I don't. Stephenie does.
"My usual please, Jake."
I slumped against the counter, allowing the cool glass to take my weight. I seemed to be the only customer in the café, but even if I wasn't, I don't think I could have cared about what people thought of me. I'd just down a two hour work-out, and I was pooped, man!
Jake chuckled over the humming of the coffee machine. "Someone's tired, I see."
I found the energy, somewhere, to stand up tall and face him. "It's not that I'm tired; my body isn't used to major work-outs." I spent one hour on the cross trainer and weights, and then an hour swimming lengths – all various strokes and speeds. I'm probably cancelling it out now I'm taking coffee, but I don't go for sugar and have low-fat cream, so I hope that's on my side.
"Bells, why put yourself through so much pain? Yes, I understand that you want to keep fit, but you won't feel the benefit if you come out like this. Trust me; I know my work-outs."
The truth? I was distracting myself. It's almost been a week and I still can't get my head around them leaving. If I go to get some groceries I know I won't have a tiny Spider-Man jump at me in surprise; I won't 'accidentally-on purpose' bash my cart into father of said Spider-Man, and I don't know how much more of this I can take – so I cover the pain in my chest with pain radiating my muscles.
I've told this to Angela, but, for once, she didn't act like I thought she would – shushing me and saying everything will be okay. Instead, she waved it off and said I just needed to get used to it and soon it'll be like they were never here. But I don't want it to seem like they were never here! I want them to be here, or me be there!
Next week it is Coop's birthday and I'm counting down the days until I go for his party, but when after that? There has been a sudden boom in exercise fanatics, and the centre has been busier than ever, so I'm working more than ever, which means my times off are slim – especially time off to drive to Seattle and back. In a little under four weeks the new swimming season starts, and I can't think of anything worse.
I would have explained that all to Jake, but I changed my mind and kept it to myself. "I, er, guess I'm still getting used to it…"
Worst. Lie. Ever.
"So anyway, Jake, how are things? I remember you saying the hours were pretty poor."
He grabbed the semi-damp cloth and began to wipe down the counter with it, looking at that instead of me. "I'm back up to twelve again – it's been a rollercoaster. But I've managed to snag some part-time work with Sam, cleaning out the garage and helping with bits 'n' bobs."
"Oh, Jake, that's excellent! I understand how much pressure that's going to rid you of."
"Yeah, it's nice not having to worry about payments as much."
I took a delicate sip from my coffee and smiled. The chiming of the shop door informed us that other people had entered, and when we looked over we noticed it was a quite the crowd of young students. Their chatter filled the tiny café.
"I best make my leave. Thanks again, Jake – see you later."
We did a semi-wave to one another. "You too, Bells."
Due to various reasons, including our working hours, I went to Charlie's Friday afternoon, instead of evening. I made us both a plate of grilled cheese. As we sat in the living room and ate our lunch, we discussed the week, what had happened and what was planned. I heard an interesting story about a man who was brought to the station after having one too many at the bar, spoke abuse to the lady who signed him in and then proceeded to urinate all over Charlie's shoes and the counter.
"I had to chuck 'em; three times I washed those shoes and they still stank of piss."
I was amazed that he even knew how to use the washing machine, but I didn't say that out loud. Unfortunately I didn't have a tale as entertaining as that, but I did tell him what Jake said yesterday, about getting another job and extra hours, etcetera. He was happy to hear that, of course.
Just as another topic was brought into the conversation, my phone sprung to life and started ringing loudly beside me. My favourite picture of Edward and Coop was displayed as the personal profile for Edward's number. "Sorry, Dad, can I quickly answer this?"
I know I should have let it ring off and reminded myself to call back later, but I couldn't help myself. Thankfully, Charlie didn't seem to mind.
"Hi!" I spoke cheerily into the handset.
"Hi, Bella – it's Coop."
He didn't sound as up-beat as normal, but I let that slide. "Hey, Coop, how are you?"
"I'm not very happy…"
My heart broke. I could just picture his expression, and I'd have given the world to bring him into my arms right at that minute. "Oh, Sweetheart, why are you not happy?"
"'Cause I don't think I'm very well. I have to go to the doctors."
It killed me to be so far away. I could maybe, possibly, just about cope knowing that he wasn't very happy – 'cause he needs some time to settle down – but to hear that he was possibly ill was breaking point for me.
"I'm sorry to hear that, Sweetheart; it's not nice being ill. Have you got a stomach bug or something?"
"No, the doctors and my Padre think my Mommy gave me what was wrong with her."
"Oh, erm, s-sorry, Coop – I'm here. Um… can I talk to your Dad quickly?"
Oh, my God.
My heart started pounding (ironic as that may sound) and I couldn't get my mind under control. Edward hadn't mentioned Tanya's illness to me much before, but he did say it was a weakening of the heart and, sadly, it was the reason she died. And that was enough for my eyes to well up with tears.
I couldn't hold back and word vomit seemed to pour from my mouth. I demanded Edward for some answers or at least for him to help explain the situation. When the tears finally fell, Charlie caught onto my reaction and came to sit beside me, rubbing my shoulder soothingly.
"I feel so far away." I admitted, because I honestly felt a million miles away. What could I have done, sitting here on a ratty couch in Forks? Nothing. There was nothing I could do when the only contact we have is over the phone.
Edward suggested that I went there, and first I was ready to accept the entire invitation, no holds barred, but what was I to do about Angela? I couldn't leave her hanging. Then again, like Edward said, she'd probably completely understand. That was what I was rooting for, anyway. And so I said I'd go. Even if it turns out to be a false alarm, I would want to be there for Cooper, but most importantly for Edward. I know all too well how he can react.
"Um, um… I have to go…"I jumped from the couch, shoving my cell back into the pocket of my pants. "Cooper's ill, I think, and… um… Angela's going to hate me." I was talking more to myself than Charlie, but he answered my rambling either way.
"Bells, ring Angela and say that it is an emergency and you have to go. Its nobodies fault; you have nothing to apologise for, and she should understand where your heart lies."
"Okay, okay, but…"
"What's more important: your job or that kid?"
Like I even had to answer that, but Charlie was right; I had to be there, not here.
Charlie smiled sympathetically and touched my shoulder. "You get yourself to Seattle, and tell Coop that Chief's asking after him."
You've gotta love my father sometimes.
Within half an hour I was home, had had thrown a bundle of clothes into a bag and had informed Angela of my sudden absence. Thankfully she understood and acted like my best friend, and not my boss. "Take all the time you need, chick, I'll sort something out here."
So with nothing else to do at home, I jumped into my trusty Chevy and headed off down the 101. I had my FM radio playing whichever frequency it found, cutting in and out of songs, but helping to take my mind off the scenario I may face when I arrive.
Surprisingly enough, I arrived earlier than I previously imagined and I didn't cause any accidents on the roads either. Go me! I followed Edward's brief instructions to get to the general hospital and, once parked in the parking lot, sent him a text saying I was outside. He replied a couple minutes later saying he's in the paediatric ward, outside the waiting room. It was a very brief, straight-to-the-point message, but I expected nothing less, considering.
I couldn't have run to the floor faster if I tried. My shoes occasionally slid on the sleek flooring and I bashed my elbows off door sides more than once – getting strange looks from passers-by – but within five minutes, I was there, and I was gazing at a very stressed looking Edward – his back was leaning against the waiting room door and his hands were no-doubt clutched tight in his hair.
The rubber sole of my shoe squeaked on the flooring. Edward jumped out of his posture and spun his head around to look at me. His shoulders dropped and he stepped once, twice, towards me. I picked up my own pace and ran the short distance between us. It had only been a week, but it seemed like forever since I last hugged him.
"I missed you," he whispered into my hair as he kissed my crown.
"I didn't think it would be this hard." As lovely as that was, we had to get back to the reason we both were standing here. "Where's Coop?" I asked.
Edward nodded with his head to the room behind us. "He doesn't know you're here; I said I was outside waiting on the doctor."
"Have they said anything?"
Edward shook his head sadly, and brushed the tip his nose with fingertips. "He's seen the Cardiologist and taken various scans, but we're waiting on the answers."
My fingers linked between his; I (hopefully, anyway) displayed all my love in that simple gesture. "We just need to stay positive."
He kissed my forehead once more, "come on – someone wants to see you."
I couldn't control the excitement that surged through me at that moment. It was even more exciting to know that Coop had no idea I was here.
"Hey, Bud, you have a visitor."
I poked my head around the door and saw Cooper sitting on the floor by the games table, with a puzzle pieces spread around the top. His eyes widened as well as his grin when he saw my face. The puzzle pieces in his hand were forgotten about and he was quickly on his feet. "Bella!" He screamed. I kneeled on the floor and he practically tackled me in a cuddle – Edward had to steady my back.
"What are you doing here?!"
I flicked away the tear on the bridge of my cheek, "I'm here to see you, silly," I grinned.
"Are you here to stay with me and my Padre forever? I don't like you being so far away."
"Aw, Sweetheart, I don't like it either. I can't stay here forever, but I will be here until I know you're better again."
"Will you be here for my birthday? It's in a week, y'know."
"I know, are you excited? I might need to go home before then, but I'll definitely be here for your party."
For comfort purposes, we moved up to the couches, with Coop sitting between Edward and I. "Okay… Yeah, I'm really excited! I'm gonna see Nanny and Grandpa, and… my aunties and uncles… and some friends… and we'll have lots-a-lots-a food and candy!"
I loved how he was more excited about seeing family than getting presents. Most kids his age would be going on and on about the gifts they want and what each toy does. But not my Coop; he's a family man.
Things were comfortable and we laughed and joked easily, but when the doctor returned so did the tension. Cooper was lifted onto Edward's lap, which allowed me to sit closer and clutch his hand.
"I can speak to you privately or I can inform you all."
Edward didn't hesitate, "tell us all, please."
The doctor nodded and flexed his hands, "the good news is it is nothing serious and our worries that it may have been RC were just that – worries. However, we have noticed, Cooper, that you have something called COA (Coarctation of the Aorta) – the narrowing of part of the artery in your heart."
My head fell to Edward's shoulder. The doctor said it wasn't serious, but anything to do with the heart sounds deadly to me.
"Now, it will involve a little bit of surgery…or we can perform a balloon dilation – a thin tube with a tiny balloon on the end that goes up through the leg, into the aorta, the balloon is pumped up to widen the narrowing and then taken out again and we'd implant a metal, meshwork, tube to keep it open."
"Balloon one, balloon one – I want to do the balloon one, Dad." Coop was shaking and looked as though he was about to cry.
Edward, however, was deep in thought. "Which is more effective?" He rubbed his chin roughly with one hand.
"All procedures are just as effective, but the recovery is a little longer with the surgery and he would have to avoid certain physical activities that could impact the chest for several weeks or months."
"What would the surgery involve?"
"But I want the balloon one…"
"Cooper, please." Edward didn't mean to snap – he's worried and I understood that, but Coop wasn't as understanding. He bowed his head and his bottom lip wobbled.
The doctor smiled sadly, "it's a simple procedure – we remove the narrowed area and then reconnect the two good ends."
Edward turned his head to look at me, "what do you think?"
What do I think?
"Personally I would go for the balloon option, but that's only because the idea of surgery scares me a little." More like a lottle…
It took Edward a few more minutes, probably going over every little point to each method, but decided on the balloon dilation. Cooper smiled to himself, head still bowed.
The doctor accepted the decision and left to get everything organised. Just over 30 minutes later, Coop was dressed in the hospital robe and settled on the gurney. "Daddy, I'm scared."
Edward was standing on one side and I was on the other. For the months we've been a little threesome I have witnessed hundreds of heart-warming moments, but nothing beats what I saw after Coop admitted his nerves. Edward cupped his son's cheek and leant down to kiss his forehead.
"I know you're scared, Buddy," he whispered softly, "but these doctors know exactly what they're doing and you have no reason to be. You're going to be asleep so you won't feel any pain and the next thing you know you'll be back here and we'll be standing where we are now."
He motioned between me and himself. Edward straightened up but he kept his hand on Coop's cheek. "Remember what Mom said?"
His tiny lips pursed, "that I'm Cooper Trooper…" he spoke with thick tears.
"Exactly – you'll be my Trooper and you'll be just fine, right?"
He held out his hand and Coop slapped it with a smile, "right."
"I love you, Bud."
"I love you, Padre."
My chest tightened and I had fallen into a crying mess. My boys noticed my reaction, unfortunately. "Look, Bella's being a crying girl." Edward sneered playfully, trying to lighten the mood.
Coop giggled, "only babies cry, Bella!"
I scrubbed away at my cheeks, "Oh, shush. Leave me alone."
The doctor interrupted our cute moment and mentioned it was time to start the anaesthesia.
"I love you, Coop." I muttered, kissing his crown.
"Love you too, Baby…"
Even half asleep and on anaesthetics he's still making his jokes.
The second he was wheeled out the room, we dropped the charade we had been playing around Coop. We were certain that nothing would have gone wrong, but you can't help feeling nervous and scared.
We sat in the room, holding each other without the need to say anything.
However, a thought popped into my mind, and I had to share it.
I picked my chin up from his shoulder and sat 'round to face him. "Y'know how Coop is getting the metal tube thing put in?"
"Does that mean we can call him Iron Man?"
The procedure itself only took 35 minutes. We could smile in relief when he was wheeled back through, still out cold, but the doctors promised he'd be awake soon.
"Thank you," Edward slipped his hands around my waist and pulled me back subtly.
"You don't need to thank me; I'd always drop anything for you two."
Twisting in his hold I kissed his chest through the thin, cotton t-shirt, then rose on my toes and kissed his adorable pout. "Really. Even if you hadn't asked me to come I would have done anyway – there is no way I could have stayed in Forks with everything going on here. I love you both, so much, and that won't change."
A grin slowly spread across his lips and his eyes gleamed, "we love you too – just as much."
This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
What started off as chaste kisses here and there quickly turned into something a lot more heated and preferably not for public viewing. But we thought no-one was watching.
Until a sleepy voice from behind said: "I only just wake up and you're kissing again? Gross!"
Oh, that wee boy breaks my heart… yup, he sure does.
ONLY 2-3 CHAPTERS LEFT! But there's a sequel, so don't start crying yet ;)
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