I took a deep breath to steady myself before I knocked on Rosalie and Emmett’s bedroom door. I had to remind myself that this conversation needed to be had; if I didn't hold on to that thought, my fears would get the best of me and I would bolt back upstairs, continuing to avoid it. I couldn't do that if I wanted there to be any peace within the family.
Emmett opened the door, smiling when he saw me.
“Hey Bells,” he said, his infectious grin growing wider. “To what do we owe the pleasure?”
My answering smile was weak. “I was hoping I could speak to Rosalie for a moment. In private, if you don't mind.”
His smile faltered a little, but remained in place. “Sure. You just give me a shout if you need me.”
Emmett stepped around me, heading for the stairs with his hands in his pockets and whistling tunelessly. I shook my head, amazed as ever by his nonchalance, before stepping into the room and closing the door behind me.
Everything was decorated in shades of red and black, with occasional splashes of stark white contrasting the darker colours. The walls were a rich burgundy; the doors to what I assumed were the closet and the bathroom were painted black, as was the inside of the main door; black silk sheets covered a four-poster king-size bed, with rose red velvet curtains and white pillows; a white vanity set against one wall had a mirror hanging over it, the silver frame embedded with bright rubies, and there was a matching full length mirror by the closet door.
Rosalie sat on a gilt silver chair with her back to me, staring at her flawless reflection in the mirror and brushing her hair languidly. She looked distracted, but not angry or sad like I thought she would be. Her eyes met mine in the mirror as the door clicked shut, and they held no emotion what so ever.
I tried to smile; even I didn't think it was convincing.
“Hi,” I whispered.
Rosalie sighed and turned around, still without any emotion on her face. “I know what you're here to say.”
“You do?” I said, still unable to speak above a whisper. Not that she had any trouble hearing me.
“Of course,” Her face finally shifted, dropping into a sarcastic smile. “You're going to tell me to stay away from you and the baby. And I will, if you want. I’ll leave if you like.”
I was shaking my head
before she was finished, frowning. “Why would I ask that? This is
your home; it's been yours for much longer than it's been mine. Why
would I ask you to leave?”
She looked perplexed. “But you know what I want. I told you my dreams. Don't you think I would do anything for that? That I would be willing for you to die for that?”
“I don't doubt that you would be,” I said seriously, still frowning. “but, whether we like it or not, we're family now, and I have to feel that I can trust you. I do trust you not to try and hurt me, and I’m actually grateful that you would want to take care of my baby if...” I swallowed, feeling tears well up in my eyes. “If I weren't around.”
Rosalie stood up and came towards me cautiously, as if she expected me to make a run for it if she got too close. She took my hand and led me towards the bed, pulling me down to sit beside her. I didn't resist or shy away, trying to show her that I wasn't afraid.
“Say what you have to say.” she whispered.
My breathing hitched a little as I spoke, and the tears began to spill over.
“I know you must think I’m fickle, that I change my mind at the drop of a hat. I told you I didn't want children, and here I am, desperate for a baby. I don't really get it myself. It's just... ever since I realised what was happening, I... I... I need it. I need this like I need food and water and air and Edward. I can't give it up. I won't.”
Fierce determination seized me and I grabbed Rosalie’s hands, holding them between my own. I stared into her startled gold eyes, silently begging her to understand.
“Rosalie, I know you don't like me. I know you don't owe me anything. But I have to ask you to do something for me, something very important.”
“What?” she whispered, still in shock. “What do you want me to do?”
I took a deep breathe. “There is a very good chance that I won't make it through this, even with all the information we have. If I do, I almost definitely won't be human any more.” I paused, collecting my thoughts. “If I am ever unable to care for my child, for whatever reason, I want you to look after them for me. I want you to love them and take care of them like your own, and I want you to make sure Edward doesn't do anything stupid. I know it's a lot to ask, but I don't feel like I can ask anyone else.”
Rosalie shook her head. “Esme would do it for you, happily, or Alice. You can ask them.”
“And I will.” I smiled slightly through the tears. “If you say no. But I know you want this Rosalie. I know how much you want to have your dream. Esme has all of you as her children, and Alice doesn't care. I want you to feel like a mother, even if it's only for a little while. I want you to help me. Will you? Please?”
looked at me with a mixture of shock and confusion. “You'd really
do that? Trust me with everything you love, everything you live
She seemed to think for a moment, then unexpectedly pulled me into a tight hug.
“Yes.” she whispered in my ear. “Yes, I’ll help you. I don't want to fight any more Bella. We can't spend eternity never talking to each other just because I’m being petty. I’ll help you from now on, whenever you need me. You don't even have to ask.”
I hugged her back as tightly as I could. “Thank you Rosalie. You can't imagine what this means to me.”
“I know you would do the same for me if the situation was reversed.” She pulled back and smiled at me. “And you can go ahead and call me Rose if you want.”
About an hour later, I was laid out across the couch, watching television on my own. Carlisle and Edward were still locked in debate, and Emmett had reclaimed Rose after our conversation. Jasper and Esme were hunting and I assumed Alice had gone with them.
My hand rested on my stomach, stroking gently back and forth. I wasn't really concentrating on what I was watching, more interested in the fluttering movement from my abdomen. I remembered Edward telling me, on our last night on the island, that the baby liked my voice and responded to speech; perhaps it would make him happy if I talked to him.
“Hey there baby,” I whispered, and he kicked me gently. I smiled.
“I'm so happy I have you baby. You're going to love it here. It's kind of cold and wet, but everything is so green and beautiful and alive. I’ve never been anywhere like it. I can't for you to see it all. I have a whole world to show you.
“You're going to be spoiled, I know it. Between your aunts and your grandma, you'll never be out of new clothes.” I giggled.
The baby gave another fluttering kick.
An idea occurred to me then. “You need a name, don't you honey? Who knows how fast you're going to be here; we should be prepared for anything. Hmm,” I thought for a moment. I knew I wanted to name my baby after important people in my life, and I should probably choose a girl's name as well as a boy's one, just in case.
“How about... Edward Jacob? EJ for short, so we don't get confused. Do you like that?”
Only the barest hint of a nudge from my womb.
“Huh. Don't like that? I think it's nice. Then again, maybe you're a girl. Alright, let me think.” I pursed my lips. “Renee Esme perhaps? But that doesn't quite scan. Unless...”
My mind churned, and I suddenly found the perfect name. Unique, beautiful, and paying tribute to the two women I had the honour of calling my mother.
“What do you think of... Renesmee?”
The kicks erupted excitedly, bashing against my side and making me giggle.
“Okay, okay! I get it. You like that one. I think you know more about what you are than we do.”
Another decided thump. I laughed.
“Alright, Renesmee it is. And... Carlie for a middle name. Then you have Renee, Esme, Carlisle and Charlie. Half human and half vampire, just like you. That sound good?”
“Sounds fine to me.”
I jumped and looked over the back of the sofa. Alice was standing in the living room doorway, looking scared and worried despite her wide smile and casual words.
“Hey,” I breathed, smiling. “I thought you went out with Jasper.”
She shook her head. “Not thirsty.” She seemed to hover at the door, as if she wanted to enter but was unable.
“Are you okay?” I asked, “You look kind of... edgy.”
Alice sighed and dropped her head, her shoulders slumping in defeat. Her face was pained when she looked back at me. Alarmed, I sat up straighter and held my arms out; she looked like she desperately needed a hug. She hovered for a moment, then darted over to the couch and fell into the hug, sobbing slightly once. I held her while she collected herself, stroking her back.
“I'm sorry,” she murmured. “I know I’m being confusing. But I can't see anything Bella, and that scares me. Anything I do see is fuzzy and uncertain and it's starting to give me a headache.”
She looked at me apologetically, and I smiled reassuringly at her.
“I understand Alice. I know this is hard for you; I should really be the one apologising, not you.”
“Don't apologise for something out of your control Bella,” Alice said, “especially something you want so badly.” She sighed. “I guess I’ll get used to it. So,” She smiled a little and eyed my now obvious baby bump. “Renesmee Carlie, huh?”
nodded. “After her grandparents. I was kind of hoping for a boy,
but after the reactions I got I’m pretty sure it's a girl.”
“Is that okay with you?”
“Sure. I don't care, really. I just want my baby to be healthy and happy. Nothing else matters.”
At that moment, a sharp kick hit my stomach, making me gasp. Edward appeared out of nowhere, a concerned look on his face. His hands cradled my stomach gently.
“Are you alright darling?” he asked, his voice trying to be calm but betraying his panic slightly. Alice was frowning.
The moment had passed, and there was only a dull throb where I had been hit.
fine,” I assured them. “Just another kick.”
Edward gently raised my t-shirt until it was tucked above the bump.
Even I could see the dark purple bruise beginning to form on the side of my stomach. I grimaced, not from pain, but because it was huge; I could see it would take a while to heal, and I just knew Edward would start beating himself up over it any second.
Sure enough, his head drooped until his face was hidden against me, pressed against my stomach. His cool forehead actually helped, soothing the ache that was starting to develop under the bruise.
I ran my fingers through his hair. “Hey, hey, none of that. It's alright; we knew this would happen, Huilen told us so. It doesn't even hurt any more. Please don't blame yourself over something beyond your control.” I tried to keep my voice calm and gentle, but I couldn't help the slight pleading tone that slipped into my final sentence.
Edward took a deep breath and placed a gentle kiss on my stomach. “I know. But I can't help it. I worry. It's my nature, and especially true in regards to you. Both of you.” He stroked the baby gently, soothing and loving. I smiled softly down at him.
“I understand. Really I do. But you have to understand that you can't protect me from everything; you should know that by now. You can't spend your whole life on edge, you have to relax sometimes.”
“Amen sister,” Alice crowed, and I giggled. “Listen to her Edward, she knows what she's talking about.”
Edward smiled, just a little. I ran my fingers through his hair again, fiddling with the soft coppery strands. He closed his eyes and made a curious noise, almost like a purr. Alice laughed.
“I'll leave you three alone. Have fun playing 'Happy Families'!”
She jumped up and skipped out of the room, apparently back to her usual perky self. Edward shook his head, his smile indulgent and content. All his fear and tension seemed to have evaporated as quickly as it had appeared, which I was glad of. There was another kick in my abdomen, softer than the last, tentative, under Edward’s hand.
“It's okay baby, we're not ignoring you.” I said, and Edward chuckled.
“You're so indulgent with her. She has to learn that we can't always be focused on her.”
I looked at him, raising one eyebrow with a smirk.
He shrugged. “I heard you talking before.”
“Always eavesdropping.” I muttered, shaking my head. “We'll start teaching her after she's born. It will be easier that way. Besides,” I gave him a mock accusatory look, “don't tell she's not going to turn into 'Daddy's Little Princess'. I know you're going to spoil her rotten.”
Edward shrugged again and we both laughed. After a moment, he spoke.
“Time for bed love. You need your rest and I’m sure you're tired after all our travelling.”
“Can we hunt first?” I asked timidly. “I'm a little thirsty.”
Edward smiled softly. “Of course darling. Go wait for me on the grass by the river and I’ll be right back.”
He kissed me softly, then helped me up from the couch and promptly vanished. I smiled and walked out onto the wide grass space behind the house. A few flower beds I hadn't noticed on the few occasions I had come out here before were dotted around it, close to the edge, and I spotted Esme kneeling by one of them, pulling up weeds. She looked up and watched as I crossed the lawn to the river. The crystal water looked very inviting, so I kicked off the slippers I had changed into when we got home and sat on the ground, dangling my feet in the water. I leaned back on my hands and kicked my feet a little, watching the clouds darken as the sun set over the trees. It was very peaceful, with twilight just around the corner and my mind at ease.
Edward understood my decision and was even getting a little excited. Like me he was beginning to consider our future, speculating on our impending parenthood.
I had connected with Rosalie and reconnected with Alice, so my new sisters understood as well. On top of that, I knew my baby would be safe with Rosalie if I were ever unable to take care of her myself.
Though she remained a mystery in many ways, my little nudger – Renesmee – was almost communicating with us now, and that allowed us to learn so much more about her, on top of what Huilen and Nahuel had told us.
I could see everything working out. Except...
I sighed. There was still the issue of Jacob. Though I had tried to lock all thoughts of him away in a drawer, I couldn't quite help wondering what he was doing right at this moment. Had he run off again? I hoped not, for Billy's sake.
Something soft and warm wrapped around my shoulders. I looked up, and found Esme gently tucking a blanket around me.
She smiled. “It's fresh out of the dryer, nice and warm. Edward would never forgive me if I let you sit out here and catch a cold.”
I smiled back. “Thank you Esme. I really appreciate all the trouble you go to for me.”
“It's no trouble at all dear!” she insisted. “I enjoy doing these things for you. It makes me feel... useful, I suppose. The others don't need all these 'Mom' things. It's refreshing, thinking about meals and clothes and warm bedding. You know, our kitchen has seen more use since you came along than in any of the other places we've lived in 80 years.”
I laughed. She was so enthusiastic, almost on the same level as Alice. It was easy to believe that the Cullens really were related sometimes; they acted so similarly. Then again, perhaps that was just because of what they were, or because they had spent so long living together.
“You looked like you were thinking pretty hard about something just now,” Esme remarked conversationally. “Penny for your thoughts?”
I sighed, hunching forward and pulling the blanket tighter around me. “I was just thinking about Jacob. I’ve been trying to forget about him since the wedding, but...” I shook my head. “He won't be forgotten.”
“You don't have to forget him darling.” Esme soothed. “No one is asking you to do that. He's your best friend.” She stroked my hair softly. “He helped you through a very difficult time in your life, and that kind of connection doesn't just go away.”
I frowned. “But I feel so guilty... so stuck. I love Jacob, but I love Edward more. I’m hurting Jake so much, but if I try to make it better... I can't think of a way to do it that doesn't hurt Edward. I can't have both of them, and if I try, I’m afraid that I’ll lose them and I won't have anyone.” Tears welled up and began to spill over as I talked.
Esme gently took my left hand.
“Do you regret this?” she asked, touching the rings on my fourth finger. I hadn't been able to take off my engagement ring yet; it was too pretty to be kept in a box all the time.
I baulked at her suggestion. “Not at all! I just wish there was a way to keep Jake in my life. But... they hate each other so much... and I have to choose... and I can't live without Edward... I just... I...” I broke down, sobbing uncontrollably. Somewhere inside me I wondered why it upset me so much – hadn't I cried it all out already? - but I just couldn't make myself stop.
Esme pulled me to her gently, stroking my back and letting me cry into her blouse. She shushed me and whispered soft words of comfort, rocking me a little like a small child. I frantically tried to collect myself, knowing Edward would return soon, but it was like the day of the battle with the newborns all over again; I couldn't even begin to stop the tears.
As I struggled, I dimly heard the sound of a person breaking through the trees and the thump of a heavy landing beside me. I was passed from one set of arms to another, and my tears calmed as Edward’s presence soothed my frayed nerves.
The coppery smell of whatever creature it was that he had caught met my nostrils and my stomach growled. I was still half blinded by tears, so I could only follow his gentle direction as he bent me over the corpse and put my lips to the slit in its neck. As I had before, I began to suck greedily at the glorious tasting liquid that touched my tongue, desperately trying to pull every last drop of the rapidly cooling blood from the poor gentle creature.
When the flow into my mouth ran dry, I pulled away, once again licking my lips and fingers to get all of it. The taste was salty, the blood tinged with the tears that were still resting on my cheeks and had run into the animal's wound when I lent over. I was suddenly very tired, all my energy sapped by my raging hormones.
Edward picked me up carefully and cradled me against his chest.
“Time for bed love.” he murmured, and began to walk back towards the house. I sniffed away the last of the tears and placed a soft kiss on his neck.
“I'm sorry,” I whispered. “I didn't want you to see that. It's not fair on you.”
Edward sighed. “Don't be silly.” He grinned suddenly. “You mustn’t be afraid to show me how you feel Bella. Like you said earlier, our relationship has to go both ways, communication wise. I can understand, or I can try to. But please, don't hide things from me.”
“I won't.” I promised, sighing sleepily. He was right, of course. He was always right in the end.
“Sleep.” he insisted. “You need to rest.”
He began to hum my lullaby as we climbed the stairs, and I sighed again, locking my fingers into his shirt and pulling myself closer to him.
Edward lay down on our bed with me still wrapped around him. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.