This chapter is to all those amazing single parents who work their asses off day and night looking after their little shits…I mean, children ;)

I don't. Stephenie does.

Chapter twenty-one
Edward

"OOOOOH! WE'RE HALF WAY THE-EERE! OOOH-OOOH! LIVIN' ON A PRAYY-ERR!"

Cooper had his MP3 buds held against his ears with his fingers and shouted out the lyrics with his eyes closed. He blindly wandered into my office and because he couldn't see where he was going, bashed into my desk. His eyes snapped open and then he stared at the desk, rubbed his side, shrugged and went back to singing.

"WE'LL MAKE IT I SWEAR-ER! OOOH-OOOH! LIVIN' ON A -."

"Cooper…" He couldn't hear or see me, and jumped in surprise when I took a hold of his little hand. When he brought his headphones away from his ears I could hear music slamming from the tiny speakers. "You need to turn that music down; that is way too loud and you'll damage your ears."

"Padre," he slumped and crossed his arms over his chest, "did you need to talk to me about something 'cause I'm tryin-a listen to Bon Jovi."

"Excuse me?" He'd been forming a snarky attitude recently – before it was childish cheek, but that had been and gone. He stepped away from me and bowed his head in shame. "I'm not stopping you from listening to your music, but if you play it too loud you'll hurt yourself. And I did have something to talk to you about – I have a lot of work to get done, so can you entertain yourself for…" I checked the time on my watch; 4:35pm. "…twenty-five minutes, and then at five o'clock we'll do something fun together, deal?"

"Deal." He muttered, turned on his heel and plodded away whilst reconnecting his ear buds. "I'M WAAANTED….DEAD OR ALIIIIVE."

For five minutes I had the peace I was after, but that didn't last and Cooper poked his head around my office door and waved. "Padre?"

I dropped my pen with a sigh and stretched out my back, "yes, Coop?"

"Can I have a Twizzler…please?"

I rubbed my temple, soothing the headache that was forming. Should I give him a Twizzler? No doubt he's going to be eating his weight in sugary crap later… I don't like him eating lots of junk food, and if we weren't going out for dinner I'd have probably given him one, but because we were, I declined. "I don't think that's a very good idea, Coop – remember we're going out for dinner later."

"Okay…How long now until you don't have to be boring anymore?"

"I'll be fifteen minutes. I'm sorry that I'm being boring, Buddy."

I really hate putting work first and leaving Cooper on his own sometimes, but it's one of the problems you need to face as a single parent – working to pay the bills, finding someone to care for your child when work gets in the way. I worry that he'll grow up and remember me working all the time, but there's nothing I can do to change that. Not now anyway.

With that fresh in my mind, I decided to end my working session a tad early. I jotted down the details Victoria sent in my notebook, finished the report I was writing and replied to a couple emails within ten minutes, not fifteen. There was a phone call I had to make, but that could be done when Cooper had gone to bed.

Mentioning Cooper, he was found spread out on the couch with his blanket cuddled up near his head. He moaned and rubbed his nose with a fist. Flash was curled up at his feet and turned his head to look at Coop whenever he moaned.

"Are you okay, Cooper?"

He struggled to lift his head, like it weighed a ton. He gave up and allowed his head to fall flat down on the couch. "Daddy, I think I'm dying…"

I had to bite away my smile at his over-dramatic assumption. Scooting Flash off the couch, I took his place and rubbed my boy's back. "You're not dying, Buddy."

"No I think I am." He heaved himself into sitting up and, with my help, clambered onto my lap. "My head hurts, my throat hurts, and I'm coughing and sneezing." As if on command he choked up a cough.

"When did that start up? You seemed fine just then." I'd have felt awful if he had been feeling ill all day and I never paid attention to his change in attitude. Thinking back, however, I couldn't remember him acting strangely at all.

He hooked his head under my chin and curled into my chest, rubbing his nose occasionally. "I was sniffing and sneezing at school and now my head hurts and I've started coughing and so my throat hurts."

All I could do was hug him, brush down his hair and soothe his back whenever he coughed. "I'm sorry you're not feeling great, Bud." Colds are one of those bastards that creep up on you when you least expect it.

"I think I need to go see Grandpa…"

"You've only got a cold; you don't need to see Grandpa about a cold."

"Really?"

"I promise you." If I dragged him over to see my Dad he would diagnose him with a serious case of the snots and send us back home again - a trip into the chilling January air which he doesn't need, especially when ill. "And I'm sorry, Coop, but you're not well enough to go out for dinner tonight." His tired eyes quickly rimmed with tears.

"But…but I want to go..."

"I know you do, but you're not well enough, Bud." He barely had the energy to move, his eyes were drooping and the heat was pouring off his forehead. "Don't worry, I'll stay with you and help you feel better."

"But it's Uncle Jasper's birthday."

"I know, and it's a shame that we can't go, but Uncle Jasper will understand."

As much as I hate seeing him ill, I can't help but love how he goes from acting 7/8 to acting 4. He craves my cuddles, he calls me 'daddy' and he goes back to the tiny baby suffering from croup who I cradled night after night. Or the clumsy toddler who banged his head at nursery and didn't stop crying until I arrived to take him home. These memories felt so recent, even though they both happened years ago. It just shows, no matter how old your child may be they'll always appear to be the vulnerable babies who need us for every little thing.

Shit, that was emotional.

I rang Alice and told her we wouldn't be at Jasper's birthday meal and although she was gutted, she completely understood and made me pass on her love to Coop. We then discussed an additional 'party' we could have and that soon turned into Alice convincing me to have everyone over tomorrow for cake (one that I have to buy myself of course). I had decided to keep Cooper off school (unless he made a miraculous recovery) which meant he wouldn't miss out on the celebrations.

Once all that was out the way I got down to making him better. Cooper refused the soup I offered him and demanded I gave him spaghetti O's – I guess you could call that tomato soup with pasta bits…? I was attempting the impossible to wean him off the number of cans he had in a week, and seeing as he hadn't had any in three days – new record – I caved.

He couldn't eat all his dinner and started complaining about sore arms, which was when my limited medical knowledge came into play – muscle pain is a usual sign of flu; perhaps this isn't a cold that he's got. I was probably over-reacting and young children make a massive fuss over the tiniest of things, so I couldn't class it off as flu definitely, but I made sure to ask Carlisle on it.

Perhaps he should have gone to see Grandpa after all…

No – no, that isn't necessary unless I start to freak out.

I helped him up the stairs and into the bathroom where I ran a warm bubbly bath to help with the aches and pains. He was practically falling asleep in the tub! "Are you really tired, Coop?"

Keeping his eyes closed, he nodded gently.

Eurgh, I hate this! He looks so helpless, and I feel helpless.

I don't get how not two hours ago he looked absolutely fine, and now he barely had the energy to talk.

"Can you tell me how you're feeling?"

"My arms hurt, my head hurts, my throat hur -," his sudden coughing fit broke off his words, "—hurts, and my nose is snuffly."

I helped him lean forward so I could rub the soapy sponge over his back and shoulders, all the while wanting nothing more than to keep him locked safely in my arms and give the viruses that moved in the middle finger.

"And it was only today that you started feeling ill?"

"Yeah. Padre, can I go to bed, please?"

When your child is ill that is the hardest part about being a single parent. You don't have the extra parent there to help you control your worry and you think about everything that could be wrong – would they need a doctor? Do I have the spare money to pay for their medical requirements? It's an on-going nag at the back of my head.

"Of course you can, Bud. But first I want you to take some children's Tylenol and a big glass of water."

0-0

Once he was tucked up in bed it didn't take long for him to fall off to sleep. I sat for a good five minutes staring sympathetically at him and wondering what the hell was wrong and what I could do. As I phoned Dad, I sat on the stairs so I could hear if Cooper woke up.

"Hello, Edward."

"Dad, are you at work?"

"Yes, but I can talk. Is everything okay, son? Are you not meant to be out for Jasper's birthday?"

Aah, my father, always the compassionate man. I had been under the assumption that it was really late, but it was shortly after seven. Wow. "Um, no, Cooper and I never went because he's fallen ill and, er, that was why I phoned you, actually."

"Is he okay?"

I don't know! And It's killing me! "I'm not too sure. At first he had the symptoms for a cold, but then within seconds he had no energy, no appetite, complaining of sore arms and running a fever. I'm thinking he has the flu, but I'd love some expert advice."

"Oh I'm sorry to hear that. It was all sudden you say? Hmm… Did he have a cough or was he sneezing a couple days ago?"

"Not that I was aware of, but he has been coughing a lot since he went downhill a couple hours ago."

"Is it a dry cough, or is it a mucus cough?"

"It's dry; sounds very rough."

"Okay. And you said it all started very suddenly…to me, it does seem like he has flu, but it's harder for me to diagnose without seeing him. I'll pop over tomorrow but for now keep him in bed, well hydrated, follow the stated dose on the Tylenol packet and plug the humidifier in his room – you still have that, right?"

"Um…oh, yeah it's in my room."

"Excellent. As you know, it's going to get worse before it gets better, but if you feel the slightest bit worried don't hesitate to phone me, Edward. I'll have my cell on all night."

0-0

I believe I saw every hour on the clock last night. I woke up to Cooper's crying and he complained that the pain in his arms had spread all over his body, so I ran him another bath to relax his muscles and ran the shower at the same time for the steam to help his stuffy head.

I woke up again to my name being called, he was struggling to the bathroom when I got there – he threw up in the toilet. Twice.

Fortunately I never saw the need to phone Dad again, but unfortunately Cooper couldn't settle so I stayed awake for the rest of the night holding him to my side as he drifted off for five-ten minute naps.

What else really sucked was not hearing from Bella – I had called her a few times but it always skipped to voice mail. God, I hoped she wasn't ill as well; I couldn't cope if both of them had fallen sick. We hadn't seen each other since she stayed over the other night (yeah, when Cooper walked in on us) and had barely talked either – it doesn't bode well with your self-esteem. I also had my sister screaming down my neck and fussing about Jasper's blasted birthday cake – sorry for not getting one, Your Highness – and to top it all off, I received an email from the NOAA.

It read:

Dear, Mr. Cullen.

Thank you for applying for the role of Marine Conservationist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations.

Please attend an interview January 19th 2013, 2:30pm at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, 7600 Sand Point Way, Building 4, Seattle, 98115.

Sincerely,

Jean Laurie
Acting NOAA Administrator.

Well, shit.

That gave me five days to sort everything out for my interview, find someone who is willing to look after Cooper until I got back, and somehow break the news about our possible move to him. I knew he wouldn't take it well, and telling him was what I dreaded the most.

0-0

Dad did as he promised and came over after work. He brought with him some additional medicine that would work better than the Tylenol we had previously discussed. Cooper had flu, but his fever had dropped from 103 to 101, and Dad was certain that the symptoms would clear up within the next couple of days. At first I was full of relief that he was slowly on the mend, but I still hated the idea of him suffering for any length of time.

We were cuddled up on the couch watching Tarzan when my cell began to ring. I couldn't help but smile when seeing Bella's name on the screen.

"Hey, babe." I answered.

"Eurgh, Edward, I've had a terrible couple of days. I need to rant, can I rant?"

It seemed as though Coop had fallen asleep, so I lowered the TV volume as I replied. "Vent away, Love."

"Right! Well it started off yesterday morning on the way to work – my truck broke down at the side of the road and I had to wait nearly a full hour for someone to come and whisk it off to be repaired. I was hoping they would drop me off at work as they left – that's what normally happens, right? But no, they didn't do that and therefore, by the time I got to the stupid place, I was almost two hours late.

Some bitch had a go at me because I never made her class I was supposed to teach, even though they had all been informed by Angela that I wasn't going to be there. Then last night she invited me over to her place for Chinese, that was lovely, but I left my…fucking phone in her apartment, she never noticed and with no other way to contact her, I had to wait until now to get it back. I noticed your calls (sorry about that, by the way) and I had a message from the garage saying I'll need to fork out $500 – five-hundred dollars! – to fix the damn thing. Oh yeah, and I really miss you. Sorry, I had to get that all off my chest."

I missed her too; I missed her something terrible. "I'm sorry you've been having a hard time, Love. If you need any help before you get your truck back just ask. And if it's any consolation I haven't had the best of luck recently either."

"Thank you. How come? Come on, it's your turn to let off steam now." I told her everything that had happened in the last sixteen hours, including the interview that had been set. "Oh that sucks – I hope my little man gets better soon."

It was as if Cooper heard Bella mentioning him – he wriggled awake, sat up from my lap and looked at me with tired eyes. "Who are you talking to, Padre?"

"I'm talking to Bella. Would you like to talk?"

He smiled with satisfaction, but it wasn't the usual grin I had grown accustom too. He coughed, rubbed his nose and then gripped my phone to his ear. "Hi, Bella…yeah…I'm not very well… yeah…but Padre and Flash are looking after me… Okay…I think so; I'll ask him. Hey, Bella? When are you coming back to my house?... My Padre could get you in his car…oh…okay…bye."

When we ended our call Coop seemed a lot chirpier – damn, Bella, thank you. "I have to ask you if you could give me a hug from Bella?"

I smirked. "I think that's doable…"

I couldn't have cared less if I had one-hundred different emails from work, or if Victoria was trying to get in contact with me; these unplanned moments with Cooper are more important.

0-0

One o'clock, on the dot, my siblings and sibling-in-laws were at the door. They barely responded to my greeting and raced each other to see who could get to Coop first. Rosalie and Alice took the couch and cradled him between them, whereas Jasper and Emmett stood around and waited patiently for their turn.

"Happy birthday, Uncle Jasper." Cooper outstretched his weak arm with his hand formed in a fist for Jasper to pound with his own. "Sorry I wasn't well enough last night."

"Don't be silly, Dude; we can go out for dinner another time."

Alice thought we should play some party games, 'cause it's a birthday party obviously…

"Uncle Emmett we should play horse riding."

I looked at Coop doubtfully. "Bud, I don't think you're well enough to play a game like that."

"Padre…" He sighed and rubbed his head against Rosalie's shoulder. "You're just saying that 'cause you can't play it right."

I heard the sniggers from my family, but I was too interested in working out what he meant. "And…what does that mean?"

"Well when you played it with Bella she was sitting on your wiener and not your back."

I swear you could have heard a pin drop.

Of course Emmett was the one to break the silence. "Daaaaamn… Eddie, um, is there something you wish to tell us?"

"Nope, nope, absolutely not. I have nothing to inform and… nope." I couldn't have sounded more suspicious if I tried.

"Yeah, shut up, Edward. Jasper, I know this shindig is for you and everything, but I think we should celebrate Edward finally becoming a man!"

"But, Uncle Emmett, my Dad is already a man 'cause he has hair on his arms, legs and wiener, and his wiener is really big."

If Cooper turned out to be gay, I wouldn't be too surprised.

Now, who wants some cake?

0-0

If you know a single parent (or are one) give them or yourself a hug. Seriously, hardest job.

I know not much happened in this chapter, but what were your thoughts anyway?

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