Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns everything Twilight.
A/N: When I was writing 'We Are Dealt' I wrote this as an exercise to understanding Carlisle a little more. I thought I might share it with you in lieu of posting the epilogue that refuses to write itself. I'll get there eventually.
**** SPOILER ALERT ****
If you intend to read 'We Are Dealt' then don't read this first as it contains significant plot spoilers.
**** SPOILER ALERT ****
Thank you as always to Rinabina for beta-ing this for me. I think I made Esme a cat person because of her.
We Are Dealt
I blinked slowly and opened my gummed eyes into a darkened room. I knew it had been many hours since I had been this alert. Cold dread gripped my chest and I remembered why that was the case.
I was lying on my back in my bed. The sheets still smelled of her. In fact, the entire house reeked of her touch and her warmth. My mouth was dry and I licked at my cracked lips. Inside, the lining of my mouth felt wooly and tasted metallic. They must have given me some type of sedation back at the hospital.
I turned my head on the pillow and saw my oldest son sitting uncomfortably erect in the chair beside my bed, his head only slightly bowed as he dozed. He had been watching over me. His strength in the face of his own grief overwhelmed me but I was also struck by how pale and exhausted he appeared.
I had a vague recollection of Edward carrying me, feeding me and bathing me. His eyes held no embarrassment, only concern and love. I had become the child. It was wrong. He deserved more from a father, they all did.
Edward was his own man. He was so much stronger than me but he struggled to see it. Yet, here he was rising to the occasion as he always did. Briefly, my heart filled with pride and love for him and for all my children. It wasn't enough though. I would never be anything but a burden and a reminder of what they had lost from this day forward. I couldn't rise above this loss. I couldn't comprehend a world where Esme did not exist.
Edward held an opened novel with a reading light tucked into the spine, illuminating the text. He must have only very recently fallen asleep as the book was held suspended just inches above his lap.
I rolled my head back to the centre of the pillow, closed my eyes and allowed my mind to drift to the only thoughts I could bear to spend time with right now.
School was released for the day to afternoon spring in London. It was overcast with high cloud patterns in various hues of grey and unwashed white with the sun straining weakly behind them, begging to be seen. At least the ground was dry so I wouldn't be completely covered in mud after soccer training.
I closed my eyes and inhaled only to have my senses assaulted by the mixed odours of burnt engine oil from a Triumph TR7 travelling past and the stale grease from the fish and chip shop down the street.
I was fifteen years old, tall and fit for my age, with a burgeoning interest in girls and absolutely no confidence or idea what to do with said interest, or even how to speak to a girl.
I was on my way out of the school gates, about to cross the road to the playing fields, when I spotted her.
Sure, I had noticed her before. It seemed as though lately, all I did was notice her. There were lots of pretty girls at my school but she was different somehow. Some days I didn't know which way to look, but maybe that was hormones talking.
Her name was Esme Platt. One of the things I noticed that was different about her was that she didn't seem to move in a particular 'girl pack'. She appeared to be friendly with everyone without actually belonging to a clique. She could have if she wanted to but she seemed comfortable enough in her own skin to move freely and spend time with anyone.
Another anomaly was that Esme was never hesitant in reaching out and touching people – either in greeting or as an act of comfort. There was nothing provocative or forward about her touches, they were gentle and compassionate – never flirtatious. They were given freely to girls and boys at our school but so far, never to me. I was filled with the most unfathomable longing to feel her touch and I don't mean that in any crude way. I wanted to know her. I wanted to be her friend.
I ached to have the confidence to walk up to Esme and say something witty or clever and make her laugh. Unfortunately, every time she drew near I felt instantly awkward and unsure, ducking my head as my face and ears burst into flames.
Today was my chance. She was alone and I found myself fascinated by what she was doing.
She was kneeling on the brick path outside of the school gates. She had slung her bag to the ground beside her. Very gently and patiently she was coaxing a small black cat, perhaps a kitten, to come toward her. The kitten was probably a stray and I thought about how my mother would cringe at the sight of it, warning me not to touch for fear of communicable disease.
Esme had no such fear.
The feline was sniffing her outstretched hand tentatively and slowly stepping towards her. I noticed that Esme's hair was a rich caramel colour. It was very long and held back in a ponytail. Her hair moved in undulating waves down her back and I found myself wondering about it. Many of the girls at school had taken to colouring and perming their hair. Esme's hair looked to be completely natural. It was beautiful. So was her skin. It was completely free of any blemish and looked creamy and smooth. I found myself wanting to touch her cheek, just to see if it felt as soft as it looked.
Jesus GodCullen, get a grip.
The kitten had decided that Esme was trustworthy and was about to step fully into her reaching hands. At that moment, a milk truck backfired down the street and the cat leapt skittishly away from Esme. It ran straight into the road and oncoming traffic. There were cars everywhere. It never stood a chance.
I heard Esme's anguished cry and looked at the centre of the road once the traffic parted. The cat was making the most unholy yowling sound as it lay on its side. It lifted its head and stared in distress at its crushed and bloody leg and tail. Then it lay its head down on the road and went still.
I heard a harsh laugh behind me and then a voice cried out with proposed menace. "Excellent." Felix Winterbotham. Felix was a prat. He was a cruel boy with a long, angular face and raging boils that protruded from his cheek and neck. Felix constantly gave off a sense of suppressed rage - possibly at the awkward hand puberty had dealt him.
Felix was prone to making disparaging comments about everybody, especially lewd ones about girls in our year. From the corner of my eye I could see him mounting his bike. He began peddling hard, building up speed and I could sense his plan. He was going to finish off the dying cat.
I heard Esme's wild cry. "No!" Without a thought to her own safety she ran into the middle of the street and oncoming traffic. She pushed at Felix on his bike before he could hit the cat for a second time. Felix veered wildly but managed to keep his balance.
"What's wrong with you? You daft cow," He screamed and continued to peddle before shouting over his shoulder. "Piss off Platt, it's just some fecking cat."
Cars were blowing their horns, swerving around Esme as she crouched in the middle of the street over the cat. Quickly she scooped up the limp, bloody thing and ran back to the footpath.
I couldn't help it; I was propelled toward her by some inexplicable traction. Any thoughts of making it to soccer training were completely forgotten.
Esme was standing on the footpath, looking around wildly. The cat was clutched tightly to her chest and blood poured freely from its wounds, staining and soaking into her school uniform.
I approached her cautiously. "Is it dead?"
She turned her enormous hazel eyes to me. They were full of anguish and panic. "I can feel it's heart beating against my stomach but it's going too fast."
"It's in shock. Here," I said and pulled a towel from my soccer training bag. "We need to keep it warm." Carefully I wrapped the bloody thing in the towel and Esme smiled gratefully, continuing to hold it close.
"What should we do?" she pleaded.
She'd said 'we'.
Esme was looking at me expectantly and with a sense of trust - as though I could be expected me to come up with a plausible solution. I felt a warm flush throughout my body and I willed myself to rise to the occasion.
"There's a veterinarian just two blocks from here. Can I show you?"
"Please," she breathed out with relief. "Let's hurry."
We half walked, half jogged the distance. Esme was careful not to overly jostle the bundle of black fur, broken limbs and blood in her arms. "I'm Esme," she panted.
"I know," I said. "I'm Carlisle. Carlisle Cullen."
"I know," she said.
She knew who I was? My heart leapt in my chest and I swallowed, trying to focus on what we needed to do.
The veterinarian's receptionist wasted no time in whisking the cat through to the surgery area. She directed Esme to a washroom where she could clean herself up a little and indicated where we could sit in the waiting room.
After a few minutes, Esme returned from the washroom and took the seat next to me. I felt the warmth from her body, almost like a burn, along my side. Her uniform looked ruined but all I could think about was that her hair smelled like some sort of flower. Lily, I thought. Whatever it was, it was now officially my favourite scent in the entire world.
"Thank you for helping me," she said quietly, starring into her lap.
"My pleasure," I answered and coughed into my hand to clear my throat. I sounded so hoarse and scratchy. Getting Esme and the cat to the vet had seemed like the right thing to do but now I was overcome with nerves at being so close to her.
I chewed anxiously on the inside of my mouth as I thought about the bollocking I would get for not turning up to soccer practice.
It was definitely worth it.
I was desperate to understand Esme Platt and what motivated her to act the way she did. "Why did you run into the middle of the street like that?" I asked in a low voice.
Esme turned to face me. She had two pale freckles on her left cheek and another on the right side of her neck. When she spoke, her breath fanned across my face, dizzying my senses. "It was such an innocent and lonely little thing. It didn't deserve to die like that. Someone had to care."
"I think you're amazing," I said before I realised what my words sounded like. "I mean, what I mean to say is, I think it was amazing of you to want to save a stray cat like that."
Cue ridiculous blush. Damn it.
I was saved from further embarrassment by the entrance of the veterinarian who beckoned for us to join him out the back. The name badge on his white coat read Dr Snow. He was dark haired, quite young and had a kind, sympathetic expression.
"Is this your cat?" he asked.
"Um," I said.
"Yes," answered Esme with conviction.
Dr Snow pursed his lips at our response. "What's the cat's name?"
"Midnight," I said without thinking. I felt Esme squeeze my hand and my heartbeats thundered uncontrollably in my chest.
"Well children," he began. When adults referred to teenagers as children it was usually not a good sign. "I'm afraid that Midnight has had a most devastating accident." He led us over to where the cat was hooked up to an intravenous unit. "His rear leg has been severed beyond repair as has his tail." He passed a hand gently over the cat's ears. "There are some internal injuries as well." He turned to face us. "The kindest thing would probably be to put Midnight to sleep. To operate and properly remove the leg and tail is both dangerous and expensive-"
"I have money," interrupted Esme.
"So do I," I added, before thinking about how my father would possibly castrate me for using my savings to save the life of a stray and potentially mange riddled cat.
Esme continued in a clear, strong voice. "Plus, if it isn't enough, I'll work for you for free until it is paid off. I can clean the surgery, the cages, anything you need done." Her expression was one of steely determination. She'd won me over.
Dr Snow frowned and smiled at Esme, breathing heavily from his nose. He placed a hand on her shoulder. "Let me see what I can do. I'll try my best young lady."
Esme returned his statement with the most breathtaking smile I had ever seen. She turned her head and included me in the smile. I was struck dumb by both her beauty and compassion. I wanted to earn smiles like that from Esme every day for the rest of my life.
It took two weeks but Doctor Snow saved the cat. As a result of his kindness and skill he became a hero in Esme's eyes.
Doctor Snow was her hero but I became Esme's friend. I became her best friend with a briefly hidden agenda to become much, much more.
That was also when I decided that I wouldn't be following in my father's footsteps and joining his law practice. I decided that I wanted to be able to help creatures like Midnight the cat and have Esme look and smile at me the way she had just looked at Dr Snow.
I wanted to become her hero as she was fast becoming mine.
The cat, Midnight, lived with three legs, no tail and no spleen for eighteen years. He moved with us to Australia in the 1980s and was Alice's darling until his death.
Of course, it required some heavy negotiation on my part. My father did not give up on his desire for me to become a lawyer easily. The compromise was that I would become a doctor rather than a veterinarian. The end result would be the same.
I would save people and Esme would love me. It was all I ever wanted, to love and be loved by Esme Platt.
That's the way it had always been for me. I became a man for Esme. Every decision I made, every course of action I took. It was all for her. To see her smile or laugh. To see her proud of me and the choices I made.
We grew up together. I had no knowledge of an adult life without her. I never even looked at another girl after that spring day in my sixteenth year.
Here I was, forty-five years old and alone for the first time since I was a teenager.
I didn't know how to be in this world without her. The only thought in my head was that I had to be with her again. I had to find her.
A/N: This is very sad to me. It doesn't excuse what Carlisle does in any way but it gives us some insight as to the depth of his love for Esme. What do you think? You know I love to hear it.
Thanks so much for reading - AG xx