A/N: There WILL be EDWARD POVs coming up soon in this story! :)

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TCL is also being featured on Fanfic Fridays at Robattack dot workplace dot com. Cared and Ally Vera have written up a wonderful feature for the story. Thanks girlies. 3


Chapter 10 – The Aftermath

Then:

The sun pours in the through the windows of the small bedroom I share with Rosalie; rays of sunshine land over my body and warm me…

Poor, bloody substitutes they are - for his arms, for the warmth I only felt for one short weekend. I hold the blanket tighter round me, bury my head under it and pray silently that morning hasn't arrived, that it isn't time already for me to face another day. If the nights were longer and I could sleep more, if I had more blessed hours of nothingness, and if I dreamed dreams I couldn't remember, then maybe I could finally start feeling better, start feeling like the old Bella, like the girl who never lost so miserably at a game she hadn't even known she'd been playing-

-The alarm blares noisily, and I sit up straight away. A strange sensation starts at the pit of my stomach. It gradually makes its way up through my intestines, into my chest, and then my throat, and all at once the contents of my stomach threaten to come up the way they went in. I cover my mouth and jump out of my small, single bed, leaping right over Rosalie's –which is in my way – and pray I make it to the bathroom.

"Bella, what the bloody hell? You just stepped on me bum!"

I flip the loo cover up and expel last night's Chicken Tikka Masala straight in, every last bit – including the once toasty naan bread I soaked in the broth.

After a couple of minutes, Rosalie steps into the tiny bathroom, kneeling behind me, holding up my hair.

"Right, that's disgusting," she declares.

"Sod off," I moan in between vomiting.

She chuckles. "I just want to make sure you aren't dying. Renee would never forgive me."

"It's your bloody fault for taking me to eat Indian at two in the morning."

Another chuckle. "It's never upset your stomach before."

"Yes, well…I think there were too many spices in the chicken."

"Too many spices in the Indian? That's rubbish, you love spices."

"I'm telling you, it tasted off."

She's quiet.

Eventually my vomiting subsides and I stand up to brush my teeth, but my stomach still feels queasy.

"Are you alright then?" Rosalie asks.

"Yes, thanks Rose. I'm quite better."

We alternate bathing as we get ready for classes, but before I make it out of the bathroom, I vomit once more. Rose steps in again and finds me heaving over the sink.

"I think you'd better go on to classes without me."

"Are you sure?" I can hear the concern in her voice, apprehension beyond the vomiting. She's been worried about me for weeks now.

"I'm quite sure. Go on. I'll be along later if I feel better."

"I'll make you some tea before I go," she says quietly before closing the door.

OOOOOOOOOO

Eventually, I do feel good enough to leave the flat and make my way hastily to classes. I've missed the first two of the morning, but I make it just in time for Creative Writing, my favorite one of the day. Unfortunately, as I raise my hand to offer an opinion, a new wave of nausea hits me and I have to run out of class and find the nearest restroom, where I vomit as quietly as possible into one of the loos.

After that, I really do feel much better for the rest of the day, and I promise myself that I will never eat Indian at two in the morning again.

OOOOOOOOOO

After classes, Rosalie and I meet up again back at the pub where Leah and Jake are already getting everything ready for the afternoon and evening. I go on with my day as normal, serving fish and chips and bangers along with pints of lager to customers. I smile when called for, clean tables, count tips. I borrow Jake's office laptop in between customers and work on my assignments. I try not to watch the time too much – try not to wish my day away.

But it does finally end, and Leah and Rose and Jake and I hang about the flat and watch telly.

"Are you feeling okay lately?" Jake asks as he stands by the door to leave.

I smile at him because he's not such a bad bloke. At least I know where I stand with him.

"I'm fine Jake, thanks. Just been a bit tired lately what with classes and work."

"We can cut some of your hours if they're too much right now, and you can pick them back up when-"

"No!" I say quickly. "No. Thanks…" The last thing I need is more time on my hands.

"Well, okay," he agrees. "See you tomorrow then. Yeah?"

"Yeah, Jake. See you tomorrow."

OOOOOOOOOO

The next morning, I miss the loo by about a second and end up kneeling in my own vomit.

"More bad Indian?" Rose stands behind me and studies me through the mirror as I brush my teeth.

I spit into the sink and keep my head down as I answer.

"I think there might've still been some in my system."

She doesn't say anything. Instead she just lurks about for a few seconds before quietly getting in the shower.

The following morning, she holds up my hair for me again. I evade her eyes as I stand myself up to brush my teeth because I may not have been brought up with much money, but I've had a good education. I know better.

I should've known better.

"Bella…"

I continue brushing my teeth, head down close to the sink.

"Bella, when was your last period?"

I spit into the sink and wipe my mouth and face with a towel. "I'm not pregnant."

"Bella…"

When I start crying into the towel, her arms wrap protectively round me.

"Oh, Love," she sighs.

OOOOOOOOOO

I hear the front door open. Rose is back from the store. I've been sitting on the closed loo the entire time she's been gone. Nauseous. In a daze.

I'm not pregnant. This is just stress. I've read this happens. As soon as I can calm down and start feeling better, my period will return. I just have to calm down.

I'm taking deep, relaxing breaths as she steps into the bathroom with a small, paper bag in hand.

"Right, I've got it then."

She proceeds to pull out a box from the bag and open it, hastily discarding the sheet of instructions.

"So what you do is pee on the stick, and then we leave it alone for three minutes. If it's got one line, we're ace; if it's got two-"

I snatch the stick from her. "I'm not pregnant, Rose. This is just stress.

"Bella, even if he pulled out, some of his stuff could've still spilled inside you. You know this, Bella! I don't understand why you let him-"

"Fine! Fine!" I yell. "Spare me the lesson." I stand up and open the loo. "Turn around while I pee on this thing so you can see that I am not pregnant!"

When I stare down at the stick three minutes later, I feel nothing. I'm not upset, or scared, or happy, or worried. There is just one big space of nothing that fills my chest, and I pray that I can keep this feeling because it's infinitely better than the constant ache that's been my companion for the past few weeks.

Rose is all business. "Right, what are we going to do?"

I turn round and splash water on my face. "I'm going to class."

I feel her eyes on me. "Bella, are you going to tell him?"

She grabs my arm when I try to walk out of the cramped bath. "Bella!"

"He is off fighting a war somewhere, Rosalie. Besides, he made it quite clear that he had other priorities."

"Bella, he needs to take responsibility for this!"

I walk away from her and begin to mechanically get dressed for my day. "Rose, he has other responsibilities."

"But, Bella-"

"ROSE!" I yell at the top of my lungs. "He didn't want me! We had our fun then he remembered his other responsibilities, and that was that! This," I point to my stomach, "is my responsibility now and no one else's!"

I turn away, blindly reaching into a drawer and pulling out the first jumper I find. When I flip it over my head I'm shaking so badly I can't even pull the bloody thing over without Rose's help. She looks at me evenly when my head pops out.

"Hey, you're not alone, okay? We're sisters, remember?"

She's been my best friend since we were six years old. On our first day of school, her drunk of a mum forgot to pick her up, so my mum brought her home with us. Mum must've rang Rose's house about ten times before her mum finally woke up. Since that day, she spent more time with us than she did at her own house. Yes, we are sisters.

I nod quietly, but these bloody hormones must already be acting up because my bottom lip starts trembling, and when she pull me into a hug, I sob uncontrollably for about ten minutes straight.

OOOOOOOOOO

For the next few weeks, I do a pretty good job of pretending that nothing is wrong or different. The vomiting doesn't subside though, and I find that I miss more morning classes than I actually attend. There's also this strange, empty feeling in the pit of my stomach if I don't eat something every couple of hours. But I find that crackers tend to take care of both the hunger and vomiting issues, so I carry a sleeve of crackers with me everywhere I go and proceed with my day.

And I seem to especially fancy baked beans lately.

Luckily, that strange emptiness in my chest that appeared the day I saw two lines on the stick has more or less remained. Despite the fact that he's left me with a little souvenir, I find it easier not to think of him these past few weeks, easier to push the ache down low past my stomach, down to the soles of my feet.

Jake, Leah, Rose and I are on the train one Saturday, going back to Leigh because my mum has made a dinner in celebration of my twentieth birthday. Jake sits close to me, and I don't really mind it as much as I did. He gives me attention, and I think that along with baked beans, I may be craving that too.

Anyway, I'm reading a book while I hear Rose and Leah discussing whether Prince Harry is more of a ginger than this bloke Ian who Rose seems to be keen on, when I feel Jacob brush away a piece of hair that keeps falling in my face and blocking my view of the words before me.

I look up at him.

"Sorry," he smiles sheepishly, "It just looks like it keeps getting in your way."

"That's alright," I smile back. "Thanks." I look back down at my book.

"Bella…"

I pick my head back up.

"I…was wondering if you wanted to go out with me for your birthday. I mean, I know your mum is making you this dinner today, but I could have Leah watch the pub next Saturday and take you-"

His face falls, and I feel horrible. "Jake, you're a great bloke, but believe me," I snort, "you don't want to be involved with me right now."

"Why because you're pregnant?"

I jerk my head back. "How do you know that?"

He smirks. "Bella, I may be a man, but I see things going on around me, especially where they involve you. You're moody, throw up about five times a day, you eat all the time lately, but these small, weird meals, like baked beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner." He chuckles and despite it all I chuckle too.

"If I'm such an utter mess, why in bloody hell would you want to take me out to dinner?"

"I…just want you to let me be your friend. The baby's father…he's not in the picture, is he?"

I shake my head slowly, that ache threatening to come back up, but I swallow thickly and push it down to the soles of my feet again.

"Just let me be your friend, Bella. Everyone needs friends, don't they?"

He looks so sincere, his dark eyes wide open, but I no longer trust myself to recognize sincerity.

"Just don't ask me for more than friendship, Jake."

He shakes his head, but he looks close to elated. "I won't. So…dinner…yeah?"

I draw in a deep breath and let it out slowly.

Two and a half months ago this weekend, I was in a hotel suite, believing myself in a love so true it transcended time and class and family expectations and politics.

Stupid, stupid me. I did things so arse-backwards.

"Dinner sounds good, especially if I can have some baked beans with it?"

"Of course you can."

OOOOOOOOOO

We have a nice dinner round my mum's house – or rather the rest do. I can't seem to stomach meat lately. My mum has always been a pretty good cook, which was one of the things I missed after my dad died, and she could barely manage to get out of bed, much less make Alice and I nice dinners. Back then, it was up to me to get our meals ready, and poor Alice had to do with cucumber and cheddar sandwiches about twice daily, and a burnt roast if she was lucky on Sundays.

But for today, Mum prepared my favorite – or what used to be my favorite until a couple of months ago: A lovely roast with lots of juicy gravy, roast potatoes, carrots, and a brilliant Yorkshire pudding. For dessert she's made both Spotted Dick as well as a Custard Trifle. She also purchased a nice bottle of wine in celebration of the fact that I've left my teens behind.

Usually, I would be in heaven. This afternoon, I took two bites and tried not to puke it all up over the table.

Jake and Leah leave a bit after dinner, but Rose and I are sleeping over until tomorrow.

While Alice and I wash dishes, Rose helps my mum clean up the rest of the kitchen.

Alice and I are catching up and I feel quite guilty because I haven't been by to see them half as much as I usually do. But I'm still not sure how to tell them about the pregnancy.

Alice is telling me about school, about one boy in particular who keeps teasing her, and I'm trying to explain to her that boys tease and bother when they like you.

She's not having it. "He's simply a bloody wanker," is her opinion.

I look first at her then at my mum - who doesn't even look up from her cleaning.

"When I was your age," I smile, "I would've gotten me tongue pulled out of me mouth for using that type of language."

"Times change," my mom calls out. "Alice turned thirteen last month, Love."

"Thirteen! Oh, Al, I missed your birthday!"

"That's alright," she shrugs, not looking at me. "Mum says you're busy."

I feel the tears pooling in the corners of my eyes. "I'm sorry, Alice," I mumble guiltily. "I have been rather busy, but that's no excuse to..." I hug her tight, and the tears start streaming down my cheeks.

"Bella, it's quite alright!" she assures me. "You can give me a gift next time you come!"

I chuckle, still crying. Rose looks up from scrubbing the stove and gives me a look at the same time that my mum picks her head up and catches it.

My heart starts racing in my chest.

"Alice, Love," I say, "I owe you a big, beautiful gift, but for now why don't you do us a favor and let Mum and I have a quick talk?"

"Come on, Alice," Rose says, walking over and taking Al by the hand. "Let's go see if we can copy some of Beckham's moves out in the backyard, yeah?"

Alice looks like she knows she'll be missing some juicy bits if she takes one step, but Rose pulls her along anyway.

Once Rose and Alice leave, my mum and I stare at one another.

"Well, let's have it then, Love."

"Mum…I…I'm…Mum…"

"Are you trying to tell me that you're pregnant, Bella?"

I shut my eyes tightly for a few seconds, waiting for her anger. "Bloody ell, do I have it written cross my face or something?"

She shocks me by chuckling and then takes a seat, signaling for me to join her.

"You might as well have. It does show all over your face, Love. You haven't been around much lately, you've been dodgy on the phone, and you turned positively green at the dinner table! You've always loved my roast, darling! And you didn't have any of your birthday wine!" she chortles, as if I've just given her the most hilarious piece of news.

That's the thing with my mum. Only one thing ever gutted her, and it must've gutted her so badly that nothing else can ever upset her that much again.

But here, in this small kitchen with her, everything hits me and the blessed mask of nothingness suddenly disappears, rises from the soles of my feet and settles itself into my chest once again, leaving me feeling terrified and bewildered - and so bloody alone.

My lip starts to quiver, and I look down at my lap to hide it.

"Oh, Darling," my mom says softly and when her arms go round me, I wrap myself around her as if I were still a tiny, little girl and sob into her neck.

"Mum, what am I going to do?"

"I get the feeling you've already decided that bit."

I nod because that was never a question. Yes, I believe in choices, and this was always going to be the way I chose.

"Is the father around?"

I shake my head and cry harder, missing Edward so bloody much, wanting it to be his arms round me, him holding me and telling me that it's going to be alright the way my mum is currently doing. It should've been him. This is his bloody responsibility not some woman called Tanya, not his quest to be the leader of the free world, but his…baby.

Bloody ell, this is a baby! "Oh dear God, I'm having a baby!"

Mum snorts. "There, there, Love." She pulls me away enough to look in my eyes. "Have you told him?"

I shake my head slowly.

"Why in the world not?"

"He's from…a different world from me, Mum. He has a huge set of responsibilities that don't include me or…" – I stroke my stomach.

"I think you should let him decide that."

"He's already decided it, Mum, in his own way. Nothing is more important than his current responsibilities."

"Oh, I don't believe that. What can be more important than a baby?"

We both sit quietly for a long time, but she doesn't push me for an answer.

"Mum…I'm so lost. I feel so…alone." I start crying again, and my mum pulls me into her arms once more.

"There, there. You'll be alright, Love, and regardless of whether the child's father is around or not, you won't be alone. You've got me and Rose and your little sister – who is going to love being an aunt, by the way; that right there can be her beautiful birthday present. You've also got those nice friends of yours who came to dinner tonight. Darling, you won't be alone."

"I never wanted to disappoint you…or Dad," I say quietly. "Or to be a bad example for Alice…"

She smiles at me tenderly. "Bella, Love, you could never disappoint your father or me. You've always made us proud, and you will continue to make us proud. After knowing the pain of losing such a beautiful soul like your father, do you really think the news that you're bringing another beautiful soul into this world could disappoint me?"

I smile hesitantly.

"Besides, you're not a child any longer, Bella. And you're not a bad example for Alice. I hope she grows up to be just as loving and kind and wonderful as you are, my love. Now if Alice, who's just turned thirteen, came and told me that she was pregnant, that might be an issue."

She laughs at her own unthinkable joke.

OOOOOOOOOO

Edward is back, dressed in desert-toned camouflage army fatigues. I tell him about our baby, and his beautiful, emerald eyes light up. He kneels before me and wraps his large hands round my stomach, and then kisses it tenderly.

When I wake with a gasp, I find Rose and I sharing my double bed, just the way we used to when she'd leave her mum's house in the middle of the night when her mum was in the middle of a bender. I shake her awake.

"What is it, Bella? Are you feeling alright?"

"I've got to tell him."

She nods, knowing exactly what I mean.

"Do you know how to get in touch with him?"

I shake my head. "All I know is that he's in the army. I don't remember the unit or any of that other information."

"Perhaps we can check online, yeah?"

We spend the next few hours of early morning between Rose's laptop and the phone. Though we manage to find a handful of numbers to call over in the States, hours and hours of calls get us absolutely nowhere. I'm asked for his unit, his date of birth, his social security number, his serial number, his last known base – all information I probably should've known before getting to this point. But I don't. I'm told privacy laws prevent the military from giving out its personnel's last known address. Either no one can or wants to give us information on how to reach Edward.

"Bloody arseholes," Rosalie mutters after hanging up on our latest attempt. "Right," she sighs, putting her hand reassuringly over mine, "perhaps it's time we try contacting someone in his family, Bella."

I bite the inside of my lip. The thought of contacting his family makes me nervous. But I need to tell him; let him decide whether he wants to be a part of his child's life or not; whether he'll pursue Tanya and his career once his tour of duty is over – or whether he'll come back here first.

As soon as she has my nod of consent, Rosalie types in "Carlisle Cullen," and "U.S. Congress." I've told Rosalie absolutely everything from beginning to end that went on that weekend. She knows as much about Edward's family and their aspirations as I do.

I watch as the results show up in the next fraction of a second. The first appears to be a government web-site with contact information for U.S. Representatives, among them Carlisle Cullen.

With shaking hands, I pick up the phone while Rosalie watches me quietly.

"Congressman Carlisle Cullen's office. This is Jasper, how may I help you?"

"Hello?"

"Yes?"

My voice shakes. "Hello, I…"

"Yes, this is Congressman Cullen's office. How may I help you?"

"I…" – I squeeze my eyes shut tight – "I…I need to speak to Edward Cullen."

"Hello? I'm sorry, I'm afraid we have a bad connection. Can you repeat that?"

Rose nods at me encouragingly. "Go on, then," she whispers.

"I need to get a message to…I need contact information for Edward Cullen?"

There's silence for about five seconds. "I'm sorry, but this is Representative Carlisle Cullen's office. Did you say you're looking for Edward Cullen?"

"Yes," I say in a clearly quivering voice. "I need to…contact him."

Silence again. "If you're requesting information on our military program, you'll have to contact the Department of-

"No! No," I repeat more calmly. "I need contact information for Edward Cullen. It's very important."

Another long pause. "Please hold on."

"Okay."

I'm on hold for what feels like hours before the bloke finally comes back on the line.

"Yes, if you'll give me your name and contact information, I'll make sure that he gets the message."

"I'm sorry, but I need to speak to him directly."

"I'm sorry, Miss, but I can't give out his information. Now if you'll give me your-"

"Please. I just need to speak to him quickly."

Another voice, much gruffer, suddenly comes on the line. "Jasper, step out of the office and give me a minute."

There's a few more seconds of silence.

"Yes, this is Carlisle Cullen."

The voice is pure ice. With merely five words, I'm as intimidated as I was when Edward first told me about his father.

Still, I force myself to respond. "Yes, I…I need to speak to Edward."

"Who is this?"

"I'm…" - Rose shakes her head at me - "It's quite important that I speak to Edward directly. If you wouldn't mind giving me his contact information, I'd really appreciate it."

Rose nods her approval at the sudden formality and confidence in my tone and accent.

On the line, there is one long space of silence, but I can still hear Edward's father's harsh breaths.

"Again, who exactly is this, and what's so urgent that you need my son's contact information while he's off fighting a war?"

"There's something…important that I need to tell him," I respond.

"Well, why don't you just tell me?"

"I'm sorry, Sir, but I really do need to speak to Edward directly."

Another long pause of silence.

"I've got to say, if Edward knows you and didn't give you his contact information, don't you think there was a reason?"

I push down the humiliation that seeps through me at his barbed dig. "Please, Mr. Cullen, I need to speak to your son. As you said, it's a matter of urgency."

"Urgency," he repeats coolly. "May I ask what's so urgent?"

"As I said, it's rather personal."

"Personal," he reiterates, making the word sound like an obscenity. "Excuse me, but you do realize that my son is engaged, don't you?"

"Yes, but-"

"But you still wish to speak to him about your urgent business. You realize that he's been engaged for almost a year now?"

The disclosure hits me like a ton of bricks. I suddenly feel sick to my stomach, which I brush protectively. "I…I didn't know it had been that long…"

"You didn't know," he repeats flatly. "Is that the line you plan to go with, then? That you didn't know?"

"The line?"

"When you go to the media with this little story about urgent business and how you didn't know that the Congressman's son was engaged to the Senator's daughter. You were completely innocent."

"I…" – my voice quivers, all feigned confidence gone – "I'm not quite sure what you're saying."

"I think you know exactly what I'm saying. I think we both know exactly what we're talking about."

He's silent again while my heart hammers so loudly I can hear it pounding in my head.

"I'll be a bit blunter if you need me to be. Whatever you seem to think your urgent business is, Miss, it's your urgent business, and I strongly suggest that you take care of it – quickly. I also suggest that you think twice about trying to contact my son again. He and I have been working towards our goals for a long time, and neither of us will hesitate in defending our name if you attempt to taint it with lies for profit," he hisses.

"I'm not telling any lies," I cry quietly.

"No? Well then you'd better be prepared for quite a battle, Miss, if you try to spread any sordid story to the public. My son chose his path a long time ago and has never, and will never waver from it."

I sob openly and loudly, clutching the phone while Rosalie struggles to take it away.

"Hang up, Bella," she hisses. "Just bloody hang up!"

But I can't. It's penance for my stupidity.

"If he ever befriended you and you misunderstood that friendship, then that's your fault and your fault alone, and neither Edward nor I will stand for lies and accusations! So before you even think of trying to destroy our name, you'd better be prepared for quite a battle where all of you and your family and friends' dirty laundry will be aired in-"

I hang up.


A/N: Thoughts?

There are about three or four "Then" chapters left, one of which is in E's POV, before we are completely in the present. I know a bunch of you wanted to know.

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