~ENTRY FOR THE PLOT BUNNY CONTEST~
Story Name: Love Like Wine
Word Count: 3,374
To see other entries in the Plot Bunny Contest, please visit the following C2:
Plot Bunny: Two characters (any) continue to see each other from afar at a wine bar every Friday night. One finally gets the courage to approach the other...
Author's Note: Thanks for the plot. It really spoke to me. I hope those who read it enjoy it as much as I did. Also, I have to send a big thanks to Miss Quail for being my beta and putting up with my crap.
With one push to the gut by the sharp elbow of her best friend, Esme was thrown out into the population not trying to hide in the shadows of the popular wine bar. She stumbled over her feet while trying not spill the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from a prominent California winery over her and the surrounding people.
She thought about how undignified she looked while she shot an angry glare at the smiling Renee. Her friend waved before turning toward the bartender she chatted up each time they came. Taking a deep breath, Esme calmed herself down and smoothed out the cream colored sweater, checking it for any hint of the berry colored liquid. She then placed her purse strap back onto its place on her shoulder. When that was finished, she realized there was nothing else to stall her from doing what she promised Renee she would do. But the nerves that stopped her the other times were gluing her feet to the wooden floor once again.
Esme bit softly down on her tongue as she watched the blond hair man talk to the dark haired man he brought with him each time. The blond in the baby blue dress shirt laughed at something the sullen man said. He started taking a sip of a golden white wine. It was then his eyes latched onto her. Throughout the slow sip, his eyes never dropped, never looked away. It was a big difference from when she first saw him. That night, a year ago, they caught sight of each other from across the bar in one of those cheesy scenes from a love story on the big screen. She blushed and looked away, refusing to look back for the rest of the night even when she could feel someone glancing at her every now and then. A few weeks after that, she refused to let herself look away.
For a few months, Esme let herself study him. He cared about his appearance. Every hair had its place, and, from her point of view, he had not one blemish on his perfect face. At first, his always crisp and clean attire saddened her because it meant there must have been someone at home taking care of him. She perked up slightly the following week when she saw no wedding ring. It didn't mean there was no girlfriend back home, but it left the possibilities open in her daydreams while at work.
He was also some kind of doctor. Esme didn't know for sure what he did, but she found that out when a woman blew a heel and fell, twisting her ankle. He was the first one over and sat with her until her ride showed up. Then he helped her out of the bar and into the car. He was given a free drink of his choice that night. It would have been the perfect opportunity to talk to him, but Esme wasn't ready for that yet and feigned having to use the restroom as soon as he started toward the counter.
She knew before the heel incident of September that he cared about people. Esme could see the way he cared about his friend every time they came. It was easy to see something happened to the other man just as easy as it was to see how scared she was when she first jumped back into the dating world after her very messy marriage. After she figured out he was a doctor, she noticed how he sometimes came in with his shoulders rolled in upon himself. She figured then he was not a dentist. No, he was something important.
She smiled at her thoughts and took a step forward. He placed his glass on the tall table he was standing next to and smiled back. Immediately, she blushed. His smile never faltered as she continued to move through the group of people who wouldn't part for her. When she made it to his table, she slid to the side to keep the small wooden circle between them.
With a deep breath, she finally spoke, "Hello. I'm," – she paused to look into his deep blue eyes which nicely complemented his shirt – "Esme."
"Nice to meet you, Esme," he said, his voice deep and soothing. "I'm Carlisle."
Carlisle took in the woman across from him. It didn't escape him that she chose to place the table in front of her as a barrier, and it made him curious as to who it was that caused her to be afraid of people. It wasn't the first time he found himself wondering about the woman who captured him the first time he laid eyes on her. Ever since that day, he noticed how jumpy she was around the men in the bar, and, each time she pulled away from them, his teeth ground together in frustration and anger. That was until he realized she wasn't near that person anymore because, if she was, he wouldn't be graced by her presence each Friday starting at six.
He watched Esme take a timid sip of her wine before letting it sit on the table before his eyes wandered over her soft features punctuated by her golden brown eyes and caramel colored hair. She reminded him of a starlet from the early years of cinema; he wouldn't be truthful if he didn't admit he imagined his fingers lightly touching the curves of her hips that usually sported some skirt or dress that showed off her legs. Today, it was a knee length brown skirt.
The woman behind the looks was an enigma. He only knew she came to the wine bar each Friday with the same friend who wildly talked with her hands, and, each time, she ordered the same drink. They usually stayed by the bar because her friend liked to flirt with the bartender. Occasionally, he would see her throw her head back with a laugh, but, most of the time, her smile was small and soft and a little unsure. It left him curious, much in the same way the human body did when he was a child: he wanted to know who she was and how she worked. He could feel another lifetime obsession starting to take hold.
"I'm going to go," whispered a bored voice behind him.
Carlisle lifted a finger to let Esme know he'd be a second and turned toward his apathetic friend. "Take my car, Marcus." He pulled the keys to his black Mercedes and handed them over.
"And how will you get home?"
He shrugged. "A cab." He watched Marcus shrug once and take the keys before walking toward the exit. Carlisle then placed his attention back on Esme.
"I can give you a ride home," she spoke, surprising the both of them. A quick blush blossomed on her cheeks, and he smiled.
"You don't need to do that," he said, motioning toward her friend still at the bar.
"It's fine. She's going to pick up her daughter, so we drove separately. Besides," she said, looking down at her finger which was drawing a pattern on the table, "I already know you aren't dangerous."
He wondered slightly if it was obvious from the first time she saw him just as her past was obvious to him. Even if that wasn't the case, he figured she probably made up her mind after she watched him with the woman who sprained her ankle a few months back.
Esme allowed herself to slowly look back up to see what kind of expression she could see in his eyes. She was curious to know if he would take the offer she didn't expect herself to ever make to an almost complete stranger. When she reached his blue eyes, she saw he was still mulling it over.
"We'll see," he said, not quite blowing her off but not quite committing to anything. The last thing he wanted to do was scare her off even if she was certain of her decision.
"Okay," she nodded. She could feel the Renee part of her brain tell her she should have flirted a little more, made him say yes with just a smile, but the rest of her brain that was still hers let her know that would have been too much. Plus, it had been such a long time since she ever thought about flirting that she knew it had completely rusted over.
"What do you do?" asked Carlisle, starting out easy.
"I work in the city at the art museum in the restoration department. What do you do?"
"I'm just a doctor." He watched her smile widen slightly. Something told him she already figured that out. "A surgeon."
"You're not a typical surgeon," she said with kindness in her eyes.
"How do you mean?" he asked, leaning forward onto the table.
Her hand stopped moving and her heart started beating as she watched him. She didn't know if it was because he was turning the swagger on or if it was because Carlisle was very much a man and she still couldn't help reacting to them the way her ex-husband molded her to react. Luckily, the doctor saw this and moved back, making her body comfortable again.
She apologized without words and took a deep breath to answer his question. "Normally, surgeons don't stay with patients," she said, remembering the one time she watched him play doctor after hours. "Half the time, I don't think they care."
"Not all surgeons are the same," he said, defending those he knew she was talking about although he didn't know why. Her words were sadly true. The why of how she knew that to be true wasn't a total mystery, but he still found himself wanting to know the story, to offer comfort the likes of which she wasn't used to; he wanted to push the man who haunted her past and her expressive eyes away from her for good.
"I suppose, but, like I said, you're not typical."
"And neither are you."
His comment elicited another blush. "And how do you know that?"
"By the way you act."
"But you've only seen me here. That can't possibly be enough to form an opinion." She picked up her glass, all the while marveling on how easy it was to fall into a conversation with him and that her heart only overreacted before because he was mere inches away. Esme closed her eyes as she took a drink of the wine. It was a big triumph for her to know her past hadn't scarred her body, her mind, her everything from being a normal human being, from being able to feel something, anything for someone else.
Carlisle smiled at the woman in front of him even though she couldn't see it. He could feel a confidence he didn't notice earlier fall around her. He wanted to believe it was because of him, but he wouldn't allow himself to fully grasp that belief. It was a hope, though, because he hadn't felt like he did in a long time, hadn't felt like he was one smile away from being turned into a nervous teenager asking the hottest girl in school to the prom. He shook his head despite himself and followed Esme's lead, finishing off the rest of his wine.
"I should say the same," he said, placing the glass back on the table.
Esme's eyes opened upon a flirtatious smile. She opened her mouth to ask a question she didn't have while placing her glass next to his. As she pushed her mind to forget the man and think of something intelligent to say, she turned her head away. Brown hair atop a small woman caught her attention, washing all the light banter she was sifting through away.
"Just came to say I'm leaving," Renee said, sending a knowing smile toward her friend. "Have fun you two. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
"Goodbye. I'll call you later," said Esme, shaking her head at the comment.
After Renee walked far enough away, Carlisle spoke, "If you want to leave, it's fine."
"No," she said, almost a little too desperately. Taking it down a notch, she added, "I'm supposed to take you home, remember?"
Carlisle slid a hand slowly across the table, keeping his eyes on Esme's face to gauge her reaction. As soon as he did this, her eyes jumped down to the action, watching intently. The rigidity of her shoulders let him know she was a little scared, but the slow rise in the corner of her lips told him she was hopeful, and it encouraged him to slide farther until the tips of his fingers touched her soft hand.
There was an instantaneous jolt. Esme's growing smile dropped as a quiet "Oh" fell from her mouth. To her, it almost looked as though Carlisle blushed, but she was sure the lights were playing tricks with her eyes; men didn't blush. He did smile comfortingly at her and continued to brush his fingers over her hand until his larger hand dwarfed hers. It pulled hers gently closer toward the middle of the table where it stopped and let a finger absentmindedly trace circles. She couldn't remember the last time a man touched her as delicately as he did. It made her mind race with pictures of him exploring more of her in the same subtle way.
Carlisle, on the other hand, did remember the last time he tenderly touched a woman just as beautiful as Esme. He let the sad memory of the bronze haired woman of his past flash over his features for just a moment before pushing it into a box for later.
"Do you want to go some place a little less crowded?" he asked, gesturing behind her with a quick nod of his head.
She turned her head to look over her shoulder at the doorway to the terrace. "Oh…kay," she said as she faced him again.
He lightly squeezed her hand before pulling his away and stepping away from the table. He held out an arm, letting Esme take the lead. She stepped out in the direction of the door, touching her shoulder to pull up the small purse strap that hadn't fallen since she was helpfully pushed.
It took them little time before they made it through the door and out onto the terrace. The large balcony overlooked a small stream and a beautiful display of the natural foliage of the area, but the darkness had started to overtake the night, making it hard to see what wasn't lit up by the lights surrounding the wooden structure. Esme didn't stop until she made it to the railing overlooking the scenery. She listened after each of her steps for another pair, and each time she was rewarded with a dull echo of her own until he stopped beside her.
With a sigh, Carlisle leaned his forearms onto the flat railing and said, "I'm going to be truthful. I haven't done this in a while."
"What? Talk?" she asked with a small chuckle.
"I've just…been so busy," he continued, not trying to gloss over her comment. He just wanted to keep going before he let one of the many reasons he came up with long ago for not looking at women like a lover come between them.
Understanding what her new, very handsome friend was trying to get at, Esme slid closer to Carlisle and placed her right hand on his arm, all the while keeping her eyes and her head straight ahead. She let her timid touch tell him he didn't need to do anything. "And I've been…making excuses," she said ambiguously.
He stirred, moving his right hand onto hers. "You make me feel like I'm on my first date."
She looked at him but didn't say anything. She couldn't. The sassy, flirty remarks courtesy of Renee were floating around, but she just couldn't give them a voice. If this was the only time she was going to be near him, they would ruin it. So she just smiled, simple and as pure as she could make it.
Feeling foolish, Carlisle lifted his hand to brush his fingers against Esme's cheek. As they ran along her jaw, he could hear her breathing pick up and saw her eyelids close over those vivid brown eyes. He leaned in close, closing his own eyes and smelling her sweet almost fruity scent. "Can I kiss you?"
"Of course," she breathed.
Seconds later, as his lips brushed over hers, he felt another jolt pierce through him. As their lips hovered against each other, both afraid and excited of the future it would bring, Carlisle remembered the last time he was this close to a woman. There was never a jolt like this. It was as if his body finally found the person it was made for. Any other time, it wouldn't have been so hard to rattle off the scientific reasons for this, but, at the moment, all he could wonder was why he hadn't actually kissed her yet. With a small smirk, Carlisle pressed his lips onto hers, allowing the kiss to overtake him.
The last time Esme was kissed, it was forceful, possessive, and hateful. This time, it was lovingly soft and slightly needy in an "I don't ever want you to leave my side" kind of way. This kiss broke her heart in a way the other could not. This kiss had much more to lose.
Esme pulled away completely, stepping back as she did. "I…should be going."
Carlisle nodded understandingly.
"I can still…" she trailed off.
"I'll…get a cab."
"Are you sure?" she asked as an awkward breeze blew between them.
He nodded again. "Yes."
She mirrored his nod then turned back to the door, her ears not picking up the echo of his shoes she happily heard when they stepped out.
"Esme," called Carlisle, grabbing the wallet out of the back of his pants. He pulled out his business card and took one long stride to reach her as she turned around. "The second number is my cell phone."
Esme pulled her purse off her shoulder and pulled out a receipt and the pen she always kept on her. Very quickly, she scribbled down her number under her name on the back of the small piece of paper then handed it to him while placing the pen back into her purse.
They froze for a second, Esme looking up to meet his gazing falling down on her, the sound of the people inside floating out around them. Neither really wanted the other to go, but neither of them was quite ready for what would happen if they did. With a smile, Esme was the first one to break the moment, and Carlisle didn't stop her as she turned in the direction of the front door and walked away.
Still holding his wallet and her number, he watched her for a few seconds, his body still unable to move. It wasn't until she disappeared into the crowd that he played with the idea of following her. When she did, an anxious feeling crept into him, making him jittery and pushing him to go. Because of the crowd, by the time he had made it back outside, she was already a block away, heading to a group of cars parked in a line on the side of the road. He half walked half jogged to bridge the gap in order to catch her before she drove out of his life for another week.
As the lights of her car blinked on, Esme caught the sound of someone running toward her. It wasn't a malicious presence that was coming near, but a kind and secure one. Knowingly, she looked up to see the person she wasn't going be able to get out of her head even after whatever they already started began to fade.
With a sheepish smile, Carlisle quickly placed her number and his wallet he still held into his pants pocket. He ran a hand through his hair, making a few strands fall out of place. "I think I'll take that ride."