Love Actually Contest
Title: With Grace
Pen Name: EllisBell725
Characters: Edward and Bella & Carlisle and Esme
Photo: Prompt # 3
Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns everything Twilight related and all the characters listed below. Van Morrison owns 'Brown Eyed Girl.' I own a new red cloche hat.
See you on the flip side with my A/N
*The First Sunday*
Edward's feet struck the pavement in an even and steady rhythm. With each down beat of a foot, he tried to let his mind clear and let the run take over. A pair of warm brown eyes and a heartfelt throaty laugh wouldn't let him, though.
He slowed his pace and cut his run short, knowing he wouldn't be able to get into his run this morning.
As he emerged from the wooded path, the bench at the far end of the small lake seemed to call to him. He noticed the words 'Friendship' and 'Love' engraved in script across the panels of bench as he approached. He had seen the bench every time he took a run here, though it never intrigued him like it had today, and he had never noticed its weathered engravings.
He sat down, extending his legs in front of him and let his head fall back as his eyes closed. The sun warmed his skin and his mind wandered back to those same brown eyes.
"What's her name?" a voice interrupted his thoughts. His head snapped up as his eyes sought the source.
An older man was slowly approaching the bench.
"Excuse me?" Edward asked, confused by the interruption.
"There is only one reason a man ever smiles like that," he chuckled. "And that reason is always a pretty girl. Mind if I join, you?"
Edward straightened up and shifted to his left. The old man sat down, letting out a soft grunt as his body reached its goal.
"So, what's her name?" he asked again.
"Oh, uh, Bella. Isabella Swan…" he felt the smile spread as he said her name.
"Bella Isabella Swan. Interesting name…" the old man chuckled.
"Her name is Isabella, but she goes by Bella," he clarified.
"I know, I know," the old man said with a laugh, before extending his hand towards Edward. "Carlisle Cullen, retired surgeon and all-round old fart."
Edward returned the gesture, securing their hands in a firm shake.
"Edward Masen, music professor and, apparently, an easy to read sap."
"A man in love with a good woman isn't a sap. He's smart," Carlisle said with finality.
"Oh, I'm not in love," Edward quickly responded with wide eyes. "We just had our first date last night."
"Sorry, didn't mean to imply anything. What type of music is your specialty?" Carlisle asked.
"I am a lowly professor, I teach lots of theory and technique classes. I play a lot of instruments with mediocre skill, but my love is jazz trumpet."
"Inspired by Louis Armstrong and Clifford Brown?" Carlisle inquired.
"I wish it was that normal," Edward chuckled. "My sister used to terrorize me and follow me around calling me cootie when I was a kid. Being an extreme nerd, even then, I went to the library and looked up 'cootie.' I stumbled upon an article about Cootie Williams. It was brilliant, and from there the obsession grew until my Grandfather stuck an old trumpet in my hands to shut me up."
"Actually, I think that is a better story. So, she must be wonderful to inspire that sort of smile so soon…" Carlisle led.
Edward sighed and relaxed back on the bench, his smile getting bigger.
"Yeah, she is pretty spectacular…smart, funny, kind…beautiful…" Edward drifted into his thoughts.
"Perfect?" asked Carlisle.
Edward chuckled. "I am old enough to know that there is no such thing as perfect, though she may just be absolutely perfect for me."
"That's a mighty big statement to be making after one date, though I proposed to my wife on the second date," Carlisle said, shaking his head.
"Did she say yes?" Edward asked.
"No, but she didn't run away either. She just smiled, patted me on the cheek, and said 'not tonight, but maybe next week.'" Carlisle smiled. "I was hers for eternity after that.
"My Grace always surprises me. Bringing out the best in me and knocking that cockiness out my ear. I successfully proposed four months after that, on this bench. Well, they replaced that bench with this replica about fifteen years ago, but I still consider it our bench."
"Does it take practice?" Edward asked.
"Does what take practice?"
"Making wonderful stories and memories like that, I think I even swooned a little at that," Edward joked.
Carlisle gave a hearty, genuine chuckle that accentuated the laugh lines in his cheeks and made his eyes a little brighter.
"Young man, as hard as you may try to make perfect romantic memories, it's the ones that happen organically that you will remember with the most fondness. For every romantic evening at a French restaurant I planned for my Grace, I can only remember a vague montage of those nights. Yet I remember with perfect clarity the night our garbage disposal backfired and coated our kitchen in pulverized pot roast and carrots. We spent the whole evening laughing and cleaning. The point is to let life happen more than try and force it to happen."
"Wow. That's deep. It makes a lot of sense," Edward said, amazed by the wisdom of this old stranger.
"It could also be a load of crap," Carlisle said with a shrug and a wry smile.
"Well, I could use more of your crappy wisdom in my life, Yoda. Thanks for talking to me. I really do appreciate it," Edward said as he stood to leave. "Hopefully, I will see you around the park. Have a great Sunday, Carlisle."
"It was nice to talk to you, as well Edward. I am here every Sunday and almost every other day of the week, too. Have a nice Sunday, and say 'hi' to Bella Isabella Swan for me," Carlisle said in return.
*The Sunday he said "I Love You"*
"Hey there, Miles Davis," Carlisle's voice drew Edward out of his thoughts as he sat down. "Did you bring me a picture of the brown eyed beauty?"
Edward chuckled, pulled his phone out of his pocket and started pressing buttons to bring up a picture. He smiled as he looked at Bella's face shining back at him. He took the picture last night, after they finished carving pumpkins. She was holding up her pumpkin, her face parallel to the lopsided jack-o-lantern she designed. Edward handed the phone over to Carlisle, instructing him how to scroll through more pictures.
Carlisle clucked his tongue in response causing Edward to recoil and furrow his brow. How could anyone respond to his Bella like that. He thought she was the epitome of beauty. Just as he was about to voice his offense, Carlisle spoke up.
"You young people and your machines. This is how you carry a picture of your beloved around? What if you lose it…or it breaks? Your favorite picture is gone forever," Carlisle scolded as he reached for his wallet.
"I keep my Grace's photos in my wallet at all times. Hard copies, something tangible you can hold and examine…" he sighed as he looked at photos he pulled out of the wallet.
The smile that plastered Carlisle's face must be the same one Carlisle was constantly chiding him for, he thought.
"This. This is my Grace," Carlisle smiled handing the photos over.
Edward was holding three photos in his hands. The first was a crinkled and worn wedding photo. Carlisle's and Grace's, he assumed. It was a posed black and white; but he could feel the joy radiating off the paper.
The next was a folded color photo from what looked like the seventies. It was a close-up of Grace's face. Edward had to admit that she was gorgeous, with long shiny straight caramel colored hair, big hazel eyes, and full lips turned up in a genuine smile.
Finally, a more recent 4x6 print of the Carlisle Edward knew and a grey haired Grace. They were reclined in a hammock, Grace giggling with happiness as Carlisle kissed her on the cheek.
"Your Grace is beautiful, Carlisle. You are a lucky man," Edward smiled, handing the photos back.
"Esme," Carlisle corrected. "Her name is Esme Grace Cullen nee Platt. I'm the only one who calls her Grace. She's the love of my life, my light, my air, my gravity, my sun."
The way Carlisle spoke about his wife gave Edward an eerie sense of familiarity. He understood how a man could find the center of his universe in another woman. He was pretty sure he had found that in Bella.
"How long have you two been married?" Edward asked.
"We celebrated our fifty-first wedding anniversary on June 30th, the same day we took that photo on the hammock," he said with a smile. "She died two weeks later, and I have missed her every moment of everyday these past fourteen weeks. I think I will feel her absence for the next fourteen years."
"Carlisle, I am sorry. I had no idea. I have known you for almost two months now and you never mentioned it. I prattle on and on about this wonderful woman in my life and how great she is. And you had just lost your reason for living. I feel like such an asshole," Edward chastised himself out loud.
"Edward, you are fine. A man doesn't walk around telling people his wife is dead," Carlisle lectured. "I appreciate the thought, though."
"I told her I loved her this morning as I left her apartment,' Edward paused, realizing he just revealed to Carlisle that he was sleeping with Bella moments after he had revealed his wife was dead. How would an almost eighty year old man feel about such things? Improper? Kosher?
"You are a thirty year old man, Edward, you are allowed to have sex with the woman you are dating. I am not going to judge you; do you really think I am that old fashioned?" Carlisle asked, caught somewhere between being amused and being offended.
Edward coughed and cleared his throat. "Right."
"Continue…" Carlisle prodded.
"So, I told her I loved her as we were saying goodbye this morning. She just smiled, gave me a kiss and told me to call her. I screwed up, right?" Edward asked, turning to Carlisle for advice.
Carlisle sat for a moment, forming his best argument to help the young man through one of the most common and universal relationship problems.
"I believe there are two basic schools of thought on the 'I Love You' dilemma. I was of one and my Grace was of the other. I have no idea which one is correct, but maybe you will find your answer somewhere in between.
"I always thought that a person should wait to say 'I love you.' To wait until it kills you not say it, until you feel as though the words are going to burst past your lips, until you know you cannot live a moment longer without letting this person know exactly how deeply you feel for them.
"My Grace told me that was the worst way to be. She said you have to say it the moment you feel it and every moment it strikes you from that moment forward. Her belief was that you never know when it will be your last chance to tell them, and you should always leave a person confident that they know exactly how much you cherish them.
"When I was younger, the first theory seemed the most rational and responsible. But, as I have gotten older, I have found that once again, my Grace was probably right. Wherever she is right now, I guarantee you she is gloating and saying 'I told you so."
Edward joined Carlisle in a light chuckle.
"So, what you are saying is that I should giver her time to reciprocate, but perhaps to not stop telling her how I feel?" Edward theorized.
"Sounds reasonable," Carlisle responded. "So, did you catch the hockey game last night?"
*The Sunday she said "No"*
Edward sat with his head down, his elbows braced on his knees, a diamond solitaire ring spinning between his fingers. The events of the previous night playing on an endless loop in his mind; the 'no' echoing in his ears.
Carlisle wasn't approaching; he was standing a few feet back examining the young man.
"Sit down, Carl," Edward called without turning around. "I heard you approach ten minutes ago, those old bones aren't so quiet."
"It's Carlisle, not Carl. You know that," Carlisle corrected as he sat. "Who peed in your Wheaties this morning?"
"Carl, as in Carl Fredrickson, the old man in UP?" Edward explained, looking up.
"Don't get it," Carlisle answered with a shrug.
The glint of the diamond in the sun caught his eye and Carlisle suddenly understood the young man's despondent mood.
"Don't worry; the way she was looking at you during dinner last Sunday says it all. She is yours," Carlisle said, nodding confidently.
"She said no," Edward responded dryly.
Carlisle didn't offer his condolences, apologies, or words of advice. He simply nodded his head and sat quietly with Edward and their thoughts.
The two men had bonded over Sunday mornings spent talking, sharing stories, and enjoying each others company. Sunday mornings had evolved to include Sunday dinner at Bella and Edward's apartment. And they were trying to talk him into joining them for Thanksgiving this year. If Carlisle knew Edward and Bella as well as he thought he did, he knew that 'no' didn't mean 'no,' it meant 'not now.' But Edward didn't need to hear that. And he didn't need to hear an old man's advice or on going reassurances and sympathies.
Edward would talk when he was ready. Right now, he needed a distraction.
"Come on, Chet Baker, we are going to go watch the game at Sully's Tavern on Fifth. And I am going to buy you a beer," he paused, looking at the pain etched into Edward's features "…or five."
*The Sunday before he said "I Do"*
"Hey, kid, you're late!" Carlisle said as Edward joined him on the bench.
"Sorry; if you answered your cell phone, I could have let you know. The point in me helping you get one was for us to keep in contact better," Edward apologized. "It is wedding central at our apartment and it was hard to escape my mother and sister. Bella finally made up some errands to let me escape."
"I like to think so," Edward smiled. "She knows how important these Sundays have become for you and I."
"I think she is disappointed we don't have time for dinner tonight. She has been sucking marriage advice out of anyone that she considers a qualified and legitimate source," Edward laughed. "Which is hard, since both of us come from broken marriages, and so do most of our friends."
"All I know is that if there was a formula for a successful marriage, someone would have published it by now," Carlisle said. "I think every couple needs to do what works for them."
"And communicate," he continued. "You have to communicate. Great sex helps, too."
"That seems to be a common piece of wisdom," Edward mused. "The communication bit, not the sex. Though I might like that one better."
"Are you getting cold feet? Any nerves?" Carlisle questioned.
"I want everything to go smoothly, for her sake, so I am a little nervous about that," Edward answered confidently, leaning back on the bench, trying to seek a non-existent comfortable position in his wooden seat.
"Other than that, not really. It is like that scene at the end of 'When Harry Met Sally.' Do you know that movie?" Edward asked.
"Yes, Grace loved that movie. Especially the mini-interviews with the older couples," Carlisle recalled.
Edward nodded, knowing exactly what Carlisle was talking about. It was one of Bella's favorites for a rainy afternoon.
"At the end, Harry gives that monologue about every minutia of Sally's personality that he adores and now that he had realized he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, he wanted the rest of his life to start as soon as possible."
Carlisle nodded in understanding, knowing where Edward was going.
"I know exactly how he feels, except I realized pretty soon after meeting Bella that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, not twelve years later. What I am trying to say is no, Carlisle. I do not have cold feet, nor do I have a single inkling of doubt that I am doing the wrong thing."
Edward's face was covered in a grin so large that it could be described as cocky or smug. But, Carlisle knew better, it was a victorious smile. The smile a man wears when for a brief moment in time he has everything he wants.
"Good. Good. I can report back to Bella that you aren't a flight risk. I was a little worried when you were late that I was going to have to hunt you down and force you to the altar with a shotgun," Carlisle joked.
"I am shocked," mocked Edward. "It is nice to know where your allegiances lie."
"I was loyal to you until the moment you introduced me to Bella. I switched to Team Bella without a second thought," Carlisle grinned cheekily at Edward.
Their conversation was interrupted by Van Morrison's 'Brown Eyed Girl' crooning from Carlisle's phone.
"And there's our girl now," smiled Carlisle as he answered
Surprised, and more than a little offended, Edward double checked his phone for messages from Bella. Nothing.
"Well, Donald Boyd, you are being paged home; and she said you better bring her a pack of Vitamin R or a bottle of tequila. Apparently, your sister is driving her mad and your mother won't stop changing the seating chart," Carlisle relayed the information to Edward, trying to hide his laugh.
Edward shook his head with a laugh, counting the hours until the wedding madness was over, in his head. Approximately 146.5 hours.
"See you on Saturday, Professor Farnsworth," Edward said with a final wave as he left Carlisle on the bench reminiscing about his own wedding so many years ago.
*The Tuesday night she kicked him out*
"You are walking a thin line, Chris Botti, making an old man change his routine," Carlisle scoffed as he approached the bench. "It's Tuesday, I have baked chicken to eat and an episode of Nova to watch."
"Chris Botti? That is a pretty relevant pop culture and music reference coming from you, Methuselah. Did you have to ask that cute older barista at Starbucks for help on that one?"
"Elouise, is fifteen years my junior; she has barely started receiving Social Security checks, I would never rob the cradle like that. Nor would I cheat on my Grace," he said with a huff and a grunt as he sat and placed his recently acquired cane in-between them.
"Stop avoiding. How did you know who Chris Botti is?" Edward asked, happy to continue on with the distraction.
"Stop avoiding says the boy who called me out here on Tuesday evening when he should be home with his gorgeous young wife and I should be home with a gorgeous baked chicken breast," Carlisle accused grumpily.
In a stalemate, neither man talked for a while.
"Jeopardy," Carlisle interjected after he could no longer take the silence.
"Pardon?" Edward asked trying to hide a sly grin, doing an internal victory dance. Right now, every victory counted, no matter how petty.
"Wipe that damn grin off your face," Carlisle huffed. "Jeopardy, it was a question on Jeopardy a few weeks ago. Apparently, he dated that lady that does the news on CBS. I've been sitting on that nugget of information for a while."
"Interesting…I did hear he dated Katie Couric for a while," Edward commented.
The silence resumed and they both stewed in the tension of the moment.
"Alright, Edward, you called me out here in a panic, just having to talk to me, and now you are playing a game of verbal chicken with me. Out with it or I am walking. You have about five minutes, because that is how long it seems to take me to stand up these days."
"Ugh!" Edward growled in frustration, leaning forward gripping his hair in his hands. "Sit down, old man, I don't need you giving me ultimatums, too."
"Ahhh," Carlisle said with a knowing smirk on his face. "The first big fight; feels like the end of the world. You're asking yourself why you are even married, am I right?"
"God, pretty much," Edward replied. "It was something so small and it turned into something so big, that she kicked me out. She threw me a duffle bag full of dirty clothes and my soccer equipment through the garage door and told me to not comeback until I 'pulled my ball sac out of my ears and my head out of my ass' and do what she asks of me."
"Your ball sac is in both ears? At the same time? Must be easier since your head is down there anyways, being up your ass. But still, impressive," Carlisle remarked.
"Thanks, it must be all the yoga she is making me do," Edward remarked.
"So, you listen to her, when she tells you to do yoga? What is it you aren't doing that she is asking of you?" Carlisle pressed for information.
"I've had this unassembled Ikea bookshelf since before she met me and it has followed us to two apartments and now the new house. She keeps asking me to assemble it, and I will, eventually. But tonight, I dunno, she was unpacking her own personal replica of the Library of Congress and needed more shelf space. This evolved into the ultimatum of 'assemble the Ikea shelf or it goes in the trash along with all of my shelf space taking comic books.' The minute she said that, I lost it, I mean how dare…
Before Edward could continue with the story, he was interrupted by the violent laughter coming from Carlisle.
"Really? I understand that the problems of a newlywed are somewhat petty to an outside eye, but you don't need to mock me so cruelly." Edward said, thoroughly offended. He knew they were being a bit overdramatic, but then again so was Carlisle.
"No…no…" Carlisle gasped as he tried to recover from his laughing fit, before bursting into more giggles.
Once he had regained his composure, he turned to Edward, who was now scowling with his arms crossed tensely across his chest and a wrinkled furrow deeply engrained in his brow.
"Edward, I am not laughing at you. Ok, well I am laughing at you a little, but I am actually laughing the situation and how marriage does not really change with time," he sighed.
Edward simply raised his eyebrows, silently requesting an elaboration.
"About four months after my Grace and I were married, her Aunt and Uncle from Sarasota sent us this hideous stained glass window. I mean it was the ugliest piece of shit I had ever seen. Apparently it was supposed to be a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. To me, it looked like a big rainbow colored penis. My Grace kept insisting that I hang it in our kitchen, and I kept avoiding and refusing. Finally on a Sunday morning, she cornered me, all the supplies in hand, and made me hang it. I was so pissed off that she would back me into a corner that I accidentally on purpose, dropped the window and it shattered into hundreds of tiny pieces.
"We yelled and fought until we were both hoarse. My Grace made me sleep on the couch for a week after that. In the end, we talked and figured out that we weren't arguing about the stupid window, which she finally admitted was hideous and I apologized for breaking, but we were arguing about all the little things we had failed to vocalize until that point. Up until then, we were trying to be a perfect married couple, walking around on eggshells, and being over accommodating and not being ourselves.
"We didn't solve all of our relationship problems after that fight, and we had to work on our communication skills and our relationship and ourselves for decades to come. But that first fight, though it probably wasn't our worst, it was our most memorable.
"Go home, apologize for being a stubborn jackass, grovel for forgiveness, and when an appropriate opportunity presents itself, kiss her like you will never get to again. If you can find some good flowers at this hour, that would help but if they are grocery store flowers, it's better to go empty handed. Focus on apologies and forgiveness tonight, and talk about your frustrations tomorrow. And that is the secret to surviving your first fight."
Edward opened and closed his mouth multiple times trying to find the appropriate words for everything that was running through his mind. He was at a loss. Right now he would try anything, just as long as he wasn't exiled to Sofa Island for a week.
"Alright, help an old man up. You have to go beg forgiveness and I have to watch the end of Nova," said Carlisle as he tried to hoist is aging body off the wooden bench.
"I don't know why I am asking this, because if you won't get a cell phone you won't like this, but what about TIVO?" Edward asked. "You can record hundreds of hours of TV, and watch it whenever. You don't have to arrange your schedule around TV."
"Edward, this is the first time I have needed that type of technology in years. If I was that desperate I would just use a VHS," Carlisle responded as he tried to keep a steady footing on the gr,ass.
Edward dramatically gasped, clutching his hands to his chest. "V.H.S? V.C.R? I don't think I can get over it."
Edward continued to ham it up as Carlisle walked away.
"Stop acting like an ass and get home to your wife. Make-up sex is the best, and after your first fight it is sure to be mind blowing. Go home and get some pussy. See you Sunday, and tell Bella I am bringing bread pudding for dessert," Carlisle scolded before turning around and stalking away without another word.
Edward stood staring after Carlisle until long after his shape disappeared from the path to the parking lot. His mouth hung open as he tried to process the reality of world renowned surgeon Dr. Carlisle Cullen just encouraging him to 'get some pussy.'
*The Sunday he didn't show*
"Well, well, if it isn't Dizzy Gillespie," Carlisle croaked as his eyes fluttered open and he tried to sit up in the reclined hospital bed.
"Hey, hey, just lay back down, Rip Van Winkle. I can raise the top of the bed with this remote for you," Edward soothingly cautioned as he pressed buttons on the bed remote.
"Is this okay? Do you need anything else? Do you want me to call a nurse? Or your doctor? Maybe some water or ice chips…I'll just..," Edward was trying to be useful, but he was uncomfortable and scared. He wasn't hiding it well.
"Slow your roll there, home skillet. I am fine. They rigged this little buzzer for me if I need absolutely anything," Carlisle reached out to Edward, trying to reassure the young man that things were not as bad as they looked.
Edward lowered his head as he held onto Carlisle's hand. After a few deep breaths his head snapped up, eyes wide.
"Did you just call me 'home skillet'?" Edward asked.
"You caught that," he stated rather than asked. "It's not the drugs, I swear. My T.V. seems to be playing this movie about a pregnant teenage girl on a loop. I think I am absorbing the vernacular in my sleep. I told Heidi, the night nurse, that my Grace was the cheese to my macaroni. If there is anything you can do for me, get me some old episodes of NOVA."
"I'll see what I can do; but first, can you tell me what is going on with you? I waited at the bench for over an hour this morning, and when you didn't answer your phone, I drove around to all your haunts until finally Bella tracked you down here.
"Damn it, Carlisle. You don't have many people to take care of you. Bella and I are begging you to let us help. Why can't you make us your emergency contacts, at the very least? Call us to take you to the hospital if you aren't feeling well? Jesus, we offered you our basement apartment. You don't need to save the money, but at least you will have us."
Edward begged and pleaded with Carlisle, trying to get the old man, who had turned into his father, to understand just how much he and his wife loved him.
"Edward, I appreciate the offer. But if I move in with you, I would have to pack and move everything I have. I am not moving away from all my memories and my Grace now. I am too close to the end. Just let me be where all my love is, at home," Carlisle answered.
"But, Carlisle," Edward whispered. "We love you."
Carlisle raised his hand to Edward's cheek and brushed his thumb along the young man's cheek, trying to catch the silent tears neither of them wanted to acknowledge that were falling from their eyes.
"My boy, my boy," Carlisle cooed. "I know you do, just as I love you and Bella."
"But that being said, I can't leave my home and my memories. My Grace may not be alive, but she is in that house. The hammock in the back yard, the bay window in the front office, the kitchen; I feel her with me in that house. I can still smell her in the sheets and the upholstery of the couch. That is the only place I want to be; with my Grace. If I can't be with her on earth, then being in that house is where I want to be. One day you will understand what I mean, when you are an old man missing your wife and begging to be left alone with what you have left.
"You have filled my last few years with more happiness and love than I could have imagined would have existed for me after my Grace passed. I always regretted not having children, and you two let me pretend we had some. Thank you."
"Now, I am not dying tomorrow, this is just a little bug. So, we shall leave these conversations for darker days," Carlisle said, officially closing the topic. "Tell me something that will make me smile."
Edward couldn't summon the energy to immediately fake his happiness. He looked at Carlisle, lying in the sterile white sheets and couldn't help but notice how small and fragile the old man looked. He was right, the end might not be tomorrow, but it closer than either of them wanted to admit. He and Bella had noticed the accelerated deterioration in Carlisle's health since their third anniversary party five months earlier. It was all happening too fast for Edward, who had never had to watch someone die before. When people left him before, it had always been by choice. Right now, he wasn't sure which was worse.
"Grandchildren!" he suddenly blurted, pulling them both from the morbid thoughts that were coating the room in a thick fog of depressing tension.
Carlisle forced his signature chuckle. "Would you prefer I think of you and Bella as grandchildren instead of children? I guess that is fair, I am pretty damn old."
"No," Edward said. "I want you to think of me as your son, and I want you to think of the baby Bella and I are having as your grandchild."
Carlisle's blue eyes sparkled with renewed vigor and happiness, a sparkle that Edward hadn't seen for weeks.
"When were you going to tell me you two were having a baby?" Carlisle asked in mock offense.
"Well tonight, actually. Bella's making your favorite pork chops and applesauce," Edward weakly smiled. "Bella told me last night. We think its going to be an August baby."
"Well, call her up right now and tell her to put it on hold. The minute I get out of here, I am coming over to give your wife a big congratulatory kiss, my future grandchild a big check, and you a big cigar. But only if she waits to make those pork chops for me."
"I think we can arrange that," Edward smiled.
"Edward?" Carlisle asked. "When you are done, call the nurse to bring in the paperwork to have you added as my first emergency contact."
Edward smiled indulgently at Carlisle. He listens when I bribe him with food, figures.
*The Sunday the bench moved*
Edward jogged up the hill towards the bench sitting under the old maple tree. From up here, the view was better than it was at the lake. It was a bit more of a hike, but he needed to get his exercise in somehow these days. He took his spot on the bench, leaning over to catch his breath.
"I'm sorry I haven't been here in a few weeks, but things have gotten pretty hectic at our house, and Bella needs all of the help she can get now. I would have called you, but you know, and I figured you would understand…" Edward sighed, trying to decide how to continue.
He knew Carlisle wouldn't respond, but he also knew that Carlisle was still listening.
"I hope you don't mind that I had the bench moved. I thought you and Esme could share it again, up here. And really the view is much better. Underneath this tree, right next to your gravestones; but it overlooks the valley instead of the cemetery, so it's not too depressing. I had to pay a pretty penny to get it moved from the lake, plus I had to donate a new eco-safe bench to replace it, but it was worth it. It took a few months of arguing with bureaucrats to even get the Parks and Rec. department to consider it. But it was worth it, it was definitely worth it." Edward rambled on, barely taking a breath, trying to come to terms with talking at a set of gravestones.
"Bella wanted to come visit; she really misses having you for dinner on Sunday nights. You became a part of the family, Carlisle, a father to two grown-ups with daddy issues.
You were always there with advice and a six-pack of Vitamin-R. I don't think we would have made it through those first years as well as we did, without your rational voice. And now…god, I wish there was a direct line to wherever you are sometimes…
"What I am trying to say, and not very well; is we miss you. I miss you."
Edward sat for a while longer, not talking to himself or Carlisle. He sat and enjoyed the fresh air and the sound of the wind in the trees shaking the early autumn leaves free. For the past few years, a stranger had become one of his closest family members and now that he was gone, Edward was mourning more than he had for his own father. The selfish part of him wanted to keep Carlisle here with him for as long as he could, just knowing that Carlisle was around made him feel safer. But now Carlisle was with Esme, his Grace. And though he knew that Carlisle had loved him and Bella, and had appreciated and enjoyed being part of their family, Edward knew that he loved Esme more.
Edward had made Bella promise multiple times that he would die first, because he couldn't fathom having to live without her. But if in fifty years, he was without her, he knew that he too would visit their bench everyday come rain or shine, trying to just capture a piece of her, and waiting to join her.
The sun was shifting further west in the sky, and Edward knew it was time to go. He stood from the bench reaching towards the sky for a stretch with a groan. As he brought his arms down, he reached inside his jacket for the envelope of pictures Bella sent.
"You and Esme probably already know this, but we had our baby four weeks ago," Edward said, fiddling with the envelope in his hands. "Well, Bella did most of the work; I just sort of stood there in stupefied awe. I may be a 'doctor' of sorts, but nothing prepared me for that.
"And, god, she is amazing; so tiny and soft. She looks and acts just like Bella, a stubborn little spitfire. Though, her hair is most definitely a replica of my own bronze and copper cowlicks."
With another heavy sigh and slump of his shoulders, he continued.
"I have to get going, I have been here too long as it is. I am amazed that Bella hasn't called yet. But she sent these pictures for you and wanted to make sure you know we consider you our daughter's 'Grampy'…her words not mine."
Edward leaned down and placed the envelope against the joint headstone between Esme and Carlisle's names. He kissed his fingertips once and placed them on Carlisle's name.
"It was good to see you old man. I will try and make it more frequently. I miss talking to you more than you can imagine. Who knows, maybe next time we can get the whole family to come visit, too. We'll make it a picnic. We never got to have those pork chops and applesauce."
Repeating the same movement, he turned towards Esme's name, "It was nice to see you again, Esme."
Realizing he almost forgot, Edward quickly turned around with a sly smile on his face.
"Oh! You probably already know this too, and I hope you don't mind, but we named her Grace."
So I almost crapped myself when I heard I won the Love Actually Contest Judges Choice hosted by eviddeen and eternallycullen. This was my first ever entry into a contest and I am a little stupefied. But thank you to everyone who read and voted.
A HUGE thanks to my Beta RuthPerk, she takes my ramblings deletes half my commas and corrects the spelling…basically she makes it all perty! And another HUGE thanks to my pre-reader GinGinLee, she says lovely encouraging things that never fail to make me smile. I can't forget Korissaa who was the one to first encourage me to start writing oneshots to enter in contests, wouldn't have had the courage to do this without her words.
A congrats to Hoochiemama, Kiva John-Adkins, and The mystic Giraffe and Domysticated, the other uber-talented winners in the Love Actually Contest!