.:Baby's First Thoughts:.
Rosalie went upstairs to get Bella some more blood. The blood was certainly helping Bella's body. The relief was unfathomable as I watched her body rapidly turn back into its former glory – filling out, gaining color, becoming all-around healthier in appearance. The broken bones and bruises, however, were never-ending. Bella might be gaining her nutrition back, but – (my eyes gazed down her fragile torso) – she still wasn't safe. The thing she carried was too strong, too much like me and not nearly enough like her (if it carried human traits at all). That was the worst thing, honestly – not knowing. Not knowing anything. Of course, true to her natural inclination toward martyrdom, Bella was willing to risk her life for the fetus – for whatever it was – regardless.
Feeling the weight of my powerlessness escalate for what could only be the hundredth time this week, I sunk my head, lowering my eyes to the floor, still aware enough to do it casually so Bella wouldn't catch my distress. It was hard enough to watch her suffer through the physical pain – I did all I could to keep her away from any guilt. She had a bad tendency to take the blame for things that were nowhere near her fault. This – everything about this was my fault. I had been careless. Usually so thorough in everything I do, when it really mattered, why wasn't I? How could I have let this happen? Even if there was no evidence that I could have possibly gotten Bella pregnant, I should have been prepared anyway. But I wasn't, and now it was too late – too late to change the past, too late to fix things, too late to right my wrongs – and because Bella was so stubbornly set against me, there was nothing more I could do.
Not that I blamed her for not trusting me.
I wished I could understand exactly what was going through her head, because from my perspective her life was being wasted for this thing she wanted to believe was worth it, and I just... I didn't know, didn't think it would be.
The thought of me having done this to her, making her choose death for what could possibly be a monster-child in a very literal sense tore me into pieces, made me tired, wore me down to exhaustion that I couldn't escape. All I wanted was a sign. Just one sign that all of this was worth it. That Bella wasn't throwing her beautiful life away for my offspring when it would be nothing like she wanted to imagine.
Hanging my head lower, I wondered if there was a special place in hell reserved for creatures like me. I didn't even deserve to be categorized as a person.
Amidst my mental struggle, someone murmured something. It was low and soft and I exited out of my thoughts because, so lost in them, I had missed what was said. It came from Bella's direction, I knew that much. Puzzled that I was so distracted I didn't hear even one clear word, I looked up at her. She wasn't looking at me or Jacob, and there was nothing in Jacob's thoughts that showed he heard anything from Bella, and that was...well, that was odd. In honesty, it didn't look like Bella had said anything at all, which obviously couldn't be true.
"Did you say something?" I immediately asked her, fearing my mental health now. The last thing I needed was to start hearing fictional voices among the voices I already undesirably heard.
Both Bella and Jacob gave me strange looks. Apparently, no one had said anything.
"Me? I didn't say anything," Bella said after a second of silence (where I questioned my own sanity), and then I heard it again, sounding almost like a whisper against Bella's voice.
No, it wasn't Bella.
Or was it?
It certainly...came from her. I think. Taking a second to delve into the almost non-existent possibilities, the only conclusion I could think was that the pregnancy was now affecting whatever kept her thoughts from me. Or was it just wishful thinking on my part? Because there was no logic behind that, but what else could it be?
Focusing on her face, I moved onto my knees, leaning forward, over her. "What are you thinking about right now?"
She stared at me blankly. "Nothing. What's going on?"
Resisting the urge to roll my eyes at her response, for she couldn't be thinking 'nothing', I continued prodding. "What were you thinking about a minute ago?'
"Just... Esme's island. And feathers."
I immediately stored that image away for later because, no, that wasn't what I heard, and wherever that voice came from needed to be focused on, not the consummation of our marriage. Granted, I couldn't be completely sure if those were the thoughts I had been hearing, and the voice had quieted now. There was still the possibility I had lost my mind, but I wanted desperately not to consider any truth behind that one.
"Say something else," I told her instead.
"Like what? Edward, what's going on?"
And there it was.
It wasn't Bella. It was a response to Bella. A tiny voice I'd never heard before. A quiet hum emanating pleasure whenever Bella spoke. Paying attention this time, I realized it was coming from inside Bella. From...from the womb.
Impossible. It... The thing... The fetus... The...
Three seconds passed, and my thoughts were a jumble of exclamation points – loud and surprised and not making any sense because what sense could they make?
The little voice was still going. I was still hearing it, listening to it. It was there, so close, so real, so soft, so childlike. No complete words, just pictures and feelings and sounds that I somehow understood. My mind was reeling, along with everything else inside me, because what was happening was impossible, yet I knew, now, exactly what I was hearing. There was absolutely no doubt. The baby had grown so swiftly already that its thoughts were reaching me.
Baby? The thought was automatic, like it was obvious now, like I had been...wrong?
A strange feeling washed over me. An odd emotion that I didn't understand. Was it a warm feeling? Hopeful, even? I think. Maybe. Confusion, too, more than a little bit. What I was hearing were not the kind of thoughts monsters harbored; they were the type of things found in only pure minds – the minds of children. Of innocent children.
But... No. How? I had asked for a sign, but for it to come instantly? For this to be it at all? For it to make me feel hope, of all things? It couldn't possibly be right.
Very lightly, carefully, I rested both of my hands against Bella's round stomach, startling everyone, more so Rosalie, who had barely just reentered the room only to see my head moving toward the thing she spent all her time trying to protect these days – and now, perhaps, I owed her for it...
"The f—" I swallowed. "It...the baby likes the sound of your voice."
There was one short beat of total silence. Nobody moved, nobody breathed. I knew what was coming next, heard the very familiar exclamation points in their minds, and braced for the onslaught.
"Holy crow, you can hear him!" Bella was the first to shout.
The tiny voice jumped, along with its body. Bella winced from the baby's kick.
"Ssh," I said, rubbing circles on the sore spot to soothe the pain, while still eagerly latching onto the mind of the child. Any thoughts I could pick up was a miracle.
"You startled it...him," I told her.
Bella let out a low exhale as she patted the side of her stomach. "Sorry, baby."
Baby. I couldn't get over it.
I listened harder, my head tilting toward the bulge.
"What's he thinking now?" Bella demanded eagerly.
"It...he or she, is..."
I paused, listening, and suddenly everything shifted into a perspective I never dared to hope could exist. I looked up into my wife's eyes. What I felt inside seemed to be mimicked on her face – eyes wide and full of incredulous wonder; excitement mixed with confusion, but not quite in a bad way; an indescribable ounce of hope. Everything was changing so rapidly. My head was spinning. In the time it takes to think one thought, the life Bella carried went from deadly fetus to our baby, and it seemed impossible that I could have been wrong - that I had been wrong. The unborn child was my child. And despite being starved before, it was... he was...
"He's happy," I finished out loud.
Bella's breath caught, and it was impossible not to see the fanatical gleam in her eyes. The adoration and the devotion that never ceased in her for this child. Tears overflowed her eyes and ran silently down her face and over smiling lips. She'd never looked more stunning.
If I could cry...perhaps I would be, also.
"Of course you're happy, pretty baby, of course you are," Bella crooned, rubbing her stomach while tears washed her cheeks. "How could you not be, all safe and warm and loved? I love you so much, little EJ, of course you're happy."
EJ? He had a name?
"What did you call him?" I asked.
She blushed before answering. "I sort of named him. I didn't think you would want... well, you know."
"Your father's name was Edward, too."
"Yes, it was. What—?" I paused when the baby's thoughts brightened, wishing for the sound of...my voice. He wanted me to keep talking. I barely suppressed the incredulous laugh that would have surely made me sound absolutely mad. Instead, I feigned casual. "Hmm," was all I let out.
"What?" Bella wondered.
It was harder to keep the smile threatening to unleash as I answered. "He likes my voice, too."
Bella didn't look at all surprised. Her tone was almost gloating now. "Of course he does. You have the most beautiful voice in the universe. Who wouldn't love it?"
Rosalie stirred, then. She couldn't be left out of this. If the baby seemed to adore two of the voices around it most, it should surely love to hear hers.
"Do you have a backup plan?" Rosalie asked then, leaning over the back of the sofa with the same wondering, gloating look on her face that was on Bella's. And the baby felt comfort when hearing my sister's voice, as well. "What if he's a she?"
Bella wiped the back of her hand under her wet eyes. "I kicked a few things around. Playing with Renee and Esme. I was thinking... Ruh-nez-may."
"R-e-n-e-s-m-e-e. Too weird?"
"No, I like it," Rosalie assured her. "It's beautiful. And one of a kind, so that fits."
"I still think he's an Edward."
There was silence, and for a second I wondered if they were waiting for an agreement from me. I couldn't bring myself to say anything, however; all I could do was stare at the cushion in front of me, my thoughts intent as I listened to the soft contentment of the baby. Contentment.
"What?" Bella asked suddenly. "What's he thinking now?"
Unintentionally shocking everyone in the room for a second time, I laid my ear tenderly against Bella's stomach. I stayed quiet and listened for another minute, entranced.
"He loves you," I finally answered, whispering it, stuck in a state of awe. "He absolutely adores you."
In that moment, I knew that I'd been wrong about everything.
My assumption of the child had been based on what I was, on what I lacked because of what I was, and I refused to give the baby the same acceptance that Bella so easily gave. Bella had never been the wisest regarding her own well-being, and she was young, with little experience and knowledge and understanding that reality wasn't always what it seemed, that reality and fantasy were very, very different things that often got jumbled together. This newborn she wanted to protect had been a thoughtless, naive desire in my mind, so I was disinclined to put much weight on what she had to say on the matter. I did not allow myself to dream with her, for I felt I could not afford to. Someone had to be realistic about it, as fantasies would only distract, obscure. The fetus becoming anything more than the father who bred it was definitely fantasy. Demons only produced other demons, after all. Monsters only created more monsters.
That's what I had believed.
Now my legs were knocked clear out from under me. Everything I considered true was thrown straight out the window. My imagination, usually so dark, worked on a premise that was a little bit brighter. Because how could any creature be a monster who knows empathy — who knows love?
Jacob's thoughts rose in volume, intruding into my own. At first, I was confused by his hostility, but then I saw what he saw, realized with him that I had jumped sides. He felt angry, betrayed, and his body trembled, his pain rumbling inside him like magma ready to erupt. He needed to go – for Bella's and the baby's safety, in case he lost control, and for his own sake, to clear his head.
In less than a second, I was throwing my car keys at him. He caught it reflexively.
"Go, Jacob. Get away from here."
There was no arguing. Jacob wanted to get some fresh air just as much as he needed to. He left without a word. I waited, watching until the Vanquish drove out of sight. At least he'd enjoy the ride, and I really hoped he would reconsider totaling it...though I completely got his frustration. I couldn't expect him to understand, it wouldn't be fair to him; there was no way for him to hear what I have, to experience what I've felt. I felt bad for Jacob. But he had to see, eventually, that we were wrong in our fear-driven assumptions. He had to come to terms with this, on his own. Just as I did (with help from my mind-reading).
It was all so strange, though — so new, so refreshing. And I wished Carlisle was here. In a matter of seconds, everything in my head had burst into oblivion, replaced with odd imaginings of hope and understanding and common sense that I seemed to unknowingly push aside before. Like Jacob now, my intentions, though noble, were directionless. Now comprehension had dawned on me. This child was no monster; this child was as pure as an angel, sincerely innocent in a way only a human child could be. It loved Bella, it didn't want to hurt her; in fact, astonishing as it was, it tried to restrain itself from moving too much. It was incredible. This unborn baby was growing so swiftly, incompatible with Bella's body, but still...compassionate in its own right. Jacob couldn't see that yet, blinded as he was by the same judgment that had blinded me — a judgment that had nothing to do with the baby, but with having faith in what I was.
Bella wasn't blind to it. She was willing to die to bring this truth to me. Her faith in me and my soul never once wavered, and so it had triggered her fierce faith in this child — in our child.
I supposed out of all the dark places in my mind that this sincere child has shined its light on so swiftly, the strangest and most immediate of them all was where I once saw an affirmation of my cursed existence, I now saw the redemption Carlisle strived for a little more in our reach.
Unlike my offspring, I was no angel. But, perhaps, with this innocent child as proof, I had potential to be, in the after-life. As much of a chance as any human. Because Bella and I... Our love created this new life. How could one such as me create a precious, pure soul if I was truly a permanently damned being? So perhaps Bella and Carlisle had been on to something from the start. Maybe our souls could be redeemed after all.
Of course, Bella's pregnancy was still a risk, tragic and glorious all at the same time. Her survival remained on the line; however, we just gained the upper hand. The baby's thoughts were enough to tell me it was plenty developed — developed enough to be born now if we so chose to induce it. And if we were proactive about it, it could work — it would work. Suddenly, I didn't feel so helpless.
It was almost laughable how fast I switched sides (not only regarding the baby, but also Bella). I had fought fate for so long. I knew, from the moment I witnessed the vision in Alice's head, what Bella was meant to be, what fate had in store. But I had dug my heels and tried to find any and all ways around it (including, quite possibly, the stupidest action ever taken). In yielding to fate, I found not only everything I ever wanted, but everything I never thought I could ask for. In our hard-won love, in this act of creating a brand new, innocent life, I found the reaffirmation of the humanity I had thought I'd lost. But what was truly amazing was this little one was part of me, part of Bella, and, in a way, part of everything my family stood for: life.
Taking my gaze off the road, I met Rosalie's eyes, then Bella's, and for the first time in a while, I truly smiled.
"We can do this," I said.
The smiles I got in return were triumphant.