12 Years Later
The walls are covered in some of the most beautiful artwork I've ever seen. I didn't know she was capable of this. Black and white photographs from almost every corner of the earth where on display.
It was obvious that she's been busy.
"Edward, where is she?" I crane my neck to try and get a better lock through the throngs of people. We're in a museum and there is a lot of space, but it's packed.
"I'm not sure. We'll find her. This is a big night for her. I'm sure she's busy."
"Of course," I sigh to myself and remember to calm down. I have a tendency to get overly excited. Especially nowadays.
"Oh, I see her." Edward takes my hand, walking slowly through the crowds.
I have to waddle since my rounding belly is too huge to walk in a normal fashion.
Irina is talking to someone in a nicely pressed suit, but her face immediately lights up when she sees Edward and I walking towards her.
"You came!" She hugs me. Unlike years ago, her hugs are welcoming now. "I'm so happy to see you. It's been too long."
I agree and hold her tighter.
"I almost can't wrap my arms around you." She pulls back and appraises my pregnant body.
"Seven months," I put my hand on my stomach. The baby is active and I can feel the kicking.
"I almost didn't see you." Irina hugs Edward as well.
He kisses her cheeks. "This is an absolutely wonderful event."
"I'm so glad you two are here. This is literally my entire life's work." She looks around.
"It's very impressive," Edward states and then turns to me. "Sweetheart, I'm going to get a drink. Would you like something?"
"No, I'm okay." I pat his arm.
"Irina, anything for you?"
"No thanks." She smiles.
Edward kisses me before walking away quickly.
"So, let's sit. I want to talk." Irina takes my hand and pulls me to a more secluded area of the exhibit.
We sit on a marble bench and my feet are thankful.
"I can't believe you came at seven months pregnant. I would have complained the whole time." She touches my stomach.
"Edward wanted me to stay home, but I refused."
The plane ride to New York was stressful on him. He was freaking out the whole time, but my doctor cleared me to fly, so I didn't see any problem with the short trip.
"Of course he did. Always so protective when it comes to you." She chuckles happily. It's nice seeing her this way.
We talk a little about her exhibit. This has been years in the making and taken a lot of preparation. She's so proud of everything and I'm glad I can share in her joy. There's no hate between us. Not anymore.
"Tell me about the boys." Irina crosses her legs, letting her beautiful blue dress flow around her. "They rarely call me anymore."
"They're all so busy." I sigh. "Um, well, I don't know if you heard, but George signed with the Red Sox."
"What? No one told me!"
"He didn't want anyone to know until it was final, but they made the final offer a couple of days ago." He is a little old to just be starting his baseball career, but like his father, George spent some time in the Navy before making his final decisions.
"Oh, I bet he's so happy." Irina smiles, a little sadly. The boys don't have much contact with her anymore, but I can tell she misses them.
"He is. The first thing he's doing with his check is paying for the wedding." My heart beats a little faster just thinking about it. My oldest is getting married!
"I met her when they came to visit last year. She's so sweet. I approved."
"I do too. They really do love each other," I agree.
"He's twenty-seven now, hardly the boy I raised. It's strange." She takes a sip of her champagne.
"And Theo is graduating from Yale in the spring," I say. "He's so focused on law school; I don't think he has time to breathe."
"He's always been that way, though. I bet he's stressing about making the right choice."
"Yeah, but he knows what he's doing. He's deciding between Harvard and Princeton for law school. So, we'll see."
"And Sebastian is just going into Yale in the fall, so we're trying to get him ready for that." I say. I'm stressed about that. Seb in college gives me nightmares.
"Oh, I can't wait to hear about whatever he gets into." She giggles, a little tipsy now.
"Of course, JF just started driving so he's giving me multiple heart attacks a day whenever he gets into the car. I just sit on the couch and wait for him to come home," I admit. "It's pathetic, I know."
"Absolutely not. I nearly jumped out of a window because I was so anxious when George started. It's scary. They're growing up so fast."
"I can't believe it." I tell myself I'm not going to cry. My hormones are in check tonight, for which I'm thankful.
"And what about the others? Let's see pictures." Irina scoots closer to me on the bench.
I giddily pull out my phone and scroll until I find some photos, "Dominic is eight. He's so much like George, it's scary. He wants to play in the major leagues, too."
"I'm sure you and Edward already have him in training." She turns the phone so she can see better. "He looks just like you."
"With Edward's crazy hair."
I scroll some more. "And this is Benjamin. He's five."
"Absolutely adorable." Irina nearly snatches the phone away. "I can't believe how cute he is."
"Missing teeth and all."
Once again, my genes seem to have overpowered Edward's. Benjamin looked remarkably similar to me, except for the green eyes. He was loud and brassy and sometimes didn't say the right things, but I loved him to death. How could I not?
"And the baby? Where is he?" she asks eagerly.
"Alexander is two. Hardly a baby any longer." I show her.
"Oh, it's been that long? I keep forgetting. It seems like you're pregnant every year."
"Almost," I laugh to myself.
I've been pregnant, including now, four times in the past twelve years. I wouldn't change a thing. I like it that my kids are close in age.
All-in-all, I had seven children, soon to be eight. After Edward and I married, I adopted his four oldest boys. I love them as if they are mine, although Jonathan Francis is the only one who calls me "mom".
There will be a twenty-seven year age gap from George, who's the oldest, to this baby. Our family might not be the most normal, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
"Do you know if you're having another boy?" Irina asks me.
"We want to be surprised. I hope it's a girl. I just want one girl."
"Is this your last?"
"I'm not sure. I'm only thirty-five. I have a few more years for another, if we want one, but we might not."
"That's understandable." She sighs. "Are you happy, Bella?"
I nod."Very. You?"
"Yes, I think I am. It took me a long time to realize it, but I am. It's been a tough road for us, hasn't it?"
"Yeah, I guess you're right."
Irina and I are cordial, thankfully. We have to be for the children, but we weren't always. She had a lot of anger towards me, understandably. It took a couple of years for us to even communicate, and only when there was a desperate need. Even now, we weren't that chummy, but it was amicable.
She realized that she and Edward together wasn't healthy for either one of them. They were sucking the life out of each other. When she finally let go of him, things got a lot better. We see each other maybe twice a year for big occasions; she stays away most of the time, and lets Edward and me live without hassle.
"I was going to apologize to you again, but we've done that so many times, it feels unnecessary," I say quietly.
"I would agree with that. What's done is done. I just had so much anger, but once I freed myself from it, my life got so much better. I love Edward, I always will, but I'm not in love with him the way you are. I don't think I ever was."
She holds my hands in hers for a couple of seconds before getting up to walk around.
Edward soon rounds the corner, complaining that he nearly called the police when he couldn't find me. I take his hand and we walk around the exhibit. It really is great work.
While we stand and admire one of Irina's photographs of a Himalayan village, I feel a trickle of water run down my leg. Next thing I know, I'm standing in a puddle of it.
"Edward," I shake his arm, "I think my water just broke."
"My fucking water just broke," I whisper to him.
"It's too early. You have at least another month." He looks frantic, but collects himself quickly.
All of my kids have come early. I'm not worried, but this is certainly unexpected.
"Okay, it's fine," Edward says. He's a little flustered. "We need to get you to a hospital."
We duck out of the exhibit, and he hails a cab. Edward demands that we be taken to the nearest "reputable hospital" and his tone is a little angry. I'm not in any pain… yet, but I know it's coming. I tell him to calm down.
Cedars-Siani is only a few blocks away, and there isn't much traffic tonight so we make in record time.
I'm placed in a wheelchair before I can blink my eyes and Edward is on the phone calling home. He is yelling at our doctor and I tell him to hang up because he's being extremely nasty. I don't think I've ever heard his language get that bad.
I'm taken to the maternity ward and set up in a room, while Edward fills out paperwork.
My first contraction hits when he's in the hallway and I grip the bedside railings for support. It passes without much drama, but that's when I realize that this is really happening.
"Edward!" I call him back into the room and ask for his phone.
"This is outrageous. I knew I should have never let you come to New York." His hands run through his hair.
"Everything's fine." I take his hand and calm him down.
I call George and let him know what's going on. He, just like his father, is freaking out over the phone. He starts mumbling to himself and then tries to tell me that I should have just stayed in bed for the next couple of weeks so I didn't have any extra stress.
I just roll my eyes and let him vent.
We end the call with him telling me that he will get everyone on a plane to New York as soon as he can. By everyone, George means, everyone: Theo, Seb, JF, Dominic, Benjamin, and Alexander, plus himself and his fiancé. Edward says he'll pay for the tickets and since we won't be going anywhere for a least a week, maybe more, hotel rooms need to be purchased as well.
It's a lot to take in and we aren't really prepared, but we make the best out of a rather interesting situation.
Five hours later, my daughter is born.
She's tiny, but healthy and loud. She wails, and it brings tears to my eyes. A girl. My girl.
We name her Katherine, Kate for short. It's Esme's middle name, and I love it.
I can't tell who she looks like and there isn't much hair on her head, but it's dark. Her vitals are taken, she's swaddled in pink blanket, and the doctor hands her to me.
"Hi, baby." I run my finger along her cheek. She's sleeping now and so precious.
Edward plops into a nearby chair, as if he's just given birth, and wipes his forehead with a towel. He's in scrubs that the doctors made him wear if he wanted to be in the room.
"A girl finally!" He throws his head back.
"I can't believe it." I'm crying and trying not to spill tears on my daughter.
"Are we done?"
"With kids," He gets up and sits on the edge of the bed, wrapping an arm around me, "I'm forty-seven, Bella. No more kids."
"Okay," I nod and agree, "I already have everything I could ever want. No need for more."
A/N: Well, that's that. I know it was a long time coming but it wasn't ready yet. Thanks for the patience.
Thank you so much to Jenny for all the hard work she puts in for this and every other story I try to tackle. Love her lots. And thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed. I write for you guys. You make it enjoyable.