The Cannabean Family.A familial unit that extends beyond the nuclear family to include the unions through marriage that savor, strengthen and support one another in love, life and faith.
"To the right," Edward grunted as he lifted his end of the large desk. He sighed in dismay as the desk suddenly moved in the opposite direction than he'd intended. "The other right, Charlie."
"You need to give clearer directions, Edward. I'm walking backwards. My right is your left," Charlie responded.
Bella tried to hide the amusement on her face as she watched her father and her husband lightly bicker as they traversed the foyer with the office equipment Edward had recently ordered from a discount furniture store.
It had taken only a week of working early mornings and late evenings for Edward to make the decision to move the majority of his business to his home office. He missed his son more than he ever thought possible during his long hours at the office, and the ability see him and play with him in between phone calls, or during a short lunch break was a huge motivation for Edward's decision to telecommute. His administrative assistant, Gladys, was very encouraging of the endeavor, as she was close to retirement and loved the idea of only having to work a few days a week.
Bella, on the other hand, found the venture to be bittersweet. She loved when Edward was at home and wanted him with her all the time. But she also liked the fact that when he was done working for the day, he physically left, and thus mentally left the job. Now that he'd be working at home, she feared that he would work all the time because it would be more convenient for him to do so.
"I want to be here more for you and Jonathan," Edward had said when Bella expressed her concern to him. "And I know that means that I have to balance my work and family life. I can do that, Bella. I promise, you don't have to worry."
And so Bella didn't worry. She trusted Edward at his word and supported him whole-heartedly during the period of six in the morning until two-thirty in the afternoon; leaving him alone to completely focus on work.
Not that that meant that Edward was a no-show during his working hours. On the contrary, he'd placed a baby swing in his office and at those times when Jonathan had a clean diaper and a full belly, he slept soundly in his father's office while Edward typed and corresponded around him.
In Bella's opinion, Edward's generosity in giving her a hand with the baby during the day didn't happen a moment too soon. At first, it was nice to have her mother assist her with other duties around the house instead of tending to Jonathan all the time, but as the weeks wore on, Bella was surprised to find that she wasn't snapping back to her pre-pregnancy state as fast as she'd thought she would. Despite late morning jogs and afternoon walks with Jonathan, the slight pooch of Bella's abdomen was stubbornly not going away. Vitamins and healthy snacks did nothing to help her energy levels; Bella found herself exhausted and useless well before the evening meal.
"Is it because I'm nursing?" Bella asked her mother one morning when she felt particularly off. "Jonathan is eating all the time lately, like he's not getting enough or something."
"I vaguely remember being tired when you were nursing, but that was just after you were born and I was trying to get the hang of things," Renee answered as she moved Jonathan to rest against her shoulder. "But by the time you were a few months along, I was fine."
Bella heard her mother confirm what she'd been feeling: that she should have turned a postpartum corner by now.
"Maybe you should have your iron levels checked. If you're anemic it could make you feel really tired," Renee suggested. "But if you need to lie down, go right ahead. Jonathan and I will be right here when you wake up."
Bella stole a glance at the clock and, seeing that she had a few hours before she needed to prepare dinner, she accepted her mother's offer. After kissing Jonathan's angelic cheek, she escaped to her bedroom where she fell asleep almost immediately and didn't wake until nearly two hours later when her mother, and a very hungry Jonathan, woke her up.
"Oh!" Bella hopped up quickly and accepted her baby readily. "Sorry, Mom. I didn't think Jonathan would need to eat again so soon. You should have woken me up earlier."
"I came up to wake you a little bit ago but you were sleeping so soundly and Jonathan wasn't fussing at all. Edward said to let you sleep, so I didn't bother you until absolutely necessary."
Even though she'd slept for so long, she hardly felt rested, and after feeding Jonathan, preparing dinner and giving the baby a bath, Bella felt ready for bed again.
"Maybe you're coming down with something," Edward said later that night when they were lying naked together in bed.
Bella shook her head. "I don't think so."
But despite her words, she did make an appointment to see the doctor in a couple weeks. Perhaps her mother was right and she was a tad bit anemic. Either way, the peace of mind at finding out that nothing was wrong might help to alleviate her constant weariness.
As she waited for a professional prognosis, Bella made a great effort to get into the routine of being a present wife and mother. She'd finally gotten Jonathan on a normal routine and he was sleeping well throughout the night. Work seemed to be going well for Edward; he had a video conference with Singapore scheduled for the end of the week and though he'd lost out on a contract he'd been expecting, a larger one was due to close any day now.
Without the stress of deadlines on his mind, Edward was able to finish up his work day at an optimal time and he and Bella were able to spend hours together, alone, while Jonathan slept in the early evenings. Though Bella didn't have the stamina to make love at all hours of the night and morning like she'd had before the baby, she still noticed that Edward had no complaints and he went to sleep with a smile on his face at least three times a week.
In addition to tending to her husband and son, Bella also made communicating with her extended family a priority. One day Rosalie called, breathlessly begging for a favor, telling Bella how Alice had come down ill and was unable to host a sports banquet that she'd previously committed to.
"She didn't want to ask you because Jonathan is still so little, but Bella, I can't pull this off on my own. Esme is busy with the Cannabean Women's Society and I didn't know who else I could ask on such short notice. Please say you'll help me," Rosalie beseeched.
"What would I have to do?" Bella asked, knowing she'd help her sister-in-law, regardless of Rosalie's answer.
"Help me stuff goodie bags, decorate, mail invitations and most importantly, talk me off the ledge because I'm sure at some point during this experience I'll want to kill myself," Rosalie said.
So Bella put on a brave face for Rosalie and even enlisted her mother to help with the party planning, though truthfully, Renee mostly kept Jonathan and Rosalie's kids entertained while Bella and Rosalie worked. The process served well to keep Bella's mind off her fatigue, but at the end of the day she still fell into bed, catatonic from the day's activities. She had hoped that her tiredness would wane once the event had come to pass, but two days after the soiree, she was just as exhausted as usual. When she showed up to her doctor's appointment later that same week, she nearly teared up as she explained her plight.
"I just can't seem to muster up enough energy to get through the day. The baby eats all the time and I think my body is just working overtime trying to keep up with the milk production or something," Bella said. "My mother mentioned that I might be anemic. Is it okay to take iron supplements while nursing?"
The doctor smiled as she looked over Bella's chart. "Are you still taking your prenatal vitamins?"
Bella nodded. "That doesn't seem to be making a difference though."
Bella was so focused on the information she was giving and hoping for an immediate, and non-dismal diagnosis, that she was completely taken aback when her doctor asked her a question that she construed as irrelevant and slightly inappropriate.
"Have you and your husband resumed sexual relations?"
Bella's eyes widened at the query as she stumbled to answer it. "Um…well, yes."
"It's listed here that you were using natural family planning as a form of birth control. Are you still employing those same methods?"
"Well, I'm nursing, so…"
"You still need birth control to avoid pregnancy even when you're nursing." The doctor put down Bella's file and leaned against the counter. "Remember, I said you are less fertile when you're breastfeeding, but you're not infertile."
Bella stared blankly at the floor and suddenly she knew, even before the doctor confirmed it from a blood test half an hour later that she was, in fact, pregnant.
In a daze of despair, Bella managed to make it home from the doctor's office, only to be met by a pleasantly exuberant Edward at the door.
"My parents called an hour ago. They want us to come for dinner. They said they have big news," he said as he jostled Jonathan. "Don't look so worried. I'm sure it's not detrimental. If anything, it's probably my dad's announcement that he's retiring and taking my mother to travel the world." Edward took in the expression on Bella's face. "But they want us to come over right now, so are you ready?"
At the sight of Jonathan, an extreme wave of guilt washed over Bella, as she knew how soon his little world would be turned upside down.
And then Bella's eyes shifted to Edward's and the hopefulness that she saw there stifled her announcement in her throat. Edward was sure that the news his parents had to announce was positive, but Bella wasn't convinced. What if, instead of good news, the report was bad? What if Edward had to attempt to process horrible news on top of finding out that he was to be a father for the second time in less than six months? Forever, the news of the baby's birth would be coupled with whatever misfortune Esme and Carlisle had to announce.
No – Bella decided right then and there to wait until she and Edward were alone later that night to tell him the news.
"Honey?" Edward frowned at her as Jonathan cooed and rooted against Edward's chest. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah. I'm fine," Bella plastered on a shallow smile.
"Okay. Well…I think Jonathan needs to be fed before we go."
As soon as Jonathan's belly was full, the family drove the short distance to Edward's parents' home and Bella wasn't surprised to see the vehicles of Edward's brothers already present.
"This must be huge," Bella muttered to herself more than Edward, but he heard her nonetheless.
"Yeah, it sounded like it when my mother called this afternoon. She was practically vibrating with happiness," Edward said.
"She was happy?" Bella clarified.
"Yeah. I told you – it's good news," Edward smiled.
Well if it's good news…
"Edward," Bella began before they got out of the car. "I want to tell you what-"
"Come in! Come in!" Esme called as she flung open the car door and started removing Jonathan from his car seat. "What took you two so long to get over here?"
Bella, who hadn't even seen Esme emerge from the house, had been started silent.
"Bella's appointment ran a little longer than expected, that's all," Edward shrugged. He pulled Jonathan's baby bag out of the backseat before walking over to Bella, and with his arm draped loosely around her waist, led her into the house.
The aroma of delicious food that tempted Bella's senses the moment she was through the door was more than enough to make her mouth water. She hadn't even realized how hungry she was until she took in the heavenly scent.
"Come on in. Everyone's in the dining room," Esme called over her shoulder as she led the way with Jonathan in her arms.
Edward and Bella greeted the family cordially and anxiously took their seats around the vast dining room table. All eyes were on Carlisle, including Emmett and Rosalie's children's', as they awaited the unrevealed news.
"Thank you all for coming on short notice," Carlisle's eyes danced with amusement at the way everyone was so tuned in to him. "I know you're all busy and probably had plans of your own, so it means a lot to me that you can drop everything and come running when your family calls."
"Of course," Edward said, and Emmett echoed this sentiment with a nod.
"So, out of common courtesy, I'm not going to delay this announcement any longer." Carlisle smirked as his gaze moved to every individual at the table before resting on Jasper. "Son?"
Jasper, the most quiet person at all family functions, cleared his throat in preparation of speaking. He looked so nervous that Bella wondered what he could possibly have to say to warrant all the suspense.
"I uh…well, heck. I don't feel like it's right for me to do this…" he glanced over at Alice.
"I'm pregnant!" she shouted excitedly to everyone present. "We didn't want to tell anyone until I'd made it through my first trimester, but that ended this week so…"
There was a moment of silence while the enormity of Alice's words sank in with all that had heard them.
Finally, Esme let out a whoop of joy and Rosalie applauded in happiness. Edward quickly offered Alice and Jasper congratulations and Emmett slapped his brother on the back affectionately.
Bella watched the food on her plate spiral and swirl into a myriad of colors as she struggled to maintain control while she listed to the festive brouhaha around her. But her grip on her resolve was slipping and when she heard her mother-in-law state how much babies were a blessing, Bella's emotions won out and she burst into tears.
"I'm sorry," Bella whimpered as she stood. "Alice, I'm so happy for you," she managed before she fled from the room.
She was able to get as far as the kitchen before Edward overtook her.
"What is it? What's wrong?" he asked as he pulled her into an embrace before she had a chance to explain.
"I'm sorry," her apology was muffled into his shirt.
"For what? Why are you sorry?"
"This is Alice and Jasper's night and I'm ruining it."
"You're not ruining it. C'mon. Tell me why you're upset. You're scaring me."
Bella simply looked up at Edward and slightly raised her eyebrows. When he failed to read her mind, she took his hand and laid it low on her belly.
"No way," he said, dumbfounded.
"This is exactly what I said I didn't want, Edward. Remember? Two babies in diapers!" Bella whispered harshly.
"You're pregnant? How did this happen?" Edward struggled to keep up. "You-you can't be pregnant. You're…breastfeeding," Edward whispered the latter as if it were a dirty word.
"Yeah, apparently that isn't a fail-safe method," Bella said, her face growing warm with anguish. She could feel her emotions bearing down against her throat and she fought to keep her composure. But when she saw Edward pull at his hair feverishly, she knew that he was as distressed about the situation as she was, and she started crying all over again.
"Sweetheart, don't cry. It's going to be fine." He kissed the top of her head and gripped her tightly. "It's not the worst thing that can happen."
"Edward, our children won't even be a year apart in age. Jonathan may not even be walking before this baby is born and how am I going to carry two babies around? I don't want Jonathan to feel like he isn't important." Bella prattled off the worries that had begun to plague her immediately.
"Bella, Jonathan isn't going to feel disadvantaged at all. He won't know any different. All he'll know is that he'll have a near-constant playmate for the rest of his life. He's not going to be deprived at all. You'll see."
"I already see that he is being disadvantaged. The doctor said that the reason he's eating so often is because I'm not producing enough milk because of the pregnancy. I have to stop nursing, Edward. Breast milk is so much healthier for him and I have to give him formula because I got pregnant again so soon," Bella cried.
"It's going to be fine, Bella."
But Bella detected, in Edward's voice, that he was unsure as well.
She allowed her husband to cradle her a few minutes more before she wiped away her tears and straightened her disheveled dress.
"I'm not ready to tell anyone about this yet. Besides, this is Alice's night," Bella said and Edward nodded.
"Yeah, we can wait to say anything. It's not like we don't have nine months."
"Actually, we have six months. The doctor thinks I'm fifteen weeks."
Edward tried to put on a brave face for Bella, but she saw it in the suddenly chalky pallor of his skin, the miniscule way his nostrils flared in anguish and the shallow, haunted rasps of his breath.
He felt even more unprepared than Bella did and that terrified her even more.
"We'll be fine," he said nonetheless, but Bella didn't believe him. She was too busy wallowing in her fear, regret and guilt.
Each sworn to protect their secret, Edward and Bella returned to the table and apologized for their brief absence. Bella explained that she hadn't been feeling well, and after congratulating Alice and Jasper once more, she followed a Jonathan-clad Edward back out to their car and onward home.
They talked briefly in the car about the upcoming addition to the family, but Bella found herself becoming sullen and insulted by Edward's optimism.
"Maybe it'll be a girl," Edward said, hoping this would bring Bella some delight.
"I don't love Jonathan any less because he's not a girl, Edward," Bella said sourly.
"That's not what I'm saying. I'm just saying you'll have a little girl. Doesn't every mother want a little girl?"
"What I want I already have: a happy, healthy beautiful baby boy, who I am about to rob of his formative infant years because I'm-"
"Bella, knock it off, alright? You're not robbing Jonathan of anything. He's going to be just as happy and well cared for as ever. And you're not alone. Our mothers will help us."
"Your mother is probably going to be spending most of her time with Alice."
"Fine. Your mother will help us. Okay?"
But Bella would not be cheered up. She remained in her shroud of guilt for hours, days, weeks and months. Even though her parents laughed, and then rejoiced at the news of their second grandchild, Bella's spirits were not elevated. In fact, the entire extended family, including Alice and Jasper, were very encouraging and supportive of the pregnancy, but that was of no avail to Bella. Despite false attempts at acceptance, tears were her constant companion. She cried when she had to wean Jonathan (though she didn't completely and still nursed him at night), when she moved back into maternity clothes, when her doctor suggested that she didn't carry Jonathan around quite so much and when a bout with swollen ankles required her to stay off her feet four hours a day, every day.
Resentment settled in as Bella watched her mother and Edward help a toddling Jonathan attempt his first steps. Jealousy, and then shame because of it, erupted whenever she watched her son clap his hands against his grandfather's cheeks and then giggle and chortle in delight as Charlie walked them around in the afternoon light.
"So, are you going to start setting up the baby's room or are you going to put the baby in with Jonathan-"
"No!" Bella snapped in answer to her mother's question. "Jonathan has already given up enough. I'm not going to make him give up his room, too."
"Well, then you probably want to start getting the baby's room ready," Renee suggested as she gestured at Bella's near-term belly.
Bella shook her head. "I'm just going to put a bassinet in our room."
"Do you have a bassinet?"
"Mom, I only have a few hours during the day to spend with Jonathan. Then I have to stay off my feet. I'm not going to spend those hours in a store somewhere when I could be with my baby."
Renee looked as if she was going to argue for a moment, but then she thought better of it and simply stated, "We could order something online. I don't really know how to do it, but Esme said she shops online all the time. Maybe she could help us."
Bella shrugged with disinterest and was overjoyed when her mother didn't say another word about the subject.
Actually, her mother didn't say another word to her about the subject, but Bella suspected that she did say something to both Charlie and Edward, because at different intervals throughout the next week they both made rather transparent efforts to spur her into action regarding a yet-unborn Baby Cullen.
"Jonathan's going to be overjoyed to meet his playmate. By the looks of it, it's coming up real soon," Charlie attempted.
Bella merely smoothed down the shirt she called her "tent" and nodded silently, but it was apparent that she was simply acknowledging the statement and not agreeing with what her father had to say.
Edward, more in tune with his wife's pregnancy hormones, was a little more subtle on the subject. One day when he found her on the couch, reading, he sat down next to her and nonchalantly played with his son, basking in the presence of his family and allowing Bella the opportunity to initiate conversation.
Her attention was consumed by the brochure she'd been reading for the Lady Comp natural family planning device that she'd been thinking had been defective.
"Edward, there's a list of the top ten things you're not supposed to do if you don't want to conceive, and we did every single one of them," she spoke up.
"Don't look at me," Edward said. "You told me you read the instructions."
"I did, but I never even saw this 'What Not to Do' section." Bella folded the paper as she looked over at Edward. "Not that I'm complaining. I couldn't be happier with the outcome," she said and smiled at her husband and son.
Taking note of her good mood, Edward slid in a few comments about the pregnancy. He talked about the things from their last trip to the maternity ward that he didn't want to repeat this time.
"I read that subsequent births happen faster each time, so at the first sign of a cramp we should probably get going to the hospital."
Bella's only response was to tickle Jonathan underneath his chin and she smiled when she elicited a giggle from him.
"Bella," Edward touched her arm to get her attention. "Don't shut me out."
"I'm not," Bella insisted.
"You are," Edward insisted right back.
"Edward," Bella hissed in a hushed tone. "I don't want to argue in front of the baby!"
Edward moved Jonathan out of Bella's reach, despite her protests.
"And why would there be an argument? Why can't I have a much-needed conversation with you about the impending birth of our other baby without it turning into a heated discussion?"
Bella was indignant when Edward moved across the room to address her; her bed-ridden condition rendering her helpless to avoid him.
"I don't want to talk about it," she said, turning her eyes away from him.
"Well I do want to talk about it. You're scaring me, Bella."
The earnestness in his voice got her attention then, and she moved her head to look at him. "Nothing's wrong, Edward."
"Yes, something is wrong. Something is very wrong. And frankly, I'm terrified of how you're going to treat our next son or daughter just because he or she came unexpectedly. I'm not going to stand by and let you mistreat my child, Bella."
Bella's eyes immediately filled with tears. "How can you say that to me?" she spat out through clenched teeth. "I would never mistreat a child!"
"You're doing it right now," Edward informed her.
"I am not. I am doing exactly what the doctor said. I'm staying off my feet for the length of time I was told to, I'm not nursing Jonathan, I don't hold him when I'm standing up…"
"But what about the preparations that you're not making for the new baby? What about your refusal to pick names or get another car seat and double stroller? There are things we need to do, Bella, and time is running out."
Bella started to cry, then, talking through her tears as she did so. "I can't believe how insensitive you're being," she told her husband. "I have to stay off my feet four hours a day, change and feed Jonathan, make meals for you, try to keep the house clean, do laundry and spend quality time with you and the baby. And you want me to drive all over Washington looking for car seats and double strollers?"
"We'll hire a housekeeper and you can order online."
"I don't need a housekeeper and I don't feel comfortable buying baby gear sight unseen."
"You don't want to go see it, you don't want to buy it without seeing it…Bella, something's got to give, here. We need to make preparations, and maybe everything won't be as ideal as you want it to be, but this is our life now. We're going to have to do things that we don't want to do simply because our children need us to do them."
Bella again turned away from Edward, irritated that he was basically lecturing her and telling her to grow up.
On the surface, she told herself that he just didn't understand what she was going through, but deep down she knew the truth, which was that he couldn't understand because she was too frightened to confide in him – and even to herself at times, what she was really feeling…what she was really fearing. But was it possible for a mother to have a baby that she didn't love?
Bella wasn't claiming not to love the child, but she had a strong fear that she couldn't or that she wouldn't be able to love him/her as much as she loved Jonathan. But she knew if she said those words out loud, she set in motion the possibility of them becoming true, so she buried them deep down within.
As each day passed and the due date of the baby inched closer, Bella acquiesced more and more responsibility to Edward, her mother and Esme, who were all lovingly trying to spur her into more outward displays of affection toward her unborn.
Even Alice tried to elicit more of an action from Bella in a roundabout way.
"Have you guys chosen a name yet?" Alice asked. "Wouldn't that be horrible if we chose the same name?"
Bella shrugged. "I can think of worse things happening."
Alice shifted uncomfortably beside Bella and tried again. "What names are you thinking of?"
"Well, Edward has been kicking around a few. It's hard to become attached to any before we see the baby," Bella said, though this had not been the case during her first pregnancy. She had fallen in love with the name Jonathan, much like, it seemed, that Alice had fallen in love with a name.
"Oh, that is certainly not the case with me. I had my baby names almost as soon as I found out I was pregnant…before, even."
"That's great, Alice." Bella was distracted by a dull ache she'd been experiencing all afternoon.
Suddenly Alice grabbed her by the arm in a frenzy.
"Oh, Bella! You have to tell me what names you guys are thinking of. You have to. I just know you're going to pick the boy name I want and if I have to choose a different name I just don't know what I'll do. It'll be like my son is going through life with a second-best title, and I don't want that."
Bella laughed at Alice's melodrama. "You could have a girl, you know."
Alice turned and looked behind her before leaning over to confess her secret to her sister-in-law.
"I feel like such a fraud because Jasper and I said that we were going to do what you and Edward did, you know, not find out until the baby comes, but then at the ultrasound appointment the technician accidentally slipped and said that "he was very active and it looked like he was waving at his mama."
"Well, I don't know. Sometimes they can be wrong…I think."
Alice was shaking her head in disagreement even before Bella was able to finish her sentence.
"No, it's a boy. I have the picture to prove it."
"Are you…okay with that?"
"Are you kidding? I just wanted a baby, Bella. Boy or girl doesn't matter. Though, now that I know it's a boy, I couldn't imagine it any other way." Then, remembering the catalyst for the conversation, Alice grasped Bella's arm vigorously. "We want to name him David, Bella. Tell me you aren't planning to name your baby David if it's a boy."
"No, that isn't one of our names. I think Andrew is the top contender for boy names," Bella said. Edward was whittling their list down every day, and David wasn't among the choices.
Alice breathed a sigh of relief. "I thought that since David was Jonathan's best friend in the Bible that you'd automatically pick it and I just love that name."
"Nope, you're safe." Bella didn't have the heart to tell Alice that Edward actually hated the name David, but only because that was the name of a bully that used to terrorize him when he was a little boy.
"Bella?" Alice shifted her head and looked at the weary-looking woman to her right that preceded her in pregnancy by a few weeks. "Are you feeling alright?"
"Yeah, just tired," Bella said as she resituated herself once again in an effort to get comfortable. "Jonathan had a cold a few days ago and he wasn't sleeping well at night. Well, now he's fine but he's gotten used to being awake at two o'clock in the morning and he's keeping me up."
"You need your rest, Bella." Alice parroted back what her doctor had been telling her for the last few months.
"I know, but Edward has to be up when the market opens and since he's trying to get ready to take time off when the baby comes he hasn't been able to help as much during the day," Bella explained. "I can usually hang on until my mother gets here in the late mornings, but today was her day to shop and run errands."
"Well I can take care of Jonathan. You go rest," Alice offered.
"Alice, you should be resting, too," Bella smiled. "But in all honesty, I couldn't rest even if I wanted to. I haven't been able to get comfortable all day."
"I feel like all I've been doing is resting. Jasper won't let me do anything, which is kind of nice when he's at home with me, but when he stays at the vineyard training your dad, I get bored and lonely," Alice added. "You know how I hate to be alone."
Charlie had been working at the vineyard during an unusually busy season and Jasper was all too happy to act as trainer, but an extra set of hands wasn't all that Charlie was supplying, a fact that Bella wasn't sure Alice was aware of.
One night when Edward and Bella had had their parents over for dinner, Bella had overheard a conversation between Carlisle and her father in which they were discussing Jasper's continued employment at the vineyard.
"It can't be Emmett or Esme," Carlisle had said in a hushed tone. "It wouldn't work. Esme and I need to be his parents and Emmett needs to be his brother."
"No, I understand that. Well, whatever you need, you know I'll help out."
"Of course I'd pay you-"
"Now don't start all that."
"Charlie, it's a job and though I don't know how long the job will last, I'm not going to let you work for free."
Yet from what Bella heard, it was more than a job overseeing shipping and receiving for the vineyard – it was an accountability partner for Jasper. With Charlie there to keep an eye on things, Jasper would be less likely to be tempted to slip into old habits, even though he was working in a different capacity. Charlie's presence would also maintain the young man's dignity to not have his father, mother or brother peering over his shoulder.
"Well you're welcome to hang out here with me. I'm just going to start dinner," Bella said as she moved to maneuver off the couch.
Bella had been ignoring her slight aches and cramps of discomfort all afternoon, simply because she knew what contractions felt like and she was sure she wasn't having them. But as soon as she managed to get on her feet and stand upright, her water broke.
Alice, who had heard the patter of water against the hardwood floor, began to panic. Her voice elevated and her frantic movements frightened Jonathan, who had been sitting at Bella's feet. Edward came out of his office when he heard his son's incessant cries, only to find Bella trying to calm Alice down.
"Is Alice okay?" Edward asked as he scooped up Jonathan.
"S-she's having the baby," Alice pointed at Bella.
Bella shook her head at Edward. "My water broke, that's all. We have time."
But in this instance, Alice was correct.
Suddenly Bella began to feel several different sensations at once, and they all came quickly. Her abdomen hardened, but as soon as she recognized the contraction, a fierce pressure gripped her between her legs and she felt a sudden urge to push.
"Edward!" she called out. "We need to go now."
Alice grabbed Jonathan from Edward and went to the phone to call necessary family members. As she spoke rapidly to Carlisle, Bella's insistence, over and over, that something just didn't seem right was heard and Carlisle made the snap decision to rush straight to Edward and Bella's home instead of meeting them at the hospital. His instinct was providence because Edward and Bella never made it to the hospital that afternoon.
Much is to be said of the marvels of medicine and the sterility and safety of hospitals, but they need not be said in the case of Andrew Masen Cullen, who was delivered by his grandfather, Carlisle, safely at home, atop the sheet from his parents' bed on a cold and rainy September afternoon.
The fear and uncertainty that Bella had faced at the feat of having a home birth had aligned her goals with that of her unborn – to make it through. As soon as she held her son in her arms, the cloud of anxiety, resentment and ignorance that she'd been dwelling under melted away. She leaned down, kissed the top of her baby's head and wept – lamenting woeful apologies to him as she held him close to her bosom.
It was in this condition that Edward found them as he crept into the darkened bedroom bringing Jonathan to meet his new brother. He sat silently as he watched the display, knowing how desperately it needed to happen and when, two hours later, Bella offered Edward a similar apology, he readily accepted it, kissed her soundly and professed his steadfast love for her.
As Bella looked between her two sons, she wondered at how she ever felt threatened for their distinctiveness. Andrew seemingly came into the world with no other mission than to announce his individuality apart from bearing a birth date so near his brother's. It was as if he knew his mother's internal turmoil and therefore let her know immediately that she had nothing to worry about. She would be able to love them both, unconditionally and separately; their lives would bleed over, but not blend and blur together.
And of course, this was most definitely the case.
Where Jonathan was fair with ample, rosy cheeks and dark features, Andrew was lean and uncharacteristically chiseled for a baby. His hair and eyes mirrored those of his father, but his temperament was entirely unique.
Quirky was how the entire Cullen clan would grow to describe Andrew, for unlike all of the other grandchildren, he had an almost endless set of preferences that he insisted upon living by. For example, he preferred the bottle to being breastfed, and after a tireless struggle to get him to nurse, Bella admitted defeat and let him have the bottle. He liked to move his head around and watch his surroundings while he was eating, something he couldn't do while attached to his mother.
He also had a strange fascination with his left foot. Whenever he was dressed in anything that covered his feet, he would find a way to get his left foot uncovered. This trend went on well past Andrew's second birthday, but by then there were so many things about him that were "just Andrew" as his family grew accustomed to saying, that they hardly noticed anymore.
One thing that people – everyone – did notice, however, was Andrew's beauty. It was strange and almost other-worldly and save for the ever present scowl on his face, he wouldn't have even looked real to onlookers.
Jonathan, by contrast, was cherubic in his looks, very quiet, dutiful and mechanical. He'd spend hours with his Grandpa Charlie by the pond fishing, feeding the swans and the ducks that had joined them or sitting in the kitchen with Nana Esme eating the dough as she made chocolate chip cookies. He preferred the company of adults, though he got along well with his older cousins.
Jonathan was extremely protective of his younger brother and they played well together until Andrew would cross the line or irritate his brother with his rash behavior and fiery temper. The two boys policed themselves well, but every so often Edward would have to step in and be the disciplinarian, a job that proved harder than he'd ever expected.
"I can't spank Jonathan," he confessed to his wife one night when they were alone in their bedroom. "His eyes…it's like his heart is broken over the fact that whatever he's done has come to being spanked."
"Maybe he doesn't need to be spanked," Bella said. She knew exactly what her husband spoke of, though admittedly she felt unable to spank either of her children.
Yet there was no argument that Andrew definitely benefited from the few spankings he'd received; nothing else seemed to work with that child.
"That one is going to turn your hair gray," Charlie always said of Andrew when he'd return the boys to their parents after a few hours together.
But aside from the difficulties, Andrew kept his parents laughing with his quick wit and the interesting way he saw the world around him. And despite the meaning of his name, David was quite attached to Andrew and the two cousins would spend hours together running around in their grandparents' back yard, racing up and down stairs and tormenting their female cousins the best way they knew how.
Edward and Bella took well to parenthood and enjoyed their children immensely, but they recognized the hard work and limitations involved. As the children grew older, Edward felt guilty about requiring the boys to tiptoe around their own home so he decided to move his business out of the house once again. It just wasn't prudent to attempt to conduct a professional operation around so much commotion.
However, the house did quiet down a bit when Bella began preparing her children to be homeschooled when they showed the aptitude and ability for learning. The upstairs "classroom" was turned into the boys' very own laboratory of life as their mother enriched their father's teachings of the Cannabean Way and allowed them to foster ideas, grow and experience anything their minds could cook up.
It was a happy time for the Cullens and Edward and Bella, who'd become very adept users of the LadyComp device, didn't feel the stirrings of baby hunger until Andrew was three years old.
And shortly thereafter, Rachel Marie Cullen was born.
She was her mother's shadow and her father's princess and a welcome reprieve from the tornado of testosterone that were her brothers.
"You know what?" Edward began as he and Bella stood on their back deck one late summer afternoon and watched Rachel try to keep up with her brothers as they kicked a ball around in the back yard.
"What?" Bella could tell he was about to be sentimental from the tone in his voice and she moved closer and wrapped her arms around his waist.
"Levi Turnage had the nerve to say that maybe his son and Rachel will be betrothed one day. Can you believe that?"
Bella laughed at Edward's indignation. "I'm sure he was only joking, honey."
"I don't like the fact that he even had that thought. She's just a baby," he said of their three-year-old, brown haired, green-eyed beauty.
"He didn't mean anything by it. And besides, didn't you once say that Andrew and Lucy McGivney would make a good match?"
"I only meant that her personality could handle his. I didn't mean anything romantic by it and I certainly wouldn't go tell Tom McGivney about it."
Edward looked down and gave his wife that corkscrew grin she loved so much as he recognized his hypocrisy.
"That's my baby girl," he said, "and I don't want to think about some guy swooping in… and what kind of name is Turnage anyway?" Edward harrumphed.
"What's funny?" Edward asked.
"Nothing. I just remember hearing my dad say things like that when I was little. I never thought he was going to let me get married," Bella explained as she looked up to smile at her husband.
"Well I'll lead the processional of every Cullen who is very…very…very happy he did." Edward punctuated each 'very' with a kiss for his sweet wife.
They broke their caress and leaned into each other as they watched the carefree antics of their children playing in the grass. In unison, a sigh escaped them both, each of them resting in the moment and reveling in its gift of peace. For as they stood together and saw the embodiment of their love, they felt strength being cultivated and a foundation being built for the days in which all they would have would be love to get them through.
And just like now, it would be enough.