Morning Haze


I was unable to pinpoint the exact moment in time when I became best friends with an eighteen-year-old college sophomore. I only know that as days passed and we continued to speak, we grew more comfortable with each other. We were not without our awkward silences. We had our share of moments when without thinking we made statements that would never cause pain to a friend, but were daggers when directed to a former lover. Though recovering from these unintentional barbs was not always easy, we somehow always managed to bounce back from them. This was never more apparent than when, three days after meeting at the diner, I spontaneously called him to apologize for my reaction to the implication that he was engaging in casual sex.

“I didn’t intend it like that.” I flopped on my living room sofa with my iPhone and a glass of wine. “I know it came off as if I was being possessive and hypocritical. I wasn’t.”

“Oh?”

“I don’t want you to end up like me.”

He sighed. “I appreciate your apology, but going forward, I’d prefer it if we didn’t discuss sex or our failed attempt at a relationship. I have no desire to revisit those days emotionally or otherwise.”

“I feel like I have a lot to explain to you–”

“For your benefit or for mine?”

He had a point.

“You’re right. I’m sorry.” I fidgeted with my wine glass. “Tell me about school. Are your classes what you’d thought they’d be? Have you officially declared a major? I’d like to hear everything.”

Thus began my friendship with Edward. We spent six hours on the phone that night, and though I was a zombie teaching the following day, my exhaustion was completely worthwhile. In the beginning, we spoke every few days. Soon emails peppered the communication gaps. By the time the ground was frozen, we were speaking daily and emailing back and forth every chance we got.

I never brought up his relationship status, nor did he inquire of mine. In our current context, it didn’t matter. Though I hadn’t seen him since the night at the diner, I somehow felt closer to him than I ever had. As always, I was intensely attracted to his intellect. Our nightly conversations were filled with playful banter, and despite the fact there was absolutely nothing sexual about them in nature, they felt like foreplay.

He came home for Christmas, and we began spending more and more time together. As we shopped for gifts along Walnut Street in the brisk December air, I felt strangely emboldened. The beauty of the city paled only in comparison to Edward, who in a pale gray pea coat and dark jeans looked like he’d fallen out of a magazine. I spoke to him impulsively.

“I’m not sure if this against the rules, but I do have a question.”

“The rules? Have I actually laid down rules?”

“You have. So many, in fact, one would think you were the teacher and I the student. I actually have a mental image of them written on a big piece of poster board hanging above a third grade chalkboard.”

“Ah. And you find yourself wanting to break one of them. Are you telling me you want to be naughty?”

“I can’t be naughty,” I insisted. “It’s against the rules.”

“What exactly are these rules as you perceive them?”

“No touching of any kind. No talking about the past if it specifically relates to the period during which we were a couple. No flirting and no sexual innuendos. And absolutely no inquiries regarding any sexual activities with which you may or may not be involved currently, or acknowledging the existence of sex in general.”

He laughed. “Have I really come off as that tyrannical?”

“Yes, but it’s okay. You have your reasons and I respect them. There is, however, something I would like to know.”

He interrupted me before I could ask my question.

“No, I’m not currently involved with anyone.”

I stopped dead on the sidewalk and looked at him.

“That was what you wanted to know, wasn’t it? Why do you seem so surprised by this? I spend nearly every spare moment talking to you. If I were involved with someone, I’d have no time to sleep.”

His admission both thrilled and terrified me. Still, it wasn’t the question I had in mind.

“That wasn’t what I was going to ask you, but thank you for telling me.”

“What would you like to know?”

I looked down at my feet for several seconds before meeting his gaze.

“Your parents must hate me.” It was more of a question than a statement.

“Oh.” He looked straight ahead, and we continued walking. “They did at first.”

“And now?”

“My mother is a psychiatrist; she understands.” He put his arm around me and gave me a gentle squeeze before quickly dropping it to his side. Oddly, it was more comforting than arousing. “What about you?”

“I’m seeing a psychologist. Unlike your mother’s patients, there’s no medication involved.”

“I understand the difference between the two disciplines. I meant to ask you if you’re seeing anyone romantically.”

“No. I haven’t seen anyone since we broke up.”

He looked at me perplexedly. “Have you…”

We were stopped at an intersection, and I turned to face him.

“No. I haven’t done that, either.”

I didn’t need to say anything else. He understood.

We passed the next few months as friends with an understanding. Though our touches didn’t linger, we no longer went out of the way to avoid them. We developed an ease with each other I would not have thought possible for two people of the opposite sex. I was incredibly happy, if not exactly content. Tanya warned me of the dangers of settling for less than I wanted. She believed I was subconsciously saving myself for Edward. There may have been some truth to that. I did crave physical intimacy, but he was the only person from whom I wanted it. It seemed selfish and wrong of me to date someone else for filler. I had love and companionship, even if it was from a geographical distance. I preferred meaningful emotional discourse to meaningless sexual intercourse.

Soon the ground became soft again, and islands of tulips dotted the sea of reawakening grass. I was in the middle of teaching a class about essay writing when my I felt my iPhone vibrate in my pocket. I ignored it until the end of the school day, when I viewed my recent calls. There were twelve from Edward. My heart was in my throat as I called him. I knew something was wrong, but nothing prepared me for the sound of his voice. It was calm and oddly detached.

“We lost Dad.”

Huh?

“He was on his way home from the hospital and his car was hit by a drunk driver. They took him to Cooper Trauma, but there was nothing they could do.”

“Oh my god, Edward. I’m so incredibly sorry.” My tears came instantly, but words failed me. “Where are you now?”

“With my mother. She’s still in shock.”

I couldn’t imagine her pain. “Please let me know if you need anything.”

“Thank you. It’s just good to know that you’re there…”

“Always, Edward. Always.”

John Carlisle Cullen IV was buried on a misty day in April. I attended the funeral with Alice and Jasper. I sat in the back, and I didn’t go through the receiving line. If I were Esme, the last person I would want to see on the day I buried my husband would be the woman who broke my son’s heart. Edward insisted on giving his father’s eulogy. He spoke of their friendship, and how Carlisle had been the single greatest influence in his life. His voice never wavered, but I knew he was in pain. I felt a tightening in my chest as if a weight had been laid upon me. Each breath I took pierced my flesh and I found myself bargaining with a God I wasn’t entirely sure existed. I would sacrifice my life, my soul, even my salvation if only I could switch places with Carlisle and give Edward his father back.

I knew at that moment what it was to love someone completely. I belonged to Edward entirely, and whether or not there was a future for us became irrelevant. As long as he needed me, I would be at his side.

Esme followed the casket out of the church, flanked by Edward  and a woman I assumed was her sister. Her eyes briefly met mine, and as she passed, she gave me a small smile. Despite everything I’d done and everything she’d been through, she still found it somewhere within herself to acknowledge me. Her grace and strength were astounding.

After the burial, Alice and I  sat in my living room, two untouched glasses of wine in front of us.

“My heart breaks for Esme,” she said.

“I know.”

“How do you recover from that? She has now buried both a child and a husband. I don’t care how well-balanced a person is. If that were me, I’d want to put a bullet in my head.”

“What do you mean?”

“Didn’t you read the obituary?”

I shook my head.

“He and Esme had a son before Edward. John Carlisle Cullen V. He died in infancy. I guess Edward never told you that?”

“No.”

There was still so much I didn’t know about Edward. If my heart had broken for Esme earlier, this new bit of information made it bleed.

I was still awake when my doorbell rang shortly after midnight. I opened the door and saw Edward standing on my porch with his face stained and his shoulders slumped. I held out my arms, and he fell into them sobbing. I’m not sure how long I held him, I just knew I could never ease his pain. I could only offer him my complete acceptance and hope it would be enough.

Hours later, still awake, we sat on my couch. My arms were around him, and his head rested on my shoulder.

“How is your mother?” I stroked his hair as I spoke.

“At the moment, sleeping. It’s been several days since she’s gotten any rest, so her doctor gave her a sedative.”

“You didn’t leave her alone, did you?”

“No. She’s with my aunt. When she goes back to Iowa in a few days, it will just be the two of us. The house is going to feel so empty.”

“I know.”

“I’m moving home. I just can’t leave her. Not yet. I only have classes three days a week. I can commute, at least for a while anyway. Right now, my mother comes first.”

“I’m so sorry, Edward. Truly. If there’s anything I can do…”

“Just…stay with me. Please don’t leave me again.”

“I’m not going anywhere.”

He curled up onto my sofa and rested his head in my lap. He closed his eyes, and I softly traced the dark circles underneath his eyes.

“Try to rest. You need to be strong for your mother.”

I stayed awake all night, even after he eventually fell asleep, wondering how I could have ever questioned his maturity. As he slept with his head on my lap, I’d never felt closer to another human being, nor had I ever loved anyone more. I felt so incredibly powerless, but for some reason it didn’t frighten me. I made a silent promise that whatever Edward needed from me, I would offer him willingly. For better or worse, I was finally his.





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  1. on 29 Aug 2010 at 3:12 pmizziey

    *sob* not carlisle!

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  2. on 01 Oct 2010 at 2:40 pmlisa89

    Jesus, and I thought I was upset before. I honestly think you’re trying to do me in. Brilliant stuff, C.

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  3. on 16 Oct 2010 at 8:55 amEsmeNessie

    Ahhh, my Carlisle….

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  4. on 12 Nov 2010 at 11:19 pmkng1986

    My heart aches.

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  5. on 13 Nov 2010 at 3:41 pmKellye

    This story is ripping the <3 out of my chest in small chunks. I've never cried so much in my life. I love it. lol

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  6. on 25 Nov 2010 at 5:21 pmBooksgalore/Bookishqua

    I like how you write time into the story, how Bella isn’t instantly healed, nor is Edward. I’m enjoying the journey. Poor Esme.

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  7. on 27 Nov 2010 at 1:42 pmJulie

    NOOOOOO!!!!! Not Carlisle! He was my favorite. I think I’ve rewritten two reviews (probably in the other story) stating that. I hope this is where the two stories don’t gel and he’s still alive in the other one.

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  8. on 09 Dec 2010 at 10:15 pmNKubie

    I know she’s his. I just hope she tells him that.

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  9. on 23 Dec 2010 at 2:37 amrosy

    So sad….. but full of love as always…your writing is just so beautiful…

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  10. on 30 Dec 2010 at 4:42 pmFancastride

    I didn’t see that coming so sad. Knowing how close they all were.

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  11. on 06 Jan 2011 at 12:55 amSea4Me

    Oh she can see. Finally. I love how you’ve developed a true friendship between them. I’m sad I knew about Carlisle beforehand. I’m so glad Bella didn’t jump in bed with anyone in the interim…so far… I hope there aren’t upcoming surprises of that sort! Anyway, that was a big Gilmore Girls fail…and I’d hate it for these two, too.

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  12. on 29 Jan 2011 at 10:08 pmJanice

    That was so incredibly sad. This story is just heartbreaking :(

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  13. on 17 Mar 2011 at 8:48 pmNHJO100

    Shocking, but very beautiful chap. So sad re Carlisle’s death and the loss of their son. Heartbreaking. However I am so happy that Bella and Edward’s relationship is moving on in such a healthy direction….

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