This glimpse into the future is for my girl, Carrie ZM. Words aren't strong enough to tell you how much you mean to me. I thank the stars every day that you came into my life.
I hope it's everything you wanted it to be. Happy birthday. ILY. (And you thought I wasn't listening all those months ago.)
The Mexican sun dances across the water, the waves of the Pacific Ocean calm and blue, peppered with people enjoying the end of a brilliant beach day. Seagulls fly and squawk overhead, making themselves part of the activity.
I raise my face to the sun, squinting at its brightness even in the late hour, and revel in the warmth on my skin. I look back up to see the forms of my two people moving towards me, and the warmth spreads further through my body, surrounding me like wildfire.
"Daddy! Daddy! Did you see what I made?" Forty pounds of girl lands on my chest and flattens me, sending sand flying.
"I did. That's the biggest castle I've ever seen. I bet they can see it from space." I kiss her salty curls, and she pushes off of me to sit up on my chest. Her little hands get busy, proceeding to push her wild hair off of her sweaty face.
"Can they see it from the moon?"
"Ok. Can I play with my doll now? She needs to go swimming. She's very hot." She scrambles off me, moving under the umbrella where I've dug a pond in the sand for her Barbie.
A moment later, one hundred and fifteen pounds of girl lands on me and flattens me once again.
This time, the girl kisses me.
"You're getting burned, Shutterbug." I move my fingers delicately over her sandy shoulder, leaving a white fingerprint when I press down.
"I know. The sunscreen washed off a while ago. I just didn't want to miss out on the BIGGEST SANDCASTLE EVER!" She yells the last part, mimicking our five year old birthday girl.
"I guess it's time to pack it in, huh?" I don't move to start that activity, instead, I keep enjoying the feel of my bikini clad Bella lying on top of me. Her sun kissed body molds to mine like it always does. I'll never get tired of her.
"We've got a long way to go tomorrow. Are you sure you don't want me to take the wheel?" Her fingers pinch my sides and I squirm, laughing.
"Uh, no. Definitely not. I want us all to arrive at the house and settle in before her first day of school in one piece."
"Well that certainly isn't tomorrow. It's only July." She snickers.
"I'd rather not spend the next month in the hospital." I grin, watching her brows furrow as she gets frustrated with me.
"We have plenty of time, we're taking the scenic route, remember? I can definitely drive from La Paz to Arizona." The plan is to drive through one of the few states we hadn't been to yet in our extensive travels. We're going to see some of the stores selling Bella's new handmade jewelry line, and to hit the Highland Celtic Festival while we're there.
I laugh, "Bella, you can't drive a straight line in that house on wheels."
She smirks and we fall silent, her fingers lazily pushing the sand on my chest around, brushing it this way and that. "I haven't driven in five years."
"And we're all truly thankful for that." I take the opportunity to pass my hands over her damp bikini bottom, and she swats my hand away.
"You know, you've come a long way from the uptight suit-man I fell in love with, but you've still got some improvements to make." I let her pout for a moment until I lift my head to kiss her beautiful mouth, and she kisses me back, mood lifted. A girly squeal interrupts us, and we both sit up to watch our daughter splash Barbie into her pool. I run my hand across Bella's barely showing stomach, smiling.
The road stretches long before me, heat rising up from the asphalt, making those watery mirages that disappear as you get closer. The palm trees that dot Florida's highways sway in a breeze that only they seem to catch, causing me to open the small side window to try to see if I can experience some of it myself.
"I think it's time we thought about settling down." Bella whispers as she crawls into the seat next to me as we make our way down I-75. We've just finished a scorching hot birthday celebration of princesses and Disney characters, causing our daughter to pass out immediately on her bed in the back of the RV. Her fairy princess Minnie ears still stuck firmly to her head, while Monkey cuddled up against her side.
"I'm sorry? I don't think I heard you correctly." I turn with my eyes wide, disbelief playing over my face. I try hard not to laugh at the Bella I see, still clad in her own Mickey ears. She never ceases to enthrall and enrapture me.
She sighs next to me. "I know this nomadic lifestyle has been wonderful. Great, even. I've enjoyed every minute of it, and we've agreed it's important for Jolie to experience lots of different things. But I think there's something to be said for the way you grew up too. I want her to know all sorts of life, and maybe that means staying in one place for a while."
"What did you do with my wife?" I chuckle, and reach my hand out looking for hers.
She grabs mine, swinging it back and forth between us. "Apparently, I've been abducted by aliens. Seriously, though. She's going to be starting school next year, and I know we haven't really discussed it, but I see things differently now that I'm a parent."
The precious purple butterfly necklace swings from the rearview mirror, catching my eye, and I squeeze her hand. "Bella, Renee gave you a great life."
She squeezes back, and I catch her glancing at the necklace as well. "No, I know that. I'm not questioning my own upbringing. Maybe there's something to be said about planting roots. We can always settle down for a year and see what we think."
"A year isn't so long." I agree, thoughts of where we'd end up swirling in my head. Twelve months gives me plenty of time to land a long term teaching position, something I haven't had before. The thought excites me. "I know exactly where I want to go." I turn, smiling at her, only to see her smiling back at me.
"Merci." I answer as the waiter delivers my wine, and I frown at the almost empty cheese plate in front of me. I'm proud that after two months I'm able to identify each type by flavor and smell alone. I've become somewhat of a cheese snob, and unfortunately have inflicted my expensive tastes on my daughter. She sits happily bouncing on my leg as she fists a crumble of farmhouse Cantal.
I smile as I look at her, charmed like everyone else seems to become when they meet my beautiful three year old. Wherever we go, people are taken by her; by her curls and rosy, dimpled cheeks. A trait from her Grandma, Bella has pointed out to me, through the handful of pictures she has of Renee. It's a pitiful collection, a collection containing mainly adult photos, and very few of her as a child due to Renee's uninterested father. Bella and I try to rectify this in Renee's honor by the never ending photo opportunities Jolie suffers through. Our child is probably the most documented child to have ever been born.
Strangers love to speak French words to her, to listen to her parrot them back excitedly in her little girl voice. She has picked up quite a vocabulary, telling waiters what she would like to drink, or saying please and thank you to shop vendors in their native language. At this moment, a little boy seated at the table next to us is making Jolie laugh by making faces and sticking out his tongue at her.
I feel Bella approaching, as I always can, and the object of my affection walks excitedly towards us. Her hair twisted to the side in a low ponytail, a blue beret perched on her head at the perfect angle. She rests her easel, paint boxes and black leather portfolio against the tree next to our table before reaching out to Jolie. Bella places both hands on her daughter's face, placing two sloppy kisses on her cheeks before leaning in and giving me the adult version.
"You taste like wine and cheese. Delicious." She whispers, before hijacking my glass and settling into the seat next to me.
"How was today?" I ask, signaling the waiter over to order another glass and more cheese.
"Oh, Edward I'm truly inspired. I think I've finally found the one subject I can perfect. The male form." Her cheeks are pink from excitement.
"Um, excuse me? You were painting naked men today?"
"Yes!" Bella's hands start moving wildly as she speaks, wine sloshing. "Oh just trying to get the planes and muscles correct, it was so challenging but I really got into it."
"And this model was good looking, I assume?" Teasing with my jealousy.
"He had nothing on you, baby. In fact," Bella leans closer to me over the table, causing her white paint splattered t-shirt to gap at the neckline and give me a glimpse of her own splendid form. "I think it would be quite beneficial if I got to practice some later at the flat."
I grab my wife by the back of her neck before whispering, "I think that can be arranged." And proceed to pull her into a very promising kiss.
French, of course.
I walk skeptically around the people sitting on the ground, either on the bare earth or on handmade woven rugs made of brightly colored yarns. I've gotten used to being in an environment such as this, one of art and spirituality, but part of it still makes my neck itch. I wonder how long it's been since most of these people bathed.
I follow an exuberant Bella through the "Lightening in a Bottle" festival taking place in Lake Skinner, California. A Bella that fits in perfectly with her colorful Indian skirt and pink tank top; strings of fabric bought from the various vendors tied up and down both her tanned arms.
Jolie gurgles happily, strapped to Bella's chest. Her carrier also adorned with colorful scarves and jingly pieces of jewelry pinned to the back, far from our baby's curious hands. I might've checked more than once to ensure she couldn't reach them, that is until Bella finally reached her level of tolerance of my over protectiveness, and pushed my hands away.
It's been an interesting two days, filled with chanting and yoga and learning to become one with the earth. There's continuous music, some I've enjoyed, like the folk band, and some designed to drive me crazy like the weird yodeling trio. I can't lie, I've tried to hole up in the RV to catch the Rangers game more than once, but as Bella always says, you can only experience things for the first time, once. Good guy that I am, I follow along and wear my own turquoise ribbon that Bella has tied in the short, "manly" ponytail she's talked me into sporting. She says it hot, I say it's annoying. At least I match Monkey, who's been subjected to a turquoise bandanna tied loosely around his neck as well.
A single guitar player strums softly in the warm evening air, lightening bugs competing with the soft globes strung across poles and candles that dot the floor. A Native American tribesman accompanies him after a moment on his Taos drum, his weathered hands beating a soft rhythm that matches the guitar beautifully. New friends and strangers are gathered around the Sacred Fire, and all eyes turn when the guitarist switches to a lax version of the traditional wedding march I insisted upon.
Bella. She moves towards me like a spirit, her white sheer dress fluttering behind her, wavy hair loose and tied sporadically in braids and interwoven with flowers. Her feet are bare, making me smile, showing off her newest tattoo of ivy that flows down her foot and curls around her toes. In her arms is our sunshine, our creation, and I feel myself falling into the otherworldly aura this moment has created. I try to forget that I, Edward Cullen, just used the word aura and I finger the legal document from the civil ceremony I insisted upon in my pocket. I laugh to myself, figuring I'll never truly lose the old me.
As she reaches me, she hands Jolie off to the medicine woman Bella has befriended over the last few days, the one teaching homeopathic remedies. Everyone else is forgotten in my mind and the world drops away as her hands reach for mine. We hold onto each other, intertwining fingers, intertwining our lives.
"Nice tie." Bella smirks at me, breaking our connection a moment to fiddle with the black bowtie I'm sporting with my white linen shirt.
"You didn't think I'd be able to attend a wedding without a tie, did you? I thought you'd get a kick out of it. Oh, and the footwear." She looks down and laughs, seeing my khaki pants rolled up showing off feet as bare as hers.
"I love it." Her hand finds mine again. "And I love you."
We listen as spiritual words are spoken by the medicine woman's Hopi husband, about earth and partnerships and being one. I listen with one ear, too distracted by the beauty of my Shutterbug before me. Visions of meeting her for the first time flit through my head, dancing on the grass in a park, kissing her for the first time in an enchanted garden, until Bella breaks my train of thought and begins speaking. We had decided not to share what we'd say, and she being the person she is, decided we shouldn't plan it, and just say what we feel at that moment.
She squeezes my hands and begins. "I was moving through life, exploring and thinking it was everything I needed. And then I found you. Since then, I know I've been living a true life. You have made me complete. You have made me safe, you have made me fulfilled." She leans up to kiss me gently, before pulling away. "I'll love you forever, my Edward."
Any apprehension I had about speaking my heart in front of a bunch of strangers, any doubt in my mind of what I thought I wanted to say leaves me, and all I can see is her.
"Shutterbug. You say I made you complete, safe, fulfilled. You have done the same for me," I begin to choke up, my hands glancing down to our joined fingers clasping tightly around each other's before I raise my head back up to look at her. "But what you've done for me, can never be matched. You saved me. I love you, my beautiful, crazy, Bella. More than I'll ever be able to tell you."
The tears that had been pooling in her eyes escape, and she lets them fall down her cheeks. Her smile is all I see as I feel her arms circle my neck, pulling me to her for a kiss way too passionate to share with people you don't know. I hold her to me tightly, leaving her no chance to doubt how much I love her, and break the kiss, whispering in her ear. "The rest is just for you." I swallow and bury my face in her hair. "You gave me you, and you gave me Jolie. I'm the richest man I know." I hear her sniffle into my neck, and feel her tears on my skin.
"Oh!" I hear her exclaim before breaking away and grabbing for our baby, holding her between us. There is clapping and singing and cheering surrounding us, but all I care about is raising my arms to enclose and protect my entire life.
"Dude, can I sleep in here while you stay in the house?" Emmett climbs up into the RV before I've even turned the engine off.
"Only if I keep the keys." I stand and look at my best friend, and we just smile at each other for a moment before he walks to me and roughly pulls me into a hug. I slap him on the back, truly happy to be in his presence again. I hadn't realized how much I'd missed him these past few years. Being back in Texas is strange, I feel like a visitor when I've felt at home all over the country. I chalk it up to nerves.
"You look good. You look really happy." He says as he pulls back, taking in my ratty sneakers, shorts, and the infamous Marley t-shirt. "Even if you did steal my shirt."
"Emmett!" I hear Bella call as she walks from the back of the RV with Jolie in her arms and Monkey trailing behind.
"Holy shit! She's so much bigger than she was in the last picture! Look at that hair!" Emmett kisses Bella on the cheek and runs his hands over Jolie's already unruly head of hair.
"You want to watch the language in front of my baby?" I ask and he just blows me off, taking her from Bella. To see this big man child cradle her so carefully reminds me of just how well fatherhood suits Emmett.
"Rose and Eloise are probably dying in there, I'm sure. Let's go." He climbs down the stairs carefully and I follow Bella out and up the walkway to a large Spanish style home. They had it custom built when they found out they were expecting baby number two, the beautiful Emily, born shortly after Jolie.
The mention of Eloise speeds my steps and when we walk through the door, Rose hugs Bella and I tightly before taking Jolie from Emmett, cooing and leading Bella towards where I assume the kids are. They're already gossiping and comparing baby notes as they go.
I hear a sniffle coming from down the hall behind me, and I turn, holding back my own overwhelming emotions as I'm engulfed in the familiar hug of my former nanny. She releases me but keeps her hands on my arms, looking me up and down. "Oh my boy, look at you! Such a man, with a beautiful woman to love and a baby! Oh your parents are going to be so proud of you!"
"Eloise! You get more beautiful every passing year. When are you going to join us on the road?" I joke, knowing she'd never do it.
"Please. I can't leave these three with Emmett in charge." She laughs and rubs my arms once more before letting go.
I pause, and she waits, always knowing when I have something to say. "How are they?" I ask. Eloise has been splitting her time between Emmett's family and helping my mother as much as possible since the stroke Carlisle suffered four months ago.
"Oh, they're just fine. They're excited to see you. Carlisle has been working his arms like a crazy man just so he can hold his grandbaby."
I take a deep breath, trying to ease the steel cage that has wrapped itself around my abdomen at the mention of my father. Shortly after Jolie's birth, Bella and I received a letter from him, written in his sure, arrogant hand, congratulating us but not offering any sort of apology or remorse for his actions. That letter went unanswered.
Then the emails started from my mother, asking for me to end this feud. She didn't want to miss out on my life, on knowing Bella and Jolie. It took a while for me to get to the point where I believed that at least Esme had accepted my choice in lifestyle. It was Bella that returned my mother's emails. She then started to send pictures of Jolie to her, and an email pen pal relationship began. Bella read them to me, words from my mother about my father's repentance but his inability to come to me with them himself.
When the stroke happened, and I'd learned he'd lost most of his speech ability, I felt a bit of sadness that I wasn't going to be able to hear an apology from him for what could be a long time. I wasn't stupid, I also thought that perhaps I'd never hear it regardless, but I knew then that it was time to return home as soon as my term ended, apology or not. I still have not spoken or exchanged a word with my father since that day I left him on his office floor, bleeding from my fist.
Even though I feel apprehension and a bit of lingering anger, I'm also looking forward to just putting it behind me and moving forward with my life without the animosity hanging over my head. Life with Bella and Jolie has made me see that living should be done in the moment, and there couldn't be time spent focused on long term grudges.
We're gathered around the coffee table in the large kitchen and family room, watching their son Michael play and the babies laying on the blanket squealing and reaching for each other. These people are my family, this is what love is, and it warms my heart to look at Bella and for the hundredth time know that I found the right family for me.
"What the hell do you have on?" I ask as I move through the RV to our bedroom, preparing to dress Jolie to meet her grandparents for the first time. There was no reason to move all of our clothes while we stay in Emmett's guest room, so we're in here getting ready.
"It's a blouse and navy slacks."
"I see that. I can't even imagine where you got them."
"Rose lent them to me." She looks back at the mirror and adjusts the shirt, the unfamiliar stiffness evident on her face.
"We're not doing this." I proceed to lay Jolie on the bed and Bella watches as I put on her black and white striped tights, Bella's favorite pink tutu, and the tie-dye baby t-shirt we got in Woodstock, NY.
Bella looks at the ripped jeans, well-traveled Converse and white t-shirt I'm wearing and smiles. "Thank God." She quickly rids herself of her foreign attire and puts on one of her favorite dresses, the lacey one she wears with an old belt of mine cinched around her waist. "Let's go meet the grandparents!" She says excitedly, and picks Jolie up heading towards the door.
"I decided we're not taking Emmett's car. This is our home. If they want us, they get everything about us."
"I love everything about us." She says with a smile.
Bella presses the doorbell and the intimidating chimes ring throughout the foyer. She's holding my hand while the other cradles Jolie who is nestled against her chest, in her sling. I laugh internally at the image we're about to present, and I think Bella has the same thought as she squeezes my hand and smirks at me.
My mother answers the door, and even though I've seen recent pictures of her, she's aged more than the pictures showed. What surprises me most though is seeing the stoic nature she's sported most of her life completely washed away as her eyes well up and she openly sobs my name.
A hug from Esme was never motherly, and this one is still stiff, but so is the one I return. She lingers much longer than she ever had, and I feel myself easing into her embrace, and I feel her body relax against mine in return.
Her hug to Bella isn't forced; it appears to be more affectionate, probably due to their growing rapport over the past year. She ushers us in and excitedly peeks at Jolie, asleep in the sling, and her eyes well up again. "Thank you for this, for coming."
"I want Jolie to know you. To meet him, even if it's just once and she won't remember." My mother looks sad at my words but nods.
"He's not the man you knew, Edward. He's frail and damaged. He refuses to see anyone, old colleagues, old family friends. He has me or his nurse flip through old photo albums for him, mostly, of you."
I'm stunned by this bit of information, and Bella glances at me, gauging my reaction. I keep my emotion to myself as I'm unable to process what that might mean. Esme leads us down the hall towards the study, and a maid follows us, carrying a tray of sweet tea and sandwiches.
The once intimidating force of Carlisle's study has been turned into a hospital room, since he can no longer make the journey to the master bedroom on the second floor. It has an air of weakness and staleness, in complete opposition from the last time I was in here. I avoid looking at the infirmary style bed I assume he's in, so I look around and am surprised to see Carlisle where I don't expect him, sitting on the leather sofa, watching us.
"Carlisle, Sweetheart, look who's here." Esme says and walks to him, motioning for the maid to put the tray down on the table. "Edward is home. And he's brought Bella and the baby." When our eyes meet, I see something I've never seen before. He looks happy. It hadn't occurred to me until then that I don't really know much about where he might be mentally, but I see recognition.
"Hello, Carlisle." I say stiffly, and sit across from him on the other sofa. His lips move and he appears to want to say something but nothing comes out. He looks to Bella as she sits next to me, and I see a small smile on his lips. She reaches for his hand and grasps it, and I watch as he squeezes her back.
"Would you like to meet your granddaughter?" Bella says as she takes her hand back and releases an awake but still sleepy Jolie from the sling. She sits her up on her knee so Carlisle can see her fully. The small smile forms again as he looks at my daughter and my mother asks if she can hold her. Bella hands her over without hesitation, and my mother cradles her to her chest, kissing her head and fingering the pink tutu.
"Oh she's just beautiful. She looks like you, Bella."
"She looks like my mother." Memories of what they thought of Bella's mother fly through my brain. I smile at Bella being Bella, purposefully mentioning her in the company of my parents, truly proud of the woman who raised her.
"Yes, I can see that." My mother answers, a bit ashamed, which she should be quite frankly, but continues to smile and laugh at Jolie, who is wide awake now and grabbing for her grandmothers' hair.
Carlisle's hand reaches out shakily, and touches Jolie on her knee, which makes Jolie grab for his fingers and squeal. She holds his fingers and starts to flap her arm, causing Carlisle's arm to move up and down. We all seem concerned and Bella is about to stop her when Carlisle gives a full smile and says "Jolie."
"He's been practicing." Esme says, and asks him if he'd like to hold her. She looks at us and we just nod, watching as she places Jolie on his lap sideways so he can see her face. His hands cradle her stomach, and Esme keeps one hand on her as well, but he's holding my daughter, a sight I never thought I'd see. Bella must feel the same, because she whips out her phone and starts taking pictures.
We've been there long enough for Jolie to have fallen asleep on a blanket on the floor, and the afternoon has gone well so I don't want to push it. I start making the movement of getting ready to leave when Esme says, "Visit with your father a moment, Edward." She stands to help Bella gather Jolie's things, and I stand awkwardly, unsure of what to do. Bella nods her head towards the seat next to my father, and they leave the room to go put Jolie in the RV.
I sit down next to this man that used to intimidate me, that caused me so much pain and manipulated everything in my life.
I almost recoil when I see his hand move to take mine, but when I feel his thin skin and weak grasp, I stay put and let him continue to hold.
I hear him take a breath and watch as he tries to work his mouth, waiting to hear whatever it is he's trying so hard to say.
It may not be as strong as when he said Jolie, but his speech is clear when the words come out.
"I'm sorry, Edward." His once vividly blue eyes are gray and watery, and the truth behind his statement is evident.
My throat tightens, and I say what I know he needs to hear. "I forgive you." And once it comes out of my mouth, I realize I needed it too.
July 13, 2013
"Yeah." I say distractedly as I maneuver this monstrosity through the traffic on Interstate 5 towards Portland in a panic.
"I think my water just broke."
"Okay, I just bought a new case, they're in the fridge." Damn old ladies with their blinkers on for miles. I slam my hand on the wheel, desperate to get to where we need to be immediately.
Traffic comes to a complete stop as I listen to the local traffic station describe an overturned truck up about five miles ahead of us. What should've been a stress free drive to the Andaluz Waterbirth Center when her contractions started has turned me into a panicked mess. Part of me is hoping she'll tell me to forgo the birthing center and drive to the nearest hospital. I contemplate just doing it, but I know how disappointed she'd be. We have time, I tell myself. Could be hours after the contractions have started, that's what her doctors said.
"I'm not exactly thirsty."
I turn in my chair to see if I can get her whatever she needs and I see her there, holding her shirt up over her large stomach decorated with painted rainbows, looking at a puddle between her feet.
"HOLY CRAP! Bella, why didn't you tell me your water broke?" I scramble from my seat, not caring if traffic begins to move, and help her sit on the kitchen bench.
"I did tell you. You weren't listening."
"Shit. What did they say again? How long do we have?" I start calculating the distance to the center and the nearest hospital, cause you know I checked that, and look out the window to see the traffic at a complete stop.
"It could be awhile, Edward. We're fine." She strokes my face with her hand, trying to soothe me when it should be the other way around.
"Ok. Um. Just sit there. Are you timing your contractions still?"
"Yes, I said we're fine."
"I hope this traffic lets up." I run my fingers through my hair and pull, frustrated at the situation. I look out the window and see no movement.
I clean up the mess on the floor and decide as soon as the traffic starts moving, I'm heading towards the hospital, which is closer. She's going to be very unhappy with me, but I don't care. This had been a bone of contention through the entire pregnancy. I was able to talk her out of giving birth in a field of wildflowers, and in the RV with a midwife. I only agreed on the water birth at the center because it was the safest of her choices.
"Oh fucking hell!" I look up quickly to see Bella's face contorted in pain, and her lunging forward on the seat with her legs spread. "Oh God, Edward, I think it's coming. I want to push!"
My eyes go wide and I feel like I'm about to faint. "I don't know if you should do that!"
"What the fuck do you want me to do, hold it in? Shit, I didn't want to curse while giving birth! Goddamit!" Bella rocks back and forth, sweat starting to run down her face. "Go fill the tub!"
"I'm not filling the tub! I'm getting off this highway and getting to the hospital!" I run back to the driver's seat, willing the traffic to open up enough for me to be able to ride the shoulder to the nearest exit.
I start blowing my horn, turning the wheel, anything to let people know I need off this highway immediately. When no one moves, I jump out the door and run to the cars blocking me on the right. One helpful driver points out there is no shoulder here, just a guardrail so there's nowhere for the cars to go.
I stand there, looking down the highway with both hands tugging at my hair again, feeling completely helpless.
"Edward!" I hear Bella shout from the RV and the lady in the car next to me rolls down her window asking what's wrong.
"My girlfriend is about to give birth and I need to get to the hospital!"
"Oh shit." She says, helpfully, before getting out of the car with her cell phone. "I'll call 911; maybe the cops can get an ambulance through this mess. She dials the phone and I run back to the RV to see Bella still rocking back and forth.
"I think she's coming! Oh my god, what do I do?"
She's asking me? "Um, ok, breathe."
"I'm fucking breathing!"
"Right. Ok. Uh, let's move you to the bed, ok?" She nods and I help her up, asking if she wants me to carry her. She just shakes her head and hobbles down the hallway, lying back on the bed while I put a bunch of pillows behind her like that's going to help.
I hear the woman from outside climb into the RV and she's holding the phone out, telling me 911 wants the details of what's going on.
I tell them that duh, she's having a baby and they tell me to look between her legs. I think nothing of the lady there with me, so I do, and jump back a foot when I see what looks like the top of a head.
"Oh god, Edward, I want to push!" Bella says again and starts to strain. I tell her to stop and the 911 operator tells me I'd better get ready to deliver my baby.
The words make no sense.
I look outside again to see if traffic has moved, and feel defeated when it hasn't. The lady whose phone I'm holding takes it from me to talk to the operator, and begins barking instructions at me.
I do what she says on autopilot, taking off Bella's skirt and securing clean towels.
As I put everything they tell me to get on the floor and bed, I hear Bella talking to me. "Edward. Edward. Look at me. We can do this. We're going to have our baby girl in a matter of minutes. Ours." I look at Bella and know that whatever is coming, we can get through it together. All hesitation leaves me, and I kneel in front of her and prepare for the birth of our daughter.
The lady with the phone stays with us and connected to 911 throughout, and after ten minutes of pushing, I see our baby's head emerge. All of Bella's natural birthing videos have gotten to me, apparently, and I can't believe the beauty of what I'm watching.
It happens quickly then, once the head is out, and within minutes, I'm holding our screaming baby girl, still attached to her mother, and look at my beaming, sweaty Bella, who's holding her arms out. I lay a towel down on her and place the baby in her arms, and we look at her, counting fingers and toes and marveling at the life we just brought into the world.
Cell phone lady brings me back to reality when she informs me there was an off duty cop stuck in the traffic a half a mile back that walked all the way up to assist. He's getting traffic out of the way for an ambulance that has been driving in the field next to the guardrail.
Soon enough, the RV is filled with a paramedic team, and they take over. They lift Bella and the baby she's still clutching, out and onto a stretcher on the other side of the rail. The cop tells me to ride along in the ambulance, his wife was with him in his car and he can stay with the RV and drop it off at the hospital once the traffic lets up.
I climb into the ambulance after thanking the cop and cell phone lady, whose names I never got, and sit next to my family, kissing and stroking Bella's head while she stares with wonder at our daughter. The paramedics laugh at the rainbows painted on Bella's stomach and I amuse them with the story that she was prone to painting her growing stomach throughout her pregnancy with happy images. Suns and hearts, smiley faces and stars. I might've helped once or twice with a painting of a football and baseball bat, just in case the ultrasounds were wrong.
Bella grasps my hand. "Joliet. Her name is Joliet." She lays her lips on our baby's head and closes her eyes. We had discussed a few names, but this one was new to me, but makes complete sense.
"It's perfect. Our little Jolie."
"Oh my, Edward. I'd forgotten how good you look in a tux. I should make you wear them more often." Bella smoothes her hand down my lapels, the desire evident in her face.
"Yes, well, this time, I'm wearing it for you." Memories of Bella requesting I wear purple boxers under a tux for a date with another woman fill me with old guilt, but I quickly push unimportant thoughts away. "I guess you never forget how to wear a tuxedo."
"Yum. You definitely wear it well." Bella moves her hand over my cock, stirring it to life.
"Sweetheart, we have a long night ahead of us." I say as I reluctantly move her hand. "Ready to go?"
"Yes! I've never been to such a formal event before. It's very exciting!"
I guide her to the rental we've gotten for the evening, the RV not really being 'wedding venue' transportation.
I play with her skirt on the ride over, her hand swatting me away but not really. I get it. It's the first wedding we've ever attended together, and add to it being for my colleague Carrie, I would imagine she'd be both a bit nervous and energized at the impending social setting, wanting to make a good, unwrinkled impression.
I drive to the valet stand at the Patrick Haley Mansion in Joliet, forty-five minutes out of the city, and watch as Bella's face lights up at the old cobblestone façade. I know the charm of the building in front of us is something Bella has fallen in love with instantly.
We've been holed up in Chicago for a full term now, neither of us really reaching the neighboring towns, but Chicago for us has become a second skin. Bella has found the artsy atmosphere she loves, while I've found the academia at Northwestern really challenges me. We have talked about possibly settling down here one day, far in our future, but settling down nonetheless. The people, vibe, and culture of the city appeals to both of us. To sum it up, Chicago is a great town and we feel we could make it home, someday.
"Dance with me." I say to my gal. I've enjoyed a fair amount of wine, while she's been indulging in the high end champagne.
"Dancing with you is how I fell in love with you." She says, as she takes my hand, both of us recalling a day in a park centuries ago.
"Are you going to take off your shoes?" I joke, noting the sunshine yellow heels she's paired with her deep indigo taffeta dress. The one she was excited to buy, as she'd never bought something so fancy before. The boat neck and ¾ sleeves leave much for me to kiss and contemplate getting under. She's reminiscent of Grace Kelly. She just shakes her head and leads me into the crowd.
I hold her lithe back, swaying her about the floor, trying to be far more debonair than I am. Her next words, believe it or not, don't sound alien after the love and family atmosphere of the night we've encountered.
"I want to have a baby."
"I want to have a baby too." I answer, my hand skimming the material until it meets exposed skin.
"I mean, I want to do it soon." She moves her head to look at me, to gauge my reaction, and I love her.
"Bella, there's nothing I want more than to have a baby with you." I say sincerely, the thought making my heart beat in my chest, my head starting to plan a timeline and a when and a where.
"Take me to a secluded corner then, Mr. Tux."
Her vixen words play over my ears like velvet. Until I really hear them.
"Now? You want to make a baby now?" I ask, not opposed, necessarily, just surprised. We've only been together a year in reality, and my planning nature does a double take.
"Yes. I love you. You love me. We have a great life. Let's share it with someone that comes from our love."
The way Bella puts things could make a grown man doubt his own agenda, and that's exactly what happens.
"Are you sure?" The planner in me counters.
"This wedding makes me think of what love means. Nothing could be more meaningful than a culmination of our love."
"We could just get married." I joke, my dick already hard at the prospect of entering Bella later tonight.
"We will. But now, I want you to give me your baby." Her eyes bore into mine, sincere and sure.
I've never loved the sound of something so much, nor wanted anything more. "I want to give you my baby." I smile. Still assuming she means down the line. Wanting to let her know I'm on the same page.
"So find us a corner. Now." Realization that she intends for this to happen immediately startles me, until she kisses my neck. That's all she needs to do, to make me move into action and find a quiet place to be alone.
I grab her hand and lead her off the dance floor, Etta James still singing while we exit the ballroom. I turn my head left and right, wishing we'd gotten a room in the neighboring hotel, until I feel a tug on my hand.
I follow my beautiful muse, the person I'd follow anywhere, down a hallway leading away from the catering kitchen. She stops in front of a door, and as I look at her she turns to kiss me, hard and passionately. She breaks away and while still looking at me with her back to the door, turns the knob so it opens slowly behind her back.
I don't know if she's planned this earlier, if she had this in mind way before she mentioned it, but she leads me into the perfect place. An atrium that reminds me of our first kiss, where the venue holds weddings when the weather permits. The weather didn't permit it tonight, the sky overcast and threatening rain at any moment.
She leads me down a walkway deep into the foliage, and reads my mind as she speaks of first kisses on hidden rooftops.
"If I had a choice, we'd have conceived there." She says softly, barely a whisper, as I nod and follow her through some flowering vines.
She rests her body against the trunk of a small tree, and I hold her for a moment, in her timeless dress, before slowly reaching around and unzipping it from her body.
"I don't think we have time to get fully undressed." She murmurs while I shush her with a kiss.
"Our baby is not going to be a rushed affair. It's going to be made of passion and not fear of being caught. Fuck everybody." I end up leaving her dress on, cause she's probably right, but don't zip it back up.
"Not sure you should've used the word fuck in the conception of our child." She says, head thrown back as I start to suck her neck.
"Oh Shutterbug, there's no way this child is being conceived in a clean, pure way."
I lift her skirt, my hand brushing over her bare thigh, and she hitches one knee over my hip. "As long as she's made in love." She says, hitching her leg higher.
"Love. It's all about love. I love you, Bella."
She reaches down to my zipper and releases it, my hardness already evident through the tuxedo fabric. "Can we at least have your pants down?" She asks as she kisses me.
"Anything you want." And I mean that, forever.
I feel my pants fall to my ankles, and her hand reaches into my boxers, finding my erection ready for her.
"We're really doing this, no condom." She says as she pulls back to look at me, testing my confidence.
"This is it, Bella. You and me. I feel it."
"Oh my, Edward, are you getting spiritual?" She jokes, hand already on my hard cock, stroking, getting it ready to enter her.
"Yes. I am. We're about to make a baby. I know it." I say moving her panties to the side and I feel her pussy, wet for me, before I line up and plunge myself into her.
She makes the sound I love every time I enter her, a half moan, half ecstasy sound, and I start to move, holding her leg while I thrust as deep inside as I can. I move slowly, enjoying the feel of her bare around me, something we've only done once before in a drunken state.
"Both legs up, Edward, please." She says, and I push her harder against the trunk of the tree and hold onto her thighs. With both of her legs surrounding me, I start to pump into her, deeper at this angle and I almost lose it.
She clings to me, arms around my shoulders and her pussy surrounding me, pulsing and asking me to come and go in a rhythm that suits us both.
Instead of burying my head in her neck as I like to do in this position, I keep my eyes on hers, knowing that there's a purpose for this union. Not of lust, although there's plenty of that, but one with a higher meaning.
I move in and out of her, the ecstasy I feel whenever I'm inside her increasing with the knowledge of what we're trying to accomplish. Bella's beautiful blue eyes stay focused on mine, and we don't break away while I thrust. My orgasm approaches quickly, and I reach a hand down to her clit to get her to meet me. "No need." She sighs, as I feel her tightening around me, telling me she's right there with me.
We move together, pushing and pulling, hips thrusting and meeting, until I hear the familiar cry of Bella, signaling the start of her orgasm, and soon feel her coming around me. I follow after her quickly as I always do. Knowing I bring Bella such pleasure always has that effect on me.
We cling to each other for a moment, calming our breath when we've finished. I move to lower her legs but feel them tighten around me instead.
"We just made a life, Edward. I know it. A life of you and me."
I kiss my Bella, knowing that what she says is true. "No life will ever be loved more."
Thanks go to another fantastic friend, Grabadietcoke, for her awesome beta skills. Thanks as well to someone I'm so happy to have met and now call friend, Layathomemom, for her Joliet help and secret keeping ability.