

The baby. I was losing the baby!

"Get me out of here," I cried. "Get the baby out!" Edward started to move out of my sight, but I held out my hand for him. He leaned as close as possible. Keeping hold of his shirt, my hand clutched into a fist. "Whatever happens, save the baby, Edward. Save him. Raise him. Love him. Don't let him go."

"Do it, Edward! If it comes to it, choose the baby!" I had never been so serious in my life.

"Bella, I can't make…"
"Swear to me, Edward," I said steely. "Swear you will do what it takes to save his life. I will never forgive…"
"Edward, we need to get her out now!"

"Swear to me," I whispered.

Tears streamed out of those startling green eyes.

"Don't let him die," I choked when Edward didn't reply. "Please."

"I love you," Edward whispered. "I love you both…"

Edward was pulled from my sight. I began screaming as the world turned black when the jacket was put over my head once more. "Edward," I screeched. "Please, Edward. Please don't choose me!"

Before I knew it, the noise started up again, and I was back to fighting to keep myself awake.

The pain was getting worse, and I was too weak to scream anymore. I felt like there was an army fighting within me. Except they were fighting against my organs. And they were winning.

"Hold on, baby," I whispered softly. But this time, I got no kick in reply. "I love you." My eyes struggled to keep open as the noise beyond me faded. "I will always love you."

The pain rose up through my body, slithering to my lungs. They were on fire. The fight within me was overtaking everything. As I started hyperventilating, the jacket was lifted off my head.

Faces blurred past my sight. Voices talked over me. But nothing made sense. The only thing I held onto was the overwhelming urge to protect my baby.

My baby.

"Keep fighting, baby," I said aloud. "Keep fighting…"

Two days later…

My eyes flew open, and without thinking about the pain that I already felt riddled through my body, I tried to sit up. My movements were restricted by tubes and wires sticking in all sorts of places, and the stiffness of my limbs.

My eyes darted around the clean, quiet room. Clearly, I made it out of the car okay. How long had I been out?

The baby!

My hand automatically went to my bump. My heart sank. No more bump. My stomach was soft. That meant…

What did that mean? Did he make it? Did Edward listen to me?

Fear began to rise within me, encouraging the beeping noise to my left to spike. I barely gave it a glance as I tried to pull myself up. Spurred on by my success to get myself up right, I flung my legs over the edge of the bed. Using the IV pole at my side, I gave an almighty pull and managed to get to my feet. With an agonizing step, I wobbled and swayed on my feet, but I was determined to find my baby.

The door in front of me swung open, and Edward walked in. He gave me a look of shock, before he dropped the newspaper in his hand and darted to my side.

"Whoa," he said as he kept me steady with his hands. "Where are you off to in a hurry?" Gently, he eased me into bed despite my struggles to fight him.

"The baby," I said breathlessly. "Where is he? Is he okay?" Edward pulled up the blanket and sat on the bed, ready to fight me if I attempted to make a run for it again.

Edward's smile was filled with so many emotions. I didn't know if it made me feel better or worse. His soft laugh was soothing, though, and I gave in to my body's pleading and relaxed in the bed.

"We have a little girl, my love," Edward said softly. "And she is doing very well. She is perfect."

My hand flew to my mouth. "I always felt it was a boy!" I half laughed, half cried in joy as my eyes filled to the brim. "Can I see her? Are you sure she is okay? It's so early!"

Edward wiped my fallen tears. "She is fighting. Just like you told her to. She is already like you, and only two days old."

My heart dropped in my chest. "Two days?" I croaked. I had missed two whole days of her life.

Realizing he had upset me, Edward tried to soothe me. "Hey, don't worry. Try not to get worked up. Everything is going to be okay. You will be able to see her soon."

"Two days," I muttered to myself. "She really is doing okay?"

"She needs help breathing, but she survived the first forty-eight hours without any hiccups. She is going to be fine. She just needs her mommy." Edward looked so proud. Jealousy soared into my stomach, but I tried to ignore it.

"Does everyone know?"

"They are thrilled," Edward said, looking away. "Look, Bella…About the dare…"

"Please don't," I whispered. "I don't want to drag that up right now. Let's just think about our little girl."

"I won't let a dare ruin this moment," I deadpanned, a spark of anger bubbling through me. Trying to swallow the bitterness, I attempted to only focus on my daughter. It was easier than I ever thought it would be.

My daughter.

"Do you at least have a picture?" I asked softly. I was itching to get out of bed, but my body was telling that wasn't going to happen.

Edward's eyes flared in annoyance. "God, I should have thought about that before," he said, jumping from the bed. He patted himself down but frowned. "I had it…" He shook his head. "Your mom has it. I'm sorry…They only had one Polaroid picture, and the rest are on my phone…which Alice stole to upload on her laptop."

My heart sank again.
"I'm sorry. I will go and get one of the others to come, and I will take one hundred pictures to show you before you meet her in person," Edward said. He took a breath. "Will you be okay for a little while? I need to get the doctor, since you are awake…but…"

"Hey," I interrupted him. "You said my mom has the picture…she's here?"

Edward pinched the bridge of his nose with his forefinger and thumb "I'm losing it," he said to himself. He dropped his fingers. "I'm sorry again. I should have told you that before I brought up all that crap with… Yes. Renee is here."


"She left Phil," Edward filled me in. "He is in police custody as we speak and awaiting a court date."

"Wow." The shocks were coming pretty fast within just a few minutes. "Good."

Edward nodded grimly. "She is looking at apartments near here right now. She is completely distraught about it all. She finally saw through him. But let's not worry about all that now. Stay put while I call the doctor and get the others down here."

"It's as if you can read my mind," I muttered as Edward left my room. I did as I was told and stayed put, while the doctor came in and checked me over.

By the time Edward came back, and before anyone could come down to my room, the doctor said I could visit my daughter.

"It's been two days," he told me gently. "It's about time she heard her mother's voice."

Crying was the only thing I could do in reply, but he smiled in understanding. While I was being helped in a wheelchair by the nurse and an orderly, Edward and my father came through the door. At the sight of them both, I cried harder.

"I think it's about time Bella met her little girl," the doctor told them both. Charlie looked awful. His face was scruffy, his eyes heavy with lack of sleep, and his clothes rumpled, but I had never been happier to see him. He wordlessly crossed the room and kissed my forehead.

"Never scare me like that again," he said gruffly as he pulled away from me.

"Yes, sir," I whispered back just as the nurse put on my blanket over me. I met Edward's eyes. "I don't want the pictures; I want to see the real thing."

"Then it's off to the neo-natal unit," the elderly orderly said brightly.

With Charlie leading the way, I was wheeled to the elevator with Edward by my side wheeling some of the IV's that had plugs on them along.

It was a silent trip up in the elevator. And with each second that passed, I was growing more anxious. It didn't even bother me to be in enclosed mental box. I was more annoyed with it going so slowly.

When we pinged on the fourth floor, my heart began racing. When we reached the locked door at the end of the corridor, Charlie hung back.

"I'll give you two some privacy," he said as he faded into the background. I was too anxious to reply as the orderly pressed the buzzer to alert the staff inside that we had arrived.

"Hello?" a voice from the box on the door came.

Edward leaned in toward the talking box. "Edward and Bella to see baby Swan-Cullen."

The door clicked, and Edward opened it wide for us to all fit through. Before we all entered, the three of us washed our hands with the alcohol gel as indicated on a sign at the door. Once the orderly's hands were clean, he wheeled me forward with Edward still at my side.

"Swan-Cullen," I whispered. Edward glanced at me with an apologetic look.

"We obviously didn't plan for all this, and since we were planning on…you know…" He shrugged. "I didn't want to choose a name for her until you were awake, and I didn't know whose last name you would want her to have. I hope you don't mind."
"Why would I mind? I was just testing out the words," I said nonchalantly, but my words faltered when the orderly wheeled me past different rooms where the babies were. He stopped at the entrance of a room with "Neonatal Intensive Care Unit" over the door.

My heart raced. Edward reached out for my hand. "Don't panic, sweetheart. Everything will look much worse than it really is. Just remember that, okay?"

Two nurses approached us just then, and Edward's words were deaf in my ears. I was panicking, with every inch of me was shaking.

"You must be Bella," the blonde nurse said with a smile. Her name tag read Rachel. "I am so glad that you are here at last. You little girl has been missing her mommy."

The dark haired nurse, with the name tag Sarah took the place of the orderly I didn't even notice leave. "Are you ready?" she asked from behind me.

Rachel and Edward were staring at me as if I was going to lose it at any moment.

Deep breaths.


My little girl needed me. I needed her. "Yes. Take me to her."

The nurse steered the wheelchair to the end incubator. We passed only two other occupied incubators on the way to the end, but each had the same medical machines surrounding them.

"Try to look past the machines," Sarah said. "If you are calm, it will help her tremendously."

Her words gave me encouragement. It was true. Dr. Kate, the OB/GYN had said the same thing. Babies pick up on the smallest things, no matter how young they are. Nodding to myself, I sucked in a steady breath and prepared myself to meet my tiny daughter.

The wheelchair came to a halt at the last incubator, and one of the nurses put the brakes on the chair. Edward let go of the IV pole that he was pushing and stood in front of me. He held out his hands, while the nurses stood on either side of me. All three of them contributed to getting me to my feet and positioned me as close to the incubator as possible, with Edward holding most of my weight.

What I saw caught my breath. Despite what the nurse said, it was impossible to look past all the wires and tubing covering the tiny creature's body. A breathing tube was held in her mouth with tape across her dark red cheeks. A bandage was covering her left arm almost completely, with wires sticking out a small gap. Something was stuck to her foot. There were sticky pads stuck to her minuscule body.

It was shocking.

My baby girl. So tiny. So ill. And I was so helpless.

Touching the glass gently, I was trembling.

"Hey," Edward soothed. "These are to help her. She isn't in any pain at all."

Trying to get even closer, I leaned away from Edward and used the incubator as support. Looking past all the equipment, I gazed down at the tiny life inside the box.

And I saw my daughter.

I saw the little life that I had been carrying for nearly seven months. The little life that had kicked and squirmed around me as soon as she was able to. The little life that kept me awake at night. The little life I used to read aloud to. That I used to talk to when I was feeling sad about the adoption.

She was my daughter.

Everything about her was tiny. I had never seen anything so small in my life. Although minuscule, I counted ten fingers and ten toes. A little nose and mouth. A light sprinkle of dark hair.


"Can I touch her?" I whispered.

Edward opened one of the holes that allowed access to inside the incubator. Instantly, I leaned over and stuck my hand inside. But I hesitated.

She was a fighter, but what if I made her worse?

"She responds to touch," Edward whispered in my ear.

With his whispered encouragement, slowly, carefully, I reached over her tiny body and opened my pinkie to her teeny hand. As soon as my finger touched her hand, she grabbed onto me. My eyes flared in shock.

"Oh my God," I uttered. A smile grew on my face, and a tear splashed on top of the incubator.

"I told you she is perfect," Edward said. Turning, I saw tears swarming Edward's eyes. This was the pride that I had been unable to have until now.

Keeping my pinkie into her hand, I leaned into Edward, burying my head into his side. "She is amazing. So beautiful."

"Like her mommy."

Snorting, I shook my head. "I am sure that's your nose she has."

Edward chuckled, the vibrations echoing through me. "Well, the beautiful little girl needs a name. You better think of something before Alice comes up with something outrageous."

Names were something I refused to let myself think of. It was worse than seeing the sonogram pictures. It was too hard.

"I've never given it a lot of thought," I admitted to Edward, my eyes fixed on the rise and fall of our little princess's' stomach.

"Me either."

"Well…except…" Heat rose over my cheeks. There had only been one occasion where a name formed in my mind.

"Except?" Edward squeezed my shoulders in encouragement.

"Your mom has been so brilliant with everything. When I stayed over, she held my hair while I puked up my guts. One particular time, she was being ever so brilliant, and I thought to myself, that if it was a girl I was having, and if I were keeping the baby, then I would name the baby after her."

"You want to name her Esme?" Steeling a quick glance at Edward, I saw his astonishment.

"Not exactly," I said quietly. Edward raised his eyebrows. I sighed. "Well, it got me thinking. Although I hated my mom for what she was doing, I couldn't help but feel guilty when I was thinking of your mom and not her…so I…kind of…well, mashed both their names together."

A long pause followed after my confession of the only baby name I was able to think of weeks earlier. Edward shifted his weight a little, holding me tighter.

"Esmerenee," he said finally, his tone puzzled.

A light chuckle lifted my spirits entirely. "No, the other way around," I explained. "Ruh-nez-may," I pronounced slowly.

"Ruh-nez-may," Edward repeated. "Renesmee."

"It's dumb, right?" I sighed. "Ignore me. I had pregnancy brain at the time."

Edward pulled me away a little to fully look at me. "Bella...it's perfect. So unique. Extra beautiful."

"It's a mouthful," I scorned.

Leaning back into me, Edward popped one of his hands into the incubator. Taking our daughter's other tiny hand, with me on the other, he said, "It suits her. Renesmee."

Hearing the truth about how our little princess came to be conceived was a distant memory, almost forgotten, as together Edward and I held our little girl's hand, watching her with silent astonishment.

"It actually really is," I said in amazement. "Renesmee," I whispered, gazing over our perfect angel. "Welcome to the world, baby. I'm your mommy. Do you remember me?"

In response, our little fighter kicked her tiny foot. Just like before. It was a sign of hope.


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