AN: I initially wrote this outtake of Sins of the Father for FicsforNashville. Despite that it IS an outtake of SotF, I've written it so that reading that story isn't necessary to understanding Transgressions of the Mother-but I won't lie, it will help a lot. Timeline-wise, this takes place about a year before the beginning of SotFand the italicized portions are flashbacks. Thanks to JosieSwan for the beta work, all the hand-holding and for coming up with the fantastic title.
TRANSGRESSIONS OF THE MOTHER
"Esme, darling, what a wonderful party. Perfect, as always." The woman's voice had that high-pitched, almost tinny fakeness to it, as if she had plastered over it with Splenda. I turned to greet her, pasting on my equally saccharine smile like a general going into battle.
I glanced around, taking in the meticulously groomed garden, punctuated by silken white tents full of white linens, huge bunches of white gardenias and the flash of real silver and the sparkle of crystal. She hadn't been lying; everything looked perfect. If only it was all really as perfect as it appeared on the outside.
"It's so lovely to see you, Lily," I said sweetly, leaning in to brush an air kiss on each cheek.
"You work miracles with a garden party. I don't know how you do it," Lily observed, tucking her arm into mine and walking us over towards the refreshment tent. I picked up a flute of champagne, toying with the thin crystal stem as I tried to hide my anxiety beneath a layer of unaffected calm. Doing so was a normal impulse, a routine impulse, but today, for some reason, it was so much harder to bury everything I wanted to forget.
I smiled at my companion. Lily was almost an equal adversary—her background was not quite as blue as mine, her husband and family not nearly as wealthy as mine, and her taste just the slightest bit off. Plus, there was the matter of those fifteen pounds she couldn't lose and how obvious they were in that Calvin Klein white shift.
Of course, as the edges of her lips curled in unspoken, unvoiced envy, she had no idea that underneath my pristine exterior lurked a girl who never could and never would believe in perfection.
"Esme darling, it's not too late to change your mind," my mother said, unable to totally eradicate the worry in her voice. "You don't have to do this."
If only she knew how completely untrue that was.
"Yes, I do." I tilted my head up, the sun in my eyes as I looked at my picture-perfect parents, an ideally-matched pair—their backgrounds a perfect blend of unfathomable wealth and American aristocracy. Was it any wonder that I felt like an outcast in my own family? Nobody could possibly live up to such immensely high expectations. Especially me.
"It will only be for a few months, Elizabeth," my father told her, his head bending down to hers, to brush his lips over her smooth, white cheek. It was even more unfair that their perfect backgrounds were only matched by their ideal adoration for each other. I swallowed hard, bile rising thick and fast in my throat, and had to look away, their collective light even brighter than the sun overhead.
I slipped my sunglasses on, aware of my mother's tiny, almost microscopic moue of distaste for the aviator frames. She believed only in the classics, and anything remotely popular was instantly considered tacky and beneath her, and by extension, me. But this was my trip. I had planned it for years now, determined that I would have one breath of freedom before I was unceremoniously shipped off to Amherst and to the rest of my carefully-planned existence.
I'd decided that I needed one breath of fresh air before I was locked away, so here I was, ready to fly off to Europe, alone.
"Promise you'll write," Elizabeth cooed again. "And call. I'll be so worried about you, darling."
"Esme is a smart girl," my father insisted, "she'll be perfectly fine for a few months. Besides, I made sure she was staying at all the best hotels."
And the first thing I'd be doing would be finding hostels to stay in instead. I wanted to live, to experience something that wasn't just 800 count Egyptian cotton sheets and plush carpeting and Baccarat crystal and fresh flowers. I wanted something gritty and real.
I was smart—too smart probably—because all I wanted was to escape the velvet cage that was slowly choking me to death.After a goodbye embrace that felt more like a noose than real affection, I climbed up the stairs to the private airplane that my father had insisted take me to Europe.
First London, and then Berlin. Followed by Paris and Venice. I didn't even care if I didn't get a summer of love; I only wanted a summer of independence and a summer of freedom.
How naïve I'd been, I thought, looking out over the landscaped flower beds and the neatly edged lawns, and all the beautiful, wealthy, entitled people that acted exactly as my parents had. I'd wanted to do anything I could to escape, to breathe in air that was anything but rarified, but I'd learned that there was more than one kind of prison, more than one kind of chain.
And mine, the chain that had pulled me between one world and another, was approaching now.
"Edward," I said, watching as he ambled towards me, dressed, as usual, in jeans. He'd made some concession to the occasion by pulling on a wrinkled button-down, but he still looked as if he'd just rolled out of bed. I would be surprised, but I'd long learned to expect disrespect from him. While I'd done everything I could to fit in growing up, Edward had only rebelled, no matter how much I had attempted to steer him on the straight and narrow path.
Unfortunately, I had seemingly failed to instill any part of straight or narrow into Edward's character. And that was far too obvious right now, as he ambled towards us, his posture a mess, his hair even worse, swirling a squat glass full of what had to be whiskey.
I had invited Edward to my annual spring garden party not actually expecting he would appear—or that he would bring his washed-up, obnoxious manager either.
"Edward," I said cordially, extending my hands towards him. "How sweet of you to come."
He ignored me, stepping to the side, stepping away from my grasp. Of course, how could I have forgotten? He hated that we were related; hated that he'd grown up with every possible advantage. He'd wasted no time in shoving all those advantages back in my face and doing everything he could to pretend that he wasn't my son. He'd even changed his name, insisting that it was for my benefit as well as his own. Except that I knew he was lying. No mother wanted to see her son so completely reject everything that she was, especially when she has done everything—everything—to make sure that he grew up safe and untouched from people who could take him away forever.
I blinked hard, hating the tears that inevitably surfaced whenever I was faced with my only son's utter disdain for everything I stood for. If only I could forget that I'd once been exactly like him.
"He's just. . ." Carlisle, his oaf of a manager stepped forward instead, glancing back at the man behind him, "he's just tired."
I waved away his excuses, his stupid platitudes, with an elegant flick of my hand. I hated that he knew how much Edward's rejections hurt me. I was the great Esme Platt—flawless and perfect. Nobody should know that all that pristine perfection was held up by instability and falsehoods. Especially someone like Carlisle Masen.
"Thank you for bringing him," I told him frostily, shutting him down with the Ice Queen routine he was so used to getting from me. "I appreciate the gesture."
"No you don't," he said softly, looking at me like he understood exactly how I felt—and that in itself was nearly an unbearable affront. He wasn't allowed to know. I simply wouldn't permit it, and if I could physically remove the suppositions and assumptions from his mind, I would.
"He means well," Carlisle continued. "But he doesn't know how to live in this world. Or how to be your son."
I wanted to scream at him that the reason for this was because he was only half mine, and the other half of him was clearly dominant and had been from the day he was born. I'd tried to lay claim to him, lay siege to his heart, but from the first second he'd drawn breath, I'd known that he was his father's child through and through. The blood that flowed through his veins might be mixed, but in the end, the rebellious power of his Eire genes trumped all.
But this was a society event—if I was lucky, it would be in all the papers. Elegant, put-together, leader of society Esme Platt couldn't yell, and certainly not at scum like Carlisle Masen. So I looked at him coldly, dismissively. "I believe you're mistaken, Mr. Masen. I don't have a son."
And another little part of me died at the pity in his eyes.
It had been much harder than I'd anticipated to ditch my father's European plans. I'd had to elude security details at the hotels, and tolerate angry phone calls when I'd stayed at the hostels instead.
Instead of enjoying London, I spent most of the time avoiding my family's long reach. Even when they were in Boston and I was in Europe, it wasn't far enough away.
So I'd left London early, evaded my father's security one last time and caught a dingy, rickety boat to Ireland. I'd expressed some interest in seeing Dublin, but my mother had insisted that it wasn't 'safe,' so it had stayed off my itinerary. The truth was, I'd respected a lot of their boundaries and their decisions because I'd foolishly imagined that with the rules in place, they'd respect my need for some small freedoms.
Like everyone, I'd heard of the Troubles, but I'd never imagined that it could be unsafe if I stayed to the main streets and the tourist spots. Plus, Ireland had a single advantage that my other destinations didn't—my parents and their lackeys weren't expecting that I'd make a detour there.
Which made it perfect and anonymous. I could escape the ever-tightening noose of being Esme Platt.
I stepped off the boat feeling freer than I'd ever felt in my entire life. Scared and unbearably terrified also, but free. And completely clueless as to what I should do next. I clutched my Louis Vuitton bag, and knew I looked helpless as my eyes scanned the docks for a cab or a transport of some kind, so I could find my way into the city and what I knew.
This bustling, rough dock was not at all what I had been expecting and was unfortunately totally out of the realm of what I knew. Boats, to me, were yachts and pristine, custom-made sailboats—playthings of the rich and famous.
"You look a wee bit lost, dearie," a voice behind me observed, and I whipped around, only to come face to face with the cliché of European travel—one of the most handsome men I'd ever seen in my life. And I knew Vanderbilts and Kennedys and Waldorfs. That being said, it was entirely possible that the great families, so full of intermarried couples, had become a trifle inbred over the last century and that might explain some of the rather undesirable characteristics they'd begun to produce in their male offspring.
This man, however, looked nothing like the anemic, weak-featured men I'd known my entire life. He was large, maybe 6'4" and muscled and solid. Like he could move heaven and earth and not break a sweat.
"Are ye?" he asked again, taking a step closer. His hair was bright copper in the sun and as he moved towards me, I could see that his eyes were a brilliant, almost unbearably bright green. My mother would have been appalled at his rough attire and at the several days worth of beard on his face, but to me, they only emphasized his attractiveness. He was nothing like the men that I'd met before this, and therefore, he was everything that I longed to experience.
I broke out the brightest smile in my repertoire—the same smile that guaranteed ponies and Dior and Chanel and my very own maid and never-to-be-forgotten trips to Europe where I met handsome strangers—and said, "Perhaps, yes. My name is Esme Cullen." I extended a hand towards him, and giggled a little as he wiped his own surreptitiously on his already-dirty jeans before clasping it with mine. I felt a moments worth of regret that I'd lied, giving him the last name of one of the charity students at my private boarding school, but I couldn't do this as myself, as Esme Platt. It was time to leave her behind, if only for a few days of innocent, heady freedom.
"I'm known as Eoghan. Eoghan Ní Bhaoláin." The name rolled off his tongue in his delicious Irish accent, and I couldn't help but feel a little weak in the knees as he rubbed the soft skin of my fingers with his calloused ones. "You look like ye could use a guide to the city."
I nodded, momentarily mesmerized. "I need a place to stay," I stuttered. "A hostel."
He grinned wide now. "And I know just the place. Should we go together?"
I looked out across the lawn at my tall, handsome son, who did everything he could to generally waste and ruin his enormous potential, and I wondered if faced with Eoghan again—if I were able to choose all over again—if I would make the same choice I had over 25 years ago.
Would I take his hand and walk into the Dublin evening, beaming up into those inhumanly green eyes?
Or, instead, would I smile politely but distantly and walk away alone? Go to a five star hotel, and order room service, draw a bath, wrap myself in the fluffiest white robe I could find and thank God I just avoided the pitfalls of what I couldn't possibly comprehend at the age of 18?
Funny, how the crossroads of life come when we least expect them to. In my case, a smile at a tall Irishman had determined the course of the rest of my life. I couldn't have possibly known that the man had been in Dublin, not to see his grandmother, as he'd told me that day, but to supervise the shipment of a few dozen machine guns and several crates of ammunition.
I gripped the banister of the terrace harder, the rough marble digging into my hands, and I watched my son, so like his father, as he approached a blond girl I knew all too well. And not just because she moved in similar social circles, but because I could see the edges of her perfection fraying into desperation. The feverish pitch of her blue eyes. The need to find something that could fulfill her like all the luxuries and the money couldn't. It all looked too pitiful and far too familiar.
Rosalie Hale. I wanted to go to her and tell her that men like Edward, like Eoghan, weren't just dead-ends, like the world wanted us to believe, but black holes instead—pools of charming but deadly quicksand. One small slip, one small smile, and you were doomed.
I could warn her, or I could let her make her own foolish choices. I was so wrapped up in battling the demons of my history and watching them play out in front of me, that I didn't even hear him approach.
"If you're wondering whether to warn her or not, you're too late," Carlisle said wryly, coming up next to me, leaning on the balustrade.
I froze. How could he have possibly known what I'd been debating? And how had he known that she needed to be warned? Rosalie was a nice girl, a trifle wild perhaps, but no match for the burning wildfire of Edward. He would consume her, drag her under, and laugh as she suffocated on his flames.
"Am I a bad mother if I want her to stay away, to protect herself?" I asked softly, surprising even myself as the words slipped out of my mouth.
I questioned the quality of my maternal urges often enough internally, but I had never once aired my concerns publically. And to Edward's manager, no less. I must be slipping, I thought, straightening my spine imperceptibly, sure that I would now have to do damage control and put him back exactly where he belonged.
But the iciness in my gaze was met by his own, and I was momentarily stunned by the resolution in his blue eyes. "You're not a bad mother if you can see your son for what he is. He's destructive—to himself and to others. She deserves better. And so do you."
I floundered, like a fish flapping at the end of a pole. Not a very classy or graceful metaphor, but an apt one, unfortunately. Words wouldn't come, so I just stood there, staring at him incredulously as he dismantled me, piece by piece, lie by lie.
"You wanted to warn her because you see yourself in her. You weren't always this buttoned up and battened down, Esme. I can see between your cracks better than you realize."
Clenching my teeth together and feeling the rough stone of the ledge digging into my palms, I faced the man who claimed that he could see right through me. He was lying; he had no idea what kind of determination and self-sacrifice it took to be Esme Platt. I myself was still only discovering the lengths I would go to in order to preserve the fallacy.
"Despite your unfounded and pedestrian opinions, I'm very happy with my life. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a party to host."
Romeo and Juliet, I discovered as I finally came home, was only considered romantic and touching because the sacrifice was mutual.
If Juliet survived, suddenly the story wasn't wrenching and poignant; it was only a vaguely sad and pointed lesson to those girls who let themselves be manipulated into marrying—or not marrying—sweet-talking, sweet-looking foreigners who weren't quite what they appeared to be.
"Mother," I said coldly, as she stood by the car, in almost the exact same position as I had left her. But today, I was almost three years older and infinitely wiser, and accompanied by the sort of baggage that would make Boston society gasp behind their closed mahogany doors: my two year old son, Edward.
"Esme, darling." The intonation was the same, I thought with dreadful clarity, the mask still in place. There was a catch there, I could already sense the checkmate she was arranging as we stood there, greeting each other but not embracing. Never embracing. "Welcome home."
I discovered Elizabeth's purpose in the back of the limousine as we drove to the Hyannis Port house, but this time, I'd had my taste of freedom, and I knew exactly what the velvet chains felt like. I pulled Edward closer, and dropped a single kiss on his head, my lips resting against the copper-bright hair that was a genetic gift from his dead father as Elizabeth talked about what she had told everyone of my "predicament."
Apparently, Eoghan was now an English Lord merely transplanted to Dublin temporarily to look after business interests, and we were married in a brief, but beautiful ceremony that my parents unfortunately missed. With him now dead (a freak car accident), I had returned to the fold of my loving, adoring parents, with my two year old son, looking to start over.
As Elizabeth listed off how I'd like to "start over," I realized I shouldn't be surprised when every single one of her "suggestions" were directly off the list that she used to recite ad nausem when I was 18.
Everything, I thought, as the chains pulled tighter around my wrists, was the same and yet everything was different.
Only because of the latter, and because of the boy in my arms, I smiled and nodded and gave myself over to her plans. Elizabeth's smile was now genuine, as I agreed to her "rehabilitation" of my image. She talked then of Elizabeth Arden and facials and manicures and new wardrobes from Bendel's and trips to New York. Edward would go to the best prep schools, then Harvard, as all Platt men did. Coming home, I realized, as we neared Hyannis Port, was both a blessing and a curse.
How easily I remembered how to slide from the backseat of a limo, how natural it felt to have the door opened for me. The last two years felt like some sort of odd dream, cloaked in spurts of fresh air and an equally burning sense of indignation.
I wondered, as I entered the house, the smell of orchids and roses on the air, if Juliet had lived, if she would have returned and lived as a Capulet.
The Montagues, I knew for a fact, wouldn't have wanted her.
"Mother, it all sounds lovely. It feels wonderful to be home," I told her, my smile a ghost of the one that I'd given to Eoghan two years ago. The mask felt strange as it settled onto my features, and as I caught a glimpse of myself in the white marble floor, I thought it looked rather familiar. Just like Elizabeth's.
Juliet, I decided finally, as I clenched Edward's fingers in my own, would definitely have stayed a Capulet.
"Only one thing," I said, interrupting her endless social chatter abruptly, "no husbands, mother."
Her face froze. "Esme, darling, whatever do you mean? Surely in time?"
I shook my head decisively, and I could tell her from her knowing eyes that she thought I would change my mind, but she was wrong. Juliet wouldn't have loved again. She would have stayed faithful to her Romeo. Her life as a Capulet would have continued on as if nothing had changed, but she would have been a shell. A mere vessel for the desires of others. Even if Juliet had lived, the heart that she gave to Romeo would have gone to the grave with him.
As the one I gave to Eoghan remained buried, a vast sea away.
"Edward, I see you've met Rosalie. You know, you used to play together as children."
Edward looked at me like I was intruding, glaring at me as he always did. It was a monument to how much he attempted to circumvent even the most selfless gestures and the kindest words that I insanely preferred the company I'd just left to the one that I'd just sought out.
He was so much like his father that sometimes the space left where my heart had been burned with injustice and it hurt just to look at him.
"I remember," Rose said lightly, a huge smile on her face, so incredibly reminiscent of the way I used to gaze up at Eoghan that I wanted to grab her arm and drag her away before she got caught in the crossfire. "Edward liked singing, even then." Instead of me latching onto her, she latched onto him, and the way Edward looked down at her made me ill.
Sometimes I feared the worst-that Edward had only inherited the parts of Eoghan I'd never understood. As for my genes, on the bad days, I prayed that we had nothing in common whatsoever. Because then, I wouldn't have to acknowledge that we were anything alike.
But, under the bright hot sun, I couldn't help but look at him and see the similarities between us. We had the same hands—the same long tapered fingers that he used to play the guitar and that I used to play Rachmaninoff on the piano. We both desperately tried to avoid facing the reality of a situation. He insisted on idealizing what his father did, no matter how much I'd argued with him that Eoghan was an idealist, except an idealist armed with guns and bombs, while I refused to acknowledge that I had utterly wasted my life. My son hated me, and wouldn't even acknowledge me in public. I was unhappy and wretched and wanted to murder Carlisle Masen for his knowing looks and sympathetic blue eyes.
"It's a lovely party, Esme," Rose said generously, her young face earnest and so desperate to please. Edward rolled his eyes.
"You want to see a real party, Rose," he said roughly, "you should come to the show tonight."
And then I knew that the only reason that Edward was here at all was because he'd already been in the area, and as I glanced up at the balcony where Carlisle was still standing, I knew that Edward hadn't come because he'd wanted to. He'd come because he'd been ordered to. Even to the point of being dragged.
I turned away from Rose and Edward, heart in my throat and I wondered if it would be possible to be sick at my own garden party and still appear on Page Six.
Still wishing for the impossible, Esme? I asked myself.
Of course, I'd always wanted both the impossible and the implausible; the freedom to breathe and the safety of the prison.
I watched my son walk away, the sun bright on his head, the blonde girl's hands linked with his. I didn't stop them, even though the guilt lay thick and heavy.
"I did warn her, you should know," Carlisle said from behind me. "But I think even if someone had warned you, you'd have escaped anyway. Sometimes it's just inevitable."
He answered my question without even knowing I'd spent the last twenty five years asking it. Yes, I realized, I would have smiled up at Eoghan anyway, even knowing what a mess it all would become, even understanding that my son would probably never love me—would certainly never appreciate me.
"Are you saying that our lives are inevitable?" I asked him, suddenly curious what this aging, washed-up rocker slash philosopher had to say on the topic of destiny. God knew I'd spent enough of my own useless time pondering the topic.
"Not inevitable, no. If you're unhappy," he said, pointedly looking at me straight in the eyes, "you can always change direction."
I was right—he was a philosopher. And not an original one, either.
"Sometimes you can't," I told Carlisle. "Sometimes it's the destination that's inevitable."