I paced back and forth frantically between my small, lumpy bed in the corner of the one-room cabin that I called home and the bassinet which was situated only feet away from it. My heart pounded wildly as my stomach whirled with a worry unlike anything I had ever known before. I tried desperately to calm my rapidly growing anxiety. I knew it was a futile act, but I didn't know what else to do given the circumstances.
My whole world, my entire existence had completely changed in the last several days. When my little Thomas was born not even a week ago, he had immediately become the center of my small, sad universe. He had brought a sunshine to my life that I had long forgotten, and I knew that he was my single reason for living. I was still in awe of that simple fact – that something so small could be so perfect and could bring another person so much love so freely. I'd felt as though he was my purpose, the reason that I existed, and yet, he'd only been in this world for six short days. I didn't understand the effect he had on me, but I welcomed it.
The sound of his tiny, wheezing breath pulled me from my spinning thoughts, and my feet rushed to his bassinet without me telling them to do so, as if on instinct. The tears, which had threatened to fall all evening, stung my eyes as I reached for him, softly cradling his frail little body to my chest as he continued to wheeze heavily.
"Shh, Thomas. It's alright, my sweet boy," I whispered in his ear, praying the doctor would arrive soon.
I knew there was no denying that Thomas' breathing was getting worse now, each inhale seemed harder for him than the last, if that was even possible, and I thanked God that Mrs. Nielsen had offered to fetch the doctor for me this evening. Without her, I couldn't consider what I would have done. I was unable to leave him at home, and alone he wouldn't do without me. Fear nearly plagued me, and I had no idea what to do to ease his labored gasps of air other than to hold him close and pray. Pray that it would all be okay.
I resumed my frantic paces with my sweet baby boy cradled in my arms. I kept him upright over my shoulder, rubbing his back eagerly, hoping it would ease his burdensome breathing – if even only just a little. My mind was a torrent of fear, and the worst possible outcomes circulated through my mind as I considered that his breathing might not ease soon enough. I wondered once again how long it would be before the doctor finally arrived. I knew that if he didn't arrive in time, I couldn't possibly survive such an ordeal. That thought alone almost crippled me as I pulled Thomas closer to me in desperation.
I murmured my love for Thomas, every inch of my very being willing the doctor to arrive. I couldn't fathom what could possibly be taking him so long—it felt as though it had been hours since Mrs. Nielsen had left, and she had done so in a hurry. I knew that he should be here by now. In fact, I found myself very nearly on my way out the door with Thomas in my arms to find the doctor myself when the sharp knock sounded throughout my small house and broke me from my thoughts.
With a large breath of relief, I pulled Thomas closer to me and rushed for the door. I stepped aside so the large, older man could come in through the door. His gray hair was disheveled, cheeks and nose red with the bite of the bitter cold outside.
"Dr. Harrison! Thank God!"
"Now, just calm down, Mrs. Evanson."
"Platt," I automatically spat out, unwilling to be associated with the man whose name I used to share.
His eyebrows met together above his nose. "Pardon?"
"Oh...I beg your pardon," he mumbled with a frown, easing Thomas from my arms.
"I'm going to need a heavy blanket. Oh, and please boil some water," he said, his focus now fully on my son.
I scurried first for the blanket, which Dr. Harrison placed on the kitchen table, followed by Thomas' small, frail body. It was clear that his breathing was getting worse even still, but I tried to funnel all of my attention to boiling the water that the Doctor had asked for rather than focus on the heavy, labored breaths my son was struggling to take just behind me.
When I turned around, his frown was still displayed, and my baby's weak cry was full of a desperate struggle. My heart lurched frantically within me, propelling my feet forward and pushing me closer to the table. I didn't notice as the cold sweat spread across my brow, the physical manifestation of my fear was clear for all to see.
I stood by the table, my heart pounding as my teeth tugged on my bottom lip and I wrung my hands together viciously, twisting my fingers together repeatedly. I knew there was truly nothing I could do and that the doctor knew what he was doing, but I had never felt so helpless as I watched as Dr. Harrison press the metal stethoscope against my Thomas' tiny chest.
My baby's cry finally stopped, though I felt no relief. My eyes instinctively darted to the doctor, terrified. The room was suddenly plunged into a horrible silence—the sound was so wrong and a part of me willed the labored breaths to return as confusion racked my senses.
Dr. Harrison picked Thomas up from the table, wrapping the blanket around his small body once more. The wheezing was now gone, but I couldn't process why or what had happened as a sheet of disbelief covered my senses. My eyes met the doctor's old, gray gaze, and in it, I found sympathy, sadness, regret...but they were all of the wrong things. He should be happy—happy he saved my son, happy he wasn't struggling for breath, but receiving air just fine now...yet he wasn't.
"I'm so sorry, Miss Platt. I...there was nothing to be done for this young one. He had too much fluid in his lungs. I'm sorry," he whispered again.
I shook my head wildly.
"No. No, you're wrong, Dr. Harrison. He's tired. It's been such a difficult week for him," I explained, willing him to understand that it was okay, that Thomas was fine, that he just needed some sleep.
Tears fell from my eyes, hot trails of liquid that I could barely process as I begged the doctor to see the truth.
"He's—he's fine, doctor. Please. Please check him again, and you'll see. He has to be okay. He's all I have left. He's fine. He has to be."
The doctor blinked slowly, and through my blurring vision, I saw his throat bob with a large swallow as he shook his head.
"No, my dear. I'm so sorry, but he's not breathing. His heart has stopped, and he is no longer with us. He's gone."
"No," I whispered. "No. Give him to me; he's fine. He just needs his mother," my words stuck in my throat—unwilling to communicate what this man couldn't seem to understand.
He finally handed my bundled son to me, and I sighed in relief at the warmth that filled my arms. I willed myself to look into his tiny, beautiful face. His eyes were closed, his lips tinged slightly blue. His chest was still...too still, and my grasp around his body tightened.
"No," I whispered, my bottom lip shaking between my teeth. "No, he's not," I said, finally finding the doctor's face again. "He can't be."
"I'm sorry," he whispered again as I fell to the chair beside me, clutching my son's lifeless body to my being as sobs escaped from a part of me I'd never been aware of – never knew existed until Thomas was born. I gazed down onto his delicate features as my arms wrapped tighter still around his body, pulling him closer to me.
"Will you be alright by yourself for a minute, Miss Platt? I'm going to go fetch Mrs. Nielsen. She'll..." he paused, clearing his throat. "She'll know how to better console you, dear."
I didn't answer. The world faded away as my eyes once again zeroed in on my amazing little miracle. I was vaguely aware that Mrs. Nielsen came into the room at some point, but I paid her no attention. I heard her whispers with Dr. Harrison and felt the sharp pinch of the shot in my arm before falling into an odd sleep of the past and present swirled together in a haze of confusion and pain. I knew I wasn't awake, but I felt every ounce of misery within my soul as though I were. Only one thought was truly clear to me.
I wanted to die.
Images of him fell through my mind in quick succession, pulling wave after wave of terror throughout my very being as I tossed and turned in the linen sheets.
I'd married Charles to make my family happy. He was wealthy and established. He should have made me happy....but he didn't. He quickly morphed into my biggest nightmare, hurting me over and over again as I battled against my sleep. I was sure he'd found pleasure in doing so, just as I had thought he did a few years ago, though I still couldn't understand now any better why a man would do such a thing.
Perhaps he sensed I didn't truly love him—that my mind remembered a man that I easily could have fallen in love with, married, had a family with of my own free will a man I had often thought about over the years. I was sure he was a man who would never have hurt me the way that Charles did. He could have made me happy, truly happy.
Before my mind had time to comprehend any one single thought with clarity the pictures fell away, and, for a brief moment, my tossing and turning subsided as I allowed the nothingness to consume me – blanketed under the comfort of Dr. Cullen. After a long moment I was barely aware of the next set of lucid imagery that filled my mind.
It took a moment before the scene fully unfolded around me; I was standing in a warm fall afternoon. There was not a cloud in the sky and only a gentle breeze passed me by, coaxing great joy from the depths of my soul.
I remembered this day well. I was sixteen. I'd climbed a big apple tree in front of our house to find the best, reddest apple of the bunch. I'd lost my footing on a branch and fell. I had been nauseated at the crunch that came from my leg when I hit the ground, right before the worst pain I'd ever known in my life shot through from the top of my leg and through every limb, through to the tips of my every finger.
What had I known of pain then?
I was unable to follow my thought process as the scene once again whirled around me and raced on ahead of me as I struggled to keep up.
Pain, but he made it better...
He had been the most exquisite man I'd ever seen, with shiny, beautiful blond hair that I wanted to run my hands through. His eyes had been the strangest color of amber and gold. They captivated me. His smell...oh, he smelled of heaven and love and everything that was right in the world. I would have easily run away with him had he suggested it that day.
I'd been baffled at the fact that he hadn't married.
Should have married...Dr. Cullen...
The pain of him setting my leg was nothing as I lost myself in his eyes – re-enacting that fateful day where we had once met.
I grasped the air around me as I tried to hold on to the image of his beautiful face as it fell away from my mind, and I recoiled under a cold sweat as it was quickly replaced by my inner-most demon.
I'd been foolish and had settled for Charles, not that there had been any other option for me.
His black hair and dark gray eyes flashed in the forefront of my mind, and I feared I was no longer sleeping. I was running, little Thomas screaming as I clutched him to my chest and pushed myself to run further away from the monster that would hurt us. His eyes were angry and wild—and when they were like that, it always resulted in pain...a hurt that went deeper than flesh and blood.
"Esme," he called for me with the voice of an angel.
He would save me from Charles, from the fear and pain. He would...
It tore through my heart, burning, pulling and consuming my very being. I cried out, screaming for the hurt to leave, to stop tormenting me, hurting me.
I jumped, darting up from the mattress, soaked in sweat, hair clinging to my forehead, heart pounding in my ears as fresh tears streamed down my face. My eyes finally focused on her. Mrs. Nielsen was a kind old woman, my widowed neighbor. Her intense blue eyes studied me for a long moment before she finally interrupted the silence around us.
"Are you okay, dear?"
Tears streamed from my eyes as I tried to remember what was happening. My dream had been so very disconcerting. My eyes focused on her, and my very full and sore chest pulled me back into my reality, and I shook my head.
"Thomas," I whispered, clutching at my heart and falling back against the pillow, not caring how undignified of an act it was. I didn't have it in me to concern myself with impropriety.
Mrs. Nelsen's soft, warm hand brushed against my forehead.
"I'm so sorry, dear. It was just one of those things that happen. I lost a little one...my first, and I know your pain, my dear. It hurts something awful."
She continued to talk, but her voice blurred in my mind and heart until all I could think of was my sweet baby boy.
"Where is he?" I croaked out finally, interrupting her long monologue.
"Dr. Harrison took him to the morgue, Esme. I called the pastor, and he will be by tomorrow. The funeral will be two days from now."
I nodded, not really understanding, but not having the strength to ask anything else.
I fell in and out of sleep, not having the motivation to will myself out of bed. Mrs. Nielsen would occasionally come into the room with me when I awoke, but at other times, I awoke alone. I was numb, unthinking and unfeeling as I left my bed only when absolutely needed. The days passed as such, until my kind old neighbor finally pulled me from my bed, somehow making me look presentable enough to attend Thomas' funeral. My eyes watched the reverend's lips move, but I heard only blurs of noise that continued as people offered condolences and cast looks of pity.
He was in the smallest casket I'd ever seen. It was simple and oak, just big enough for his tiny, frail body. Someone had dressed him in a white gown and bonnet with a blue, knitted blanket draped lovingly around his form. I could almost make myself believe that he was simply asleep,except for all of my neighbors huddled together in the cemetery, and all of the black and the solemn faces. Finally, except for the big, gaping hole in the ground and the simple white cross with 'Thomas Pratt 1921' engraved upon it. No. It was real, every part of it, and yet I couldn't feel it. I couldn't cry, and I couldn't hurt. There was nothing existing within me anymore.
Mrs. Nielsen and I walked back to my house in silence. She held onto my arm as she spoke softly, and somewhere within me knew she was only trying to console, trying to help. I tried to let her, but there was nothing to grasp onto...nothing to say or do or feel anymore.
"Mrs. Nielsen, if you wouldn't mind too terribly much, I think I would just like to be alone for awhile," I said, my voice not sounding like my own. It was weak and gravelly...completely devoid of any inflection.
"Of course, dear. I will be over in a few hours to bring you some supper. Why don't you try and get some rest?"
I nodded and watched dumbly as she walked out the door, closing it quietly behind her.
Everything crashed upon me in that moment. The memories of each day, each moment of his short life, the feeling of him in my arms, the sound of his cry that still echoed off the walls, the terrible two days he was sick and the sound of his wheezing, labored breaths.
My legs gave way, and I crumpled to the floor under the weight of the sudden feeling that I had everywhere and the ache that consumed every bit of my being. Tears fell as I screamed, unable to contain myself, unable to control my volume or the words of pain pouring from my mouth.
"Why?!" I screamed into the cold, empty house. "Why him?!"
Sobs erupted from within me, and I couldn't move; I couldn't focus on anything but the memories held within those four walls. I had to get out. I had to leave. For the sake of my own sanity, I couldn't stay in the place that he'd arrived—the place that he'd departed. His entire life had been within this house, and now, I couldn't take being in the midst of it.
I scrambled to my feet and out the door without much thought to where I was going. The cold evening air hit me with a crisp blast, and I pushed myself outside, welcoming the discomfort of the temperature. The sun was almost below the horizon, but I couldn't find it in me to care as I walked away from the houses and into the heavy woods.
Though I had escaped the house, I could not escape my mind. My thoughts turned over and over again, wondering if I could have saved him, wondering if I had made different choices in my life, if my son could have been saved. Had I not married Charles, but instead married the mysterious doctor of my past—would my life have been different now? Would I not have lost a son, but had a loving family? Had everything that I had ever really wanted in life?
I had been so foolish—and now he was gone...never to be back in my arms again.
I was unaware of my surroundings, as though watching myself from the third person. The numbness spread through me as I looked around and took in where I was, though not really understanding much at all. It was dark, I could see that much, and the moon sat high in the clear night sky. I had no idea how long I'd been walking in the woods, but my skin was numb and unfeeling once again as my mind came back into focus. It rushed with thoughts and regrets—the things I wished I could do over again taunting me.
I was broken from my thoughts as my eyes took in the moonlit rocks before me. My breath caught in my throat as I realized that I had very nearly walked off of the edge of my path. Below was a vast canyon with a river rushing beneath me. The roaring sound was muffled by the rocks that encompassed it, and I briefly wondered how far I had journeyed. I hadn't known of a river nearby.
My stomach fluttered as my eyes focused on the black water. It sparkled with the rays of the moon in an eerie, almost welcoming way. One step...I was one step away from the edge with nothing to lose. All I had left was my pain, the memories of every hit, every angry word yelled, every flutter within my womb, every movement of his tiny hands, every cry, all of it.
It was too much pain, too much hurt. My stomach dropped as I acted before I could talk myself out of it. I took a deep breath and stepped forward. Air rushed passed my face, and I screamed. It wasn't my life that flashed before my eyes but Thomas' pink, beautiful face—followed by Dr. Cullen's golden eyes. My last thoughts would be of the only two people I had ever actually loved, of everything that had ever meant anything to me. I found a brief, quiet solace in that fact. The rocks rapidly became larger, closer, and I managed to suck in one final breath before closing my eyes, and everything went truly black.
A/N: This is the first of four chapters in this short snapshot story—a look at the beginning of Carlisle and Esme. Canon Esme has a fascinating back story, and we wanted to play with it. :-) Please let us know what you think!
A gigantic thank you to our beta supreme, NCChris, without whom, our writing would be in very sorry shape.
Amor Fati: "The Fate of Love"