Something SERIOUS from Shekiah?! For real?!
This is kind of along the same lines as 'Out of the Darkness.' However that was a character study of Rosalie, the victim. Instead of following that pattern and basing this on Esme's feelings, it becomes a character study of Carlisle, the listener. And I believe it is more interesting as a result. ;) I don't own the universe of Twilight. The title comes from the song "Better Man" by Pearl Jam. Rated for mature themes and Carlisle's language when he gets angry.
Enjoy, dear reader.
I had never voluntarily wanted to kill another man until I heard his story.
That bastard Charles Evenson.
I didn't kill him, though, I suppose I'm proud to say. Not that I didn't want to; it was just that I couldn't. There was one time I even tried. Well, I didn't get so far as to try, in the physical sense of the word, or he never would have seen the light of day again. My rage brought me as far as the sitting room of his impeccably-decorated Midwestern home, but I never brought myself to sink my teeth into his fragile, revolting human flesh. It was a narrow miss, though.
I imagine that son of a bitch owes his life to my vampirically-heightened level of compassion…
I should probably record the story, mostly for posterity's sake.
It was about three years after Esme left him that she finally shared her story. Two of those years, give or take a little, had been spent with me. Having had no idea at the time about the life she had spent prior to her change into a vampire, I didn't know how much time had passed or what had occurred therein.
Something traumatic had happened to her; that much I had known. Even more traumatic than losing a baby – evidently it was possible. Edward had caved and admitted that much to me, but being the Edward I know and love, he was far too noble to betray any more of her secrets. I would have asked Esme herself, but I knew even without the details that it would have been wrong for me to push her to admit things that she didn't want to. I try hard not to betray other people's trust, especially trust as true and earnest as Esme's.
I'll be honest – I'm a doctor. I knew that she had attempted suicide simply by the nature of her injuries, and there are few suicides without provocation either by another person or by circumstance. Esme isn't the suicidal type, either. Something terrible had to have happened.
But all of that will be explained later on in the story. Let's go back to the day when she told me everything. It had been a stressful one, as many of them were back then. Esme was just beginning to leave the newborn phase of obsession with hunger, and I could tell that she was having trouble with some new and different stressors.
For many young vampires, recollections are very cloudy and difficult in the beginning, before the distinction is established between the human and vampiric phases of life. Though this takes different amounts of time for different vampires, the general effect is the same. Old memories – human memories – are very cloudy and difficult to make out. However, with time, they begin to come back. For many of us, it is a relief. The memories of friends and family we've all had to leave behind for the common good return mercifully. But for others – especially Esme – there were old skeletons in the closet that began to come forward as things became clearer.
We had been talking about my day at the hospital, as usual. Esme was – and still is – a sweetheart of a nineteen-twenties housewife, always wanting to hear how my day went. General dinner-table conversation – except without the dinner part.
I had actually had a hard time at the hospital that day, and was relieved to be able to vent a little bit to a listener as sympathetic as Esme. One patient in particular had been very upsetting to treat. She was a young woman in her mid-twenties. The malady for which she came in was a cut on her hand from chopping vegetables. Typical injury – the knife had slipped and cut her thumb. Hands bleed a lot, so it looked worse than it was; a few stitches had it under control quite nicely.
However, the cut hadn't been the largest of her problems.
As she was checked into the emergency room, I explained, I had noticed large purple bruises circling her upper arms. They looked fresh, and I could almost make out five individual finger marks on each side. From this alone, I had her pegged as a domestic abuse victim, but she hadn't come in for the bruises, so there was almost nothing I was legally allowed to do…
When I looked up, Esme was crying.
It was difficult to tell when vampires cried, since there weren't any real tears involved, but I had learned very well how to identify a breakdown.
And this definitely was just that.
Esme's shoulders shook, and her mouth made a firm line. Her eyes were closed tightly. The tears were dry and silent, but I knew they were there.
"Esme, darling!" I had exclaimed, kneeling down beside her chair. "What's wrong?"
"Don't you see, Carlisle?" she asked me, her eyes almost impossible to look into for all the pain they held. "That woman you treated at the hospital today – she was me. As I was before you found me. Don't you understand?"
I must confess; it took a second for everything to sink in.
"Esme," I whispered, my eyes widening with horror as I took her trembling hand. "I never knew."
Though she had told me the story about losing her baby, for some reason I never felt the need to ask about the human father I knew had to have existed. Maybe it was just because I was her husband now and subconsciously feared the idea of another man in her life, or maybe just because I had gotten so much in the habit of respecting my family's privacy. Who can tell?
But now the truth had finally surfaced, and it all made sense.
Her husband, whoever he had been, was abusive. Pregnancy was the excuse to leave that she had been waiting for, and the baby was all she had left to live for after she ran away. When that was gone, well, there was nothing left.
Thousands of ideas raced through my head in that moment. There were the logical ones, like those listed above, and the ones that were fully emotion, and fully rage.
The idea that anyone could lay a hand on someone as kind and inherently good as Esme made me physically ill. Her smile, her eyes – being able to hit someone with such a lovely soul, someone whom I loved so, so much – should have been impossible.
What kind of sick, horrible person would be able to do something like that?
And, moreover, how could his heart still undoubtedly beat while my Esme's did not?
There was nothing more I could have said in my state at that point, so I was thankful to Esme for continuing. As calmly as I could, I moved back to the chair where I had been sitting and scooted it closer so that I could hold her.
"His name was Charles Evenson," she began. "He was admired in the community, and a good man. So I was told. His family was wealthy and he owned lots of property in the city…"
I knew those kinds of stories backwards and forwards. Imagining Esme forced into a marriage of convenience with a man she didn't love made my skin crawl. The fact that he later abused her made me wish I was human simply so that I could become as violently ill as I wanted. I felt my free hand tighten around the seat of my chair. The wood was splintering, but right now it was the closest thing I had to Evenson's throat.
"An Evenson?" I had managed to whisper. I had lived in Columbus long enough to know plenty about that family. They were the embodiment of what every good American wanted to become – as close to royalty as you could find in Columbus, Ohio.
Esme nodded, calming down enough to smile bitterly.
"Obadiah Evenson's grandson. Can you believe that?"
I shook my head. Obadiah Evenson had commissioned the hospital where I worked in Ohio. I couldn't imagine any of his relations being like Esme described Charles. I didn't want to imagine it.
"At the age of twenty-two, I was the last of my friends to marry. A few more years and I would have been an old maid," Esme explained. "Funny, isn't it, how things have changed?"
I couldn't imagine any part of this story being funny, but I let her continue.
"Charles had been financed once before, but the engagement had inexplicably ended. Knowing that fact disconcerted me a little bit, I must admit. I comforted myself with the idea that people don't always get along; these things happen. My fears were eased as courted me quite loyally and finally asked me for my hand in marriage. Having given up on finding the doctor from my sixteen-year-old daydreams – " Here she paused and gave me a shy smile – "I accepted."
Even though I knew that her days with Charles had long since passed, hearing those two words was like a death sentence. But she continued, seemingly unaffected.
"The first month was beautiful, really. A lavish honeymoon, exclusive parties – being an Evenson was a bigger deal than I had realized. The fact remained that there wasn't love in our relationship, but strangely enough, sometimes the absence things like love are simpler to overlook than you might think."
Esme's eyes grew darker as she went on.
"One day, he came home from work, and dinner wasn't ready yet. I had been next door helping our neighbor, the wife of one of Charles's co-workers, clean house. She was about eight months pregnant at the time, and I recall being terribly jealous. But when Charles arrived that day, things were different. He was very angry that the food wasn't ready, and it all went by so quickly. I remember being horrified as he knocked a pot of soup off the stove… the next minute, I was on the floor too. Carlisle, I'm sorry – do you want me to stop?"
The tenderness in Esme's eyes only made my chest seize up even further. She had noticed the raggedness in my breathing, even if I hadn't. Reaching out a trembling hand, I traced her soft cheek.
"No, Esme. If you can go on, you should. I need to… understand."
"There's not much more to tell. Things went on like that for a few months. The outbursts came more and more regularly, and got more and more violent. I tried to tell my parents, but I don't think they believed me. They just thought I was bitter about the fact that our marriage had not yet resulted in a pregnancy. I even remember my mother advising me to take vitamins. Finally, things took a turn for the better. Charles left to fight in the Great War."
Esme chuckled a little as she went on.
"I waved goodbye and pretended to cry into my handkerchief with all the other little housewives, but inside, I was rejoicing. I had two years to myself, other women consoling me and cooking for me. Those were actually fairly nice years. I got lonely occasionally, but it wasn't like I hadn't been just as lonely when Charles was on the other side of my bed. The idea actually occurred to me that Charles might not come home when one of my close friends received a letter that her husband had been killed in the trenches. I remember distinctly wishing that I could trade her my huband's life, but my wish was to no avail – Charles returned the following year."
I could feel Esme tense up, and I put my arm around her shoulders.
"Things picked up right where they left off, but with one twist: a month after his return, I became pregnant."
She smiled at the memory.
"I was excited, at first – motherhood had always been my dream. But then reality set back in, and I was horrified. There was no possibility of brining a baby into my broken home. My only choice was to leave. I confided my problems to a cousin of mine, who helped me pay for an apartment and find a job as a seamstress. Things were working out, until I lost the baby – and my sanity along with it. I suppose that's where you came in."
"My darling Esme," I sighed softly, "I wish I had known sooner…"
What I had really meant was that I wish I had somehow known what was taking place during those dark years, and I had been able to knock on Charles Evenson's door, break his neck, and take his suffering wife to a safe place where she would be loved. I existed during those years, living out a peaceful life as a practitioner in Chicago, then Ashland. It would have been so simple, if there had been any way of knowing.
To make it even more frustrating, I had been lonely, too!
"You found out at the right time," she said softly, answering my unvoiced questions as perfectly as Edward tended to. "Things are better now. I've moved on, so there's no need for you to dwell in the past either."
Dwell in the past. There was no past for me. No future. Just an eternal present, sometimes more painful than others.
In that moment, something struck me – painfully and deeply. Charle's heart did still beat. Somewhere out there, he was living and breathing and maybe ruining some other woman's life. But that wouldn't even have to be true – he had already earned death at a vampire's hands ten times over. Death at my hands. For the first time, I could drink human blood and enjoy it, knowing that by killing I was doing the world a favor. I suppressed the dark smile that crept to my lips.
"I suppose," I said stiffly instead.
"Carlisle, it's okay now," Esme whispered, running a hand through my hair. "You're so much more than I ever dreamed of. That's enough for me. The past is the past. It was another lifetime – literally."
I nodded as she kissed me softly, but vowed internally that Charles's peaceful life was about to come to an end –and a quite agonizing end at that.
This is written to be a trilogy - if you want chapters two and three, I need feedback! :)