Alright! Here goes…my first official Twilight multi-chapter story. Because I may be continuing Proposal(I'm thinking I will), but that wasn't planned. This, however, has been, and I'm very excited about it.
The idea for this came to me when I was thinking about what Edward told Bella at the end of New Moon, how he had planned to come back and check on her, and if he had found her alright, he'd like to think that he could have left again. Well, it got me thinking…we all know how Carlisle met Esme, and that she caught his eye then, but he was moving on, she was human, etc. And he told himself that she had a happy life from that point on, an assumption that was shattered when she jumped. But what if he had been just a little less strong, just a little more curious? He might have come back to check on her, just to make sure she was as happy as he was telling himself. And if he'd found her with an abusive husband….
And I'll say no more. Because this is that story. : )
Don't own anyone. But I want my Carlisle.
I told myself that I was doing this just to put my mind at ease. I'd though it over, so many times that I actually believed that. And maybe it was even true. I just couldn't stop thinking of her, and somehow it was no longer enough to allow myself to spend an hour or two each day imagining how well things had turned out for her. I wanted to see it with my own eyes. Maybe part of it was just me wanting to see her again, yes. That could be true. Maybe part of it was masochistic. If she was married now, as I was certain she would be, maybe the piece of myself inside that craved her would shut up. Or maybe he'd wail louder, how should I know? I had never felt like this for anyone before.
Ironic, that. I had always thought if I found someone, it would be one of our kind. This…this just couldn't work. But I could check, at least. That didn't hurt anyone. Just look in on her, make sure she was happy. Of course she'd be happy. I could look, and then I could be on my way. I could-
"Yes, Carlisle, we have already established that you're just looking. How many times are you going to tell yourself that? It's driving me mad." Edward rolled his eyes, hands tightening on the steering wheel. Our Ford whined as he pressed down on the gas.
"Not so fast, Edward, the car can't take it. Remember what happened to the last one." The first Model T I had let him drive, and it had died on us the middle of nowhere. Not really a problem, but people did get suspicious when you weren't terribly upset about a broken down car. The 1919 model was a little sturdier than some of the earlier ones, but still…he could definitely push it too far.
"The car's fine. Now are your sure about this, Carlisle? You've only reassured yourself a hundred times. Which means I have to wonder if you're so certain that you really are going to just walk in and walk out."
Of course I was. What else could I do? No, Edward, don't answer that. He chuckled, and I was glad. His moods were so hit and miss. He was usually either perfectly content or rock-bottom depressed. I hated those days, and I know he did too. But it was different for me. He was my son, now. I worried about him.
"I'm alright. Not thirsty today, anyway." The way he said it was still moody, but he was smiling. It seemed that for now at least, he really was alright. Even for all the ups and downs, I was never sorry I had changed him. We fought rarely, and never for long. We fit well, as a family. He smiled, and I knew that he agreed, but that that was all the confirmation I would get for now. It was enough.
The car slowed as we pulled into town, his eyes scanning the buildings on either side. "Where is it you're planning on starting your search? If she's as beautiful as she is in your memories, she's probably living here now, downtown. Some rich man's wife." I tensed, my breath coming sharper before I calmed it. That would be wonderful, if that were the case. She could have everything she wanted then. Yes, it would be perfect.
Edward snorted. "Oh please. You can fool yourself if you like, but don't force that on me. I don't believe it for a moment. You'll want to rip him to shreds." I would ne- "Yes, even you."
Hm. I scanned the opposite side of the street, resolutely not thinking about the conversation. Edward would be impossible if I acknowledged how much he might slightly be right. Even thinking it briefly I was sure had him grinning. I didn't turn around to check.
The town had changed in the years I'd been gone, of course. There were more shops downtown, more cars on the street. Still, it wasn't a very large town. Shouldn't be too difficult.
"And I ask again, where would you like to start?" He slowed further, drummed his fingers on the wheel impatiently.
I sighed. I didn't know what I was doing, and much as I loved Edward, at the moment he was driving me crazy. He chuckled. "Just let me out here. Go…wherever you want. I'll meet you later." I'd take off walking, calm my nerves a bit. And there was no cohesive plan to this, none whatsoever. I'd just be hoping to run into her scent somewhere, and to not run into anyone else who might recognize me. Ah. Stupid, reckless. I hadn't even thought of that until now. Perhaps it would be better to wait for the cover of darkness…. Something inside me snarled, reminded me that I couldn't speak to her then. I probably shouldn't speak to her anyway. Just look. I pulled the door open and climbed out before I could change my mind, throwing a wave back for Edward before slipping close to the buildings on the inside of the sidewalk. It was late afternoon, most people were probably heading home for dinner. There was a steady flow of people but it was slow and somewhat sparse. I was foolish. The odds of running into her tonight were slim.
I passed the buildings at a moderate human speed, ticking them off in my head as I did. Post office. Grocery. Clothing. This was ridiculous. I was crazy. Insane. Reckless. I wondered idly what Edward was doing. He was still young, being in the city was hard for him. Now that I realized just how little of a plan I had, I began to regret bringing him here. This was an unnecessary hardship to put on him.
I turned left and off the main street, into a park. It was quieter here, dimmer due to the overhanging trees. There were songbirds singing, and it reminded me again that there were so many things I hadn't studied. It would have been nice to be able to pick them out by song. As soon as I found a good book on the subject, I'd add it to our library. There was a pond in the center of the park, and I soon found my way to it.
It was then, reaching out to lean on the wrought iron railing, that I caught her scent. At first, I thought I was imagining things. My brain had been working too hard to pick her out of the air, and now it was telling me what I wanted to hear. I drew in a deep breath, and no, there was no mistaking it this time. No mistaking the way my muscles tightened, my head felt light…she smelled as good as I remembered, but it didn't make me thirsty. Hungry, perhaps, but not in…that sense. My eyes whipped side to side, scanning the park. The scent was fresh, close, wafted toward me on the breeze. She was very nearby, she had to be.
Ah, there! On a bench, on the other side of the circle. My breath stopped when I caught sight of her. She looked the picture of a lady, right leg crossed over her left, head tilted to look down at a book in her left hand, hair tucked back behind her right ear. Yes, she was every bit as beautiful as I knew she would grow to be. And yes, she wore a wedding right on her left hand. I groaned,
internally, even as I told myself that this was good news. What was I thinking? It wasn't as if I could have had her. As if I could have been her husband. Her husband. For the first time in over a century, the fierce desire to be human clawed at me so harshly it was a physical pain. If I were man, the one that put that ring on her finger could have been me. I could see, in that moment, how it would have gone. A doctor, that was a rich profession, especially in these times. I would have asked for her hand, her parents would have gladly consented. No obstacles. It would have been easy, even. I could have made her happy, I was sure of that. We had had such a connection, even in the short time we had known each other…
I swallowed hard, shoved the thoughts back. They did no good. I could no more become human than a fish could suddenly decide to fly by force of will. There were some things just not meant to be. There. You've had your look, you've gotten it out of your system. Accept it, and move on. Easier said than done. She shifted, and I could hear the fabric of her dress ruffle. My hands tightened on the railing, and I barely stopped myself before leaving my fingerprints. And to think I had been lecturing Edward on control. What was I going to do? Stand here until she left? Follow her home? I had tried leaving, as soon as I thought of it. My feet seemed bolted to the ground, or at least heavier than I could find the strength to lift. Esme. Esme Platt. What was her name now? Even the thought brought on another wave of mixed yearning, anger, and revulsion. I shoved it away.
Well, if I was leaving, I could at least not stand here, staring at her like a mad man. She hadn't noticed, but it was only a matter of time before someone else did. I could…I could speak to her. It could do no real harm, could it? She had been 16 when we had met last, surely she wouldn't remember EXACTLY how I looked. And I shouldn't have aged too terribly much since that time, anyway. Foolish. Stupid. She probably wouldn't even remember me. But, perhaps, that would be a good thing. If she didn't know me, that would confirm what I already knew. She was so much better of this way, without me in her life. Yes. It would be easier, then, to leave her, to move on. Or so I told myself.
With a deep breath I pulled myself out of my statue-like pose, moving at a measured walk around the circle. My feet seemed to work fine when they were headed in her direction rather than away. She turned a page on her book, and I caught a few of the words. She was reading Lord Byron. Excellent poet, and a very interesting choice. Young women were so often discouraged from reading, but then the Esme I had known had certainly been a rebel. The thought brought a smile to my lips, and I relaxed a little. This would be easy, just hello. That would be all. She looked up as I approached. It was hard to remember that I need to keep up the pretense of breathing. Her eyes were a stunning jade green, just as I had remembered, if perhaps a little dimmer. But I didn't have time to wonder at the change. I tried to open my mouth to speak, but she beat me to it.
"And to you." My mouth felt suddenly dry, my mind racing. I had to keep up the human pretense. I was a doctor, I wouldn't remember every patient by name. Not a human doctor, anyway. "Have we met?"
She smiled, but it was a ghost of what I expected. "A few years ago, yes. I was 16, had a run in with the ground after climbing an old oak."
I nodded and smiled, as if I were just making the connection. "Ah yes, I remember. Your leg was broken. Esme, was it?" As soon as it was out, I mentally slapped myself. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I almost certainly shouldn't have remembered her name.
But, thankfully, she didn't pause. "Yes. You remember." The idea didn't seem to bother her, so I just smiled. "Good to see you again, Dr.Cullen."
"And you." Hesitantly, I took a seat next to her on the bench. "Climbing any trees these days?"
She laughed, soft and beautiful. "No, I'm afraid not. It's considered improper behavior for a woman my age to be climbing trees."
"I thought it was improper before." I met her eyes, and there was a brief instance of the spark I remembered in them before they dimmed again.
"It was. But I did it anyway." There was a wistful tone to her voice then, as if mourning something she had lost. I could imagine rich men's wives really couldn't spend too much time out of doors alone. This was probably all she had, and here I was disrupting it.
"Nothing wrong with a little non-conventional behavior every now and then. It's good for you."
"You're the first doctor to say so, at least that I've heard."
"Perhaps I am the minority." In the silence, a bird called louder than the others. Nightingale, I think. I really did need to learn those. "Did you ever make it west?" And I mentally berated myself again. How stupid, how reckless could I be? We had spent a good amount of time talking, it was true. But I probably shouldn't have remembered her dreams. Besides, I knew the answer even before she spoke it.
"No, I didn't." Her tone was even darker, more listless. "My family didn't approve, and there were…other things to consider. There was suitor of the perfect age and family, and of course, any career of my own to be put on hold."
My temper flared and I forced it into submission. Mostly. A small, angry voice growled at me that she should have to submit to no one. Yes. I already knew that. But that wasn't the way things were. "Congratulations then, on your wedding. It sounds like a very good match." I smiled for her, as much as I could muster. It shocked me when it was her own smile, not mine, that faltered. Her eyes looked, if anything, even dimmer. Even…frightened.
But she covered it quickly. "Yes, thank you. You must forgive me, Charles has been away at the war. He only came home yesterday. It's hard to adjust to not worrying about him anymore." And she delivered the lie very well, and a human might have fallen for it. But I didn't. I had seen the fear in her eyes, and it didn't look like worry. Nor was the way her hands had tightened on her book when she said his name, the way her eyes had darted to the side. As if she expected him to come around the corner at any minute.
"We are all truly indebted to those brave men who served our country." It escaped my lips in a soft murmur, an absentminded continuation of the conversation. My thoughts were still tied up analyzing her reactions.
She nodded, slightly, eyes downcast. "Yes. Yes he's very brave." It seemed for a moment, her hands shook. In any case, her grip on the book lightened, and I was very glad I was focusing on the distracting puzzle of her hands, otherwise it would have been hard not to reflexively catch it and give myself away. As it was, we both reached for it, her hand sliding down just before mine.
"No, allow me." Blushing, she pulled her hand back, let me pick it up for her. I dusted the dirt off of the cover before holding it out to her, and she took it in the same hand she had reached for it with. Something I noticed, because in reaching her sleeve had pulled away from the soft, grey gloves she wore, and a caught a glimpse of a very evident dark purple bruise just above her wrist.
She must have seen the alarm in my eyes, for she pulled her sleeve down quickly then. "Thank you. I'm sorry, but I must be getting home. Charles will be there soon, and I believe we're going out to meet some friends. If you'll excuse me."
"Good day, Dr.Cullen."
"Yes, good day." I hardly watched her leave. My mind was elsewhere, on the brief glimpse of her skin. A human wouldn't have, couldn't have caught it. It was only visible a second, maybe two. But I wasn't human, and I had. And what I had seen made me sick, sick enough that I could feel the iron of the bench's armrest crack under my hand.
That wasn't just a bruise. It was a handprint.
Poor Carlisle, having to see that. :pats him:
Hmm, what'll he do now? I haven't the faintest idea….. ; ) jk
Reviews, oh how I love you….