I am doing a fresh edit and reposting the existing chapters of Troth before I continue it to the end. I hope to post re-edited chapters, with minor changes, on at least a monthly basis, if not more frequently. Then, I will continue Troth to completion. New chapters will be posted as the original 27 chapters were, as soon as they are completed.
The following notes were originally written on a new account as I'd forgotten my username to this account. I just stumbled upon it yesterday; so Troth is coming back where it belongs!
I said I wouldn't abandon Troth. I keep my promises. After an extremely long time, Troth is back; and so am I. This is a repost and continuation of my fan fiction story, Troth.
I couldn't find the time to update this story when my fiancé and I moved in together. As our first wedding anniversary was yesterday, I think it's time to end my hiatus.
* I need to amend this, we've now been married 21 months; but, I have had a great loss since our wedding anniversary and my grief has slowed my original posting plan somewhat. It will, however, continue as quickly as possible, come what may.*
Now, for the usual disclaimers and acknowledgments...
The Twilight Saga belongs to Stephenie Meyer, Summit Entertainment and anyone else who may legally claim ownership. No copyright infringement is intended.
I do not write Edward/Bella fan fiction. Stephenie Meyer told their story.
This story is about a romantic relationship between Dr. Carlisle Cullen and Isabella Swan.
In this story, Isabella Swan is over the age of 18 before she becomes romantically involved with Carlisle Cullen.
Canon will, of course, be expanded upon making this story is AU.
This story is categorized as Romance and Hurt-Comfort, as those are the main themes.
The characters do face more than their share of drama and some disturbing themes are mentioned later on in the story. However, I think it is safe to say that the overall story could not be considered dark in any way. When any disturbing themes are to be mentioned in a chapter, I will include a warning, in bold, at the top of the page. These warnings will allow you to skip any potentially disturbing themes.
This story is rated "M" in accordance with this site's guidelines.
Please keep in mind that this story is intended for readers that are 18 years of age or older.
I would like to thank StoryPainter for her brilliant beta-reading, up to and including chapter twenty-seven.
Her work is invaluable.
Any remaining mistakes are entirely my own.
I am very pleased and proud that
in round three of the
Chapter 1: Encouragement
Jasper followed Bella outside and silently observed her. Her face was upturned as she watched the large March snowflakes falling lazily in the moonlight. He knew he had to act. Alice had seen two distinct visions of Bella's future. His wife could see future, but she had no sense of the true feelings of those involved. He did. He knew. He couldn't let Bella stay on the path she was on without letting her know there was another; too many people would be hurt by it. Alice disagreed. Alice was in denial.
He'd never been so thankful to be able to block Edward's gift. He smiled in memory of the days Carlisle had spent teaching them how to let Edward only read the thoughts intended for him. Jasper had struggled to master the skill, and in the end, it was simple, because Edward didn't pry past the surface. He wanted to give his family privacy. Even if Edward did pry the techniques Carlisle had taught him were second nature to him now. Edward would not see anything in his thoughts that he wasn't meant to see. Jasper would have sighed in relief, had he been alive. Instead, he closed his eyes in a brief moment of gratitude that Edward didn't know what he was about to do. He knew that if Edward had any inkling of his intent he would be beyond reason, he would attack him in his rage.
He stepped from the shadows and spoke softly. "Bella."
She turned in surprise but showed no fear of him. "Jasper, you startled me."
He shook his head ruefully. He didn't have perfect control. She should be more cautious of him. "I'm sorry, I surely didn't mean to scare you."
She smiled fully at him. "That's okay, Jasper, I'm not afraid of you."
He returned her smile. "You should be."
"Alice has seen that you won't hurt me."
"Ah, but my darlin' pixie didn't know that I would be coming out here. I didn't make the decision until I followed you."
"You followed me?" Bella asked in confusion.
"I did. I need to talk to you, Bella. Could we walk?" Jasper motioned for Bella to precede him away from the house.
"What's up, Jasper?"
He just motioned for her to keep walking. As they neared the garage door Jasper spoke almost inaudibly. "I would like to go for a drive. I want to be sure that our conversation is private. I just hunted this afternoon, you'll be safe."
"Oh," Bella responded, perplexed. "Okay."
Once they were in the garage, Jasper held the passenger door of Emmett's Jeep open for Bella. "Hurry," he said, I want to leave before anyone decides to follow us.
Bella slid into the car and began to buckle her seat belt. The engine roared to life and they were a mile away before she snapped the belt on. Bella opened her mouth to ask where they were going, but Jasper beat her to it.
"I apologize for all the secrecy. I need to talk to you," he reiterated. "And I want to make sure no one hears us." They drove in silence for several minutes. Jasper made many unpredictable turns and sudden changes in direction. He hoped to confuse Alice's visions, at least for a little while. Finally, Jasper put down the throttle.
Bella spoke as they pulled into a coffee shop in Kingston, "Wow. That was faster than Alice."
"Yes," Jasper replied. "It was. No one's followed us, yet. You need to call Edward and let him know you'll be back in a couple of hours. We don't want a manhunt, do we?"
"What do I tell him? I don't even know what we're doing here."
"Tell him a friend drove you for a cup of coffee. After all, it's the truth. Tell him you want to chat for a bit."
Bella hit speed dial. "Bella, where are you?" Edward asked sharply, neglecting to offer a greeting.
Edward interrupted her. "Tell me where you are, I'll come and get you." Edward snapped.
"Edward, no. I'm just having coffee with a friend, I wanted to let you know so you wouldn't wonder where-"
"You didn't say you were going anywhere," Edward cut across Bella again.
"I didn't plan it. It just sort of came up."
Jasper could hear the conversation and he sent Bella a wave of calm and assurance.
"Edward, I'm having coffee with a friend. It'll be a couple of hours, we have some catching up to do. I'll see you later."
"I'll join you, Bella, tell me where you are and I'll-"
Still bathed in the confidence Jasper sent her, Bella interrupted Edward. "Don't be silly, you'd be bored. I'll see you in a bit. Bye." Bella closed the phone. She could hear Edward demanding to know who she was with as she ended the call.
Jasper reached over and took the phone from Bella's hand, powering it down in one swift motion.
Jasper gave Bella one of his most charming southern smiles. "Why don't we go in and get that coffee?" he suggested, his smile reaching both his eyes and voice.
Before Bella could unclasp her seatbelt, Jasper was opening the car door for her. They didn't speak as he held the door of the shop and guided her to a low table in the far corner. Bella settled, cross-legged, on a large pouf as Jasper sat on the short chair opposite.
"Jasper, what's going on?" Bella asked tightly. The calm Jasper had sent for her call to Edward had receded entirely. Jasper's answer was prevented by the arrival of their server. Bella ordered a cafe au lait, and Jasper asked for coffee, strong and black, and added a sandwich for Bella.
When the server left, Jasper smiled winningly at Bella. "You'll need the food, Bella. This is going to take a while." Jasper caught the tension that his statement had begun to build in Bella and he quickly added, "Don't worry, Bella. It's nothing bad. I just tend to talk slowly."
"So what is it, Jasper?"
"You know I can't help but know how you're feeling Bella. It's not something I can turn off. I'd like you to talk to me about your feelings."
"What feelings?" Bella asked, confused.
"You know that I know everyone's feelings, I can't help it. At this point, I can't continue to stand by and say nothing, even to please Alice."
"I don't understand, Jasper. What are you saying?"
"All I'm saying is that I know how you feel about Edward, and I know how Edward feels about you. Sometimes I know people's feelings before they've admitted them to themselves. I'm suggesting that maybe y'all should slow down a bit."
"Are you saying Edward doesn't love me?" Bella asked. She looked stricken.
"I wouldn't say Edward doesn't love you. I won't say more about his love for you, that's for him to say." Jasper was interrupted by the arrival of their drinks and Bella's food.
The time it took before their server left gave Bella the chance to think things through. She realized that Jasper usually cut straight to the point. She knew he must have something big to tell her, and he was having trouble with it. That could only mean Alice had seen something. "What has Alice seen?"
Jasper smiled at Bella's insight. "Alice has had visions, but this isn't about them. I can't speak for her. I'm only talking about what I've felt from you." Bella opened her mouth but Jasper was too quick for her. "Before you ask again, I can't speak for anyone else. I will say that I am not here to tell you that Edward doesn't love you." Jasper felt Bella become relaxed but her confusion was evident. "But, let me ask you this, have you ever had any kind of pet that you loved?"
Bella was completely puzzled by the apparent turn in the conversation. "Yes, when I was little I had a cat, my mother is allergic to dogs, why?"
Jasper just smiled. "Did you love your cat?"
"Very much." Bella smiled.
"You knew what was best for your cat, so you made the decisions for it."
"Her." Bella corrected Jasper, as her confusion deepened.
"Her," Jasper said with an apologetic smile. "So, you loved your cat and you knew what was safe for her because she couldn't know. Now that's real good because your cat couldn't think of everything for herself. She certainly never heard of rabies or the vaccine for it. So, without you making her decisions, she couldn't go to the vet for her vaccine. She couldn't have taken care of herself. She was a pet, that was the right thing to do. Did you miss her when you were away from her?"
"I did. I remember worrying about her when she would disappear for longer than usual. It was impossible to think of my days without her being there. She was always there, quietly comforting me or bringing a toy so I'd play with her. It would distract me from my worries. She would always make me smile no matter how badly my day had gone. How could I imagine living without her?"
"And yet, here you are, living without your pet, even though you never thought you could."
"What are you trying to say?"
"I'm not being very clear, am I? Let me ask you something else, instead."
"The way you feel about Edward, he's your first love, your boyfriend. But, and be honest now, do you have feelings for anyone else?" Jasper asked knowingly.
"What? No!" Bella knocked her drink over in her vehemence. "Of course not!"
Jasper grabbed some napkins and had the spill cleaned before it could begin to spread. "Now, Bella, I'm asking this for a reason, and I want you to think real hard. Pardon me, but I'm sure Alice has seen us by now so I don't have much time left, I have to be blunt. The things you feel for Edward, the love, the admiration, the desire to be with him, what's your real motivation?"
Bella didn't have time to answer before Jasper continued.
"Take this spill, I know when you talk about becoming one of us you're more self-confident, you get a feeling of rightness. That's about becoming one of us, it's not about loving Edward. There's no need to rush your relationship with Edward to ensure that you become one of us. Carlisle promised he would change you, and he will. No matter what, he'd never let anyone hurt you." Jasper pressed on before Bella could protest. "Even if you don't end up with Edward, that never changes. You will be part of our family. Carlisle won't allow the Volturi to kill you."
Bella's voice was filled with the need to convince. "But, Jasper, Edward and I, we're soul mates. We can't live without each other. He went to the Volturi when he thought I was dead. He couldn't live without me, and I... I was a wreck without him."
"I know Edward went to the Volturi, I know he thought he couldn't live without you."
Jasper continued. "I know you couldn't imagine your life without your pet either." Jasper paused to let that idea sink in.
Jasper's voice was emphatic as he spoke. "I've felt you around others, Bella. With Edward, you're subdued. You are..." at the look on Bella's face he hastened to clarify. "Now, don't get me wrong, Edward is a good guy. But, with Edward, your spirit is oppressed. Bella, I like you. When you decide to devote your life to someone I want them to lift you up, not hold you back. I want that for you, Bella. I know Edward is pressuring you to marry him. You might even say he's coercing you, just a bit.
"Bella, when you do marry into our family I want your spirit to soar as you walk down the aisle. I don't want to see you walk timidly towards your future. Look, I already consider you a sister. I don't want you to rush into something with Edward that you might come to regret. All I'm askin' is that you take it down a notch with him. Take time to think through your feelings for him, and his for you. Keep your mind open. I'd like for you to really think on it. I'd like it if you'd ask yourself a question or two. Ask yourself, where am I the happiest; who is it that's with me when I'm the happiest? And if I could be with that person forever, would I? Then, when you get your answer ask yourself what you would give to make that a permanent thing."
"You know it's Edward, right?" she asked Jasper. "I can answer both your questions, Jasper. I'm happiest when I'm in the meadow with Edward," she told him firmly.
"That may well be." Jasper gave her a knowing smile as the headlights of Rosalie's car flashed when it careened into the parking lot. "Our time's just about up for now, and Alice is gonna have my head. I just want you to think on what I've said. Will you do that for me? Think about your feelings for everyone in your life, and how you feel when you are with each one, especially if their last name is Cullen?"
"Yeah, Jasper, I'll think about it."
"And, Bella honey, I'm always here for you, if you want to talk anything over. We'll find a way." Jasper gave Bella's hand a reassuring squeeze as he stood.
"Jasper, what have you done?" Alice was beside their table looking absolutely livid.
"Come on, Alice darlin', drive me home." He tossed Bella the keys to the Jeep. "Bella has some thinking to do, and I know I've got some explainin' to do." He smiled sheepishly at his wife and kissed her cheek.
Alice huffed and peered around Jasper. "Bella-"
"Come on now, Darlin', you can talk to Bella at the house later." He steered Alice out the door to Rosalie's car.
Bella shook her head and began to fish out money to pay the bill when she noticed Jasper had left two twenty dollar bills and a folded note with her name on it. "Cryptic speedy vampires," she muttered to herself.
Bella slid into the driver's seat of Emmett's Jeep and opened the note Jasper had left for her.
The note was just a phone number. Bella knew it had to be Jasper's private cell. She had no idea what had gotten into him. The whole evening had been beyond bizarre.
The next day it continued. At the Cullen house, Jasper sat with Bella, reminding her of his request with his presence. She wondered at the displeasure it seemed to cause in both Alice and Edward.
The day after that Bella found Jasper leaning casually against her front doorframe as she got out of her truck after work.
"Jasper, what's up?" Bella asked lightly, although she was sure he could sense that her feelings were anything but light.
"Well now, Bella, I've been thinking a lot about you since I almost killed you. I'm completely fine with your blood now. You should still make sure I've hunted before I spend time with you. Always check my eyes, make sure they're real light, just to be safe. But if I have hunted recently, you could cut yourself deeply, and I wouldn't attack you."
"That's good to know." Bella smiled.
"It is," Jasper agreed, relief evident in his voice. "But, I was also thinkin', you're Alice's best friend, and basically an accepted member of our coven, so I think you and I should become better acquainted."
"And, I'm Edward's girlfriend." Bella pointed out.
"Well yes, you are now."
Bella wasn't sure if the "now" was part of Jasper's Southern vernacular, or if he meant something else. She decided to ignore it. "You want to hang out?" Bella asked.
"I sure do." Jasper smiled. It did not put her at ease.
"Okay, well, I have to make dinner for my dad. Do you want to come in?"
"Thank you kindly," Jasper responded teasingly.
Jasper followed Bella into the kitchen and sat at the table as she pulled out the ingredients to make lasagna. Jasper regaled Bella with tales of Alice's latest internet shopping spree while Bella began making the sauce. When the sauce was simmering and she was putting the noodles to boil, Jasper asked her if she'd like to play a game.
"What kind of game?" she asked.
"It's like somethin' my mamma and I played when I was a human boy. The memory is faint, but it's still here." Jasper tapped his head. "I would ask my mamma a question, like what's your favorite food, and I'd draw it. I'd ask her another question, like what's your favorite animal, and I'd add it to the picture. When I was done asking questions, we'd see what kind of picture all her answers made. Of course, paper was precious in those days, so I drew with a stick in the dirt, but I think using paper now would work."
"That sounds like fun," Bella said. She was surprised by the truth in her answer.
Jasper pulled a pad of paper and a pencil from his shoulder pack and set them out. He looked at Bella thoughtfully and tapped his chin. "What to ask..."
"I could always ask the questions," Bella offered hopefully.
"You couldn't draw and make dinner for your father," Jasper pointed out reasonably. "Your turn to ask questions will have to be second. Let me see." He deliberated for another moment. "What do you like to do to relax."
"What do you mean?"
"If you've had a difficult day, what do you do to feel better?" Jasper elaborated.
"Oh, that's easy, I read," Bella answered brightly.
"So I'll draw some books." For a few seconds, the only sound was that of Jasper's pencil on paper. "What's one of your favorite pastimes?"
"Reading." Bella laughed.
Jasper laughed with her. "So, more books, then." He continued to draw as Bella opened the cheeses for Charlie's meal.
"What colors make you feel most comforted?"
"What's with the comfort questions?"
"Nothing, really, it's just what came to mind. And the last question wasn't a comfort question, it was about your pastimes. So, what colors make you feel peaceful, happy, relaxed?" Jasper smiled lopsidedly.
"I don't really have a favorite color. I guess you could say soft colors are relaxing. Not pastels, muted colors, maybe earth tones."
"Like the green of trees and moss and such?"
"I suppose, but with something warmer too. I dunno with brown, maybe. I like gold." Bella smiled. "I like gold a lot, like the lightest honey with the sun shining through it."
"Only his eyes are that shade."
Bella hadn't heard his quiet murmur. "What?"
Jasper smiled. "What shades of earth tones?"
"Do you even have color there?" Bella asked.
Jasper held up a set of colored pencils.
Bella smiled and looked at the colors.
"What do you do for work that's enjoyable? Like Rosalie enjoys tinkering with cars. Do you like tinkering with motorcycles?" Jasper joked.
"No. Definitely not." Bella thought of the puzzle that the Cullens had been. She remembered how much fun it was to work and see everything fall in place until she had her answer: Vampire. "I like research, really. I'm happier with a computer and a question to solve than I am with axel grease."
"So, you like sitting at a desk and working?"
Bella again thought back to discovering the Cullens' secret, and hundreds of other times she'd been presented with a puzzle to solve. "Yeah," she concurred. "I guess so."
Japer's pencils continued to move. "I'm no artist, but this is fun to do," he told Bella.
"It's an unusual way to get to know someone's secrets."
"Oh, I don't want your secrets, Bella," Jasper told her seriously. "If I did, I'd just ask Alice."
"Great," Bella mumbled. "Alice should write 'tell all' books."
"Books again, not TV shows or anything. Interesting." Jasper drew some more.
"Hey, I like more than books!" Bella protested. "And, that wasn't a question."
"So, you are designing your dream room, Bella. What's it like?"
"It would have lots of windows," Bella said with a smile. "And a high beamed ceiling. I'd like pictures too. The kind you can stare at and never really look at enough. You know? When it's cold and raining out, you can just wrap yourself up in the warmth and comfort of this room. Even though you can see the rain through the windows, you are snug and cozy in there."
"Would it have books?" Jasper asked as he sketched.
Bella threw a noodle at him.
"Missed me!" He grinned. "So, Bella, did you just describe your favorite fantasy room to me, or your safe place?"
"Couldn't it be both?"
"Sure enough. What does it smell like?"
"You can't draw a smell, Jasper."
"No, but I'm curious. Humor me."
"It smells of books, wood, and leather."
"It would," Jasper teased. "What else? What other smells in the room make you feel good?"
Bella's face took on a far off, wistful look. "Vanilla and spices, maybe some hints of orange and something else... I don't know."
"The man himself," Jasper mumbled.
"What?" Bella asked, coming out of her olfactory reminiscence.
"I was thinking I should really get going," Jasper replied slyly. "I'll leave your picture in your room for you to look at when you're done cooking, if that's okay?"
"Sure," Bella replied as she layered her cheese, noodles, and sauce.
"Call me when you're free tomorrow, and you can have a turn drawing," Jasper said as he left
"Okay," Bella replied to the empty space where Jasper had been.
Bella finished up the lasagna for Charlie and put it in the oven. She cleaned up quickly and headed upstairs to see Jasper's drawing. She found it pinned to her wall.
As Bella approached Carlisle's study early Saturday afternoon, a thousand butterflies began dancing wildly in her stomach. She blamed Jasper and his stupid drawing. As if this were the place she felt happiest, safest, the place she most wanted to be. She thought it had to be a coincidence that her answers had added up to make Jasper draw Carlisle's study. She huffed quietly. As if Carlisle was the person she most wanted to be with. Startled by her own thought, she reminded herself that Jasper had only drawn Carlisle's room, not him. She didn't know where that stray thought had come from. She felt the blood rushing to her face and silently cursed Jasper and his odd imagination. She took a calming breath and listened to the house. Edward was playing the piano. Despite his keen vampire senses, he was so lost in his music that he probably had no idea where she was right now. Esme had gone to the shops with Rosalie and Jasper was out hunting. She could clearly hear Emmett and Alice playing video games. They were laughing and egging each other on, quite boisterously.
She lifted her hand and knocked gently on the door. She expected Carlisle to tell her to come in. Instead, he opened the door and held his hand out to her.
"Isabella," he said with a welcoming smile.
The sound of her full name spoken in his soft warm tones created a growing pool of heat in her abdomen, giving the butterflies something to dance over. She shook her head at herself. She'd never reacted like this before. Then again, she realized she had. She just hadn't acknowledged it to herself. She told herself that she had to stop talking to Jasper. He was definitely a bad influence on her. Now, she needed to respond to the devastatingly handsome man gazing down at her.
"Hi, Carlisle," she said a little too brightly. She hoped he hadn't noticed. She placed her right hand in his extended hand and allowed him to draw her into his domain.
"We've been over this," Carlisle admonished her gently. "You don't need to knock. You are welcome here anytime, understand?"
She shivered as she heard the heavy wood door snick closed behind them. Wordlessly, he invited her to sit. She smiled shyly at him as she settled on the comfortable sofa in front of his massive bookshelves.
"Did you enjoy Shelley?" he asked.
"Oh! It was very interesting." She looked at the book she held. It was Carlisle's copy of a book containing the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley, as well as his biography.
"What was your favorite?"
"I'd say I liked Night the best."
"Oh really," he said, with a teasing tone in his voice. "You preferred Night above all of his work?"
Carlisle sat beside Bella and they discussed the works of Shelley. They compared his work to that of Coleridge, Wadsworth, Blake, Byron, and Keats in turn. They were talking of the love letters between Keats and Fanny Brawne when a knock on the door interrupted them. Esme stuck her head in and spoke. "Carlisle, Bella's human, she needs to eat."
Both Carlisle and Bella were surprised to see that the afternoon shadows had lengthened to the point where twilight was fast approaching.
"I'm sorry," Carlisle said to Bella. "I've kept you too long."
"No," Bella responded quickly. "No, you didn't. I was enjoying our talk, very much. I didn't even know how much time had passed. I hope I didn't keep you from something important, though."
"Isabella," Carlisle admonished. "You, are important." He gave her a brilliant smile. "But, no, my afternoon was clear, and I can think of no way I would rather have spent it."
"Oh," Bella said. "Good." She looked over at Esme. "Do you still want me to show you how to make frijoles?" Bella was spending the weekend with Alice, as far as her father knew, and she had promised to teach Esme how to cook some human Mexican food.
"Yes," Esme answered, casting Carlisle an indulgent look. "I picked up the ingredients so that you could teach me to make them for your lunch, with chicken, I thought that would be good. But, I think that they'll have to be your dinner now."
When Bella rose, Carlisle stood as well. "Do you mind if I come back later, to choose another book to borrow?"
"It would be my pleasure if you would," Carlisle said sincerely. At Esme's chuckle, a confused look settled on his features as he continued, "My books are at your disposal anytime, as you know."
Esme and Bella were in the kitchen gathering the ingredients Esme had bought earlier in the day.
"You bought so much," Bella commented.
"I thought we could make enough for you to eat today, and tomorrow I can run the rest to the homeless shelter in Port Angeles. They are used to me supplying them with unprepared foods. This will be a surprise." Esme's caring smile lit her face.
Bella looked up from her task of shredding the cheese to see Esme seeding the chiles on the counter beside the range. "Esme," she began tentatively. "Will you tell me what it was like when you got married when you fell in love with Carlisle?"
Esme stopped what she was doing. She forgot to act human and stood still as a statue staring at Bella in confusion. After a few moments, she seemed to gather herself and she spoke. "Bella, hasn't Edward told you?"
"Told me your and Carlisle's story? No. He doesn't tell me a lot about you guys. I think he's respecting your privacy," she said. "I'm sorry if my question was too personal."
"It's not personal at all, Bella dear, don't worry. I'm just surprised that you're only aware of our cover story, and the assumptions that people make about us. I would have thought that Edward would want you to know the truth. After all, you know our biggest secret. You know that we're vampires. I don't understand why Edward wouldn't have told you the rest." She paused briefly in thought. "Well, it's definitely time you knew." Esme declared. "First, Carlisle and I never fell in love."
"What?" Bella asked, shocked. "But, you, he... you're married. You love each other. You're mates," she spluttered.
"Oh my," Esme responded with a laugh. "You really don't know. Let's sit for a minute." When they were seated Esme began. "You know that Jasper and Alice are married, but they pretend to be an unmarried couple who are our foster children?" Bella nodded. Esme continued, "And that Rosalie and Emmett are the same and they keep up the same pretense?"
"Yes," Bella replied. "I know that. Everyone thinks it's a little odd, but they accept it, no one suspects that they are married couples."
Esme smiled fondly at Bella. "Just as no one suspects that Carlisle and I have never been married and we most certainly aren't in love."
"You and Carlisle aren't married?"
"No. I have used the name Cullen since I joined the family. I had no desire to keep my husband's name, and in my time women didn't revert to their maiden names after a marriage ended. But, Carlisle and I have never been married, we've never been more than the best of friends," Esme said with a fond smile. "Although, that's not entirely true," she continued. "We are more than friends, he's like a kid brother to me, and I am a big sister to him. We had planned to pass ourselves off as a brother and sister who had taken in kids to raise together because we had no families of our own. However, a long time ago, the school system saw both our names on 'the kids' forms and assumed we were married. We didn't want to draw more attention by correcting them, so we said nothing. We never confirmed or denied that we are a married couple. Everyone just assumes that we are. We learned to make ourselves touch each other casually, in the presence of others, to keep up appearances." Esme laughed. "In reality, our touches hold nothing but sibling affection. Between Carlisle and I, there have never been any romantic feelings and there never will be. We just don't look at each other like that. I don't know why Edward, or the others, didn't tell you that a marriage between Carlisle and I is just an assumption people make."
"You know, I think Alice assumed that Edward told me. If I had known all this, some of the things Alice has said would have made lot more sense."
"I think it's safe to say we all thought Edward had told you everything."
"Edward led me to believe that you and Carlisle are a married couple. He probably didn't think that I should be let in on your secret. He must have worried that I would give you away if I knew. He's very protective." Bella's brow furrowed. Tentatively she began, "So, if you're not Carlisle's wife..." she trailed off, not knowing how to finish her question.
"What do I do?" Esme asked with a laugh.
"I'm here because I love my family. This family means everything to me. However, I'm also working on learning perfect control around humans. I want my resistance to human blood to match Carlisle's one day. When someone is hurt I want to be able to stay with them. So that I can work with human children like he works as a doctor. That's what I want for my existence, to care for children in any way that I can. Someday, I hope to work in an orphanage. I know they foster as many kids as possible, but there are still places that are technically orphanages, and those kids need a mother. I want to be that mother. Not that I would leave our family. I would never do that. This is where I belong. When I have enough control to work with children, I will come home from work like Carlisle does. If an orphanage doesn't work out, I could always run a day care center and give the children of mothers who have to work the love, care, and nurturing that they need while their own mother is working." Esme ducked her head. "I'm very passionate about it."
"That's really great. I think that will be wonderful for you. No one could ask for anyone better to care for them," Bella said enthusiastically.
"Speaking of caring for people, even if they are adults," Esme said sternly. "We need to finish up, so you can eat."
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