I shifted on my feet, nervous as I stared at the small crowd that had gathered for my wedding. Alice had known I didn't want a huge bash, and so had obliged me by throwing a simple little wedding and reception on the beach. My nearest and dearest -- both my parents and the Cullens -- were there. My high school friends -- Angela, Jessica, Mike and Eric -- were also there. I had also agreed to Angela bringing her new boyfriend, Ben Cheney, with her. And, of course, Mom brought Phil.
Billy Black was there as a representative of the Quileute wolves. Seth Clearwater had accompanied him, as a stand-in for my one absent friend, Jacob. Seth's mom, Sue, was also there as my dad's quasi-date; he'd been helping her deal with the passing of her husband and his friend, Harry.
Eighteen people, not including the justice of the peace, myself and Edward, were there for my wedding. Outside, my appearance was that of your usual young bride, with a dress and makeup that made me look like a Disney princess. But inside, I was a complete wreck; a car crash of adrenaline, nerves and unbridled squee blocking the information highway in my normally fairly tranquil brain.
Of course, "normal" doesn't include vampires attempting to murder me, or the bout of depression I experienced when my beloved self-appointed protector left me for a few months late last year. If I'd known he'd come back and wanted to marry me, maybe I wouldn't have acted like such a fool. But I felt much better as of late and had a better grip on my life, thanks to Mom introducing me to the meditation of yoga. I had actually looked forward to the impending nuptials... until, of course, Dad was about to walk me down the aisle.
Cue the panic attack.
I breathed slowly to center myself, just like all my warm-ups to my exercises, and allowed the rhythmic pounding of the waves to wash over my senses. I laced my arm through my Dad's and walked forward, keeping my eyes only on Edward, as my ballerina-slippered feet pressed onto the sand with each step.
Seeing Edward standing by the justice of the peace made my heart flutter. In a good way.
As I stood beside him, and we exchanged vows and rings, the load progressively lightened. When the officiator said to "kiss the bride," my heart leapt. And when Edward pressed his cool lips tenderly against mine, it was a reminder that I'd always been his, from the very first.
I almost couldn't wait for the wedding night. Almost.
* * *
Okay, so maybe first-time sex with a vampire virgin wasn't such a good idea. But I would find a way to make it work, somehow.
And I refused to spend the first three days of my honeymoon writhing in pain due to the transformation from human to vampire. Was it too much to ask, to want to be able to show in every conceivable way how much I loved Edward? To do so before I'd be too consumed by thirst to think of anything else but the lust for blood?
I wanted the complete physical and emotional expression of my love for him -- my body and soul -- to be my gift to him, before he would be confronted with a new creature he (and I) had to get to know.
But Edward too surprised me with a wonderful gift, which I hadn't in the least expected: an itinerary to travel the world for six months, before the date of my conversion. I had always been curious about the mysteries of the Far East, the African Savannah and the Amazon jungle. I had also been interested in Italy... before I'd found out about that country being the seat of vampire government. Edward promised me, though, that our last stop would be Sicily; close enough to mainland Italy, but just past the Volturi's radar.
We started our trek in Brazil. There, we would lounge on a small island off the Eastern coast of the South American continent, a private island which had been purchased by Carlisle years ago. He had named it after Esme, as one of the many over-the-top "joke" gifts they gave each other. Carlisle and Esme had both been delighted to lend us usage of the property for awhile.
Edward carried me over the threshold of the island home, and we made love for the first time that night, on that very island amid cool cotton sheets and artfully placed mosquito netting. Edward touched me with an incredible tenderness that took me by surprise; he was probably terrified of snapping me in half, no doubt. He would occasionally place his cool, cool lips lightly against my hot flesh (a shoulder, the inside of a thigh...). But for the most part he kept his mouth -- and his teeth and venom -- away from me. He made up for it, however, in the deft use of his long musician's fingers.
He wouldn't let me attempt to pleasure him either, wanting to keep control of his urges, so that he could satisfy me without endangering me.
It didn't surprise me that some precautions had to be made and, while our first time wasn't everything I'd hoped for, it was quite nice. I was a very fortunate woman, to have such a caring husband and lover attend to me.
* * *
Our world tour was a whirlwind. I was completely swept up in the sights, sounds and colours of the places we visited. Edward handled my communication gap with the natives; he'd studied over a dozen languages over the past century, and acted as my translator with great aplomb.
It wasn't until we were in Greece, that I realized something I'd been too caught up in the novelty of global travel to notice: my period had never arrived. Oh sure, I'd had some minor spotting, but not the usual flow. But I'd chalked this up to the "good" stress of being on the move so much.
I'd also noticed that I'd gained some weight, but had been distracted from determining the source. And it, too, had been shrugged off as resulting from the varied and rich food I'd eaten in our travels.
The realization came when I upchucked in the first-floor toilet of our rented Grecian villa, after I'd cooked myself a meal of roasted chicken topped with olive oil and feta cheese. I had also devoured a container of pomegranate yogurt for my dessert. As wonderful as it had tasted the first time, it wasn't so good coming back up.
Edward came back from two days out hunting to find me praying to the porcelain goddess. My forehead rested against the lip of the toilet seat, and I groaned quietly.
"Bella?" He approached me closer to a human's speed, so as to not startle me. I could hear in his tone how deeply worried he was for me. "Are you all right?"
I slowly got up, putting the lid down and seating myself upon it. "Must've been the chicken," I mumbled, still feeling green around the gills. I gestured to the bag that served as my emergency kit: loaded down with every conceivable necessity for travel, including the Pepto Bismol I clearly needed. "Could you hand me my bag?"
He placed the bag on the floor in front of me, and I unzipped the main compartment. It was staring at the tampons and pantyliners, crammed next to the bottles of Pepto Bismol and sunblock, that I had my epiphany.
I sat back, turning it over in my head. I could feel my brows furrowing in intense concentration. I frantically tried to count the days back, but failed. I'd lost track of time far too quickly, and now had no idea how long our globetrotting had really been, thus far.
"How long has it been since the wedding?" I finally asked, my voice quavering.
"Five months," he answered immediately.
"Five months?!" I spluttered, furious with myself for losing track of such a significant block of time. My suspicions were eating away at me. I needed confirmation. Now.
I looked around for a mirror. There was a floor length one in the hall. I stepped up to it, pulling up my shirt and examining my body from every angle. When I stood so the bared lower half of my torso was viewed sideways, I saw the slightly distended flesh low on my stomach, which I hadn't noticed glancing down while I'd dressed. I gasped, realizing now exactly what it was. The weight gain, the lack of a significant period, the queasiness; it all made sense now.
I was pregnant, I was beginning to show, I was probably about halfway to term, and I had only just now realized it. I could've kicked myself for being so unobservant.
"This isn't possible," I breathed. It couldn't be; my husband was a vampire, more or less frozen in time in his current state with little alteration. It shouldn't be possible for a vampire to have children. The dead -- or undead -- could not create life. Only the living had that ability.
On the other hand, myths and stories about the half-vampire, half-human hybrids called "dhampirs" weren't exactly rare. Blade being the most popular, modern example of such a long-standing myth. The myths had to come from somewhere. There was always a small grain of truth to every piece of fiction.
While the jury might be out on the possibility of a female vampire ever being capable of giving birth, even with the advance of technology, human women definitely could.
It might not seem possible, but it was. I was pregnant with what could turn out to be an all too real dhampir. And only Heaven knew what that really meant, in a world where vampires actually sparkle in sunlight rather than burning. For me, there was only this one world and, in this one world, the vampires had an almost physics-defying array of capabilities. With only a few exceptions, they were incredibly dangerous creatures, so for the possibility of a human bearing a fetal version...
This did not bode well.
A cold shock of terror shot down my spine. What, exactly, was inside of me now?
* * *
The remaining month's worth of stops for our trip were cancelled, and a redeye flight was purchased to take us from Athens to Sea-Tac, with a layover at JFK. We'd be driving the remaining miles between Seattle and Forks.
From our rented villa to the Athens airport, I kept turning the notion of my impending motherhood over in my mind. Perhaps I had reacted too quickly for ratiocination. After all, a child that was created in a genuine act of love couldn't really be a monster. Could it?
Edward's only comment on the way to the Athens airport was "we'll get that thing out of you." He spat the words like they were excess venom in his mouth. I instinctively bridled at both his tone and his assumption of my cooperation, but said nothing. I had no idea how to voice my doubts without sounding petulant, and his reaction seemed a little overhasty to me. Shouldn't we have talked this over? Like two reasonable adults?
We ended up among the general population of passengers, rather than the V.I.P. or first class, as we had been on the previous flights during our grand trek. He told me to remain seated while he took our luggage to the conveyor belt. I used the rare moment of solitude to my advantage, whipping out my cellphone and auto-dialing a pre-programmed number.
"Bella?" Rosalie's voice. It was an unlikely choice in confidante, as she had no love for me. But neither did she hate me. I knew her to be forthright; pulling no punches, always saying exactly what she meant to say and meaning every word. Complete honesty was exactly what I needed right now, not being mollycoddled, and honesty was a precious commodity I could only get from her in quantity.
"Rosalie? I need your help. Um, your advice... or just to listen." The connection hummed between us, and I briefly glanced at my cellphone display to be sure we weren't disconnected. She must have been listening. I cleared my throat and forged ahead. "I know it sounds impossible, but I think I might be pregnant."
Rosalie was sufficiently roused from her silent meditation. "You think you're pregnant," she repeated slowly. "Are you certain?"
"I've got all the symptoms: no period, weight gain, nausea..." I stopped and gasped when I felt a strange sort of flutter in my tummy. On instinct, my hand gravitated to the spot where I'd felt the sensation and slowly began to rub. "I... I just felt something move inside me."
I heard Rosalie give a toneless hum in thought. Then she replied, "Yeah. The symptoms you've got sound like the real deal. What do you intend to do?"
"I.... ummm..." I began, oh so eloquently. "I... I don't know. But Edward wants to get rid of it."
"He does," she said flatly. Then she added, more insistently, "But what is it you want?"
"I don't know!" I wailed, suddenly bursting into tears. Pregnancy hormones could only partly be blamed for my outburst. Amidst my hiccuping sobs, I managed to cry, "I need time to figure it out!"
"We'll buy you time then," Rosalie replied, her stolid tone calming me. "Don't let Edward or anyone else sway you into a decision you're not ready to make. It's your body, so it's your choice."
"But isn't it Edward's choice, too? He's the father."
Rosalie snorted. "He made his choice when he had sex with you, without considering that the proper precautions might be needed. The ball's in your court now, Bella. It's up to you what happens now."
I sniffled. "Why are you helping me?"
Rosalie sighed. "Bella, I may not agree with your choices, but I will defend to my true death your right to make them. Don't let anyone take that power away from you." A pause, then she added, "Emmett and I will keep the rest of the family off of your back until you've decided."
* * *
The return to Forks was quiet. Alice gasped when she saw me, realizing only now that I was pregnant. "I... didn't See.." she stuttered.
I merely shrugged in response, having no notion of what to say to her.
Rosalie's lips were pressed together in a thin line when she saw me, her arms crossed over her breasts, but the steel in her eyes didn't scare me quite so much as it used to. I knew she was on my side, no matter what I chose. She'd made that abundantly clear in our discussion over the phone; her husband was certain to follow suit, sharing her views on the situation as well as his loyalty being entirely with her.
Emmett greeted me jovially. "Hey, Bella." He picked me up in a gentler version of his usual bear-hug. I clung to my brother-in-law with happy relief.
Rosalie's ferocious scowl cracked as she watched her husband, her golden eyes briefly dancing in amusement and one side of her mouth quirking in the hint of a smile. Not for the first time since I'd met her, I found myself musing on how remarkable it was that her eyes matched her tawny locks; it was an interesting colouration for her, and she looked even prettier than usual when her eyes lit up like that.
She and Emmett were well-suited for each other, I thought. I found myself wondering what people saw when they looked at myself and Edward together, what they imagined our story might be, if they thought we complimented each other. I wasn't sure why it even mattered at this point, but... well, there it was.
Carlisle came out from his study and ushered me into the extra room he'd already converted into a clinic when Edward and I had first started dating. Rosalie accompanied me, and I was grateful.
There was new equipment here from the last time I was in there: an ultrasound, plus some other machinery I had no name for. But it was the ultrasound that was more important, in this case. I laid down and pulled up my shirt, so Carlisle could apply the jelly to my tummy and begin passing the scanner over my flesh.
The image of my baby came on the screen, and we heard the sound of her heart, fast and strong. "She's beautiful," I breathed. My hand reached out to the monitor of its own accord, as if I could touch her through the screen. I dropped my hand, realizing I was grasping at nothing.
Carlisle frowned as he moved the scanner around to try to see the baby from another angle. "We can't determine the sex yet."
"It's a girl, I just know it," I insisted. When both he and Rosalie glanced at me, I added with a shrug, "Mother's intuition, I guess?"
Seeing my baby for the first time and hearing her heart made me realize one thing: she wanted and deserved to live. If it was truly my choice, then my choice was to keep her and to give her birth. And as I gazed longer at her ultrasound image, I could feel the first stirrings of the maternal affection that I'd never imagined I'd feel.
She would live. Even if it took my very last breath, she would live. I had the power to give life, and so I would. No one would take that from me.
* * *
Being pregnant isn't nearly as exciting as television and movies make it out to be. Oh sure, I had some pretty funky cravings (particularly for hamburger), but nothing too strange. I also didn't have any of the aches and pains most new mothers seem to complain about at length; my normally slender body seemed to adjust quite well to my gravid state.
I was becoming more voluptuous in places; a natural form of protective padding. My breasts began to swell with milk in anticipation of the birth to come, resulting in the more visually appealing cup size I'd always longed for. My stomach swelled too, as my daughter's size increased. The only discomfort I felt was late in the pregnancy, when she began to use my bladder either as a pillow or a soccer ball.
But mostly, I was quite happily pregnant.
Edward, on the other hand, was fully immersed in the foibles of a first-time father. The uneventful way the pregnancy was proceeding had gradually brought him around to accepting his role as the lucky father-to-be. Now, he did nothing but stress over my diet, my health and the birth to come. He constantly yammered on about the best possible products for our bundle of joy, and the safest type of carseats and cribs.
He was driving me insane.
On the one hand, I was grateful he was so attentive to my and our unborn baby's needs. On the other hand, he was always hovering and never leaving me a moment to myself.
It made me miss my Dad's explicitly hands-off parenting style.
I sent Jacob several emails and even a handwritten letter, just to let him know I was thinking of him and to give him the latest updates on my new life. I never received a response and, after a talk with Billy, I resolved to set our friendship aside for the more important things in the center of my life now. If he was interested in rekindling our friendship, he knew where to find me.
I would've loved to make him our baby's godfather, though.
It took me ages to settle on a name. None of the names I was familiar with seemed quite right or fitting for our daughter, so I purchased a one thousand page hardcover of baby names from all across the world. Either I'm too picky or nothing was good enough to jump right out at me; whatever the case, it was all for naught.
Out of desperation, I began to experiment with creating a name just for her. The baby seemed to kick in approval when I condensed the names of Edward's adoptive vampire-mother and my own human mother into the unlikely moniker of Renesmee (something I did partly as a joke and partly as a last reckless toss of the proverbial horseshoe). But I simply shrugged and resolved to myself that I could always change her name to something less... odd, at any point in the future. Whenever a better option came along. After all, it wasn't as if people couldn't change their names.
Nonetheless, I hoped a better option would come along, before my daughter decided to make her grand entrance.
* * *
The day after I decided on her default name, my daughter made up her little mind that she didn't want to wait any longer. I went into labour with a rapidity that shocked everyone, including myself. But, given the obstinacy and impatience of both her parents, I knew I'd need all the help modern medicine could provide to birth this child.
But that wasn't all: the wolves had finally gotten wind of my pregnancy and were now circling the wagons, as they considered my child a possible threat that might need to be neutralized. That is to say, they were surrounding the Cullen homestead, rendering everyone unable to leave.
That left me and my daughter unable to receive any additional treatment we might require, other than what Carlisle had on hand.
There were no painkillers in the house, other than my recently expired package of Tylenol I'd packed for the honeymoon trip. It had still been good during our global galavanting, but was useless now. So I had to deal with the contractions without the benefits of an epidural, in the time-honoured fashion of many women before me.
Between every agonizing contraction, I shouted some distinctly unladylike language, pointedly calling the wolves every possible name in the book for being so ridiculously overprotective with what was more and more likely to turn out a normal child. I felt a searing hate for them putting my baby in danger by preventing us from moving to the local hospital, and for thinking her monstrous when she'd yet to show herself as anything of the kind.
Damn you all! It was not her fault for being born! If you want to lay blame, place it on the shoulders of myself and my husband for conceiving her, instead!
My maternal anger gave me power, and my daughter was brought into the world through the sheer force of my will alone. But when she finally passed through the birth canal completely and uttered her first wail, I felt all my newfound strength abandoning me in a sudden flood.
Alice had to be ripped from the room by Esme, and Rosalie quickly took my newborn daughter and ran out. Only Carlisle and Edward remained.
I realized with a dull, creeping horror why the others had run: there was too much blood, and I was losing more by the minute. My ability to remain conscious was wavering badly. I felt tired... so tired...
"She's bleeding out too fast!" Carlisle's voice drifted to me from a distance. "Bite her, Edward, before she dies! Now!"
* * *
Edward's cool lips pressed against my throat.
A distant, brief twinge of punctured flesh.
Then fire coursed through my veins.
I began to scream out my agony.
But no one heard me.