Hope Springs Eternal Contest
Number of Prompt Chosen: 30
Title: No Matter What
Word Count: 3192
Rating: M for some citrus
Summary: Marriage hadn't made much difference to us. I still played guitar, and she still wrote. With a gig here, an article there, and a few odd jobs, we got by. Then she was late. That's when we realized some things might need to really change.
Disclaimer: All characters and recognizable elements of the Twilight Saga belong to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement intended.
I heard the door over my strumming. This song was giving me fits. I could feel it just beyond my fingertips, waiting for me to discover the precise melody and the perfect chords, but it just wasn't coming together. And the lyrics were even worse. All I knew was that it was a love song, but I hadn't come up with so much as a line that I liked. With a huff, I stopped playing and called, "In here, babe!"
Footsteps crossed the front room of our tiny apartment, and then she appeared in the bedroom doorway. My bella Bella, I called her when I wanted to tease. She'd roll her eyes, but her blush and the hint of a smile let me know she loved it.
"Edward, what are you doing home? I thought you were working tonight." The worry in her voice surprised me, and I looked up.
"It's okay, love. Sam was ticked that I wanted Saturday off for the gig at Jake's, so he took me off tonight and put me on Thursday, just to jerk my chain. Should've booked us for Saturday himself, shouldn't he? If he wasn't such a tightfisted son of a bitch..." She didn't laugh. Usually, poking fun at Sam drew at least a smile. Hmm, wonder what's bothering her? Trying again, I added, "It works out better, anyway. I always get bigger tips on Thursdays—it's ladies' night." I winked at her; it was our inside joke.
We'd met on a ladies' night, when she was out with some friends who didn't bother to leave me a tip after I'd supplied them with cosmos and mojitos for the better part of three hours. When she found out, she felt so bad that she came back to apologize. She tried to give me a tip, and I told her if she really wanted me to accept her apology, she'd go out with me. In my toast at our wedding reception last year, I told her she gave me the best tip I ever got when she said yes.
It should have been a surefire win—she'd never not smiled beautifully when I brought that up. But now? Nothing.
I set my guitar on the stand next to the bed. Leaning forward, I grabbed her hand—the room wasn't big enough for me to have to stand to reach her—and tugged at it until she was on my lap. "What's wrong, love?" I stroked the hair back from her porcelain face. That skin...just want to run my tongue over every inch of it...
I started by laying my lips gently on her temple, waiting for her to speak, but my mind was already jumping ahead to hastily formed plans for the rest of my unexpectedly free evening.
With my nose buried in her wavy brown hair, seeking her ear, and my mind...otherwise occupied, her meaning didn't penetrate at first.
"Late for what, love? We don't have anything going on tonight." Except for stretching her out on our bed for a leisurely explora— "What? Like late, late?" My head snapped up, and I looked at her.
Her brows tilted and came together. "Yes."
To say I was floored was an understatement. We wanted kids, sure, but somewhere in the vague, yet-to-come future. I'd just turned twenty-three, and she still had a few months to go to catch up. We had plenty of time. Didn't we?
I swallowed. "Have you, uh, taken a test or something?"
Her voice was shaky as she replied, "Yes, and it didn't come up positive, but the directions said if it was early, there might not be enough pregnancy hormone to detect. If my period doesn't start in the next few days, I'm supposed to use the second test." She sounded like she had memorized the instructions.
"Well, that's good, right? It's probably just late. You've been stressing out about that book proposal..." Stress could do that, couldn't it? I thought I remembered reading something about that.
She shoved off my lap. "What if it's not? What if I'm pregnant? There's no room for a crib in here! And I heard carseats are really expensive—how are we gonna afford that? And diapers—do you have any idea how many diapers a baby goes through in a day?"
With the hope of interrupting this flood, I interjected, "Do you? And we don't even have a car; we don't need a carseat." It was like she hadn't heard me.
"You can't lose that job; it's the only steady income we have. And what about doctor bills? We haven't had health insurance since we graduated and dropped off our folks' policies!" Her voice got louder with each sentence until by the end, I was pretty sure they could hear her across the bay.
I rose to my feet and hugged her. "Bella, it'll be okay. We can handle it. The bartending is our only steady income because that's all we've needed. We're both educated, hard-working people. If we need better jobs to take care of a baby, we'll get them." I tried to sound confident, but even as the words flowed from me, my heart dropped.
We both had such big dreams. My band and I were going to headline at coliseums, and she was going to write a bestseller before she was thirty. In the meantime, we were getting by on my occasional paying gig, her freelance articles, and the odd jobs we picked up here and there. I bartended at Sam's once or twice a week, and since I made good tips, that covered our single biggest expense, rent. We were young and in love, and we didn't need much. Would we have to let go of those dreams in favor of stable, boring jobs with good benefits?
A baby...everything she said hit home. A baby needed stuff—diapers, shots, clothes, God knows what else—and it couldn't wait for us to make the big time. And that's if everything went well! What if something went wrong with the pregnancy? What if the baby had problems? And God, what if Bella had trouble being pregnant...women in America didn't die in childbirth anymore, did they? A fear I'd never known crept up my spine on ice-cold feet.
Something my mom told me as part of "the talk" when she first suspected I was getting interested in sex came back to me.
"Pregnancy is like bacon and eggs," she said.
I laughed. "What the f-, I mean, hell? What is that supposed to mean?"
I got a slap on the back of my head for the almost-profanity before she answered, "The man is the chicken—he's involved. The woman is the pig—she's committed."
I snorted. "Jeez, Mom, it's not like that. I mean, okay, the kid's gotta be in there, but it's not like a pig and bacon—she's not gonna die."
She just smiled and shook her head. "You have no idea, sweetie. No, it's rare for a woman to die, though it happens, but it is the end of her previous life. Everything changes. Lesson for you for right now: Cover up—every time. And if it were to happen, don't you dare think that you're worse off than she is."
So I'd covered up, every time, until Bella and I were married.
I looked in her eyes and realized everything going through my head was passing through hers, too. As one, we sank down to the bed and sat, staring at each other. I searched frantically for something soothing to say. Wasn't it my job to be there for her? What does she need to hear?
"It'll be okay, baby. It's a little earlier than we'd planned, but we'll be fine."
She nodded but still looked scared. I was pretty sure I did, too.
The next four days went by slower than any I could remember. Slower than those last agonizing days before Christmas when I was seven; slower than the molasses days before summer when I was sixteen.
In those four days, Bella and I talked about everything. Neither of us was happy about the prospect of having to give up pursuing our individual goals—or at the very least, modifying how we went about it. Mine, in particular, didn't really mesh with family life: late nights in bars, a fair amount of travel, sometimes unhealthy associates, although my bandmates and I were all clean. At least Bella really only needed her computer and a quiet spot.
We both had options, though. We had our degrees, both of which included the qualifications for teacher certification. We had skills. The economy sucked, but at least one of us should be able to find something with benefits, so Bella's prenatal care would be covered and the baby would have medical care when it was born. It helped that my dad was a doctor—if it took a while to find a job, he could at least make sure nothing was wrong.
Just in those few days, we started to realize just how much things would change. She stopped her evening glass or two of wine, just in case, and she didn't come to watch me play that Saturday night, so she wouldn't inhale all the smoke. She was already a pretty healthy eater, but I noticed more fruits and veggies in the fridge than usual.
On Sunday, a friend called and asked us to go waterskiing, and we looked at each other. Bella told me, "We can go if you want. I won't ski, but you can if you like."
I shook my head. She loved to waterski. I wasn't going to make her watch me when she couldn't join in. "Maybe another time. Thanks, though," I said into the phone.
And I started to see what my mom meant all those years ago.
I didn't have to change anything. I could still go to my gigs, I could drink my beer—hell, I could even have done drugs without much effect, at least at this point. I could have gone waterskiing without endangering anyone else. But Bella couldn't. She was already committed, and we weren't even sure yet.
She'd decided to take the second test on the fifth day if her period hadn't started. On the fourth night, we lay in bed, holding each other, talking quietly from time to time. The night was warm and humid in our non-air conditioned apartment, and we were naked and uncovered. Bare to each other.
When it was after midnight and neither of us had so much as shut an eye, I spoke.
"You know that song that's been giving me trouble?"
"I had a breakthrough this afternoon."
"Oh, yeah? That's great, love! I'm so glad."
"You wanna hear it? I know it's late, but we're not getting much sleeping done."
She giggled. "No, we're sure not. Of course, I'd love to hear it."
I'd planned to wait until the next day, when we knew one way or the other, but it suddenly occurred to me that she needed to hear it tonight. It wasn't polished—I was still fine-tuning lyrics and in one spot, the chords just weren't right, but the message was there. For her.
I sat up, shifted to the side of the bed, and grabbed my guitar, and she sat up against the pillows.
I strummed a few test chords, adjusted the tuning, and fought down some unexpected nerves. I cleared my throat. "Here goes. It's for you, babe."
Once I started playing, the nerves disappeared. The one thing I could give her without question was my love, and I'd written this song to show her how deep it was. I'd poured everything I felt into the lyrics, and I just hoped it came through.
No matter what, to stand together,
To love and cherish, that was our vow,
Rich or poor, in sickness or health,
You look at me and need me now.
And I'm here,
I'll always be here for you,
whatever you need me to do,
I will do
And never count the cost.
Easy to say, I'd lay down my life for you,
Not really something I'll have to do,
But try each day, each mundane task,
That's when my love will really shine through.
And I'm here,
I'll always be here for you,
whatever you need me to do,
I will do
And never count the cost.
And never count the cost.
I'll never count the cost.
My fingers went through the final riff, and I looked into her eyes. A single tear traced down her cheek, but she smiled. "That was so...I can't even...I love you so much!" And she launched herself at me, throwing her arms around my neck and pressing her lips to mine.
My arms wrapped around her and held her to me, and I returned her kiss passionately. Her tongue pushed at my lips, begging entrance, and I gladly opened to her. My hands swept up and down her back in long strokes, and as she arched, she rubbed against my chest, her nipples peaking in response to the abrasion. I moved one hand to cup a breast, kneading it until she moaned. The nipple nestled against my palm, and I could resist it no longer. Breaking off the kiss, I lowered my head and covered her with my mouth, sucking and licking it to an even higher point.
Her hands buried themselves in my hair, holding me to her, and her scratches against my scalp sent sparks of arousal through me. As I switched my attention to her other breast, her hands smoothed down my back until she could grab my ass. She squeezed hard, making me jump a bit even as I hardened, and she giggled. I lifted my head and cocked an eyebrow at her.
"So, you want to play it like that, do you?" One hand went to her butt, pulling her against me and rotating our hips together like we were doing the lambada. She started panting and pulled my mouth back to hers.
Laughter faded as our kisses become impossibly deep. I had never felt closer to her. One hand slid up her back, tugged at her hair to change the angle of the kiss. Then I let it skim down to her pussy, stroking her clit in little circles. When she whimpered, I sent a finger, then two, deep into her, glorying in her response. Her hand found my erection and pumped me in rhythm.
Wanting to be within her, I moved my hands to her hips, tipping her quickly down on the bed. I hovered over her, loving the way the city lights shone in her seductive eyes and slanted across her face, highlighting the sheen that passion had drawn from her skin. Reaching my hand down to position myself, I thrust into her and we both groaned at the intense sensation. I pulled out and thrust again, then again, establishing a rhythm that sent us both higher.
All too soon, I could feel my approaching orgasm. Not wanting to come so soon, I shifted our positions, so she rode me. She was startled, but a sensual smile graced her lips and she started moving her hips over me...slowly. Excruciatingly slowly. She planted her hands on my chest for leverage: lifting, then lowering, inch by inch.
I put up with the torment as long as I could, but then I grabbed her ass, pulling her down quickly. Moaning at the way she felt around me, I set a quick pace that she gladly followed. I moved one hand to her clit and rubbed in time with my thrusts. When I felt her getting close, I switched hands, letting the other stimulate her clit as I curved the first around her ass cheek until one finger, slick with her arousal, was right at her anus. She started making the little noises she made right before she came, and I inserted just the tip of my finger. She cried out as she crested, and I bucked my hips harder, wanting to come with her. A few more strokes, and I exploded, gasping as I emptied into her.
She draped herself across my chest, breathing heavily, and I held her as we descended from the heights we'd reached. She rubbed her cheek against me and lightly kissed along my collarbone. "I think I can sleep now," she whispered.
I chuckled softly. "Me, too, love."
The next morning, we woke early. I let my hands play with her hair, wondering how long she wanted to wait before...but not wanting to be the one to bring it up.
It was barely six when she lifted her head, looked at me, and said, "I can't wait any more. Let's see what happens."
I nodded but prevented her from getting up right away, pulling her to me for a sweet kiss. She rested her forehead on mine for a moment, gave a shaky smile, and went into our miniscule bathroom.
She was back within seconds, way before she could have had time to unwrap the stick and pee on it.
"What—" I started to ask, but then I was shocked to silence by the broad grin on her face.
"It's here! I've got my period. God!" She laughed breathlessly before continuing, "I never thought I'd be so happy to say that."
I felt a smile coming, and soon I was laughing with her. "Really? So you're not...?"
She snorted. "Definitely not. I'm gonna need the super-size stuff today."
"Ah. Okay, then." I felt ridiculous for still feeling ridiculous at the mention of feminine hygiene products after our years together, but hey, I'm a guy. Just because I'm enlightened enough to pick the stuff up if I happen to be at the store when she needs it doesn't mean I have to be comfortable about it.
Her laughter quieted, and she didn't speak for long enough that I was starting to be concerned.
"Babe? Are you okay?"
She looked up and smiled at me. "Yeah, sure. Just...it's weird. I know it's not a good time, and we're not really ready...but I was already starting to love it, you know?"
I smiled back. "Yeah, I know. Me, too." I pulled her to me for a hug and rubbed my cheek over her hair. "I guess when we are ready, we're gonna be kickass parents."
She gigglesnorted. "Yeah, I guess." She nestled against me for precious, tender moments, broken all too soon by practicalities. "But for now, unless we want to have spotted sheets, I'd better take care of a few things."
I pushed her toward the bathroom and started toward the front room. "Go to it, woman. I'll start breakfast."
Our eyes met briefly before we went about our respective duties. The love in her eyes warmed me through to my soul, and I knew mine held the same depth of devotion. No matter what, we had each other, and that would see us through anything.
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