May 25, 2013
One hundred and twenty eight.
What is that?
Is it the number of days left for Christmas?
Is it the number of dresses Alice has?
Really, you think?
Is it the number of books that Bella has at the cottage?
128: That’s the number of pizzas that have been cooked and eaten in the Cullen household in the last week.
I shouldn’t really be surprised. I know how pregnant women crave things. I went through that with Bella. And I absolutely, really have no problem making pizzas all day. But throw a pregnant woman, seven humungous wolves, and a pizza monster (Leah, surprisingly) in the mix and you’ve got pizzas coming out of the oven right and left. And now, we’ve got an extra mouth to feed. I honestly didn’t know cats preferred different flavors of cheese. Maybe it’s only our cat.
Gordon Ramsay loves cheese and pepperoni, but won’t have that same cheese with olives. His meat should be barbecued, and his chicken should be diced, not shredded. And he wants mozzarella, not Blue Bell. I honestly don’t know how he figures it out.
I wonder how he would feel if I thought of making Pizza a la Cat.
Coming back to more important things.
For the first time in a long time, Bella’s birthday passed without any fanfare, because Bella had threatened that she would maim me if I did anything for her birthday. The same went for Alice.
So, like the good husband I am, I backed off very politely, and insisted that the family not go “all out” with their tendencies to party.
I only gave her a gold coated journal.
What? She said I couldn’t do anything. Gifts were not a part of that stipulation.
Leah had finished her graduation at a local community college, and was now spending most of her time at our place with Jake and Seth. She wanted to be a pediatric nurse, which had been surprising to us because we had never pegged her for a maternal person. She wasn’t exactly our, how do you say, BFFL, but she was coming around, albeit slowly. At least now she was able to stay in the house for extended periods of time, sometimes even overnight, and we’d had civil conversations many a times, although they had been short. The only persons she really talked to, apart from the pack, were Esme and Nessie. Bella followed them closely, though I had heard many times that the primary reason for that was because she and Bella were well on their way to becoming step-sisters. All in all, underneath the tough and uncaring exterior, Leah had a vibrant personality bejeweled with witty sarcasm and a wicked humor. Put her in a room with Rosalie and the latter would leave Emmett for her “true soul mate”: Rose’s words, not mine.
I know, shocking. Carlisle almost put Rosalie to a drug test to check if she was okay.
Lastly, Mark and Katherine had settled in peacefully after their arrival. Since Mark did not want to take any chances, a guest room had been readied on the ground floor for them to stay in. Katherine’s pregnancy was progressing almost as fast as Bella’s had, and after only a week of her arrival, she looked almost four months pregnant.
Mark and Katherine were interesting to say in the least. He had been turned at the age of forty four, which was evident from his slight graying hair and the faint wrinkles in his eyes. Katherine, on the other hand, was only twenty two, with waist-long, wavy black hair, oval face, and big, black eyes set against pale skin. We had been mildly surprised at the age difference between them, a notion which Mark confessed sometimes distressed him as well.
They were both what you would call “complementary”. They had wildly variant personalities when you looked at it closely. Both of them, when with others, were shy and reserved. Katherine never spoke without looking at Mark first, as if asking for his permission, and he would only contribute to the conversation when absolutely necessary. On the contrary—when together, and in private—they were jovial, open and witty. Mark was a riot to when it came to Call of Duty, and had quite a colorful vocabulary which Katherine had told him to clean up before the baby arrived.
Katherine herself had an almost unhealthy obsession with death. She loved reading crime novels and case studies on sociopaths, serial killers and the like. Her examples often included references to fictional and real life characters in the world of crime, especially Dexter, and more often than not, her sense of humor would be so twisted that nobody could be sure if her words were really humorous.
It was . . . kind of disturbing.
Needless to say, Leah, Rosalie and Katherine were long lost sorority sisters from the University of Torture, Kill and Bury.
Carlisle had slowly started taking more extensive measures to make Katherine’s pregnancy easier. Bella’s input helped immensely as well. Both of them—Katherine and Bella—spent hours talking what could and could not be expected.
Although it was problematic for us to be virtually blinded with her constant presence—with Alice not being able to see the future and me not being able to read the baby’s mind—but we figured it wouldn’t have caused that much of a difference.
Today, we were congregated in the library, with Katherine curled up safely on a couch next to Mark, and Carlisle, Bella and I were to talk them through the various aspects more clearly.
“So, Katherine, did you spend the week talking to Bella?” Carlisle was in doctor mode right now, going through a separate file that he had compiled just for her.
Katherine nodded in answer, and Carlisle continued.
“And I’m sure she must have told you most of the things?”
“I’m just going to tell you other things here, Mark, Katherine, okay? I need your consent and permission to do some things here, and I need you to understand the entire process.”
Said couple looked to each other, and then proceeded to ask Carlisle what he had meant by what he said.
“Well, we have to discuss some things. Bella’s pregnancy, here, completely blindsided us. We had never seen, or even heard of such a thing as a hybrid. But now, because we’re having a situation like this a second time, we have an idea about what to do, and how to do it. Okay?” Carlisle earned a silent nod from the couple.
“Very well then. Mark, are you in any way resistant to the idea of changing Katherine?” Carlisle put forward the most important question.
“Changing, as in, turning her?” Mark asked, and on Carlisle’s confirmation, replied, “I was, actually, resistant, I mean. I never particularly liked this life, so, it felt criminal to subject her to that. But then she told me to man up and accept that I was never going to be able to live without her. So, no. I am ready to change her if need be.”
“Oh, that there will be,” Carlisle told them. “Both of you should know that it’s not going to be happy entirely. I can only control the pregnancy so much. I know you don’t feel much right now, Katherine, but I should prepare. It will not be pretty in the later stages.
“Like any normal human baby does, this one too will move, will kick. Except that your body, a human body, will be housing a hybrid—a half vampire child. The kicks will be hard: they will crack ribs, they will even break bones in extreme cases. I’m not guessing: I’m telling you from experience.”
Mark stiffened at that, clutching Katherine closer, and doubt clouded his face. Next to him, Katherine looked pale, but prepared.
“So, what . . . what can we do? To . . . curb the effect of the movements?” Mark asked.
“Nothing. There’s nothing we can do, except keep her healthy so she can take the blow. I know this is not wanted you hear, but it’s true. And I’ll get to that in a minute. The thing is: we cannot monitor your baby. Unlike in humans, this baby of yours is protected in an impenetrable sack in Katherine’s womb. No needle would penetrate it. And consequently, no sonogram or ultrasound would too.” Carlisle explained.
“We can’t . . . this is seeming like a bad idea by the second . . .” Mark looked so stressed that I thought his hair would go gray entirely. He leaned his head against the sofa, closing his eyes, trying to absorb Carlisle’s ominous words.
“Mark, don’t.” Katherine’s voice brought him out of his reverie. “You can’t back out now. I won’t let you. This is our baby, and we’re having it. I don’t care what I have to do.”
“Katherine, mi amor, you heard what Carlisle said. It’s going to be extremely painful. God forbid if anything happens to you . . .” Mark trailed off, but Katherine was determined.
“No, Mark, nothing is going to happen to me. We have good friends here. The Cullens will help us. Trust me. Just . . . don’t doubt yourself. I need you.”
Mark looked like he wanted to protest, but Katherine ‘s words had roped him in, albeit unwillingly. He sighed heavily and turned to Carlisle. “What can I do to keep her healthy?”
“We can’t give her any normal human food, except the one she craves. Her body will reject it. Her only option is blood.”
They both furrowed at that, and I stepped forward to explain.
“When Bella was pregnant with Nessie, we tried giving her different foods: oats, vegetables, chicken. But her body, as Carlisle told you, rejected it. She would throw up even at the faintest of smells. That might strike you as normal, since many women experience nausea during pregnancy.
“But just like the mother needs nutrition, the baby does too. This child won’t crave food in your womb. Its vampire traits will dominate. That’s why your body will not be compatible with practically any food out there. So, when the nutrition starts depleting, the baby will then resort to drinking your blood, Katherine, since the only source of food that it will have will be your body. That’s why we need to have blood in your diet, so you can feed your baby. It will also keep you strong.”
Mark shuddered at that, “The baby will want blood? Her blood? And what you mean by ‘having blood in her diet’? We can’t just hook her up to machines twenty four hours a day!”
“No, we can’t,” Carlisle said calmly. “We can’t hook her up to a machine all day long, Mark. It’s slow, and inadequate in this case. And without blood, she won’t stand a chance.” I saw Mark go rigid. “Her heart will give out before she can deliver. She has to take it regularly, like a drink.”
“You want her to drink blood?”
“That’s the only way.” Carlisle nodded.
I saw Katherine grimace a little at that, but the determination in her eyes never faded. Mark was looking a bit green. “That would be mildly gross.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll keep it covered,” Carlisle chuckled. “She will like it, you’ll see. The baby’s vampire traits will dominate her as well. So, she’ll crave blood. What’s your blood group, dear?”
“Um . . . B-positive,” Katherine nodded.
“That’s pretty easy to find. We can get plenty untill you deliver.”
I could have been deceived, but I think I saw Katherine get excited over the prospect of drinking blood.
Huh. I wasn’t sure how to react to that.
“Now, onto the most important part: the birth itself.” Carlisle wrote down something on his chart, and then continued, “Bella, would you like to take this?”
Bella smiled at Carlisle, and the floor was hers. “Well, I don’t remember much of the delivery, but what I do remember is the pain. I’m not going to lie to you: it hurts, badly, and that would be an understatement. Edward told me I broke my spine, and that my pelvis was crushed. Also, Carlisle? I may have lied to you when I said it didn’t hurt: it hurt like a bitch. You should just throw the morphine out of the window.”
Carlisle was still looking into the charts, but smiled mildly. “I know, darling.”
“This just gets more and more dangerous by the minute.” Mark shook his head in disapproval.
“I know it’s not a pretty picture. But it’s all about timing. We’re still trying to come up with some way to make this less painful for her, but we have to be ready. You’ll have to bite her at the exact moment, or else it might be too late. The venom will heal whatever injuries she might have, and turn her quickly,” I said in an attempt to placate him.
“Are you sure? Are you sure that nothing will happen to her?” Mark looked into my eyes, and I faltered a little.
The heart is a fragile thing.
Mine stopped beating eons ago, but that did not prevent the course of things in nature. It still fell. It fell for a human. It fell for Bella, and started beating through her heart.
It matched her rhythm, and pumped the sweet nectar of blood and love through both of our bodies. For me, the most euphonious sound in the world was the drumming of her heart: the way it pounded against her chest when she would be excited, or sailed through the sea of dreams when she would be sleeping, or skipped a beat or two when she would see something that took her breath away, or clench in pain as she remembered what pain felt like. I would never have experienced those emotions if it hadn’t been for her. Bella Swan was my window to the world.
So, when her heart stopped beating on that operating table, even if it had been for sixty eight seconds, it had felt like the Earth stopped revolving.
There is a certain flair to a heart before it gives out, a certain frantic beat that can only be experienced by the dying, a certain desperation that only the traveler of death can tell.
A few seconds following the stopping of her heart, there had been a dead silence in the room. It had been so quiet you would think the Grim Reaper had paid our house an unprecedented visit.
I had trained myself for that moment, because I had thought that it might have been a possibility. Still, seeing Bella lying on the table like that: broken, bleeding, fragile . . . dead, had made my conviction falter.
What if she really had been dead? What if her heart had never revived?
Sixty eight seconds.
The room had reeked of death, desperation, blood and love—both fulfilled and unrequited—for sixty eight seconds. It had gone dark outside my window for sixty eight seconds. Time had stopped moving, winds had stopped blowing, waters had stopped flowing: everything had died for sixty eight seconds. And even today, standing here, in the shade of my love, I knew that I never wanted to relive those sixty eight seconds again. They were ingrained in my memory like fine embroidery, and I knew that even God could not undo it: could not shred the fine threads that stitched those sixty eight seconds together to make up the gruesome picture of my frantic display of falling apart.
“Mark, trust me. I’ve been where you are right now. I almost was too late last time. I won’t let you be.” I was sure these were some of the most sincere words I had spoken, as I thought was evident by Bella’s gasp.
Mark and I had a silent conversation with our eyes for a few seconds—amber to amber—and finally, he blinked.
“Okay.” He broke the contact. “Okay.”
“All right then.” Carlisle shut his chart, probably having had too much of the heavy handed conversations. “Katherine, would you lift up your shirt for me, dear? Since I cannot do an ultrasound, I’ll see if I can listen to the heartbeat manually.”
Katherine shuffled on the sofa as Carlisle brought his seat closer to it, and slowly removed the blanket and put up her shirt, revealing a profound belly resembling a four month pregnant woman’s.
Carlisle smiled at her and put his hand on her stomach, and continued listening for a few seconds. He then picked up his stethoscope and felt around with it. I honestly didn’t know how he intended to find out anything about the baby with that, but I guessed my notions were wrong when the expression on his face changed into a curious smirk.
“Ah, there it is: movement and heartbeat. It’s faint, because the sac is probably preventing the sound from permeating, but it’s there.”
Katherine’s face lit up like a thousand suns, but I saw lines of apprehension on Mark’s face, even though he tried to hide them.
“Can I hear it?” She almost jumped.
“I’m afraid not, dear. It’s faint. I will let you listen when it has grown a bit perha—” Carlisle suddenly stopped speaking, and furrowed his brow, leaning in even closer to listen.
“Is everything all right? Is something wrong?” The question came from Mark, as Bella and I stepped closer to guess what Carlisle might be doing.
“Carlisle? What is it?” I asked.
“Well, dear, oh dear,” Carlisle murmured, but his voice didn’t sound strained, “This certainly calls for stepping up our game.”
“What . . . what do you mean ‘stepping up our game’?” Bella looked like she would snatch the stethoscope from his hand and see for herself what had him so occupied.
“There’s isn’t one heartbeat in there.” Carlisle smiled, “They’re faint, but strong . . . unbelievable!”
“What?! What is unbelievable?” Mark was about to pull his hair out.
“There are three heartbeats in there.” Carlisle took off his stethoscope and looked like he had picked up the case of his life.
“Katherine, dear, it looks like you’re having triplets.”
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