Conjugate Pairs

Chapter 9

CNN still had my attention, until the lights dimmed around me, that is. Looking over my shoulder, I saw Esme still hovering at the light switch, with a look on her face that told me I knew exactly what she was up to.

I slung my arm over the back of the couch and raised a leg onto the cushion. "What're you doing over there?" I asked.

"Oh, just adjusting the lights," she said, dimming them a little more.

"Aren't they dim enough now?"

"It's pretty late," she reasoned, as her fingers finished pushing the dimmer to its lowest possible setting, "it doesn't make sense to have them on so bright anymore."

I grinned as she walked over and settled herself right on my lap. "If you say so."

"I say so," she said, pulling her hands through my hair. When she got to the nape of my neck she tugged my head back and my eyes closed, while she rested her forehead on mine, just briefly, before I felt featherlight kisses on my face.

"I miss you," she whispered.

"Mhmm," I murmured, my arms finding their way around her back.

I settled us deeper into the couch, wanting her weight and her lips on me more. This night seemed like the most calm we had experienced in a while. It was a night where we were both home, relatively rested, and Edward, for once in his short time of living with us, was upstairs in his room adhering to his punishment.

Bliss. It really was domestic bliss, especially when your wife started sliding her hands down your chest to your belt buckle, and your arm moved for the remote, turning the volume up on the world crises reported on the news, just in case…

For several heated minutes, Esme and I caught up. Her shirt was removed, my trousers were shoved out of the way. I was working on a side zipper on her skirt, but kept getting too distracted by her hips.

And then I thought I heard a crash upstairs.

"Esme," I panted, pulling away. "Did you hear that?"

"No," she said into my neck. "Hear what?"

"That?" I said, still gasping.

She paused and sat up, though I didn't know if either of us could really hear anything subtle going on upstairs through our loud breaths. Both of our heads turned towards the staircase as we waited. I debated whether or not I should turn down the volume on the TV, but after a decent ten or fifteen seconds, Esme shrugged, smirked, and started pawing at me again.

"If anything," she began, returning to nipping at my neck, "it's proof that he's up there, right?"

I leaned back until her eyes connected with mine. I grinned at her logic. She grinned back.

And we were able to enjoy each other for the first time in a week.

o o o o o o o

There was a really loud noise interrupting my run in the maze. Esme had just turned to look back for me before it started going off again. I whipped around, looking for anything in the thick hedges that made up the walls that could make such a sound. I looked down to the ground, and there was a door. Only I could open it, I knew, so I did. I would just have to leave Esme behind. I had to stop the sound.

Of course, as soon as I dropped down I saw other men down here who had dropped, only they had hurt themselves and were no longer able to move. They were sprawled along a white linoleum floor with little black specks. I could see that they were all watching me, dressed the same as I. Though the lights were very bright, I could see their faces. Some of them I knew from years ago, a couple were doctors I worked with, and they knew something that I didn't know. All of them, it seemed, had been trying to make their way just a few yards in the distance, over to my kitchen, and the countertop where our house phone was now blaring. I strode over, stepping over them. Some looked the other way as I passed, some grabbed at my legs. I started to feel fear.

I answered the phone once I was at the countertop, but it kept ringing. Nothing I did got the portable receiver to pick up. It just kept ringing. I kept pushing at its buttons, shouting into it, and it just kept ringing. I felt self-conscious in front of the people on the floor, feeling like a fool in front of them, but it just kept ringing, and it just got louder, and I couldn't answer it.

o o o o o o o

"Carlisle."

There was a push at my shoulder.

"Carlisle, at least move so I can get it."

Another push.

"Carlisle," she said, more forcefully that time.

One more shove and my body rolled enough for Esme to slip from under me. The room under the maze disappeared, and I saw my wife stand from the couch and walk through the arch into the kitchen, where our phone was no doubt ringing.

I sighed, slumping into the couch more, feeling strange. I felt on the floor for my pants pocket, pulling out my phone. It was 11:23 p.m., exactly. Rather late for Esme and me. Usually, we never even passed out on the couch after sex. One of us was always good about bringing it upstairs once we brought Edward to live with us.

Tonight was different, obviously. I laughed to myself, starting to replay our time on this very couch just a few hours ago, feeling good again. A thought struck me that my married life didn't necessarily have to change with Edward around.

Now relaxed, I listened for Esme's voice in the other room. When I didn't hear anything, there was that strange sensation I had left over from my dream creeping up my neck. Slowly, I sat up, pushing my tired body forward and off the couch. The TV was still on, but muted, and the lights were still dimmed from before, so that I could see well enough to not trip over any of our clothes as I made my way to the kitchen.

In the kitchen, the lights—being on their brightest setting—were in stark contrast to the living room's. Esme was sitting at the island, in the same seat Edward liked so that he could have direct view of the small flat screen, with her head in her one hand and the phone dangling from the other.

"Esme?" I asked, the dream feeling getting stronger.

She let out a huge breath at my calling and turned to look me in the eye. I had never seen quite this look on her face before. It was worry, exhaustion, trepidation, anxiety.

"Go put on some sweatpants or something, anything—quickly. We need to get down to the convenience store."

"Convenience store?"

"Yes," she replied heavily. "I think we should both be there to pick Edward up this time."

o o o o o o o

We dressed quickly and quietly, ignoring our previously shed clothing on the floor. In the car we were silent, confused, and angry.

"What did he do this time?" I asked. It had taken me some time to form the words, having already an idea of what Edward could have done, but still feeling in the dark.

"The officer said that they couldn't actually arrest him yet, but that they suspect him of damaging property. He personally didn't have anything on him this time, and neither did his friend Jasper Whitlock, but they suspect a twenty-something-year-old man was going to sell them drugs and alcohol."

Esme continued to stare out the passenger window, defeated and angry now. I made sure to keep my driving controlled, for her sake.

"He also said Chief Swan was on his way. He's off duty, but apparently they involved his daughter."

"Shit," I said under my breath. "And the other night when we caught him going out to the supermarket he said he was apologizing to her!" I heard my voice rising, but I didn't care. "Was he even at the supermarket? Do you realize how much we owe Charlie Swan? I don't even know where we can even begin…" I stopped abruptly and sighed, not knowing what to say.

Esme rubbed my arm during my rant, but she was also silent. At just a few more turns we were at the light just a block away from the convenience store, where we could see flashing lights, an arrested man against a police vehicle, and several people scattered about.

"Where we can even begin," I finished.

We were approached by Officer Parks before we even got out of the vehicle. He began speaking to Esme first, and I scanned the people nearby until I found Edward.

This little display of excitement so late at night had managed to gather a bit of a crowd in this small town, but I still picked out Edward as he was monitored by another cop, sitting on the sidewalk in front of the store. The friend Esme mentioned was several yards away, also sitting under supervision. I wondered if his parents were even going to show… and then I saw the man with the cuffs around his wrists in more detail. He was definitely older, like Esme said; he looked to be in his mid-twenties. He was tall and had the lanky look of someone who did drugs, with the scraggly unwashed hair to match.

I came up beside my wife and put my arms around her shoulders comfortingly as she continued to tell the officer where Edward was supposed to be and why, instead of being allowed out to do whatever he pleased.

I could only look at the man already arrested with the drugs and alcohol on him. And I kept wondering, and I couldn't stop wondering, how Edward knew such a person. And how he met him, and why he would continue to… do business with him when he seemed like such an unsavory character.

Did we drive him to this?

"Carlisle and I agreed to this punishment, yes," Esme finished saying. "We thought we heard a crash from his room earlier, but we just assumed it meant he was—" Esme broke off, her voice suddenly shaky. I gripped her tighter. "We assumed it meant he was in the house, obeying us," she finished.

"All right," Officer Parks soothed, "at this point, especially after some questioning, I believe we have enough evidence to arrest him. We were hoping you might be able to take him home, but the Chief doesn't feel that's appropriate, all things considered."

Esme and I nodded, feeling meek in front of him. Like failures. I looked around again, and this time I noticed the convenience store.

And the broken window. With two other punctures marks where he must have first attempted to smash the window.

And the crowbar on the ground.

And the glass scattered across the pavement.

And the blood on Edward's arms and hands.

"Excuse me," I said.

Officer Parks turned his attention. "Yes, Dr. Cullen?"

"There's blood on Edward," I said directly. "There's blood on my son."

"Yes," he agreed. "But it isn't his, and he has no injuries. He won't tell us who the blood belongs to."

"Are you kidding me?" I asked, completely enraged now. "He has blood on him, and he won't tell you whose it is?"

I ignored the stunned faces of the officer and Esme and marched right over to Edward, so consumed that I didn't even notice if any of them followed me or protested my approach.

Edward, who was completely shocked to see me stomping up to him. He even scooted a little bit closer to the police officer guarding him, as if it would protect him.

"Edward," I began… and then stopped, the anger clogging my throat like hair does to a drain. "Edward, you tell them—right now—whose blood you have on you. You tell them, because if someone is hurt and you don't tell the police officers, you are in a world of trouble."

He only lowered his head to knees as I spoke and pulled the hood of the small sweatshirt he was wearing over his head. I tried to step closer, but the officer stopped me.

"Edward," I tried again. "Edward!"

"Sir," the officer watching Edward put his palm up on my chest and gently set me back. "Please, sir, if anyone were seriously injured right now, we would know. We've checked the area, and we're working on—"

"HE DID THIS?" a man shouted from across the lot, breaking off the platitudes the officer was trying to give me.

"DID HE DO THIS TO YOU?"

I whipped around, seeing Charles Swan checking over his daughter frantically. I had been unable to see them before, as they were hidden behind a police car in front of our vehicle, but I could see them now.

Bella Swan had clearly been crying. In fact, her sobs were still occasionally jumping out of her chest. She had on a baggy plaid shirt and was trying to pull down the sleeves to cover them from her father. Yet Charlie was a lot stronger, and much angrier, and forced her sleeves back.

I gasped, moving towards her instantly. There was blood on her hand and on her arms. I couldn't see how big the wound was, but it was a bleeder if I ever saw one.

As I approached, I could hear Charlie's daughter pleading with him, and I was shocked.

"Dad," she was saying, "Dad, he didn't do it to me. I slipped on the broken glass and fell into it. It's my fault. I—I shouldn't have got in his way."

"Bullshit, Bella," Charlie replied, making eye contact with me.

"I'm sorry," I heard myself saying, but the anger in Charlie's eyes was too much for me to be able to tell if I actually had the courage to speak to him.

"Make sure she's okay," he said, before striding purposefully over to my adopted son.

"May I?" I began, gesturing towards Bella's arms. She nodded and seemed as if she were about to speak, but Edward's shouting stopped her.

"I DID IT, OKAY?" he yelled. "AND BELLA WAS AN ACCIDENT. I DIDN'T MEAN TO!"

From over my shoulder, I could see Charlie bending over Edward, no doubt whispering menacingly to him. Edward's eyes looked wild, and even bloodshot—from I didn't even want to know what—as he waved his arms about, pointing to Bella Swan, pointing to himself, pointing at the store. I felt myself cringe.

Charlie reached down and dragged Edward up, pausing to smell the air around his face. I closed my eyes and looked back over to my wife, who was clutching at her neck and looking absolutely distraught as Officer Parks held her back.

"FUCK!" Edward hollered.

Charlie was twisting his arms behind his back, holding his hand out to receive cuffs from the other officer.

"Please," I heard Bella whisper, drawing my attention away from the scene. "I'm okay. It was an accident."

She looked over at Edward struggling and began crying some more. I sighed, lifting her arms into the light so I could see better, and turned to ask an officer nearby if he had a first aid kit. But before I could, Edward felt the need to shout himself into a deeper hole.

"FUCK. YOU," he screamed. "So FUCKING what! I did it!"

Charlie turned him to walk him towards an open police car, and in doing so turned Edward to face us. He looked right at Bella, his chest heaving, his eyes surprisingly blank, and began shouting some more.

"FUCK them, Bella! FUCK 'EM! I DID IT. It's MY FAULT. It's OKAY."

His face twisted in discomfort as Charlie forced him to walk. Bella only cried harder.

Charlie put Edward in the car and slammed the door. I looked back at Esme one last time, my chest feeling like a lead weight.

o o o o o o o

The next morning I made the decision to post Edward's bail. Formal charges were being pressed by the convenience store owner, and Esme and I did not want him to miss any school if we could help it. We were tied up in knots, wondering if Charlie or Bella were also going to lay another charge against him. Esme was beside herself, staring into space at the island in the kitchen, in the very same spot she received the phone call the previous night.

I was busy twirling my car keys around my finger. I felt as though we didn't know what to say to each other because we had both failed. We were bad parents. We were messing something up. We didn't know how to fix it or how to talk to each other, not when we couldn't figure out Edward's behavior to begin with.

"I think we're just going to have to send him to therapy," Esme said dejectedly, breaking our silence. "And you should probably get going soon. They called and said the money went through?"

She looked up with blood-shot eyes. I nodded solemnly.

One long breath pushed itself through her lips. "Well you better get going then." She stood up and made her way to the staircase, and before I also moved as if I were dismissed from the room, she stopped.

"Can you talk to him?" she asked suddenly. "Without blowing up, just ask him what happened."

I nodded, not feeling particularly gregarious or loquacious, but Esme didn't wait for any response. She was already gone, probably ready to work out her tears on her own, while I moved on to the police station to bring home our son.