Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight :)
Time is too slow for those who wait,
too swift for those who fear,
too long for those who grieve,
too short for those who rejoice,
but for those who love,
time is eternity.
- Henry Van Dyke -
Gasoline and road dust, coffee, cinnamon and a summer night after the rain. Cherries and bergamot, lemons and cigarettes with menthol flavor. A small group of humans passed me by, and I followed them with my gaze as they crossed the street together, laughing and talking as they walked. I wondered who they were; I wondered if they had known each other since childhood. I wondered about the first time they had met and come to know each other; I wondered what it had been like. I wondered if years from now, they'd still be friends.
I hoped that they would. The world needed more friendship and togetherness, both momentary and lasting.
Two fluttering heartbeats drifted to my ears, accompanied by the sound of two sets of steps. I raised my eyes from the outdoor table of the small café, watching as a small child appeared behind the corner of the street with a woman, probably her mother. I turned my gaze away just as quickly, but still felt the small child's eyes on me. I heard the way she clung to her mother's sleeve, trying to make her slow the pace as they neared me. The child was curious. I could feel it.
The strong aroma of roses and vanilla filled my lungs, but I ignored the scent. The child was safe from me, and so was her mother. If it were otherwise, I knew I wouldn't trust myself to be here. Human blood didn't tempt me like it had in the past, and it never would again. The small scorch in the back of my throat was a small price to pay for these moments, for the ability to walk among humans like I didn't differ from them in any way. It had taken me months to get completely used to all the distractions around me, but eventually it had gotten easier.
Well, not easier. More tolerable, perhaps, but I doubted this would someday be easy.
The steps came closer, and I raised my gaze again just as the two humans passed my table.
Blue eyes, pink cheeks, long light brown curls tumbling down on the little girl's shoulders. She watched me intently as her mother tried to hurry her forward, gently tugging her hand. The mother didn't probably know why her daughter was so stubborn all of a sudden. I didn't think she knew there was sensitivity in this child. The world hadn't managed to corrupt this small girl yet, to steal away her creativity. She knew that she was in the presence of something unusual, something she had once heard about in a story, perhaps. What her mother was totally unaware of, this small girl sensed.
I gave the girl a quick smile, wondering if this moment lingered in her memory. Would she, ten years from now, remember the unnaturally pale skin of a stranger she'd once met in the street? Would she remember the eyes of rare shade of golden? Would she wonder about it, thinking it had only been her imagination, something her childish mind had created?
I didn't know.
"Lara," the girl's mother chided. "It's impolite to stare." The mother apoligized to me, lifting the girl in her arms so she wouldn't have to tow her around any longer. The woman was in too much of a hurry to continue on her way. If she'd had the time to take a closer look at me, she perhaps could have been able to see what had captured her child's interest. I had seen it happen before a couple of times. There was simply something unnatural about our presence that some humans were able to sense. It caused them to shun our company and hurry away, and I often wondered if it was some sort of dormant instinct that made them do that. Some slumbering, ancient sense that warned them to stay away.
Sometimes it was better that way.
I waved off the woman's apologies, giving her a small smile and raising my hand as a goodbye as the two humans continued along the street. The little girl waved back, watching me over her mother's shoulder as long she could. Soon they disappeared behind the corner, and the pair of bright blue eyes along with the sand-colored curly hair disappeared from my eyesight.
A lot later I realized that there had been something familiar about those blue eyes, but I couldn't tell what.
I got up from my chair where I had been sitting for the past hours, tossing a few bills on the table beside the cold, untouched coffee. Deciding that I should head home, I began to cross the street. It had felt good to spend some time alone - it had been several weeks since the last time. The others often shook their heads at my strange desire to sit by the streets and watch people walk past me. They thought that my way to spend quality time was more or less tedious, not to mention masochistic. But I enjoyed those few moments of loneliness, no matter what they said.
I didn't even try to explain myself to them. To be honest, I didn't quite know how. There was no way to make them understand how much pleasure it brought me to be able to do that, to simply sit down and watch people pass me by. It was something I had done a lot during the years before I had come to Vancouver, before everything had changed. Back then I had done it in order to survive and forget, to drown myself in those masses of people so I wouldn't be found by anyone. Not even by me. It had been a way to forget my indentity, to erase my presence from this world.
But I didn't strive to do those things anymore. I had no reason to. The meaning behind my occasional lingering habit was entirely different. And there was only one person who understood that temporary need to stay still and simply let the world pass me by. That person understood it, and sometimes he even came with me. And we'd sit together and wait for hours, simply gazing at the world as it passed us by. Sometimes we'd speak; sometimes we wouldn't.
The wind was cool against my face. I felt it nearing again; the winter. I sidestepped a small puddle of water that had began to freeze over. If I stepped on it, the ice would crack. I'd hear it, and that meant that the weather was cold enough for the water to freeze. I didn't want that.
The phone buzzed in my pocket. I dug it out, pressing one of the buttons to answer it.
"Hi, Alice," I said, a smile curving my lips.
"Are you coming home yet?" her greeting was.
I gave a small laugh. "You know very well that I'm on my way. Or is there something wrong with your inner eye?"
"Well walk faster, please. We're about to watch a movie and we're waiting for you, slowpoke."
"Which movie?" I asked.
"Titanic. Rosalie got to choose this time."
"Titanic?" I asked. "No thanks. Go ahead and do it without me. I'm not watching that movie."
Alice's exasperated sigh sounded from the line. "Why not?" she demanded. "It's a classic."
"I don't care. I don't like the ending."
"What's wrong with the ending?"
"It's too sad!" I insisted. "I don't like movies with sad endings. It's not right that they make those. Movies should have a happy ending, no matter what."
Alice sighed again. "Fine," she grumbled. "What about Notebook? Or Schindler's List?"
"No," I argued.
A crackling sound reached my ears. At first I thought I wasn't getting reception, but then Alice's voice sounded again, brightly and clearly.
"Emmett, stop that!" she yelled, obviously horrified about something. I wondered what he had done this time. Maybe he had built a campfire in the middle of the living room or something else that could be expected from him.
"Go ahead and watch that movie. You might not have a functioning TV for very long," I suggested after a few moments of listening to Alice's partly horrified, partly infuriated whimpering. "I'll sit this one out."
"Fine," I heard her grumbling. She began to say something else, propably to reproach Emmett about his current activities, but her sentence was left unfinished. It was a common occurence, one I had gotten used to over the years. I knew better than to start asking immediately what was going on. Alice wouldn't hear me now - she was lost in the visions of future.
"Are you there?" I asked after a minute or two, wondering if the vision had already passed.
"Yes," Alice answered, sounding slightly distracted. "Carlisle needs you."
I raised my brow in surprise, stopping my walking. "But he's at the hospital."
"Ye-es," Alice stretched the word like I was slow-witted. "Go to him."
"What's wrong with him?" I asked, worried. "What's happened?"
"He's upset. Just go to him."
"But I don't know where exactly he is," I protested. "And what if someone there sees me? The last time they saw me back there I was dying from leukemia. Aren't they going to be a little surprised when someone who's supposed to be dead suddenly walks in?"
"Just keep an eye on your surroundings and no one you used to know will see you," Alice adviced. "The hospital isn't too far from where you're now. Do you remember which way to go?"
I bit my lip, beginning to read the endless amounts of street signs and spinning around on the curb. It had been nearly three years since I had been in the hospital, and I had been a human back then. And as I had learned, human memories truly didn't linger.
"I guess," I murmured to Alice, slightly unsure. "It can't be too hard to find. But Alice, how will I find Carlisle?"
The line was silent for a while, but I could easily imagine the small smile playing on Alice's lips. I didn't know why or how, but for some reason I was very sure that she was smiling. "You'll find him," she promised. "Just follow your instincts."
I sighed, perplexed. The line went dead, and I shoved the small cell phone back into my pocket. After that I began to walk to the direction where I thought the familiar hospital to be, at the same time wondering what was going on with Carlisle.
In the end it wasn't too difficult to locate the large building that had once been my temporary home. I had spent several months inside those pale walls, waiting for my end to come.
I hesitated at the large parking lot, watching the automatic doors of the hospital as they swished open and closed every now and then. The humans passing by gave me strange looks, but otherwise paid no attention to me. The late afternoon was quickly turning into an evening, and after a moment the first star appeared on the dark surface of the sky, only to be covered by a thick layer of clouds.
It was more difficult to go inside than I had thought. I didn't even know what I was afraid of. Allowing the uncertainty to overcome me momentarily, I stood still and watched the familiar buidling in the darkening evening. My eyes began to wander, studying the scenery as if to search for something.
Something behind the countless rows of parked cars suddenly caught my interest. I stared at the small, frostbitten lawn under the oaktrees. My feet were taking me there before I even noticed. Something compelled me to get closer to that particular area where the simple, wooden bench rested under the guard of the trees. No one was sitting there. Logically, there should have been nothing to arouse my interest and make me go there. The frozen grass bowed under my shoes as I neared the place I suddenly felt so drawn to.
It was a memory that lured me there, compelled me to near the wooden bench. The memory of the dark sky above my head, of the cold air in my tired lungs. It was the memory of the sad smile and golden eyes.
Nearing the bench, I touched the wooden back softly. I tried to grip the memory tighter, harder. But it escaped somewhere, drifting just beyond my reach. The blurry human memory refused to stay. I felt it slipping farther away.
My feet were taking me again, distancing me from the bench and the memory.
The automatic doors of the hospital swished open as I neared the entrance. I stopped for a short moment, nerving myself for whatever waited me inside. Reminding myself that Carlisle needed me for some reason or another, I stepped inside into the warm, filtered hospital air.
Smells - endless amounts of scents and aromas. I tried to decide which was worse - the sharp smell on disinfectant, or the fresh smell of exposed blood wafting from the direction of the ER. The burn in my throat made me almost gag, and I suppressed the spontaneous urge to turn back and run outside to breathe the fresh, clean air. Walking on the streets among unharmed humans was nothing compared to this.
How could Carlisle do this? Every single day?
It wasn't just the combination of unpleasant scents that had me so distraught. The sounds confused me as well. The hospital came alive around me in ways it had never done before. There was so much to hear that it was impossible to focus on one thing only. The ripple of quiet conversation, the cry of a newborn baby, the loud humming of the air conditioner, the anguished weep of a small child somewhere... Someone's cries of pain echoed from the walls, and elsewhere a heart rate monitor was beeping frantically. First beeping, then releasing a longer, somehow very definitve sound. I heard a small click, and then it was quiet. Too quiet. Someone began sobbing quietly. A soft voice said something, offering condolences.
I was tempted to block my ears, but I didn't. Glancing at the nurse-receptionist sitting behind the long counter, I made sure that my strange behaviour hadn't caught her interest. Luckily she was busy speaking on the phone and writing something down, at the same time trying to talk to a patient who stood on the other side of the counter.
I snuck my way out of the hospital lobby, finding a dimly lit corridor that was more peaceful. Looking around me, I tried to think of a way to find Carlisle. He was somewhere around here, but I had no way of knowing where. For some reason Alice trusted me to find him, but I couldn't understand how. Tracking him was out of the question - I simply couldn't find his scent among the other smells that crowded my senses.
After a few minutes of despairing I was nearly ready to walk to the receptionist and simply ask her where I could find Dr. Cullen. I plucked a pair of sunglasses from my pocket, shading my eyes with them and wondering if my plan was very wise.
"You'll find him," Alice had promised me earlier. "Just follow your instincts."
Biting my lip, I made my way back to the lobby, once more looking around me and trying to think. The nurse behind the counter was still on the phone, at the same time rummaging through the drawers and digging out a pile of patient files.
I sighed, turning my gaze away.
Almost by accident, something suddenly caught my eye. Something that made me think that maybe Alice's blind trust in me wasn't horribly misplaced. I took off the sunglasses, putting them back in my pocket. I wouldn't need them.
Because suddenly I knew where he was.
I walked across the large lobby towards a door that had a familiar symbol hanging above it. And I knew that I didn't need to find Carlisle's scent in order to find him. I didn't need to hear his calm steps against the floor to discover his location.
Because footsteps couldn't be followed by vision or hearing only. I thought that every person should have that someone who was easy to follow without any external traces. That you knew this special someone to be in a certain place without having to find him first. There was no need for unnecessary senses such as hearing or seeing. You just simply knew where he was, and you only had to follow him without having to search.
I followed those invisible, inaudible footsteps now. Finally I reached the simple, wooden door that had a small cross hanging above it.
The door opened without a creak. I stepped inside quietly, letting my gaze sweep the small, dimly lit chapel. I had forgotten that most hospitals had those. I had never set my foot into one.
The chapel was empty except for the man sitting on a bench a few rows away from me. His figure was slightly hunched, but as he heard someone enter, he straightened his form but didn't turn to look who had come in. It took a few more seconds until the lack of my heartbeat caught his attention, and he lifted his bowed head, turning to look at me.
I approached him slowly, slightly uncertain. Alice hadn't told me exactly what had happened, but if I knew Carlisle at all, I had a pretty good insight about the state of mind he was in.
"Hey," I greeted quietly as I reached the row he was sitting at.
Carlisle nodded. He didn't say anything, but a small, almost forced smile passed on his face. He leaned against the back of the bench, turning his head to stare stoically at the blank wall. He wasn't wearing his white lab coat as I had expected. Instead he was wringing it idly in his hands, now a hollow expression on his face. The blue tie around his neck was untied, three upper buttons of his shirt undone.
I walked closer to him, sliding to sit beside him on the wooden bench. Instead of harassing him with questions, I leaned against the back of the seat as well, staring at the large painting hanging on the end wall of the room.
Carlisle breathed in quietly beside me. "What are you doing here?" he asked. There was curiosity in his tone, but mostly he sounded just tired. I realized I had rarely heard him sound so worn.
I tore my gaze away from the painting. Carlisle wasn't looking at me, simply continuing to stare off into space.
"Alice," I explained with a soft voice. "She told me that something had you upset." I waited for him to say something, but he stayed silent. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Carlisle lowered his gaze. He opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. There was tightness in his jaw as he shook his head almost indifferently.
After that, I wasn't sure how to approach him anymore. I had seen him in a state similar to this before, but during those times he had been far more receptive. For the thousandth time I caught a glimpse of what he had gone through every time I had refused to talk about something that made me sad.
It caused me to remember that Carlisle had never forced me to talk. But he had always stayed, been present and ready to listen if I had wanted to share something. I figured it was something I could do now. At least I couldn't go very wrong if I tried.
For several minutes, it was silent. Only the usual hustle and commotion of the hospital hovered around us, but that noise was now easier to tune out than earlier. Especially in here; there was a peaceful feel to this room. It was like a calm haven in the middle of chaos and death and everything else this hospital held inside of it. The restless world outside seemed to cease existing.
Silence continued. I noted that Carlisle wasn't even breathing. Of course he didn't have to, but I was kind of used to the comforting sound of his steady breaths. But now, his shoulders didn't rise and fall together in the same rhythm with his inhales and exhales. It was very unlike him.
Carlisle's hand rose to his face to pinch the bridge of his nose. A deep sigh left his chest; he was breathing again. Then he straightened himself, taking a quick glance at me as though he was only now fully comprehending that I was there.
I ventured to touch his hand lightly, watching his reaction. He immediately laced his fingers with mine, closing his eyes almost languidly. His chest rose and fell as he drew in another deep breath, and then he brought my hand to rest on his lap, holding it tightly while beginning to speak softly. His other hand still clutched the white fabric of his coat. I wondered why he had decided to take it off; I wondered what had happened to make him discard the piece of clothing that revealed his profession - his calling - to the people around him.
"On days like these," Carlisle whispered, his eyes still closed, "I wish I could be able to sleep when I get home."
I watched his closed eyelids, the dark circles under his lashes. Right now he didn't look like an immortal. He didn't look like a creation of nature who was supposed to be indestructible and impossible to damage. He looked like exactly what he was; a doctor, a man who kept pushing himself to a limit. A man who was tired, a man who was unable to accept that sometimes the passage of life wasn't depending on his actions. That there were times when he couldn't help those who he wanted. That there were people in this world who were simply beyond his reach.
He couldn't accept it. He couldn't, because for him acceptance was the same thing as giving in. And Carlisle never gave in - he wasn't the type. If he was, he wouldn't be him.
That's why he had taken off the white coat. He was feeling unworthy to wear it.
I thought about his earlier wish to be able to sleep, and I was still searching for words to form an answer when Carlisle spoke again, opening his eyes.
"How did you know where to find me?" he asked with a quiet voice, finally turning to look at me. His eyes held more peace, but no less grief and weariness.
I looked around me in the dim chapel, now able to shake my head at the earlier uncertainty when I had hesitated where to look for him. It was so obvious that Carlisle would come here to regain his peace, trying to come to terms with whatever that might have happened during the past hours.
"I took a guess," I answered, giving him a small smile. "Where else would you rather be?"
Carlisle's lips twitched into something like a smile, but he couldn't quite manage it. "With you," he said. And even though the simple task of smiling was too impossible for him right now, I knew that he meant what he said. He was just not able to smile as he said it - his lips were too sad for that. He was too sad.
"You are with me," I stated, giving his hand a gentle squeeze.
Carlisle nodded. He raised my hand to his lips, pressing a soft kiss on my knuckles. His eyes were momentarily distracted, but then he shook his head as if to rid himself of his thoughts. He turned to look at me again, for the first time tonight actually looking at me and not through me. There was something forced in his gaze - concentration. As though he was trying to cling to this moment to prevent himself from drowning into something else.
"Did you have a nice day?" he asked, lifting his hand to pluck a fallen leaf from my hair. I figured that he knew I had been in the city for the past hours - Carlisle was very familiar with my small unusual habit to spend my time there while he was working. And my clothes smelled like wind, coffee and humans. That gave me away if nothing else did.
I nodded, casually beginning to tell him about everything I had done and everything I hadn't done during the day. On a whim I told him about the curious sandy-haired girl who had passed me by in the street. I expected Carlisle to smile quietly at my little story, maybe even to say something. But the mention of the small child only made him look grim again.
I fell silent as I noticed his reaction. I watched his left hand as it clutched the white coat again.
"What happened?" I asked softly. "You can tell me. You know that, right?"
A small, rueful sound left Carlisle's lips. It resembled the beginnings of laughter, but it wasn't. Laughter was supposed to be about joy. Not about bitterness and sorrow. It was written all over his face; there was no joy in him. Only sadness and remorse for something he didn't want me to know about. Or maybe he wanted. He just didn't know how to speak the words without acknowledging everything he had told me.
Carlisle ran a hand through his hair. He seemed to be miles away as he clasped my fingers again, his golden eyes staring at the wall across the room. What he saw on that wall, I didn't know.
"It's... It's simply been a long day, I suppose," he said quietly. I knew he didn't mean that the hours had been long for him. Time couldn't always be measured by clock.
"What made the day so long?" I asked.
He ran a hand over his face, pinching the bridge of his nose again. A quiet breath, almost like a sigh, left his lips. His golden, sad eyes stared at the wall ahead of us again.
"There was a... young patient brought into the ER earlier this afternoon. A small boy." He paused, wetting his lips. His jaw was tight. "He couldn't have been more than three."
I waited in silence, childishly hoping that the despite the grim beginning, Carlisle's story would have a happy ending. But I knew it was a futile wish - I saw it from his eyes. I had already seen it when I had set my foot into this nearly empty room. I had seen it from his hunched back, from his bowed head, from the way his hands had clutched the white coat... I had seen all that, and I had heard the story before any words had been spoken.
There was nothing I could say, nothing to make it better. But my lips were moving; some obstinate part of my mind was running them. I couldn't offer him anything but meaningless words. They were all I had to give.
"I'm sorry," I whispered quietly.
Carlisle didn't respond at first, only kept gazing at the empty wall.
"I keep thinking if there was something I could have done differently," he murmured after a moment. I finally learned why the empty wall fascinated him so much; what he saw in front of his eyes incessantly.
Words played on my tongue again, but I couldn't say them. I knew that those words were something he didn't need or want to hear. If I said that he had done everything in his power to help that little boy, he wouldn't benefit anything from it. Hearing something like that wouldn't bring him any relief.
"Have you come up with anything conclusive?" I asked instead.
Carlisle tore his gaze from the blank wall, something like surprise in his eyes. I realized that he hadn't expected me to ask something like that. For a short moment, I was able to pull him back from the nightmare that was this afternoon. For a short moment, he didn't see the chaos of the ER in front of him. He saw me, my question. And he considered it.
Eventually he shook his head, turning his gaze away from me again. "No," he answered. "I haven't."
"What do you think it means?"
A small, sad smile tugged at Carlisle's lips. "That I did everything I was able to do under those circumstances," he answered.
I gazed into his eyes, quirking my brow. Carlisle smiled softly again, smiled that same sad smile.
"I know what you're trying to say, Bella," he whispered. He touched my chin with his thumb gently as if to thank me. "But it doesn't make it easier for me to understand. It doesn't make it easier to accept." He fell silent for a while, his speech quieting so that only a whisper was left of his voice. "Children shouldn't die. It's not natural for a young life to come to an end when it hasn't even properly begun."
A bunch of bad clichés danced on my tongue. About how everything happened for a reason, how both good and bad occurences had a meaning behind them... But again, I knew those things weren't something I should blurt out. Finding words had always been difficult for me, mostly because I knew that in certain situations they simply didn't help. You couldn't erase something that had happened by a simple sentence. If you could, the world would be a lot more simple place to live.
My feet were working on their own accord as I stood up and began to walk leisurely towards something that had caught my eye. After a couple of steps, I stopped beside a small table in front of the bench rows. There were several simple candles resting on the table top, two of them burning with a small flame.
My hand reached out for the box of matches on the dark surface of the table. After lighting up one of the candles, I set it next to the two that were already casting their soft light into the dim room. I didn't know for sure if it even was a custom to do that after someone had died, but somehow the small gesture felt very appropriate.
Carlisle watched me as I walked back to the bench.
Sitting down beside him, I felt him lowering his arm around my shoulders. I turned to gaze at him, noticing him looking at the table like I had done something a lot more enormous than simply lighted up a candle. It seemed such a small thing to me - I felt like I should be able to do much more than that. But Carlisle had a very appreciative look in his eyes as he finally turned to gaze at me. A look that made me feel like I had done something important. Something that made all the difference to him right now.
"How can you always know what to do?" he asked, now nearly an amused tone in his voice.
"I don't," I said to him, shrugging. "I'm just a slave to my impulses. You should know."
Finally Carlisle smiled - really and truly smiled. It wasn't a sad smile like several times before during the evening. But there was a curious mix of sorrow and joy in his eyes. The sorrow was for the boy he hadn't managed to save today. And the joy...
The joy might have been for me - I couldn't be sure. I certainly hoped that it was me who made the light in his eyes dance like that.
Carlisle leaned his forehead against my temple. "I'm glad you decided to come here," he murmured.
"I didn't decide anything," I disagreed softly. "Deciding something demands that you have to consider the matter first. And I didn't consider. I didn't have to."
Carlisle pulled away so he could see my face. "Impulsive again, are we?" he asked, quirking his brow with a small smile.
I shrugged. "What can I say? I'm uncontrollable."
"We should do something about that."
I laughed quietly, leaning my head against his shoulder. "Yeah. We should."
It was silent for a moment or two. The commotion of the hospital still lingered around us. It was just the two of us, Carlisle and me, and we were alone. But in moments like this when it was silent enough, it was easier to hear everything else that wasn't so silent. Easier to remember that it wasn't just the two of us; that we weren't alone in here. It only seemed that way. Inside these four walls, it was easy to forget the restless world that waited for us outside.
I didn't want to leave yet, to face that world. I wanted one more moment to be here, alone with him. Alone together.
"Hmm?" Lifting my head from his shoulder, I turned to look at Carlisle again.
He gazed at me with his golden eyes; sunshine still danced in them. "Thank you," he said. "For coming. I'm sure it wasn't easy for you to return here."
I smiled wryly, listening to the sounds of the hospital echoing from the endless white hallways. They were the same sounds I had been hearing from day to day when I had still been human and spent many endless weeks inside this building. Now the noises around me were clearer, sharper, than back then. It was the other way around when it came to memories and remembering. It was a little ironic that while my other senses had enchanced and sharpened after becoming a vampire, the memories before this endless life tended to blur and slip away. Not all of them, but some.
"It wasn't that hard to come back," I answered after a while, thinking about the earlier hesitation I had gone through outside. Thinking about the wooden bench resting under the shade of the trees. "Well, maybe a little," I admitted. Nudging Carlisle's elbow playfully, I turned to give him a small grin. "But not all memories of this place are bad. The ones I manage to recall are pretty nice."
Carlisle quirked his brow at me, evidently curious. "What can you remember?"
I bit my lip, considering his question and studying the ceiling of the chapel with my gaze. It wasn't that hard to realize that most of the meager human memories my mind had managed to preserve were from the time after Carlisle had found me. I didn't remember much before that. There were no clear recollections, but occasional memories or remrants of my feelings, maybe. Most of them about the foggy depression I had tended to slip into. Luckily those things were blurry, fading away more quickly than the sunlight in the evening.
"I remember... when I passed out and hit my head," I began to tell him, the sudden nostalgia bringing a smile to my lips. "And you were mad."
"I was not," Carlisle disagreed, looking appalled. "I was concerned."
I gave a small laugh, slipping my hand into the crook of his arm. Carlisle shook his head, his golden eyes glinting with amusement. He stared at the floor for a second or two, without a doubt reliving that particular occurence we were talking about. I knew the moment was rather bright and vivid in his photographic vampire memory.
"What else do you remember from that time?" he asked after a while. There it was again, in his eyes; burning curiosity. It felt strange to have someone genuinely interested in everything I harbored in my mind and constantly trying to fish out more information. And it was even more strange to know that he'd never get tired of it. Tomorrow he'd ask something again, wanting to learn something new he hadn't heard before.
I couldn't help but nudge him teasingly, telling him he was insatiable.
Carlisle shrugged, smiling. "I suppose I am. I admit it."
I snorted softly, starting to contemplate his earlier request and thinking about my earlier detour near the hospital parking lot. An image of the wooden bench under an oak rose to my eyes. "I remember when you allowed me to go out even though I wasn't in a very good shape," I began, trying to remember. "You walked me outside and we sat on the bench under that tree."
Carlisle nodded, wordlessly encouraging me to continue.
"There was a bird in the sky..." I frowned, closing my eyes and inwardly upbraiding myself for not remembering more clearly. "A crow?"
"A hawk," Carlisle corrected, smiling. He didn't seem to mind even though I didn't remember all the details.
"You asked me to make a wish because that was the custom somewhere in the world after one sees a hawk."
Carlisle nodded again. "And you told me to make the wish on your behalf."
"I did?" Smiling, I yanked his arm gently. "What did you wish? Tell me."
"I cannot. It brings bad luck."
I huffed in frustration. "I think we've had our share of bad luck for one lifetime - for eternity, even."
Carlisle laughed softly. "You could be right. Maybe it's time for some good luck, then," he agreed.
"Exactly. So tell me - what did you wish?"
Carlisle tilted his head in mock contemplation. He surely knew how to keep me on my toes.
"At least tell me if it has come true by now," I begged, the curiosity driving me crazy. "That can't bring bad luck, can it?"
Carlisle smiled softly. "Alright," he consented, turning to look at me and weighing me with his gaze for a minute or two. "I'd like to think that the wish has come true," he answered leisurely, still evaluating. "I certainly hope it has. But I suppose you are the only one who can give me the confirmation about it."
I quirked my brow.
Carlisle lowered his gaze, smiling at the floor for a while. Then he lifted his head, avoiding my eyes for a moment more. Finally he looked at me, into my eyes, and he held my gaze for a long time before beginning to speak.
"I wished for happiness that lasts endlessly." Carlisle brought his hand to cup my cheek, still holding my gaze. "That's what I wished for you, Bella."
I was torn between smiling and crying as I repeated his words in my head. I had to clear my throat before starting to speak - I expected my voice to be hoarse from emotion.
"That was... a very good wish," I managed to say. My fingers reached out for the three undone buttons of his shirt. I secured one of them, idly beginning to play with the blue tie that hung from his neck, still untied. Taking a quick peek at Carlisle's face, I noticed that he was watching me intently. There was a gentle smile playing on his lips; my reaction amused him. He was surprised to see that his words had moved me so much. That a jesting wish, silently spoken to the skies years ago in the darkness of night, could have such an effect on me. An image rose to my eyes again; of the pale, fatally ill girl and the kind man sitting beside her on the wooden bench under an oak tree. I couldn't believe how far we had come from that. I couldn't believe how much we had changed. And I couldn't believe how little we had changed. We were so different, but still very same.
I blinked once, and the image was gone. But the smile that had began to curve my lips didn't disappear. I glanced at Carlisle, noticing that he was still watching me.
I cleared my throat again, testing if my voice was stable. "And... just so you know," I said, "it has come true. The wish. But only because of you."
Carlisle smiled, shaking his head. He began to say something, probably to belittle himself. I didn't let him.
"Really," I insisted. "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you - I wouldn't be me. And speaking of happiness..." I shook my head, searching for words to make my thoughts clear to him. "Some say that happiness is just a state of mind. That love is just a state of mind." Shaking my head again, I glanced down to see the ring adorning my finger.
"Is it not, then?" I heard Carlisle asking with teasing tone.
I glared at him, poking him lightly with my elbow. "No," I answered. "It's not, and it never should be. Because the minute you start defining and setting limits to something like that, it loses its meaning. There are some things in this world that no one should even try to undervalue. It's wrong."
Carlisle listened to my outburst silently, lifting his hand to tuck a lock of hair behind my ear. "I agree," he murmured. "Happiness, love - to say that they are only fleeting states of emotions... it all makes it sound almost as though it's all worthless. As though feeling those things is somehow pointless because they'll always pass eventually." Carlisle shrugged, lacing his fingers and leaning his elbows to his knees. "I suppose it can be that way for some people; sometimes feelings and affection fade almost without noticing." He glanced at me, his brow quirking. "But it doesn't mean that it happens to everyone."
"How is it for you?" I asked, smiling. "Is love just a fleeting state of mind? Something that lingers for a while, and then disappears?"
Carlisle shook his head earnestly. "No," he answered. "Love is endless." Taking my left hand in his, he touched the ring he had given me two years ago. "My love for you is endless," he added.
The symbol of infinity carved on the inner surface of the ring tingled against my skin. Was it only my imagination? Or did I really feel it?
I was suddenly sure that I did.
Carlisle straightened his form, reaching out with his hand to cup my cheek. I shifted closer to him, pressing my lips to his. The kiss was endless like we were, desperate like it was our last one. Soft and fierce, gentle and tumultuous all at once. I felt the yearning already before our lips parted. The feeling was bittersweet. Longing for something was always both agonizing and blissful. I wondered why.
"Infinite," I whispered against his lips.
I rather felt than saw the smile curving Carlisle's mouth. Leaning his forehead against mine, he stroked my jawline with his fingers. It was silent again; the commotion outside of this peaceful room was easier to hear. It was the restless world out there still waiting for us, reminding us of its presence.
Carlisle breathed in deeply, dropping one last kiss on my lips; the touch was very tender.
"Are you ready to leave?" he whispered.
Carlisle rose from the bench, offering his hand with a soft smile. I took it, allowing him to help me up. A heap of fabric on the floor close to Carlisle's feet caught my attention, and I reached down to pick up the white lab coat that must have dropped at some point.
Offering the coat to him, I watched Carlisle's reaction, wanting to see if he was ready to accept it back. He took the coat hesitantly. A flicker or sadness passed in his eyes as he held the white garment in his hands, still unsure. Still mourning for the fate of that little boy he hadn't managed to save.
I pried the coat from his fingers, holding it open for him.
"Put the coat on, Dr. Cullen," I told him, firmly but gently.
One corner of his lips quirking, Carlisle slipped his arms through the sleeves, shrugging the coat on. We both knew he wouldn't need it tonight - we were about to go home, after all. But there was something symbolic about the piece of clothing. Carlisle's reluctance to wear it told me he was still saddened by what had happened today. That he still went through feelings of guilt. I knew guilt would pass eventually, but it would be different when it came to sadness. That's what kind of a man Carlisle was - he cared about people, and he griveved for them when the worst sometimes happened.
My fingers straightened the collar of his shirt and laced the tie around his neck. I smiled as I smoothed out the nonexistent wrinkles of his coat, pleased that he had taken it back. I knew that eventually it wasn't the coat that made him a doctor. It was the man underneath that counted. It was the golden, kind heart he possessed that made him the best doctor imaginable.
I looked up to meet Carlisle's glance. He was watching me intently, the same look in his eyes like before, right after I had lighted up the candle; the look of appreciation. Respect. Gratitude.
If possible, I was suddenly even more certain about it than a moment ago; this wasn't just a state of mind, a feeling that passed with time. There was nothing momentary about it, about this feeling; only constancy. I knew sometimes emotions might come and go, the same way people came into your life and eventually left. They always had a certain impact on you, and they changed you. They turned your world upside down and they changed your heart in ways that couldn't be reversed. But they couldn't always stay. Sometimes they had to leave. Even though their presence was only momentary, the effects they had on you were permanent.
I lifted my hand, brushing the tip of my finger across Carlisle's lower lip. Placing my hand over his chest, I wondered how many people had changed his heart; how many persons he had encountered to become who he was now. I didn't know. But I knew how many feelings, both short-lived and deep-rooted, I had gone through to feel what I felt now; how many times I had stood by and watched people disappearing from my life to eventually meet the one who I could trust to stay for always.
And that's how I knew; all those brief moments, fleeting emotions and people who had only dropped by but had not been able to stay... they hadn't been there for nothing. Learning to let go was as important as learning to love. And if there was always something that didn't last, there was also something that was constant. Something that abided, no matter what.
Carlisle lowered his hand on mine; I was still holding it upon his heart. An image rose to my eyes again, of the wooden bench under an oak. Of the soundless wish murmured to the heavens. Of the two lost souls sitting beside one another, both of them silently hoping for the same thing and not knowing they were already on their way there. Not knowing that the quiet wish had been heard somewhere. And definitely not knowing with how many ways it would one day come true.
The cloudy image of the two forms sitting under an oak began to recede from my consciousness, slowly trying to escape to the place where all the memories eventually went. But this human memory I would keep with me; I wouldn't let it vanish for eternity.
Someone watched me in the darkness. Only the soft candlelight illuminated Carlisle's face as he gazed down at me. My hand was still pressed against his chest, above the spot where his heart was; his silent heart that wasn't so silent. I could feel it beating against my palm. I could feel mine beating in my own chest, in the same rhythm with his. Maybe it was only my imagination, an illusionary feeling; a trick played by my own mind.
But I suppose that's what love was like. Unreal became real. Dreams became reality. Motionless - lifeless - became living.
"Are you ready to go home?" Carlisle asked quietly.
Nodding, I let my hand fall from his chest. I didn't need to feel his heart under my palm to know it was there. Lacing my fingers with his, I answered.
"Yes," I whispered.
Carlisle's fingers tightened around mine. Our steps echoed in the quiet chapel as we made our way to the door, stepping through it to face the restless world that waited for us outside. I didn't feel the restlessness. I only felt the calm caused by Carlisle's hand in mine. I only felt the happiness - love - that wasn't just a state of mind; it was so much more than that. It was the rain that drenched us, not to drown us but to keep us afloat. It was the wind that brushed against our backs, not to make us falter but to hold us up. It was the sun that disappeared from the sky, not to take away the light but to give a chance for the moon and the stars to shine.
Love wasn't just a state of mind. It was a state of being. It was a state of existence.
It was a state of heart.
AN: I feel like I'm giving an Oscar speech right now.
That's how important this feels like. I have to admit that I'm pinching myself as I write this - I just can't believe that it's finally done. That the story is over. I'm a little sad, a little happy, a little proud. But mostly I'm just very grateful. That's why I want to say thank you all who bothered to read this story. It was rather accidental that it even got written - I actually began to write it as a joke to myself. I never thought that I could seriously be able to write an entire story in a language I wasn't even speaking.
I'm pretty satisfied with the way the story ends. Or where the story ends. Full-circle endings have some sort of a charm in them, and I felt that it was very appropriate for the story to end in the same place where it had begun; in the hospital where Carlisle and Bella met after years of separation. I had them go down the memory lane as Bella recalls those few human memories she has of the hospital. And the little sandy-haired girl she meets in the street was also something I wanted to include. I'm not sure how many of you remember the mystic, blue-eyed girl who appered to Bella in her dreams when she was still human. I can't blame you for forgetting - she only appeared in the earliest chapters, and wasn't mentioned since. I still don't know who she is - I guess some questions should be left unanswered.
Writing this story has been an extremely fulfilling experience. There were several moments when all I wanted to do was to pull my hair out from their roots and throw the computer out of the window. But then there were also those moments that mattered more and kept me going. I've never been much of a writer - I passed my writing lessons only by smiling at the teacher and pretending that I cared. I've learned a lot while writing this story, mostly about this language. I never learned this much English during my time in school (it might have been because the English teacher was kind of scary.) I hope this won't be my last story - I'm beginning to feel that I'm hooked on writing. Who knows, maybe I'll begin to write another B/C story after taking a break. I do have a plotline or two in mind, actually ;)... I guess we'll have to see. I'm planning to go through the earlier chapters every now and then to correct all the typos and mistakes in the grammar. It's actually quite painful to read the older chapters - they are filled with silly errors and my writing is very stiff. I actually cringed when I read one of the chapters yesterday :D Well, life is all about learning.
All in all, I can't describe how much pleasure writing has given me, in addition to the knowledge that there is someone out there, waiting for another update. When I began to write this story, I kept telling myself that I'm doing this for myself and not for the readers. What a lie. While it's true that you should write for yourself and not even try to please the others, I still have to tell you that at times your wonderful reviews were the only things that kept me writing and made me banish the thoughts about giving up. So thanks for that. And I just wanted to say as a writer that even though we create stories and write them down to make ourselves happy, it's you - the readers - who make it all worth it.