Aaand the accompanying explanatory chapter! I must warn you -if you haven't read the previous chapter, and are putting it off for later(I'd certainly think twice before reading such a dauntingly huge chapter) -GO READ IT NOW. This chapter mainly has Carlisle and Esme discuss what happened in the previous one, so you'll kinda be lost if you read this one first. That being said, thank you for sticking with me so far despite my frequent disappearances off the face of the earth!
And, I need hardly add: please review! Pretty pleez!
I didn't know what the time was when I finally done with Carlisle's engrossing narrative. It was still dark, but my vampiric sight could see a slight lightening of the sky through the tree's branches.
As I finished, I placed his narrative aside with a loud sigh. So much angst. So much confusion, I thought, remembering how his thoughts seemed to dive in terribly dark tangents at times.
"Well, what do you think?" –his voice interrupted my musings.
"Carlisle?" –I gasped, shocked, sitting straight on my branch and nearly losing my balance in the process. His arms were around me almost instantly.
"Steady, my love," his murmur sounded near my right ear. "You really must learn to balance yourself atop a tree."
I could almost hear the smile in his voice.
"Oh, Carlisle!" –I cried and turned to face him before hugging him back tightly.
"Was it really so awful? I have to admit, I don't have much experience in writing narratives, but-"
"Hush," I said sternly, placing my fingers on his lips, only for him to kiss my hand soundly. I realised that Carlisle's eyes were sparkling with good humour, more than I had seen lately.
"Alright," Carlisle said, clutching my hand firmly, his other arm still wrapped around me, "what do you think?"
"I think… I think you write very compellingly. The shifting time-frames were disconcerting, but set the tone of the narrative well. Grammatically sound, and absolutely no spelling errors-" Carlisle wouldn't let me finish my teasing speech. He caught my lips in his in a deep, passionate kiss that lasted for a very long time.
When we finally broke apart, I simply whispered, "Thank you."
"For what?" He grinned. "The kiss?"
I raised an eyebrow. "If you're not going to be serious about this, then I won't either."
"Oh, who cares about being serious!" –he exclaimed, "this moment is a joyous one!" With that, he leaped off the tree clutching me in his arms.
I didn't scream –only let out a gasp of surprise at his spontaneity. We landed on the soft, snowy ground with a graceful tumble which left me lying on the snow with Carlisle crouching over me.
He grinned and kissed me again, this time lightly on the nose, before sitting up and helping me up as well.
"I'm so glad you're happy," I said softly. "I was so afraid you'd regret confessing to me."
"Regret?" –he seemed genuinely puzzled. "I feel relieved –oh, the relief, Esme, the profound relief that you know and you still love me! I feel so –light."
I leaned forward and placed my hand on his cheek. "I will never stop loving you," I murmured.
He smiled again, and kissed my hand softly. "I know. And neither will I."
Although I already knew that in my heart, it didn't stop me from letting a sigh of contentment. "Happy Anniversary, Carlisle. I do love you so," I whispered and snuggled closer to Carlisle, who wrapped his arms around me once more, and placed his chin on my head, "Happy Anniversary, dearest."
We remained in that position for a long time, simply content to be so content.
"Do you want to talk about it?" –Carlisle asked softly, after a while.
I stirred. "Do you?"
I felt his chin move as he smiled. "I don't mind."
"Neither do I."
"Well, then. I'm sure you have lots of questions."
I thought for a moment.
"What happened next? After you were bitten?"
"I hid in the nearest cellar I could find for three days."
"And no one heard you?"
"I stuffed my mouth with raw potatoes to keep silent. I had to keep putting in new ones since they kept getting shredded by my teeth."
I gasped with shock and looked up at him. "You didn't make a sound?"
His smile turned grim. "Not one. At one point, when I realised what was happening to me, I tried choking myself with the potatoes. Ended up spitting them all out."
I reached up and stroked his face gently. "How much you have suffered."
His expression softened again. "Not more than any other vampire at the time of their transformation. Not any more than you."
"I was not obliged to remain silent through the entire ordeal," I retorted immediately. "You are a strong man, my darling."
I looked up at him, and noted, with approval, that he looked confused.
"Carlisle, you're blushing!" –I laughed.
He frowned slightly. "Of course not. You know it is anatomically impossible for me to do that."
"Call it what you will, darling, but you are blushing, indeed! To think I can still make you blush!" The very thought was highly amusing. My laughter, instead of riling him up more, seemed to gratify him. "The only woman capable of doing that to me." –he murmured, kissing my forehead softly.
That reminded me.
"And what of her? The succubus. Did you see her again?" –I asked curiously. To my surprise, he still had that furtive look about him that I had just labelled as 'blushing'.
"I met her several times in the years after that."
"Oh! What was her name?"
"When I met her as a human, she went by Margery. When I later knew her, she was going by the name of Margarita. She told me her name at birth was Merwyn."
His face was blank, but his eyes were shrewd and sparkling with mischief. So, I decided to play his game.
"She told you, did she?"
"Yes, we found ourselves rather… amicably suited when we met as equals." Alright, now he was teasing me!
As if I'd let him.
"Equals," I drawled. "Right. How perfectly lovely."
"I meant as vampires," Carlisle added.
"Of course. Was she still a succubus when you met her?"
My tone seemed to unsettle him. "Er, yes. That is, she still –er, cavorted with men –um, human men."
"I know what succubi are, Carlisle."
"Right." Silence descended upon us, while I gazed at Carlisle steadily. If he were human, he would have squirmed!
As I had expected, he broke the silence, his words rushed. "I haven't seen her in more than two centuries, Esme."
"Oh." –I said in a mildly curious tone.
"And I only remembered she even existed when I wrote that down for you," he continued, his words still rushed, his eyes pleading. "You know you are the only woman I have ever loved," he finished softly.
I regarded him imperiously for a moment before giving in. Curse his appealing looks!
"I know," I whispered, and smiling, kissed him gently.
"You scared me for a moment there. I thought you disapproved." –he admitted as we parted.
"That was my intention, dearest. To scare you. I couldn't have you tease me so easily!"
Carlisle only smiled, but said, quite seriously, "You bring me such joy, Esme."
"You make it sound like it's a bad thing!" –I half-laughed.
Carlisle shook his head. "I never thought I would ever be this content. Not once in my three centuries of existence. Not even when I was human."
"That I can easily understand," I said gently. "Your narrative made it so explicit. Was London really so horrible then, Carlisle?"
"Oh, it was filthy!" –Carlisle shrugged. "But that is not what you are asking. They were… dark times. People –the people in the streets, I mean, I don't know of the rich –but people merely survived. They didn't seem to live. Everything they did was a fight for survival. Even churchgoing. They often prayed only to beseech the Lord to help them live out a reasonable number of years in relative plenty."
"It sounds horrible," I said frankly.
"It was. Or maybe it was like that for me personally, I who yearned for more out of life than to preach superstitions to narrow-minded folk."
"I thought… I thought you approved of, well, churchgoing." –I said hesitantly. Religion was always such a tricky subject.
"I approve of believing in God and God's will and acting accordingly," Carlisle said serenely. "The people in –well, in my parish, Esme –they didn't worship the Lord. They feared Him. And because of that fear rose many superstitions and the rites to go with them. They were… they were paranoid folk. And my father taught me to prey on their paranoia. It was our 'business'," he finished bitterly.
"That's why you hated him," I added carefully.
"Yes. Because he revelled in all the darkness, the ignorance and the mindless paranoia. It was foolish." His face resumed that familiar dark expression whenever I had referred to his human life in the past. Now I knew why.
"Didn't you go back home after you had… turned?"
"Home? That was never home for me, never had been. I returned to town some years later to find him dead. His possessions were out on the street. I took what I felt was mine and I left. I never went back to London after that."
"Never?" –I asked, shocked.
"I have heard it's beautiful now," I said.
"As have I. But that city shall always hold bad memories for me. Even now I haven't forgotten them. And now that you know, that it does not place any irrational burden upon me, I can begin to try to forget." He smiled and squeezed my hand.
"It doesn't yet have to be a burden, my dear," I said gently. "You killed her unknowingly."
"I knew full-well I wanted to kill someone. That it happened to be a human woman was just my bad luck."
"You wanted to destroy a monster. You were justified!"
"And now I am that same monster."
"Well, then you were ignorant. You were no murderer. You were prey that wanted to kill its hunter."
Carlisle sighed. "You have a counter argument for everything."
"Of course. Because there is one."
Carlisle sighed again, but this time, there was a small smile on his face. "I love you."
"And I you," I affirmed, leaning up to catch his lips in a soft kiss. "Forever."
"Forever," Carlisle repeated.
"Besides," I said in an effort to lighten the mood, "you really were justified, Carlisle. Succubi are disgusting creatures."
To my profound relief and joy, Carlisle chuckled, and shifted to lie down on the snow, placing his head in my lap. "True."
"You see? You are redeemed."
His smile widened. "And finally, redemption."
"I am always here to offer it," I insisted gently as Carlisle kissed my hands.
"So much happiness," he murmured, gazing at my downturned face. "It seems that the past few weeks of pain were wholly unnecessary."
I shook my head immediately. "No, they were not. We learnt so much about each other. And we grew." I stroked his hair as I continued gently, "I realised as I was reading that we were simply going round in circles, doing the same thing we begged each other not to do."
"How do you mean?"
"Well, there is blind faith. You accused me and Edward of placing blind faith and adoration on you, for seeing you as a pure, conscientious vampire without acknowledging that you have a dark side. And I –well, I accused you of being too forgiving, for placing an added burden on me by not acknowledging that I had made a terrible mistake. In both cases it was the same –blind faith."
Carlisle simply listened, his eyes locked onto mine. However, what I did see there was not discouraging, so I continued, still stroking his hair, "We both had faith. But no trust. No matter how many times I said I would never stop loving you, you didn't trust me to uphold my word. You, with your rigorous, exacting standards, couldn't believe that anyone could continue to admire you after they had learnt about your dark past. And I? I didn't trust in your words, that everything would be fine, that making one mistake didn't mean the end of the world. I didn't trust in your love for me either, because I couldn't believe that anyone as perfect as you would want to be with anyone as flawed as me."
Carlisle blinked and reached up to cup my face within his hand. "And now?"
"And now we know. We know we are flawed, imperfect, and we still have faith in each other, only, this time, it isn't blind faith. It is faith based on trust, and we trust each other to the extent that we know our love will never, ever die. No matter what."
A small smile curled the corners of his mouth. "And you are completely certain that I have realised all this as well?"
I smiled back, and kissed the hand on my cheek. "Absolutely. You wouldn't have written that letter to me otherwise. We have grown, Carlisle, our love has grown and I couldn't be happier than I am now."
"You echo my every sentiment," Carlisle said softly, and recited-
"Wherein lies happiness? In that which becks
Our ready minds to fellowship divine,
A fellowship with essence; till we shine,
Full alchemiz'd, and free of space. Behold
The clear religion of heaven!"
I smiled again, this one was familiar –it was one of his favourites. "Keats," I murmured, and he smiled in reply.
"Wherein lies happiness?" –he repeated, stroking my face with his fingertips, "A fellowship with essence, till we shine free of space… The clear religion of heaven!"
I had never really been much interested in poetry. It had forever seemed like a waste of words to describe perfectly mundane things in irritatingly complicated manners. Only after my life found Carlisle, did I also find appreciation for poetry. Only through his melodious voice could I see the absolute beauty of a poem, the way words were used to create fantastical imaginary worlds, how the same set of words could describe abject misery or soaring joy with ease.
So at that moment, my eyes widened as the meaning of the poem finally permeated my mind. "Oh! I understand now! It makes perfect sense!"
Carlisle chuckled. "Indeed. 'Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced; even a proverb is no proverb to you till your Life has illustrated it."'
I raised an eyebrow. "Keats again?"
Carlisle laughed again. "Yes, my clever little philistine. I really must read more poetry to you."
"I'll listen if you read with the accent," I grinned.
"It's a deal," Carlisle grinned back and suddenly pulled me into his embrace. "But poetry can wait," he murmured before kissing me senseless again.
We didn't do much talking after that. After all, we'd talked enough.