Dextrose and Saline
December 31, 2000
“Izzy, after you clock in, would you come see me in the office?”
Shit. I’ve been here less than a minute, and Carlisle’s already pissed at me. I follow him down the hallway telling myself not to panic, that he’s the same guy whose shaving cream I stole this morning. Then again, that guy isn’t in a position to stick me with dish duty.
It’s been this way the entire year. At home, I feel completely relaxed with him—more so than I ever was with Edward—largely because he’s so laid back. But here he’s the boss, and with the rare exception of when we’re alone, his demeanor never lets me forget it. I didn’t expect him to treat me any differently—he can’t play favorites at the restaurant. But he does treat me differently, just not in a good way . Take being late for work. The rest of the staff has a ten minute grace period. If I’m even a minute late, he messes with my schedule. Every time I try to confront him about it, I always wuss out.
“Have a seat,” he says, pulling the door closed behind him. “Laurent was supposed to be here for this, but he’s stuck in traffic.”
“Am I in trouble?”
“No, no, nothing like that.”
He must have left his serious business executive chef hat out in the hall—unlike five minutes ago, he’s not acting like he has a great big stick up his ass.
“Just wanted to make sure you knew that even if this is your first night in your new job, I still want you to come find me at midnight. Laurent won’t mind—he can do without an assistant for ten minutes or so.”
“So I’m in the wine cellar tonight.”
“You’re in the wine cellar until you decide you want out of the wine cellar.”
“Is this for real?”
He smiles. “Believe me, I wouldn’t joke about this.”
Screaming, I leap from my chair and throw my arms around him. “Thank you.”
“You have to understand I didn’t–”
The door flies open, and in strolls Laurent. “What have I missed?”
Carlisle can’t move away from me fast enough.
“Nothing; we were just getting started.” He crosses the room and takes the seat behind the desk. “Izzy, I’d like to formally offer you the position of beverage service assistant.”
Ten minutes before midnight, I climb the wine-cellar stairs holding two glasses of champagne. I took the liberty of pouring one for Carlisle; after all, tonight there’s something worth toasting. My eyes find him right away, standing with his back to me a few feet from the bar. I move toward him as quickly as I can without spilling. I’m in such a better place than I was a year ago, and I know that’s largely thanks to him. Seeing as Alice is eight hundred miles away in D.C., Carlisle is it as far as “celebrating with friends” goes. Besides, tonight is a milestone we should celebrate together. I’m the happiest I’ve been since leaving Washington, and it’s entirely due to him. Just as I open my mouth, he shifts to the side, and I see her.
If she weren’t a restaurant patron, I’d have no problem interrupting. After all, he told me to find him at midnight. But she is, so all I can do is linger by the door to the wine cellar and wait for her to leave. She’s not at all subtle about what she wants. Giggling, she takes a step closer to him and rests her hand against his upper arm. And instead of removing it, the way he usually would, he leans in and laughs.
I lean against the wall, not entirely able to believe what I’m seeing. It’s not that some gorgeous redhead is flirting with him—women are always hitting on him at work. Usually, he keeps it all-business and eventually they get the hint. It’s that he’s flirting back.
In the year I’ve known Carlisle, I’ve never once seen him take an interest in a member of the opposite sex, and part of me realizes I should be happy Carlisle’s met someone he seems to like.
The other part of me? Wants to claw a bitch. It shouldn’t be her touching him right now.
It should be me.
She finally takes her hand off his arm and reaches into her purse for a business card, which she presses into his palm before leaving. He puts it in his pocket, keeping his eyes fixed on her as she walks toward the dining room. It isn’t until she crosses in front of me that he notices me standing here. Right away, his lustful gaze becomes a sheepish smile. After a moment of hesitation, he approaches me.
“Sorry about that.” He runs his hand over his ponytail, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
I don’t make eye contact as I hand him his glass. I feel bad enough about what I was just thinking; if he knew about it, it would only make things worse.
“How are things going in the wine cellar?” he asks.
“Then what’s wrong?”
“It’s couple minutes to midnight. If you’d rather…” I angle my head toward the dining room. “I didn’t see where she went, but I’m sure you could catch up with her.”
“If you say so. I mean, it’s New Year’s Eve, and she was into you, and you didn’t seem to mind the attention.”
“Izzy…” He sighs. “She’s pretty, and I noticed. That’s all.”
“I just don’t want you to miss out because you feel as if you have to babysit me all the time.”
“I’m not missing out on anything.”
“I don’t know. ” I stare at my champagne, focused at the bubbles beneath the surface. They all get out eventually; some just take longer than all the time we’ve been roommates, you’ve never brought anyone home.”
He laughs. “As if you have.”
“My situation is different. You must have needs.”
He raises an eyebrow.
“Don’t give me that,” I say. “I know you know what I mean.”
“Oh, I know exactly what you mean—and I’m trying really hard not to get pissed at you for it.”
“I didn’t mean to offend you–”
“Of course you didn’t. Never mind the fact you implied that just because I have a penis, I must want to put it in every women who’s willing. How was that not supposed to offend me After the way my—that asshole—treated my mother…” He trails off, but his jaw is set. “I’m not like that.”
“I’m not saying you are. Come on—we live together. I know it’s been a while since you…”
He grunts. “So what about your needs?”
My face heats up. “Like I said, my situation is different. Anyway, I saw the way you were looking at her. And since you and I are just friends, but with her there may be potential for more, I don’t want you to feel as if you have to be …”
“Izzy…” He takes a step toward me. He’s close enough to touch me but doesn’t. “I’d rather be with you.”
January 1, 2001
When we get home from work we’re both exhausted, but I insist we toast my new job anyway. We flop onto the couch with our glasses, and before we know it, we’re opening a second bottle. I’m the most relaxed I’ve been since I moved out here, and the combination of five glasses of wine and promotion euphoria makes me feel invincible enough to broach that subject.
“You know,” I say, pouring myself another glass. “It’s not exactly easy working with you since you became executive chef.”
Carlisle smiles. “I never said it would be.”
“I get that, but seriously. There are days I swear if you rode my ass any harder, OSHA would require handrails.”
“Come on,” he says, laughing. “I’m not that bad.”
“Bullshit. You hold me to a higher a standard than the rest of the staff. I don’t think it’s intentional. You probably don’t even even know you do it–”
“Oh, believe me—I know I’m doing it.”
“Then what the fuck?”
“Shit.” Since the health department doesn’t inspect our apartment, his ponytail was gone the instant we crossed the threshold, spilling his hair around his open collar. He runs his hand through it, letting out a long sigh. “I’m not really sure how to say this. When Laurent requested a full-time assistant, you were his first choice for the job–”
“I know; he told me.”
“But ultimately, it was my decision and I had serious reservations about promoting you.” He holds up his hands. “Now before you get upset, hear me out. I had my reasons, none of which had anything to do with you. I know how serious you are about breaking into the industry, that you’re thinking in terms of a career–”
“And this is a bad thing? All this time you’ve been saying I should trust you, that you’re looking out for my best interests–”
“What the hell do you think I’ve been doing? It’s hard enough for women to work their way through the ranks of the restaurant industry; wine is even worse. Do you think it’s any coincidence that until I took over the only female employees at Jude’s were hostesses and assistant servers? I’ve worked there four years and let me tell you, it wasn’t because of a lack of qualified applicants.”
I roll my eyes. “That’s just Georges being a chauvinistic asshole.”
“Izzy, they’re all like that. Believe me, If Laurent didn’t already know you, you wouldn’t have stood a chance. Honestly, the best thing for you career-wise would have been for you to get a similar position at a different restaurant. For months Laurent and I called in favors trying to find you one. In the end, no one was willing to take a chance on a girl with less than a year’s experience busing tables and no formal training—regardless of how developed her palate may be. Even at Jude’s, there were several more qualified applicants, but Laurent threatened to walk if I didn’t promote you–”
“Whoa.” I hold up my hand. “Wait. He did that?”
“Don’t you get it? He believes in you. He knows you’re going to be amazing. So do I, but to everyone else it looks like I’m playing favorites.”
“Because we live together.”
He groans. “No, dipshit, it’s because I’m in love with you!”
I blink a few times.
“And apparently, everyone knew that but you.” He covers his face with his hands, sighing. “Fuck.”
“You can’t—I mean—…”
“This isn’t how I wanted to tell you, but since it’s out…” He reaches for me, but just when we’re about to touch, he pulls away.
Not knowing what to say, I stare at the floor. I don’t want to lie, but I don’t want to hurt him, either.
It’s not as if I’ve never wondered what it would be like to be with Carlisle. But then I think of Edward, and lusting after Carlisle seems so wrong.
He cups my face in his hands and gently nudges my face toward his. There’s something in his eyes I never once saw in Edward’s.
He moves closer; our bodies are just barely touching.
“I love you, Izzy.”
Almost in slow motion, he lowers his mouth to mine. His goatee tickles my skin, and I know this is real.
And then I’m leaping backward, standing up. Carlisle looks up at me, with shock and hurt and a whole bunch of other things I really don’t want to see crossing his face.
“I’m sorry,” I say as I bolt to my room. “I just can’t.”
December 25, 2009
From somewhere behind me, I hear Esme’s voice. “I’m calling right now.”
In my haste to get to Alice, I crash right into Sarah. The impact makes my teeth close around my tongue. I wipe the blood from my mouth with the back of my hand and swallow.
Despite my inability to produce the words, she nods as if she knows what I’m trying to say.
I can’t lose Alice again.
“It’s okay, Izzy.” She squeezes my hand as she hurries past me. “I’m sure she’s going to be fine.”
I think she’s wrong, but I don’t bother arguing. I just get the hell out of her way.
“I need to get her on the floor.” Sarah kneels beside Edward and reaches for Alice.
“Oh, the hell you do,” he says, holding up his hand. “You’ve done quite enough already.”
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” Carlisle pushes Edward out of Sarah’s way. For a split second, I think Carlisle’s going to throw a punch, but his hands stay on Edward’s shoulders, shaking him as he speaks. “She’s a nurse, Edward. Your sister is unconscious, and my mom’s a nurse. Who the hell cares what happened forty years ago?”
Carlisle releases Edward then goes over to Alice and lifts from the armchair, laying her on the floor. Right away, Sarah takes Alice’s wrist in her hands.
Edward crouches on the floor beside Sarah. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I didn’t–”
“It’s okay.” She releases Alice’s wrist and moves so she’s kneeling beside Alice’s head. “Carlisle? I need you to start compressions.”
Carlisle gets on the floor and starts to push on Alice’s chest. “One-and-two-and-three…”
“Stop it!” Edward’s shaking as yells at Carlisle. “Can’t you hear that crunching noise? You’re pressing too hard.”
Carlisle just keeps counting.
“Those are her ribs,” Sarah says. “The sound is scary; I know, but it’s normal. Does she have a history of heart problems?”
Edward shakes his head. “Not that I’m aware of. She doesn’t talk much about her health, not even when I ask. Is she…I mean, she won’t…” His voice breaks.
I get down on the floor and put my arms around him.
“We’re getting oxygen through her body,” Sarah says. “That means she’ll have a chance.”
Carlisle pauses. Pinching Alice’s nose, Sarah takes a deep breath before exhaling into Alice’s mouth. She does this twice before Carlisle resumes pressing on her chest.
After a few minutes, Carlisle starts to get winded. Without missing a beat, he and Sarah switch positions. She’s on her second round of chest compressions when the paramedics arrive. They get to work with almost inhuman speed as Sarah fills them in on what’s going on. In the time it takes me to blink, they’ve cut through her shirt and bra, exposing her chest. Of course, she has no breasts—just an elaborate Celtic knot tattoo.
Edward covers his face with his hands, wincing. I understand why. Knowing is different from seeing. It’s no surprise that neither of us watch as the paramedic places the defibrillator pads on her chest.
Edward insists on staying with Alice. At first, the paramedics say no. When he tells them he’s a United States Senator, they decide to make an exception.
As he gets inside the ambulance, he calls over his shoulder, “Meet us there.”
For a while, I’m too stunned to move. It isn’t until the blare of the sirens fades completely that I’m able to think coherently. The first thing I need to is figure out how I’m getting to the hospital.
I turn to Carlisle. “Give me your car keys.”
Esme stops him before his hand even gets to his pocket.
“You’ve been drinking all night and you’re upset. You know you’re in no shape to drive.”
“No one here is in any shape to drive!”
“I am,” Sarah says.
Carlisle tosses her his keys. “Okay, let’s go.”
I look at him in disbelief. “You’re coming?”
“I have to,” he says. “She’s my sister.”