Chapter Eighteen

EPOV

I'm hesitant to wake up Marley for her first day back at school after our trip to Disney World.

I'm hoping with the progress we've made over the past couple of weeks, that we won't relapse again. We've gone a total of four days without any tears, and things are relatively normal.

I start by gently shaking her, and when that doesn't work, I whisper softly in her ear.

"Muffin, it's time for school."

Kisses pressed against her chubby cheek finally get to her and she wakes up with a sweet, little toothless smile.

"Mornin', Daddy," she coos, rubbing the side of my scruffy cheek. "You are really hairy, you know."

I nod. "I'll shave while you're at school."

She nods and slides out of bed. I sit up and watch her shuffle to the bathroom.

"Can I wear my Mickey ears to school?" she calls.

"You can take them for show and tell, but I don't think Miss Aimee will like it if you wear them. She might be jealous that we didn't bring her a pair."

This appeases her and she comes back to bed for a cuddle.

"I had so much fun. Soo much fun."

"It was a good surprise, wasn't it?"

She nods.

It's not until she's dressed for school and eating her breakfast, that I realize Bella hasn't joined us. Marley asks if she can go wake her up and kiss her goodbye before school, but I tell her not to bother her, and drive her by myself for the first time in weeks.

She kicks her feet and cradles her Mickey ears in her arms. She'll be bringing Pooka to school for show and tell next week, so I listen to her go on and on about how jealous everyone is going to be of her cute little fur baby.

I walk her to the door of her classroom and she makes me promise that Bella will come with me to pick her up.

On the way home, I stop by Rose and Emmett's restaurant to check on things.

"Hey stranger!" Emmett greets as I enter the backdoor. "Where the hell you been, man?"

"Busy," I smile.

"Uh-huh. I bet."

I'm not about to ask him to elaborate, but he wags his eyebrows and I set off to find his better half instead. She's sitting at a desk going over inventory.

"Well I'll be damned, babe. Glad to see they let you surface at last," she chuckles without looking up. "The three of you come over for dinner two weeks ago, eat my food, and then don't call."

I take the seat across from her and cross my legs. "Sorry. We've been... adjusting."

"And have you? Adjusted?"

"For the most part. Marley's getting a little carried away with letting her imagination get the best of her. She's trying to make it more than it is."

"I think she just wants to see her daddy happy and her mommy often," Rose offers with a shrug. "What better way to do so to get the two of you together."

"You're so full of shit!" I chuckle and reach for the inventory list. "How is everything going? Did you finally catch the shortages you called me about?"

"Don't deflect. I saw the way you were looking at her during Marzipan's party. All running off to comfort her when she got choked up and shit." She gets up and walks to her mini refrigerator. "You want a beer?"

"It's ten in the morning."

"And it's five o'clock somewhere. Yes or no?"

I shake my head and watch her pull a cool bottle of import out of the fridge. She pops the cap and takes a deep pull. I look at her like she's crazy to be drinking on the job this early.

"Uh uh! Don't give me that look, mister. I've practically been here for two days solid trying to find out where the shortages are coming from. Low and behold, it's a bug in the fucking system. We're doing really well in fact. Above par."

"That's great." I toss the folder back to her. "And what about the new restaurant? Have we made a final decision on that?"

"Actually we have. I think we should just redo the bathroom and dining room here, but hold off on looking to open something else." She smiles, reaching into her desk and pulling out a manila folder. "You remember how Em and I have talked about adoption and stuff?"

I nod.

"Well, turns out we don't qualify, so we've decided to go a different route."

"Surrogacy?"

She nods. "We've been interviewing women and I think we found her." She hands me the picture of a family of three. "She has a husband and a daughter and she's been a surrogate twice before. All three were healthy pregnancies. She's a vegetarian and lives in a smoke-free household."

"Rose, it sounds like you're trying to convince me rather than yourself," I say, looking through the file out of curiosity.

"Remember when you called me after you got Bella's letter?" Rose asks. I nod. "And how you asked me to tell you that you were doing the right thing?"

"You want me to tell you the same thing?" I question, handing back the contents of the file, the picture on top.

She doesn't answer, but studies the picture. "It's only been eight days since we decided on surrogacy, and it feels too good to be true. Finding her so early in."

"You and Emmett deserve this, Ro. You know this. I'll be here for you as much as you want."

"And you're alright with us choosing not to relocate?" she speaks up, getting off topic.

"The bathroom and dining room here could use an upgrade. I trust the two of you to make the right decisions."

"Good. And thanks."

"Not necessary," I say, standing up. "I should get back home."

Rose makes kissy noises.

"Oh shut up. I need to call my contractor and tell him about the remodel."

"And check on Bella. I'm sure she'll survive an hour without you, babe," she laughs. "Not everyone is like Marzipan you know. We girls do like to be left alone on occasion."

I roll my eyes. "I'll have Sam call you about the remodel soon."

"Bye, babe. Tell Bella we'll get together before she leaves, alright?"

"Yeah."

~MM~

I go straight home so I can check to see if we have the ingredients for my homemade chicken stew.

The house is quiet when I enter. Bella's not in the living room or the kitchen, and it's almost noon. I take the steps two at a time and knock softly on Marley's bedroom door.

"Bella?"

Soft whimpers are the only thing I hear before I throw the door open.

Bella's curled up on the floor beside Marley's double bed with a blanket over her shoulders and her head cradled in her hands.

"It's just a migraine," she whispers hoarsely. "I've had them since the accident. Just… don't talk loud."

I sit down next to her. "Why are you on the floor?"

"Because I couldn't get the blinds shut all the way. I just need some place dark and pink curtains don't exactly keep out the sun."

I think about possible places in the house. I don't have blinds in my room because I like the sunlight.

I stand up and pull her into my arms, bridal style.

"Where are we going?"

"There are blackout curtains in the living room."

Bella covers her swollen eyes with the edge of the blanket as I carry her to the living room and draw the curtains.

"It's alright now."

"Thank you," she whispers in the dark.

"Shh. Tell me what I can do to make you feel better? Do you need me to go buy some Excedrin or something?"

"I have a prescription… in my bag. It knocks me out… I just need to sleep it off."

"How long do these usually last?"

"It could be hours. They've lasted days before."

I nod. "I'm going to go get your bag and a glass of juice. Then I'm gonna leave."

"I'm not kicking you out of your house, Edward."

"I have to go to the grocery store and pick up Marley. If you're still feeling bad though, I might ask my mom to keep her tonight."

Bella wasn't lying when she said that shit knocked her out. I made her eat some crackers before she took it, and came back with another glass of juice to find her completely out of it. I tuck a blanket around her body and lock the door on my way out.

~MM~

"We should make mommy a cake. That will help her feel better," Marley suggests, as she throws a bag of marshmallows into the cart.

We're hosting ice cream night this week.

"I don't think so, Muffin. We're going to make some chicken stew and let her rest. We have to be real quiet though, so you are going to come up to my room and watch TV with me after dinner."

This does not please my daughter. She also makes me buy three different candy bars from the checkout lane so that Bella has variety.

We tiptoe into the house with our bags, and I find her in the same position I left her in – cuddled into the couch cushion, hugging a pillow to her chest. Her rosy lips are pursed, her entire face pinched from the pain, and her eyes are still swollen.

Marley grabs Pooka from his cage and disappears up the stairs.

I manage to make chicken stew without making any unnecessary noise. Every cabinet is open and the sinks filled with dirty dishes because the dishwasher is loud. Marley returns downstairs, wearing a different shirt and holding her school uniform away from her body.

"Pooka peed all over me," she says a little too loudly.

"Shh. Did you put him back in his cage?"

She nods.

"Go put that in the laundry room. Leave the door open so it doesn't slam and come back here. Dinner is ready."

She nods and tiptoes out of the room while I dish out three bowls of soup. I drop a couple of ice cubes into Marley's and set it at the island. Marley then comes back, tiptoeing, and quiet as a mouse.

"Is Mommy coming to eat with us?" she asks, eyeing the extra bowl.

"No. I'm going to let it cool off and take it to her while you pick out a movie, Muffin."

"What is wrong with her again? Midrain?"

"A migraine. It's just a bad headache."

"Oh."

After I eat my dinner, I grab an old TV tray and set the extra bowl of soup on it, along with another glass of juice for Bella. Marley offers to help me do the dishes and looks uncomfortable when I tell her we aren't doing them.

"There's a lot though."

"I know, Muffin. Hold the door open for me and we'll pick out a movie."

She nods and does as I ask.

Bella still hasn't moved. I set the tray down on the coffee table and try to wake her up gently.

"Bella. Wake up, sweetheart. I brought you some dinner."

She doesn't stir.

"Maybe you should kiss her awake. Like Sleeping Beauty," Marley offers from the DVD shelf. "It worked for the prince, you know."

"Shh. Pick your movie and go upstairs."

"Yeah, yeah." She rolls her eyes and turns back to the DVDs with her little flashlight.

I caress the side of Bella's face softly with the pad of my thumb and she moans, but doesn't wake up.

"Bella, it's Edward. I brought you something to eat."

She whimpers and opens one eye. "My head hurts."

A simple whine has me muffling my chuckles in the couch cushion above her head. The similarities between mother and daughter are sometimes uncanny.

She lets me help her sit up and her hands are shaking too much to hold a spoon, so I end up having to feed her.

Marley sits with her back against the DVD shelf watching with a smile.

"This is embarrassing," Bella mumbles.

"Marley turns into a baby when she gets sick, too. I'm used to it."

She glares, but reaches for her head shortly afterwards. "No more. I gotta take some more medicine and go back to sleep before my brain explodes out of my eyeballs."

"THAT CAN HAPPEN?!" Marley practically screams from the other side of the room.

Bella ends up in tears, and it's decided that if she isn't feeling better in the morning, then Marley is going to stay the night at Nana and Pawpaw's house.

Sorry for the delay. I sort of got a job and interviewing took up a lot of my time this week. Updates might be a little delayed due to my schedule but MM is prewritten so no worries :D

Also, darkNnerdy wrote me a little something. If you like Dexter go check out Dark Paradise's Dexterward :D