CHAPTER NINETY-SEVEN

EDWARD'S POV:

I went to bed with my phone on its highest volume setting. I didn't want to miss anything from Bella with her being so far away from me. So, when a text came in around 7 am my time, I was pulled from my sleep immediately. I knew the baby had been born, and that Bella was sharing the news with me. I quickly grabbed my phone to see what Bella had sent, and I felt my breath catch in my throat at the image before my eyes.

Sure, as a doctor, I was drawn to certain characteristics of the newborn. His head was slightly cone-shaped, but that was common with a vaginal birth. It will reshape as the swelling goes down in the next couple of days. His skin was a bright red, almost the same color Bella's checks get when I tease her. But that too will fade as time goes on. Just like his blue hands and feet will change colors as the blood flows continuously throughout his body. It was clear that the doctors did a quick clean of him after his birth because there were still traces of the white amniotic fluid on him. All of these things used to make me question what the big appeal was for newborns—they looked sort of like wrinkly aliens that needed time to grow into their bodies.

But this time I wasn't seeing an alien creature. Instead, I was drawn to the look of absolute joy on Bella's face. Her eyes held tears of happiness as she cradled the newborn to her for the posed picture. She looked so natural holding something so small and so fragile. The image—it just looked so…right. Bella was meant to have children. After studying the picture for awhile longer, I noticed the text below the image.

Meet Colin Brady Cheney. 7 pounds, 8 ounces. Parents doing great. Please introduce him to Tony later. I promised him pictures. More to come later. Goodnight. –Bella

Doing the time conversion in my head, I figured that Bella was going to sleep well after all that traveling, and the long birth. I hope she listens to her body and doesn't rush right back to the hospital later. I chuckled to myself, remembering who I was talking about. Bella will be back at the hospital in no time. And if she didn't set an alarm, I'm sure Tony's good morning call will rouse her from her sleep. Hopefully she'll get some real rest later on the plane ride back.

If she is coming back today. She might want to stay and bond with the baby, my inner psyche taunted. I knew she promised she was going to return to me, us; but not everyone had the same interpretation when it came to a short trip. One day could be equivalent to three days for another. I truly hope she wasn't planning on staying that long, but I had tickets on stand by for the next two days just in case her travel plans changed.

With a sigh, I got out of bed and began preparing myself for work. Thirty minutes later, I was in the kitchen heating up my first of many cups of coffee when I heard a knock at my front door. Thankfully, Rosalie was able to get to my place early enough so that I didn't have to disrupt Tony's sleep schedule to drive him to her.

"Thanks again for doing this Rose. I really appreciate it," I told her when I went to let her in.

"It's nothing. I'm due for some Tony time. And I can rub it in Emmett's face that he missed out on the fun we're going to have."

My brother and her have such a weird relationship. Who else would get off on the fact that their husband would be upset about something? But that's Rosalie for you.

"I should be done around 5:30-6. Let me know where you're at, and I'll swing by for him."

"That's fine. Do you want us to wait on you for dinner?" she asked.

Running a hand through my hair, I answered, "Yeah—we can all get something together, but I'd like to be there at least. Especially if I'm not sure if Bella will be back yet. Tony needs that stability."

"Have you heard from her?"

"Yeah, about 5 am their time. Here," I handed her my phone so she could see the message herself.

"Oh, my word! How precious," Rosalie cooed, bringing the screen close to her face so she could take in every detail. Finally, she turned her attention back to me, "Bella's glowing in this picture. Something you'd like to share with the rest of the class? Did you guys have time to kiss and make up before she left?" she taunted.

"You know we're taking things slow," I told her, not wanting to fully answer her question.

"And sex can be both fast and hard, and slow and sensual. I could see Bella more into the latter," Rosalie said with a shrug, as if we were discussing something mundane like the weather.

"I don't think that is any of your business," I snipped, heading to put my empty cup in the sink.

"Okay mister cranky. I'd take that as a no, you still haven't gotten some. You poor thing. So that glow isn't because you knocked her up then. That's just new baby joy. You've gotta be careful, though—I heard its catching."

"Rosalie, while you nosing around in my business is such a pleasure, can we just drop it for now? I've got to get to work," I groused out. I know that I asked her here as a favor, so I really couldn't afford to bite her head off. Hopefully, she wouldn't take too much offense to my use of sarcasm.

Holding up her hands in surrender, Rosalie replied, "I didn't mean anything by it. Usually, you can handle my brashness. What's got your panties all in a twist?"

"Nothing. I'm sorry for being snappy. I didn't sleep well," I lied.

"Sure, and I'm the Queen of England. What else is wrong? Did Tony give you a hard time in her absence?"

"No, he was fine. He really enjoyed sleeping over. I guess I'm just a bit out of sorts with her being gone. I don't like it—it just feels wrong," I tried to explain, without going into too much detail. But I should have known better. Rosalie wasn't going to let up.

"She's coming back Edward. This isn't some long distanced relationship. Isn't she coming home tonight?"

"Supposedly," I mumbled, but apparently, I wasn't quite enough.

"Ahh. Okay. Now I get it. Her leaving you behind and going to Forks is like deja vu to you. But Edward, things aren't the same as they were five years ago. She has reasons to come back this time," she tried to reassure me.

"I know that. But deep down, my inner voice is messing with me. This past month, things have been going so well. We were getting along. She was finally open to more with me. And then we had that fight. And while we hashed everything out like adults, she left before I could see if everything was truly better. Just ignore me. I know I'm being insecure about this."

"Everyone has doubts Edward. You are entitled to your own. And I can understand why you are feeling unsettled. I'm sorry for pushing your buttons. You definitely didn't need it this morning. But you don't have to keep all of these things bottled up. Talk to your head-shrinking best friend. Or if you think you could handle my bluntness, there's always me. I've been pretty good when it comes to giving advice—just ask Bella. She seems to be coming to me more lately."

"Never thought I'd see the day when you two get along," I said.

"I think it helps that we're both outsiders here. You Cullens can be a tad bit daunting," she replied, flipping her long hair over her shoulder in dramatic fashion.

"Rosalie, you're a Cullen too," I reminded her.

"Yeah, by marriage. I wasn't born into all your doctrines and beliefs. I too had to get used to things. And I think because of that I can understand Bella's feelings easier, because I once could relate."

"You make it sound like we're some cult," I huffed. "We can't be that bad if you accepted us, and are still here."

Rosalie laughed at me, "It's not that bad. I'm just trying to say that I can understand more of what Bella is experiencing than Alice, or even you. That's not a bad thing. Truthfully, I think this is the start of a great friendship, Bella and I. And you know I don't make friends easily."

Looking at the clock, I saw that I really needed to go. "I'm glad you're getting along. I know I have you to thank for talking her down yesterday—so thank you. Now Tony—have fun with him today. He's asleep still, back in my room. I'm sure he'll be up soon. I told him he could call Bella this morning since he couldn't talk to her before bed. Try to postpone that call so she actually gets some sleep in, if you can. And call me if there are any problems." I made my way back to my room to give Tony a goodbye kiss. As I was heading out, I remembered Bella's request. "Rosalie, if I send you that picture, can you introduce him to Tony? Bella promised him pictures, and you know how important keeping promises are to kids."

"Sure. I'd never turn down baby pictures. I'll send it to Alice too, since I'm sure she's waiting for an update."

"Thanks Rosalie. I'll see you guys later." I was out the door, and on my way to distract myself with work.


Work wasn't my best. I was deemed useless yesterday before Bella and I had our talk. They sent me home early then, which I greatly appreciated since it gave us the time we needed to hash everything out before she was called away. But today wasn't proving any better. I tried to shake off the strange looks I was getting from my colleagues. Very rarely do I get frazzled, yet here I was, proving I was a human just like everybody else. When I did have a break between patients, I holed up in my office, and checked in with Bella.

Did you get any sleep in before you went back to the hospital? —Edward

I got a good three hours in before I got a good morning call from Tony. Sounds like you guys had a fun night. —Bella

Thinking about our sleepover brought a smile to my face.

He asked way too many questions about babies and where they come from. I hope I didn't take things too far. —Edward

How far is too far? —Bella

I didn't get into the mechanics of sex, if that is what you're worried about. I just said that it takes a Mom and a Dad's love to make a baby. He tried to get me to elaborate, but I distracted him with something else. —Edward

I doubt that will be the last of the conversation. Be prepared for follow-up questions. —Bella

I'm starting to think that kids have a question quota they've got to hit each and every day. How do you not get frustrated with the inquisitiveness? —Edward

There are days when all I can give him is the bare minimum of yes and no. But I appreciate his desire to learn. That might just be the teacher in me though. Maybe ask Alice? She might feel differently. —Bella

I think its cute, for the most part. But sometimes I just want to be like, enough already. I figured it was just because I needed more practice to build a tolerance. —Edward

Just takes some getting used to. Parents wear many hats. You're a caregiver, teacher, life coach, maid, personal shopper, chef, chauffeur, playmate, etc. It's a big job. And you're a rookie. You'll get to the majors eventually. —Bella

Did you really just use a sport metaphor Bella? Is this even Bella? —Edward

I get the general idea of most sports. It doesn't mean I want to waste a day watching them. And yes, it's Bella. I wouldn't miss up on a chance to talk to you. —Bella

I was glad that she felt the same way about trying to maintain our closeness despite the distance.

How are things on your end? Angela doing okay? —Edward

She's not so good this morning. She's bleeding pretty heavily still. Doctors are concerned it could be a postpartum hemorrhage due to a tear in the uterus. But she also has a bit of a fever, so that could point to a retained placenta. —Bella

Shit. This wasn't good. If Angela was sick and needed medical attention, there was no way Bella was coming home today.

That's not good. Didn't they check placenta after she delivered it? —Edward

I was tending the baby at that point while Ben assisted Angela. He did say it came out in parts, so its possible they missed something. I don't know. I'm worried. —Bella

Not wanting to flat out ask her what her plans were, I decided to ask in a roundabout way.

What are the doctors planning on doing? Time frame? —Edward

They are going to try to rule out the tear first by doing an ultrasound. If it's the placenta, they said they would start with massage and breastfeeding in hopes to get the uterus to contract and push the remaining placenta out. If that doesn't work, then I believe he said medicine next. —Bella

Okay. Keep me updated. Is the baby okay? —Edward

He's precious. Sneezing up a storm. I forgot babies did that. —Bella

A lot of new smells he's not acquainted with. Plus, it's a way to get out any lingering amniotic fluid that might have been left behind. —Edward

It's just cute how his whole face scrunches up as he prepares to let a sneeze go. He's already starting to figure out his reflexes. Its funny watching Angela freak out about his spastic movements. I guess that's the difference between being a first-time mom, and being someone who's already been through it. I know he isn't seizing; she doesn't. –Bella

I'm sure the extra hormones still in her body isn't helping her not fret. That'll come with time. —Edward.

I heard my name being paged over the intercom, alerting me that my break was over.

Back to work for me. Let me know about Angela. Talk to you later, beautiful. –Edward

Xoxoxo—Bella


I was able to get my focus back under control for the rest of the work day, however my mood had certainly soured. The staff let me be. I don't think anyone wanted to get on my bad side. I had only been able to send a few random messages with Bella the rest of the day, but it seemed that the doctors were still working to figure out why she was hemorrhaging. When I was finally off the clock, I checked in with Rosalie to find that they were ready for dinner. I met them downtown at Cheesie's Pub & Grub. I hadn't heard of the place, but Rosalie said Tony would love it.

Rosalie was correct. The entire menu was centered around the grilled cheese sandwich. They had everything from a classic gooey cheese sandwich, to incorporating comfort food like chicken fingers, tater tots, and BBQ between two pieces of bread and smothered cheese. There definitely was something for everyone. Even a challenge for Emmett. If he could eat their 8-pound sandwich consisting of five layers of different grilled cheese varieties in sixty minutes, he'd get his picture on the wall, a free t-shirt, as well as a cash prize. Watching Tony's awed face as his uncle packed away that sandwich was certainly a highlight. He cheered his uncle on, which only fueled Emmett's ego. He loves to perform, and he certainly wasn't going to let this sandwich monstrosity take him down. I took plenty of pictures to show Bella, both Emmett's stuffed face, and Tony's amusement.

Dinner had brightened my mood up a bit, but I guess I still wasn't hiding my sourpuss well enough. Emmett had Tony on his shoulders, crowing to all in the vicinity about his win. While they were busy, Rosalie cornered me.

"What's wrong? You're worse off then you were this morning," she pointed out.

"Angela had some complications. I don't think Bella is making it back tonight. Or tomorrow."

"What kind of complications?" she asked me. I quickly filled her in, keeping my voice down as I didn't want to disrupt our fellow diners' meals. "Yikes. That sucks. Poor Angela."

"Yeah. It'll be better once they get a clear idea of what is actually wrong. Until then, they are just doing the waiting game. And I guess we'll be waiting too to see when they'll be coming home."

"I'm sorry Edward. At least she's keeping you informed though. Could you imagine sitting here, thinking she was on her way home, only to be disappointed later?" she tried to make me feel better.

"I'm still disappointed. I don't like this absence."

"I know that, Edward. But it's not like she's purposely staying away from you. Angela is pretty much the only family she has left. Bella isn't going to leave her high and dry when she probably is scared and needs her best friend most. That just isn't who Bella is. But I'm sure she is feeling this separation just as much as you are."

"Maybe."

"No, not maybe. You told me yourself that you guys are all in now. She is going to want to be with you just the same as you are. It's the joys of being in that honeymoon stage. Although, it sounds like you guys still have a way to go before you actually get to the celebrating part. But it's the newness and giddiness that makes things exciting. She's not going to want to be away from you or Tony for too long."

"I'll just feel better when I know she's on her way back."

"As will Tony. I know you're in a bad mood, but Tony is going to pick up on that if you don't cut it out. I would hate for him to think that it has to do with him. Don't make him feel bad just because you are missing his Mom."

"I'd never take it out on him," I decreed.

"Not anymore. Mean Edward, maybe. But according to Tony, Mean Edward hasn't made an appearance since Forks. And I think we'd all like it to stay that way."

"I'm not going to take it out on him. It's not his fault."

"I don't think you will either. I'm just saying that even though you're staying quiet, the anger is pouring out of you. It's kind of hard to miss. I just don't want to confuse him, or have him think he did something wrong. That's my two cents."

Our conversation was cut short when an excited Tony ran up to us. "Daddy! Emmett says that we need to celebrate. Can we go get ice cream? Please? I was good today, right Miss Rosie?"

Rosalie was quick to confirm, "He was very good today. He was my little helper. I might have to hire him at the garage."

"Daddy, the garage was so cool. And Miss Rosie has so many tools. I didn't know that cars need that many tools. And you can get really dirty there. But I cleaned up with soap and water, see," he said, holding up his hands for me to inspect. "So, can we go get ice cream now?"

"I didn't think Emmett would have any room left for food after eating that big sandwich. Are you sure this was his idea, or yours?" I asked him with a smile on my face.

"Oh, it was my idea brother. You know I'm a bottomless pit. Ice cream truthfully sounds refreshing after all that heavy cheese I just consumed." Leaning closer to me, Emmett added in a whisper, "And it's keeping his mind off his Mom, so that's a plus too, ya know?"

Looking at Tony, I saw that he had his hands clasped together in a begging stance. Emmett was right—we could all do with some more distractions. "Sure buddy. Let me just settle up here, and then we'll find some ice cream."

"No can-do Edward. I'm taking care of tonight's bill. Mine was free since I won, so this will be my treat," my brother said, before heading off to track down our waiter. His shadow, Tony, following behind him.

"Do you want us to take him tonight? Give you time to just deal with your shit? Maybe hit up Jasper?"

I thought about Rosalie's offer. A conversation with Jasper would probably be beneficial, but I also didn't want to abandon Tony with his mother still being M.I.A.

As if she sensed my hesitancy, she reassured me. "Tony would be fine. I'm sure if you explain to him about Angela having a boo-boo, and that Mommy was helping her, he would be okay with her extended absence. I guess the real question is—does having him help smooth the loss you're feeling with her being gone?"

"Why don't we wait and see. If I get the sense he needs the reassurance, he'll come home with me. I could always call Jasper after he's in bed too."

"Sounds good to me. Personally, I'd welcome Tony with open arms tonight. After eating all that cheese, Emmett is going to be lethal. I'd do anything to get away from that gassy time-bomb. Though I'm sure Tony would get a kick out of it. What is it with boys and farts that just make you all crack up?" she asked, clearly trying to lighten the heavy atmosphere.

"Not all of us. You're the one who married the immature beast. Sad, he shares the mentality of a child though—no wonder him and Tony get on so well," I jested back.

"Yeah. I think Emmett wants to be Tony's best friend. However, that role currently belongs to Sophia. I guess Emmett will just have to learn to share."

"He's thirty-two years old. If he hasn't learned that lesson yet, I don't think there is much hope left."

"That is what I'm afraid of," Rosalie sighed, but her smiling face showed that she was just messing around.

"Okay, we are all set babe, and Emo-ward. Time for some ice cream." Emmett asked.

"I want mint chocolate chip! I like the green kind. But I also like cookie and cream," Tony piped up, wanting to be involved in the conversation.

"I can get one, and you can get the other, and we can share just like we did with the doughnuts. How does that sound, buddy?" I asked him.

"That is perfect," he exclaimed, pleased I was going along with what he most likely wanted to happen anyways.

We ended up walking around a bit before we came across a small ice cream place. I think the walking around helped settle everyone's stomachs, ensuring we all would have room for our treat. While Rosalie was placing our orders at the counter, I checked in once more with Bella.

Went to a grilled cheese place for dinner. Had a massive eating challenge that Emmett couldn't say no to. Tony cheered him on. –Edward

I attached three photos: one of Emmett in front of the huge sandwich, one of Tony jumping up and down cheering his Uncle on, and one of Tony on Emmett's shoulder wearing the prized t-shirt.

Looks like you guys are having fun. I can't believe Emmett ate that, and finished it! My stomach hurts just thinking about it. —Bella

Speaking of hurt stomachs…how is Angela doing? Do the doctors have a prognosis yet? —Edward

Was the placenta. They administered the medication to help her body think it still needed to labor and push whatever was remaining out. Two small pieces materialized. Doctors are being extra cautious to make sure nothing else is remaining. But they believe that this should help minimize the bleeding, and hope her fever will break by this evening.—Bella

I'm glad they figured everything out. –Edward

Me too. I'm relieved that she's finally on the mend. —Bella

I wanted to ask her if she planned on coming back tomorrow, but I was worried that would seem insensitive.

Want to talk to Tony before bed? Or sooner? We're just getting ice cream now. —Edward

Call after ice cream? Bored in waiting room. Need a pick me up. —Bella

Will do. Talk to you soon. XoXo—Edward

Tony enjoyed his ice cream—but helped himself to a bit of everyone else's. I'm starting to think he might grow up to be a bottomless pit too, just like his Uncle. I decided that I wanted to keep Tony to myself this evening, so I thanked Rosalie for her offer, but declined. I think she anticipated that response from me because she didn't seem surprised. We said our goodbyes, and headed out. Once we made it to the car, I set Tony up to call his mother, and put the phone on speakerphone so I could chime in. He spent the entire ride home telling her all about his day with Rosalie, and in return, Bella told him about little Colin. Angela even got on the line to talk to Tony and answer a few of his invasive questions. I give her major props for humoring the kid. You could tell she was still suffering, but she pushed that pain aside to soothe a boy's homesickness. Things were going fine until Bella got back on the line, and Tony asked the dreaded question.

"Are you on your way home now, Mommy?"

"Not tonight. Tonight, you're going to have another sleepover with Edward!"

Tony's face fell when he heard his mother's reply. I would have taken it personally, but I knew he didn't even register the second half of what his mother said. "Why not? I thought this was a short trip, like I did with Daddy? This doesn't feel short."

"I know sweetie. But Angela got sick. Mommy had to stay a little longer. The doctors think she's getting better. Mommy should be home tomorrow, okay?"

"Do you promise you'll be back tomorrow?" Tony asked. I personally would have liked her to promise him, but I knew that wasn't something she could guarantee, so I deflected for her.

"I'm excited because we get to have another boy's sleepover. No girls allowed!" I shouted, hoping to entice him.

"Another sleepover? That is so cool!" Tony exclaimed. Crisis adverted.

"Sorry Bella—Mommies can't come to boy sleepovers. But we'll do something fun as a family when you get back. Maybe another adventure day, okay?" I said, making it seem like Bella being away was a gender thing, and not because she was still on the other side of the country.

"I guess. I miss my boys though. Make sure you save some time for me. When I get back."

"I'm sure that can be arranged. Okay, we're pulling up to the condo now, so say goodnight, Tony. Time for the sleepover to commence."

"What's -mence mean?" he asked, looking at me like I was speaking a foreign language.

"Its just a fancy word for begin. It's now the start of our super fun time," I explained.

"Okay. Gotta go Mommy! I love you. And I miss you. And I have lots of kisses saved up to give you."

"Looking forward to those kisses," Bella told Tony.

I mumbled a "Me too," under my breath, before adding, "Goodnight Bella. Text you later."

"Bye boys!"


We didn't get very far with our sleepover. I don't now if Tony was just overly excited after his day spent with his Aunt but halfway through Toy Story, he fell asleep. I helped him back to my room, and got him into bed. I'm glad I learned from Bella to have him get ready before the movie started because dressing him in pajamas while he was comatose would have been a task.

Just as I was getting him settled, my phone vibrated. I quickly whipped it out, thinking it was Bella, only to see that it was just an alert that someone had used my code to get into the building. So, I was having a visitor? I'll admit, my hopes were raised, thinking it might be Bella here to surprise me (well, us) again, but I dismissed that. We had just talked to her on the phone an hour ago—she couldn't have taken that call if she was in the air. I made my way to the door to see who my guest was.

There was the head-shrinker himself. I guess Rosalie gave him a call, because I hadn't spoken to him like she suggested. I raised my eyebrow at him, waiting for him to show his cards.

"I was told you might need to work a few things out. If that's incorrect, kill the messenger. You can't kill me, as I've come bearing gifts. Craft beer is the magic cure-all," he said, showing the six pack in his hand.

"I'm not getting drunk with my son asleep in the back," I told him, but let him in anyways.

"No one said anything about getting drunk. I have work tomorrow, so I wasn't planning on drowning away the sorrows. Maybe just loosen the tap on those emotions. You think you can do that?" he asked, placing the beer on my coffee table.

"I suppose," I told him, plopping down in my easy boy recliner, and helping myself to a bottle.

"So, what's going on? Last I talked to you, you were worried about Bella blowing you off for lunch," Jasper started us off.

"She found out I was paying all her rehab bills. You know how she is with money—so that definitely didn't go over well."

"And I'm guessing the crux of the problem was you didn't ask if you could take care of her bills?" he inquired, taking a long pull from his beer.

"Ding. Ding. Ding." I said, to show he was spot on.

"Are you guys still fighting?"

"Nah man. We actually talked about it. She said that we need to be upfront with each other. She doesn't want me paying all of her bills, but she's willing to let me include her on my insurance. She also said she'd be willing to let me pay for things that insurance doesn't cover—but I can't just assume I'm paying them. Everything needs to be talked over."

"How'd you get her on your insurance?" he asked me. Of course, he picked up on that.

"I might have told my carrier she was my fiancé. More or less," I shrugged.

"Jumping the gun there a bit, Edward?"

"It was really an honest mistake that I didn't correct. When I called to add Tony to my plan, and I explained about his mother, I called her my partner. I didn't know how to get into the whole co-parenting thing. The lady assumed partner meant we were on our way to be married, and started referring to her as my fiancé. I just didn't correct her."

"Smooth Edward. Just hope that doesn't backfire on you. And Bella was okay with that explanation?"

"She wasn't thrilled, but she showed she was at least willing to compromise. By being on my plan, her bills will be significantly less. I'll take what I can get."

"Okay. It sound like you guys resolved things. What's the issue then?"

"We barely fixed that problem before she had to go to Forks. I don't like being this far away from her. And then of course it couldn't be an easy birth—so she's stuck there being the martyr that she is tending to her friend."

"She's coming back. And that fact that she left Tony behind on this trip shows huge strides. She's definitely more comfortable with you," Jasper justified.

"Rationally, I know that she's coming back. But this is just not sitting right with me, her being so far away."

"Why Edward?"

"I don't know Jasper. You're the psychologist. You tell me!" I snarked back at him.

"Do you really want me to? Because I can do this with you Edward. Or am I here as your friend? What do you need right now?"

"I just want to stop feeling like I've been abandoned. So do your worst," I told him, before taking another pull from my beer.

"Well, that right there. That's leading me to believe that you are experiencing a mild case of PTSD from the last time Bella boarded a plane away from you."

"PTSD? I don't think I'd equate this as that traumatic," I said, giving him a condescending look.

"You don't? Think about your life for that last five years Edward. Has it changed or evolved any since Bella left? Besides work promotions—what have you done to better yourself?" He paused, waiting for me to do as he asked. I wasn't really seeing the point he was making, so I kept quiet. "If you really think about it, you have been stuck in a rut Edward. Subconsciously, you've been waiting for Bella to come back and pick back up where you left off, which is why you haven't changed anything."

"I'm a creature of comfort. The blame can't be placed all on her leaving," I retorted.

"No one is blaming anyone here. I'm just making observations. One of the main symptoms of PTSD is persistent avoidance, and emotional numbing. By 'pretending' your life hadn't changed, you ignored the elephant in the room that Bella wasn't there. You didn't talk about Bella, or think about Bella—you focused on work and family. By avoiding the issue, you never had to deal with her leaving. In some ways, that is also why you never were open to pursue anyone else. You were still linked to Bella."

"How can you be linked to someone who isn't even there? You're making me sound crazier than I already feel," I bellyached.

"I'm not saying you still thought or pretended a relationship existed. I'm saying that since you couldn't accept the fact that she left you, you cut off any need for someone to take her place. You closed yourself off."

"And is that where the emotional numbing comes in?" I asked, wondering what he'd have to say about that.

"You are not the best when it comes to expressing feelings. You are quick to react—and often, you don't take the time to look beyond the actions to explore what your feelings are really telling you. I think this situation is a perfect example of that. Five years ago, Bella broke up with you, and left on a plane. At first, you weren't sure how serious she was, so you gave it time. But weeks, turned into months. Months into years. She left you behind. Now we are aware of the real reason for that—however, before learning that reason, you had plenty of other ideals to explain why she left. She didn't love you enough. She met someone else, etc."

"Yeah, yeah. I was there. I know what I thought," I said, wanting him to hurry along and get to his point.

"So here you are, your relationship starting back up again, and bam! She's boarding a plane to fly away from you. You are dealing with the emotions you never handled back then presently. Even though she has every intention of coming back, you don't trust her. You are worried that history will repeat itself. You don't think that you are reason enough for her to return home."

"This trip just came at the wrong time. We were making strides in the right direction. It's just the timing that has me antsy," I tried to rationalize.

"You would have reacted the same way five months from now. A year from now. Time has nothing to do with it if you continue to ignore the unsettled issues you all have."

"But we talked about our separation. She apologized for taking the decision out of my hands, and basing things on a hypothetical conversation. We're moving forward—what's unsettled?"

"Have you told her you love her?" he asked flat out.

I stiffened, first in surprise that he went there, then in guilt because he was right.

With a sigh, I confessed, "I almost told her yesterday—twice. Once before boarding the plane. And again, when she said home wasn't a place, but a feeling. She said Tony and I were her home because we made her complete. But I chickened out. I didn't think with her leaving, now was the right time."

"Is there really a right time to say I love you to the person who owns your heart?" he queried. "Do you think something else is keeping you from saying those words? I know you've alluded to them with her. You've told her she's always been the one. It's easy to infer it—and yet you can't quite get there."

"You think I'm scared to tell her I love her?" I asked.

"I think that while you are 'all in', as you state, you are hesitant to get hurt again. Which is again why this trip is such a big deal. Bella leaving has the potential to hurt you. Saying I love you, and not having her reciprocate has the potential to hurt you. You're protecting yourself—which is just proving you guys still have a lot of laundry to air out in this relationship."

"What else is there to air out? I know about Tony. She knows I want to be a family, and have the three of us together. What do you think is unsettled between us?"

Jasper got up from his seat, and pulled his phone out of his pocket. He tapped the screen two or three times, before flipping it around to show me a picture. Not just any picture, but the picture of Bella and Angela's baby.

"Have you guys discussed the very thing that caused you to break up in the first place? Have you talked about kids?" Jasper probed.

"What's there to talk about? Tony is here. While I admit, he was a bit of a surprise, I truly do love him. He's the catalysis that brought me back to Bella—how could I not love him?"

"I'm not doubting your love for Tony. I'm asking have you discussed the future, and the potential of more kids. From this picture, I would venture a guess that Bella isn't done. The question is—where do you stand? Is it the same as it was five years ago? Because if that is the case, your differences of opinion are going to tear you guys apart."

"Why does everything have to come back to babies?" I screeched, throwing my hands up in frustration.

"Shhhh! Don't forget, Tony is asleep back there." We waited a moment to see if we heard any movement in the bedroom. When Jasper deemed the coast was clear, he continued. "I'm not saying everything is about babies. I'm just saying that part of the reason you are as troubled as you say you are is because in some ways, you guys are no better off than you were back then. This has the potential to make or break your relationship. And I think you don't know how you really feel about it."

"So, I'm just expected to give up my beliefs if I want to keep her?" I quizzed, rather than answer his question. The truth is—I didn't know the answer of where I stood. I was worried that if I gave it enough thought, it would be the nail in the coffin of all things Bella.

"No, I am not saying that. Sure, you could go along with what your partner wishes for the good of the relationship—but only if it's a decision you can buy into. Don't lie to yourself, or Bella if you truly can't see yourself having kids in the future. The longer you wait to reveal the truth, the worse the fall out will be. You're a doctor—you know a woman's fertility decreases with age. If you know now that you don't want this and she does, you need to let her go so she can have ample time to achieve her dreams."

I put my head in my hands, and confessed, "I don't know what I feel. I saw that picture, and my breath caught at that absolute joy that is on Bella's face. She's never looked more beautiful. But then I look down and see what put that expression on her face, and I cringe. You know I never wanted kids. I value getting a full eight hours of sleep each night, with the option of sleeping late on days I don't work. I value spontaneity—the ability to pick up and do whatever I want without having to worry about coordinating around a busy child's activity schedule. I like going to places that aren't family-friendly, or watching content not suitable for children. I like cleanliness, and order."

"I'm not trying to sway you either way Edward—but those things that you listed? You can do that and have children. Can you do that every day? No, but life as you know it doesn't change that drastically with children. There are areas that will change for the better. But like every coin, there are also areas that will decline or fade due to kids."

"You mean sex?"

"Among other things. You just need to get more creative," he shrugged, like it wasn't that big of a deal.

"I don't know if I want to be more creative," I admitted, my voice quiet—like it was a dirty secret I didn't want overheard.

"That is what you need to figure out. And then the two of you need to have a serious talk about this. Before you guys cause irreparable harm."

"How can I talk to her about this if I don't even know how I feel? I've only been a dad for two months. I'm learning, but it's slow going. Is it everything I didn't realize I was missing in life and more? No. Am I enjoying myself? I'll admit, I'm surprised at how much I'm liking the role. But I also came into the picture late. I bypassed the diaper changes, and sticky messes, and late-night feedings. Did I just luck out? Do I appreciate Tony more because he's older? Or is it just because he's biologically MY son, and I feel this bond to him regardless if he's a sticky creature? Would that happen with any child Bella and I have? I just don't know Jasper."

"These aren't easy questions Edward. They will take time and reflection from you to figure them all out. But it's getting late. Before I go, will you do a little exercise with me? It may seem silly, but I think it's the only way you are going to get a true sense of what you are feeling."

"I guess," I said, putting my empty beer bottle on the table.

"Alright. Close your eyes for me," Jasper directed.

"Seriously?"

"I said it may seem silly, but you said you'd give it a chance. Now, close your eyes." Figuring I had nothing to lose, I followed his directions. "You've told Bella that you do not want additional children. You understand that this is important to her, so you are setting her free. Five more years pass. You're walking down the street, and you see Bella pushing another man's child in a stroller. She's walking with a handsome new husband. Together, they laugh at their little one's expression of delight as they enjoy their stroll. Now, your life isn't in shambles just because you didn't end up with Bella. You're making strides in your job; you've got a pretty young thing on your arm as well. Over brunch the two of you decided to fly to Paris for the weekend. My question for you is, what do you feel when you see this picture in your mind? Are you relieved that isn't you next to Bella? Angry? Happy for the both of you? Jealous? Sad but content?"

I sat back in my chair, and visualized the picture that Jasper painted. Jealousy was the first emotion that came to mind at the thought of Bella with some other guy. I wanted to rip the arm that sat around her waist off what was mine. His presence angered me, so I ignored him and focused on the stroller Bella was pushing. That look of joy was on Bella's face, just like in the picture I got to my phone earlier. The child in the stroller was a curious little thing, looking all around the street—taking in the sights. Studying her features, I saw she looked every bit like a miniature Bella. Bella, who had been watching her child, turned to beam up at her husband.

I was pulled from that image when Jasper started describing my life. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't picture the woman on my arm. She had a killer body, but no face. Is this because its hypothetical? Or could I really not imagine someone else on my arm? Shrugging that off, I continued with the vision. I imagined we had slept late, and just enjoyed an amazing brunch. Paris? Why not, I thought. I loved history and going to museums. But sparing a look at Bella, I couldn't help but wonder: was a trip to Paris worth missing out on Bella's radiance? I want Bella to be happy and have everything in life she dreams of. But then again, what if I can't give her those dreams? Could I really let her go?

Jasper's voice pulled me out of my visions. "I'm heading out man."

"What about the vision? Aren't we going to talk about it?"

"The point of the mental exercise was for you to realize that you are at a crossroads. Bella has no right to expect you to do something this huge against your will or your desire. You have no right to deny her the very thing she wants most. And yet, this is one of those situations where there is no way to reconcile the two with a compromise. You either will have a child, or you won't. I can't answer that for you—only you can. And your vision will help you realize the different paths you could end up on. The vision doesn't have to end just because I've got to go. Continue to think it over. Add years, and time, and consider—am I truly happy, or do I have regrets? We can discuss things after you figure out an answer to that question. Until then, I have a child in bed, and a wife needing my attention. Creativity at work, my friend."

I scoffed, before stating, "Gross, that is my sister, man."

"I didn't ask you to think about us. Worry about your own visions," he joked, as he made his way to the door.

"Thanks for stopping by Jazz. I appreciate it."

"No problem. I hope I helped some."

"I wouldn't have gotten to the real problem without your guidance. I guess I've got some thinking to do," I said, as I followed him to the door.

"I'm around if you need more of a sounding board. You're not alone. And, when you have this conversation with Bella, you might even consider doing it with a therapist, or unbiased third party. It's important that both of you feel like you have a space to express your beliefs without being criticized for being on opposite spectrums."

"Definitely something to consider. Have a good night man."

"Laters," was his parting reply.

I made my way back into the living room, and picked up our discarded empties. As I cleaned up, I couldn't help but feel that this crossroads I was at was seriously going to change my life. I needed to put the time and work in to make an informed decision that I could be happy with. I just hope that whatever I decide doesn't ruin the progress Bella and I made.

AN: My longest chapter to date—but I couldn't figure out how to cut it without it feeling like two filler chapters. Hope you enjoyed it! ;)