I sat down next to my husband, there was an unusual amount of space between us and I had to admit that was my fault.
"I'm sorry," I said again, unsure how else to start. Carlisle smiled slightly.
"Are we going to have yet another 'who can apologize the most' conversation?" he asked. I shook my head.
"I've been over-reacting recently," I continued relentlessly. I knew I had to say what I'd come here to say. "I've been angry at you for things you didn't even do. How can I ever have been mad at you, when all you've ever done is love me? My life could so much worse." I shook my head sadly, wringing my hands. "My life used to be so much worse." About halfway through the meeting I had overheard two of the women talking about someone they knew with an abusive husband. It had reminded me of all the things I had to be thankful for, and I had suddenly felt guilty for how I had been treating my husband recently. After everything Carlisle had done for me it wasn't right. And simplest, and yet most important, of those things was that he loved me. That was the joy Carlisle had brought to my life, and I had been so ungrateful as to throw it all back in his face.
"You know-"Carlisle began.
"I know," I whispered softly. Unable to help myself, I closed the distance between us, putting my hand on his arm gently.
"I admit that maybe I don't always treat you as my equal, but it's not because I don't view you as such," Carlisle began. "Sometimes I feel I know you so well I just automatically assume that's how you'll react, or that's what you want, and never actually ask you in regard to decisions amongst our family." Carlisle sounded so guilty, and my guts twisted with guilt alongside him again.
"That's because I usually do. And if I don't, you think I wouldn't tell you about it?" My husband chuckled.
"Yes. Yes, you would."
"I trust you, Carlisle. I know that you'll always do what is best for our family," I told him. For a long moment he didn't say anything. Then he looked me directly in the eyes. His golden gaze pierced into mine.
"Are you happy, Esme?" he asked softly. Without any conscious decision, I threw my arms around him, pulling his head down to mine to kiss him passionately. I felt his surprise at first, but then he responded with equal vigour.
"I love you," I whispered. "Never, ever, doubt that," I said forcefully.
"I love you, too," he murmured. "But you've seemed so unhappy recently, and I realized that I gave you immortality and then never allowed you to enjoy it. I've always kept you tied to our home, tied to me." My guilt increased more as I saw my husband blame himself for things that were never his fault. For, after overhearing the discussion about the abused woman, I had spent the rest of the meeting thinking deeply about my life. And I had realized everything came down to choice. The whole equality act was based on the idea of giving women a choice in how they lived their life. And with Carlisle that is what I had. In my human life there had been no choices. I had been forced into marriage. There had been no freedom of choice within that marriage, for I had quickly learned what would happen to me if I did anything against my husband's wishes. But I had chosen to marry Carlisle. And everything within our marriage was still a choice.
"Carlisle Cullen," I said sternly. "Let me make one thing clear. You never forced me to stay at home. You never forced me to stay with you. I chose to do that. You've never made me do anything." Carlisle's face was confused. "It was my choice and I was happy with it."
"Was?" Carlisle questioned cautiously.
"I was. I was happy to be your wife and mother to our children. But recently I realized there's so much out there I'm missing out on. I've never even made it to college. I haven't had a job since I was a human in Ashland."
"Would you like to do those things?" he asked carefully. I nodded. "Why did you never tell me then? You know I'd do anything to make you happy." He sighed gently. "I've been thinking that perhaps we should move soon."
"Where?" I asked, confused by this new topic.
"I'm not sure yet. But I was thinking that if you would like to, we could drop the adopted family persona for a few years, and all enrol at a college."
"All?" I questioned.
"I don't know if you'd want to. I just thought," he said quickly.
"I was actually thinking I could get a job somewhere, next time we move," I told him. The idea had been in the back of my mind for the last few days. "Help to design houses or something," I continued cautiously. I couldn't help but feel slightly annoyed at the way I said it – like I was waiting for his approval. I had planned to tell him confidently and to show I could make my own decisions. I had meant what I said about it being my decision to be a housewife and mother all these years, but I still wanted him to realize that. "Plus, I like the adopted family persona. You know I don't like it when our family splits up."
"It was just a thought. You'd be amazing as an architect or interior designer." Carlisle smiled warmly at me. "Speaking as someone who has lived in your houses for the last four decades," he added with a chuckle.
"Problem would be getting hired," I said with a sigh. I knew from my time with the other women that getting any sort of well paid job could still be difficult.
"You could set up your own company," Carlisle suggested.
"Perhaps," I said carefully.
"But?" Carlisle probed, in tune with my emotions as always.
"Kind of defeats the point," I murmured. Carlisle's brows furrowed in confusion.
"How?" he asked.
"Well I'd be setting it up with your money."
"Esme," Carlisle sighed. "It's our money."
"Except I haven't ever earned any of it."
"Esme, you know money means nothing to our family. Technically, most of it should probably be counted as Alice's anyway." I couldn't help but giggle slightly at that.
"And I propose we spend my money setting up Esme's new business." As always, Alice skipped into the room with perfect timing. "And, my God, am I happy you two finally made it to the right conclusion. You have no idea how scared I was when the two of you were arguing and this future disappeared."
"Yeah, like, never argue again, please," Emmett requested as he came bounding in the door. The rest of my children followed him in. "It was unnerving," he continued, giving a fake shiver. Alice and Emmett both throw us the 'puppy dog eyes' look. I couldn't help but laugh and I heard Carlisle's recognizable chuckle mingle with my own.
"Don't worry," I told Emmett, taking hold of my husband's hand. "Your father and I's marriage is strong." I said the words with conviction. For despite the ups and downs of the last few weeks I knew that to be true now. My husband loved me and respected me – simple as.
"Told you," Edward murmured under his breath. "But nobody ever listens to the mind reader, now do they?" he continued sarcastically.
"Because you're an annoying pain in the arse," Rosalie told him.
"Rosalie," I scolded automatically. She rolled her eyes at me and then continued her argument with Edward.
"Rosalie, Edward wins this time. Try again tomorrow," Alice told her, effectively breaking up the argument. "Anyway, I need your opinion on this dress." My children fell into their normal activities. Alice and Rosalie were flicking through magazines while Emmett and Jasper were planning some complicated challenge – which I would no doubt have to intercede during to stop my house being destroyed. Edward had drifted off to his piano. I allowed myself to snuggle into my husband's embrace, thrilled when I felt his arms tighten around me. We hadn't sat together like this in weeks. Something so simple, but I had missed it badly.
As I looked around at my family, I felt content in the life I could happily say I had chosen to live. For in the end of the day, it had been my decision. Had always been my decision – and that was what counted.
And so that brings us to the end of my little story - I hope you enjoyed it :)