A/N: You guys might need tissues for either sad or happy tears. This has been beta'd by the amazing Astro2009. Thanks! Happy Holidays!

Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or its character Stephanie Meyers does, I'm just playing with them…

Entry for Countdown to 2014

Rating: M

Bella / Edward



I was nine years old when Edward Cullen came into my life. It was a week after my birthday and I sat on the front porch steps after school, waiting for my dad to get home. My mom had left the month before, so my dad was trying to figure things out schedule-wise.

I read Lord of the Flies as I waited. The librarian almost didn't let me check it out because she thought it wasn't appropriate for me.

"Aren't you a bit young to be reading that?" a voice asked from in front of me.

I glared as I raised my head to look. The guy in front of me was tall and I remembered his family had moved into Mrs. Cope's house a few days ago.

"I can read anything I want; the possibilities are endless," I mumbled.

"What grade are you in?" he asked with a smile.

I noticed his neon green braces right away. His hair was kind of red and super messy. His shoes were like the boys who skateboarded and his pants were baggy. His t-shirt had blue and white stripes.

"Fourth," I replied, with a shrug.

"You're at the grade school and reading that? My brother's a sophomore and he just brought that home to read for class," he said, surprised.

"I like to read. What grade are you in?" I asked.

"Eighth," he said proudly.

I rolled my eyes, going back to my book.

"You don't act like a fourth grader," he said, tugging at my book.

"My mom said I have an old soul," I explained.

I carefully slid my bookmark in my book, closing it before placing it on the step beside me. It didn't seem like he was going anywhere anytime soon.

He nodded before shaking his head and flopping his bangs to the side. I found the action to be annoying - it reminded me of the girls in school always flipping their hair.

"Are you home alone?" was his next question.

"My dad should be home soon… he's a cop," I said, trying to be impressive myself.

Jessica Stanley always called me a narc. I wasn't sure what that meant, but I had a feeling it had to do with Daddy being a cop.

"So your mom…" he trailed off.

"I don't have a mom."

"But you just said..." he stopped when I shot him a glare.

He raised his hands up in defense. "Okay, obviously a touchy subject. I'm Edward by the way."

"Isabella," I told him.

I wasn't going to tell him Daddy called me Bella or Bells though. Only he called me that. Mom didn't like me not being called Isabella. She said she named me that for a reason. I don't think it mattered anymore though, since she left us.

"Edward..." a lady called from across the street.

She saw us sitting out the front of my house and crossed the street, walking over until she was in my yard. She smiled and I remembered seeing her at our back-to-school rally in the gym. Nurse Esme was her name. She was really pretty and had hair like Edward's; hers wasn't messy though. It was perfect.

"Hello," she said in a quiet, gentle voice.

"Hi," I waved.

Edward then proceeded to tell her my name and that I was out here alone. I didn't like that - if my dad didn't think it was okay for me to be home, I would have been dropped off at the station.

I showed Esme my key and told her I liked to read outside. She told Edward that maybe he should leave me alone, but she said it nicer.

He didn't listen because everyday after that, he showed up at my house after school.

Over the next few years, we built a deeply-bonded friendship. He'd run me into town during the summers, on his bike while I'd sit on the handlebars. A few times, Dad would be patrolling and pulled Edward over on the bike.

He'd tell him I was clumsy enough as it was and he should know better than to let me sit up there. As we got older, Edward took what Charlie said to heart and quit letting me sit up there. After he turned sixteen, he offered to drive me around in the new SUV that his parents, Dr. Carlisle and Esme, had given him for his birthday. A lot of the girls in my grade tried to torment me because I was always with the Cullen boys. I didn't understand at the time that it was jealously.

As we got older, or more so when he got into high school, I tried to make myself scarce. Girls started coming around the Cullen house more and more. I knew that with Emmett away at school, they weren't there for him.

Tanya Newton had been the one that seemed to beat all of them out of a chance to spend their time with Edward. The past few weeks, she'd been across the street every day after school.

I had quit going over there since then. Edward would come to my door and knock, but I refused to answer each time. Tanya didn't like me - I could tell from all of the sneers she sent my way.

I frowned over at the Cullens' house as I looked out the window.

"It's okay to have a crush, Bell-of-the-ball," Emmett sang at me one afternoon.

He'd just come home for the Thanksgiving break and had been here since he pulled into his parents' driveway an hour ago. I was twelve and for some reason, whenever he was home, Emmett always drifted over to our house for sandwiches. He said my dad knew the proper ingredients for a manly sandwich. I think it was more because Esme didn't allow a lot of junk in their house.

"That's gross! I'm just a kid," I told him. I could feel my face getting hotter.

"You're a young lady," he corrected. "Charlie told Mom that Mr. Banner talked to him about moving you up to the high school early."

"I don't want to be at the high school yet," I told him with a glare.

"You should. You're smart. Ed's always going on about all the books you're reading," he said, rolling his eyes.

"Edward should shut it," I muttered.

I went back to looking out the kitchen window and saw Tanya walking out of the house across the street. Tanya's snow-white, blonde hair flowed behind her. She was tall like Edward, probably around the same height. Even though it was cold out, she had shorts on, which made her legs look even longer. I glanced down at my short legs. I was still the smallest girl in my grade.

Another thing that made Tanya desirable to the boys of Forks were her boobs. Those things were huge. I sighed in defeat and didn't even bother looking down at mine. I wasn't even in a training bra yet. I was flat as a board. I hated her and puffed out some air at that hatred. Emmett was standing behind me and patted my head.

"Mom doesn't like her," he told me.

"Moms aren't supposed to like the girl their son brings home," I insisted with a shrug.

Em snorted. "Touché, Swan!"

Edward followed Tanya down his front stairs, but he kept glaring over in the direction of my house. When he noticed us in the window, Edward caught my stare. He opened the car door for Tanya and started to head over to my house once Tanya got in her car. He was frowning and I turned to duck under Emmett's arm.

"He looks pissed," Emmett laughed.

I took off running to the door before Emmett could hear. I knew why Edward looked mad. I stopped at the top of the porch steps, noticing Edward was panting and his lips looked off.

The closer he got, the paler he looked. His face was freckled, but under those spots he was completely white. As he stood in front of me I noticed the sheen of sweat on his forehead.

"You kissed Newton?" he panted.

Mike Newton, Tanya's brother, had stolen my first kiss at Angela Weber's birthday party two weeks ago. I kneed him where it counted afterward.

"That's none of your business," I hissed.

The wind was whipping at my hair and I tried to shoo it out of my face.

"Tanya was saying things about you, Bella. Things that weren't very... honorable. If she's running her mouth about you and her brother, I can only imagine what Newton is actually saying!" He coughed while he ranted, not letting me get a word in. "You're not that girl. I know that, but people in this town love to gossip. I… I can't –... believe youuu..."

Edward slumped forward, gasping and clutching at his chest as he fell. His face just missed the bottom step.

"Edward!" I said, rushing to him. "Stop playing around!"

I frantically shook him. "Edward!" I yelled this time, but he wasn't moving.

"Emmett," I screamed.

The next few hours were spent with me sitting on Emmett's lap with my face in his neck. We had followed the ambulance to the hospital. Esme was inconsolable when she arrived and they had to pull Dr. Cullen out of surgery.

Congestive Heart Failure.

My kissing Newton did this. This was all my fault, and no matter what anyone said, I knew I was to blame for Edward being in the hospital. He'd come over yelling at me with a bad heart.

When Edward woke up, he asked for me and I refused to go in. It was my dad that told me I'd regret it if I didn't see him.

"Bells, I know how much Edward means to you," he murmured, running his fingers gently through my hair. "If something happens and you didn't get to speak with him, you'll regret it."

"He's dying," I mumbled through my tears.

"Dr. Cullen has a team that is devoted to making Edward better. We all need to have faith, kid."

"If we have faith, he has a better chance at living?" I asked quietly.

"If we have faith, it will give Edward the strength he need needs to fight," he said honestly.

I wanted Edward to fight and for his heart to get better.

"I think I want to see him now."

Dad opened the door to Edward's room for me and I stared at my friend who looked like he'd had his life drained out of him.

He was sitting up in the bed with wires hooked up to him and tubes up his nose so he could breathe better. His eyes were closed and I almost turned around until I felt the nudge of my dad's hand on my back.

"Go," Dad whispered in my ear.

I shuffled forward and carefully placed my hand around Edward's. I took in his face, noticing he wasn't as white as before, but his lips were still lightly tinted blue.

There was a steady beep from the machine beside him and I felt relieved. Beeping meant he was alive. He was breathing.

I watched as his eyes slowly opened and his hand weakly squeezed mine. I started crying at the gesture.

"Shhh, Bella," he choked out.

Once I calmed down, Edward told me he was sorry for yelling at me, and he didn't want boys like Newton preying on me.

"I love you, Bella."

When he said he loved me, I felt my stomach get excited. I knew he never said that to Tanya and for some reason it made me happy.

Edward was in and out of hospital for almost a year before they found him a donor.

Emmett had taken his last semester for the year off and always hung around our house while his parents stayed at the hospital. When he told me about the transplant, or at least more information than our parents told me, I frowned at him.

"Someone needed to die in order for Edward to live?" I asked, not letting my eyes tear away from the dinner I was making.

"Technically, yes," he started hesitantly. "They flew in a heart from Tacoma; the guy was brain dead and his mom wanted to donate viable organs."

Edward continued to thrive after the transplant. His diet changed dramatically as he became a vegetarian. He took his meds religiously. Tanya was long gone, due to the fact she couldn't handle having a sick boyfriend. She moved on and so did Edward. He didn't date, though - he focused more on academics.

He was completing his undergrad in Bio Sciences on the other side of the country when I graduated from Forks High School. Time had passed, but Edward always remained in constant contact with me.

It was when I moved to Seattle after graduation that I found out he was attending Med School at the University of Washington. Throughout high school, I had won state competitions for my paintings and knew college wasn't for me. Teachers thought I was wasting my intelligence on foolishness, but I knew the people that mattered supported me. Edward contacted me once he moved closer, asking to see me.

Edward Cullen, this busy med student, followed me, the barista girl who wanted to be a starving artist in a huge city.

I was nineteen the first time Edward kissed me and declared I was the most beautiful woman he had laid eyes on. A week later, he told me that he was in love with me. The next day, I showed him that I loved him too.

"This is why I moved back," he hummed while nibbling on my neck.

We'd just taken a shower together, so we forewent the clothes when we climbed into Edward's bed.

His hand lazily ran up and down my side. I shifted so I was hovering over him.

"You moved back for my neck?" I asked teasingly.

"I moved back for you," he growled as he pulled me down for a kiss. "I wanted you to be ready."

"And I'm ready now?"

"You know what I mean. You needed a chance to grow into the person you needed to be," he said, cupping my cheek. "I didn't want you growing up as fast as I did."

"You grew up a pretty great man," I argued.

"If I would have stayed, would you have dated? Would you have gone to college?" he asked softly.

"I knew I would never go to college - you know I always wanted to pursue my art full time."

"Bell, according to the state of Washington, you're a genius," he told me seriously. "College is usually a no-brainer."

I decided to make him understand I loved him just as much as he loved me.

"What would you have done if I had dated?" I asked him. "Went to UDub with some guy?"

"I would have fought for you," he said without hesitation. "I know how short life can be."

He kissed me and I felt every emotion that poured from him. He lifted me until I was straddling him.

"I fought for you before," he murmured.

"We were kids… I was a kid," I moaned as he guided my hips over him.

"Doesn't matter. The whole time I was sick, I kept thinking - if something happened to me what would happen to you?" he told me and I could see the sincerity in his eyes.

I sank down on him and as overwhelming as it felt, I knew Edward was my one. He lived everyday to its fullest and he loved me completely.

That night we laid in bed and I let my fingers trace his scar, hearing his heart beat under my ear.

Thirteen years after our first meeting, I stared down at my husband. His huge hand was cold in mine, and every so I often, I placed our hands under the blanket to keep his warm. My other hand rested on my belly.

We actually just found out right before Edward started having problems. He kept brushing it off, saying it was exhaustion from being a first-year intern. I knew better. I remembered the last time his breathing was harsh and his lips turned blue - the day he collapsed in my yard.

His doctors said it happened. Sometimes the body just rejects the donor's heart. He was a 25-year-old man with a bad heart. He had only lived a quarter of his life. I wanted him to live a century with me. That's what I wanted.

He needed to be a father to our daughter. She needed to be able to meet the wonderful man that had helped me create her life. My doctor said the stress wasn't good for me. I told her I was fine.

I felt a kiss drop on top of my head and looked up. Esme.

"Hello, sweet girl," she smiled sadly.

"I'm not leaving. It's Christmas Eve and I refuse to leave him alone on Christmas Eve."

"Oh trust me, I know," she said quietly.

My bottom lip started to quiver, but I wouldn't cry. Edward was sleeping, but if he were to wake and see me cry… It would make him worry. He worried about me and the baby constantly, which I hated. He was the one that could die at any moment if they couldn't find a matching heart.

"You need to smile more - this is a happy time for us," he'd rasped earlier, with a smile as he rubbed my bump.

"Bella, if you need a bed, I'm sure the nurses could arrange something for you," Esme suggested, brushing my hair over my shoulder.

"I'm fine," I mumbled.

"You're always fine," Edward said, making my head snap up.

I looked at my pale husband with dark, heavy circles under his eyes. The green of his eyes even looked dull.

Esme sighed and moved closer to her son, kissing his head. A weak smile touched his lips as he stared at me.

"Did Bella tell you Maya kicked my hand today?" he asked, getting breathless.

Esme shook her head as she smiled warmly at me with tears glistening in her eyes. I knew the look her eyes held, which screamed that her heart broke for us. Our parents were hovering over us separately. The truth was, Edward could die and I'd be a 21-year-old, widowed, single mother.

If that were the case, I'd live for Maya and she'd be my world. There was no replacement for Edward. He was the other half of my soul and I would wait for him if I had to. Even if it would be close to a century. I'd wait to see him then.

I watched as Edward talked with his mother. He looked almost lifeless, but he was fighting to remain optimistic. The tube for his oxygen hooked around his face let me know the reality of the situation.

"I'm going to go. I need to help your brother pick out a gift for Rosalie," she said with a sigh.

"It's their first Christmas. He knows it needs to be special," I added as I felt Edward's hand trying to squeeze mine. "Waiting for Christmas Eve is really cutting it close, though."

I had introduced Em to Rosalie a few months ago. She owned the gallery that sold most of my work. I also helped her from time to time with exhibitions. It was a world I would have never imagined myself in if it weren't for Edward. He pushed for me to take my dreams and make them a reality.

Esme said her goodbyes and promised to be back first thing in the morning with Carlisle. After she left, I stood for a minute feeling a little bit antsy.

"You know I got you a present," Edward said, pulling on the hem of my blouse.

"You did?" I asked, surprised.

"Dad helped," he said sheepishly.

"I bet it will be perfect," I assured him.

"I ordered a few things for Maya too," he added, tapping his iPad on his lap.

"What did you get for her?"

I brushed his hair off his forehead. It looked darker and longer than what I ever remembered it being. He needed a haircut, but with him stuck in this place it didn't look like a possibility.

"Clothes mostly, and maybe a few stuffed animals," he told me.

"Hmm, why do I feel you probably went overboard?" I teased as I leaned down to kiss him.

"You look gorgeous tonight," he mumbled against my lips.

"I brought out my Christmas best," I murmured, giving him one more chaste kiss.

We heard a throat clear and saw Garrett, Edward's doctor, smirking from the doorway. Dr. Garrett Gerandy was supposed to be one of the best cardiothoracic surgeons on the West Coast and it also helped that Carlisle had been his mentor.

"Sorry to interrupt, but I have some news I think you'd like to hear," he said cheerfully.

"Better be good if you're interrupting my private time with my wife," Edward grumbled.

Garrett moved forward, grabbing Edward's chart before he sat on the end of the bed. He smiled at me then grinned at Edward.

"We had a guy come in. He was in an accident and is brain dead, along with a DNR. Turns out he was an organ donor," Garrett explained.

"His heart…" Edward trailed off.

"Is perfect, Edward," he confirmed with a nod.

I felt like I was twelve years old again, feeling disconnected from the relief I should have been experiencing. Edward had a new heart, but some man had just lost his life. Edward's hand weakly rubbing my stomach brought me back from my thoughts.

"I would like to get you prepped for surgery and get this show on the road," Garrett informed us.

"So, this donor's heart is healthy?" I asked, finding my voice.

"We've tested it and it's a perfect match. We'll proceed with the transplant," he explained. "I'm going to send Kate in to prep you and then we'll head down to the OR."

"Sounds like a plan," Edward breathed.

I watched them shake hands before Garrett left. "This is the kind of Christmas miracle we needed," he said, cupping my cheek.

I agreed, giving him a kiss.

"Can I talk to Maya?" he whispered shyly.

"Yeah," I said, rolling my blouse up.

He placed his bed back so he was face to belly. He peppered my stomach with kisses.

"Maya, I love you so much. You are a true gift for Mommy and me. I can't wait to meet you, but for now, I need you to help Mommy. Keep her safe even when I can't," he murmured with one last kiss.

I wiped at the tears that silently fell. He raised the bed until he was able to cup my cheek. "I love you and will come back to you."

He said it like he was so sure, but I knew what could happen on the operating table. I nodded and gave him a kiss as Kate, the surgical nurse, came in to prep him. I walked beside his gurney, holding his hand as they wheeled him down to the elevator. He smiled weakly as the doors closed.

I felt like I was barely keeping it together. I called everyone, telling them he had been just taken into surgery. Esme and Carlisle weren't answering, but Emmett was about forty minutes away.

I walked down to the waiting room and sat on an uncomfortable couch. Maya started to move; I knew I'd be in for an intense couple of hours. I rubbed around where I felt her foot.

"Please be easy on Mommy," I sniffled, trying to hold everything in.

This little girl was kicking me, letting me know she was there and that I still had a piece of my husband with me. As I took a deep breath, I noticed a woman walk in. She was small, but her nude pumps made her a little taller than me. Her beige wool pea coat and white skinny jeans screamed against her short black hair.

She looked like she had been crying, but her make-up even hid that well. I could only imagine the mess I looked. Her cool blue eyes locked on me. She nodded, almost as if it was to herself.

"Slow night, huh?" she asked, taking a seat next to me.

"I guess," I mumbled, looking around the empty room.

Gold garlands were wrapped around the room, with big red bows in each corner. A decorated tree sat in the corner beside me while an instrumental version of Joy to the World played throughout the room. In some ways, the room wasn't helping my mood or feelings.

"What brings you in here on this oh, so joyous holiday?" she questioned.

"Uh… my husband's in surgery," I answered, folding my hands to rest over Maya.

I felt overwhelmed at that moment. Usually if anyone saw my rings or heard the words 'my husband' leave my mouth, it was because I was gushing about Edward. The last few months had been different though. My husband could die.

"High school sweethearts?" the woman asked with a slight grin.

"Not quite - we grew up together. I graduated from high school and moved out here and he came here for med school and, apparently, me," I sighed wistfully.

"He loved you for a long time, bet he kept it to himself," she said knowingly.

I thought about that. Edward had always been protective of me, but he let me know when we started dating how much he loved me. He said he needed to be near me and that while being away at Dartmouth, he felt a pull home. How could I not fall in love with him?

"Are you visiting?" I asked, trying to take some of the attention off me.

"My boyfriend's here. I'm just waiting for him to come home to me," she said with a bright smile, which belied the dry tear tracks I saw on her cheeks.

"Is he okay?" I asked quietly.

"Motorcycle accident," she said blankly, before her eyes lit up. "I met him while I was passing through Texas. That boy was impossible, him and that bike. He wouldn't be Jasper Whitlock if he wasn't showing off on that thing. I ignored his antics and went into the truck stop diner."

"He obviously got your attention though," I said with a smile.

"He followed me in five minutes later. I told him it took him long enough - I'd been waiting forever."

"Wow," I said in awe.

"We've been together ever since. I'll be honest - I had been so lost before him and he found me. He was the best part of my life," she breathed.

"Was the accident bad?"

"He'll be with me. All that matters is he's coming home," she said vaguely.

I nodded, taking in this woman. She exuded a confidence, but her eyes held a pain I couldn't quite place. Maya started moving around again and I started patting around her.

"How far along are you?"

"Six months."

"Your husband's excited," she stated.

"That's an understatement. Edward's beyond ecstatic - she'll be spoiled when she gets here," I told her before sucking in a breath.

"What is your Edward in here for?" she asked, placing her hand on my shoulder.

I felt a calm spread over me.

"A heart transplant," I whispered. "This is his second one in ten years; his body was rejecting the donor heart."

"This is the second time you're going through this," she said in understanding.

"The first time, I was a kid and scared, but none of that compares to what I feel now," I said honestly.

She squeezed my shoulder again, gaining my full attention. "You have a strong faith and you need to believe. Tragedies happen, but so do miracles. Always remember that."

A beeping noise sounded. She pulled out her phone and grinned. "He's waiting for me."

She stood, looking down at me.

"Thank you for sitting with me…"

"Alice," she offered. "Alice Brandon."

"Thanks, Alice. I'm Bella, by the way," I added.

"Remember what I told you, Bella," she said. "And Merry Christmas."

I glanced up at the clock, noticing it was after midnight. It was Christmas Day. When I turned back to Alice, she was gone. Emmett came bounding through the door a few minutes later.

"Are you okay, Bella?" he asked, kneeling in front of me.

"I think I am," I told him honestly.

I went on to tell him about Edward's surgery and how they found him a heart. Then about Alice and how we talked until he came in. He told me that Esme and Carlisle were on their way but there was an accident on the highway. Esme did successfully get Rose's gift.

Hours later, our family surrounded me as we waited for Garrett and his team to finish the surgery. I leaned into my dad while my legs rested on Emmett's lap. Dad kept teasing me about the fishing trips he wanted to take Maya on.

It was around three thirty when Garrett and his team told us the surgery had been a success. They were moving Edward from post-op to the ICU. They wanted to make sure there were no complications or infections, but Garrett said everything went smoothly.

After Emmett took me home to get some sleep, I thought about what Alice had said. She was right - I needed my faith.

Later on in the afternoon, I found Kate at the nurses' station. Emmett followed me.

"Hi Bella, what can I do for you?"

"I wanted to send something Christmassy to a patient. I guess like a poinsettia or something?" I said, not completely sure what to send to Alice's boyfriend. It was mostly a thank you to her though.

Emmett snorted and I nudged him.

"Who's the patient? I could have it sent to their room," she offered with a warm smile.

"Jasper Whitlock, I believe," I told her.

Kate's face paled and I frowned, turning to Emmett, who shrugged.

"Bella sweetie, why do you want to send him something?" she asked carefully.

"Well, I was talking to his girlfriend while I waited for our family to arrive," I explained.

"Sweetheart, I don't know who you talked to but Jasper Whitlock had no family. The only person on his emergency contact was an Alice Brandon, but she passed away last year in a car accident, according to our records. He was Edward's donor," she said softly.

I shook my head as Emmett wrapped his arm around me and thanked Kate. "Emmett, I talked to Alice Brandon last night, I swear I did," I cried.

"I believe you, Bella," he sighed.

We ended up researching Alice's accident and then Jasper's in the paper. A tractor-trailer smashed into her Porsche on New Year's last year. The driver of the truck had been drinking and had been charged with vehicular manslaughter. She had opened a successful clothing store a few years prior, which her boyfriend closed after her death. I stared at the familiar face in the picture of the article.

Jasper wasn't wearing his helmet that Christmas Eve night he was brought in. His article said he was going sixty miles per hour when he hit head on into the side of a building. No drugs or alcohol were involved, but the police thought it was a suicide.

Alice was right - he had come home to her.

I stared down at the grave we had paid for over a year ago. My daughter clung to Edward as he bounced her. I smiled at both of them. When he woke up, Emmett and I had told Edward about Jasper and Alice. It was his idea to pay for Jasper's burial and make sure he would always be next to Alice. We found her obituary and called where her service had been held. They helped us find her.

"I wanted to thank both of you," I murmured, touching their head stone. "You helped me find my faith, Alice, and you, Jasper, saved my husband."

Edward kneeled down as Maya squished his cheeks. Her green eyes brightened at all the attention her daddy gave her. He made a face, causing her to giggle.

"We can never really thank them enough," he sighed.

"I think they know how grateful we are," I said truthfully.

I know Alice knew.