April 28, 2001
My mouth drops open the second Carlisle walks in the room. Short-haired and clean shaven, he’s classically handsome—more like a model than a rock star. In other words, he looks the way Edward would look if he were blond and didn’t dress like Brooks Brothers threw up on him.

“Whoa.” I step away from the pot I’m stirring. “Who are you and what have you done with my best friend?”

He shrugs. “I’d been at Jude’s for long enough that how I looked didn’t matter, but since I’m going on job interviews…I’m thirty. It’s time to look like a grown-up.”

I’m not sure how to tell him that now he’s clean shaven, he bears a freakish resemblance to my ex. “I guess.”

“What? You don’t like it?”

I’m about to make something up when he sees my rent check on the kitchen island. He frowns, then picks it up and hands it back to me. “No way. You need this to pay for France. Even with Esme putting you up, you’ll still have expenses—there’s no way you can afford to pay rent this month.”

“There’s no way you can afford for me not to pay rent this month.”

“I’m going to make money, Iz.”

“When you were a sous at Jude’s, Georges gave you free rein over the kitchen and you still hated cooking someone else’s dishes.”

“So I take a job I don’t like for a while. It won’t be the first time.”

“Goddamn it!” I pound my fist against the island. “This is all my fucking fault.”

“Hey.” He pulls me into his arms. “I don’t have any regrets. I would hope you don’t, either…”

I have more regrets than he can possibly imagine, but I shake my head anyway.

“Good,” he says. “Besides, it’s not as if I don’t have any money. I still have that lump-sum child support payment from the sperm donor sitting in the bank. Maybe it’s time–”

“No.” I take a step back so I can see his face. “You promised yourself you wouldn’t touch that.”

It has always been the thing he was most proud of. That he and his mom would survive and succeed without the beneficence of the guy who’d sired him.

“Carlisle, you made it without him. You shouldn’t have to change all that now.”

“But if it gets me my own restaurant and you to France…” His arms tighten around me. “I don’t need anything else.”

“I don’t want you to give up on your dreams.”

“Oh, Izzy.” He kisses the top of my head. “I haven’t.”

December 26, 2009
“I’m sorry.” I lean against the chapel door and mentally replay his words. There’s no way he said what I think he said. “You did what?”

“I resigned from the Senate.”

I should be happy. I want this—god, how I want this. But only if he wants it, too.


He looks up at his mother’s portrait. “I can’t change the fact I wasn’t there for my mom, but I’m not about to make the same mistake twice.”

“Alice wouldn’t want you to give up on your dreams. I mean, this is all you’ve ever wanted–”

“Goddamn it!” Groaning, he runs a hand through his hair and kicks the wall. “How could I have been such a fucking idiot? I mean, what the hell kind of person doesn’t notice his sister is dying?”

“Edward…look at me.” I brush my hand across his stubble-covered cheek, nudging his face up so his eyes meet mine. “You can’t blame yourself.”

“Can’t I? What if we’d lost her tonight? Then she’d never know…” He closes his eyes, sighing. “I’ve lost too many people before I had the chance to show them what they mean to me–”

“Baby, that’s all in the past. Leaving a job you love isn’t going to make any of that go away.”

“I know, but—”

“People who love you would never ask you to give up a part of yourself for them, regardless of the circumstances. I wouldn’t, and I know Alice wouldn’t. Politics is part of what makes you you.”

“She doesn’t have a lot of time, Izzy. I can’t take the thought of her spending even a second of it alone.”

I throw myself against him and, for the first time ever, I don’t have to stretch to wrap my arms around his neck. I can reach him now that he’s stepped down from his pedestal; holding him no longer seems impossible.

So I do.

On our way back to Alice’s room, we pass Carlisle in the hallway. So much has happened in the past hour, I’ve totally forgotten about Sarah and William.

“Is your mom okay?” I ask.

“Are you kidding?” He laughs. “She handed him his ass.” He launches into a description of what happened, complete with the expletives he didn’t think his mother knew, let alone knew how to use.

“Wow.” Edward shakes his head. “I can’t imagine…not that he doesn’t deserve it. I just wish I could have seen it.”

“Me, too,” Carlisle says. “Anyway, I wanted to stop in to see Alice, but–”

“It’s fine; she knows.”

They both whip their heads to look at me, their mouths hanging open.

“What?” I shrug. “She figured it out on her own. Believe me, she wasn’t very happy–”

“In that case, maybe I should get going,” Carlisle says.

“Oh no. It’s me she’s pissed at.” I look at Edward. “Probably you, too, though she didn’t mention it.”

Edward sighs. “I’ll have to face her sooner or later. Come on.” He pats Carlisle on the back. “There’s safety in numbers.”

When we get to Alice’s room, her eyes go right to Carlisle. “Hello there, Will.”

I expect him to flip out—he usually does when someone uses his first name—but he doesn’t seem to mind. If anything, he looks amused.

“Hi, Mary,” he says with a wink.

She points to the floor beside her bed. “Pull up a chair.”

He follows her orders with a smile.

“This is still so weird for me,” she says. “I have so many questions—how Edward knew about you, what the deal was between your mom and my dad, what it was like for you growing up—I want to hear all of it.”

“Okay,” he says, nodding. “Where would you like me to start?”

“Oh, before I forget! Izzy told me you play guitar.”

“I do…”

“Think you could sneak it in with you tomorrow? The doctors haven’t decided when they’re going to spring me, and if I’m going to be stuck here, I could use some decent entertainment.”

Edward rolls his eyes. “I doubt he knows any Debbie Gibson.”

“One freaking song!” She turns to Carlisle and holds up her index finger. “I like one of her songs—mostly because our mother liked it. It was all over the radio, and she and I would sing along with it in the car. He won’t let me live it down.”

Carlisle laughs. “Isn’t that what older brothers are for?”

“Maybe. Still, I doubt Edward could take what he dishes out.” She pushes herself to sit up straighter. “Wait—how old are you?”

“Thirty-eight,” he says. “Why?”

“That’s fantastic!” She claps her hands. “Feel free to bust his balls as often as you like. The way I see it, you have thirty-six years to make up for.”

Edward snorts. “As if there’s anything either of you could make fun of me for.”

“There’s plenty, and you know it,” she says.

Carlisle laughs. “I’ve already seen the picture of him in the blinking reindeer antlers.”

“Quality material, if I do say so myself.” She sighs. “This is usually when he plays the You-Have-to-Respect-Me-I’m-Your-Senator card.”

Looking at the floor, Edward shifts his feet. “Uh, yeah. You won’t be hearing that from me again.”

“Oh?” Alice narrows her eyes. “You’ve finally gotten over yourself?”

“No, I left the Senate.”

Carlisle looks at Edward in disbelief; Alice’s jaw drops. I understand their reactions. Hell, it’s shocking for me to hear, and I already knew.

“What, did they catch you with a hooker or something?” he asks.

I roll my eyes. “Oh sure, Carlisle. Don’t waste any time with the mockery.”

“What?” He turns up his palms, shrugging. “When politicians resign mid-term, there’s almost always a sex scandal.”

“He’s right,” Edward says, laughing. “But no, nothing like that.”

“Seriously though,” Alice says. “Why?”

“Alice…” His smile fades, and when he speaks, his voice is almost too quiet to hear. “I can’t let you do this alone.”

She gestures for him to come closer; he sits on the foot of her bed and rests his hand on her blanket-covered leg.

“What’s really going on here?” she asks. “I mean, when Mom died you didn’t–”

“I know.” He covers his face with his hand and sighs. “Believe me, I know. And I’ve had to live with that…”

She shakes her head. “I’d never ask you to do this.”

“That’s why I have to. Alice, I love you too much to let you fight this alone.”

“Oh, don’t start with that shit again.” She holds up her hand; her face says she means business. “I told you, I’m done fighting.”

“I’m still hoping you’ll change your mind about that,” Edward says.

Carlisle’s eyes dart from Edward to Alice. “What do you mean, you’re done fighting?”

She turns to Carlisle. “No more chemo. Dignity, baby. I plan to die with mine intact.”

I flinch at the thought of her dying at all.

“One way or another,” Edward says, “I’m not leaving your side.”

Her eyes fill with tears. “Thank you,” she whispers.

“Eh.” He shrugs. “That’s what family’s for.”

Laughing, Alice starts to sing. “Keep smiling, keep shining, knowing you can always count on me…” She turns to Carlisle. “He says shit like that then teases me for my taste in music. At least I don’t sound like a Hallmark card.”

“Seriously, Al,” Edward says. “I love you, and I want to support you.”

I think I just fell a little more in love with him.

Alice takes Edward’s hand in one of hers and Carlisle’s in the other. “Family,” she says.

Neither of them argue with her.

It’s a good start.

Edward and I stay at the hospital until just after dawn. When we finally get back to my apartment, my alarm clock is buzzing. I turn it off, and start to get out of my clothes. My cocktail dress falls to my feet in a heap of taffeta and tulle; I stand there in my slip, mentally replaying the last twenty-four hours.

Has it really only been a day?

When the mattress creaks, I turn to find Edward sitting on the edge of the bed, still dressed for Christmas dinner, a vacant look on his face. I kick my dress across the room and sit beside him.

“You should try to sleep,” I tell him.

“Yeah. I don’t think I can.”

I know the feeling.

We sit there in silence; I stare at him as he stares off into space.

“Are you having second thoughts about your resignation?”

“No, it’s nothing like that. I …” His voice breaks, and his eyes start to water. “I knew there was a chance she would get sick…”

The sight of him crying is too much. He’s always the stoic one, the one who doesn’t want people to know what he’s thinking. For him to look the way he does now—with tear-streaked cheeks and eyes that seem greener because his face is flushed—I can’t imagine what’s going on inside him. As much as I want to stay strong for him, it’s no use. My tears come fast and hard.

“…I mean, she does have the gene. But then…” He wipes under his eyes with the heels of his hands. “…she did everything—everything she could to prevent it.” He shakes his head. “‘Oh, it’s not a big deal,’ she said. ‘Medicine has come a long way since we lost Mom…'” Rolling his eyes, he blows his nose into his sleeve. His cufflink catches on his nostril, leaving a streak of blood on his starched white shirt. “Not fucking far enough!”

He collapses onto me, his head on my lap as he sobs. I rub his back, hoping it will soothe him. When it doesn’t, I utter the words that matter most.

“I love you, Edward…and I’m so sorry.”

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  1. on 29 Jun 2012 at 2:26 amSimone

    He truly has come down from his pedestal. In the past, he never would have been so open with Bella. It’s heartbreaking.