“Yes, I think so. Thank you.”
Here, let me help you up.”
“Ugh! I don't know how you're still attracted to me. I look like a whale!”
Edward smiled. “No you don't. You look beautiful.”
I huffed, taking his offered hand and turning my back on the large elk I had just drained.
Emmett found my appetite absolutely hilarious, joking that I drank more in a day than he did in a month. He had promptly received several hefty whacks to the back of the head, which he had used as an excuse to start a wrestling match with Jasper.
I had gotten to that stage that almost every pregnant woman invariably gets to: the 'I’ve had enough' phase, as Esme called it. It was that time when being pregnant lost any and all lingering novelty, and you just wanted to get the baby out and be done with it. Luckily for me, Carlisle was happy with Renesmee's growth, and plans were in place to deliver her tomorrow. Somehow, having the date set just made me more impatient. I had butterflies in my stomach, fluttering frantically in anticipation and trepidation.
Jacob had continued to visit several times over the week that had passed after our reunion, coming to the house almost every day. Rosalie would frown in consternation whenever 'the dog' appeared, wrinkling her nose and sneering at him. He didn't seem to mind, and their brief squabbles were always entertaining. Esme, ever the gracious hostess, insisted on making lunch for him, even going so far as to give him some to take back to Billy. Seth came with him a few times, which improved Edward’s mood about the whole thing immensely, particularly as Jacob's visits seemed to get longer and more frequent as the week passed.
The others had gotten used to having Jake around, and I think they were even starting to like him a little bit; Emmett was happy to have someone to watch football games with who was actually interested, and Alice was relieved rather than irritated when his presence blocked her visions, because it saved her from the headache being brought on by the 'fuzzy reception' she was getting from the baby. Of course, Jasper would put up with anything as long as Alice was happy.
Charlie had called the house just after Jacob left the first time, concerned at having heard nothing from me for weeks. I had cited a serious illness picked up in South America as the reason for my lack of contact, glad that it was easier to lie convincingly over the phone; my acting skills still weren't quite up to par. He seemed to believe me though, so I must have made some improvement during my relationship with Edward.
I groaned, putting my hands on my lower spine and leaning backwards. My enormous belly was extremely heavy by that point, more like a beach ball than a bulge; my back was killing me and my ankles would swell if I stood up for more than a minute. This wasn't as much of a problem, since Edward had taken to carrying me everywhere, but that just made me feel even more helpless than usual. Overall, I was not in a good mood.
Edward swept me off my feet and carried me inside, chuckling slightly when I grumbled. The dewy glow of sunset glinted off his skin as he gently laid me out on the bed in our room.
“Just one more day darling. Think, this time tomorrow you'll be a mother.”
I cringed. “Now I’m scared.”
He laughed. “Don't be. You can do this. I know you can.”
He kissed my forehead and rubbed my stomach gently until he felt Renesmee kick his hand. He smiled softly. “Now, I’m going to run you a nice hot bubble bath to relieve all those aches and pains. Then, you are going to get a good night's sleep before your big day tomorrow.”
I smiled back at him. “You know you're perfect right?”
Edward just laughed and disappeared into the bathroom. He was back a minute later, scooping me up off the comforter and carrying me to the huge bathtub. He undressed me slowly, reverently, placing little kisses on each new bit of exposed skin. I giggled when his lips tickled, and moaned when they brushed one of my sweet spots; he knew just where to touch to make me feel good. He never wavered from his soft, loving caresses, occasionally inserting a quiet whisper of my name, the sound laced with an almost religious devotion.
When I was fully clothing free, he carefully picked me up and lowered me into the warm, soapy water. I sighed in contentment and relaxed as his capable hands ran a wash cloth over my skin and worked shampoo and conditioner into my hair. I was half asleep when he finally lifted me out of the water, laying me on a towel and drying me like a baby, then dressing me in a silk pyjama set, presumably one of the many Alice had ordered from the maternity sections of her favourite designers' websites. The fabric glided across my skin smoothly, making me smile as it tickled me.
Edward cradled me against his chest as he carried me back to bed, my head resting on his shoulder. He laid me down carefully, as if I were made of the most fragile glass. Then he moved to the foot of the bed and started to massage my swollen ankles and aching feet. His cool hands worked deliciously, soothing all my cares away.
“I love you,” he whispered.
“Love you too,” I mumbled sleepily.
I fell asleep with his hands still rubbing my feet; the last thing I felt was his gentle kiss on my rounded stomach.
Everything was in place. The nursery was decorated in clean, crisp white with yellow accents. I had vetoed Alice’s attempt to cover the whole room in pink – just the mental image of it had made me cringe – although I had let her have her fun when it came to buying baby clothes.
Carlisle kept some donated blood in the house in case there was an emergency (i.e. I had an accident), and Esme had prepared a little metal bottle full for the baby's first feed. As adverse as Edward and I were to feeding her human blood, we both accepted that there was no other way, and had resolved to teach her the family philosophy once she was able to hunt for herself.
Rosalie and Edward had both fed profusely overnight so that they could be present without my blood distracting them. I was slightly jealous, since I hadn't been allowed to eat anything all day to prevent a bad reaction to the anaesthetic. I felt very odd; the lack of blood made me feel ill, but the lack of food meant I couldn't actually be ill. I had spent the morning sitting quietly on the sofa, watching Emmett watch a football game – which is much more interesting than it sounds, believe it or not – and absent-mindedly rubbing my stomach.
Now I was sitting on the hospital bed in Carlisle’s office in a crackling paper gown, waiting for Carlisle, Edward and Rosalie to come back in. They had gone outside to discuss something away from my hearing, and I was left worrying my lip, alone and confused.
The door opened before I could get too panicked, and I knew that it was time. No one spoke as they moved into position; it was as if they had it choreographed. That was entirely possible; we had discussed the process several times over the last week or so.
Rose went to stand against the wall by the door, near enough to help if needed but within easy access of an exit, just in case. She had already laid out some towels and blankets along with a weighing scale and tape measure – she would take Renesmee from Carlisle, clean her up and take her measurements, then bring her back to me.
Carlisle was scrubbing his hands and putting on rubber gloves. He turned to an array of syringes, which I was trying desperately not to think about: one for the anaesthetic, one containing a larger than average dose of morphine, and another, larger one full of Edward’s venom. If things took a turn for the worst, Carlisle would inject me with the morphine first to try and dull the pain, then put the venom directly into my heart. Edward would then bite me at all my major pulse points, getting as much as possible into me as fast as he could.
Edward stood beside me. It was he who broke the silence.
“Are you ready?” he asked me, staring into my eyes intensely.
I smiled, trying to lighten the tension. “Yes. I feel like I’m going to pop.”
He smiled back tightly, then leaned down and kissed me. He helped me lie down flat, and gripped my hand in his. Carlisle approached, syringe in hand.
“Alright Bella,” he said, smiling reassuringly. “I'm going to give you something called a twilight anaesthetic. You will remain conscious, though you may feel a little sleepy, but you won't feel any pain. Okay?”
I nodded, my throat swollen at the sight of the needle. Edward saw my fear and gently turned my face towards him, holding it so that my eyes looked into his. His touch and gaze soothed my ragged nerves, the dazzling glimmer of his eyes distracting me from what Carlisle was doing. I didn't even realise he had put the needle in me until the drowsiness of the medicine began to flow through me. My eyes drifted closed, but I forced them open, unwilling to miss even a moment.
Edward smiled at me, sitting down in a chair by my head, still holding my hand. He seemed much more calm now, his eyes no longer tense, as he rubbed his thumb across my knuckles soothingly.
After a minute or so, Carlisle asked, “How are you feeling Bella?”
“Sort of floaty,” I replied quietly, “and sleepy.” I added, trying to stifle a yawn.
“That's good. We're ready to start.”
I squeezed Edward’s hand and smiled up at him. He squeezed back and turned to watch what Carlisle was doing. He began to murmur softly, too quiet and quick for me to hear. I didn't mind; just his voice calmed me immensely, and I felt wonderful.
I couldn't tell you exactly what happened in the next few minutes. I know Edward never left my side, never let go of my hand, and kept talking quietly to me, though I didn't hear the words. My body felt like it had no weight; I might have thought it wasn't there at all, but I could still dimly feel the cool hands on me, the gentle pressure on my stomach.
After a while, I felt Edward move. I had sort of been drifting off, but I perked up as he leaned forward to get a better look at something. I watched his face intently, waiting for some sign to tell me what was going on. A slow smile spread across his face. When he looked back at me, his eyes sparkled with undisguised joy, and his smile was so glorious I had to remind myself to breathe. His voice, though only a whisper, was filled with reverent adoration, his words simple, yet saying so much, changing my whole life in an instant.
My smile matched his as we stared into each other's eyes, waiting expectantly for the moment we had been anticipating for over two weeks. I felt Rose move closer, saw her move away with something in her arms, but I couldn't lift my head enough to see it.
“Edward,” I mumbled, squeezing his hand.
He squeezed back. “I know my love. Just a minute more, I promise.”
I started mentally counting to sixty, ignoring the fact that Carlisle hadn't finished yet and trying not to think about what he was doing.
I had only gotten as far as 45 when Rosalie came back, smiling and cradling a bundle of blankets. The fog of anaesthetic was beginning to clear from my brain, though my body was still numb, and I managed to move a little, detaching my hand from Edward’s and reaching out.
Carlisle finally moved away from me, and Edward gently tilted the top part of the bed so that I was almost upright before smoothing my hair and sitting back down beside me.
“Say hello to your momma,” Rosalie cooed to the bundle in her arms, holding it out towards me. I had never held a baby before in my life, but my arms curled instinctively around the blankets just as hers did, holding the warm mass securely against my chest as I stared down at... my baby. The concept itself was dizzying; the reality blew my mind.
Renesmee – I could see at once that the name suited her exactly – was small but perfectly formed. Her hands peeked out of the blanket, clenched into little fists, the tiny fingers tipped with miniature coral-coloured nails. She was dressed in a pale pink onesie that perfectly matched her rosy cheeks, accentuating the ivory colour of her skin. She had a little button nose and two rounded ears, and her head was topped with a handful of shiny bronze curls. Her eyes sparkled, their deep brown colour matching my own exactly. She stared at me for a moment, still looking a little startled after her sudden entrance into this big new world, then her pink lips parted in a huge smile, revealing two rows of perfect pearl-white teeth and two tiny dimples. I couldn't help but smile back, and her hands reached for me as I did so, her little legs kicking in the blanket.
“She's perfect,” I whispered, absolutely in awe of this tiny life that Edward and I had created.
“I know,” Edward whispered back, reaching out and running his finger down her cheek. She grabbed it and tugged, trying to find where it came from, and he stood up and leaned over so she could see him. She gurgled happily when she saw his face, pulling his finger into her mouth and chewing on it. He winced and I laughed.
“Not funny,” he grumbled. “That actually hurt.”
I just laughed again. Renesmee cooed happily, still chewing. Looking up briefly, I saw the door click shut behind Rosalie and Carlisle; we were alone.
“Come on Renesmee,” I coaxed, “Give Daddy his finger back.”
She did, reluctantly, putting on the most adorably pout I had ever seen. I couldn't resist leaning in and kissing her forehead. One of her tiny dimpled hands reached up to press against my cheek, her palm flat against my skin.
I gasped as an image assaulted my mind; Edward, his brilliant face lit up in a smile, leaning towards me over...me. But not the me I was used to. This me looked back to front; like a mirror image of my reflection.
“Bella?” Edward said worriedly, putting a hand on my shoulder. “Are you alright?”
Renesmee moved her hand and the image vanished, leaving me staring down at her smiling face.
“Did you do that?” I whispered to her, utter astonishment clear in my voice. She cooed again and clapped her hands together.
“What is it?” Edward asked.
“It was... us. I think she was showing me what we look like to her; putting her thoughts into my head, I guess. That's the best way I can think to describe it. Did you see anything?”
He nodded. “I thought she was just remembering. She's so happy...” He trailed off, then smiled, leaning over to brush a hand across her hair.
“You did do that, didn't you? You showed Mommy what you were thinking. Such a clever girl.” he cooed. Renesmee just smiled at him, looking almost smug as she took his praise.
“You're inflating her ego,” I muttered, and he laughed. Then he went over to the table that Rosalie had set up on the other side of the room. Renesmee watching him curiously, leaning up a little to follow him with her eyes. He came back a moment later, the little metal bottle in his hand. He shook it, and she began to wriggle excitedly in my arms.
“About time the little diva got something to eat.” he said, smiling widely and holding the bottle out to me. I took it carefully, unsure of what I was supposed to be doing. Renesmee, on the other hand, knew exactly what to do, reaching out for the bottle with her little hands. I held it near her, and she pulled the teat into her mouth, sucking happily.
“You okay?” I murmured to Edward, worried that the blood might be bothering him. He just shook his head and leaned in to whisper in my ear.
“Esme mixed in a little powdered formula milk. The scent is barely noticeable.”
I nodded, staring down at my baby as she drank greedily. I still found it hard to believe that she was really here, in my arms; it seemed incredible that such an impossible creature could exist at all.
Renesmee quickly finished her first meal, releasing the bottle with a pop and letting out a little belch that made Edward and I laugh yet again. It felt like we were doing that a lot today; perhaps we were just riding a high from the release of all the underlying stress we had been under.
“At least we don't have to worry about burping her.” I commented. She made another happy noise and wiggled again.
“The others want to come in.” Edward said softly, just before there was an equally soft knock on the door.
“Come in,” I said, knowing they would hear me. The door opened a crack, and Rose stuck her head in, smiling. I smiled back and Edward waved them in. She opened the door wider, and came into the room, trailing Esme and Alice behind her. Carlisle followed after them, then Emmett, with Jasper bringing up the rear, looking a little bit nervous. I gave him what I hoped was an encouraging smile, and he relaxed slightly.
Esme was holding a little digital camera, and she insisted on taking a picture of us, before Rose asked if she could hold the baby. I handed her over carefully, eager for her to meet her family but reluctant to let go of her. They all took turns cradling her, passing her from one person to the next.
Everyone laughed when Edward held her for the first time, a goofy grin on his face, and again when Emmett wiggle his fingers in front of her face and got himself bitten. There were a few quiet titters at the look on Jasper's face when Alice held her out to him, but no one was cruel enough to hurt his pride by laughing outright.
Renesmee greeted each new face with a curious look, followed by a sparkling smile. I watched as each of them met her, seeing the same soft smile and sparkling eyes take over their faces. In mere minutes, my daughter had every one of them wrapped securely around her tiny fingers.
I sat back and watched them pass her around, talking to her and each other, feeling more content than I had in months.