Beautiful Bellies Contest: Take Two
Title: Breaking Water
List of prompts used: Braxton Hicks, Bubbilicious, Boggle, Blubber, Digital Camera
Word Count: 4726
Summary: Edward has been having some strange and often scary dreams about how Bella will go into labor. What happens when the worst of them comes true?
My feet are hot. Why are my feet hot? I look around me but everything is too bright. I was just sleeping; it shouldn't be this bright and … shimmery. I squint my eyes and scan my surroundings. No wonder my feet feel like I've stepped into a lake of fire; I'm standing on asphalt without shoes.
None of this is right. Long vistas of brown desert divided evenly by a black ribbon of road stretch out in front of me. I hop to the dusty shoulder of the highway, but the dirt is just as hot as the pavement.
In the distance I see a car coming. The heat waves rising from the ground make it impossible to tell what kind of car or how far away it is. I just pray they'll stop and give me a lift to the closest town.
I stretch and try to rub out a kink in my back that seems to have come from nowhere. Why do I always get those? Maybe we need a new mattress.
An old Volkswagen microbus slows to a stop next to me. "Hey, buddy," I say before I get a good look at the driver, "do you think you could—"
My cell phone rings. I snatch it out of my pocket and look at the display. My heart starts to race when I see Bella's face on the screen. There's only one reason she'd call me on my work phone. "Sweetheart? Are you okay?"
"Edward? It's time."
I knew she was going to say that. "I'll be there as fast as I can, baby. But I don't know where I …" I finally get a glimpse of what appears to be a zebra in a White Sox uniform at the wheel of the VW.
He looks at me and lifts up his … er, muzzle? in the universal guy greeting. "You comin' or what?"
I shift back and forth, once again reminded of the heat seeping into the soles of my feet. The zebra leans over and looks out the window at my shoeless state and shakes his head.
"Edward?" Bella's disembodied voice floats from the phone next to my ear, and I snap back to the situation at hand. "I need you here, now!"
"I'm coming, sweetheart. There's a … I think I can get a ride. Just hold—"
"Sorry, Buster," says the zebra, "no shoes, no service." And with that he putters away. A flower power sticker and a peace symbol wink at me from the tailgate as I scream, "NOOOOOO!"
"Edward?" Bella's voice sounds far away, but closer than it was on the phone.
"No, no. I can't miss it. I have to be there," I groan. I whip off my t-shirt, tear it in half, and make a pair of improvised moccasins.
"Edward!" Her voice is even more insistent. I know I'm going to miss it, and she's going to be so pissed off.
"I'm coming, Bel—"
"Edward!" She's yelling now. And the kink is back, but worse. When I stand up and twist I expect to feel the ground below my feet as I start the long run to—I have no idea where I'm supposed to go—but instead, all I feel is that ethereal sensation of falling.
Until I hit the ground.
This time when I open my eyes, it's dark, and my feet are tangled in the blankets that Bella must have pushed onto me during her sleep.
I rub my hand over my face and reassure myself that I am indeed in our bedroom and that I haven't been stranded in the desert by a … what was it? A baseball zebra?
"Come back to bed. It's too early," Bella mumbles. She's wrapped around a puffy, candy cane-shaped body pillow, dutifully lying on her left side with only a silky, stretchy nightshirt and the sheet for covering.
"Did you do the move?"
"Mhmm. Twice. You were talking nonsense and snoring."
Well, that would explain the kinks I dreamed about. Whenever I sleep on my back, I snore like a chainsaw or start talking. Bella has taken to sliding her hand under my back and tenting her knuckles to encourage me to roll over. I guess this time I rolled too far.
"Did you have another dream?"
"Yeah," I whisper as I slide back into bed and spoon behind her.
"Ugh, seriously?" she mumbles.
I'm pretty sure she hasn't cracked her eyes opened either, despite my less-than-smooth move tumbling out of the bed. I shrug and rest my hand on her hip, stroking the sliver of skin between the nightshirt and her panties.
She reaches down and pats my hand. It's all the encouragement I need to spread my fingers over the swollen underside of her belly.
I've had a similar dream for the last several weeks. It's probably my worst fear, that I'll be stranded somewhere and not be able to make it in time to be there when the baby is born. My evil subconscious won't let it go no matter how many different reassurances I get.
"Don't make me go look up the statistic of spontaneous rupturing of the membranes," she says, her voice thick with sleep.
I bury my nose in the crook of her neck and plant two quick kisses. "You're not going anywhere, at least not until you have to pee. Let's go back to sleep."
When I walk into the living room with my breakfast, Bella raises an eyebrow at me and smiles. I know she wants to ask me about my dream, but it seems she wants to draw out my humiliation.
She has her cereal bowl perched on her stomach and flicks a lazy finger over the page in the latest issue of her cooking magazine. "I think I'll make this for the barbecue tonight. What do you think?" she asks and points to a cake decorated with berries to look like the American flag.
"No, I just saw those berries and had a hankering. Speaking of, I need more Bubbilicious."
Bella's cravings had been odd and varied. At first it was salty things; she went so far as to send me on a midnight run for chili cheese flavored chips one time. But lately it was sweet and chewy things, specifically Bubblicious watermelon bubble gum.
"Didn't I just bu … Never mind. I'll pick some up when I go to the store."
"I'll write a list. Lord knows we're going to need twice as much as usual since Emmett is coming."
I smile thinking about our annual Fourth of July get-together. The McCartys couldn't make it last year because Rosalie's mother was in the final stages of terminal cancer. It would be good to see them aga—
"Crap!" Bella shouts, breaking my train of thought. Her bowl had tipped and spilled cold milk all over her front.
I jump up and run to the kitchen for a few towels to mop up the mess. When I return Bella's eyes are closed and she's taking deep, measured breaths. Her hands are cupped on one side of her stomach, pressing down. After a few more seconds she hisses out a long breath and opens her eyes.
"Was that a real one?"
"No, just a Braxton Hicks."
"Are you sure?" If she was going into labor, that would put a serious kink in my plans for the fireworks show.
"Should we still have the party?"
The withering stare she tosses my way translates to: Shut up. We're not cancelling our plans.
"Right. Okay, I'll go get the note pad."
"This is going to be so awesome, you guys!" Alice, Bella's best friend from college, says as she walks backward down the sidewalk toward the stadium. Her husband Jasper, a quiet ex-military guy, somehow manages to keep her from falling on her butt while avoiding the appearance of long–suffering.
Rosalie has her arm linked with Bella's, their heads tilted towards each other. Presumably, they're gabbing about mutual pregnancy woes. Rosalie is due in three or four months. Emmett told me once, but I can't remember that kind of stuff for other people when I'm so focused on our due date. July twelfth. She's still a week away from her due date, so there shouldn't be any hiccups tonight, but watching her pause, and instinctively go into her breathing patterns, has me a more than a little worried. And somehow she has convinced me that walking the eight blocks from our townhouse to the stadium for the concert and fireworks is a good idea.
The women migrate together, and Jasper falls into step next to me. "You all right, man? Seem kinda tense."
I glance at him and nod. "I've been having these crazy dreams about Bella going into labor and I can't get to her, or we're at a formal work party and her water breaks all over my crusty boss's shoes. Stuff like that."
"Sounds like subconscious fears manifesting in your dreams," replies Jasper.
I raise my eyebrows and shake my head, but Emmett vocalizes my exact thoughts. "Well, duh. Eddie's always been an over–thinker."
"Shut it, EmmyLou. Just wait until Rosalie is ready to pop. We'll see if you're still as calm and cocky as you are now." I reach into my back pocket and pull out our tickets.
Slowly, we shuffle through the turnstiles at the stadium entrance and head to our section. About two–thirds of the way to our seats, Bella turns and glares at me. "Do you have tissues I can wad up to prevent nosebleeds?"
"Hey, it's what was available. At least it's the regular seats and not the bleachers." I pinch her butt, and she swats my hand away.
"Can't help it when your buns are at the perfect level for groping."
We plop into our squished, flip-down seats and I point to the fireworks displays across from us. "Look, we've got a good view of the light–up screen thingies."
"I wonder if they'll be as cool as laaaaast. Ung." Bella presses her hand on the top right side of her stomach and grits her teeth.
This is the tenth time in the last three hours she's done that. I've been counting, but I stopped asking after the fourth time when she cussed me out and called me paranoid. So I silently make note of the time and wait for it to happen again.
I'm nervous now. I should've thought this through better, but what's done is done; everything's been arranged for weeks. Hopefully this baby will wait just long enough for her mommy to see the big show.
"So, Eddie, what else have you dreamed about?" Emmett asks. He's louder than usual because his voice has to cut across the three people sitting between us, but also because he has to compete with the ambient crowd noise.
I sigh. Bella thinks my dreams are hilarious. She keeps trying to reassure me that it's quite rare for a woman's water to break spontaneously, but my nocturnal mind somehow isn't convinced.
"Let's see," Bella pipes up, "there was the one where we were at church and I get up to receive communion and just as I get to all the Richie Rich donors on the front pews my water breaks and some old lady in a big feathered hat passes out."
I slump in my seat. "I think it was Mrs. Stanley, but I'm not sure. She was too busy screaming and fanning her face before she keeled over," I say with an amused smirk. That one was pretty funny.
"What about the one where you were stuck inside a giant Boggle shaker?"
"Yeah, I was trapped in the box with all the letters and Bella was pounding on the plastic, but I couldn't get out, then an ambulance drove up, loaded her in and left me there."
That one stuck with me for weeks.
"Dude, you have one very strange mind," said Emmett.
"Wasn't there one about Jacob?" asks Alice.
I shoot a glare at her and rub both hands down my face.
"Oh, yes, hon. Tell that one; it's my favorite." Bella paws at my arm, soothing me with her most persuasive and wicked smile. "I promise I'll make it worth your while," she whispers right next to my ear. My eyes roll up and flutter shut when she sucks my earlobe into her mouth and swirls her tongue over it.
All of a sudden, the summer heat is oppressive, and every puff of her breath sets my nerves to tingling. Just as she moves to the sensitive spot right behind my ear, the lights dim, and the band starts playing. From then on, it's impossible to talk over the music or the crowd.
The band plays some of it's classic favorites, some new stuff, and then a medley of patriotic numbers which leads into the fireworks display. It's a good show, but I'm constantly distracted by Bella and how she keeps pressing her hand on her stomach. At one point I twine my fingers with hers, and bend near her for a kiss while at the same time caressing her belly with my unoccupied hand. It's so tight and hard.
I'm positive she's in labor and is either in denial or just being her ultra-stubborn self. I'm leaning toward the latter.
Just as the fireworks reach their pinnacle, Bella shoves my shoulder and whisper-yells, "I need to pee."
But it's too close, I need her to stay put for just a few more minutes. "Can you wait just until the finale?"
She gives me a beseeching look, but I throw her my puss-in-boots wide–eyed stare, and she shakes her head with a smile and sits back in her chair.
The zings and pops of the explosive lights slow, and the wire screens mounted around the top of the stadium start coming to life. There are all kinds of silly pictures of Uncle Sam and rockets, but it's this next one I'm most interested in.
In rapid succession a "B" ignites and like a snake, the spark travels over the screen and lights up the next four letters of Bella's name.
"Oh. My. Gosh. Does that say 'Bella'?" Rosalie asks.
I slip out of my seat and let bottom flip up, then crouch on one knee in front of Bella, a little velvet box resting on my outstretched palm. "Will you—"
Bella stands, her eyes awash with unshed tears. She reaches her fingertips to my cheeks, but then her expression grows panicked, and before I know what's going on, my knee is wet, and Bella's khaki shorts are stained dark brown.
"That did not just happen," she whispers and looks down at the puddle of what is most likely amniotic fluid.
The crowd around us is chanting: Kiss him, Kiss him. Bella's hands are flapping and tugging at her shirt in a vain attempt to cover her wet shorts.
"Uh, guys, you're on the jumbo-tron," Emmett yells with a gleeful smirk on his face.
"What?" Bella shrieks. "I look like I just pissed my pants, and I'm on the ...Dammit, Edward. Why now? This was …"
"Not the best idea," I finish for her, shame washing over me like a tidal wave. I could freely admit it really wasn't a very well–timed proposal. I should've done it months ago.
I glance up at the big screen, and it looks like we're fighting. Which we kind of are. I knew something like this would happen. And then she doubles over as another contraction hits her.
I stand and rub slow circles on her lower back like she showed me during our birthing class. The chanting has died down and people are finally figuring out that something is wrong. Murmurs sweep through the crowd, and I can hear Emmett shout like Fezzik, from the Princess Bride movie: "Everybody, MOVE! Preggo lady in labor comin' through."
In seconds, the people at the end of our row clear out so we can edge past them and slowly take the stairs down to the mezzanine. I guess someone must have alerted security, because waiting for us is a set of paramedics and a gurney.
We're led to a special elevator and through a number of corridors that I'm guessing only get used in cases of emergency. As they load Bella into the ambulance, I can still hear the booms and crackles of the grand finale.
Just before the ambulance door closes, Emmett says, "We'll meet you at the hospital."
I toss my house key to him. "Bella's overnight bag is right next to the garage door in the kitchen. Can you bring it with?"
The doors close, and I turn to Bella. My heart is beating a mile a minute, but I can lay one fear to rest. I'm right here with her. Everything will be just fine.
"What is your due date?" asks the paramedic. "I'm Seth, by the way."
"Not 'til the twelfth."
"How long have you been in labor?"
"I haven't been—"
"Almost four hours," I answer, cutting Bella off.
Both she and the bemused Seth look at me like I have two heads.
"What? I've been counting. Every time you pressed your hand on your stomach, I counted, and they've been coming more frequently."
"How far apart?" asks Seth.
"About every ten minutes."
"And your bag of waters has ruptured?"
"No, smart guy. I peed myself. No thanks to this doofus who decides to PROPOSE to his extremely pregnant girlfriend at a fireworks show!" She looks at me with her forehead all wrinkled up, and for the second time I feel truly ashamed for throwing that at her when she was so vulnerable.
"I'm sorry, baby. It was a crazy, harebrained, ridiculous—"
"Romantic, over-the-top, perfectly you kind of scheme," she says with a sniffle. "I didn't even get to see the ring."
Her voice is wobbly, and just as I pop open the jewelry box she has another contraction, and her eyes pinch shut. After several slow breaths, she looks at me with those fathomless brown eyes of hers, then down at the ring.
With another sniffle, she runs one finger over the simple solitaire diamond and starts blubbering. I catch a few words here and there: swollen, pumpkin, months to fit, and I love you.
"We're almost there," says Seth. He's been quite unobtrusive keeping track of Bella's heart rate and blood pressure, and when the ambulance stops he jumps out and says, "Good luck, guys."
Bella is wheeled to the Labor and Delivery wing. Her contractions are coming a lot more closely together now, and she's at that "This is all your fault" stage. The nurse, Angela, is efficient in getting the little monitor things strapped on to Bella's stomach, and in no time the room is flooded with the rhythmic tick of our baby's heartbeat.
I stare at the running length of paper with the lines that look like a lie detector test and note with delighted interest how the little hills develop with each contraction.
"Edward!" Bella's sharp voice snaps me out of my fascination, and I hurry to her side.
"How can I help?"
"Get it owwwwww." She bends her head forward in a practiced pose of concentration and sucks deep lungfuls of air through her nostrils as I stroke the back of her neck with my fingertips. "Why does it hurt so much?" she whines.
"Uh … was that a rhetorical question?"
"No … Yes. I don't know. It's just … these feel totally different than the ones I was having before. How did you know?"
I shrug. "Just a hunch?"
Angela bustles back in and rips open a package of sterile gloves. "Let's see how far you're dilated."
Bella's knees are drawn up tight, and her eyes flash open wide. She reaches for my hand and I obediently accept her death grip on my fingers.
"Relax and let your legs just fall open, sweetie. There'll be some pressure and a little discomfort, but it'll be over quick. I'm pretty good at what I do." Angela winks, and I can feel some of the tension drain from Bella's posture.
I keep my eyes fixed on Bella's. For some reason it just feels wrong to watch as another woman has her hand up there. When I hear the snapping of latex-free gloves, I look at Angela, whose face morphs from friendly and unconcerned to all business.
"You're dilated to eight–and–a–half centimeters, but I can stretch you to almost nine. Hopefully the doctor will get here in time."
"Wait, what?" Bella voice is full of worry. "What about the epidural and the happy drugs and not feeling this whole squeezing a watermelon through an opening the size of a lemon deal?"
Angela looked at Bella and then me with a kind of compassion only reserved for ignorant, first–time parents like us. "Sorry, dear. You're too far along. There wouldn't be time."
The room became a flurry of activity as various hospital personnel brought things in, set things up, and turned things on.
With each contraction, Bella became increasingly vocal in her displeasure with me, with fireworks, and with childbirth in general.
"You are never touching me again, Cullen," she grunts during one particularly strong contraction.
"Never again, baby. I promise. I'll be a monk from now on," I soothe into her ear.
"Okay, Dad. Hold her leg like this," says Angela as she cradles Bella's calf, "and let's see how Mom does with pushing."
After a few sets of contractions and bearing down, Angela declares, "There's a little bit of head peeking out. I'm gonna go see if we have a doc—"
"I'm here, Angela," says a man already covered in a yellow disposable gown, a surgical mask going over his nose.
The sound of his voice causes my whole body to tense.
"Oh, good. I was thinking I'd have to deliver this kid myself. She's pushing well, plus three station, and the fetus is tolerating contractions just fine."
"Excellent. Let's get this baby delivered."
"No, no, no, no. Isn't there someone else?" Bella asks, her voice squeaking on the last word.
The doctor looks between us and shakes his head. "Sorry, guys, I'm the only one available."
Bella groans and looks up at me. "Let's just go. We'll come back tomorrow."
I kiss her forehead and smile. "As much as I'd like to, love, I think things are little too far along."
"On the next contraction I need a nice strong push."
Bella closes her eyes and follows directions. Angela coaches her through a few more contractions, instructing her on how to refocus her screaming into more productive energy.
"Okay, Bella, one slow push, but when I say stop, you need to blow out birthday candles; otherwise you'll tear."
I can't help but marvel at how glorious Bella looks as she brings our child into the world. "Look up, sweetheart; here comes her head," I say glancing at the mirror stationed behind the doctor.
"Stop pushing now, little breaths," he says drawing out the last syllable as he eases the baby's head out.
"Not much longer, Bella. She's almost here," I whisper.
Moments later, a slimy, little, pink thing is tucked into the doctor's arm while he suctions her nose and mouth and then she's right there, lying on Bella's barely deflated stomach. I am transfixed by my little girl. She's perfect and beautiful and more than I can even comprehend.
Tears streak down my love's cheeks as she greets our baby girl. "Hey, sweet pea, you picked a heck of a time to make your entrance."
A shiny pair of surgical scissors appear in front of me. "Right between the two clamps, Pops," says the doctor.
With a single nod, I snip through the sinewy umbilical cord. Angela uses the toweling that surrounds the baby to wipe the shmutz from her face. My sweet little angel lets out a lusty cry of displeasure, and I grin at the set of lungs she has.
"She's perfect. You're amazing. I love you so much," I murmur into Bella's ear.
"Go with her. Take the digital camera. I want a bajillion pictures, okay?"
I follow the baby's nurse—who's a guy, which is weird to me at first, but he seems nice so I don't let it bother me much—to the warmer where he takes measurements of my girl and cleans her off a little more.
"Nine pounds, three ounces," announces nurse Kim.
The doctor lets out a low whistle. "That's some serious business, Bells. And with no epidural? Nice job."
When I'm handed the bundle of baby, I nuzzle my nose next to her puffy little cheek. "Your mother is the most amazing woman in the world."
I walk to Bella and place our daughter in her arms. In the hallway I can hear a ruckus—Alice's voice in particular—clamoring to gain admittance.
"It's fine, Angela; they can come in now that my lady bits are covered."
Like a dam bursting, all of our family—not just Emmett, Rose, Alice and Jasper, but Renee and Phil, Bella's mother and stepfather, Charlie, Bella's dad, and my parents, Carlisle and Esme—come pouring into the room.
After a few minutes of "oohs" and "ahhs," Emmett chuckles. "So, Buddy, did you dream about this scenario?"
I grimace and pinch the bridge of my nose. I glance down at Bella who is equally uncomfortable.
"What about the one you were going to tell us at the stadium before the concert started?" asks Rose.
Bella shakes her head and sighs. Just at that moment, the doctor—all cleaned up from the delivery mess—comes and stands alongside the bed.
"Everyone? Say hello to Dr. Jacob Black."
Gasps echo through the room as everyone gapes at Jacob. My nemesis. Sort of.
"Hi, everybody. I'll just leave you to your family time," he says and then turns to Bella. "You did really good, Bells. Just a few internal stitches that will dissolve over time. Make sure to schedule a post-partum checkup with your regular doctor in six weeks and listen to Angela. She'll take care of you."
Bella's eyes soften, and she reaches up for his hand. "Thanks, Jake."
He shrugs and the old, roguish smile creeps over his lips as he says, "Sure, sure." And then he's gone, almost as quickly as he'd appeared.
Alice fills the recently vacated space next to Bella, eyes wide with questions. "That was Jacob? As in the Jacob?"
"Yep," she replies.
"As in the Jacob-you-dumped-senior-year-of-high-school-who-later-tried-to-ruin-your-new-relationship-with-Edward? That Jacob?"
"Wow," says Jasper under his breath. "That's just …"
"My worst nightmare, come true," I supply.
"I can't believe that one actually happened," whispers Bella with a light giggle.
"Ha ha, very funny."
"Eh, he's yesterday's news. Look at the cute little crumb-snatcher you have to show for it," says Emmett. "How much does she weigh?"
"Right on, sister! Hit me," Emmett says, holding up his fist for Bella to pound.
Once the room finally clears, and it's just the three of us, I turn to my sleepy girlfriend. "So, I never got an official answer from you."
"Hmmm?" Her eyes are closed, and I know she's almost completely insensible. I'm surprised she's managed to stay awake as long as she has.
I lay little Liberty—Libby for short—in her crib and run my fingers softly over Bella's cheek. She cracks an eye open and gives me an exhausted but genuine smile. I kiss her softly once, twice before I speak. "Will you do me the greatest honor of marrying me?"
"Charlie'd be pretty mad if I don't let you make an honest woman out of me, huh?"
"I think he already has a place staked out to bury my body."
She chuckles, but her smile goes from teasing to trembling in a heartbeat. "Of course, I'll marry you. I love you."
"I love you too—so much."
She closes her eyes, and with her last bit of consciousness says, "I'm still never letting you near me again. Twin beds from now on."
"We'll see, Lucy. We'll see."