On a dark and stormy afternoon, Carlisle tells Bella and Renesmee the story of his turning. We all know the story from the books. I've just fleshed it out a bit more.
The afternoon sky was almost as dark as night. Angry black clouds, heavy with moisture, roiled and tumbled across the heavens, illuminated by brilliant flashes of lightning as the long jagged fingers streaked toward the earth. Thunder rumbled and crashed ominously.
The forest that surrounded the Cullen residence stood like dark, silent sentinels, waiting miserably for the rapidly approaching thunderstorm to arrive. The densely populated trees were bleak with heavy shadows beneath the high canopy. There seemed to be a quiet anticipation in the air to see which, if any, of the taller trees would fall victim to the lightning strikes.
Bella stood motionless at the tall glass wall of the main house, gazing out at the approaching thunderstorm. The multilevel house offered a spectacular view of the heavily wooded mountains and a broad expanse of sky overhead, and her superior eyesight was not hindered at all by the stormy atmosphere. She could almost feel the tension emitting from the animals in the woods, seeking cover to wait out the weather.
The storm would have no effect on Bella, but she could not help but feel some concern for her very human father, the chief of police, who would be leaving the station soon. Knowing him, he would stop at the diner for supper before continuing home, putting him out in the storm at least twice before continuing home to the two story house in which Bella had lived with him prior to her marriage. She would give him a call later in the evening, just to be sure he had made it home safely.
Since her marriage to Edward, she and her husband and their daughter divided their time between the Cullens' large home and a smaller house as short distance away, a wedding gift from the family that provided the couple with the privacy they sought. Much of their time, however, was spent at the main residence in the company of the rest of the family. She loved the huge house with its high glass walls that provided unobstructed views of the forest almost as much as she loved the family that had accepted and welcomed her as one of them, even before Edward had made that official.
As if reading her thoughts, a guffaw of laughter erupted behind her, and she turned toward the sound to face the three young men who sat at a square table, intent on the game that was being played on it.
Facing each other across the table, Emmett and Jasper were occupied in some sort of military board game where the players engaged in make-believe war, their "armies" in the form of various playing pieces that faced their enemy combatants across the board. Edward, because of his mind reading abilities, had trouble finding playing partners, but he was welcome to watch, so he sat at the table observing the moves, sometimes nodding in approval, and sometimes shaking his head in objection, which seemed to frustrate Emmett.
Bella had no real interest in the game, but out of curiosity, she moved closer to have a look, positioning herself beside Edward, who automatically placed his arm around her waist and drew her nearer. She was going to ask who was winning, since both Emmett and Jasper seemed pretty evenly matched, judging by the pieces remaining on the board, but closer examination revealed that Jasper, the ex-Civil War major, had a slight advantage. He was the careful strategist, consciously plotting his army's progress across the board, while Emmett made spontaneous moves that to a casual observer might have seemed random, but Bella knew that his moves were more calculated than they appeared. However, against his brother's careful line of attack, it seemed he would be forced into retreat. Jasper's advantage became even clearer when he calmly took down one of Emmett's colonels.
Sudden tension permeated the air in the room, and everyone became aware that Jasper was watching his brother very carefully, ready to react if Emmett became overly stressed and did something rash – like break the table.
Emmett felt the eyes that were on him, and shrugged. "What?"
"It just seemed for a moment like you were taking the game a bit too seriously," Jasper replied, placidly.
Emmett folded his arms across the table top and stared at the board, plotting his options. "Am not," he muttered, so much a pouty little boy that Bella could not help but laugh.
"Are too," Edward told him with a grin and a playful shove. "That's why you're planning to annihilate that poor captain."
Emmett shoved him back with a sheepish grin. "Okay, okay, maybe I am. A little. Just don't tell him how I'm planning to do it."
Jasper lifted an eyebrow, amused.
"Wouldn't dream of it," Edward responded, still smiling. "I can't wait to see this."
Bella squeezed Edward's shoulder affectionately. "You may have to act as referee," she told him with a smile. "I'm going to check on Renesmee."
He nodded in agreement, and she made her way to Esme's home office, where she and Alice were bent over the computer monitor, scrutinizing some new decorating ideas. It looked to Bella like they were trying to decide on a particular fabric for a new sofa. But Renesmee, who had been perched on Esme's lap a short time earlier, was nowhere in sight.
Esme and Alice looked up from the computer.
"Rosalie took her to the garage," Esme replied. "I don't think home improvement and fashion hold any interest for her yet. She decided she'd rather watch Rosalie tune up her car."
"At least we have plenty of time to work on that," Alice added. "We'll bring her around, in time."
Bella walked to the large garage where the family sheltered their expensive vehicles. The hood of Rosalie's car was up, and the beautiful blonde was bent over the engine of her car making some adjustments, but a quick glance around revealed that once again, Nessie was no where in sight.
"She discovered she's not particularly interested in auto mechanics," Rosalie replied without pulling her head from under the hood. "She's with Carlisle."
"And where is Carlisle?"
"Try the library."
Bella closed the door to the garage, and made her way toward the library. She loved everything about the wonderful house, but this room, with its floor to ceiling book shelves filled with books ranging from historical classics to modern novels, was a particular favorite. Carlisle had collected an incredible variety of books during his long life
She paused just outside the room, smiling at the scene before her. Renesmee was sitting on a throw pillow on the floor at Carlisle's knee, listening while the family's patriarch read aloud the story of the Three Little Pigs. In spite of her advanced intellect and extraordinary abilities, the bottom line was that Renesmee was a little girl with the same interests as other little girls, and that included fairy tales and nursery rhymes.
"The third little pig had learned his lesson well, and he lived happily ever after," Carlisle said, completing the story.
Nessie's face puckered in a puzzled frown, concentrating intently. "How come all these stories have a big bad wolf?" she inquired. "Jacob's not a bad wolf."
Carlisle laughed. "No, my little one, you are quite right. Jacob is a good wolf, and so are his friends. These are just silly old stories, and the writers didn't know any better."
"And they certainly didn't know Jacob," Bella finished.
He looked up and smiled in greeting. "Bella."
"Don't let me disturb you," she said, apologetically.
"We were just reading some stories about the Three Pigs and Goldilocks, but I'm afraid Nessie disapproves."
"That's okay, Grandpa," the child said, patting him affectionately on the knee. "They were good stories."
The scene was so pleasant and so family oriented that Bella found herself asking, "You're so good with kids. Did you have any children in your other life?"
He gave a wistful sigh. "No. At the time of my turning, I had not yet found the woman I wanted to marry."
Bella started to point out that marriage was not necessary, but he must have seen it in her eyes, for he smiled his charming smile.
"Different era, Bella. Back then, honor and commitment were very important, and indiscretions stuck to your back like Velcro. Proper young men and women, especially the sons of daughters of ministers, did not want to be branded with that stigma." He closed the book, his expression thoughtful. "The French were much more open in that area, but where I lived, if indiscretions were committed, they were kept quiet. Pregnant girls were quickly ushered out of town for an "extended stay with relatives'. My father, if you must know, kept me far too busy to do much in the way of courting."
"Courting," Bella repeated with a smile. "It sounds so old fashioned."
With another smile, he rose from the chair to return the book to the shelf, then paused to place a log on the fireplace, not because he needed the warmth, but because he liked the cozy atmosphere it gave the room.
Bella tucked one foot under herself as she sank onto one end of the love seat, and a moment later Nessie climbed into her lap and snuggled against her. Cuddling her daughter, she looked into her father-in-law's ancient eyes as he sat back down on the chair across from her, eyes that had seen so much history. It did not matter that he was not Edward's natural father; he was a parent in every way that mattered. He had given Edward a new life, when he had been dying in a hospital nearly 100 years earlier, and had given him the freedom of choice in how he would live that new life, welcoming him back into the fold when he was ready to commit to the lifestyle that the family lived.
"Thank you for keeping Nessie entertained."
"It was my pleasure," he replied. "I feel like I should be thanking you, though. You've given this family a gift we never thought we'd have – a child in the house. Somehow, having her here makes the family seem even more complete. Even Rosalie seems to have found a new joy in life. She's not nearly so disagreeable as before."
"You've given me more than you can ever imagine," she told him. "If it hadn't been for you, Edward and I would have missed each other by nearly a hundred years. He would have died at the age of seventeen of the influenza, and we would not have had Renesmee. I can't imagine my life without either of them."
She felt Nessie's head shift against her as the child tilted her head to look up at her. Her arms tightened around the child in a reassuring hug.
Carlisle's gaze fell upon the child, who now turned her cherub face to him, watching and listening with a comprehension far above that which would have been possible for other children her age.
Outside the window, they heard a harsh gust of wind strike the side of the house as the storm arrived, and torrential rain pelted the window panes. The house shuddered as if from an impact, and the lights flickered then went out. It did not matter, for everyone in the house could see well in the dark. In the library, however, the fire in the hearth continued to dance cheerfully, unaffected by the storm.
"Interesting, isn't it?" he spoke at last. "How one life can touch so many others."
"You life has touched more than anyone else's, human or otherwise," Bella said, softly.
His smile was typically modest. "Well, I'm not so sure about that."
"I am," Bella contradicted. "Think of all the people who are alive today because you used your special abilities to make a diagnosis when no one else could, when modern technology could not."
"I do think about that from time to time," he admitted. "It has made my existence seem more worthwhile. I'm unable to save them all, but it is comforting to know that there are others that I've been able to diagnose when medical technology has been insufficient."
His body and appearance frozen in time at the age of 23, Carlisle had witnessed the French Revolution, the American Revolution, the War Between the States, two world wars, the invention of so many wondrous marvels of the world, and so many more historical events. He had seen them first hand, with his own golden eyes.
"How did it happen?" she asked, curiously. "How did you become a vampire?"
He smiled, tolerantly. "Surely Edward must have told you our history."
"Yes, but it isn't the same as hearing it first hand. I know it was sometime in the 1660's, but still being a relative newborn, it's a little hard to conceive of someone so ancient."
He laughed, amicably. "Ancient?"
If blood had still flowed in her veins, she would have blushed, so instead she grinned sheepishly. "Sorry, that didn't sound quite like I had intended. It was meant as a compliment to how much you've seen and learned over the centuries."
Still smiling, he said, "Well, I'm over 360 years old, so I can see how that would seem ancient to one so young."
"I just think, sometimes, about the history you've seen in your lifetime, and I can't help but feel a bit awed."
"I wasn't exactly thinking about all that when I was first turned. I wanted nothing more than to end my existence, fearful of what I was and what I might do to others."
"Tell me about it. Please," she asked. "I really want to hear it."
He could see in her face that she did. Even Renesmee was watching, eager for a new story, so he nodded his agreement, "All right."
He took his seat again, his eyes gazing into the flames of the hearth as he decided where to begin his story.
"I remember that night as clearly as if it was yesterday. . . . "