AN: Just something to get out of my system. Thank you for reading.

A Steady and Constant Beat

The sound had always reminded her of a drum. Heart beats were like percussion instruments with their steady beat that filled Bella with a reassurance that life was still marching along.

Memories of the first moments that she heard Elsa's rapid, fluttering beats during the sonogram and seeing her small body on the screen made Bella smile slightly. The heart was so strong at the beginning, but it was slowing down at the end that made her want to weep.

The sounds that filled the room now weren't the thumping of a strong heart, but the robotic beeps that gave Bella a headache that made her eyes hurt at the bright light. She placed her head on Renee's chest. The way it rose up and fell made her feel like she was on a rickety rowboat getting swept off to sea.

"Edward, dim the lights," she snapped, not even opening her eyes to see her husband jump up to turn down the bright hospital lights. It was freezing in the room and she shuddered wishing that she had packed a sweater before rushing to Florida. The hospital had the air conditioner blasting cool air making the room feel like the arctic. "They need to remember this is Florida and not the North Pole."

"Honey, let's go back to the hotel. You need some sleep," Edward implored. Bella was unraveling right before his eyes. "Phil can sit with your mom."

"Phil is too busy with one of his whores," Bella retorted. Her step-father was a sore subject. She never trusted Phil Dwyer and Bella was unwilling to give him the benefit of the doubt at this moment.

Edward sat down next to his wife and placed a hand on her shoulder rubbing it softly. He whispered, "Bells, you know that isn't fair."

She knew and didn't care. The grief that filled her to the core was too deep to consider Phil's pain. The anger from her youth at the rejection was too intense. She had thought it had faded away, but it came roaring back at her feelings of helplessness.

"It's not much longer now," Bella stated, changing the subject. Renee's heart sounded different. There was a smell of decay, of death, that wasn't there before. "She won't last the day."

"Her heartbeat is still strong. Look at the monitor." He squeezed her shoulder a little harder.

Bella looked up at him with a scowl. "Last time I checked, you're a sport's writer. When you get your medical degree, feel free to give me a diagnosis."

He dropped his hand. "I'm only trying to help."

Quickly, Bella grabbed his hand feeling instant remorse. Her emotions were all over the place. She was taking out all her stress on the one she knew she could count one. "I'm so sorry. I just can't fix this!"

"We can hope for a miracle," He suggested hopefully. That man was an eternal optimist.

"No miracles, Edward." She kissed his palm as she remembered a happier time with her
mother.

They sat on a fence and stared out at the wild ponies that ran over the beach. Bella was transfixed on a brown and white foal that frolicked with its siblings in the surf. He jumped and whinnied as the water splashed on to his soft fur. Bella imagined that was what happiness looked like.

"He's so pretty, Mommy," she stated, as she watched the pony in awe.

"We can buy him at the pony swim," Renee suggested, as the cool breeze blew off her straw hat. The wind whipped her brown locks around her face causing her to giggle loudly. The horses just ignored the noises that was exiting from her.

Bella frowned at her mother's words. Even at the tender age of eight, she knew this was a promise her mother couldn't keep.

Would it be nice to be able to purchase the foal when the fire department swam the ponies from the beaches of Assateague over to Chincoteague? Of course, it would. Unfortunately, when they came to Virginia on one of Renee's whims, they had shack up with Renee's boyfriends in a motor home. It wasn't any place for a horse or even a child like Bella.

"We can't, Mommy. We have no place for him to live." Bella looked wistfully at the foal. If wishes could come true, Bella would love to have that horse for her very own.

Renee pulled her serious child close to her chest. Her little one looked like her with big, chocolate eyes and matching brown waves, but her melancholy expression was all due to her father. Renee was always saying that Bella's skeptical disposition was unfortunately a Swan trait.

She whispered in her child's ears, "Baby, what did Momma always tell you about miracles?"

"They can happen if you wish hard enough," Bella looked up at her mother with wide eyes. "But there isn't any shooting stars! It's daytime!"

"Then we wish on the setting sun as it makes the sky pink as it hits the water's edge."

Bella rested her head back on her mother's bosom as she pictured the pink sky, the water lapping onto the sands of millions of colors and her foal running down the beach. There was a blissful calmness in that memory.

"—hope, Bella. Never doubt its power," Edward continued talking, but Bella hadn't heard a
single word.

"I told you about my pony, right?" Bella asked, as Edward gave her quizzical look. Information about time with her mother had always been lacking. He would always get bits and pieces, but the whole story was never forthcoming. It was a vast contrast to her life with her father Charlie. That had always been an open book. "His name was Spot. I loved him. Didn't I, Momma?"

Her hand brushed Renee's long bangs away from her face. Her mother's once buoyant hair was now limp and oily.

"You didn't tell me about that, sweetheart." Edward sat closer to his wife and rubbed her back, hoping to soothe away the tension that was evident in every muscle of Bella's body.

Tears dripped down Bella's nose and onto the stiff, white sheets that covered the hospital bed. She sniffed loudly and continued to speak in a small voice. "He was beautiful, Edward. Spot's fur was like it was painted on with a brush and there were so many different shades of color to be seen depending on the way the sunlight hit it. We had him tied up behind the trailer that Darrell had. He was Mom's new boyfriend after Chad kicked us out of his motor home. I told you about that."

"No honey, you didn't," he stated quietly, still making circular motions onto her skin.

Bella buried her head back into her mother's body. She still smelled rancid to Bella and no longer of jasmine and honey.

With a mumbled voice, Bella continued her tale, "I guess it wasn't fair to confine such an amazing animal to a post in a trailer park, but Spot was loved. All the kids came over to feed him carrots. I actually had friends for the first time. It was nice."

"I'm sure it was, Bella." The monitor's sounds seemed different to Edward, but he didn't mention it. His mind was probably playing tricks on him due to sitting in this room for countless hours and listening to the machines singing their chorus of sustaining life. He never knew how his doctor father could listen to their beeps and whirls day in and day out. It would drive Edward insane. He was far happier analyzing the home run percentages of the Yankees than having the possibility of death always hovering over him.

"Spot disappeared one day. I woke up and he was gone. I'm sure someone stole him and sold Spot to home that could give him what he needed," Bella continued, as she raised her head. Her eyes were red and puffy from her soft crying. "Mom said he ran home to return to his family on Assateague. She bought me a beta fish as a condolence prize. They are a mean fish. Solitary like I think my mom would have preferred to be."

"You've never wanted me!" Bella raged as she threw a vase against a wall. It shattered and pieces of tangerine porcelain rained down onto the floor.

Renee took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Bella knew that move. Her mother was trying to find her inner peace that those yahoos at the Buddhist temple were trying to teach her. In Bella's eyes it was a big, bag of idiocy.

A decorative plate from Niagara Falls hit the fireplace, as Bella chucked it to get her mother's attention on the issue at hand. In Bella's mind, her mother should be feeling guilty about causing her daughter's anger at being sent away to her father's home in some tiny, dinky town in Washington.

Violence and destruction was never something that Bella would have ever considered doing, but she was tired. Tired of being responsible. Tired of being good. Tired of caring about everyone else.

"I hate you!" Bella's voice ricocheted around the room. It's sound was heated, angry and powerful in its pain.

Renee glared at her daughter. "You, young lady, need to respect your mother! Charlie gets a chance to spend time with you. He's your father!"

"He didn't want me either! You two should have aborted me and lived your lives without the burden of a useless daughter like me!" Bella grabbed up a small potted cactus and threw it hard onto the floor. She hated Arizona, but the unknown of Washington State and a man she hardly knew was even worse.

"He's always wanted you. I kept you away from him. I thought a daughter should remain with her mother and a part of me was keeping you by my side was out of spite," Renee admitted as she slumped down into a battered chair. Its plaid fabric's bright hues were now faded into the tones of the arid landscape that surrounded their small house. "Charlie chose Forks and not me. I wanted him to regret his decision."

"By using me?" Bella inquired quietly.

Renee wiped away a stray tear. "A little. But baby, I love you so much! I know I should have allowed you to have a relationship with your dad, but—"

A horn beeped outside of the house. It was the taxi to take her to the airport.

Stomping over to her bags, Bella turned and gave her mother a withering final look. "Have a nice life with Phil. Lose Dad's number, because I want nothing to do with you."

"We had some epic fights." Bella kissed her mother's temple. She turned to see Edward praying under his breath. "You don't need to do that. Edward."

"I pray. You question the cosmos, my sweet. We both have our roles to play in this production we call an existence," Edward said with a small smile.

He was the religious one who went to church every Sunday with his parents. Bella was the atheist who took the baby with her over to her dad's to watch football on those same mornings.

She was the yin to his yang. She was the vanilla to his chocolate ice cream. Bella was the messy one that would hide her jumble of papers in assorted baskets which Edward would painstakingly reorganize to free himself from the clutter. Edward was the meticulous planner who would almost self-destruct if plans fell through, while Bella easily changed those plans with ease to make things work after all.

Bella and Edward were complete opposites, but they fit. They were the curvy pieces that fit the other's puzzle.

"You just keep mumbling to the big man upstairs, but I will. . . I see her ashes flying out into the waves." Bella glanced out to the window. The warm sunbeams touched the bland tile floor giving it a semblance of life as specks of dust danced in the beam. "We'll all be a part of the universe someday. Our particles will be the building blocks to create new planets in a solar system far, far away."

"You are such a romantic," Edward stated with a small sigh. He turned her face towards him and rubbed her chin.

"I find the far reaches of space and our small part in it to be extremely romantic." Her smile was bittersweet. "Momma taught me that."

Bella gave Edward a quick kiss on the lips and resumed her watch over her mother. Renee's breathing seemed shallower. Bella's expression became wistful and she whispered, "I do wish she could go back in time and reconcile with Dad. That would have been lovely."

"It would," Edward agreed, as he stood to stretch. "I should call my mom and check on Elsa. Can I bring you some coffee?"

"Yeah. That would be great. Give our baby my love." She continued to stare at her mother, barely feeling Edward placing a kiss upon her head.

The weight of a baby in your arms isn't necessarily the mass that you hold, but the feelings that they stir inside of you. The love Bella felt for Elsa at that moment filled every part of her muscles, bones and blood. That little girl made her complete. She never experienced emotions like that before.

"You look like a mother," Renee pointed out, as she watched Bella lovingly caress Elsa's downy hair that resembled the soft feathers of a chick that was recently hatched. "I think she might be a blonde."

"It can still darken, Renee," Edward's mother, Esme disagreed. "My Alice started out that fair and her hair is dark like ink now."

Esme fluffed Bella's pillow behind her head. Bella just smiled and as she nursed her baby. Over Elsa's head, Bella took in her mother's appearance. Renee had lost a lot of weight and, on her already thin frame; it had made her look malnourished. Her eyes had lost their spark and the dark circles underneath them made her appear sickly.

"Mom, are you feeling alright?" Bella asked worriedly.

It had been a happy time a few years prior when Bella's marriage to Edward brought forth their reconciliation. Holding onto grudges, Bella learned just caused more pain. Forgiveness, however, brought Bella a peace she never knew that she could find when thinking about her mother

It wasn't an outpouring of forgiveness, but a few phone calls to talk about mundane things. A couple of visits to Florida's beaches, where mother and daughter would sit on beach chairs, drink ice tea and watch the sun lower on the horizon. It was a cheerful email just to say hello and an occasional lovely card to say that you thinking about each other that created the healing that the duo needed most.

"I'm just tired, sweetheart. Too busy worrying about my baby having her own baby," Renee stated, as she rocked in the rocking chair next to Bella's bed. "Maybe I just need a little nap."

Renee's eyes closed as she rocked slowly.

Something was very wrong.

"You should have told me about the cancer sooner, Momma," Bella said quietly. "Carlisle knows people. It wouldn't have been an inconvenience."

Renee had hidden her diagnosis from everyone for many months. She was relied on herbal remedies and by the time Bella's father-in-law could examine her it was too late. The malignant tumors had ravaged her body and crushed her spirit. The fight in Renee had disappeared slowly along with her dreams of seeing her first grandchild grow into a lovely woman.

Bella grabbed both of Renee's clammy hands in hers. "Momma, I'm sorry if I gave you a hard time when I was growing up. I will always love you. I need you to at least hear that and know that my heart is always going to have a big part of you in it."

She kissed her mother's lips, before placing her head back on her mother's chest to get the
reassurance of its beating song.

It was the final time. The steady and constant beat stilled at the kiss that expressed a daughter's love.

The monitors' beeps momentarily stopped before the alarms sounded. Bella held onto her mother tighter as the realization dawned upon her. "Oh no! Mommy, please don't leave me! No!"

The room filled with staff, as nurses and orderlies pried her off Renee's lifeless body. Bella continued screaming, "Save her! Oh god, please save her!"

An older kind faced nurse lowered Bella into a chair. "Oh we can't, darlin'. She signed a DNR. Your momma's goin' to a better place. She'll be up in heaven with Jesus."

Bella wept harder and more violently, unable to stop. "Mommy! Don't leave!"

Edward entered the room and as soon as he saw his inconsolable wife, both Styrofoam cups he held in his hands crashed to the floor. The hot coffee made puddles at his feet. He ran over to her and held her tight. "I'm so sorry, honey! She's at rest now. No more pain."

Words did nothing to console, Bella. It was her tears that would ease her soul.

XXXXXX

Elsa ran along the beach, as Edward chased after her. Little feet kicked up sand crystals that sparkled in the sun. It was the joy of youth and the happiness of fatherhood that Bella observed from her beach towel. Jane Eyre rested, forgotten, on her lap as she took in the show.

This was the first summer that Bella had returned to the island of Assateague since the time she lived on nearby Chincoteague with her mother. Bella pushed her sunglasses on the top of her head to stare at the waves. She was happy to finally share the beauty of this sanctuary with her family. Though Elsa's constant begging for a pet hermit crab was beginning to wear on both of her parent's nerves.

Renee would have loved to see her granddaughter's enjoyment of this place. The seashells that filled Elsa's bucket would have brought Bella's mother countless enjoyment with all the fun crafts she could have created with them.

"Mommy! It's a horse!" Elsa exclaimed excitedly. Edward had placed the little girl on his shoulders. Elsa pointed down the beach. "There he is!"

Once standing, Bella saw a horse standing in the surf. It was very rare to see horses on the beach at this time of day when humans would be frolicking with their surf boards and sand buckets.

The horse looked familiar to Bella with his white fur covered in splotches of brown. He whinnied as if he was greeting the visitors to his beach.

"Spot," Bella whispered. She could smell hints of jasmine and honey in the air. For the first time since Renee's death, Bella could feel her mother all around her.

The horse stared at Bella and she stared right back at him.

Bella, possibly for the very first time, believed in miracles and it was magical.