Gathered around a square mahogany table in the center of a tasteful living space, three people struggle with what to do.
"When is the last time you heard from her, Charlie?" his wife asks. Her frail fingers squeeze Carlisle's hand, her nails digging into his palm.
His old friend's eyes are dark, like he hasn't slept for a week. "Three days ago."
Carlisle pours him two fingers of whisky, something to ease the tension. "Do you know where she is?"
"I don't know," Carlisle sighs before taking a swig of his own. "I can guess."
"I thought this was going to work," Esme whispers. "This was supposed to fix things. They were going to get better!"
Charlie huffs and drags his fingers across the top of his thigh. "Me too. I just don't understand it. Why did your son leave treatment?"
"Dr. Gerandy recommended that Edward stay another thirty days." Carlisle remembers that day oh-so-well. Edward had been furious on the phone, clipped and short, cursing up a storm.
"He wasn't participating enough. His heart wasn't in it. Dr. Gerandy was worried he'd relapse, that he was there for the wrong reasons."
Across the room, Charlie's head hangs low because he heard the same.
"Edward refused to stay, said he'd be fine and checked himself out last week."
"I don't understand it," his wife cries, and her frustration is like a sentient being of its own, filling the room. "He's not fine, though. He's disappeared again."
Carlisle pulls her close against his side, stroking her cheek to calm her down. To calm them both. "I know. God, I know it." He's never felt this much a failure in all his life. "But what can we do?"
"I can't go through this again." His wife crumples into his chest, defeated and forlorn. "Why? We've done all the things we're supposed to do. But it's not enough, is it? It's never going to end. Not until one of both of them are dead."
Every muscle locks, shying away from what he knows is possible. What might be probable. Parents shouldn't live beyond their offspring. It's wrong. It's against the rules, he thinks.
His eyes meet those of his old friend's. They're as bleak as night. "I don't know."