Days passed. My stomach continued to expand at an alarming rate; it was quickly becoming its own continent. Every day, Carlisle would measure me carefully, taking no notes but recalling perfectly each measurement. According to him, I was gaining two centimetres every day; the equivalent of two weeks growth in a human pregnancy. The pace was almost frightening. Every morning brought on a new phase, a new set of emotions, and – to me at least – a new annoyance or upset.
On one day, my usual insecurities seemed to be intensified; I took one look at Rose, in all her glorious beauty, and felt my own insignificance so keenly that I burst into tears.
On another day, Alice’s perpetual enthusiasm was met with pessimism and irritation on my part, and only Edward’s restraining hand and Jasper's calming influence prevented me from attempting to claw her eyes out. Later, when my mood had swung round in a circle as it was prone to doing these days, I felt very guilty for even having considered it, and had to apologise to her before I could relax enough to go to sleep.
I felt sorry for Jasper; it couldn't be easy to be around me right now. I was surprised he hadn't run off.
I was immensely grateful to Edward through all of this. He put up with every high and every low.
He kept me entertained when I couldn't sleep and let me use him as a pillow when I couldn't keep my eyes open.
He was calm and reassuring when I was angry, and, though it irritated me at the time, I was grateful later on for his reasonable attitude as I screeched and screamed at him.
He held me and comforted me when I cried, holding me up when crippling depression threatened to drown me.
He shared my smiles and laughter when I was in a good mood and indulged my every fanciful desire (within reason) determined to spoil me as much as possible while he could get away with it.
He was more than happy to satisfy my raging hormones; the monstrous and unexplainable sex drive that reared its head every evening once we retired to our room.
He hunted for me, at first once every evening, then first thing in the morning as well, and then three times a day, after each meal. Along with Esme, he constantly experimented with new ways of making eggs interesting, trying to find exactly how much other food I could put up with if egg was the staple. He had mostly been successful, and I had only a little sickness after we returned home, and never anything as horrible and disabling as the morning sickness on the island.
All in all, things were going well. Until about a week after we returned home.
I was having a good day, for once. The sun had come out unexpectedly around noon, and Edward had set up two lounge chairs in the back yard. We sunbathed contentedly – well, I sunbathed, he sparkled – until my stomach grumbled and he headed inside to make my lunch. The forest was very peaceful, with only a slight breeze relieving the heat of the sun. I closed my eyes and felt myself drifting off to sleep. The sound of the wind and the rustling leaves was soothing, as was the smell of cooking egg, melting cheese and grilling ham wafting out of the kitchen window.
All of a sudden, I heard another noise, very different to the others. It was a low, sinister growl that morphed without warning into a whine which sounded almost like a whimper.
My eyes popped open and I sat up, scanning the edge of the trees. Edward appeared next to me, eyes warily following the same course mine had taken. He had a plate with an omelet and cutlery on it in his hands; he'd brought my lunch out, bless him. I gently pried it from his fingers before his tense fists shattered the plate.
“Who is it?” I whispered.
“Jacob.” he huffed, slumping down onto the ground beside me and taking my hand. “Apparently the wolves have noticed my odd hunting habits, and he came to investigate.”
“On Sam’s orders?” I asked coolly. I still wasn't happy about the control Sam had over Jacob.
“No, he's here of his own accord. He feels it's his duty to the pack to find out what's going on. He's seen you now, and it's just made him more confused.”
“Get out of my head!” a disgruntled voice called from the tree line, and my heart thumped erratically as Jacob emerged in human form, wearing his usual denim shorts and nothing else. His face was angry and hurt, the same as it had been the last time I had seen him. I cringed at the memory.
The river and most of the lawn separated us; Edward and Jacob glared at each other while I fidgeted nervously with the thin t-shirt I wore.
“We need to talk.” Jacob said, his voice carrying across the space, though he didn't shout.
“We don't have to tell you anything dog. This is private family business. You need to leave. Now.” Edward’s voice was low and menacing, and I knew Jacob would hear the barely disguised threat his words held.
“We have a right to know what's going on, if it will threaten our people or the people of Forks.”
“The Hell you-”
“Edward,” I interrupted his angry exclamation. “He's right. They deserve to know; they have to know that it's safe.”
Edward growled. I sighed.
“Tell you what, I’ll go talk to him. You stay here. I’ll be in your sight, and you'll be able to hear us the whole time. You and intervene if something happens. Please Edward,” I curled my free hand around his cheek, making him look at me. “I need to do this.”
He looked torn for a moment, then nodded stiffly. I stood up, expecting him to let go of my hand, but he tugged me down into his lap and kissed me softly.
“Take your lunch with you.” he murmured, and I nodded. I picked up my plate and crossed the grass to the river's edge, then sat down with my feet in the water, like I had the other night. The cool water felt good; I hadn't realised quite how hot I was getting. My lunch balanced precariously on my lap – my belly really was starting to get huge now – and I began to cut pieces off the omelet, placing them in my mouth and chewing thoroughly. Neither Jacob or I spoke, both waiting for the other to begin. In the end, his impatience got the best of him.
“Are you going to explain how this happened?” he snapped tersely. I looked up, and saw his face matched his tone. He had mirrored my position, sitting on the river bank with his feet in the water, and he was gesturing towards my baby bump with one hand.
I gave him a scathing look. “Surely I don't need to explain the facts of life to you Jake. Hasn't Billy done that already?”
Jacob grimaced and shook his head violently. “You know that's not what I mean Bella.”
I looked down at my food again, cutting another piece of omelet as I spoke. “What do you want me to say? It turns out male vampires can have children with human women.” I shrugged flippantly, tossing the food into my mouth and chewing. “It's as simple as that.”
I continued eating as he processed this new revelation. When he spoke, his voice was calm and composed. He seemed determined not to get angry.
“I’m not even going to ask if you'll get rid of it; if you haven't by now you're not going to. But you understand, we have to be sure it won't be a danger to others.”
I nodded, ignoring his use of the word 'it' – my baby was not an 'it' – since he didn't know any better. “I know. But there's nothing to worry about. Edward and I happened to meet a person like our child in South America, and he told us all we need to know.”
Jacob's eyes widened. “What the hell were you doing in South America?”
I smiled, trying not to laugh at his startled expression. “What, you thought we were going to spend our honeymoon here?” I gave him a sarcastic look. “Carlisle gave Esme an island off the coast of Brazil. She let us borrow it for a few weeks.”
Jake shook his head in amazement, muttering something that sounded like “Leeches own an island. Go figure.”
He started to ask questions then, and I patiently answered them as best I could, explaining everything we had been told by Huilen and Nahuel. My lunch was gone long before he was finished, and Edward came over briefly to take the plate away before disappearing again.
Jacob took everything I told him in stride, accepting it more easily than I ever could have hoped. He seemed determined not to show any weakness, listening to all of it and not even cringing at the more gruesome parts, which made me shiver as I said them. But I hesitated when he asked about Edward’s extra hunting trips, unsure if even he could take the truth.
“What?” he asked, spotting my reluctance and seeing right through me, as usual. “Too much for me? Whatever it is Bells, it can't be worse than some of the other stuff I’ve seen in the last year.”
“Oh, I think it is.” I mumbled, looking away. There was silence as I avoided his gaze, pulling at the grass beside me.
“Try me.” he challenged after a moment.
I took a deep breath to calm myself. “Okay, here goes. See, in order for me to get the nutrition I need from my food, the baby has to get what it needs as well. That just happens to be more vampiric than human.”
“So,” Jake said, frowning as he tried to figure out what I was telling him, “All the extra hunting is for... that?” He gestured in my direction, obviously talking about the bump; it seemed like he didn't want to refer to the baby directly. Whatever. He didn't have to like my decision, just accept it.
I nodded in answer to his question. “Edward hunts, brings back an animal and cuts into a blood vessel, then I have to drink it so it can reach the baby.”
Jacob grimaced. “Doesn't that gross you out?”
I shrugged. “At first I didn't know if I could do it, but it's actually not that bad. It smells good to me, and tastes even better, and I can't eat without drinking before or after. The food just comes straight back up and I don't get any of the benefits of it. I can only eat meals based on eggs as it is.”
He made another face. “Eggs and blood. Doesn't sound very appetising.”
I smirked. “I'm pregnant, remember? Crazy cravings are kind of a given.”
Jacob shook his head, looking away. “This is so surreal. I never imagined, when we first met, that anything like this could ever happen. I didn't even believe in half of it. Now look at us; a teenage werewolf and a vampire's wife.”
I laughed. “I know what you mean. It's kind of incredible, how far we've come in such a short time.”
He smiled, just a little. Then his face grew serious, his eyes locked on mine.
“Are you happy Bells? If you are, I’ll let all of this go and you never have to deal with me again, I swear. I’ll tell the pack everything you told me, and I’ll make sure they leave you alone. Just tell me he truth, please.”
His eyes begged for me to understand. I sighed. “Yes Jake, I’m happy. Very happy. But I’d be even happier if we could still be friends. At the risk of sounding cliché, what we have is special Jacob, and I don't want to lose it.”
Jacob seemed to think for a moment before nodding slowly. “I don't want to lose it either. It will be kinda hard, being around smelly leeches all the time...”
“Be nice,” I chided.
“...but I’ll try. For you.”
I smiled widely. “That's all I’m asking for.”
He sprang to his feet and backed up a few yards, then ran full tilt to the river's edge, launching himself off a flat stone embedded in the bank and soaring clear over the water, landing with a thump and a roll a few feet from me. I laughed as he continued to roll towards me, a crazy smile on his face. He jumped up when he was beside me, pulling me up into a tight, warm bear hug.
Renesmee began wriggling inside my belly, enough that Jacob felt it and leant back to stare.
“What was that?” he asked, sounding a little worried.
I gave him a reassuring smile. “That means she likes you. She has an uncanny sense of who's who from their touch, and she always moves more when someone excites her.”
He seemed to contemplate that for a moment. “You can feel it?”
I nodded, my smile turning dreamy. “Every time.”
Jacob mused for one second more, then grinned. “She?”
I shrugged. “There's no way to know for sure – the ultrasound wouldn't work – but I got more reaction when I was playing with girls' names.”
His smile widened. “Settle on anything?”
I nodded. “Renesmee Carlie. She likes it, and so does Edward.”
“Renesmee, huh?” He stroked his chin thoughtfully. “That's kind of a mouthful. How about calling her... Nessie, for short?”
I snorted. “Nessie? What, like the Loch Ness Monster?”
He laughed. “Well, they are both mythical creatures.”
“This coming from the wolf man.” I shot back.
“Touché.” he said, and we both fell about laughing. This was how Jacob and I were supposed to be; carefree, without any drama or madness. Just two friends having fun.
When we calmed down, I put my hand on my stomach.
“Do you like that baby? Nessie for short?” I asked. There was a decided thump against my hand, but whether it was negative or positive was anyone's guess.
“Does she like it?” Jake asked.
I frowned. “Not sure. We can always try it out later though. Hey, that can be your special name for her. That way, if she hates it, you'll irritate her as much as you irritate me.”
“Ha ha.” he said sarcastically. “I'm not that bad.”
I just shrugged, and we laughed again.
A howl cut off our laughter and Jake sighed.
“That'll be Sam. They must have realised I’m missing.” He looked at me apologetically. “I have to go.”
I nodded. “I understand. I don't like it, but I understand.”
“Back atcha.” he grinned, and I smacked his arm half-heartedly. “I'll make sure they leave you alone.” he promised, then kissed my forehead and ran into the trees, not bothering to cross the river. He stuck his head through the shrubs a second later, already in wolf form, and barked, giving me his signature toothy grin; the one where his tongue hung out of the side of his mouth. I waved in response, then another howl sent him running off through the forest.
I sighed and turned back to the house. Edward stood from where he had sat down on one of the lounge chairs, vanished, and reappeared at my side.
“Thirsty?” he asked, his face still tense.
“A little.” I replied. He nodded and turned to go, but I caught his hand and tugged. He turned back around, frowning slightly, and gave me a questioning look. I just smiled and pulled him down for a kiss.
“I love you.” I whispered fervently when we broke apart. “I don't feel like I say it enough, so I’m going to say it every day from now on, just so that you'll never doubt how I feel for you.”
smiled. “How do you know me so well?”
I shrugged. “Practise.”
He laughed, a happy, relaxed sound. All the tension had left his shoulders, now that Jacob was far away. “And I will say 'I love you' as well, so much it will make you sick of me.”
“Never.” I vowed, kissing him again, a deep, slow, long kiss that gave true meaning to the phrase 'Actions speak louder than words'. There were no words to describe what he meant to me, so kisses would have to do.
I could think of worse ways to spend eternity.