My son is getting married tomorrow. What an amazing, miraculous thing. Edward has found his soul mate and they will be joined from now for the rest of eternity. If I could think of a way to express how this made me feel it would be something like a supernova, I believe. A supernova of happiness. Over the last eighty odd years, my darling Carlisle has made this strange existence of ours a gift rather than the curse Edward has always felt it to be. His compassion and love caused him to acquiesce to Elizabeth Masen’s demand to save her son and in the process began what has become this beautiful family we have. Now Bella, my dear, sweet Bella will make it complete.
“Esme, darling,” Carlisle’s soft voice broke into my reverie. “What is that you are looking at?”
“Hello, my love. Where is everyone?” I had been standing in my office holding an old book, one I had not held or even opened for years, except for when we packed it to move from place to place over the years.
“You didn’t answer my question,” he said looking at the book and then back up at me with the same smile that had captivated me when I was sixteen years old.
“You know perfectly well what this is,” I answered him with a smile. God, how I love that man. My miracle.
His warm, golden eyes twinkled. “I do. But you’ve never actually let me read it, have you?” he asked with a gentle challenge. “To answer your question though, Jasper and Emmett have decided to drag Edward away from Bella tonight for a ‘bachelor party’. They’re going to hunt some more challenging game, but they have sworn to be back in plenty of time to be ready tomorrow and they know not to cross Alice.”
He put his arms around me and kissed my temple softly. “Alice and Rosalie are hunting too, but closer to home.” I felt so cherished in his arms. I have wanted this for Edward for so long.
I turned myself around in the circle of his embrace and lost myself in his gaze. Bella is right, I thought to myself. The Cullen men do dazzle. I closed my eyes for a moment to regain my senses, then smiled. “Would you like to sit with me and read this now? Somehow it seems appropriate tonight.”
He kissed my cheek, and if I had still been human, I know I would have been in a quivering heap on the floor. “Are you sure? Those are your private thoughts and I would not want to intrude.”
I unwound myself from his embrace, but kept one hand in mine as I led him over to the comfortable couch in my office.
“Of course I’m sure, my darling. I wouldn’t have asked you otherwise. Edward was the one who encouraged me to start keeping journals shortly after you changed me. You both told me that one way to keep my human memories from getting lost completely was to think of them often so that they would get re-etched into this new mind. Edward thought it might help me to write them down in a journal.” I looked back into my beloved husband’s face again. “I know you have kept journals and so has Edward.” Then with a twinkle of humor I added, “He thought it would help me with my fine motor control if I could practice keeping the pencil from going through the paper. You can see from these first pages, it was a bit of a challenge.”
Carlisle’s smile widened and his eyes crinkled slightly with humor. “I know that challenge very well. Imagine writing with quill pens!”
“Edward told me that pencils would be easier at first – especially if they were not freshly sharpened. He used to sharpen the pencils for me, then scribble the point away so that it wouldn’t tear through the paper, but it took a while for me to master just how little of my newborn strength it would take to make the pencil leave its marks on the page without going through.”
He laughed softly. “Alright then, my love. Let’s see what thoughts were racing around your head back then.”
I’m not dead. What a strange thing to write. I should be dead. I wanted to die. When my precious little son, John, was taken from me I had nothing left to live for. All I could think of was that I needed to be with my angel. When I wandered away from my room in the boarding house, I was only half aware of where I was and where I was going. It was cold, but I didn’t really feel it. I was numb. The hole in my heart where my precious baby should have been was empty. I don’t know how long I walked, but eventually I found myself at the top of a cliff overlooking the lake. Was I actually conscious of that? I don’t know. I just prayed that when I took that last step, angels from heaven would lift me up and reunite me with my sweet little boy.
That didn’t happen, though. I really don’t know if these are my memories now or if I am trying to fill in what happened, but Edward and Carlisle seem to think that the more I try to remember, the more I’ll be able to hold onto. Carlisle. My angel of mercy.
“Angel of mercy? Is that what you thought I was?” Carlisle’s voice held a note of bemusement.
“Well, don’t start polishing your halo yet, Doctor Cullen. There are plenty of things in here that will make us both cringe, but in that particular moment, yes, you were my angel of mercy.”
I remember pain. It must have been the pain of my broken body lying on the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. But it was also the pain of not being with my precious John. Voices spoke, but I comprehended nothing. Then another voice whispered my name. Esme Platt. Do I actually remember feeling my heart lurch? Or am I thinking that it must have because that is what it did the first time I heard that voice and saw the face of the man to whom it belonged? I don’t know if time stood still or if I lost consciousness. It could have been a bit of both. I heard the voice begging me to hold on, begging me to keep breathing, begging me not to die.
I’m not ready to record my memories of my change. The searing pain is too much for me right now.
Carlisle and Edward both tell me to focus on the human memories I want to keep. It is so strange to call him by his first name. I do want to hold on to every memory I have of our first meeting ten years ago. I was a foolish girl of sixteen and I fell out of a tree. My father was not pleased. Strange. I can remember his gruff voice, but not is face. That is just a vague blur. In contrast though, my memory of Dr. Cullen is almost crystal clear.
Dr. Cullen… no… Carlisle. No. Dr. Cullen. Yes. That’s how I need to remember him in my human memories. I was only sixteen after all. The wagon ride from our farm was excruciating. I don’t remember that pain now, but I do remember feeling it. I wonder why. I could feel every bump and lurch of the wagon as I tried to hold myself as still as possible. Every whimper of pain seemed to irritate my father. I was taking him away from the work that needed to be done on the farm and a storm was coming during the night.
A nurse and an orderly came out of the hospital to look at me. The orderly went back to get a gurney and the nurse turned and said “Here’s Dr. Cullen now. You’ll be fixed up in no time.” She took several steps away from him as he came over to the wagon bed. When I looked up into his face, my heart seemed to stop and I could not breathe. The most beautiful creature in God’s creation looked into my eyes.
A muffled snort brought me back into the present.
I swear, if vampires could blush, the most beautiful creature in God’s creation – who just happened to be sitting next to me reading – would have been radiating bright crimson.
“It’s my journal and my impressions, Doctor Gorgeous. Deal with it.” I told him looking up with a little touch of the devil in my eye.
“How could I be … what you said? I know that when I looked into your honey brown eyes, I was completely mesmerized. You took my breath away.”
“Vampires don’t need to breathe, my love,” I teased.
He nuzzled a kiss into my neck. “Hmmm. Good thing, or it might have been the doctor who passed out that night…”
He listened to my father explain what had happened, then introduced himself and very courteously asked if he could examine my leg. His voice was like music. I dropped my eyes feeling the heat rush to my face and wished that I could melt through the bottom of the wagon or fling my arms around him and never let go -- both at the same time. Melting didn’t appear to be an option, but the alternative presented itself. He asked me to put my arms around his neck so he could lift me from the wagon and carry me into the hospital. Could he hear how fast my heart was beating? Could he feel the heat of my blush?
“Oh, he did indeed hear and feel your heart beating…”
His hands were quite cold, which surprised me because it was high summer. But where he touched me, I felt tingling heat. He explained everything he was doing in a low, melodious voice. He gave me morphine to deaden the pain of having to reseat the bones so they would heal correctly. While the morphine took effect, he went and spoke to my father, explaining that I would need to stay in the hospital for at least two days. I was starting to get muzzy-headed from the morphine, but I could hear that my father was not pleased. I tried to fight the morphine, but at some point I must have lost consciousness.
The next thing I remember was waking up in a dark, strange room. I was disoriented and afraid. When I tried to move, I felt a heavy weight on my leg. Of course. The cast. Before I could do more than take a breath to call out to someone, Dr. Cullen rose from the chair he had been sitting in in the corner of my room. The movement startled me for a moment, but as soon as I saw him I felt safe. He greeted me quietly and asked how I felt. Had he been sitting there all night? I saw a pile of charts and journals on the floor next to the chair and looked back up to his face. He dropped his gaze for a moment and told me that he had just finished his rounds and was on his way to his office to deal with his paperwork, but had stopped in to check on me. Somehow that didn’t seem quite right, but it didn’t matter. He was there. He was talking with me. I don’t remember very clearly what we talked about; something about books I’d read – although why that would interest him I had no idea, and what my plans for the future were. I told him about my idea of going out west to teach. My father definitely did not approve of that, but I still hoped to persuade him. Then he told me something that stayed with me, deep in my heart. “If there is something you want, something your soul needs to achieve to be happy, then never give up on it, Miss Platt. Never give up.”
A nurse came in then looking for him and telling him that another patient needed his attention. He told her he would be there momentarily and she left. When the door closed, he gently took my hand, lifted it to his lips and pressed a soft kiss just above the ridge of my knuckles. He seemed reluctant to release my hand, but then gently placed it back down at my side. He picked up the stack of charts and journals and strode to the door. Turning once more, he pierced me with his intense golden eyes as if he were memorizing my face. “Farewell, Miss Platt.” And he was gone.
“I was memorizing your face, my darling.”
His arm held me close to his side on the couch. I shifted slightly to look at his face.
“I never expected to see you again, but in that one night I wanted to store every memory of you that I could to sustain me.” He pressed soft kisses along the side of my face and gentle, but deeper kisses to my more than willing lips.
“Oh, Carlisle.” I buried my face in his chest and clung to him. “I fell in love with you that night, my love.”
“And I fell in love with you. The hardest thing I had ever done up to that point was to walk out of that hospital room thinking that I would never see you again.” He lifted my face from his chest and kissed my forehead, each eye, each cheek, and feathered the softest kiss on my lips. The longing in his eyes melted me against him once more.
“But darling,” I whispered. “Don’t you remember what you told me before you left? If there is something you want, something your soul needs to achieve to be happy, then never give up on it. Never give up.”
I pushed myself up enough to look into his beautiful golden eyes. “From that day on, through every terrible thing that ever happened to me, the only thing I have ever wanted was to be with you. The memory of that one night, the doctor with the face and the soul of an angel sustained me too.” I lifted my hand to caress his cheek. “My love, you have lived through every moment of this existence with me. You have shown me the patience of a saint through all my newborn tantrums and mistakes. You have listened to every rant and complaint.”
I took the journal out of his hands and began leafing forward. The entries were now being written in ink, which made me smile. “There’s a lot of nonsense in here and some day when you’ve run out of medical journals and philosophy books to read, you can read it if you’re bored. “
He smiled. “Oh, I think I would be fascinated to read that ‘nonsense’. I often got the impression that Edward severely edited what he told me about your thoughts during your newborn year and after.”
I found the page I was looking for and placed my hand on it for a moment.
“Yes, he did. Sometimes it was at my request, but mostly because he is a very sensitive, caring person who loves you more than he can sometimes express. As often as he has lashed out bitterly, it was never because he doesn’t love you.”
“I know. I can’t tell you how grateful I was to have had the chance to get to know Edward and his family before the Spanish Flu took his parents. It gave me the tiniest window into what it was like to be a real family. I had debated with myself for years about creating a companion who would know me for my real self, especially after I had met you. That is when the loneliness began to be nearly unbearable. Edward was bright, he loved his family, he cared about the other people around him. He was everything a father would want a son to be. I was more than a little envious of the Masens.” He closed his eyes for a moment and it seemed that he almost regretted his admission.
“When Edward’s father died, it was a blow to me, too. I had watched hundreds, thousands die over the years, but he had started to become a friend and I was starting to mentor Edward on a track toward medical school. I was letting myself begin to feel like they could be the family I was missing in my life.” He sighed. “Oh, I knew it was dangerous and I certainly had no intention of revealing myself to them. That would have meant their destruction. It just felt good to have just a little more than the superficial contact that I did with my co-workers at the hospital.”
I let my love talk. We were not covering any new ground here, but he seemed to need to say these things and I knew that it would lead to what I wanted to share with him.
“Then Edward and his mother both succumbed to the flu. Fortunately, their neighbors were able to reach me at the hospital on the phone and I was able to secure a room for them so they would not need to be separated. I could not do that to Elizabeth. Edward was her sun, moon, and stars. She was so proud of him and she loved him so much. It was torture to watch them both slipping away knowing there was nothing I could do.”
Carlisle still held me in his arms, but he was back in that hospital in Chicago.
“Then Elizabeth opened her eyes. They were the same brilliant green as Edward’s, but they were fever bright. She was struggling to breathe. I could hear the bubbling in her lungs, but she was determined. She grasped my sleeve and would not let go. Carlisle she said. Save my son. Please? Her eyes bore into me. You must save him. Whatever it takes. Do what only you can. Save my son, Carlisle. Promise me. Edward told me much later that she was Irish and that her family had claimed back in the old country to have Second Sight. Maybe that was what let her see me for what I am. In that moment though, even though I knew it would be wrong to condemn someone to this life, I could not deny Elizabeth’s dying wish.”
“Carlisle, my love.” I caressed his face again. “Speaking as a mother, I know exactly what Elizabeth was thinking. Her love for her son was so great, she would do anything, risk anything, pay any price to know that her son would have a chance to live. Maybe she did recognize you for what you are. If she did, she knew that she could entrust her son to you. She knew you would care for him and love him as your own.”
He dragged himself back to the present and looked at me for a moment before kissing my forehead. “I hope so. I’ve made so many mistakes.”
“No, darling. Parenthood doesn’t come with an instruction manual. You are the most wonderful father Edward and all of our children could ever have. Please don’t ever think otherwise.”
I resettled the journal in my lap. “Let me show you something that will explain better.”
Carlisle and I have been married for nearly three months. That is a miracle right there. I will never understand how he and Edward have put up with my insane emotional ups and downs. Poor Edward has to run away and stay away when things get too intense, both the good and the bad. He was so right when he decided to give us the little cottage by the lake as our wedding gift. It would have been sheer torture for him to have to feel our emotions vicariously. The distance from the main house gives him peace of mind. He has been so loving and caring even when I have been at my most hateful, although, he does sometimes show that care by being an incredibly annoying younger brother. Still, I would not have it any other way.
Carlisle. My miracle. How can one man have all the love and compassion and patience in the world for me? I know it has not been easy for him. I put him through hell when I broke down after my mistake. Locking myself in my room for weeks was so incredibly stupid. It was Edward who finally lost patience with me and made me go hunting again, but it was Carlisle’s voice reading to me through the door that let me keep hold of the little shred of sanity that I had left.
My angel’s voice. How many times had I imagined that voice over the years? How many times did I dream of him? I often thought that he must have eventually married and had a family of his own, but I dreamed that it was me. I dreamed that our golden eyed and golden haired children laughed and jumped and crawled all over him as he smiled at me in thanks for giving him that gift. Those dreams sustained me through my nightmare marriage.
Today he gave me a precious gift. I don’t know if I can even put into words how I feel, but I have to try. When all my barriers finally came down, I told him every horrible detail of the travesty that was my marriage to Charles. For so long I thought it would be the wedge that would drive Carlisle away from me. I was not the girl he knew from ten years ago. I was damaged, damaged beyond repair. But instead of turning away from me, he still loves me. He has never stopped.
He loves every part of me. His gift to me. How can I even say how much it means? It means everything. Since I am still a newborn, it is impossible for me to go to the cemetery in town where my beautiful baby was laid to rest. Still, he knew I needed a place to be with my infant son. Well, Edward had been picking through my mind again, but I could not find it in my heart to be upset with him. He knows probably better than I do that I need to make peace with my new life.
We were walking in a beautiful field to the top of a hill covered in grass and flowers blowing n the breeze. A stone left over from the fireplace in the cottage stood upright at the summit. On the stone there was a cross and the initials JPC carved into it. I knew instantly what it stood for – John Platt Cullen. He tried to apologize for being presumptuous, but I stopped him. His love knew no bounds. He had claimed my son for our new family. I was overcome with silent tears. The hole in my heart had not disappeared, but now it was enveloped in his love as well. He mourned for my precious – no, our precious baby son. Charles had no claim on him. We stood there consoling each other till the first raindrop fell, then we went home.
I raised my eyes from the page to meet his. The depth of his sorrow was staggering.
“Esme, my love. You don’t know how many times I wished John could have been mine. I pray for his soul every day and I know he is in heaven. I hope he looks down on us and is happy that you have a family that loves you and that he is part of it even though he can’t be with us.”
I threw my arms around him and held him as tightly as I could. “Oh, Carlisle. Just as with all of our children, you are John’s father in every way that matters.”
“When the wedding is over, I was wondering. Would you like to go to Ashland and visit his grave? It’s been a long time since we were there.”
I was stunned. It never even occurred to me to ask him to go, not that I couldn’t have gone on my own. I had done it before, but it really had been decades. “Is it still even there? Ashland has grown so much. Didn’t they move the cemetery and all the graves?”
“Yes, but before we moved away from Ashland, I left instructions for maintaining the grave. When the move was being planned, one of our holding companies was notified and I took the liberty of having his grave moved to a different spot. It’s up on the hill.”
The tears didn’t fall, but I felt them all the same. “But isn’t all that land developed now?”
He was just sitting and holding my hand. “No, and it never will be. We still own the house in Ashland and all of that property. All the way to the lakeshore. John will always rest in peace on Cullen land.”
Every single day of my life – both my lives – I could not believe that I could love this incredible man, this angel on earth more, but every single day I did. I do!
I hugged him tightly then. “Yes, my love. If you don’t mind, I would like to go.”
After all the wedding guests left, we told the other children we were taking a long weekend to go away on our own. We picked up the rental car at the airport and drove straight to the house. The memories started coming back and we both smiled. This was the place where we had found each other again, but there would be time for those memories later.
Carlisle stuffed some things in his pockets before we left the car then took my hand. We walked slowly not talking. We didn’t need to. The field was beautiful, just as I remembered it. I could see the marker stone just at the crest of the hill. We didn’t speed up, but continued to walk at a human pace.
When we reached the grave, I felt a sense of peace. Carlisle stood behind me with his arms around me and we just let the peace fill us. After about fifteen minutes or so, Carlisle put a hand in his pocket. He drew it out and held it toward me. “I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, but I wanted you to be here.” He was holding a carved stone medallion with the Cullen crest on it. “Esme, my love. May I put this on John’s gravestone?”
My tears were silent, but they were in my heart. I nodded. “Yes, please.”
Now our family was complete.