When Rose saw Edward’s packed suitcase, gut-wrenching physical pain notwithstanding, she knew what it meant. She wished she could say she was surprised Edward was leaving her, but she wasn’t. After all, that was what men did; they left. Rose learned this at twelve years old, when her father walked out, leaving Rose’s mother with four children.
Rose was neither surprised, nor was she particularly upset. Her father was rarely around as it was. When Rose asked her mother where he was, Rose’s mother replied simply that he was working. Though Rose did not pretend to understand economics, she knew that as a factory worker, her father was compensated based on the hours that he worked. If he were truly working double shifts, Rose’s mother wouldn’t be waiting tables at the local Denny’s to make ends meet, nor would their electricity be turned off more frequently than it was on. What did surprise Rose was just how limited the prospects were for a single mother of four with no skills, no education and no child support.
Rose’s mother claimed she was able to support her family when she parlayed her experience waiting tables into a job as a server at a private club. As it turned out, the privacy at said establishment was dubious at best, and claiming she was still a waitress wasn’t the most well-thought-out ruse. It didn’t take long for Rose to figure out her mother was a stripper, and that a lot more than dancing took place in the champagne room.
Rochester wasn’t a particularly large city, and Rose was at an age where her peers were obsessed with all things sexual. Less than four months after her father left, things began to change for Rose at school. In a matter of days, she went from being practically invisible to the preferred target of both overt bullying and whispered rumors. She could live with the fact that the girls she’d previously called her friends would no longer be seen with her, but the morning she arrived at school to find the word “whore” written on her locker in permanent marker pushed her over the edge. Locked in a bathroom stall, Rose permitted herself a luxury she’d thought she could never afford—tears.
When there was nothing left, she rose to her feet and washed her face. As she stared at her reflection in the mirror, she vowed that she would never be like her mother. She would never believe a man’s promises of forever, regardless of how sincere they seemed at the time, nor would she ever find herself in a situation where she needed to whore herself out to feed her children. She didn’t care what she had to do or whom she had to fuck to make it happen, but she would get an education that would enable her to earn a more-than-comfortable living. She wasn’t above doing anything her mother did, as long the end justified the means. Specifically, that regardless of her relationship status, she would be able to support herself and whatever children she had—and that no one would ever call her daughter a whore because of her own poor decisions. The children she’d not yet had became her biggest motivation to succeed, and over the course of the next twenty years, this had not changed.
As Rose watched Edward run around their apartment, grabbing her sweats, underwear and a maxi pad, she stayed in their bedroom fixated on two thoughts. If the excruciating pain in her abdomen was any indication, she had to be dying. Secondly, Edward was taking care of her right now not because he wanted to, but because he felt he should. Despite all of her hard work and meticulous planning, Rose still found herself dependent on a man. If tears were something of which she was still capable, she would have shed some at that moment.
An hour later, as Edward stood in the waiting room of Pennsylvania Hospital, he couldn’t remember a time when he’d felt more helpless. This feeling only partially abated when his uncle arrived to offer moral support and additional medical advice, if any was needed.
Though Edward bore his last name, Dr. Carlisle Cullen was not related to Edward by blood nor was he technically old enough to be his father. After the death of his parents, Edward was sent to live with his mother’s younger sister, Esme, who at twenty-two years old put her own aspirations on hold to parent a child she’d neither birthed nor asked for. A chronic over-thinker even then, Edward felt as though he was intruding even though his aunt and uncle assured him repeatedly that he was not. It was for this reason alone he asked to attend boarding school, hoping that his absence would give Carlisle and Esme their lives back.
Carlisle and Esme were painfully aware that they were not Edward’s biological parents. They also knew that Edward thought they viewed him as an imposition, and tried on many occasions to convince him otherwise, though the emotional distance Edward kept between his self and his adopted parents made it difficult for them to do so. For that reason, the second Carlisle saw Edward’s cell number on his caller ID, he knew something was wrong. He also knew he would go to Edward because that was what family did. Regardless of what Edward perceived their relationship to be, as far as Carlisle was concerned, Edward was his son.
Still, moments like these were awkward. Carlisle wanted to embrace Edward, but after all these years he still was uncertain that it would be welcome. Instead, he stood at his side and gave him a couple of firm pats on the back.
“Do you know anything yet?” Carlisle asked.
“Apparently, Rose was pregnant and the embryo implanted in her cervix. Is that even possible?”
Carlisle was not an OB/GYN, but during the years he spent working in the emergency room as a general surgeon, he’d seen just about everything.
“Yes, though it’s not all that common. I take it she’s in surgery now?”
Edward nodded. “There’s no way they can save the baby, and they aren’t even sure if they can save her uterus. She’s going to be devastated.”
Carlisle couldn’t help but notice the calm detachment with which Edward spoke. It made him wonder if Edward had processed any of what was going on.
“I wasn’t aware you were trying to get pregnant.”
“How are you holding up?”
Carlisle knew what Edward was sure to be feeling all too well—he and Esme tried unsuccessfully for years to have a child of their own. Finally, after watching his wife endure six miscarriages with no reason to believe that a seventh pregnancy would result in a live birth, Carlisle convinced Esme that he didn’t need biological offspring to feel like a father and that he couldn’t love her nephew more had he begotten him himself.
“It’s not like what you and Aunt Esme went through.”
“Of course it is.”
“No, it isn’t. You planned each pregnancy, and when they didn’t work out, had to deal with your hopes being crushed. I was told about this pregnancy and the fact it wasn’t viable in the same sentence. Crying over the baby seems self-indulgent with Rose in surgery, knowing that had I gotten her here ten minutes later she would have bled out. I almost didn’t bring her…”
“Edward, you can’t blame yourself…”
Edward sank into one of the vinyl upholstered armchairs, running a hand through his hair in frustration. “I can’t not blame myself. I didn’t notice she was in pain because we were fighting. I was actually going to end it tonight—not the pregnancy, I mean, obviously I didn’t know about that, but our relationship. I won’t now. I mean, I can’t.” He buried his head in his hands. “I can’t leave her, but I don’t know how I’ll be able to stay with her.”
Carlisle sat next to Edward and thought very carefully about what to say. “You’ve been having problems?”
“No.” Edward laughed bitterly. “That’s the crazy thing. I just feel like I no longer know her. What’s worse is that I’m not sure I want to get to know her. I feel like the Rose I fell in love with no longer exists. Meanwhile, the Rose I was about to break up with was pregnant. I packed my bag, and would have walked out on a woman who was carrying my child. What kind of man does that make me?”
“One who didn’t know.”
“Except I know now, and I hate myself. Presumably, it was my baby, right? I mean, with the exception of a handful of baseless rumors, I have no reason to believe she was unfaithful. I’ve wanted nothing more than a family of my own for as long as I can remember, and yet I can’t bring myself to mourn the one that will never be. And though I’m worried about Rose and I want to be by her side as she recovers and help her in any way that I can, part of me thinks if I do that, we’ll settle back into the way things were.”
“And you don’t want that…”
“No.” He clenched his eyes shut. “I just don’t see how either of us will ever be happy together.”
“You don’t have to figure this out…”
Carlisle stopped talking when he saw a man he assumed was Rose’s doctor walking toward them.
“Is there an update?” Edward asked, leaping to his feet.
As the doctor explained Rose’s condition, Edward hung on his every word. Rose lost a lot of blood, but ultimately she was going to be okay. As the doctor explained what recovering from a hysterectomy entailed, Edward felt a sharp pain in his chest that made it difficult for him to breathe. There was no doubt in Edward’s mind that Rose would never recover from this.