Cadence


Legend had it that after my first day of kindergarten, I came home and asked my father what the point was. I’d spent exactly seven hours and fourteen minutes at school, during which time I learned absolutely nothing, and no one even knew how to play chess. He explained that every situation we ever encountered afforded us the possibility of gaining knowledge, and that only the truly feeble-minded went through life believing they knew it all. It wasn’t until fairly recently that I realized how right he was.

It took every ounce of restraint I had not to go home at all in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas break. I told Bella I was staying on campus each weekend so I could figure out which eating club I wanted to bicker in the spring, and that wasn’t entirely untrue. I left out the part about how hard it was for me to see her and not touch her. I loved her, I wanted her, but I didn’t trust her. Even more troubling was the fact that I didn’t trust myself when I was with her.

In the absence of physical proximity, we talked. I thought I knew everything there was to know about her while we were dating, but recent phone conversations indicated I actually knew very little. The more time I spent talking to her, the more I began to think that where our relationship had passion and intensity, it had also been somewhat superficial. I was pondering this as I waited for her at the Speedline station, until the sight of her walking across the parking lot brought me back into the present.

Maybe it was my imagination, but Bella seemed to move faster when she saw me standing on the platform waiting for her. She smiled and waved before hurrying inside the station; three minutes and ten seconds later, she reappeared at my side.

“Were you actually running?” I teased. “I never thought you’d be enthusiastic about shopping.”

“I’m far more excited by the company.” She moved toward me like she was going to hug me, then dropped her arms as if suddenly thinking better of it. “What specifically is our mission?”

“Just gifts for my parents.”

“I imagine that’s quite a challenge. I mean, what do you get someone who has everything?”

I laughed. “That actually makes it easy. They don’t need anything; therefore they don’t really care. Christmas gifts in my family are meant to be more entertaining than anything else. Last year, my mother donated a hundred low-flow toilets to a village in Africa in my dad’s name.”

“Why toilets?”

“Because he’s full of shit.”

“God, I miss your parents,” she said, laughing. “I don’t think you’ll be able to find anything on Walnut Street to top that.”

“Oh, I know. But I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Two hours later, I was still empty-handed, but I didn’t care. I was having such a good time walking through Center City with Bella, I’d more or less forgotten the reason for our excursion, even if Bella had not.

“You need to get serious about looking, or you’re not going to find anything.”

I shrugged. “My dad is always complaining about junk email. Worst case scenario? I’ll put fifty cases of Spam under the tree and donate them to a food bank the following day.”

“Hmm.” She paused before speaking again. “I have a question.”

“Okay.”

“It’s probably against the rules.”

“The rules?” I repeated, certain she was mocking me. “Have we established rules?”

“You have established rules. 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,” she 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.”

I 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.”

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

She stopped walking and looked at me.

“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.”

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

“What would you like to know, Bella?”

She stared at the sidewalk, and I wondered if she’d change the subject then send me a text message three hours from now. Except she didn’t—her eyes slowly met mine and when she found her voice, it betrayed her nerves.

“Your parents must hate me.”

She loved them, and while we dating had gone out of her way to cultivate relationships with them—relationships which she now believed she’d damaged irreparably.

“Oh,” I said, realizing what she was asking.

I didn’t want to lie to her, nor did I want to see the look on her face when I told her my father said he’d have her fired if she hurt me again. Though his stance on Bella had softened somewhat since then, I could tell he wasn’t thrilled she and I were close again. When my dad said nothing, it typically meant he had nothing positive to say.

When we began to walk again, I looked straight ahead rather than meet her gaze. “They did at first.”

“And now?” She sounded as if she was in pain.

“My mother is a psychiatrist. She understands.” I put my arm around her and pulled her into my side, hoping to comfort her. I felt her hair under my chin and pressed my lips against the top of her head. “What about you?”

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

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

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

This in and of itself didn’t surprise me. A serial monogamist she was not.

“Have you…”

She turned to face me. “No, Edward. I haven’t done that, either.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes.”

I wanted to ask her to elaborate, but I didn’t, because it was none of my business. Instead, I reverted back to topics that were safe.

“Any special plans for Christmas?”

“I’m going to Ohio with Jazz and Alice to visit her parents. She has a strained relationship with her mother, but it’s usually not that bad when I’m around.”

And she hadn’t had sex with anyone since me.

“You don’t sound very enthusiastic about going.”

“I’m taking one for the team.”

But I had no reason to worry she’d be getting it from the team.

“What are your plans?” she asked.

“The holiday itself we’re spending at Jack and Kitty’s; then we’re going to Florida to see my maternal grandmother.”

“Do you have any free time when you get back?”

I shook my head. “I’m flying into Newark and going right back to school.”

Her face fell.

I wanted to assure her that all of these plans were made before I had any reason to be home, but I thought that would make her feel worse. Instead, I said something equally true that I hoped would have the opposite effect.

“I’ll miss you.”

“The sentiment is mutual.”

“I leave for Jack and Kitty’s on Sunday, but I’m free tomorrow…”

“Me, too.” She perked right up.

“Would it be presumptuous of me to look into changing my plane tickets? I mean, you aren’t going to cancel on me if you get a better offer, are you?”

“Your statement is based on the assumption that there’s someone I’d rather spend time with. Let me tell you a secret.” She leaned against me, whispering into my ear. “There isn’t.”


From: J. Carlisle Cullen IV
Subject: Bicker
Date: Feb 2, 2011 6:54 PM EST
To: Edward Cullen

Were you invited to join?


From: Edward Cullen
Subject: Re: Bicker
Date: Feb 2, 2011 7:32 PM EST
To: J. Carlisle Cullen IV

Yes, Kate and I both got in.


From: J. Carlisle Cullen IV
Subject: Re: Bicker
Date: Feb 2, 2011 7:44 PM EST
To: Edward Cullen

You bickered together? That warms my heart.


From: Edward Cullen
Subject: Re: Bicker
Date: Feb 2, 2011 7:32 PM EST
To: J. Carlisle Cullen IV

Yes, we did. Despite everything, we’ve managed to stay friends. Just don’t tell Jack. After his Christmas tirade about how I’m the second biggest disappointment of all his offspring, I don’t want to hear it.


From: J. Carlisle Cullen IV
Subject: Re: Bicker
Date: Feb 2, 2011 7:44 PM EST
To: Edward Cullen

Any attention from Jack is a compliment. By the way, I hold the number-one spot. You don’t see me losing any sleep over it, do you? Just so you know, Jack’s pro-Kate stance has everything to do with his business relationship with her family and nothing whatsoever to do with you.


From: Edward Cullen
Subject: Re: Bicker
Date: Feb 2, 2011 7:45 PM EST
To: J. Carlisle Cullen IV

Not to be confused with your pro-Kate stance that has everything to do with your dislike of Bella.


From: J. Carlisle Cullen IV
Subject: Re: Bicker
Date: Feb 2, 2011 7:58 PM EST
To: Edward Cullen

I don’t dislike Bella. After lengthy conversations with your mother, I appreciate Bella’s struggles far more than you realize. What you don’t understand is how hard it is to watch your child suffer, knowing there’s nothing you can do to ease his pain. I just don’t want to see her hurt you like that again.


From: Edward Cullen
Subject: Re: Bicker
Date: Feb 2, 2011 8:02 PM EST
To: J. Carlisle Cullen IV

She won’t. At the moment, Bella and I are friends. I have no intention of taking our relationship to the next level until I trust that both she and I are capable of better communication while setting more realistic expectations.


From: J. Carlisle Cullen IV
Subject: Re: Bicker
Date: Feb 2, 2011 8:04 PM EST
To: Edward Cullen

You sound like your mother.


From: Edward Cullen
Subject: Re: Bicker
Date: Feb 3, 2011 10:02 AM EST
To: J. Carlisle Cullen IV

Because Mom’s a shrink, or because (unlike you) Mom loves Bella?


From: J. Carlisle Cullen IV
Subject: Re: Bicker
Date: Feb 3, 2011 6:44 PM EST
To: Edward Cullen

It’s not that I don’t love Bella. Anyone who is important to you is important to me. I just love you more.


From: Isabella Swan
Subject: Picture my pouty face
Date: April 4, 2011 10:01 PM EDT
To: Edward Cullen

I know you’re big man on campus, but are you ever coming home for the weekend?


From: Edward Cullen
Subject: Re: Picture my pouty face
Date: April 4, 2011 10:03 PM EDT
To: Isabella Swan

Big man on campus? Right. Just so you know, the empty beer bottles in front of me are the first I’ve consumed in weeks. My classes this semester are kicking my ass. I doubt I’ll make it before Easter.

The pouty face? Really? You know what that does to me.


Actually, Bella had no idea what the pouty face did to me. Well, not entirely. She knew that I was sucker for it, not that it made me hard. I was about to go into my bedroom to beat off, when my phone rang.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Edward, I need you to come to Cooper as quickly as possible.”

“Cooper? Why? I thought you weren’t on staff there anymore.”

“It’s your father.”

“He’s not on staff there, either.”

“No, he’s in surgery.”

“Were they running low on surgeons or something? Dad must be stoked he’s getting to work there.”

Cooper Hospital was fifteen minutes away from my house, but it may as well have been in another world. Conveniently located in downtown Camden, its Level I trauma center handled all of the local gun violence as well as the most critically injured car crash victims. My dad often spoke highly of the surgeons on staff there, saying they were the best in the area.

“He’s not working; he was in an accident. I don’t have a lot of details, but they brought him to Cooper, so…”

“He’s going to be okay, right?”

“Please,” she said, ignoring my question. “Just meet me in the trauma unit.”

“I love you, Mom. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

I was unable to process anything but my need to get to my father. Emotion was a luxury for which I had no time. Instinct took over, and the next thing I knew, my fingers were dialing the only person on campus I knew would be sober enough to drive me home.

“Hey,” Kate answered.

“Can you drive me to Camden?”

“Are you kidding? You know how I feel about drugs. And Camden? What, has Trenton run out?”

“To the hospital, Kate. My dad was in an accident.”

“I’ll meet you downstairs in three minutes.”

I spent the next fifty-seven minutes assuring myself everything would be fine. In fact, when Kate offered to stay with me, I told her it wasn’t necessary. She dropped me off in front of the hospital, and I made my way to the waiting area of the trauma unit. The moment I saw my mother’s face, I realized my optimism had been an exercise in futility. She hugged me tightly, before sinking back into her chair, her shoulders slumped forward in defeat. When she finally spoke, her voice was quiet and measured.

“It was a head-on collision. The officer I spoke to thinks the other driver was drunk, but we won’t know for sure until they get the autopsy reports.”

“So he’s…” I couldn’t bring myself to say it.

“The driver of the other car was pronounced dead on arrival.”

“And Dad?”

She swallowed. “I love him so much…I refuse to give up hope. Who lives and who dies… sometimes, medical science can’t make sense of it. At the same time, you need to prepare yourself. This isn’t the sort of thing people survive.”

No.

Not my dad.

Not like this. Refusing to acknowledge defeat, I clutched my mother’s hand, believing in the moment that if I held on tightly enough, my father would find the strength to hold on as well.

My mother leapt to her feet when she saw a man in scrubs I assumed was one of my father’s doctors.

“Please.” She closed eyes. “Please, I beg you.”

“Dr. Masen, I’m sorry.”

“No,” she whispered, shaking her head. “This isn’t happening.”

I was inclined to believe her. If Dad were dead, I’d be upset, crying even. I wouldn’t be standing here calmly as if I were merely an observer. I’d be feeling something.

“No.” My mom fell to the floor, and her pleas became screams. “Please god, no.”

I knelt beside her, saying the only words I thought would bring her comfort.

“I love you, Mommy.”

As I held her against me, the doctor said something about her being in shock. It didn’t take a medical degree for me to know she wasn’t the only one.


next





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15 Responses

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  1. on 31 Mar 2010 at 12:19 amJamie

    "I love you, Mommy"

    I sobbed.

    [Reply]


  2. on 31 Mar 2010 at 12:27 amchris

    Damn it I'm crying.. I didn't think this we were going to read about Carlisle's death this soon and was a bit unprepared. I was looking forward to reading Edward's POV on this and I realize that may have been masochistic of me. This is really painful to read, you've captured the emotion very well.

    [Reply]


  3. on 31 Mar 2010 at 1:29 am@orangecosmo26

    Wow! I knew that one was coming, but it was still hard to read. Written beautifully. I'm glad we're getting EPOV on this, it is obviously very different from AA5.

    [Reply]


  4. on 31 Mar 2010 at 1:51 amJennifer

    Aww…. Its weird seeing this from his POV. It fills in a lot of blanks. It is so sad and Im sure it gets worse if I remember correctly from AA5

    [Reply]


  5. on 31 Mar 2010 at 3:14 ammichswan

    It's here…*sob*
    I feel so bad that Carlisle never got to see the new Bella and realize that they were so much better of the 2nd time around. I think he would have loved Bella just as much…
    So sad…. :(

    [Reply]


  6. on 31 Mar 2010 at 3:42 amlvk1978

    I see your Wow! and raise you a Dah-yum! I knew this was coming, too, but the EPOV made it absolutely gutting. I'm crying and have that whole tightness in the chest going on and on and on… The "I love you, Mommy" was a total killer and Esme's reaction was heartbreaking.

    At this point I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but your writing is so, so amazing. It's an absolute revelation each and every time and I'm so glad to have discovered both AA5 and Counterpoint. You are a treasure — no doubt about it. As always, thanks for posting.

    [Reply]


  7. on 31 Mar 2010 at 6:39 amGabi

    Oh, God. So Heartwrenching. It was so sudden. One minute, I'm laughing at the e-mails, the next minute, I'm crying. In front of the computer in my office, I might add. Thank you for updating so quickly.

    [Reply]


  8. on 31 Mar 2010 at 3:14 ammichswan

    It's here…*sob*
    I feel so bad that Carlisle never got to see the new Bella and realize that they were so much better of the 2nd time around. I think he would have loved Bella just as much…
    So sad…. :(

    [Reply]


  9. on 31 Mar 2010 at 5:37 am@shc92

    If as reader, my heart was breaking, even more than before because we're seeing it unfold in front of Edward, I can only imagine how you felt writing this. Glad you had yourself a drink after posting. I can't imagine your emotion. I will leave more coherent review tomorrow. I have my glass of wine. I knew it was coming. I wanted more time! Do I sound crazy? Beautifully conveyed, painful…so much in here. Thank you, as always.

    [Reply]


  10. on 31 Mar 2010 at 11:44 amLynn

    I'm agreeing with both above…I knew it was coming, but thought I had a bit of time before it happened. I wasn't expecting it this chapter, which I think made it a much more powerful moment. Death (in cases such as this, as opposed to say, cancer or even old age) is NOT expected; your ability to have this take us by surprise, even knowing we were expecting it, shows what an amazing author you are. I hope that makes sense.

    Your Carlisle is one of my favorite incantations, and even though I understand the necessity of the story line, we're going to miss your portrayal of him, as well as Carlisle himself.

    [Reply]


  11. on 31 Mar 2010 at 3:06 pmkatydid13

    An incredible mixture of humor and sadness. I love you mommy just about killed me.

    [Reply]


  12. on 09 Apr 2010 at 1:49 amElizabeth440

    Despite this being one of the chapters I most dreaded-but-not-really, the aspect that actually stood out the most to me was how in sync Edward's and Bella's POVs were during their conversation. After so many conversations in which each overlooked or missed various statements, they are finally on the same page during the shopping excursion and hear each other.

    I also really value the little glimpses we get of Jack and what motivates him. It's amazing how with just a few brush strokes, you can render such a complex character.

    As for the loss of Carlisle, how can something you know is coming still sting so badly? I can already sense the gaping hole in Edward's life and even in the story with his loss, which is so realistic. We never truly get over our loved ones' deaths, we just learn to live without them.

    [Reply]


  13. on 29 May 2010 at 2:17 pmAitza Danielle

    “I love you, Mommy” absolutely killed me!
    [tear]
    I knew that Carlisle death was coming; however, I was unprepared for it happening so soon. He was one of my favorite Carlisle.

    [Reply]


  14. on 27 Nov 2010 at 2:19 pmJulie

    I was hoping against hope this didn’t happen in this version of the story. So freaking sad. He was your best character. You did such a wonderful job making him so likable and ripping our hearts out by having him die in your story.

    [Reply]


  15. on 02 Jan 2011 at 4:25 pmFancastride

    I knew this was coming and I still cried.

    [Reply]