So lately, been wondering
Who will be there to take my place
When I’m gone, you’ll need love
To light the shadows on your face
If a great wave shall fall
It would fall upon us all
And between the sand and stone
Could you make it on your own?
My eyes fluttered open as I once again awoke from a restless slumber. My hand instinctively settled over my swollen middle. In a few short weeks the round bulge of my belly had grown to that of a woman well into their third trimester.
My baby. Our baby.
With one hand still cradling my middle, my gaze sought out the figure that stood in the corner of the room, his motionless form silhouetted against the faint glow of the moonlit sky filtering through the glass wall. He was facing away from me, his gaze riveted on something that couldn’t be seen. I carefully shifted my body so that I could better study his profile, my muscles quivering with the exertion of even that slight movement. Though I’d barely made a sound, it only took a moment before he realized I was awake.
He whirled to face me; then he was at my side, his hands moving carefully over me, first as if to ensure I was still fully intact, then moving purposefully, mechanically, feeling for my temperature, checking my IV, checking the binding around my ribs…
I wished he would just hold me. I wished he would look me in the eye.
He was spouting off questions, his voice detached, as if speaking from doctor to patient instead of husband to wife.
Was I cold?
Was I hungry?
Did I need more painkillers?
His carefully constructed mask was firmly in place, shielding me from the burning man within. Too much stress wasn’t good for me. It wasn’t good for the baby.
He was focused, intent on his task. His task to keep me alive. No matter how impossible that might prove to be.
I shook my head at his questions.
Finally, when he could think of nothing more that I might need, his hand lingered against my cheek for a moment, his fingers cool and gentle, just like always. “You should get some more rest,” he told me, straightening from his position crouched beside me.
“No.” My hand reached for his arm. “Stay with me,” I pleaded softly.
Pain flickered across his face, as if my words had burned him somehow.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, my hand falling weakly back to my side.
His composure crumpled completely then, and in one lightening fast movement he had my hand sandwiched between both of his as he crouched before me again, his black eyes burning as they finally met with mine. “No.” The word shuddered up from his chest. “No you’re not. You’re not sorry because you’re going to be fine. You’re going to make it through this. You’re not going to leave me.”
My breath caught, the tightening in my chest almost unbearable. “Edward…”
How many times had I tried to assure him of exactly that? That I would be strong enough. That I would keep my heart beating long enough for him to save me.
I tried to reach out and touch his cheek with my other hand, to comfort him somehow, but he grabbed it so that he now held both of my hands in his.
“You’re going to be fine, do you hear me? You’re not going to leave me. You’re not going to leave me.” He was talking more to himself now, his voice a hopeless plea that broke my heart.
He couldn’t accept what we both knew was inevitable now. And, watching him fall apart, piece by agonizing piece, I found myself hoping for the impossible, as if willing it to be true would somehow make it so.
I would be strong enough, I told myself. I had to be. Not because I couldn’t accept my fate. Or because I was afraid of death—or any kind of physical pain that went along with it. No, I had to be strong enough because I couldn’t bear to watch Edward die with me.
He had to survive. Even if I couldn’t.
“Edward…” I whispered again.
He shook his head back and forth with crazed desperation. “Please don’t say it,” he begged, his voice hoarse. “I can’t bear it.” His grip loosened on my hands as he dropped his forehead to the mattress beside me. Never had I seen him look so broken, so utterly defeated. “I’m so sorry,” he said, his voice a muffled cry. “My fault. All my fault.”
My eyes widened in stunned disbelief. “No. No.” The word erupted from my chest. I pulled my hands out from his and tugged at his hair. He didn’t budge, his face still buried in the mattress. “Don’t ever say that!” I tried to scream the words at him, but I didn’t manage much more than a scratchy whisper. “I made this decision, remember?”
He looked up at me with his half-crazed eyes. “You never should’ve had to have made the choice. I did this. I did this to you.”
I tried to shove myself up suddenly, but my arms wouldn’t support me and I fell back against the bed. Clenching my teeth against the pain, I tried again, but Edward was too fast; he pressed me back down again, his eyes now completely focused. “You need to rest,” he said again.
“No! God dammit, Edward, let me up!” I tried to push his hand from my shoulder, to no avail; his grip was gentle but firm and unyielding.
“Don’t fight me on this, Bella,” he said quietly. “You’re going to hurt yourself.”
“Then pass me that pillow and help me sit up!” I ordered, shoving a finger at the extra pillow on the floor.
He gazed at me hollowly for a moment before complying with my request, reaching over to pick up the pillow and then carefully helping me to sit up.
Once I was propped up against the pillows I reached out to grab the front of his shirt in a tight fist. “Now you listen to me, Edward Cullen. I was the one that insisted on having a real honeymoon, not you. It was my choice, one that I haven’t regretted for even a second, you hear me?” My hand trembled with weariness when I reached up to cup his cheek in my palm, but Edward’s hand settled over my own, holding it steady. The simple gesture of support was my undoing and tears slipped silently down my cheeks. “I wouldn’t trade a single moment of my time with you,” I whispered. “Not for anything.”
His face twisted. “Bella…” he breathed, touching his forehead to mine.
I gulped, attempting to swallow the growing lump in my throat. “And if I don’t make it through this…”
He drew back and squeezed his eyes closed as if to block out my words.
I reached out to touch him again, but he had turned to unresponsive stone under my fingers. More tears streamed down my cheeks. “Please, Edward, you have to listen to me. You have to promise me you’ll—”
“Ask me for anything, and it’s yours,” he rasped. “But don’t ask me to live without you, because that, I cannot do.”
The broken plea was like a knife to my heart, twisting, until I almost couldn’t breathe. My hand fumbled to grasp his, and I fought to keep my voice steady. “I’m not asking you to live without me.” His haunted eyes met my pleading ones. “I’m asking you to live for me.” I moved my other hand to cradle my middle. “For him,” I finished in a whisper.
His gaze dropped for only a moment, but when his eyes flickered up again, he suddenly looked a thousand years old. “Please,” he half choked, “you can’t ask this of me. You know…you know I could never…love…him.”
“No,” I breathed, curling my hand more tightly over his, “what I know…” I pulled his hand toward me, “is that you’re afraid. You’re afraid to let yourself love him,” I murmured before pressing his palm to my belly.
He sucked in an unsteady breath, his face twisting with tormented conflict. He closed his eyes again for a short moment before sliding his hand out from under mine. “I can’t,” he whispered.
“He’ll need you,” I tried again, my voice barely audible.
He gazed at me through tortured eyes. “I need you.”
My heart twisted again. More than anything I wished I could promise him I would make it through this. That I would live to raise our child with him. But every hour I grew weaker. How much time did I have? A day? Two maybe? I didn’t know. All I knew was that I wouldn’t be strong enough to make it through the birth. Carlisle had said as much earlier. Only a miracle could save me now.
My breath whistled through my lungs as I tried to suck in a bracing breath. Big mistake.
Edward recognized the signs immediately. He shot to his feet and snatched up the garbage bin a few feet away before dropping to his knees beside me again.
After losing what small amount of nourishment I’d managed to get down earlier, I collapsed back against the pillows, my breath moving through my lungs in unsteady bursts.
Edward disappeared in a blur of movement, then reappeared seconds later with a glass of water in hand.
He was in doctor-patient mode again.
After helping me drink some water, he was on his feet again. “I should get—”
“My husband?” I inserted, my voice raw and croaky.
That stopped him short. He halted mid-stride and turned back to face me.
I smiled weakly. “I miss him.”
Slowly, the layers fell away from his face as realization sank in.
“Hold me. Please?” I pleaded softly.
He sank down on the bed beside me and carefully drew me into his arms. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, brushing his lips across my hairline.
I pressed my cheek against his chest and murmured, “I forgive you.”
“I know,” he said quietly, combing his fingers through my hair, his touch ever so gentle. “You always do. Even when I don’t deserve it.”
“Must be love.”
He gave a muffled laugh that seemed to get caught in his throat as he pulled me more tightly against him, tucking my head beneath his chin.
We stayed that way for a long while.
And it was then that I began to understand why he had chosen doctor instead of husband.
When holding someone you loved, knowing it might be the last time, how did you ever let go?
How did you ever say goodbye?
“Edward…” I started in a whisper.
I felt him shake his head. “Don’t. Please don’t,” he said, his voice ragged.
My throat clogged, and for a moment I couldn’t bring myself to keep going. To cause him more pain. But I had to know. I had to know he’d be okay.
I gulped and closed my eyes, taking in the feel of his arms surrounding me, enclosing me in a safe haven I never wanted to leave. I felt the slight movement inside me, as if little EJ also sensed his father’s closeness and craved more. I pressed myself more tightly against the firmness of Edward’s chest. “You’re going to be a wonderful father,” I told him.
I felt him shake his head again.
“Yes,” I breathed. “The very best.” My hand moved to my belly. “He already loves your touch. It soothes him.”
Edward’s arms had frozen to stiff steel bands around me. Still, I went on.
“Your voice, too. He’s less agitated when he hears it.” I moved my hand to Edward’s chest, my fingers stroking the tenseness of his muscles, attempting to soothe. “He senses your presence…and he knows…” I swallowed hard. “…he knows I will always love him and his daddy more than anything.”
Edward had begun to rock me back and forth, slowly at first, then more and more agitated, his arms tightening around me as if the world around us and everyone in it would crumble to dust if he let go.
He knew what I was trying to do.
My tears were flowing freely now. “…and that no matter what happens…I’ll always be with you both…wherever you go...”
I felt his body jerk once with a tearless sob as he pressed his face into my hair. But when he moved his hand to cover mine—the one that I had settled over my middle—I knew that, somehow, he would make it through.
I couldn’t say who moved first. But then, it didn’t matter. Edward’s arms were around me, his lips molding perfectly to mine. Nothing else mattered.
Miracles did happen, I decided. For I held two of them in my arms.
Where else would I be, if not with them?
I know now, just quite how
my life and love might still go on
in your heart, in your mind
I’ll stay with you for all of time