Concerning Colored Tissue Paper
As Carlisle peered out the windshield of his car, he could see that clouds above were bruised with spots of an oncoming storm. On any other day he would have made plans to be out and about, taking advantage of the gray weather to be among humans, but today was different. His granddaughter was staying at his house for the afternoon, and the blessing of a half-day allowed him to spend a few precious hours with her before Edward came to pick her up.
The first thing Carlisle wanted to do when he came home was kiss Renesmee on the cheek.
Sometimes he would sneak up on her from behind and kiss her unexpectedly before she even knew he was home. He couldn't do that to anyone else in his family. The element of surprise was only something he could enjoy with his half-human granddaughter, and it fascinated him. Though Nessie's senses were excellent, they were still not strong enough to catch him every time he did it.
Maybe today she would catch him.
He smiled at the thought and turned quickly onto the back roads that led to his house. Already he could hear the faint sounds of clamoring in the kitchen, a popular room of choice for whatever projects Esme had planned for her day. Esme was always determined that Nessie could never be bored when she came to spend the day at their house.
They were the first words he heard Esme say when he pulled into the driveway.
He loved hearing those words – probably just as much as she enjoyed hearing him say "I'm home."
Carlisle almost always announced his arrival when he entered the door, but sometimes, like today, Esme would beat him to it when she heard his car coming up the drive. She would then take it upon herself to make the announcement, in the form of two eagerly whispered words.
Every time she said that, he enjoyed the strange, fleeting role of a hero coming home from a long day. It was funny how two small words could make him feel so important, so loved.
After parking his car in the garage, he hastily gathered up his bag and an armful of papers, and carried them up the basement stairs. He could hear the happy, silly sounds in the kitchen growing louder as he made his way to the second floor.
He pushed open the door at the top of the staircase and found his wife there waiting for him. A little way down the hall, Nessie's infectious laughter echoed from the kitchen. His plans to sneak up on his granddaughter were already thwarted. But that was all right. Esme had caught him first.
"What have you two been up to?" he asked when he noticed the teasing expression on his wife's face.
"Nothing so far," Esme admitted, her hands already moving to free him of his lab coat. "We were just making plans for what to do when you came home."
Another suspicious bout of giggles came from the direction of the kitchen, where Nessie appeared to be flicking the light switch off and on as a signal for attention.
"And what might those be?" Carlisle asked with an uncertain chuckle.
"It's a surprise," Esme informed him, a cryptic glint in her eye as she stood on her toes to kiss the corner of his mouth. "But I may need to borrow your finger once we get started," she added as a whispered afterthought before slipping back through the dark hallway.
A knowing smile crossed his face. There was only one occasion for which Esme ever needed to "borrow" his finger. Well, no, there were very many occasions...but only one, he could guess, was still permissible with their very alert granddaughter in the house.
Sure enough, when he turned the corner into the kitchen, he found the table strewn with tissue paper of every color, and a grinning Renesmee sitting proudly in the middle of the mess.
"We're going to make flowers!" she exclaimed. "Out of paper!"
He couldn't help but laugh. Everything was so remarkably new to this child, yet she had so little time to discover it all while she was still young. No matter how wise or intelligent she was for her age, the simplest things still made her giddy with wonder.
"Are you now?" Carlisle asked, his question intended more for the woman in the room than the little girl. He threw his wife a sidelong glance and was rewarded with a shy flutter of hazel eyelashes.
"She wants to learn," Esme said innocently, busying herself at the sink.
Even as her curls tumbled into her face, Carlisle could sense the wide smile hidden on Esme's lips as she vigorously washed her hands.
Somehow he did not think her enthusiasm with that bar of soap had much to do with preparing for her craft.
At least not the one that was waiting for her on the kitchen table.
Carlisle quickly curtailed a stream of particularly wicked urges, aware that his granddaughter's eyes were now fixed on his face. He noticed her slightly pleading expression and remembered that he had not yet greeted her as he'd planned. All at once, the unconcealed love came pouring back into his heart. He tucked his doctor's bag into one of the chairs and bent to kiss Nessie's furrowed forehead, gently moving his fingers through her fine coppery hair.
His hands felt large and cumbersome when they framed her tiny head. He could manage a cadaver with limitless grace, but when it came to touching a child's face, he sometimes felt a pang of concern. His touch was harmless, he knew, but the very human worry was still there, reminding him to use care.
The splashing sounds of Esme's hands in the sink faded momentarily as Carlisle's lips brushed Nessie's soft skin. Her little hands came up around him, just barely wide enough to trap him in a full embrace. Slightly heartbroken that there was nothing he could do to alter the breadth of his shoulders, Carlisle attempted to squeeze himself casually into the narrow margin of Nessie's outstretched arms.
Nessie beamed as she released him. "Did you have a good day?"
The conscientious question threw him off guard. Just a glimpse of Renesmee's chubby cheeks and twinkling eyes could often make him forget her immense maturity.
"I did. Thank you," he replied, bemused. "I assume yours has been going well, too?"
His eyes scanned the messy tabletop again. If he hadn't had perfect memory, he might have forgotten what color the surface was.
Nessie nodded emphatically, swinging her stubby legs back and forth over the edge of the table. "Uh huh!"
He ruffled her ringlets one more time before making his way over to the sink, where Esme was still hunched over the running faucet. Soft white steam billowed from the sink now, along with the strong citrus sting of kitchen soap.
Carlisle came up behind his wife and contentedly watched her while she scrubbed dishes he was certain were already clean.
His husky whisper was drowned out by the rush of warm water. Accompanied by his words was the pressure of a gentle hand, which slipped precariously around her hip.
Esme tilted her head to the side and gripped her dishcloth a little tighter as she rubbed down one small ceramic saucer. Her fingers were barely visible beneath the soapy foam. "We had to entertain ourselves somehow while you were gone," she whispered back.
Her charade of innocence was awfully endearing.
He tucked his chin over the curve of her shoulder and murmured into her ear. "Do tell me why you seem to favor this positively primitive form of art, my dear."
When five wet, slippery fingers reached back to drag his hand into the sink with hers, Carlisle assumed Esme had chosen to answer him without words.
Safe beneath the bubbly surface, she kneaded his fingers one by one with the washcloth under the sinfully warm water.
"Let's just say, it's very 'hands-on,'" she hinted softly.
His belly felt blissfully tight as she pressed her bottom against his lap. When he gently nudged her back, she moaned – softly enough that only one pair of ears could hear.
It was easy enough forcing himself to behave when he had only to glance up and see the little girl humming happily on their kitchen table. But it had occurred to him that Nessie could not see what was happening inside the sink. His fingers took full advantage of that fact.
His thumb drew shapes on the inside of Esme's wrist, while her forefingers tickled the center of his palm. He wove his fingers neatly between each of hers, and she gave his wedding band a loving twist. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see his wife timidly biting down on her lower lip, most likely trying to conceal some other delightful little noise.
Disregarding his promise to behave, he decided to see if he could coax it out of her.
Again, he succeeded.
Esme disguised her happy whimper as one of mild irritation by purposefully knocking the bar of soap to the ground with her elbow. "Oh, bother," she gasped, yanking both arms out of the sink to reach down for the fallen soap.
Carlisle stepped back carefully from the scene, knowing his wife's subtle outburst was likely to have snagged Nessie's undivided attention.
"What are you doing?" her high voice queried, ripe with a child's suspicion.
Esme stood up at once, looking beautifully flustered as she guiltily turned the faucet off. She seemed to be thinking up how to best answer her granddaughter, though Carlisle was fairly certain the question had been directed at them both.
"Washing our hands," he said without looking at Nessie, hoping she would be satisfied with his direct and sensible answer.
His eyes squeezed shut with a fond wince. Her suspicion cut like a butter knife. It didn't hurt so badly, but it was just sharp enough.
This time Esme was on her toes. "Because your grandfather just got home from working at the hospital, where all the icky germs are."
"But you weren't at the hospital today, Gramma," Nessie pointed out. The butter knife was slowly becoming a steak knife.
Carlisle looked up just in time to watch Esme's face break into a pleased smile. "I was just...helping him wash all the icky germs off."
Apparently her explanation made perfect sense to a concerned child.
As if nothing had even happened, Nessie turned away, her interest now invested in the continents of colored paper spread out on the table.
Carlisle reluctantly pulled his forearm out of the hot water, slightly upset that his hand bath was over, but somewhat eager to see what would come of their paper flower making.
He began to lazily dab his hand dry with a fresh kitchen towel, his eyes trained on Esme's face as she finished stacking the sparkling dishes on the counter.
Before either of them could segue into the next item of business, Nessie asked brightly, "Do I have to wash my hands too?"
Unable to resist looking over his shoulder, Carlisle smiled at Nessie as she nobly held up both her palms for inspection.
"Your hands look perfectly clean to me, sweetheart."
She experimentally turned both hands around to study her palms with scrutinizing eyes. She pouted, looked up, and pleaded, "Then can we please make some flowers now?"
Esme's musical laughter made him long to get his hands wet again.
"Of course we can."
Carlisle couldn't help but grin when he saw Nessie's eyes light up. If only all children were as inherently sweet as she was... Of course, he may have been just a little bit biased.
"Now..." Esme rubbed her hands together as she approached the table. "What color should our first flower be?"
Nessie looked up and down the table, her eyes frantic at having to choose just one among so many lovely shades. "Umm..." She placed a finger on her lip and looked back and forth between her grandparents, as if seeking their input before she made a decision.
"It's up to you," Carlisle encouraged, leaning casually back against the counter to show his indifference.
He noticed Esme's eyes flee from his face just before Nessie shouted, "Purple!"
Esme was delighted. "Purple is one of my very favorites."
Carlisle watched as his wife seated herself in the chair closest to Nessie. He knew that if their granddaughter had not already claimed the space, Esme would be sitting up on that table herself. She was truly a child at heart.
He watched her eyes shine with joy as she patiently walked Nessie through the simple yet tricky steps of making paper flowers. Not so long ago, it seemed, Esme had been teaching him how to make paper flowers using tissue paper and glue. Her creative mind was too fast to keep up with sometimes, even for him. He remembered being fascinated by the way her fingers moved so deftly and easily as they carried out the craft. It took a lot to intimidate an accomplished surgeon, but Carlisle had been very, very intimidated by those delicate petals of tissue paper when Esme first showed him...
Utter fondness cradled his heart when Esme tossed her head back in laughter. Nessie's little fingers were still clumsy from inexperience, but she was willing to spend all day trying until she got it right. Several flowers wilted when her efforts failed, an experience Carlisle was quite familiar with. It seemed she was not upset in the slightest at her first few mistakes. If any child realized the value of failure before success, it was his granddaughter.
"You know, there is a trick to getting the petals to stick just right," Esme suddenly said.
From the suggestion in her tone, Carlisle had a feeling he would be participating in their flower-making very soon.
"What kind of trick?" Nessie asked, intrigued.
Esme glanced over at Carlisle, and the fingers on his right hand twitched hopefully.
"We'll need a hand from your grandfather," she said, extending her arm towards Carlisle. They exchanged mischievous smiles at her play on words.
Carlisle sat himself down beside them and all too gladly offered his hand to his wife. Nessie looked on curiously from her perch on the dining table as Esme slowly began to wrap the magenta tissue paper around his index finger.
Nessie uttered an awkward little giggle of glee when she understood how the "trick" worked.
Carlisle hoped to the heavens that was all she understood.
After all, Esme was touching him more...liberally than necessary. Her fingers inherently made the task a sensual one. Each time the tissue brushed the base of his knuckle, he was reminded of the first time she used his finger to help her make a paper flower, taking her merry time in wrapping layer by layer around his fingertip. Perhaps it was all in his head, and the innocent mind of a six-year-old child couldn't grasp the same things he saw when Esme touched him this way.
Esme's eyes met his for a few moments as she finished arranging the petals to her liking, and they shared a distant smile of reminiscence.
Once she finished tucking everything into place, she carefully lifted the perfect paper blossom from his finger and placed it neatly on the stem, securing it with a drop of glue. Esme held the finished flower up proudly and handed it back to her granddaughter. "See?"
"Can I try?" Nessie asked, bouncing in place, her hand already waving a circle of pale orange tissue paper.
Carlisle wasn't sure a repeat demonstration would be as thrilling the second time around, but he was more than happy to accommodate his granddaughter in any way possible.
If that meant having his finger twisted and turned in every direction, and dripping with glue by the time she was done, so be it.
His prediction wasn't too far off. Granted, Nessie had insisted on trying multiple times before she mastered the task at hand. Carlisle spent more time scraping the dried glue off his knuckles than he did acting as an apparatus for Nessie's enthusiastic experimentation.
Esme seemed to be enjoying herself thoroughly.
In Carlisle's mind, that made it all worth it.
After half an hour, Nessie had finally gotten the hang of it. She made roses and tulips and daisies and carnations, in all different colors and all different sizes. She arranged them in forty different ways, and grouped them into twenty different bouquets.
Carlisle hoped Bella and Edward wouldn't mind making a trip to the arts and crafts store sometime before tomorrow. Tissue paper would be in high demand as far as their daughter was concerned.
Esme added to her childish amusement by offering to spray each blossom with perfume so they would smell like real flowers. Nessie got a bit carried away with the spritzing, resulting in one empty bottle of very expensive Ralph Lauren signature fragrance.
When Carlisle opened the windows to let some fresh air inside, he noticed Edward's car in the driveway. Unfortunately, he didn't have enough time to warn his son before he came to pick up Nessie.
"What is going on here?" Edward muttered to himself when he opened the door.
Esme looked up at her husband, her eyes wide with playful fear as they heard their son come stalking through the hall.
Standing in the threshold of the kitchen, Edward took one look of mild horror at the mess of tissue paper, perfume, and glue, and suddenly seemed eager to vacate the house as soon as possible.
"Daddy, look at the flowers I made!" Nessie exclaimed, jumping up and down as she waved her bouquets like pompoms in the air for Edward to see. "Aren't they pretty? I'm going to give some to Mom when I get home."
Edward fought a smirk as he stared accusingly at Esme. "Very nice."
"You can have this blue one," Nessie informed him as she slyly placed one bright blue paper flower into the pocket of her father's jeans.
Carlisle choked on a laugh, impressed that his son hadn't automatically rolled his eyes. Then again, Edward's reactions were very different now that he was a father. Everything Nessie did was precious to him; sometimes he just didn't admit it in the open.
"Alright, say goodbye, Ness," Edward sighed, lifting his daughter up off the ground so she could kiss each of her grandparent's cheeks.
Carlisle escorted his son and granddaughter to the door while Esme stayed in the kitchen, pretending to clean up.
"Thanks for watching her," Edward said with a genuine smile as he adjusted Nessie on his hip.
"Thank you for letting us," Carlisle chuckled.
Edward groaned softly as his eyes darted in the direction of the kitchen. "If my kitchen table ends up looking like yours did in there, I'll know just who to blame."
Nessie bit her lip to keep from grinning, exchanging a gleefully guilty look with her grandfather before hiding her face in Edward's neck.
"It was Esme's idea," Carlisle murmured, knowing full well his wife could hear him. She wanted to be blamed for Nessie's having fun, even if that blame came with a price.
Edward's eyebrows went up as he nodded in understanding. "I gathered as much."
Growing impatient with standing in the doorway, Nessie waved her scented bouquet in the air between the two men, putting an abrupt end to their conversation.
Amused, Carlisle stole Nessie's fidgeting hand and pressed a quick, teasing kiss to the back of it. She laughed instinctively and yanked her hand away, face still hidden in her father's shoulder.
"See you tomorrow," Edward said with a hopeless grin as he stepped onto the porch.
Once he'd turned around, Carlisle caught Nessie's eyes peeking over Edward's shoulder. She lifted her tiny hand in one last wave goodbye. Carlisle mirrored the gesture with a loving smile and closed the door behind them.
When he came back into the kitchen, Carlisle noticed that his wife had not done anything to help clean the mess on the table. If anything, it looked even messier than it had before.
With Nessie gone, Esme had taken her coveted spot, perched on the center of the kitchen table. Carlisle knew that spot wouldn't stay empty for long. His wife still looked a rare beauty, sitting lazily amongst the strewn bits of paper and bottles and glue, her feet bare, and her summery denim skirt riding up to her knees.
In the absence of their guests, Carlisle didn't bother to keep his telltale smile hidden.
Esme was indecently giddy. "Come over here so I can...wrap my petals around your finger." Her eruption of involuntary giggles ended with a long, mirthful sigh.
Carlisle growled softly as he came to stand where her legs dangled over the edge of the table. He lifted one small foot to his waist and skimmed his finger across her brightly painted toes. Before he could elaborate his touch, she pried her foot away so she could wrap both her legs around his.
She suggestively tapped her ankles on the backs of his knees as he pressed his cheek against hers.
"Why do you tease me like that in front of our granddaughter?" he whispered into her neck, peppering her silky skin with kisses between words.
She sighed languidly and tilted her head back to give him more room. "Because, dear, it makes everything so much more…" Her thighs gently squeezed his hips. "…entertaining." He could hear the deviant smile in her voice, and it made his stomach twist into a heavenly knot.
His hands moved slowly around her back to stir the pieces of leftover colored paper on the table behind her. "What on earth are we going to do with all this tissue paper?"
Esme's fingers traveled up the back of his neck, drawing him down for a sweet kiss. "I'll think of something creative," she promised.
"I'm sure you will."