Chapter 38: Trains and Tracks
Edward waited with Bella inside the restaurant. "We can't afford this place, can we?" Edward asked her.
"Not really, but it's fine. It's a one-time deal. I'm sure we can find something reasonably priced on the menu," she said. She held his hand like she was more nervous than he was.
"Has your dad told you anything more about this woman he's dating?" she asked. She bit her thumb nail. He'd never seen her do that before.
"No. I've barely talked to him. Been busy with school and having a real life." He wore a cheesy grin on purpose—making it seem like it was not a big deal to be here with her.
"Edward!" Dad called out, waved up high in the air and wound his way through the entrance to the bar where they were sitting.
Edward drank down what was left of his soda, and Bella drank down her lemon water. It was silly to be at the bar when neither of them was drinking alcohol, but at least there were less people over here than in the lobby area by the seating hostess.
He needed the quiet.
The numbers were near—he could feel it.
"Bella, hi!" Dad said, hugging her then Edward in turn. "Thanks for coming."
"We're nervous to be here, but glad as well—for you, I mean," Edward clarified.
"Good. And I'm not sure how you'll receive my date, but I'm hoping you'll be open-minded," Dad said, smiling but his lips shook a little.
Was he nervous too?
"I like the sound of this already," Bella said and then sipped her drink through a smirk at Dad.
"I like the sound of Dad being happy. Is she nice?" he asked his father.
"She's incredibly nice and wonderful. The thing is . . ."
"Carlisle," a soft voice came from behind as footdsteps approached.
Edward turned and gawked. "Dr. Harkham? What are you doing here?"
"I uh . . ." Dr. Harkham blushed and her eyes shifted over to Dad.
"She's my date—the reason I need you to be open-minded," he said, grinning sheepishly.
"Oh, you're," Edward gulped though his throat was dry, "his date. That's nice." He blinked slowly in confusion. Was he dreaming?
"Wow. Esme? I kind of thought you . . ." Bella trailed off, smiling with so many teeth showing, he thought she was going to bite him.
"Let's go get seated, shall we?" Dad said, placing his hand on the middle of Bella's back and guiding her to the area he wanted them to be.
He spoke to the hostess and they were seated directly after.
Once in place, Bella asked, "So when did this start?"
"A while ago, but we . . . Well, I was trying to make sure my kids were taken care of before I focused on my needs," Dad replied.
Esme looked at Edward. "You seem really uncomfortable. I'm sure it's because of my presence. Don't think of me as your doctor while I'm here, Edward. Maybe try thinking of me as your dad's closest friend, because that's what he is to me."
"Isn't he more than a friend if you're dating?" Edward asked, his gaze piercing and his voice clear.
"Well, yes, but you don't have to worry about that. We're taking things at a leisurely pace," Dad answered for himself and Esme.
"So leisurely you wanted me to see what was going on? That seems serious to me," Edward said. He was surprised at how mature and calm he sounded. Usually his tongue twisted up and he had to speak in simple terms, but this was important. He had to understand what was happening here. "Just tell me without anything hidden—how serious is this? Really?" Edward pressed himself forward so he could see their eyes well.
"We don't know, Son." Dad took Esme hands. "If you want to know how I feel about her, then I'll tell you this—I love her—I do. I'm not sure either of us is ready to marry though."
"Tell him," Esme urged, nudging him.
"That's too much," Carlisle hissed back at her.
"If you're going to cover things up and lie, then what's the point of us being here?" Edward asked.
Bella gripped his thigh under the table.
The waiter came and ordered drinks quickly then left.
"So? What's going on?" Edward went back to his last statement to his father.
"We're living together. Esme's moved in with me. And I wanted you to know so the next time you come over, you won't be shocked or have an episode." Dad's lips twitched and his jaw kind of sagged. He looked worn-out.
"Does Emmett know?" Edward asked.
"I think he suspects, but last time he came over, I hid the evidence. We wanted you to know first. But don't say anything. I'll be seeing him tomorrow." Dad ran his other hand over Esme's arm while keeping their hands joined.
She smiled. "I know this is a lot to take in, but we've been growing close over the years. I wanted to thank you, Edward, for bring him into my life."
"Wasn't that my mom's doing?" Edward asked. It came out sounding more accusatory than he had meant it to. "I mean, not that it's a problem, but I was wondering. I thought mom found you."
"She did, and I moved to Arizona because Elizabeth kind of sensed I had feelings for Carlisle. Once she left, well, you guys moved here, and everything changed," Esme explained. Her tone was soft and patient.
"Sweetie?" Bella called out to him.
His eyes were closed, his head hung low and he was whispering to himself, not numbers, but saying, "Love is good. Love is good. I have Bella. Give Dad somebody too."
"You don't have to accept this right away," Esme said, "but we're happy to talk to you about it whenever you're up to it. And I'm ready with a referral for you with another doctor since I now have a very clear conflict of interest."
Edward shoved off the table to standing, his eyes blazing at her. "No! You're my doctor! I don't care if you marry Alice, Emmett or Dad. I need your help; you can't give up on me!"
"Okay, Edward . . . We'll figure out how to make this work." Esme held a hand up, signaling for him to calm down.
Bella stroked his arm and somehow coaxed him back down into his seat.
"Maybe we can stop meeting formally at the office, and simply do it at your dad's home," Esme suggested.
"You mean your home," Edward corrected her.
"Yes, I . . . I mean . . . Uh, my home," she agreed.
"Okay, but I . . . I will always have both Bella and Choppy with me. I need them there," Edward outlined his plan.
"I wouldn't have it any other way. Good thinking," Esme agreed and winked.
He smiled and it seemed to spread around the table.
Everybody was grinning, looking at the person across from them and the rest of the dinner was spent talking about how well school and married life was going for the young couple.
He kind of wished he could throw Bella down on the table and relieve all this with a good sexual pounding.
Worked for him on the nights he had a lot of schoolwork to get through.
Instead, he kissed her ear, told her he wanted her, and let her deal with his sneaky hands under the table.
Edward grabbed the first cart he found, without bothering to check if it wobbled or squeaked.
Bella figured he'd be the one pushing it anyway, so she let it go.
Their first school year was over; she was less stressed, and so was he. She was fine with him letting go more and experimenting more in public with seeing where his limits were in terms of his tolerance for stress-induced number-episodes. He had them so infrequently she worried she was getting careless.
It was time to celebrate though. School was out. And though it was hot, they'd celebrated their one year anniversary last month and now needed to give him the big celebration he deserved.
They had a lot to buy—it was his birthday dinner party this weekend. Dad would be coming, and Esme would be with him. Of course Dad denied the ring they'd seen on his girlfriend's finger was anything more than jewelry. But Bella knew right away after their double-date several months ago, that it was pretty serious. They'd be married soon—she was sure of it.
Emmett was having the opposite reaction when it came to who he was bringing. He'd changed his mind, and now seemed to talk about marriage all the time around Rose. It was like he figured if he pushed hard enough, she'd stop being so high-maintenance and would relent. He swore he was the one that wore the pants in that relationship, and he was in charge.
Bella laughed last week when he came over and teased him relentlessly, saying Rose on Dr. Who would kick all the men's asses, and his Rose could do the same to him.
Emmett talked Bella into leg wresting him and he lost as usual. Edward went next, and he figured out a trick where he could roll his hip out and put more torque into it, pinning her down in seconds.
My God, was he powerful, and she was so turned on she made up a lame excuse to get rid of Emmett early that night, even though Friday night was pizza night at their place, which Emmett always attended whether he was invited or not. Not that she could blame him. She learned how to cook a few more things over the last year, and pizza dough from scratch was one of them.
It took her a few times to get it down and to ignore the guilt over eating so much white flour, but watching how happy Edward was eating it, well, it was worth every gluttonous calorie.
"Is there going to be soda?" Edward asked her as they walked through the grocery store.
She patted her doughy midsection. Ten pounds seemed like a lot to gain in a year, but Edward told her mercilessly, how beautiful she was to him and how much he loved her curves.
"Tons of soda, and donuts for dessert instead of cake, as you requested." She pulled out her lengthy list.
"Good. And I want a lot of butter on my hot wings. I like butter," he reminded her.
"I do too. Paula Dean says everything's better with butter—I agree. Load it on," Bella said with a smile almost as exuberant as his.
Emmett was a part of the planning of the meal, so it had shifted from lasagna with salad, to Superbowl party food: hot wings, potato skins, veggie platter with spinach dip, chips, those big soft pretzels, hot dogs and cheeseburgers. It was a ridiculous amount of food, but then Edward wanted to invite practically every person he knew.
And Emmett had given up on trying to lose weight a long time ago, so he could get more definition in his abs. So that meant there was no limit in terms of how unhealthy this food would be.
Bella was going to add some salad and a fruit platter so they didn't have to watch as their guests' arteries clogged directly before their eyes while they waddled out to their cars afterward. She'd never forgive herself if they had a coronary on the way home.
"Are you going to tell me what movie Emmett's bringing for this birthday celebration?" Bella asked.
"Nope!" He popped his P and grinned. He pushed the cart ahead.
Ehhhhhh, ehhhhh, ehhhhhh.
She stopped. "Can we please switch out this shopping cart? It sounds like we've got a wounded baby seal tucked away at the bottom," she said.
"No way! It sounds like a train. Chuggah, chuggah, choo choo!" Edward pushed harder and faster, making her chase after him.
"Can't you hear it? It's cool," he said, looking like he was having the best time ever.
She directed him over to the produce section and while she was picking out the best fruits for her part of the meal, she lost track of where he was and what he was doing.
Sometimes he'd wander and sniff at the vegetables and make adorable wrinkled noses in distaste. There were a few vegetables he'd learned to tolerate because of her insistence he eat more balanced meals, but they still were something he viewed as a sort of nemesis.
"Listen . . . Do you hear it?" she heard him say.
She tucked the cantaloupe in her arm—an unplanned purchase she couldn't resist—and found him talking to a little girl, sitting in a cart a few feet away. She was in one of those car ones.
"Sounds like an engine," the little five-year-old girl said, turning the driving wheel in her fake car.
"Like a train, huh?" He smiled with pride.
She giggled and Bella laughed. The little girl was flirting with him.
"Choo, choo!" He fisted and pulled his arm down in the air, pretending to blow a train conductor's whistle.
She leaned out the side of her car and listened hard. "I do hear it!" she cried with joy.
Her mom was perusing the grapes, oblivious to her little girl.
The little nugget got out of the car, ran over to him, and he picked her up and put her in his cart then gave her a ride. He zoomed it around in a zig-zag pattern, careful to keep from knocking into anything.
He wore the happiest smile ever, and his whole body was vibrating with tenderness and joy.
Bella's whole chest squeezed then exploded, filling her up with so much love and a sudden, deep desire to have his baby, flooded her. Her womb tugged at her heart, begging for a chance to do what it was meant to—have this man's children.
Bella's eyes welled up, and she was riveted at this new, lighthearted laugh he was emitting.
It was the most wonderful thing she'd ever seen.
The little girl squealed with laughter, alerting her mom who blanched, gasped, then flew at him.
"Katie!" the mom screamed. "Let go of my daughter!"
She flung herself at him, pushed Edward back and ripped her daughter out of the cart.
"I was going on a train ride," the little girl said, frowning.
Bella raced over there and said, "I'm so sorry; he didn't mean any harm. He's with me. This is my husband, and we—"
"Tell your husband I'm gonna report him as a pedophile that goes after little kids in grocery stores!" the woman said, pointing in Bella's face.
"If he was a pedophile, he wouldn't have made sure to keep her near you and in plain sight. Be reasonable." Bella sighed and her shoulders fell. "He was only playing with her. This is the most innocent man you'll ever meet. He wouldn't hurt anyone, least of all a young child."
"I want to have kids of my own, but I can't. I have problems—kind of like autism, but different. I think it's better, because I want people to touch me and—"
The woman's eyes grew bigger than the cantaloupe Bella was still holding. She made an absolutely horrified face and pushed her daughter behind her.
"You-y-you stay away from us," the woman said, terrified.
"Oh, God, no! He didn't mean it like that. He means he has to hold hands with me, and he likes being affectionate with his family—not strangers. He didn't touch your daughter besides putting her in the cart," Bella explained, waving her one hand in front of her, palms out so the woman would understand they were both harmless.
"I think I've heard enough!" The woman put her daughter in the seat directly in the cart instead of the pretend car portion, and took off.
"I just . . . I love kids," he said, his eyes so filled with sadness they were killing her.
"I know . . . I do, too," she said, covering him with her arms and with a few kisses. "I think we better get our stuff fast and go before that woman causes us a problem."
"What did I do wrong? The little girl was happy. I was being nice," he said, pouting.
Bella held his hand and they pushed the cart together, walking much slower than she wanted to, but he was really hurt by what had happened.
"The mom doesn't know us, so it scared her. There are tons of sick people out in this world that will kidnap children and do disgusting things to them," she said.
"I know what a pedophile is. She thought I was one?" He blinked and tears were thick in his eyes. His lips quivered with emotion. "I would protect her from mean people, not hurt Katie. I was her friend."
"I know, sweetie. I know you would do all those things, but think if that was our little girl? How scared would you be if a strange man you'd never met suddenly took her and put her in their cart?" she asked.
He bit his lip that was shaking along with his chin. "I don't wanna talk about this anymore . . ."
They got what they needed without any issues from that hysterical mother, went home and put their purchased items away. That night he didn't eat much at dinner and went to bed early.
Bella wrapped his birthday gifts and then sat, hanging over her knees. Her elbows dug into her thighs, but she ignored the uncomfortable pressure. With every breath, her head hurt almost as much as her heart.
You can't do this. You can't have kids. What if they have a disability that's . . . No! Don't you even think it! You don't think of him as disabled. His needs are a blessing, not a curse. You would love that child more than anything, even if it came out with a missing arm and was blind.
She lowered herself down onto her side and curled up in the fetal position on the couch.
How could she want this even for herself?
And how could you think for a second Edward's disabled? You've never thought of him that way before. You're disgusting—taking your own insecurities and issues and hiding them by blaming you're unwillingness to have children on him! If you're that low, then you don't deserve the honor of carrying his child!
Tears moistened the corners of her eyes.
Even after knowing baby Megan's death wasn't completely her fault, she was still hung up on it.
What if it had been her own baby that died? It would destroy her—no question. If Megan's death had her that self-destructive, then she knew without a doubt, her own baby passing away would turn her into a psychopath, destroying everything in her path, possibly including Edward.
It kept her stuck—failing to move forward and letting her family of two be as blissfully happy as possible.
She closed her eyes, water slipped out of them, and she hummed one of Edward's piano songs he'd been practicing religiously. He wanted to play it for everyone at his party.
Her mind relaxed some, regardless of how tense her body remained with her fists curled under her chin and her arms glued to her chest. Sleep managed to take hold quickly.
"Congratulations, momma, you have a girl!" the doctor said, handing Bella the chubby, bright-eyed gift that just left her body.
Bella touched the infant's bloody cheek, but didn't dare hold her.
"What are you going to name her?" the doctor asked.
"Shara," Bella blurted, taking no thought to ask Edward his opinion.
He was sure to have one.
She looked around the room containing a few of their friends and some family, but he was gone.
The baby was forgotten.
"Do you want something to eat?" her friend, Lisa, from school, asked.
A moment later she was eating her Friday night pizza, drinking soda and laughing with her friends.
The baby was being held by someone in the room, but Bella didn't care. She paid no attention. This was fun. Everybody was here to see her. They fawned over her, hugged her, congratulated her and talked about the music she was passionate about.
An hour or more passed. At some point, she held the baby out in front of her and smiled. She was cute with round cheeks and dimples, but Bella couldn't remember what she'd named her for the life of her.
"What's her name again?" she asked Emmett.
"I don't know. I was talking to Rose when you said it." He shrugged.
She handed him the baby like it was poisoned. "Here, you hold her."
Emmett rocked her, smiled at her and seemed happy to be an uncle.
The baby grabbed anything he got near that she could hold onto. She started shoving her fists into her mouth, making little grunting noises. A few little whimpers came out of her.
He handed her a pen with a cap on and the baby sucked on it greedily, her tight fists looking mottled.
"Is she cold?" Edward asked, entering the room. "I got her a blanket."
Bella's face dropped. What kind of a mother was she? She hadn't even cleaned the blood off her baby. She was dirty and cold. A diaper was put on her by somebody, but who did it? Bella was unsure of who had touched her, what they'd done to her. She was too busy being the star of the show.
Bella's entire body went ice cold, and she shook herself into a small, rounded lump. Tears kept away, but inside, she was a waterfall of regrets already.
You're a horrible mother! Your baby hates you and loves Edward. He loves her without thinking, and you? You set her aside like your meal—ignoring her needs, she thought.
Her body convulsed and her lungs hiccuped several times with silent sobs.
Could she disappear now?
Nobody needed her. Not even this baby.
"Sweetie, she needs to eat, and only you can do that," Edward said, coaxing her to sit up.
Tears stained Bella's cheeks, and she knew it would be permanent. Every person that ever came across her would see the red track marks on her face—proof of her hideous nature. She was an unnatural woman, awkward and broken—unable to be a mom without Edward telling her how to do it.
He helped Bella lift her shirt and he placed the chubby baby in her arms.
"I weighed her. She's a fat one. Ten pounds, one ounce," he said, his eyes gleaming with utter pride.
No! I don't want her to be fat like me!
The little nugget attached right onto the breast and sucked with gusto. Bella's eyes grew wide and her heart grew as big as this baby, resting on her torso.
"She likes me? She likes my milk I make for her? It's not poison?" she gasped.
"She loves you and your beautiful milk. You're doing it, Bella. You're being the best mom ever," he said, glowing.
"But I . . . I was . . . I can't even remember her name," she said, racking her mind. She shook her head and a tiny little fist kneaded into her sore stomach muscles. Bella dipped her head down, took her daughter's top fist in her hand, nuzzled and kissed it. The moment her lips met her child's, it hit her. "Shara . . ."
"Shara . . . Our perfect baby," Edward exclaimed to the room.
Everyone turned toward them and bowed down.
Bella's insides froze. This was wrong. Don't worship me!
"She's beautiful," Bella whispered, "but I don't deserve her, you, or this." She motioned to the people around them, still on their knees, not daring to look at them.
Her shoulder shook, rattling her awake.
"Yeah?" She bolted upright, her brow sweaty.
There was a blanket in his hand.
"Why are you sleeping out here?" Edward asked, staring down at her. "Are you mad at me? I thought you might want a blanket at least if you don't want to sleep with me." His eyes were soft and filled with concern.
"No, I . . . Shara . . . God, that was a . . ." She licked her lips, her mouth was dry, but it was easy to ignore. Her head went from foggy to clear when she realized her fears were unfounded. That was not who she was anymore—irresponsible and self-centered.
She cared about Edward more than anything—thought of his needs before her own most of the time.
"We had a baby girl in my dream—Shara," she began, looking up at him through her lashes. "And I think . . . I think I want to have your baby, if you want one too."
"Really?" he squeaked, dropping to his knees before her. "You want my baby inside you?"
"I do; more than anything," she whispered.
She leaned in to kiss him, but he dragged her off the couch, into his lap; kissed, cradled and rocked her.
"A baby of our own? A baby we can love and share together? Shara?" His shoulders rose.
"Yeah, that name . . ." She gazed in his eyes, gauging his reaction. "It's strange. I don't know if we—"
"No! I love it. It's beautiful, and Share-ah. It means we both share her—love her together. It's perfect, like you." He kissed her deeply.
When they broke, she said, "But it was just a dream. We don't know if we'd have a girl or not. You used to say you knew we'd have a boy. I'm sure this dream was a reflection and direct result of that little girl, Katie, we met at the grocery store. It doesn't mean we have to—"
He cut her off again. "We do too. We're gonna have a girl first, then later a boy. I can feel it. In here—" he put her palm on his hammering heart "—and you feel it too. I know you do. I can see it in your eyes, behind the fear."
"I'm not afr—well, okay, I'm petrified," she admitted when he gave her a no-nonsense look. "But I'll have you to help me, so you'll make sure I love this kid and don't screw up like my parents did."
Ten year old, Garrett, Dr. Harkham's case number three, drifted into her mind, solidifying her decision. She wanted a child just like Edward and Garrett.
She stared at Edward with reverential awe.
"And I'll never leave this child like my mom did, even if Alice comes at me with a knife," he teased.
She moved like a cat on the prowl, pushed him gently down onto his back, started pulling his clothes off, and she got straight to work on making this baby. No birth control. No control at all.
Just a man and his woman, making love on the living room floor of their small apartment.
It was the second time she cried tears of joy, and this time, her face was wet for reasons she loved.
It was so strange. I knew I was going to write this chapter soon, had it planned out several days ago, but this dream hit me the other night, and I knew I had to put it in this chapter. Normally, I wouldn't have written this chapter until the previous ones were completed, but this couldn't wait. I wrote it right away.
I dreamed all night I gave birth to a chubby baby girl I called Shara and then couldn't remember her name for the life of me. In fact, that morning after I had the dream, as I was driving my kids to school, I was searching my brain relentlessly for that name of the baby girl. It took a while, but it finally resurfaced. I was so flighty and disconnected in this dream; so not like me after a birth. Though in the dream I was a little flustered and out of it, I woke up that morning feeling kind of disturbed that I would treat this easy-going baby like they were as inconsequential as the food I'd finished eating and set aside. Very strange.
I figured it played directly into her fears than mine. Mine were the opposite though. I'm done having kids, and though I would've loved to have had another girl, it's not a reason for me to ever consider having more. I've got my hands full with 4, and if I did have another one, yes, I'd probably be a frightening, negligent parent, although never at that level of this dream. Good thing I'm done!
Sheesh! Heavy stuff.
These wonderful people help make this story shinier and brighter: my beta, SunflowerFran, and my pre-readers, Amandac3, Paxson Adkins, akjamma and Dinia Steel. Thank you for your help!
Thanks to all of you as well, for reading and as always, sharing your thoughts and encouragements through your reviews.
Scarlett (dream happened 11/13/12. That's when I wrote this chapter and most of this a/n, just an FYI)