"What do you think it means to have experience in construction? " I asked looking through the want ads.
My sister laughed. "I think it means you have to actually have built something."
"I have built something." I argued. "I built that bird house in shop class."
"Yeah, I'm sure that's exactly what they mean." She was right of course. Alice was my younger sister. At nineteen she thought she knew everything, then again, she was doing better than I was at her age. She was in school, the spring of her second year at the local community college. It wasn’t Harvard, but she’d gotten a scholarship and was working to pay the rest of tuition. She’d moved in with me and the two of us were trying to keep up with rent on our crappy two bedroom apartment.
Her major was 3D animation and she wanted to work on special effects in movies and television shows. I had no idea how many things used 3D animation until she started pointing them all out.
I’d been in school too. I’d always wanted to work in finance, but my junior year, when I’d ended up pregnant, all of that changed. I’d been with Jake. He was in school as an art major. He was open with his thoughts and feelings. I’d never met anyone like him.
We started dating the middle of the fall semester. After a few weeks I’d decided to sleep with him. I thought it would be forever. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
He was my first lover and despite what I knew about birth control, he convinced me that the rhythm method was safe. Apparently this white girl has no rhythm because I got pregnant before our three month anniversary.
Jake had been excited. He’d said that we could get a place together and raise the baby. I wasn’t thrilled, but I thought things would be fine. I’d been so naive, believing him. We got an apartment off campus but by the end of the third month he didn’t have his share of the rent money.
I made it through the spring semester with little to no help from Jake. He barely stayed at the apartment saying that he preferred to stay at the frat house with his new fraternity brothers. If joining a fraternity while your girlfriend was pregnant didn’t send up warning bells, I’m not sure what would have. Again, I was young and wanted to believe things would be fine.
When summer came, I’d expected to see Jake more, but it was the opposite. I went to the fraternity house to find him. I don’t know what I expected to find, but it sure wasn’t him in bed with two women. He’d stood there in the hall in just a sheet when he told me that he wasn’t a one woman kind of guy. I didn’t even argue or fight. I knew there would be no point. I was in this alone.
I’d spent the summer working as much as I could as the baby grew inside of me. I was due in September and I planned on continuing with my classes, but things just didn’t work out. The baby had come, a girl, Elizabeth. While my labor and delivery was uneventful, the timing made it impossible for me to take fall classes. I'd planned on going to school in spring, but between trying to pay for rent, diapers and trying to save up for tuition, I'd decided to take the rest of the year off. I planned to work all summer like I'd done when I was pregnant, but with an infant, I just couldn't seem to get myself on my feet.
I'd tried to get child support from Jake, but you can't get blood from a stone. He didn't have a job, so there were no wages to garnish. The best I got was that I'd get back support when he graduated and did get a job. Little good that did me now as my rent was due again and since I'd stopped going to school, my student loans were due.
Alice had been a life saver. She'd decided to move in with me to help out watching Elizabeth and to pay rent. My parents were divorced and while they were loving and supportive, didn't have money to pay for school. My dad offered for me to come home and live with him and the baby, but I just wanted to do it on my own. Moving back home would for sure be an end to my college dream.
So there I was, looking for jobs with Alice helping, or not helping. The fall semester was starting in three weeks and Elizabeth was nearing her first birthday. I hoped that I'd have enough money saved up by now to at least take one class, but it didn't look like that was going to happen.
"Maybe you can ask the restaurant to give you a few more shifts," Alice said, looking at the employment section with me.
"I've tried that," I said. "I've got as much as they will give. I just need a better paying job."
We were silent in the kitchen looking at the paper when Alice joked. "Hey, I might have found a job that kills two birds with one stone."
I could tell from her tone she wasn't serious, but I needed a laugh, so I humored her. "Oh, and what job is that?"
"Wet nurse," she laughed, pointing to an ad. "Says that the pay is negotiable."
I couldn't help but laugh. She was right, it would kill two birds with one stone. I'd just pumped this morning only to put the milk in a bag in the freezer. Elizabeth had been eating solid foods now for a few months and had cut down on her nursing considerably, leaving my breasts sore and engorged.
"It's probably a joke, who has a wet nurse in this century anyway," she laughed picking up the phone. "I'm gonna call though. I gotta see what this is about."
"Alice no!" I yelled as she pressed the numbers.
She turned away from me laughing. "Where's your sense of adventure?"
"Hang up right now!" I said through clenched teeth.
"Hello, yes, I was calling about your ad for a wet nurse." She was quiet. "Oh, um, well, actually I was calling for my sister." I was shaking my head but Alice turned her back. "Oh, that's a shame," she said and I wished the phone was on speaker. "Oh, wow, um, I'll check, but I think she can make it." Alice scribbled down some numbers and then hung up the phone.
"What the hell Alice?" I said with my hands on my hips. "You told some creepy guy I'd make it?"
"It's not what you think," she said holding up her hands. "First of all, it wasn't a creepy guy, it was a woman. She'd placed the ad because her nephew seems to be allergic to all formulas. She thought maybe breast milk would work. She said that she'd pay you five hundred dollars for your time and a few bottles. I figured you had all that in the freezer and you could just give a few to her."
I stared in silence. "You know, and the five hundred would really help."
I started to cry. "Yeah it would. It means that I'd have my first half of tuition. I could take that class this semester."
"So this means you're going to do it?"
"I don't know. It seems too good to be true," I said chewing on my lip.
"How much would you pay to save Elizabeth?" Alice asked.
"Everything I have," I responded quickly. "But five hundred dollars? That’s a lot of money."
"The address is in Beverly Hills. The woman is probably rich. It's probably nothing to her."
"Ok," I said, picking up the paper. "But you if I don't call you in an hour, you better call the police and tell them where I went."
"Fine, and um, the woman said that there would be security at the gate and to say that you had a delivery for Charlie."
That made it seem even more odd, but Alice wouldn't let me back down. She said she had a good feeling about this and I knew enough to not go against her "good feelings."
I had a cell phone, but not a smart phone, so I had to get directions before I left. It seemed simple enough and within twenty minutes, I found myself on the correct street. The houses were huge, multi-million dollar homes. All of them had fences with gates. The one I wanted even had a uniformed officer in a small house. I pulled up to the gate. "Miss, you can't stop here," the man said coming out of the building.
"I.. I have a delivery for Charlie," I said, feeling really stupid. It was probably a prank and Id end up in jail. I imagined me explaining to the officers who would arrest me. Officer, I was supposed to bring breast milk.
Just as I was about to put the car in reverse the guard nodded. "Yes Miss. Please go up the driveway. You can park anywhere in the circle."
I drove up the long drive to the most amazing house I'd ever seen. To just say it was huge wouldn't do it justice. I couldn't believe the size and I wondered how many people lived there and what they did for a living.
After parking my car, which didn't even seem good enough to be in the driveway, I took a deep breath and got out. I had the small insulated bag in my hand as I rang the bell. I'd expected a servant to answer, but it was a woman who looked to be in her early thirties. She was beautiful with caramel colored hair and eyes to match that looked so familiar. She smiled at me warmly and I couldn't help but smile back.
"Thank you so much for coming. I'm Esme. Won't you please come in?"
I nodded and entered the house, trying not to gawk at the elaborate furnishings. She must have noticed my expression. "It's my brother's house. His... uh.. girlfriend has quite elaborate taste." I nodded in response, not even sure what to say. "Anyway, thank you again for coming. I know it seems like an odd request, but we’re just not sure what to do.”
Again I just nodded dumbly. There was an awkward silence before Esme spoke again. “Is that it?” she asked looking at the black bag I was carrying.
“Yes, it’s in a cooler. You, uh, you need to run the bag under warm water to warm it,” I explained.
“I remember,” Esme said. My confusion must have been evident because she continued, “I’m a mother of two girls, eight and ten. Of course they don’t nurse anymore or, well, I’d have offered to nurse Charlie.” She paused and a wistful look crossed her face. “Why don’t we take care of business. Please come into the study,” she said indicating a smaller room off to the left of the grand foyer I’d been standing in.
Esme walked over to the desk, opened her purse and took out her wallet. She handed me five one hundred dollar bills. “Are there three bags in the cooler?” she asked as I traded it for the money.
“Well, no, I put in six because, well, my daughter is weaning, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it anyway.”
“That was sweet of you and that makes what I need to ask you now seem even more inappropriate.”
Oh here it came. This was the part where she told me that it was some sort of candid camera thing, or bizarre sex game.
“Is there any chance you have HIV or hepatitis or other diseases? I’m so sorry for asking, it’s just, this is my brother’s baby, and he’s so sick and weak. I can’t take any risks.”
I smiled. It was so clear that she loved this little boy. “I understand and no. I don’t have any disease or illness.” I took out my phone and pressed a button. “This is my doctor. Ask anything.”
I handed her the phone and my doctor’s office answered. “Hello, I’m here with a Miss… uh… “
“Bella Swan,” I whispered.
“Bella Swan,” Esme repeated then continued. “She’s applied for a position and I’d like to verify that she has no communicable diseases including HIV…. Yes I understand that’s confidential. She is here and is giving permission.”
I had to get back on the phone and give my full name and address and social security number and I swear the code to my sixth grade gym locker, but eventually the nurse would speak to her and confirmed that I was safe.
“Do you mind waiting here a few minutes? If this works, perhaps we can make an arrangement for more.”
“Sure,” I said watching her walk away with the bag. I used the few moments alone to take out my phone and text Alice. Everything is fine. I wouldn’t want the police to show up.
I wasn’t standing there long when I heard the faint sound of a baby crying. It was enough to make my milk start to let down. I bit my lip and pressed my wrists hard to my breasts. I knew it would pass if I just waited. Thankfully I was wearing nursing pads.
The crying got louder indicating the baby was being carried in my direction.
“Esme?” I heard a male voice call. “Esme, he couldn’t keep that organic formula down. I think I just need to give up and take him to the hospital… Esme?”
I could hear the pain and desperation in his voice and it broke my heart. Something in his voice had sounded familiar and I couldn’t figure out why until he stood in the doorway of the study. “Edward Cullen?” I gasped, in disbelief gawking at him. He was one of the biggest movie stars out there. Hell, he’d been voted the sexiest man alive last year and I was standing in his study looking at him. Was this his house? My head was spinning.
“And you are?” he asked over the crying of the infant. He held the baby closer and I wondered if he thought I was an intruder. Being as popular as he was, he must have had tons of stalkers.
“Bella… um Esme asked me to come.”
He relaxed some but he still looked on edge. It appeared he hadn’t shaven in a few days, though somehow he just looked even sexier. “Have you seen her? She was going to help me with my son.”
His son? Oh I’d read in the tabloids that he and Tanya Denali were having a baby. I guess he’d been born. Then it hit me. His baby was the one my milk was for! Before I could even respond to his question Esme came up behind him.
“Try this,” she said handing him a bottle.
“If that’s the organic formula, I just tried it. Didn’t last five minutes. I think it’s time to let them admit Charlie and put him on an IV.”
“Yes, that’s your decision, but would you please just try this.” He raised his eyebrows. “It’s breast milk,” she responded to his unasked question.
Edward took the bottle and held it up looking at it. For some reason his inspection made me blush.“Is it safe?”
“Yes it’s safe. It’s what babies are supposed to drink. And before you ask, the mother is healthy.”
“Where the hell did you get breast milk?” he asked over the constant crying of the baby.
“Me,” I said causing him to turn and once again look at me. Clearly he’d forgotten I was in the room.
“Please, just try it,” Esme said making him look back at his crying son.
“Fine, but right after, I’m taking him in.”
I watched as Edward lowered the bottle and the baby began to suck greedily. He gulped it down, much too fast I thought, but I surely wasn’t going to say anything. There had only been two ounces in the bag. The first ounce was gone within two minutes. Charlie was still sucking like crazy as the second ounce was disappearing rapidly.
“I’ll warm more,” Esme said rushing from the room.
Edward looked up at me with the same brown eyes that had looked so familiar on Esme. I’d stared into them in dozens of movies. “This is the sad part. He gets so sick. It’s like he’s starving, but the moment it fills his little tummy it just all comes back up.” Again my heart was breaking for this man and his son. “He rarely takes in a whole ounce. I guess it just shows how hungry he is.”
He finished the second ounce and started to fuss again. “I can’t believe he drank two whole ounces!” Edward exclaimed and gave me that smile that had made him millions of dollars.
Esme came rushing into the room and handed Edward the second bottle. He held it to Charlie’s lips who began to suck in earnest again, though not as greedily as he had the first time. His sucking slowed and within a few minutes he fell asleep in Edward’s arms, a bit of milk dribbling down his cheek.
Edward didn’t look up, just stared at his son. I could tell he was waiting for him to get sick. Five minutes went by, though it felt like a half hour. We stood there in silence, when finally a loud sound came from Charlie’s diaper making all three of us laugh.
Edward moved to a chair in the room and sat, still holding his son in his arms. Esme indicated a couch where she and I sat.
“If you don’t mind just waiting a few more minutes?” she asked politely.
“I’m in no rush,” I responded, thinking how many women would kill to be sitting in Edward Cullen’s study.
“Tell me about your daughter,” Esme said leaning forward and looking genuinely interested.
“Well, Elizabeth is going to be one in about a month. As I said earlier, she’s weaning herself and is eating all solid food now. She has four teeth. Two are on the top, and two are on the bottom. She’s not walking yet, but she kind of walks on her knees and does this scoot crawl thing.”
“I love when they do that. I miss that age,” Esme responded.
We continued talking in hushed tones, sharing bits of information about our daughters. Before I knew it half an hour had passed.
“I don’t believe it. He’s keeping down nearly three ounces?” Edward said looking up and speaking for the first time since we’d sat down.There were tears in his eyes. He looked directly at me. “How can I ever thank you? Let me pay you. How much do you want for this? Esme, can you get me my wallet? I don’t even want to move him. I’m just going to hold him and see how long he sleeps.”
He was rambling and it was adorable. “Esme already paid me. Quite well actually. I brought six bags of milk so that should get you two more feedings.”
Edward stared at me and there was panic again. “Then what? How much more can I get? Whatever she paid you, I’ll double it.”
My mouth fell open. “No, that’s not necessary. The thing is, I only have like, maybe a dozen bags.” I chewed on my lip trying to think of a solution.
“Does your daughter need it too?” he asked in a much softer voice. “I wouldn’t want you to deprive your own child. I’m sorry I even asked.”
“No, it’s not that,” I replied quickly. “It’s just that I don’t have that much. I could keep pumping more. I’m just not sure I could keep up with him if it’s his only source of food.”
Edward looked confused. “I’m sorry, I guess I’m naive. How did you keep up with your own baby then?”
“Well, by nursing, regular nursing,” I answered. “I just produce more when it’s was her and not the pump. I think that’s true of most women,” I added and Esme nodded.
“I guess I’ll take anything I can get. I’ll buy all twelve bags if they are for sale, and any more that you can come up with. ”
“I’ll pump again when I get home and in the morning. I have work tonight. I could bring what I have in the morning, if that’s alright.”
“Thank you… Bella right?”
I nodded. “Yes, Bella Swan.”
“Just tell Seth at the gate who you are and he will let you in.”
“Thank you,”I said, then stood.
“No, thank you.” Edward stood and Charlie shifted in his sleep but didn’t wake. “I do have one request. Please don’t tell anyone about this. The tabloids would have a field day.”
I nodded. He was right. They wouldn’t understand at all. “I won’t tell anyone about this.”
“Thank you again, Bella. See you tomorrow.”