Okay - the final installment! Thanks so much for reading, you guys. :) I didn't expect a big response to this one – it was a great surprise, and a fun way to start off my fanfiction-ing for 2009. So I thought I'd share this story's playlist, just for the heck of it… there were so many songs that were totally perfect:
Topping the list is Better Man, by Pearl Jam (of course). Then there's Headfirst Slide into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet, by Fall Out Boy, and Transylvania, by McFly. And finally, of course, what would a story like this be without Face Down, by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus?
I don't own any of those either, by the way. Lol. My next fic is going to be a Rosalie-centric story entitled 'Long Distance.' If you're interested in reading it, just author-alert me. :)
And thanks again. Enjoy.
The first week I spent back home following my excursion to Columbus was a tense one. Probably only for me; Esme and the others didn't hint that they had noticed any difference. Obviously Edward would have figured some things out, but he had amazingly stayed out of the situation. He would have been able to figure out the result of my actions, anyway, so it was a moot point.
Nevertheless, every silence that fell over the house was, in my mind, a moment that begged for the truth to be told, my dark secret to be released into the light.
Finally, on Friday night, after Edward went on a hunting trip and left Esme and me reading downstairs, I gave into the temptation of honesty.
"I have a confession to make."
The words were out before I could rethink them. She looked up at me, her flawless features consumed by an expression of confusion.
I took a deep breath, though I knew that I hardly needed it.
"I wasn't truthful about my trip last week. I went to Columbus. Your old home, actually."
When I began, I hadn't intended for the whole truth to flood out so quickly. However, I feared that if I simply confessed to having lied, she would automatically assume I had seen another woman. After all, what other reason would a husband have for lying to his wife about his whereabouts? Since I obviously couldn't abide with her believing that for a moment, I went ahead and told the bulk of the story in that single statement.
However, when I looked up after saying what I had, her face was a mask of horror that hurt me almost as badly as if she had believed me to be guilty of infidelity.
The question was a soft one. I imagine that part of her trusted that I hadn't harmed Evenson – and she clearly wanted to believe that part – but there was a certain hesitance in her belief. I definitely deserved that, regardless of how it hurt me. After all, I had intended to commit murder, and in fact came very close to doing so.
"I didn't kill him, if that's what you mean," I finally replied. "We did meet, though."
It was rare that Esme called me by my first name. I bit my lip.
"I'm sorry, love. I shouldn't have done it. But when I learned what had happened, it was like another part of me came to life. A part I've repressed all my life. I wanted to… hurt him. Make him pay."
Esme nodded, but her expression was one of anguish.
"But that's not you!" she whispered hoarsely. "You're so compassionate, so loving. You couldn't hurt anybody if you wanted to!"
I shook my head.
"You shouldn't give me so much credit," I said softly, struggling to find the words to explain a personality phenomenon that still confused me. "The only terms in which I can think to explain it would be those of a Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde type character. It was like when I heard what he had done to you, I became a different person. Somebody capable of terrible atrocities."
"Not you," Esme repeated. "You couldn't have. Carlisle, tell me he's alright!"
Esme's agony was clear – and it was on behalf of a man who had hurt her so badly. When I realized this, I began to feel the old anger flooding back in; the anger that had coursed through me when I sat in Evenson's parlor.
"He's fine, Esme!" I said, my voice shaking. I could tell that it had risen in volume, but at least I wasn't yelling, like I wanted to. "He's perfectly fine! But he shouldn't be! He acts like nothing happened, he pretends to live there as an honest, upstanding man! And he should be killed, for what he's done!"
I collapsed back into the sofa, unable to handle all the anger and stress. Burying my face in my hands, I shook my head slowly.
"I came so close," I whispered. "I almost did it. And the worst part is, I don't know what I regret. Sometimes I feel guilty for leaving without killing him, and sometimes I feel guilty for going to find him at all. I don't know what I feel."
I sat there for a moment or two, silent and alone in my despair. Though my eyes were shut, I sensed the lights go off in the room, and I felt a slender arm around my shoulders. About that time, a cool finger lifted my chin back up.
"No one has ever fought for me before," Esme said, her eyes deep and clear in the darkness. "By doing what you did, you've proven two things to me."
I waited silently and intently for her account of the lessons my horrific actions possibly could have taught. She didn't seem angry, but I didn't know how else she could feel after hearing my confession.
"You've proven to me that I'm someone worth fighting for," she explained. "There was a time I never could have believed that. And you also confirmed to me how wonderful of a man that you are. You have so much power and strength, and you detested him that much, but you still remembered who you are."
I nodded slowly, the truth of her words beginning to sink in. But the ones that kept echoing back to me, over and over, were probably not the ones she would have intended:
'You've proven to e that I'm someone worth fighting for… there was a time I never could have believed that.'
"Esme, you're all I'd ever want to fight for," I said, scorning the emptiness that came from the inability to express emotion through tears. "I love you so much."
"I've waited all my life for those words," she replied, her look of sad thoughtfulness becoming a radiant smile. Kissing her once, deeply, I allowed her to pull me back so that my head rested in her lap. She stroked my hair gently.
"You're truly one of a kind, my love," she said, kissing me again on the forehead. "Never forget that."
So that, I suppose, is my story.
I am a stronger man for what happened, and possibly even stronger for what did not happen. I understand a little bit more deeply the wonderful love of which my wife is capable, though I think I could go a hundred lifetimes without seeing that manifested to its fullest.
I am not here to say that I am now perfect, or anything resembling it. That would be a terrible lie. Even the regret that I hate so much has never entirely dissipated. I must confess that there are times when I lament my act of mercy more than others. However, the more I've thought about it over the years, the more convinced I've become that I did serve some kind of justice to Charles Evenson.
I could have easily given him death in that moment, nose-to-nose in his parlor. However, that wasn't the fate his actions merited, and I'd known it even then.
Evenson deserved fear. Nothing more, nothing less. Fear so palpable that it made him sick. The kind of fear that would haunt him for the rest of his days, leaving him to awaken alone, night after night, trembling in terror of someone with chilling eyes and an ice-cold grasp.
Fear that he had given my Esme every day.
If true justice had taken place, Esme herself would have been the one to instill this fear. However, I knew that she wouldn't do it. She is an angel, and though I love her all the more for that, I still often wish that she could feel a bit more righteous anger on her own behalf. It would ease my mind, as I often fear that she thinks herself somehow responsible for the tragedy that was her past life.
Rosalie took revenge into her own hands, and as I saw it, she was wronged no more grossly than Esme had been. However, Rosalie and Esme are different kinds of women. I couldn't expect Esme to commit murder, and I wouldn't feel the same way about her if she were the kind of person I could expect that from.
I was afraid for a short time that murder was something I could expect from myself. But since, I have come to a realization.
I suppose, in retrospect, that there is still humanity within me.
Even after three centuries without a heartbeat, I am certain that the man Carlisle Cullen lives on. He has not succumbed entirely to a freezing body and an endless night. No entirely inhuman being could feel things as deeply as I feel them.
I felt hatred for Charles, and three hundred years of wisdom couldn't keep me from acting on it. I know logically and believe morally that revenge is wrong and only serves to further the corruption that prompted it, but I couldn't think about what had been done to my Esme, my beloved, and not strive to avenge her. No amount of knowledge or conviction could have made the loathing that served as my motivation any less potent.
In the same way, however, I know that I am somehow still alive because of the way I can love Esme. No dead man could feel the passion and joy that she gives me every hour we spend together. Though my heart doesn't race at her touch, I am drawn to her in a way that I cannot put into words. She is the sunshine of each day and the calm, reassuring presence of an eternal night.
I admit that I am no human. I can't give Esme the children she wants so badly or grow old at her side. When I brought her into my world, I brought her into a broken place of constant moving and thousands of lies. I don't eat human food or drink human drink, and I will never fall asleep with my hand in hers.
Still, I maintain that I am far more human than Charles Evenson ever was or ever will be.