New Moon

Chapter 4- Carlisle

This is wrong Edward. I couldn't help it. Leaving Bella felt almost criminal. It seemed like a fate worse than death.

"Carlisle, it's the only way! This is the only way to save her and make sure she has a better life, a life free of danger. She doesn't need me ruining her life…" Edward started off in scolding and ended hardly in a whisper.

We were driving through New Hampshire, on our way to Ithaca. Edward wanted to be as far away from Bella as possible to keep her safe… or he was trying to. We have been going back and forth on whether or not this was the right decision to make.

Something bad is going to happen Edward. You know it, too. This was a mistake. I have been trying to convince him the whole way that we shouldn't leave Bella. That it was more dangerous for her without us than with us.

"Bella promised," he spoke softly and heavily with sadness. He didn't like the idea, yet he was torturing himself to stay away from her. "She is always good to her word. This is going to work out. Enough," he shifted from soft to stern in an instant. His moods were always erratic.

We were quiet the rest of the way. Only Edward could hear anything. But I was careful with my thoughts. I was focusing on less pressured issues. Such as Esme and her seventeenth century home she was restoring, Rosalie and Emmett in Africa, thinking that Alice and Jasper should go and visit Tanya's clan in Denali. It was getting harder as I started to run out of other distractions. My thoughts always came back to Bella. And every time they did, Edward would turn and frown at me.

I couldn't understand why he was doing this. This would just make everything more of a mess. The peace will be silenced with madness and chaos. Leaving Bella was like leaving a snow-white hare in the middle of the rode. It was morally and logically wrong.

Luckily we arrived shortly after our last spoken words. I switched off the engine and slowly stepped out of the car. As I did, I saw Edward gazing in another direction.

I figured as much. "Where are you going to go, Edward?" I asked softly.

He started to say something, and then hesitated. "I don't know yet. But I can't stay here," he said solemnly. "Also, Alice will never forgive me for this. She will make sure my life is a living hell. Knowing her she will probably irritate me to death," he let out a humorless laugh, "so I think for the safety of my sanity I should go." Once again he laughed with no trace of humor. Trying to lighten up the tension is my guess.

"Take care of yourself," I spoke with love and honesty. "Call as often as you can." I dreaded having my family separated, but if this is what is best…

"It is Carlisle. I'm so sorry." He gazed at me apologetically. The sadness reached his eyes.

We will all miss you. Esme especially. She will be the most heartbroken. Edward has always been her first and favorite child.

"Tell her I'm so sorry, will you?" He asked.

"Of course." I walked around the car to hug him tightly. I hoped that someday I might be able to do it again. "Goodbye, my son." And he was off. Where to, I hoped to know soon.

I turned toward the house. The two story Victorian seemed as glorious as it had been 300 years ago. The wrap around porch had just been refinished and painted. I walked up the steps, knowing that the main construction was in full bloom on the inside.

To no surprise, I opened the door to the typical construction site. To the left was the long dining room. There was tarp on the old wood floors for the new paint. The large chandelier hung with plastic over it. To my right was the family room. Edward's grand piano in the far corner, covered with more plastic, the new furniture should arrive within the week. I walked a little further down the foyer, down a step, and turned right into the high-ceiling study. There I spotted Esme hunched over a small table, looking over more plans.

She new I was here. She turned to me and smiled. If my heart were still beating, it would have stuttered every time. Her bright smile always made me feel like I was falling in love all over again. Her childish dimples were the sweetest things I have ever seen.

I walked over to give a tight hug and a kiss. Our usual greeting.

She looked up at me and smiled. "Hi there," was her anticlimactic greeting. Then looked around me confusedly and asked, "Where is Edward?" her smile faded.

She took in my silence and looked down toward the bare wood floors. She understood. She looked back up and her eyes were glistening. This was the expression she always had when she wanted to cry.

"He left again, didn't he?" her voice was replete with sadness and shaky. I hugged her fiercely. Her eyes were clenched tightly closed. I new this would be harder for her than anyone else. Knowing that I couldn't make it any better made me feel helpless. I felt so utterly helpless to have her here in my arms, so sad, and not be able to wipe the frown off her heartbreakingly beautiful face. My only response came in a weak nod.

"He says he's sorry. He truly is Esme. I think he just needs time to clear out his head. I think this is just too hard for him to deal with when everyone here can only think about how they want Bella. It is bound to be difficult." I was defending Edward and trying to comfort Esme at the same time.

She nodded in agreement. "He should do what he thinks best. But I will miss him deeply. Our family just isn't complete without him," her voice started to waver, "…or Bella." She said the last so quietly I could hardly hear her. Esme always considered Bella a daughter. She missed her so much. And she hated as much as I did having our family apart. Esme was torn to pieces the first time he left. I'm sure this time will be just as bad. I treasured the smile she gave me when I walked in. Because it would probably be a long while until I saw another one.

We released from our tight embrace. We gazed at each other. I gave her one last apologetic glance, kissed her on her forehead, and turned to walk out. Esme wasn't the only who was going to take this very lightly.

Alice would need just as much comforting. I'm sure she would receive care from Jasper, but maybe she needed more than just Jasper in this one thing. Jasper still felt guilty about Bella, and wasn't as tightly bound. Jasper supported Edward in his decision, but he lost faith in himself after his unexpected attack. Edward claimed it was to be expected, but I'm certain he was as surprised as any of us were. We were very fortunate to have Edward be the fastest of us all.

I walked up one of the broad staircases that curved down both sides of the foyer. I took slow strides down the long hallway on the right. Alice and Jasper's room was the first on the right side of the hall…it had the largest closet. The second story hallways were painted a sage green, a natural color that brought more light into the house. Elaborate crown molding extended the length of the hallway. Esme's favorite artist, Degas, hung from the walls. Ballerinas have always fascinated Esme. But she was more graceful than the most experienced ballerina.

I approached Alice's door, and heard a "Come in," from within the room. It was a sad tone. And of course she would see me coming. I slowly opened the door and saw Alice sitting in the middle of her bed, her seeming frail arms wrapped delicately around her legs, her full lips in a pout. I walked toward her and sat on the edge of her bed. I could understand why she would be one of the most upset. She was so close to Bella, and loved her like a sister. Even before she knew Bella.

Alice saw herself and Bella, shortly after his encounter with her earlier this year, with an inseparable bond in a vision. She put her silent heart and soul into trying to be close to Bella without angering Edward. When Edward allowed her to become friends with Bella, she couldn't help but radiate the overwhelming feeling of pure joy. Now she was without the person she worked so hard to be with. Her feelings of melancholy and frustration had not gone misunderstood.

"How are you doing Alice?" It seemed like an appropriate way to start the conversation. I had a pretty good idea of what her answer would be, and I didn't know how well this would go, but it made me feel useless not being able to comfort anyone.

"Terrible. How could he do this to me Carlisle? I loved Bella as if she were my own sister," her tone went hard, "and then he forced me to promise not to look after her or interfere with her life anymore. How could he do that to her? She can't go one day without running into catastrophe! It's irresponsible of Edward to leave her like that," her words were hard, but undeniably true. Then her voice went soft again. "It saddens me to think that she won't last long without his or our protection. I feel guilty leaving her so unguarded. I feel so helpless Carlisle," the look Esme had in her eyes earlier was a mimic of Alice's. She went on in a helpless tone. "And I have to focus so hard not to see her future. I'm already so attuned to her. And then Edward leaves. I can't even see where he is going. I hope he enjoys the misery that he has drowned us all in." The pout slipped back onto her lips and fury returned to her butterscotch eyes.

I could see where she was coming from, being so upset. But this will be ten times as hard for Edward as it is for the rest of us. "Don't wish such fortune onto Edward. This is just as hard for him as any of us. If not, harder. We all think of her as family, Alice. It will be hard all around." She looked up and gave a sarcastic glare.

"Okay, okay. Of course Rosalie might be an exception. But she is not here to prove so. I'm sorry for the strain that this inflicts on you Alice. I know it must be very difficult to not look after Bella. And whether or not this is the right decision, we will find out in time. But for now we can only hope that she is safe. Charlie will look after her and so will her other friends. She is surrounded by good people." I tried my hardest to reassure her. But I think I was mostly trying to reassure myself.

"Thank you for trying Carlisle. But I don't think anyone can really feel normal for a while. Bella is not someone who should be taken lightly. She can be driven to such extremes. Like last spring, when she wanted to save her mother. That was what she was determined to succeed in and she did. I don't know what will happen to her Carlisle. The possibilities are endless and terrifying. It makes me feel helpless that I can't see possible dangers to her." The wrinkle in her forehead signaled that she was annoyed disappeared, and was replaced with a sad look that was defined by the upward slanting of her eyebrows and was also a sign of distress.

"I agree with you that this will take quite some time to get over. If it is even possible. And I am aware that she puts others safety before her own. That is just her nature. But Edward is calling the shots on Bella. We shouldn't interfere with his decision-making. And you have other things to worry about. I'm pretty sure that Jasper is still pretty upset and hasn't yet forgiven himself for contributing to this decision. You should go with him up to see Tanya's clan up in Denali. That might help him through this mess." She should focus on getting Jasper to feel a little better rather than dwelling on what can't be altered. Advice, sadly, was all that I could give to her.

She sighed. "You're right. I should go with Jasper. I think he would like to visit Tanya, too. Thank you Carlisle." She leaned to give me a quick squeeze. I held her back. After a brief moment, we released. I got up off the bed and started to head back towards the door.

Then I whispered," And Alice?"

She looked confused by the look on my face, "Yes Carlisle?"

I looked at her with sad and guilty eyes. "You aren't the only one who feels helpless." I turned and shut the door.


Business as Usual

Empty weeks went by, and on the outside things were looking normal and as usual. Esme had finished renovating the inside of the house and decided to start planning the landscaping. Alice and Jasper were still in Denali. Jasper still didn't feel comfortable coming back yet. Alice tells me that he feels that he betrayed my faith in him. Of course I responded by saying, "What Edward did was by his decision making. You didn't have one word in it. And sometimes we slip Jasper. That is just one of the downsides to our lifestyle." Jasper has always been the one to struggle, before he joined our family, he had a very different lifestyle. And adjusting was very difficult for him. I have always accepted that he would need the most help enduring the unquenchable thirst.

Rosalie and Emmett decided to travel for another honeymoon. They are exploring all of Europe. Emmett informed me that Rosalie was having the time of her life, buying out all of the winter collections of designers he never even heard of. Emmett didn't particularly like shopping. But he never dared mentioned it to Rosalie. She would all but rip his head off if he complained. But he never did. But I wasn't sure if it was because he valued his life, or if he experience true joy watching Rosalie squeal happily over a dress she thought made her look good. Emmett enjoyed test-driving the fastest cars on the Autobahn in Germany. He informed me that he did most of the driving while Rosalie admired herself in the side-view mirrors.

I was teaching at Cornwall during the day and working nights at the hospital. I always kept myself busy to replace the useless feeling I felt in our now empty and dreary home. By teaching, I felt that sharing my knowledge would help the young adults who also want to make the same difference that I want to. And by working at the hospital, I could use my talent to help those that need my expertise. At home I spent most of my time helping Esme and her elaborate plan to turn the backyard into a rose garden with a large fountain in the center and a table for tea drinking (For guests, of course). And when I wasn't helping Esme, I was in my study, engaging myself in a good story.

Early one morning, I was placed in my study, reading a book on Henry VII and his six wives. It was very intriguing. Unfortunately I came 100 years after Henry, so I didn't get to truly experience his rule. But as I was intently reading, the phone rang.

I answered after the second ring. Humans take time to get to the phone rather than answering it the very millisecond that it rings.

"Hello?" I asked in a cheerful voice.

"Hi Carlisle. It's Alice." Her voice wasn't as lively as it was before the move, but there was definitely more life in it.

"Hello Alice! How are things in Denali? How is Tanya?" Tanya's coven was extended family to us. We were the few that could survive on a "vegetarian" diet. Only they did it for much more… feminine reasons.

"Things are white. It's pretty here. But I've seen it all before, and Tanya is doing great. But she is still a little mopey about Edward." She sighed. "But that's not why I called. I'm just calling to tell you that we are coming back," she informed me.

"That's wonderful Alice! Esme's spirits will be lifted when she hears that you're coming home. She missed you so much." I couldn't wait to see another one of Esme's smiles light up her face again.

"I'm sure she will. And um, I was also wondering if we could subscribe to the Daily Journal in Forks," she asked uncertainly and very hesitantly. As if she was suddenly unsure. "But only if you think that it's okay!" she added quickly. "I just still want to stay well informed about our, uh, old home" You could here in her voice that this was never her true intention.

"Oh, the newspaper? Sure. I should think that would be okay. I would like to stay informed as well. Forks can get pretty exciting during this time of year." And I meant it in more ways than one. I continued to play along. "Sure. Go ahead. Though Forks might get a little suspicious when outsiders want to know what's going on in their tiny town. So keep the subscription anonymous, okay?" We always wanted to avoid suspicion. If Bella found out anything about this…

"Thank you Carlisle! I'll see you in a couple of hours! Bye!" And the line went dead.

I noticed the difference in her voice towards the end of the phone-call. There was life in it. Before it was just a trace of what used to be, but now it was there. This would definitely calm our nerves if we new a little of what happened in our little home of Forks. And we would not be interfering. We would be merely observing.

We would definitely have to keep this quiet. Esme wouldn't want to take part in anything that would upset Edward. Rosalie would tattle on us and inform Edward. Emmett would tell Rosalie anything if she new he was hiding something. But Alice and I always had Bella on our conscience. We didn't always notice the shadow in the back of our minds, but it was always there to haunt us. This paper would help lower our level of insecurity.

I got up and stepped out of the study to give Esme the news. I walked downstairs to the living room where Esme was poached on the antique couch reading a magazine on interior design. I sat down next to her and gently placed an arm around her slim shoulders. She looked up at me and gave me a weak smile.

Maybe that smile will become real in a minute, I told myself. "That was Alice on the phone," a little more life was in her eyes when I mentioned Alice. "She and Jasper have decided to end their visit and return home. They will be here in several hours." I watched as her face slowly lit up. As her spirits lifted, the love for her began to fill me up. My silent heart felt as if it was going to leap out of my chest with joy.

The smile became less strained. "That's wonderful! I've missed them so much. I will be nice having more of us in the house again. When did you say they were coming?" She turned and put her magazine on the side table. "Couple of hours? Well, I guess I better do some shopping research before they get here. The shopping in Alaska doesn't exactly meet Alice's standards. She will need to see every new line that came out. You and Jasper should go hunting. He might be thirsty. And even if he isn't, you should have some one-on-one time. You don't exactly have the time that Alice and I spend shopping together. And Alice can help me with…" As Esme continued about her plans of Alice and Jasper's return, I listened with a smile on my face the whole time. Nothing made me happier than watching Esme smile and be happy.

Alice and Jasper returned in the late evening. We spent a couple of hours at home. We chatted lively about Tanya, Irina, and the rest of the clan. Jasper looked slightly uncomfortable, and I realized that he must be thirsty.

As it turns out, Alice was itching to go shopping with Esme. Jasper rolled his eyes at her sincere request, and Alice glared back. But Esme had done her homework and gave Alice the news on this season's newest looks. And Alice agreed to accompany Esme in her hunt for a fountain to put in the rose garden.

And as Esme planned, Jasper and I went hunting. He was struggling with his thirst. This wasn't out of the norm.

We sprinted west of Ithaca. Where the forests were plentiful in wildlife and deer and various animals. Jasper teased a doe. I chastised him in treating the animals with more compassion, and to quit playing with his food. I was just thankful he wasn't like Alice in his eating habits. Alice terrified her prey by moving in the direction they were thinking of going before they took one step. Her prey all but collapsed of shock when she was in a playful mood. I laughed at the thought.

After somewhat satisfying our thirst, we decided to sit down, have a break, and talk for a bit. I was in no hurry. I took two days off so I could spend time with my family. And Jasper looked like he had a lot on his plate with Alice.

We found a suitable spot, a fallen tree, and sat down in silence.

Jasper was the first to speak.

"Alice subscribed," Jasper informed me in a disapproving tone.

I sighed. Of course he would know. "I knew she wouldn't be able to keep it from you. And I know that you disapprove, but it's the only way to satisfy the raging curiosity and worry that we feel without interfering and angering Edward. Alice loves Bella too much to just let her go." He already knew this, but I needed to remind him how hard it was for the ones who were deeply involved with Bella. And those who had a strong emotional bond. I was always Bella's confidante. She trusted me with her worries. And she trusted my judgment and advice. I guess that is betrayed now.

Jasper let out a sigh of his own, except his was in defeat. "I know. She is always so troubled. I don't understand why, though. I like the idea of Bella as a sister just as much as Emmett did. Of course, I would never compare my need for her to Alice's. But she is always concerned. Every day I could feel her emotions climb up and down with her wild range of thoughts. I'm guessing that she's thinking of al the dangers Bella could encounter." I'd say that's a safe assumption. He continued, "She concealed her worry from Tanya and everyone, but I can always feel her growing tension. It's like the longer she's away from her the harder it gets to ignore her future. The temptation is so hard for her to resist right now. I help as much as I can, but every time I try, she gets mad. At her or at me, I don't know. Either way, she isn't happy. I feel so helpless Carlisle." He placed his ashamed face in the palms of his hands and shook his face back and forth.

He had no need to feel ashamed. "Jasper, you shouldn't feel so guilty or ashamed. None of this is your fault. You're trying your best to comfort Alice. Just like I'm doing for her and Esme." We were both trying our best to make the ones we love to feel better. And we both felt as if we were failing. "She loves Bella just as much as Edward does. She can't help it, and neither cans I. That's why we couldn't just stand and ignore her safety. But you mustn't tell Edward. He would be furious. He would all but tear us to shreds if he found out. Please promise that you won't tell him." I knew I had no right to ask this of him, but I was running low on options.

He lifted his head from his hands with his eyes clenched closed with frustration. "I promise I will not speak to Edward of this," he recited, "I doubt we will even speak at all for a long while. Has he even called?" I shook my head in disappointment. "That's what I thought. It won't exactly be a hard promise to keep." I gave him a sympathetic look. Then we both gazed out into the dimming forest light.

That was the last we spoke of the subject.

Nothing was really new in Forks. It was December. Announcements were made on winter break, and small festivals were being held. The rest of the paper was filled with coupons for Christmas lights at the local hardware store. I was slightly disappointed. I wanted to read the paper and see something worthwhile. But Bella didn't really do anything to wind up in the paper. Or at least I hoped not. She was the kind of person who avoided any and all publicity. I could imagine her face redden and tears of anger rolling down her puffed up cheeks as she read an article where her clumsiness was the star attraction. A small giggle escaped my lips at the thought. Jasper looked up from his thick novella and eyed me speculatively.

But I started to bring back memories of her. Her laugh, the annoyed look on her face every time Edward did something better than anyone. It irritated her to no end. She never got used to Edward trying to impress her. I remembered her scarlet cheeks when Edward commented on her, the way she stared at him with so much love when they were sitting at the piano together. How they would gaze at each other for the longest time and not say a word. No words were meant to be spoken.

Their love reminded me of Esme and I. How whenever we looked at each other; it was like gazing at the sun for the first time. And to us, it seemed that way. When one of our kind experiences change, it is permanent. There is no going back. And to attain love and give it in return was a permanent change. I had a feeling that this didn't only apply to vampires. I had a feeling that humans felt that change, too.

And that's what worried me about Bella. Could she get over something like this? Was it in her nature to get over something so traumatizing? Could she ever recover from such a harsh blow? These were questions I had the answers to, but I didn't want them.


Tracking

It was nearing the end of December. The roads were slick with ice and car accidents were nothing unusual. I was working double shifts at the hospital so they wouldn't run low on staff. And if they ever did, I could work fast. Working double shifts wasn't much to me. I didn't need sleep, bathroom breaks, or meal breaks. This was part of the upside of being a vampire: no mundane human needs. I cared for the critically injured as best as I could, but D.O.T.S (hospital term for "dead on the scene") were sometimes unavoidable. I succeeded in healing the ones that came off the scene with their hearts barely beating, but those who's hearts weren't beating had no hope.

Every day that we lost somebody, I came home in a saddened state. But my family was always there to comfort me when I need to be comforted. I was grateful for my family. When I got home from the hospital, they always greeted me with warm smiles, hugs, and idle chatter. Sometimes, I forgot about what happened at the hospital and focused on how happy my family was.

Rosalie, Emmett, Alice, Jasper, and Esme were all home. Rosalie and Emmett sometimes went to their weekend home that Esme had renovated for them, but they spent most of the time at the main house. They were as happy as possible without Edward and Bella with us. Rosalie sometimes looked annoyed, but I could never figure out why.

Occasionally I would catch Esme by herself, sitting at the small table in the guest bedroom, staring out the tall windows into the completed rose garden. The roses, as she puts it, only sleeping. And sometimes when she was oblivious to my presence, I would catch her talking to herself. One day after I got back from the hospital, I found her in the room in her usual spot. She was gazing absentmindedly into the "sleeping" garden. Then she whispered, "I wonder where Edward is. I'm sure wherever he is, that he will be missing Bella. I wonder how she has faired without him…I hope they are both happy." I felt my silent heart drop to the floor. She still wasn't happy. Her family wasn't complete without Edward and Bella. I made a little noise in my step to catch her attention; she turned and gazed at me. A tired smile appeared on her lips. I gazed at her as I walked over and sat across the table from her. I'm not sure if she new I was there while she was speaking to herself, but she gave me an apologetic smile. I tried to prevent a frown from appearing on my face so I wouldn't upset her. Instead I took one of her hands in mine, clenched my eyes closed, kissed her hand and held it to my cheek. I rested my head there for a long moment, opened my eyes, and saw her gazing back at me. I felt as helpless as ever. And yet she still smiled at me with all her love.

I asked Alice or Rosalie to sit with her in the afternoons from now on. I asked them to entertain her. But Emmett had the entertainment portion of the day covered. Alice always had Jasper with her to help with Esme. Sometimes she hid her sadness so well. Alice was always unsure, so she had Jasper come to see if they were really making her happy, or if she was faking it for the sake of other's happiness.

One early morning, I was sitting in the large burgundy leather chair at my antique mahogany desk in my study, gazing at my wall of paintings. I began to reminiscence again. I gazed at the smaller painting of a small group of men; the Volturi. I stayed with them for a couple of decades, but I decided to explore a new territory across the Atlantic Ocean called America. Aro, Marcus and the others were never fully supportive of my diet. They always thought I would cave. Not once did I give in. I hardly notice the smell anymore.

I decided to settle in Chicago. Occasional sunny days kept me hidden in the shadows or indoors until evening came around. During the epidemic of the Spanish Influenza, I felt useless sitting indoors while people were dying. It was there in Chicago during the year 1918, that Elizabeth Mason convinced me to save her son and cure my loneliness.

The phone ringing interrupted my reminiscing. I wondered for a fraction of a second, who would be calling at two in the morning? I glanced at the number and immediately picked up.

"Edward?" Relief was heavy in my voice.

"Carlisle." Edwards voice was almost…stern.

"Edward!" I repeated a little louder. Esme, Alice, Jasper, Rosalie, and Emmett were all in the room now. "Where are you? How are you?" I asked excitedly.

"I'm in Texas and I'm fine. But I found out what I need to do. What I can do for Bella…" his voice trailed off. What could he possibly do for Bella in Texas? She was in Forks.

"I found Victoria's scent and I'm going to try and track her. I am going to rid Bella of the dangers of our kind…" You could tell that Bella was a very difficult topic for Edward to talk about. "I'm sorry but I don't have long to talk, so could you do me a favor?" Anxious and curious glances surrounded me.

"Of course, Edward. Anything you need." Since he can't talk to everyone, he will probably ask me to deliver messages. My theory was proved correct.

"Tell everyone that I said 'merry Christmas', for me. I don't think I'll be able to call again for a while. Tell them I love them and I'll come home as soon as I'm finished. And…" there was a momentary pause," tell Esme I'm sorry, and that I miss her very much. I'm sure she's not very happy with me right now. Is that okay?"

He needn't ask. "Yes. I will pass that along. Just take care of yourself. Be careful and come home soon. We all miss you." I wasn't sure about Rosalie, but whenever she saw Esme upset, she looked very annoyed.

Edward let out a humorless laugh. "I'm sure Rosalie is heartbroken," he let out another laugh. Rosalie scowled. "Thank you Carlisle. I have to go now. Good bye." Click. Esme had a sparkle in her eyes. Jasper's expression was unreadable. Alice looked a little apprehensive, probably in his choice of activity. Rosalie maintained the scowl on her face while Emmett retrained giggles. I shared Esme's expression.

"Edward says he misses us. He is well and in Texas. He apologizes for not keeping in touch. Though I'm sure you probably heard the rest." They all nodded short quick nods. We all seemed relieved and concerned at the same time.


Christmas Wishes

Christmas was fast approaching. Alice helped Esme decorate the house with wreaths, candles, and missile toe. Emmett took advantage of the missile-toe with Rosalie all the time. Rosalie didn't mind one bit. But occasionally you would hear her complain, "Watch the hair!" Emmett would just laugh at her. We had a real Christmas tree set up in the formal living room, Esme's favorite room in the house. The tree stood just a little over 12 feet. Emmett did her the favor of cutting it down. The decorations were elaborate. There was a large, extravagant bronze and gold bow at the top. The colors of the ribbon matched that of the room. The ribbon came down the tree in little hills all the way down. The ornaments matched the color scheme appropriately. The tree was filled with several different shades of gold and brown. Plastic glittery gold flowers created filling for the tree. Esme never did things halfway when it came to decorating. And to finish it off, several strings of lights circled around the tree to make it glow. Esme looked pleased with the finished product.

Esme had Jasper and Emmett decorate the outside. Esme kept them busy stringing lights from trees, moving the lighted deer made of straw with red ribbon rimmed with gold trim wrapped around their necks. But occasionally Jasper would make a comment on how appallingly delicious the fake deer looked, and an intense and vigorous snowball fight would commence. Esme always chided them to keep it light and not so aggressive. Emmett always whined and complained like a child with a, "but Esme!" when she ordered the fight to cease. His childish ways left us trilling in laughter.

It was a cheerful time. We were almost always in high spirits. Of course, with Emmett and Jasper being the comedians, how could we not? Alice observed a fierce snowball fight in the forest during a hunt one day. Esme was gently chiding them to take it easy when Alice said, "nothing can stop the Dynamic Duo once they initiate themselves into battle." Emmett immediately stopped the fight.

"Aw, c'mon! We fight like pros! You've gotta come up with a better name than "The Dynamic Duo"! I mean seriously! You have got to be more creative than that!" His sincere disappointment brought on hysterics by the rest of us while his lips slipped into a childish pout.

All in all it was a happy time.

Christmas day finally came around. Jasper had given Alice a silver pendant of the Cullen insignia attached to a delicate, black silk ribbon. To reciprocate the thoughtful gift, she presented a new way of travel with a sleek, silver Ducati motorbike. He was very enthusiastic when he looked at the speedometer.

Rosalie and Emmett exchanged gifts as well. Theirs were more of inside jokes though. Emmett lavished Rose with hair products with French labels on it. Rosalie and her hair. Rose's gift to Emmett was small, but nothing could amuse him more. She presented him with a tissue-papered wrapped gift with silver ribbon. He opened it and let out a roar of laughter. A few giggles escaped from Rosalie. He held up his gift for us to see. It was a t-shirt with a bear-slash that stretched from the left shoulder to the right hip. Then everyone started to laugh.

Esme and I never exchanged gifts. All we needed was each other and to see our family happy. But Alice, Jasper, Emmett, and Rosalie never left us out of the gift exchange. Esme received several thick volumes on English tea gardens, a famous painting by Degas named, "Clase de Danse" or "The Dance Class", and a couple of gowns from Rosalie. I accepted a new brief case, a new stethoscope with my name engraved on it, and a couple of new business suits from the girls.

In the evening, we went out to have our version of a Christmas feast. Emmett managed to hunt down a grizzly, the girls settled on dear, while Jasper and I were lucky enough to find a couple of mountain lions. We were not injudicious with our hunting habits, so the hunt did not last long.

When we got back to the house, we went our separate ways to try out our gifts. Esme remained in the living room, Jasper took Alice for a ride on his new motorcycle, and Emmett and Rosalie decided they needed some…time in private.

I retreated to my study. As I walked in I discovered a recent edition of The Daily Journal from forks. I slowly sat down at the desk and picked up the paper to start reading. I didn't get very far down the page before I had my eyes glued. The main article read:

A Christmas Wish

An Article written by Wesley Grange

As we all sit down near our Christmas trees being warmed by the fire, opening and exploring our new gifts, gouging ourselves in Christmas feasts, and celebrating merrily surrounded by the ones we hold dear, a family suffers for an ill loved one as the time drags on miserably.

This Christmas, a young patient (her name will not be disclosed for privacy concerns) lies in a hospital bed in a deep sleep. No Christmas feast, no happy gift exchanges. The only exchanges are words said in prayer.

This young girl came from a good family. Both of her parents held respectable and highly honorable jobs, she did well in school, made friends easily, but was an essentially shy person. She always put others before herself. She was as selfless as a person could possibly be. She flew into a fury if someone ever dared bought her a gift. Heaven forbid that anyone buy her a gift under any circumstances. She has never asked for anything.

But this Christmas, the family has something to ask of. They want to give her something that could be of good value to her. Something that she wants and truly needs.

"We would like to ask for Dr. Carlisle Cullen," implores patient's mother. "He is an excellent doctor and I truly think he could help out daughter. And her father agrees that he can give all he has to save her and more. She needs him to help her. And we need him to do all he can to save our daughter from this illness."

Doctors don't know what is wrong with the patient. They claim that she is physically stable and…

The article went on about how the patient's statistics were nonsensical and how they couldn't figure out what was wrong with her, how they think her psychological state is what's causing the problem.

They needed my help. The urge to get up and leave immediately had to be restrained. It almost hurt to ignore this desperate calling. I couldn't just leave this call unanswered. It would be beyond cruel. Life is too precious to just let it go to waste by some inexperienced doctors who are having a tough time figuring out a diagnosis. It was morally wrong to leave a young, endangered life in the hands of people who don't have a single idea as to what needs to be done. It was cynical.

I resolved on calling the given information. I picked up the phone and dialed. I patiently, yet impatiently, waited for someone to pick up the phone. It rang three times before a secretary answered the phone.

"Forks Community Hospital, this is Wendy, how may I help you?" Answered a soft, friendly voice.

"Yes, I would like to speak with Doctor Gerandy if you please." I asked politely.

"Doctor Gerandy? Just one moment." The line went silent. I remembered the system. She had to page him. A minute went by and someone finally answered.

"Dr. Gerandy here," he said in a tire, hoarse voice.

"George? This is Carlisle Cullen. I was informed that there was a patient stationed in the hospital that needed my assistance?" I turned it into a question to make it sound like I hardly new a thing. I wanted to keep it light and inconspicuous.

"Carlisle! Oh, thank God you found out. We really need you here. I'm embarrassed to say that we are not equipped to handle this type of situation. We've never had a case like this one. We've tried so many tests, but nothing turns up." He exclaimed in frustration.

"Is she in a coma?" If she is, then maybe we could try putting her in a pressure chamber if the problem is from carbon monoxide poisoning. It's a common way to slip into a coma. But I sincerely doubt that carbon monoxide poisoning is the problem.

"…We think so. A blood test was the first thing we tried, just in case she sucked in some type of poisonous gas. But it came up clean, like everything else." He sighed.

"How long has it been?" If it's been more than two months without response to medication…

"A little over two months," he admitted regretfully. He understood what this meant.

Knowing this, saving this patient became a vain hope. If the condition of a patient doesn't change after several doses of medicine over a two months period, it would normally be diagnosed as a terminal coma. In spite of this, I still have to try. Some people have spent two years in a terminal coma and have come back. This case shouldn't be any different, right?

"It was towards the end of September that her father rushed her here. But its like she knows what's happening and she just doesn't want to wake up. Its like trying to get a kid up for school, except on a much larger magnitude."

And so the fog begins to lift. This is clearly psychological. Maybe I can fix this after all.

"I can be there in 36 hours." I say with confidence.

"That would be wonderful Carlisle-" I couldn't take risks.

I interrupted. "I would really appreciate keeping this interaction quiet. I can't have Forks knowing I'm there. It would…" I caught myself. I was going to say, It would cause Bella to have a neurological breakdown if she new that I came and left without her knowing. So instead, "…Stir a little trouble with some families." I hoped he wouldn't question me.

Lucky for me, he didn't. "Uh, sure Carlisle," he said uncertainly, "anything to get you here." He said with absolute certainty.

"I'll hold you to that. I'll see you soon." Just as I hung up, Alice walked into the room. She had "If you're going, you can be sure as hell I'm going, too" written all over.

"I'm coming." She said simply.

"I don't think that would be wise." I exclaimed, contradicting her.

"I don't see how it could. He said he would keep it quiet." Her determination was reflected in her fierce eyes.

"I don't know the condition of the patient. And I also don't know how long I will be gone. But if anything happens with…" I couldn't finish.

There was a long pause before I continued.

"If anything happens, I will inform you first. And if need arises, I will send for you. I promise you, Alice, that you will not be kept in the dark this time." She knew what I was referring to. And my promises were solid.

She seemed to process this for a moment. "Fine. I will hold to your promise tightly. I'm not happy about this." I could relate.

"I'm not either. If I had it my way, this would be our trip to move back. But this is all Edward. I can only make that decision when he gives the "okay". But until then, this is a one-manned trip." I gave her a sympathetic glance.

"Fine. I guess I'll see you when you get back. Or when my assistance is needed." She had a hopeful look.

"I guess I will." I got up out of the chair and escorted out and down into the living room.

Here I found Rosalie and Emmett in the love seat, and Jasper with his arm wrapped around Esme on the couch. Jasper raised his eyebrows as he assessed Alice's mood. She was pouting like a child now.

"Carlisle has something to say." Alice said cheerfully. Revenge I'm guessing. I didn't want to explain this until I actually had to leave. She went and plopped a seat next to Jasper. If he was speculative five seconds ago, it all but disappeared into confusion with Alice's mood.

I sighed in defeat while Alice smiled ruefully. Everyone's eyes were on me.

"I have discovered there is a patient that needs my medical assistance," I started. Alice glared at me as she observed my evasions. If I didn't tell them where I was going, I'd never get out of here. I sighed again. Alice looked pleased. "The patient lies in Forks," I heard small intakes of breath from everyone except Alice. I kept going as if I hadn't heard anything. "There is no need to worry. Dr. Gerandy just needs my assistance and has agreed to keep this matter under wraps. Nobody will know of my coming or going except him and the family of the patient." Even with the promise of secrecy, they still looked unstable.

"Are you sure, Carlisle?" Esme didn't like me leaving under any circumstances. It was one thing for a child to go on an extended vacation. It's another one when it's your soul and other half.

"I'm sure. Nothing will go wrong. She won't even notice I'm there. I promise." As Esme continued to stare at me with her deep, concerned butterscotch eyes, I began to wonder whether or not I made the right promise.

After our small family meeting, I decided to work a shift at the hospital.

I didn't need to. It was Christmas. Nobody would really be out anywhere finding trouble. It was soothing. I did have one emergency patient. A young man, probably in his early thirties, tall, light, curly blond hair cut short. He looked in great physical shape. With him was a little girl. She looked to be about five years of age, bronze colored curls framed her heart shaped face.

"Is this your daughter?" I asked while I was stitching him up. The little girl was holding his other hand. Her eyes were intent on his face with concern.

He let out a giggle. "Yeah. This is my little angel," she smiled as he gazed at her. "She was in tears when she saw my hand. She insisted on coming here with me even though she still hasn't opened her presents." Her cheeks turned a little pink, but kept her face on her father's.

"You're more important than a silly present. Daddy. If I wasn't here you would have cried when da doctor stuck you wid that needle and thread." We both laughed at that.

"You have got a lovely little girl." I commented the father.

"She's no little girl," he lets out a laugh. "She's more mature than some 21 year olds I know…Do you have a family Dr. Cullen?" He asked all of a sudden.

I smiled and said, "Yes I do. I have a wife and kids." I didn't say how many because of what people thought my age was.

"That's nice." He glanced down at his daughter, who was still holding his un-bandaged hand. "Do you have one as selfless as mine?" He laughed.

I thought about it for a moment. "Yes. Yes I do. Her name is Bella."