There were only a few seconds of warning for him; the fast pacing of feet, a panic voice distinct from the menagerie of others. One woman, a nurse that went by Mrs. Robinson, tried to keep pace with another person. He could hear the hitched breaths the nurse took as they tried to meet the measured paces of the other. As her voice came closer, the rest of the voices quieted, and a thundering of hearts hinted at startle, alarm. What was here?
Who was here?
Carlisle peaked at his phone in his coat pocket, the screen lighting up but no notifications on it. He smoothed over the papers on his desk and absently brought one closer. In a few moments, Mrs. Robinson and the source of her chase were right outside his office. Still, the nurse was trying to stop what came next.
“Miss, he is busy you can’t see him! You aren’t family!” She said in a hurried voice.
The door opened and the source stepped in. Shoulder-length silk blond hair that matched his own, full lips with a blush of red tinting them against the unnatural paleness of the skin. Gold eyes met gold eyes, one shocked and one apologetic. The woman was dressed in a baby blue knit dress with long sleeves with small brown boots clicking on the floor. He slowly got to his feet and raised a hand just as the nurse got to the woman’s side.
“I am so sorry Dr. Cullen.” She said with a brief glance in his direction. She placed a hand on the woman before doubling back at him. Then at the woman.
The woman raised a delicate hand up. “Hey.” She squeaked out.
He couldn’t help but give her a small smile. His mind went wild with what he was looking at. He took a deep breath, tasting the air and the woman’s scent to compare it to the people he’s met before. It was soft like delicate silk but salty like the air in a coastal town in England. It was distinctly English, something deep inside wouldn’t allow him to place it anywhere else. Her eyes were the same shade as his, a bright and newly fed golden.
“Hello.” He exhaled. He eyed the nurse who was doing double takes between them. “Thank you, Laura. I can take this.”
She looked at him with a sharp worried look. “Are you sure? You said you were taking a break.”
The woman hid a small smile with her hand. He smiled politely at the nurse. “I’m sure. Thank you.”
The nurse took another look at them before scurrying out of the office, leaving the door a smidge open. He noticed it instantly and took a step towards it before stopping. His gaze was on the woman who bowed her head briefly before gliding to the door and shutting it fully. She never fully turned her back to him, and he kept to behind the desk with a hand in on his phone. Isolated, he could hear the absence of a heartbeat within the room, the light scraping of her heels as she floated about, and the heightened pitch of them as she walked just a bit faster than average. He covered his cautiousness with a smile and stayed ready for the vibration of his phone. If this was going to go sideways, Alice would warn him. Right?
“Hello.” She greeted him a few paces from the desk. She didn’t offer her hand instead clasping them together at her sternum.
He nodded and for a few seconds. They stayed quiet.
She shook her head. “I apologize for the intrusion. I don’t mean any trouble for you here. I know how rude it would be to bring inappropriate matters to the hospital but .. .” she paused and thought. “It couldn’t wait, unfortunately.”
He kept the smile on his face even though the caution had risen inside of him. Concern flashed across his face and he offered her the chair while pulling in his own to sit on. When she shook her head, the smile faded away. “I don’t understand.”
“Carlisle I’m afraid our first meeting can’t be of good news. And I only know because things are a bit different where I’ve come from.” She bit her lip. “Though I still don’t understand how I’ve come here in the first place.”
Carlisle opened his mouth to respond but there was only silence. His mind was too occupied with the riddle this woman was. Who was she? How did she not know how she came to the hospital? Or was she talking about the providence itself? Canada was a large country but- her eyes. He couldn’t gaze far from them. Golden like his, with a historic glaze to them as he did. His family always pointed it out that his golden was just a few shades off from theirs. Hinting at his age, playfully they would go between bolder and a lighter shade for him. He couldn’t understand it though. Their eyes did lighten and darken, but that was for their thirst. Seeing the woman’s eyes, her shade wasn’t for that, and he could finally understand the teasing.
“I-what is your name?” He shook his head quickly. “May I know your name? You know mine.”
The woman brushed a lock of pale hair back. “My name?” She took a breath, and he mimicked to know what she did. “My name is Carine. Carine Cullen.”
He stayed silent, the name ending all questions in his mind. The panic must have been viable on his face because the woman quickly spoke again.
“I mean you no harm, I promise you. I’m sorry to be ahead. I know this isn’t the greatest way to see each other for the first time but I’m-”
In her hesitation, a nurse knocked and poked her head into the room. Carine stayed still with just her shoulders moving to pretend to breathe. Carlisle looked expectantly at the nurse, removing the panic just as fast.
“Dr. Cullen? Do you have those reports for the east rooms? Dr. Michael was going to take over since you have a guest. . .” the nurse shyly looked to Carine.
Carlisle frowned before nodding. He was torn. Desperately he wanted to leave the room and Carine, walking as far as he could away from the look-alike woman with the same surname as he. But unfortunately, she had already laid the grounds work for something awesome and mysterious. He was really regretting how entranced he was towards the business.
The nurse nodded and shut the door behind her, leaving the two in silence again.
“Not here,” Carlisle said quickly as he grabbed his bag from the filing cabinet.
Carine watched in silence as he walked past her, switching out coats on the coat hook. When he opened the door, she was a few paces behind him. They walked out of the office and down the hall towards a nurse’s circle. There were desks in a geometric pattern in the open space and the people there were typing and gossiping about. As they came, some of the floor nurses hushed and made quick glances at them. Carlisle stopped at Mrs. Robinson’s desk who was entertaining some others at the moment.
“Laura. I’m taking off the rest of the day. Just put it in at PTO please?” He said quickly as he pulled out his phone. Edward was first in his messages and needed only one word to understand. MEET.
Mrs. Robinson looked at him with a worried gaze. “Is everything alright Doctor?” She eyed long at Carine.
He snuck a glance back at Carine, who was playing undisturbed very well, before turning to the nurse. “Yes. I’m afraid a family matter has come up.”
Mrs. Robinson narrowed her eyes at him. “Family? Is this . . ?”
He shook his head before she could guess. Any name would be wrong. Aside from the last name, Carlisle had no connection to this other being. No connection or relationship aside from possibly a stressed kinship at the moment. With another glance back, he saw a flash of panic calculation and thought pass the woman’s face.
“Your sister?” Mrs. Robinson finished reluctantly.
They both paused at the woman, aghast. Then they looked to each other and then back at the nurse.
“Yes. How did you know?” Carine said with a gentle smile.
Carlisle chuckled. “What gave it away?”
Mrs. Robinson relaxed and smiled. “Oh, you know. Something about your hairs told me.”
They nodded together before Carlisle waved her off and headed towards the elevator. Carine was in-suite and waited a few steps back from him. When the doors opened, he stepped on and stood by one side. Carine took the other side. He kept peaking at her, a thousand ideas and scenarios running through his head. Maybe she was a messenger of a friend? She definitely knew that this approach would startle him, no matter the gentility. But there was already a plan for him to meet her at a point, was it just not decided on until recently that caused Alice to not see it? Of course, the matter of it all was that until proven otherwise Carine has no intentions of harm towards him, so that could also hinder Alice from seeing the new arrival.
The elevator dinged and opened to a level that wasn’t the car lot. Instead, a group of gentlemen walked on. Instantly Carine was noticed by them and at mid-day, they were less cautious with their approaches. All while Carlisle remained invisible to them.
“Hey miss, you looking for something?” One asked with a smile.
Carine pressed herself to the wall and returned a small smile. “No, I’m on my way out.”
The gentlemen smirked at each other. The same man continued.
“Looking after old pops are ya?” He chuckled. “I promise we take our patient’s needs very seriously.” He scooted closer as the others wiggled up more room in the elevator.
He recognized the uncomfortable grimace that she did. It was the same one he would do when the nurses would go on. It was a small understanding of the subtext that bothered him and him alone. Now it was her. He unapologetic pushed the men apart and reached out one of his hands to her. With the other, he pressed the open doors button, rather forcefully.
“Carine, this is our stop.” He said while meeting eyes with the talker.
His friends eyed him as if he came from the walls, and the man was a bit annoyed by him. The doors opened immediately as they locked hands and Carlisle led them off the lift, leaving the men to grumble among themselves. Wordlessly they walked in tangent down a few hallways until they came to a stairwell, deserted and that went down to the car lot.
He was down several steps already before noticing that Carine wasn’t right behind. She instead was glancing through the small window into the hospital. He stayed quiet for a moment, thinking.
“Are we family?” He asked carefully.
She slowly turned to him and placed a hand on the railing. “In a way yes. We share a father.”
A sense of despair and anguish rushed through him, a sense that he had tried to restrain for a long time. The thought of his father was never a good one no matter how much he tried to avert to the good things Carlisle had witnessed. But there weren’t many, not when he was alive and not when he was changed and watching over his father. But the statement shook something in him he wasn’t okay with nor prepared for. There was a small hate he had for himself about how unrestrained the feeling was.
“I never thought he would go with anyone else.” He tried to make a small smile but it failed. “He made sure I knew . .” He couldn’t even finish, the remembrance sucking him into the space on the stair.
Carine slowly made her way down to him, pausing to keep a step between them. “He was still the man you knew. And the man that he was. But you and I? We’re just, different sides of one coin. To make things simpler.”
He gazed at her, the words reaching him but the meaning muddled. He felt more confused than anything else. He tried to think about any other family he had but it was so foggy, murky from the long years he had kept form thinking about. What other family had they shunned that could be the woman’s branch? Who was the woman? And what incidents had his father put her through? The thought made him freeze, understanding a part of her enigma. She had experienced the same things as he did, maybe the same, maybe more. Merciless to his son. Merciless to his daughter? Could – would a man do that to their own progeny just like that?
Esme came to mind. He remembered the absurd anger he felt towards her parents after hearing about the pressure they had put on her to get married. Married to Charles. To stay married to Charles after knowing what he had done to her. The helplessness she had felt and the lowest time of her life left alone in a hospital. Without her parents. Progeny didn’t seem to always matter in families, not to his, not to Esme’s or to Rosalie’s. Alice’s. The memory of Edwards’s mother appeared in his mind, desperately trying to save her boy in any way she could. To ask Carlisle to damn her boy, just to let Edward not die there like she was going to. The selflessness she had, the same he adored Esme for, it was his kryptonite.
He slowly nodded and walked down the stairs, his mind running from memories of the other’s unfair endings compared to his own, little snippets just being washed out by the emotion that sometimes flashed onto his family’s faces at different moments. The worry of Jasper when Bella wasn’t right behind them one hunt. Rosalie’s anger arising when she thought they had left Esme alone in an unfamiliar part of town. Alice’s anxiety when she was a few minutes off about his arrival home. His bottomless annoyance that arose when someone acted with inhuman harshness and callousness. No matter how quickly they acted someone always saw the slip. The mistake and the reality of themselves.
Once down at the car lot, it didn’t take long for them to get to his car. Carine seemed to know where it was as well as the make and model.
“I was thinking at the house. My family will give us space but here,”
“There are wandering eyes and ears.” She finished. Longingly she traced the finish around the passenger door.
He waited at the driver’s side door, watching her every move. Once she got seated, he took a deep breath and did the same. She kept her hands on her lap and her back straight, almost afraid to lean against the chair. As the car came to life, he chuckled which made her glance at him.
“I promise you won’t break it. My children have been in this and it hasn’t broken yet.”
She barely eased up.
He frowned. “I believe you.”
They stared at each other.
“If you say you mean me no harm,” He released the breath and nodded to himself. “Then I believe you.”
Carine waited a long second before sitting back into the seat. She looked out the window with a smile, her posture lessening. He looked out the front windshield, a smile trying to come across his face as well, but failed.