He walked out the door and I’d expected the pub to go back to normal but everyone just stared at me. “So, how’s your food?” I asked the table I’d been waiting on, trying to pretend everything was normal. They mumbled a response about things being fine before I left.
I had to go into the back room to calm down for a minute. It was one thing to see him at his house when I knew what to expect, it was another for him to walk into the pub, looking as sexy as he did asking for me.
It wasn’t my fault I reacted the way I did when I saw him, the butterflies that erupted in my stomach. He had been voted the sexiest man alive. I wasn’t the only one who thought he was good looking.
But that’s all it was, a physical response, I told myself. He was nice, and generous with his money, but I really didn’t know anything about him.
The rest of the night I spent with people staring at me and a few bold enough to ask how I knew him. It was something I wasn’t prepared for so my response was, “Sometimes strange things happen.” I figured they could take it as it was strange how I met Edward, or that tonight was strange. I really didn’t care.
I tried to push thoughts of him from my head as I finished work and headed home. I was exhausted. Alice was asleep when I got in, but she had left some lasagna in the oven on low for me. I scarfed it down while watching a bit of television before falling asleep.
Alice had been a huge help with bills and watching Elizabeth and I was more than happy to share my new money with her. She’d asked me right away when I’d come home the first day if it had been legit or a scam. I pulled out the five hundred dollars and I thought she was going to faint. When I told her that I was going to bring the eleven bags I had over the next day for another five hundred she screamed and jumped around like she’d won a new car on The Price is Right.
I had her sit down when I’d come home with the thirteen hundred and again last night when the night guard at Edward’s house had given me two hundred more. I’d made two thousand dollars in three days. Granted, I’d used up everything I’d had in the freezer, but as long as they wanted my milk, I was going to make two hundred a day. It was more than I made waitressing and I’d have quit that job in a heartbeat if I knew that this was stable. The problem was, I had no idea how long he would need it. I couldn’t quit my job and then the next day get a call saying they didn’t need any more.
Alice and I had decided how to spend the money together. First, she and I paid the tuition for the class I was taking, which did take most of the money. We put some of what was left away for an emergency. If it continued, I hoped to get ahead on the bills and maybe even pay part of Alice’s tuition. It would also be nice if I could afford two classes in the spring.
Alice hadn’t asked many questions. At first I thought I’d need to come up with this elaborate lie to keep my word to Edward about not telling anyone, but when I got home and showed her the money, all she said was. “It must be nice to be so rich.” I guess she still assumed they were just a rich couple and no one famous.
I couldn’t believe I’d come up with the soup thing so quickly and I had to laugh at the large container of reuben soup I’d brought home, compliments of Patrick. I wasn’t even sure what to do with it, but in the morning, after I’d pumped I put the bag of milk along with the soup in a brown bag. I figured it was just a short drive and the insulated bag was still at Edward’s.
Once again I was let in at the gate, though this time the guard seemed to pay a lot more attention.
It was early, but I figured they were out of milk, which was why he’d come by last night. The thought of the poor baby crying with nothing he could eat broke my heart. I’d pumped extra time and to the point it was painful, but still I got around two ounces. I seemed to be drying up. It really wouldn’t matter anyway, because even if I was up to the four ounces I was able to pump when Elizabeth was nursing full time, it still wouldn’t be enough.
I walked up to the door and rang the bell. A woman answered the door and looked at me curiously. “Hi, is Edward home?” I asked sounding like I was in middle school.
She nodded. “Is Mr. Cullen expecting you?”
I could hear Charlie wailing from inside the house. “Yes, I have what Charlie needs.”
That seemed to be the magical response because she stepped aside. “I’ll go and get him,” she said.
She’d implied that I should wait there while she went to get him, but I followed her. I knew exactly why Charlie was crying and I had just over two ounces in my bag that would nourish him.
The woman walked through the house and into a very large kitchen. Edward was at the sink making a bottle and Esme was rocking a screaming Charlie. Both had their backs to the door.
“I’m going to try this one again. He seemed to keep some of it down,” Edward was saying loudly over the crying. “I just have no idea what to do anymore. Even if we had the bag from Bella, that would that give me what, another two hours? Has anyone else answered the ad? Maybe we can get milk from them, too.”
I heard the words and felt the sting of being replaced but I honestly couldn’t blame him. Besides, he’d said too, which left me hope that he’d still need mine and would keep paying me. Even another week would give me the money I needed for spring tuition.
“Not many people called, and honestly most thought it was a sexual ad. There were a few that might be promising. I’ll look into it.”
I felt like I was eavesdropping so I made my presence known. “I.. uh.. I have another bag,” I said making both turn around and stare at me.
Edward looked so relieved I thought I saw tears in his eyes. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
I couldn’t help but smile at him. Walking toward him I put the bag on the counter. He set down the bottle he was making and opened the bag. “Is that the reuben soup?” he chuckled.
I nodded. “Patrick insisted.”
Edward laughed and took the small pouch of milk from the brown paper bag. “It’s still warm,” he said with a tone of amazement. I felt my cheeks turn pink, though I had no reason to be embarrassed. “Maybe it just needs a little warming.”
What happened next seemed to happen in slow motion. One minute Edward was holding the clear plastic pouch running it under water, and the next, he’d removed the rubber band that held it shut. Somehow after that, but before he poured it into the bottle it slipped from his hand and landed on the floor. We both saw it falling and tried to catch it. It was like we were in even slower motion and the pouch hit the floor letting the milk spill all over the floor.
“Oh God, no!” Edward cried out dropping to his knees. “I needed that...Charlie needed that.”
I felt his pain. It was terrible the few times it had happened to me when I was nursing Elizabeth, because I’d considered my breastmilk to be ‘liquid gold.’ Yet this was a whole new level of devastation. It was all we had to feed the still screaming baby. With Elizabeth I could at least nurse her.
Edward looked up at me. “Is there any way you could pump again?”
The look in his eyes nearly broke me. “I would, though I don’t think I would get much anyway, but I don’t have a pump.” He looked down again. Charlie continued to scream. I didn’t know what to do.
“I… I could try to nurse him.” Even though the kitchen was loud, I knew Edward heard me because his head snapped up. “I don’t know if it would work. I’ve only ever nursed Elizabeth.”
“You’d try?” Edward asked standing.
“Yeah, I mean, my heart is breaking for him. I want to help.” Edward took Charlie from Esme. He stopped screaming for a moment, but started right up again.
“How do we do this?” he asked, looking from Charlie to me.
“I just need a place to sit down. A couch would be perfect.”
He nodded and walked into the living room with Esme and I following. Stopping in front of a large sofa he handed me Charlie who immediately turned his head and began to root at my chest. It was a good sign. His instincts were helping. When he didn’t find what he wanted, he began crying again. I felt my milk start to let down.
My cheeks turned pink and I wondered if they were going to watch me nurse. I sat down and thankfully Edward had already turned. “I’ll, uh, give you privacy,” he said walking toward the kitchen. Esme turned as well and I lifted my t-shirt. I wasn’t wearing a nursing bra, so I reached behind me and unhooked it and took a deep breath.
“Here goes,” I said to no one in particular. I put Charlie’s mouth near my breast and he latched on quickly. It must have been different than his bottle because he only got a bit of my nipple and it hurt like hell. I winced as he sucked hard. It only took a second for him to lose his latch, and started to scream even louder. I tried again, remembering how Elizabeth had difficulty when she was first born. Holding my breast I pushed more in his mouth. He sucked and moved his head rapidly. He lost his latch again. And again he started screaming. “Come on Charlie. You’ve got to calm down,” I cooed, and tried a third time. This time he got a mouthful, a solid latch. I watched his little cheeks moving in and out as he sucked and heard the gulping sounds. His nose was stuffy from crying and he made little snorting sounds as if he’d never eaten in his life.
I won’t say it was pleasant. I’d forgotten how hard newborns sucked, but he was swallowing and that made me happy no matter how much it hurt. After about ten minutes he began to squirm and I knew my milk had run out. He didn’t release like Elizabeth had learned to do in order to switch sides, so I had to wriggle my finger between his mouth and my nipple.
He didn’t cry, just tried to latch back on. I switched sides quickly, this time only taking two tries to get him on. Again he sucked hard and I had to bite my lower lip until I became used to the sensation. He didn’t drink nearly as long on the second side, falling asleep. It occurred to me that I should start him on that side next time and just as quickly as that thought popped into my head, another did. Next time? This wasn’t my baby.
I stood carefully and fixed my top then began walking to the kitchen to give Edward his son back. I got near the door and I could hear a conversation distinctly.
“Edward, I know you’re upset, but you have to be reasonable.”
“This is my child. There is no room for reasonable. What went on this morning is ridiculous. I don’t ever want it to happen again.” My heart sank. Was he talking about me nursing Charlie? I hoped I hadn’t made him that upset. Esme had just stated he was upset.
“And what are you going to say to Bella?”
“I’m just going to tell her that this isn’t working that I need….” I turned and left before I could hear any more. It seemed obvious to me what the conversation was about. It was the second time I’d overheard their conversation and that wasn’t the kind of person I was. I went back to sit down on the couch. I looked down at Charlie, for the first time really able to appreciate how beautiful he was. His hair, what little there was of it, was dark. He had long, thick lashes that rested on his pink cheeks. His face was a lot thinner than Elizabeth’s had been. Then again, he hadn’t been eating well.
He had full red lips. The lower one was pulled into his mouth as he sucked on it.
“Bella?” I heard Edward’s soft voice and looked up to see he was standing right in front of me. I gasped in shock. “I didn’t mean to startle you.” He had a look in his eyes I’d never seen before. It gave me butterflies in my stomach as well as made my heart beat faster. “Can we talk?”