They arrived at the house at twilight with the front window curtains drawn in pale tan. The large log cabin, a mansion Renesmee had called it, was highlighted in reds and yellows as the sun set. Inside the car, with tinted windows, they watched the sunset for a moment. Both were trying to force the anxiety away. Carine was silent, a glazed stare intent at only the waning sun. Carlisle could not think of a single thing that would put her at ease. He heard then shuffling inside, a small and soft heartbeat close to a more rapid one.
“There is something before we go in.” Carlisle started, rolling down a window with a breeze hurrying in. On it was the unfortunate stench of the wolves, freshly laid and near. He saw Carine stiffen and he quickly continued. “They are just here as friends, you are in no way in any danger. I promise you.”
Her eyes slid to the house as the scent settled inside the car. Gag worthy at first but doable after a few moments. It was automatic that he would reject the smell, just like of human blood. But he also knew the wolves personally and met some of their families, felt the love that they held for each other, and the respect they held for him and his family. Carine had none of that.
“I promise as long-”
“I hope so.” Carine suddenly snapped. She was out of the car instantly and stood at the garage door, stress now visibly hanging off her shoulders.
Carlisle was slower, taking in the directions of the scents and the movement of the others inside. Emmett’s heavy shuffles were closest with Jasper’s more thoughtful steps nearby. The small flats of Alice were sliding in place off to the side with an impatient tap of Rosalie’s. Behind them was surely Edward concentration on their thoughts and Bella with Renesmee. Jacob had to be just as close, the heartbeats being almost musical. He couldn’t hear anything of Esme, and his mind blanked on where she could be.
He took a swift breath, nothing of her scent nearby either. He shook his head which caught Carine’s attention.
“Also . . .there’s is another.”
She nodded slowly. “What is it?”
“Something you have never seen. And you don’t have to, but it is in the house.”
Carine took a slow look towards the front door and then back to him. “Must we go in then? I’d rather not touch upon more of your life. It’s not right.”
The solemn tone from her shocked him for a moment, but he recovered. He gestured to the side of the house to the encroaching pine forest. Carine dashed off without a glance back.
It wasn’t what I thought it was. False alarm. Hopefully, Edward would keep everyone settled and believe him.
Carlisle ran and followed Carine’s scent easily. A mile or two in he found her standing under a hammock of pine. He stopped short of her, taking his own umbrella of pine. By now darkness had covered the land and only tiny insects moved among them. To the west there was a faint, sleeping heartbeat of an animal, but with the wind he couldn’t know the species.
He snapped out of that thought quickly.
“Carlisle you don’t have much time. I’m sorry I couldn’t get to you sooner, I-I” Carine started fumbling her words but after a moment, she took a breath and went on. “I didn’t succeed. I ruined everything I had. But it doesn’t have to be the same for you. We don’t have to fall for the same thing.”
He nodded. “I appreciate the warning, I do.”
“Carlisle?” She said in a whisper, her voice partly being taken by the breeze. “Did you see father die? With your own eyes?”
Everything stopped. His mind paused in thought as her words came down on him. His father. What did his father- who was she? He could feel a powerful annoyance- no anger- rise in him.
His father, the man who had no qualms about hurting others. Innocence, guilty, it never mattered. Nothing mattered except the agenda the man had. A pit opened in his stomach despite Carlisle’s desperate attempts to ignore it. To ignore all the swirling emotion inside of him. His composure was cracking over a simple question, and he hated it.
“Yes, why?” He asked breathlessly, lost in the overpowering emotion.
Carine shook her head. “Carlisle, think. Did you really or did you leave before it happened and just heard about it?”
A sickening feeling came over him. Remorse, embarrassment, revulsion, and guilt. It shook him. The horrid, loathsome memories of his first few years in this life came flooding back. They were at best desperate and at the worst idiotic attempts, especially since soon after he knew the real way he could have truly left and never did. The repulsive image he always saw in the stream. The harsh words of his father ringing in his ears. His father’s words never left, they just hid in the fog, waiting. Waiting for what? He tried to never know and always circumvent anything that came close to its reason.
Carine took a tentative step towards him with her hands up. “Carlisle, I know it’s not something you want to think about but we have to. We can’t keep lying!”
A loud snarl ripped past his lips before he could think and echoed throughout the woods. His vision blurred and a harsh thought came to his mind. Not to run, but to fight. He wasn’t sure what there was to fight though, it was just them out in the woods. Carine’s words hurt in a special spot though. He never wanted to be a liar, or to be perceived as one.
And then almost on call, there were feet running to them.
“Carlisle!” Two voices yelled in unison. One in front; Carine. One behind; Edward.
They stopped beside him with Jasper sliding into a crouch effortlessly. Emmett was on the other side poised just as quick. Carine ignored them, or ignored their stances, with her sharp gaze locked onto Carlisle. A delicate hand on his shoulder alarmed him to Esme, he still couldn’t stop seeing red. His muscles were tight, and venom pooled in his mouth in anticipation. But for what? His mind wasn’t releasing that, it was primed for only one thing.
“Carlisle! It doesn’t have to be like this! You can stop him.” Carine pushed. She dared take a step, Jasper was far too capable and hid nothing.
A screaming memory came back to his transformation, the agony burning inside of him and being locked inside the darkness. Where was his father? Looking? Planning? The man wasn’t known for pity or grief. Who was worthy of Father Cullen’s grief? His son? Never.
“Carlisle,” Carine whispered quickly.
The name only brought back another memory, of his father. He awaited on a path for someone, a mob surrounding him in a hellish red landscape. Gold rained from the sky and sprinkled onto the trees. It was mosaic in a way , and horrifying as his mind walked towards the scene. He wanted out. Out. Out quick.
“I can’t. I’m not.” He said with harsh stutters. “I can’t.” He turned away from her but a growl from Jasper snapped him back.
Carine had tried to take a step, the look of unadulterated fear in her eyes.
He shook his head quickly, not sure if it was towards Jasper or Carine. “Please.” He said in a whisper. Then lower, “please.”
Carine clasped her hands together. “I’m sorry Carlisle. The pain is not intentional. But I have failed already and I can’t bear the thought of you doing the same. We’ve already been alone for so long!”
The sincerity in her voice is what kept the small piece of his mind away from complete take-over from the rash emotions running through him. Alone. Failed. The words were raw and filled with regret, it was something he had known and tried so hard to keep out of his own speech. It was almost antagonizing to hear it. He hated to hear it from others, even strangers he’s barely met.
“Carlisle,” Esme whispered beside him, trying as gently as she could to pull him closer to her.
He tried to take comfort in it, but it was only a little help. “What do you mean?”
Carine lowered her head and brushed a lock of hair out of her face. “I didn’t get a heads up when he came. It was horrible and my family was the victim of my selfleshness. I barely saved our relationships. My husband won’t trust me anymore, he averts his eyes away. Sometimes in confusion, sometimes in fresh pain. My children are a mixture of anger and grief. It’s like I was already lost to them, maybe I am.”
The words seem to calm him down. His mind focused on the placings of the others, noting how close and tense each one was. He rolled his shoulders back into a more relaxed position and laid a hand on Jasper’s shoulder. He took a step towards Carine while in thought.
“I’m so sorry Carine. Please tell me what I need to do.”
Carine looked up, the pain shimmering in her golden eyes. “You need to remember what happened that night Carlisle. Because when he comes, you’ll need the truth to get rid of him.”
“Rid of who?” Jasper suddenly cut in. It made them both blink in shock.
“My father,” Carlisle answered grimly.
His family froze. In terror? In disbelief? He couldn’t know. He was too focused on accepting the idea; the idea of seeing his father again. In all of his new life, he had tried not thinking about the man. The last time he had seen the man . . . it was a bit of time after finding the deer. In the beginning, it was just mindless wandering around, trying to rationalize what to say. How to say it. Nights he would hunt just outside of the village’s range of hunting and by day the leftovers were sent to the neighbors to harvest. It was the small things that he did to get through the endless days. When he would go out of the area to find new reading material, his village wasn’t too keen on anything other than the religious texts, there was always a pang of guilt for abandoning them. He knew that they were all safe, the original vampire that had bitten him was long gone to the east in a fit of panic and pain. There was nothing to get now from the village.
“When is he coming?” He asked in thought.
“I saw him during a full moon. Him and an ambassador in the woods.” Carine spoke. Carlisle was too lost in thought to see her. All he could see was the village again.
“I thought they were ghosts. Or other supernatural beings. But in the moonlight, I saw them clearly. He hadn’t changed, the solemn look of his face, the mercy that was missing from his eyes. They were so dark.” There was a quiver heard in her voice. “Endless abyss. They walked like they weren’t touching the ground. I was absolutely terrified. Earnest was so close and I couldn’t make a sound.”
“Damning another to the sight will bring two to hell,” Carlisle noted in a breath.
There was a moment of silence before Carine went on. “They moved down the hill towards me, wordless and silent. There was never a heartbeat from father, just from the ambassador. When they came to the sight of me, the ambassador was shocked. Father wasn’t. He knew. Somehow, he knew.”
The forest went silent and after a minute, Carlisle pulled out of his mind to find Carine lost in her’s. There was an urge to wrap an arm around her, to comfort her. But he refrained, instead of glancing back at his family. Jasper was fazed, instantly locking eyes with Carlisle. He had no words to help explain any of this. Edward wasn’t much help, looking conflicted and confused at what he was watching inside their heads.
Esme was the only one with comfort in her eyes, though her body was tense with worry. She glanced at Carine a few times, the stiffness in her shoulders was something rare to see. He held a hand with her’s, looking over her head into the darkness.
No one knew what to make of things. And he couldn’t help them. Any of them.
“The full moon won’t be here for a few more weeks. I still have time.” He looked to Carine. “How long can you stay?”
She looked wearily between the faces of his family. “I don’t know.” She said low.
“I’ll help you if you need accommodations.” He offered.
She shook her head. “Thank you. I think I can find them easily.” She chuckled to herself, but when she looked back at him the laughter died. “Maybe we should reconvene when it’s light again.”
He felt a light squeeze from his hand. He nodded in agreement. “I’ll be at the house. We’ll have tea.” He smiled genuinely at her, truly hoping for the best despite the emptiness that clung to him now.
She nodded in agreement, took a long last look around, and then bounded away inside the forest. It was a few minutes before her footsteps went silent.
Go back to the house. I’ll be right behind you. Carlisle thought to Edward.
Quickly the boys left, leaving Esme nuzzling against his shoulder. Her warmth was comforting. Her silent insistence to give him comfort was impenetrable. He couldn’t look anywhere except the darkness of the forest, his mind ravaging through old memories he never wanted to go back to.
I have failed already. How many times had he said that before? And what did this familiar stranger know? Why did he trust her? Trust her with anything?
Esme pulled him out of the thoughts and closer to her. Their faces were inches away with a large smile crossing Esme’s face.
“Hello.” The smile was contagious.
“Hello.” She said breathlessly.
He closed the distance between them with a kiss, the darkness vanishing at the touch of her lips. Nothing mattered for the moment except her. Her gentleness, her patience, her demands. He wouldn’t ignore even a twitch of her fingers tracing along his cheek. Pulling her tighter, he could feel every movement against him. She giggled and paused to caress his cheek. Flawless, nothing would compare to the love she always had for him. No matter what happened around him.
“They’re worried.” Her eyes searched his as she spoke, watching them intently.
“Of course.” He snickered playfully.
She went on to guide him back, laughing lightly.