Summary: Rosalie hinted in Eclipse that Esme didn't have a perfect record when it came to avoiding the consumption of human blood. What could have happened to make such a loving vampire slip? This is my take on the "sin" of the character I cherish the most.
SM owns Twilight
The sunlight playfully teased the tender shoots of reborn grass in our backyard. The trees were in full bloom and their swaying in the wind frequently blocked the warmer late spring sunshine.
All in all, a glorious day in the Pacific Northwest.
I knew it wouldn't be much longer before we would have to move away from Forks, only to move back several decades later when no human would recognize our unchanged faces. We had permanent roots here now. Jacob would always want to protect his people; it was in his blood to do so.
With our transient nature in mind, I had purchased annuals to plant in the landscaping close to the house. Pansies in pink, purple, and white.
I raised my face to the sun, letting it warm my skin as I kneeled over the soil. Such a shame we had to hide from it in public. I loved the sun. Moreover, I was enjoying the quiet. Em, Rose, Alice, and Jasper had taken off for several weeks in Alaska for some hunting and relaxation with extended family. This left just Carlisle and I in the house, and Edward, Bella and Nessie in the cottage.
Unfortunately with less family to play with, Nessie was becoming increasingly bored. So on this beautiful day, Nessie, Carlisle and Jacob went hiking and spelunking. Edward and Bella took advantage of the "kid-free" time to do some indoor shopping.
Of course, I was invited to join both adventures, but I politely refused, choosing to relish some time alone with just my thoughts. It gave me time to count my blessings, actually. We had all survived the visit from the Volturi several months before, and breathed a sigh of relief after meeting Nahuel, learning Nessie would flourish in growth before leveling off at approximately age 7. She would then join us in agelessness.
So much possibility stretched out before us now. Our family felt complete with Edward finding happiness in Bella, and the two of them blessing us with life.
I never could have imagined being this happy and content.
Once the last flower was removed from its flimsy plastic container and given new life in the ground, I stacked up the tools and trash and left them in the corner of the stone patio. The mess could wait for later, I told myself resisting the urge to clean up. Now it's time to relax and soak up the rare sunlight.
No sooner had I situated myself in a lounge chair, did I hear the crunch of gravel in the drive. Bella and Edward had returned.
The rumbling of the Vanquish cut off and I heard the gathering of bags. Strangely, I didn't hear any voices. Not a good sign…
Car doors slammed, the opening and closing of the back door was then followed by the sound of the bags hitting the kitchen table. I listened intently…
"Bella, you have to stop berating yourself over this. You didn't act on it, that's all that counts," Edward pleaded.
"What if I did? You think you could have stopped me? You can't read my thoughts! I would have made….a mess of things before you even knew what was happening!" She scolded him.
"You are still a newborn and despite your amazing ability to control your urges, you shouldn't be surprised if your thirst sneaks up on you at times. It's part of what we are, Bella."
"But I saw it in my mind, Edward." Bella's voice became hushed with shame. "I saw myself attacking and drinking…oh, what if…"
Though I couldn't see them, knowing Edward so well, I imagined he had pulled Bella close to him and enfolded her in his arms. It was quiet for a minute or two.
"Even if you made a mistake, my love, everyone would understand. None of us is perfect. We have all had indiscretions, taking life or drinking human blood."
"Esme hasn't. She's perfect," Bella responded, defiantly challenging Edward's argument.
And I knew why. Again my thoughts cowardly begged him to keep my secret. What I had done all those years ago did not require any more intellectual conversation. I had made a decision, I acted on it, and there was no need to discuss it any further. Whether my choice was right or wrong could be debated for ages, but nothing could change the outcome. Edward and Carlisle had respected my request to keep silent. However, after listening to Bella chastise herself, I realized that if someone could benefit from my experience, maybe it was time to share…
I heard Edward sigh. "Bella, Esme is outside on the patio. She would like to talk to you - alone."
A moment later Bella opened the French doors to greet me.
"Hello, Esme. The flowers look lovely." Her voice held a tone of uncertainty as she sat in the lounge chair next to me and took a deep breath. "I guess you heard all that. Well, of course, you heard all that…"
"I did, and Bella –"
But she cut me off in a rush of words. "I don't mean any disrespect, but please don't try to cheer me up, Esme. Today, I almost cost this family everything. I could have exposed everyone. I am so stupid thinking I can control my blood thirst so easily.
"I wish I could be like you. Always effortlessly in control. You don't know what this doubt feels like. How heavy it is." She threw her head back against the chair in frustration. "And I really want a glass of lemonade right now."
Her child-like tantrum made me smile, but it quickly faded.
"Bella, what I am about to tell you has only been shared with Carlisle and Edward. Mostly because I am not proud of what I did. And, quite frankly, Edward only knows because I couldn't hide it from him."
Bella's expression changed. She sat upright in her chair and turned her body toward mine, leaving her concerns behind to focus wholly on my words.
I continued, "I am not as perfect as you think I am. I have taken human blood within me." I swallowed the thick venom clogging my throat. I had never said the words aloud, not even to Carlisle: "I took a life."
Bella's features softened as she shifted in her seat. I could tell she was trying to conceal her surprise. "Rosalie hinted at that a while ago – when I was still human. But I didn't believe her at the time."
"She doesn't really know what happened. I think she deduced something occurred by my reaction when she asked me about my 'record'. I never answered her, but in a way, I guess I did."
I sat up to face her. "I think I want to tell you about it."
Bella looked a bit apprehensive and glanced over her shoulder, probably wondering where Edward was. "Are you sure?"
"I ended someone's life. But in remembering that life and sharing with you, maybe some good can come from it."
Bella nodded. "All right. I'm listening."
"It was a long time ago, shortly after Edward had returned to us and we moved to Rochester. I was looking for ways to spend my abundance of time. Carlisle had taken a position at the local hospital, and Edward had returned to school. I had no interest in college now that my dream of becoming a teacher was unattainable. But one day Carlisle had an idea…"
"Esme, what do you think about coming to the hospital to volunteer?"
"I don't know, Carlisle. All that blood…"
I had been to visit Carlisle in the hospital before, once I had enough control to resist the call of human blood, but my stays were always short, maybe lasting a lunch hour.
"I considered that too," he responded "What if you volunteer in the children's ward? Most of them are hospitalized for long term conditions. There is very little occasion for blood and you can work with children. I know you would enjoy that. You could make a difference."
The suggestion had its appeal.
"Children," I hummed longingly. "It's been so long since I have really interacted with children."
I looked at Carlisle. His eyes held a twinkle of excitement.
"Okay," I relented to his persuasive argument. "When do I start?"
"I will check in with the matron on the floor tomorrow. I'll see if I can coordinate a shift for you that corresponds with mine."
And with that, I had a new purpose. I was going to make a difference, I was going help others – I would be like my husband. I hadn't felt such anticipation in quite a while, and it was hard to focus on anything that next day as I awaited word from Carlisle.
When Carlisle returned, he had wonderful news. It was arranged that I could volunteer on the children's ward of the hospital. Carlisle informed me I would be reading books, playing games, singing songs and even would have the opportunity to teach the children residing in the ward.
I was overcome with anticipation. Then the anxiety bled through – and it was overwhelming.
"Carlisle, I don't have any children's books or teaching materials! I'm not prepared!" I panicked.
Carlisle laughed and I shot him a deadly glance.
His smile disappeared immediately and he appeared apologetic. "Esme. Slow down. Go tomorrow, get oriented, and figure out what you need. I will be glad to help you purchase whatever materials you think are necessary. But remember, this is not a classroom setting. The children in the ward are sick and many are very homesick. Their needs may surprise you."
"They need education, Carlisle, especially if they are in the ward for a long time. They get further behind their peers every day, putting them at a disadvantage for when they are released from the hospital," I implored him to see my point.
He smiled his "doctor smile" – the one he uses when he can tell his point has sailed over someone's head. He took my hand and led me over to the sofa, we sat down.
"If they get released, Esme."
He waited patiently for his words to sink in. When I understood his point, I leaned back against the cushions in silence.
"Children die there don't they, Carlisle. I will see children die."
Fear welled up and replaced my excitement, dousing it like water on a flame. Was I ready to see another child die...like mine had? Carlisle's face was empathetic. He knew what I was thinking, where my mind had gone.
"I'm sorry, Esme, in my haste to fill your desire for self-worth outside of our home and thinking I could have you near while I work, I forgot about the darker side of work in the hospital. Death. And, well, how that might affect you."
I took his hand in mine and muttered, "Don't blame yourself. I should have thought about it myself."
"Well, I guess it's back to the drawing board. I'm sure we will think of something for you to do." He patted my hand.
Carlisle was letting me off the hook, but instead of feeling relief, I felt shame.
"Do many people visit the children in the ward? I mean, their parents are there, right?"
"Yes, some parents come to visit," he replied slowly, but I could tell there was more.
Carlisle leaned back mimicking my position on the sofa, but it also meant he could avoid my eyes.
"Things are different in the bigger cities. Urbanization, industrialization, and immigration have placed a strain on cities and created a need for hospital services for poorer people. Families crowded into cramped tenements lack both extended family members and space to care for seriously ill family members. And as poor mothers enter the workforce, they too are unavailable to care for sick children at home. For many desperate families, the hospital was the only place for health care. The only place they can leave their child in the care of others - and they can be there for weeks, and some, months."
I nodded my rueful understanding. It was sad, but true. This wasn't a farming community with all the family living in a big farmhouse. Nor was it the early 1900's. Times have changed.
Indeed, it was time I learned to be strong. I did want to make a difference. I could do that at the hospital. Maybe even keep a child from dying alone...
"I want to go, Carlisle. I want to help."
"Please. If I can't do it, I'll let you know. And you'll be there if I can't handle something. Just allow me to try."
I leaned into him and batted my eyelashes – that usually worked on him. But if necessary, I was willing to pout.
"All right, I will agree for the benefit of the children." He pulled me to his chest in an embrace. "I'm sure they will adore you, my love."
The caustic smells of the hospital assaulted my nose. So much was different nowadays and this hospital was larger than any one I had ever been in before. It was louder and busier too. The contrasting noises of new life and suffering, clashing smells, and activity inundated my senses and I held on tightly to Carlisle's hand to anchor me.
"Are you going to be okay?" he asked softly as we made our way to the children's ward.
"Yes. It's just overwhelming. And the smells…" I crinkled my nose. The fusion of sweet blood and bitter antiseptics was almost nauseating.
"It takes a while to get use to, but after some time, you almost don't notice them anymore."
"I hope you're right," I groaned.
Once on the correct floor, I was met enthusiastically by the middle-aged floor matron. It was her role to coordinate volunteers, activities, and other needs on the children's ward.
"Hello, Mrs. Cullen! We are so happy to have you," Mrs. Williams beamed. "I'll introduce you to all the children. Dr. Cullen said you have a background in education."
"I taught at a private school for a short period, yes."
"Excellent! Shall we get started?"
Carlisle placed his hand on Mrs. Williams' shoulder and squeezed it gently. "Thank you. I know I leave my wife in good hands."
"Oh go on now, Dr. Cullen, you're just a sweet talker." She blushed. I smiled at the ease with which my husband dazzled women. Once he had disappeared from view, Mrs. Williams took me by the arm. "Come sweetie, let's greet the children."
She gave me the tour starting with the activity room. Then we visited each starkly furnished room. One resembled the other - white walls, checkered tile floor, and unfinished wood furniture including one chair, a bed, and a side table. In most rooms, several children were housed together.
Mrs. Williams read my body language. "We try to avoid taking children with infectious diseases," she whispered, "but sometimes we just have no choice. I will try to warn you if I think you are in danger of catching something."
"Carlisle said parents don't often visit their children here. Is that true?"
"Well, we do have limited visiting hours and that makes it difficult for working parents to visit their children. But the hours reflect a practical concern – less parental visits, the less homesickness and behavior problems on the wards. Plus, visitors often introduce new infections and unsanctioned food, adversely affecting recovery," the matron explained. "So I try to hug them as often as I can."
As we wrapped up the tour, I noticed we had skipped one of the rooms.
"Is there anyone in that room?" I inquired.
Some of the glow left her face. "Yes. Grace is in that room."
"Why didn't you introduce me to her?"
"She's a sad case, Mrs. Cullen. I just didn't want to overwhelm you on your first day."
Just then, a loud clatter echoed through the hallway.
"Oh, I just bet Jimmy is stacking the furniture again! See how much we need to you to entertain the children." She smiled and before bolding down the hallway in the direction of the noise. I was awed by how quickly she moved for woman her age.
Waiting alone, my curiosity got the best of me. I headed straight for Grace's room.
She was a young girl, maybe 14 or 15 years of age. I thought she appeared a might too thin for her age. She was a pretty girl, though, with curly red hair, large green eyes, and very fair skin with a splattering of freckles over her cheeks and nose. She was staring out the window, her expression flat.
She didn't hear me enter, so I knocked on the doorframe to alert her to my presences.
Her eyes moved slowly to take me in. Her expression didn't change.
"What is it you want?" she asked bluntly.
I was taken aback by her rudeness, and it left me stuttering. "I thought...well, I thought you might like a visitor."
"No, thank you," she replied curtly and her eyes moved back to the window. I had obviously been dismissed.
I decided to respect her request, with one caveat, "Very well. I'll see you tomorrow."
Her eyes shot in my direction, but she said nothing. I smiled and glanced at the chart hanging on the door before exiting.
The rest of the day on the ward went well. The smaller children were willing to crawl in my lap and listen to stories all day. I found it wonderful that they never questioned my cold skin when they came by chance in contact with it. They were so young and innocent - accepting and nonjudgmental. Starved for attention and contact.
However, I felt troubled on the ride home. I knew why. Grace. The vacant look in her eyes. It was as if she was already dead on the inside.
"Carlisle, what is bulbar polio?" I had read it on Grace's chart, but didn't understand how or if this diagnosis was different than any other polio diagnosis.
Carlisle shook his head; my first indication the prognosis for Grace was not good.
"As you know, some children infected with the polio virus may have few or no symptoms. Others have short-term symptoms, such as headache, tiredness, fever, stiff neck and back, and muscle pain. But if the virus invades the nerves in the spinal cord, it can cause paralysis of the arms, legs, or trunk."
This I already knew. Polio was a rampant childhood illness and I had seen the outcome on the streets and in the playgrounds.
"However, more serious problems happen when the virus invades nerves in the brain. It can cause paralysis of the muscles used in swallowing and breathing and much more. That is what happens in bulbar polio. At this time, it is almost always fatal."
"Oh," was all I could muster.
"Does someone on the ward have this condition, Esme?"
"Yes, a teenage girl. She is refusing visitors, but I told her I'd visit tomorrow."
"That's a difficult situation, especially if she knows her prognosis." It was quiet for a while before Carlisle spoke again, "Esme, be careful. Don't get too emotionally involved."
I didn't reply, but somehow I knew it was already too late for that…
The next day I arrived on the ward with a few of my favorite books. I was hoping I could share my experiences with the stories with Grace and maybe she would get involved with the book and think less of her condition. It seemed she was too focused on her illness.
"Good morning, Grace." I spoke genuinely, but not too enthusiastically.
The same expressionless face welcomed me. I chose to ignore that fact and continued on with my plan.
"I brought you some books. They were my favorite when I was your age. Do you like to read?" I pulled a chair next to her bed.
I didn't even receive a glance.
Taking a deep breath, I tried to put myself where she was emotionally. I was afraid to go there and it took me some time before I could remove the barriers I had put up to protect myself from that dark place in my human life. The same darkness I let consume me and ultimately gave my life to. But if I could find common ground with the young woman, maybe I could reach here where she was.
"I know what it's like to feel cheated by life. To be angry with God for what had happened. I wondered 'why me?' Why did I have to suffer so much, what had I done to deserve it? Do you feel that way too, Grace?"
She moistened her lips with her tongue, but seemed to struggle to do so.
"What did you do when you felt that way?" she spoke, slightly slurring her words.
"I tried to end my life," I answered honestly, although I worried the subject was too mature for a young girl.
"I can't read anymore."
Confused by the change in direction of our conversation, I questioned, "I'm sorry. You can't read?
"My…illness…it changed my vision. I have double vision. I used to read. I used to do a lot of things."
"I can be your eyes, Grace. What books did you enjoy the most? I can read to you."
"Do you feel sorry for me, lady? Will reading to me make you feel better?" Her tone was biting and her eyes searched mine for the truth, but still her expression revealed nothing.
"I faced death alone because others were uncomfortable with my sadness. They avoided me whenever possible, not knowing what to say. It was easier to pretend I didn't exist than share my pain. I do not pity you, in many ways, I was you. I'm here to say you don't have to go through this alone, Grace. And please...call me Esme."
She looked away, staring out the window again. After 10 minutes of silence, I rose to leave yet determined to try again tomorrow.
Just before I reached the door, she spoke quietly, "I like Hans Christian Anderson's stories."
I didn't turn, keeping my smile a secret from her. "I'll have some tomorrow. See you then."
Carlisle and I went to the library that same day to retrieve the works Grace requested. In the time before I returned to the hospital, I poured over the stories and fairy tales one by one, carefully choosing which ones to read. The next morning, when I approached Grace's room, I felt ready. I was surprised to see the matron, Mrs. Williams, waiting for me outside of the room.
"Mrs. Cullen, I'm afraid Grace has experienced worsening of her condition. The doctors fear the swelling in her brain has increased. In addition to her facial paralysis, she is having trouble swallowing and her heart beat is erratic."
"Facial paralysis – is that why she lacks expression?"
"Yes. The poor dear. That is why none of the other children visit her or interact with her. They are confused by her mask-like expression. They assume she is angry. They don't understand what is happening to her, even the other children who have polio don't understand, since their form is different."
"May I see her?"
"Of course, I just thought I'd explain. If the swelling progresses, well... " Mrs. Williams wrung her hands in her apron. "It's so hard to see these young ones suffer, it truly is."
Grace's eyes watched me as I walked in. Saliva was running down the sides of her mouth and her food tray sat untouched. It dawned on me only now that her arms and legs were probably useless to her.
I picked up the cloth napkin from her tray. Taking it to the sink, I ran the faucet until the water turned warm. Soaking and wringing out the cloth, I returned to her bedside. Gently I wiped the drool from her face before using a clean section to clean the rest of her face. Setting the cloth next to her tray, I asked, "Which story would you like to start with? Nod when you hear the story you want read to you."
Her selection: Thumbelina.
After reading, I attempted to feed her. It was a very slow process as she worked to coordinate her muscles to swallow. Often she choked, and sometimes the food came back out. I could see the humiliation in her eyes, being fed like a baby when she should be blossoming into a woman.
"It's okay, Grace. Take your time. I have nowhere I need to be. I'm here for you," I soothed her anxiety.
It took one hour to feed her half her breakfast. And then she slept.
When she awoke several hours later, she seemed genuinely happy to see me.
"Sorry," she slurred. "Thank you."
I sat next to her. "What would you like to hear now?"
"No books. Talk."
"Okay. What do you want to talk about?" I asked.
"What happens when you die?"
Although my first reaction was to change the subject to something much less ominous, I didn't want to shy away from her question. I was truly amazed by her inner strength and willingness to discuss a very difficult and scary issue. I owed it her to answer honestly, however, I drew on my faith for this answer, not experience. "All suffering ends. The angels in heaven rejoice. And there is nothing but peace and happiness."
"Then I want to die now, Miss Esme."
My throat constricted. "Don't talk that way, Grace. There is still hope."
"Hope is a fairy tale. I am being robbed of everything." Grace choked on her saliva, and the resulting coughing fit took away a large part of her energy reserves. I supported her back, helping her to lean over before guiding her back against the stack of pillows. "I can't smile, I can't cry. I'll never walk again or brush my hair. Why would I want to remain here, Miss Esme? To suffer and lose all my dignity? So my parents can work 60 hours a weeks to pay for my stay in this hospital? Why? What purpose does it serve?"
"What other choice is there?"
"I think you are an angel, Miss Esme. You've come to take me to heaven."
"I am not an angel, Grace," I rushed to correct her. "I am just a woman, like you." I searched her eyes, they were resolute.
"I have been studying you as you have been studying me."
I swallowed hard, feeling the urge to flee. I felt transparent, discovered. "I assure you, I am not an angel. You know I have been honest with you. I am being honest now."
"Then if you can't help me, please go."
"Grace-" I pleaded for her understanding.
"Go!" she yelled, lapsing into a fit of coughing and choking. A nurse and doctor rushed in, grabbing the suction machine from a shelf. In the flurry of activity, I backed toward the door. Grace never took her eyes off me.
I ran from the hospital and didn't stop until I reached home. Her eyes haunted me for two days, as did her words. In that time, I read every medical journal and article I could find on her condition and its progression. In the New England Journal of Medicine I read what her final days would be like:
In Bulbar polio, the critical nerves affected are the glossopharyngeal nerve, which partially controls swallowing and functions in the throat, tongue movement, and taste; the vagus nerve, which sends signals to the heart, intestines, and lungs; and the accessory nerve, which controls upper neck movement. Due to the effect on swallowing, secretions of mucus may build up in the airway causing suffocation. Other signs and symptoms include facial weakness, caused by destruction of the trigeminal nerve and facial nerve, which innervate the cheeks, tear ducts, gums, and muscles of the face, among other structures; double vision; difficulty in chewing; and abnormal respiratory rate, depth, and rhythm, which may lead to respiratory arrest. Pulmonary edema and shock are also possible.
It was all medical-speak, but I knew she was correct; it would take all her, piece by piece. Slowly.
I had fled because I was uncomfortable with her illness and approaching demise, in addition to how she saw something in me that she didn't see in others. It made me think of Edward's mother and her pleas to Carlisle.
He didn't run from Elizabeth, I wouldn't run from Grace. I wouldn't desert her the way others had.
Against Carlisle's wishes, I returned to the ward three days after my hasty departure. I sought out Mrs. Williams.
"I'm so glad you returned, Mrs. Cullen. Grace has been asking about you. Her condition has neither improved nor worsened, but we have had to force feed her. It was quite unpleasant. Maybe you can get her to eat willingly?"
"I'll do what I can."
Somehow Grace looked smaller, lessened.
"Have you come to help me?" she rasped as I entered the room. I could tell she knew I'd return.
"What is it you want from me, Grace? I don't understand."
"I know God has sent you to me for a reason."
I sat next to her, wanting so badly to help her. To ease her suffering, her wasting, her waiting.
"I remember hurting so badly I wanted to die," my heart spoke to her. "When I looked down from that cliff, I should have been afraid. I should have stepped back away from the danger as most people would have. But it offered an end to my pain. I only wanted the pain to stop. Is that what you want from me, Grace? Do you want me to make your pain stop?"
While she was so sure of her faith, I was having a crisis within my own. It was not my place to hasten her death! I was not God. It was not my decision when she should die. Contrarily, why did she have to live the rest of her days in fear and pain only to endure the loss of dignity? God surely would not want that either. Without thinking, I reached out to caress her young face.
Tremors appeared at the corners of her mouth, what I believed to be the remnants of a smile as she turned her face into my palm. "I knew it was true, Miss Esme. I knew you were an angel heralding my death."
At her words, I realized my mistake! I jerked my stone-cold hand from her face. While I panicked, a new found peace appeared in her eyes.
"Are you not afraid of me?" I hesitantly asked.
"No fear anymore. You're going to save me."
"It's wrong, Grace. Don't ask me to do this."
"Please, Miss Esme. In heaven I will be whole again. Your coming to me is a gift from God. I asked him to send a sign – it is the reason you are here, now. I accept His gift. I am ready."
Disregarding my fear of discovery, I took her hand. In silence, we watched each other. I listened to her heart struggle to maintain a rhythm and her lungs crackled with fluid. Each breath exhausted her. I could smell the sores breaking through her skin from being bedridden for so long.
The doctors and nurses rarely entered in the hours I spent contemplating at her bedside. They knew their time was better spent on those who would live. As the shadows lengthened, Grace began drifting in and out of consciousness. "Please Miss Esme" slipped from her lips over and over.
At last, I could not bear my inaction any more. I had it within me to end her pain quickly, to free her soul tethered to a useless, traitorous body.
That day, I granted her wish.
I saw Bella's jaw drop slightly as realization set in. For the first time since I began my story, Bella questioned me. "You...bit her?"
"Yes, I did. I held her hand lovingly to my cheek and pierced her wrist. I drank as quickly as I could. She was weak and passed peacefully. No one ever questioned her death."
Bella pondered the situation I just detailed, as Carlisle and Edward had before her when I admitted what I had done. I knew what would come next...
"You did the right thing, Esme. You helped that girl."
"Yes, that is one way to look at it. I was an angel of mercy. But she was just a girl. Perhaps too young to understand the weight of her decision. I'm sure her parents would have cursed me as the devil himself," I sighed, relieved my confession was almost over. "I also violated my promise to Carlisle never to drink human blood. He lost some trust in me that day, and I lost trust in myself.
"I had to leave the hospital and sequester myself away from humans for a while. Bella, it was the most glorious feeling to experience – human blood. I imagine much like the high from a drug.
"The worst part is I sinned. I took a life that was not mine to take. I am uncertain as to the fate of my own soul now. When Carlisle and I meet our end, will I ever be rejoined to him? Have I forced him into an eternity without me?"
"What does Carlisle think about what happened?" she asked.
"He believes I will be forgiven. My intentions were merciful, and Carlisle feels God will take that into consideration when I am judged."
"Have you thought about returning to the hospital? You are so loving, Esme. I'm sure there are children who could benefit from your comfort and care."
"No, I will never go back," I stated firmly.
"Because I can't say for certain, if faced with a similar situation, that I wouldn't do it again, Bella."
"I see..." Bella spoke slowly; my frank, honest answer catching her off guard.
"I told you this story because I don't want you to compare yourself to anyone else. Especially because what you believe to be true could be incorrect, as in my case. Edward can help you set up some realistic expectations for yourself. Despite his lapse in judgment all those years ago, or maybe because of them, he is a good role model for you. He has made peace with his actions."
The sound of rapidly moving footfalls broke into my awareness.
"Gramma Esme!" Nessie squealed as she burst over the river running towards Bella and me. Her bronze curls shimmered bright red in the intense sunlight.
"My angel!" I rose to catch her in my arms. "I'm so happy to see you! I have something for you."
She leapt into my embrace and I carried her over to the edge of the patio.
"I put this flower in your own little pot to keep at your house. You will be responsible for its care. You'll need to make sure it gets sun and water. If you do, it will grow for you."
She smiled happily at receiving such a simple gift. She was sunshine, so full of life and hope, a true blessing.
"Thank you, Miss Esme"
My breath caught and my eyes widened. "What...what did you say, Nessie?"
"I said thank you, Gramma Esme," she stated, before turning her attention to the little purple bud in the small pot.
I swear something had shown in her eyes - deep within them. I saw the glimmer of someone else...
"I thought...you said..."
"Are you okay, Gramma?"
"Yes. I'm fine," I stammered realizing the precious gift I had just received. "Thank you, Nessie. Thank you."
"I love you, Gramma Esme!"
She squeezed my neck and I put her down. As soon as her feet hit the ground, Nessie scurried over to Bella and hopped into her lap, throwing her arms around her mother.
"I love you too...Grace."
A/N: Surprised? Emotional? Moved? Thankful?
Was Esme's action merciful or sinful?
My writing of Esme's experiences always has compassion for the strong, quiet woman who counsels the counselor (Carlisle) and changed a coven into a family. I just couldn't invision her denying who she was, even in the newborn stage. And for those history or medical buffs, I also threw in what hospital stays were like for children at a time before the embracing of 'pediatrics' and when polio was a word that struck fear in every parent.
My sincere graditute to RowanMoon and RosaBella75 for betaing this piece for me. I know it was not easy.
I'd love to hear your thoughts/comments/reviews.
For more background on Carlisle and Esme (through my eyes) read the parent story to this series of oneshots, Carlisle and Esme: How the Love Story Began.