Birds of Paradise: Evening Kiss

by Mackenzie L.

Summary: Carlisle ponders the difference between the evening kiss and the early morning kiss while Esme tends to her indoor garden.

*The Twilight Saga and all its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer.

Flower seeds come in tiny paper packets.

Carlisle had always thought this a strange place to keep something so precious. Because flower seeds, he believed, were far too precious to be stored in paper packets. They were brittle beads of life. They were small and delicate and so easily lost when dropped on the ground. But they held within them the remarkable capability to grow into something astoundingly beautiful. Each would blossom differently when given proper care. It took a kind and patient soul and an equally kind and patient pair of hands to nurse a flower to life. If there was anyone most perfectly suited to bring a flower into the world, Carlisle believed it was his wife.

Esme made gardening into an art. She was selective about choosing which plants to grow, but never exclusive. She had pity on the lesser favored flowers, and somehow under her caring touch, they grew to be more glorious than the rest.

Esme was beautiful when she tended to her plants – eccentric in a way, but this forced her passion to shine through even more. There was something about her as she handled those tiny, precious flower seeds, tucking them into the earth with the promise to see them soon again. Something made Carlisle long to kiss every one of her fingers in turn and tell her how violently he loved her.

Perhaps this was too intense a feeling for a man who watches his wife plant flowers. Carlisle didn't care. He kept it secret, of course. Occasionally he wrote about it in his journal when no one else was around. His written words came quickly when he thought of Esme, specifically when he thought of Esme and her affinity for gardens full of flowers. He lost himself in gardens with Esme's hands to guide him. He penned every detail of how her gentle fingers had coaxed the bright green blooms from the ground, how her dainty fingertips had swiped away dewdrops with the tenderness of one swiping away tears, how her warm honey eyes had sparkled as the sunlight kissed her cheeks.

He wrote about Esme, always with his eyes closed, watching her behind the curtain of his imagination. The words he wrote were perfectly legible when he opened his eyes to the world again. He could have torn the page out and given it to Esme to read for herself, but he timidly held it to the candle and burned it instead. He remembered every word, and if he ever wanted to tell her precisely why he loved the way she treated her garden, he could summon the contents of that page in a heartbeat.

To this day, he had never told her. One day, he had a feeling that would change. One day, Esme would listen as Carlisle revealed to her every reason why watching her bury seeds and mist flowers made him remember why he had married her.

But for now he simply watched her from a distance and admired the way she shared her boundless affection with God's greenest gifts.

Esme kept her miniature conservatory of green plants and seedlings by the brightest windows in their house – the windows where the sun would hit first in the mornings. These windows just happened to be in their bedroom. She had set her plants just so on the window sill, lined them up all pretty and perfect according to size and health. She cared for those plants so much. Carlisle found this shamelessly endearing. Once he had even caught her bending over to kiss the leaf of a sickly plant.

"You just need a little more light, don't you?" she spoke to the flora, her voice quiet and motherly.

Carlisle had smiled to himself from where he watched, his heart swelling as Esme's gentle fingers arranged the plant's wilting leaves beneath the beams of sunlight.

That poor plant had come back to life in a day or two. Esme was very proud.

Carlisle was very much in love.

Those plants looked so lonely sitting in the corner window when Esme wasn't beside them. They looked limp and slightly lifeless as they patiently awaited her presence. But when she came to visit them again, they perked up at the sound of her sunlit voice. These plants were her children and she was their mother. Esme made a fine mother for anything, really.

She had a strange sort of studio there, with her potted plants and her antique watering cans and all those mysterious green bottles of miracle medicine for growing plants at twice their natural speed. She was protective enough that Carlisle felt rather insecure to approach the area without her permission. But he was curious, and often when Esme wasn't around he came closer to see how her plants were coping without her.

He wondered if she knew how much they seemed to miss her when she was gone.

Shortly before the fall season began, Esme made certain to move every seedling in her collection into that sunny corner window. Here she hoped they would survive the cold weather if they could soak in as much light as she could give them. She would check on them every day, performing her entrancing little ritual in seeing that they grew up healthy and happy.

Carlisle liked to think of Esme as a doctor who kept plants as her patients.

Sometimes he wondered what she would say if he told her this. He wondered what she would say to many things if he ever decided to share them with her. But sometimes it was more entertaining to simply wonder in silence and never ask.

She had never caught him watching her, still, after all these years. She had never turned to intercept his eye with a twist of a smile and a hint of mischief in her dimples. She never suspected that he watched her play in her miniature Eden, that he watched with heavy breath and a stomach full of butterflies. She never knew.

Part of Carlisle wished Esme would come to know his secret. Perhaps it was that hidden part of him which prompted him to bring her the Bird of Paradise.

He'd purchased the exotic seeds with the intention of saving them until summer when she could plant them outside. But he was just too impatient to wait any longer. So one day, in the middle of autumn, he gave her the tiny orange packet.

Esme all but squealed with delight at the rare addition to her botanical collection. Predictably, she had kissed his cheek and nuzzled his neck and even slipped her hands under his collar for the briefest of moments before asking him to read her the label.

"Bird of Paradise (Stelitzia reginae), also known as the Crane flower, is one of the most beautiful of all exotic flowers. This native of South Africa derives its name from its unusual flowers, which resemble brightly colored birds in flight."

He tore open the packet and dropped two tiny seeds into her open palm. He watched her bury the seeds in the soil with inexplicably heavy breath, and once they were hidden from sight he kissed her forehead and gave her a small silver locket for keeping the rest of the seeds safe. Paper packets just weren't enough.

From that day onward, Esme wore her locket religiously, keeping the precious specks of potential life on her person at all times. She kept it hidden under her collar as he did with his golden cross, but there were of course many times when she would reveal it unintentionally. Carlisle would suppress a beam of joy whenever he caught its silver shimmer around her neck. It would fall against her ivory breast as she pulled her blouse over her head, in the midst of undressing. It sometimes became tangled with his cross while they made love, but they never bothered to undo the knots until their love had felt complete. As they lay together in bed before dawn, the surgeon's fingers would lazily untangle his wife's silver chain from his gold.

Esme would go back to hiding her locket beneath her shirts during the day. But Carlisle always looked forward to the moments when her fingers would creep under the collar of her sweater to give her hidden locket a tug. He imagined she rubbed it faithfully between her fingers, reminding herself that she carried life in some form with her everywhere she went. Esme was awfully fond of this concept. Carlisle knew it was because it made her feel more like a mother.

He was glad to make her feel like a mother in any way that he could. In a strange sort of way, he began to feel like a father to those plants as well. Particularly to the Birds of Paradise.

Each day Esme returned to her corner window to inspect her floral shrine. Though the rest of the flowers were doing rather poorly this season, she had eyes for the central piece above all the others.

Two seeds she had planted there, but only one broke the barrier of the soil.

They mourned the loss of the other for a day or two, like the parents of a miscarried child. But they considered it a blessing that one had risen with the promise to bloom for them.

Esme loved her Bird of Paradise. Carlisle could tell it was her favorite.

It grew from a hand crafted terra cotta vase in the corner of their bedroom, in the center of the window sill. It looked shockingly exotic against the backdrop of winter snow and pine trees behind the glass. It truly did resemble a bird in flight, with its sharp, slender wings and petals like tangerine flames, and a belly of turquoise blue. It was bright but somehow serene; loud but lovingly mellow. It was the most peculiar and enchanting flower they had ever seen.

Esme would often tend to it in the early mornings; it was always the first to receive her greeting when the sun rose. She offered it water and stroked its glossy leaves with her loving touch. She always touched everything with that blatant, unrepressed love. It made her husband's heart feel heavy and warm to watch her.

He knew there would always be times when she would touch him in this way. She had given him the gift of her loving touch before, leaving not an inch of him unmarked. But this did not keep him from longing for it still as he watched her bestow her precious affection on that lonely plant in the corner.

Esme's heart had always been notoriously sympathetic. Even inanimate objects so easily gained her affections. It was a helpless habit on her part, yet Carlisle loved her even more for it. He had never truly known real love and affection until he'd met Esme. His gaze could merely drink it in from afar, watching that love being shared between couples around him, but never had anyone offered it to him... until Esme.

He watched her as she patted the soil around her plants and gently encouraged their weary stems to stand tall. Everything she did was utterly innocent, if not entirely mundane. Yet he could watch her do nothing without a fire in his heart. His breaths grew deeper with every flicker of her fingers over the petals of those potted flowers. It was a mystery to him how he managed to watch her, hour after hour, without an indecent afterthought for everything she did.

His ankles ached to walk closer to her. Just watching her stand there by the light of the window, touching those plants was not enough. He had to be closer to her, to feel her warmth, to immerse himself in her scent. It was not just a shallow compulsion, it was a thrumming desire.

His footsteps hardly made a sound as his stride carried him across the length of the room, toward the willowy beams of morning light that ensconced his wife's familiar figure. She did not move to acknowledge his approach, but he could tell she had clearly sensed him from the way her back straightened ever so slightly. She had an awareness about her, a graceful poise in the way she stood. As he came up behind her, she sighed, still distracted by her flowers as she tried helping them to stand upright. Carlisle lifted one hand decidedly and sifted his fingers through Esme's silky hair. Her curls tumbled softly over one shoulder as he carefully brushed them aside, bending forward to press his lips to her neck.

She sighed again, but it was not a distracted sort of sigh.

The earthy, slightly sweet smell of the plants danced through the air, fooling him into believing the season was of the warmer variety. But when he opened his eyes to the window again, he saw the frost and was reminded that they were still caught in the middle of a dismal December.

Carlisle smiled secretively to himself as his wife's fingers presently petted the large glossy leaves of her exotic Bird of Paradise, basking in the corner of the frosted window.

"You're awfully attentive to this flower," he remarked quietly, with the belated concern that she could somehow detect the irrational envy in his voice.

"Plants need their share of love too, you know," she returned, her tone a melody of soft amusement.

"Would you consider sharing this love with your husband for a moment?"

Not giving her much choice, he gently tipped her chin up, bowing his head over her shoulder to intercept her lips.

As they kissed in perfect silence, Carlisle couldn't help but return to the memories of Esme in her Eden. Behind closed eyes, he envisioned his wife lying bare between the flowers, her fingers freely roaming the petals of every exotic blossom that nearly swallowed her...

"Touch me for a while," he suggested as he tenderly pried her fingers away from the plant. "Pretend I have leaves."

The vibrations of her charming giggle tickled his chest as he held her tighter. Esme consented without argument, lifting her lovely fingers to share her anticipated touch with his jaw.

"I'm not pretending anything," she whispered, her voice hoarse with truth.

"Let me kiss you," he pleaded, his lips aching to drown in hers once again.

But it was more she who kissed him.

This was a kiss for the evening, not for the early morning. There was a significant difference that set them apart, one being more appropriate to the latter hours of the day than the other.

Early morning kisses were slow and patient, feathery and full of light. Evening kisses were deeper, more feverish, heavy and full of promise. Esme had broken the rules by giving him an evening kiss.

Though he was an advocate for keeping with the rules, Carlisle decided not to protest in this case.

One thing was certain; she was definitely not pretending. Esme would have never given her Bird of Paradise an evening kiss, no matter how much she adored it.

This kiss she had saved for her husband alone.

Having that Bird of Paradise in their bedroom had somehow changed the entire ambiance. The room was stirringly fragrant, balmier, warmer despite the cold weather outside. The air was soft and easy to breathe - it reminded Carlisle of the island. And thinking of their island was always a surefire way to get his golden cross and her silver locket tangled yet again...

Esme reluctantly pulled herself from the kiss, smiling contentedly to herself as she traced lazy swirls on the back of his neck. Her eyes opened slowly to unveil the telltale sparkle beneath. Her amber gaze darkened to resemble the inside of a cave – and Carlisle intended to lose himself in it quite soon.

She should have never given him an evening kiss.

He placed the blame on that Bird of Paradise.

"What are you thinking?" she asked when she noticed his gentle smirk.

Oh, how to answer this.

Carlisle was thinking too many things at once to choose any one to reveal. He thought of how Esme had never noticed him watching her as she tended to the plants, he thought of the differences that distinguished a morning kiss from an evening kiss, he thought of how the Bird of Paradise had turned their bedroom into an exotic haven in the middle of winter.

Because he could never decide which thought was most worthy for his wife to hear, Carlisle answered her with another kiss.

And Esme knew every one of his thoughts, by just one touch of his lips.