June 1, 2001
“It’s only a month. You’ll be back before you know it.”
It’s the third time Carlisle has said this since we got to the airport. It’s good to hear, but I wonder if it isn’t as much for him as it is me.
“Besides,” he continues, “you won’t be able to decide if a career in wine is what you really want with me there distracting you.”
“What if it isn’t? Then you would have tapped into the money from the sperm donor for nothing.”
“Hey.” He cups my face in his hands. “Not for nothing—for you. And you’re worth it.”
His lips are pressed against mine when they make my boarding call. I know I should get going, but for whatever reason, I feel frozen in place. He breaks the kiss and steps away from me, but I pull him right back.
“Thank you for everything.” When I step away from him, I’m blinking back tears. “Goddamn it. It’s so hard to say goodbye to you…”
“Then don’t. Come on.” He takes my hand and tugs me toward the jetway. “They won’t wait for you.” Shrugging, he smiles at me. “I, on the other hand…”
I throw my arms around him—just one more hug. It’s going to be a while before I can feel him against me again, and I need the memory to last. This time when I leave his embrace, my eyes are dry.
“See you soon,” I tell him, before hurrying to the gate.
I show my boarding pass then look back to where Carlisle and I were standing. He’s exactly where I left him, smiling at me. A quick wave later, I’m on my way.
As I step onto the jetway, I remember the night Alice’s Magic 8-Ball told me again and again I’d regret not going to Harvard. When I was too hysterical to think straight, Alice picked it up from where I’d dropped it.
“Will Izzy be happy in whatever real-world thing she ends up doing?” she asked it.
All signs point to yes, it had said.
I board the plane.
December 27, 2009
When Edward steps out of my bathroom dressed for the press conference, he looks as if he fell out of his Sexiest Man Alive spread in Peoplemagazine. The custom suit, the starched shirt, the perfectly shined shoes—I’ve seen it before in hundreds of pictures of news clips. Then, the outfit was accompanied by a cool confidence and a glint in his eyes—I never doubted he was in his element. But seeing him on TV is different from how he looks now. It’s almost like looking at an actor who’s in costume but not in character. All these years, I thought this is who he was, but now I’m not so sure.
His eyes meet mine briefly before he lowers them, scrutinizing my outfit. For a moment, he doesn’t move or say anything.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “It’s just that it seems people wear suits to these things–”
“You’re right; they do.” He focuses on my suit again. “Do you have anything more…I don’t know…maybe more traditional?”
I shake my head. “This is the only decent suit I have. I scored it at a vintage shop in Wicker Park.”
“What would you wear for, say, a job interview?”
The last time I went on anything approaching a job interview was roughly seven years ago. Carlisle brought up the idea of me managing the beverage service at his first restaurant when we were in bed together. To make sure I was qualified, he set up a blind tasting of several wines—not unlike the test I took for my sommelier certification. Except with Carlisle, I was wearing a blindfold and nothing else.
“I don’t know; I haven’t been on one in years.” I look down at myself, sighing. “I’m sorry. I know it’s not ideal, but there wasn’t enough time for me to buy something and have it altered–”
He holds up his hand. “Wait—why are you apologizing?”
“Because you hate my suit, and I want to be appropriate.I know you don’t like me wearing old clothing around your…uh…people.”
He pulls back, narrowing his eyes. “When did I say that?”
“Remember all those times you insisted on buying me new clothes? There was that birthday dinner with your father. When we were out shopping for something for me to wear, you wouldn’t even entertain the idea of me wearing vintage.”
“My father wouldn’t get it that it’s your style; he’d just think you couldn’t afford a new dress.”
“Right—and men like your father voted for you…”
After a long sigh, he gestures for me to turn around. “This is really the only suit you own?”
“I have others, but they all have wine stains. The lights are dim enough at work no one can tell, and when I go out, this is much more my style.” I smooth the jacket with my hands, then point to my waist. “See the way this is cut here, the way it flairs out a little? It makes my ass look smaller. And the skirt…” I turn so my back is to him and kick one of my legs back. “It’s narrow, but the pleats in the back make it so I can get in and out of cars gracefully without giving a peepshow.” Facing him, I straighten my lapels. “The way the collar is here, it makes me look as if I actually have something up top.” I shrug. “I don’t know. Once I bought this, I didn’t think I’d ever need another one. It’s black and conservative enough, but I still feel girly in it. I think that’s why vintage appeals to me so much. In the 1940s, women still dressed like ladies.”
Once again, he scrutinizes my clothing, but something in his eyes is different. “This is from the forties? Seriously?”
He rotates his index finger, and I slowly turn.
“It does look as if it was made for you,” he says.
“So it will do?”
“Yes.” He kisses the top of my forehead then whispers, “You look perfect.”
Edward drums his fingers against my hand as we wait for him to take the podium. As much as I hate that he’s nervous, I like that he’s letting me see it.
I’m smiling as I straighten his tie. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Across the room, his chief of staff snorts. “Right now Blago’s wishing he were still in office. Just think what your Senate seat would go for on eBay!”
Edward smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “I’m sure whoever wins the election will pay for it one way or another. Besides, I haven’t ruled out running for office again. It’s just that for now, I need to be with my sister…”
For a moment, no one says anything.
Edward takes a step back and claps his hands together.
When we walk into the room where the press is gathered, all I see are camera flashes. Breathe, Izzy. They’re not looking at you. Edward, on the other hand, looks perfectly composed; even peaceful. And it hits me—this is normal for him. And if he decides he wants to get back into politics in a few years, it will become normal for me, too.
I look at Edward. He smiles at me, and I know. It’s different now. The person he’s become is worth it. When we reach the podium, I keep my eyes on him. Everyone else just fades into the background.
He adjusts the microphone and begins to speak.
“John F. Kennedy once said, ‘A man does what he must— in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures—and that is the basis of all human morality.’ Duty comes in many forms. Sometimes, it’s…well…Ah, shit.” He claps his hands down onto the sides of the podium. “Is there anyone who doesn’t know why we’re here?” He looks around the room. “I didn’t think so. I wish I’d thought of that before I asked my speech writer to pull an all-nighter.” He smiles sheepishly. “Sorry, Dave. I think I want to wing this one.
“During my senate campaign, I told voters again and again that liberalism and family values weren’t mutually exclusive.” He pauses. “Family values. Liberals and conservatives alike toss the term around, and though they’re willing to define it, it’s always in terms of their stances on social issues. Regardless of our differences, there’s one thing on which we agree: America is only as strong as her people, and people are strongest when their families are there to support them. I became a lawmaker to do my part for my country, but for me to continue doing so would be forsaking my duty to my family.
“‘A man does what he must.’ What I must do has never been more clear to me. Thank you for the honor of serving you.”
There are questions, but he doesn’t stick around to answer them. He turns to me smiling, then briefly presses his lips to mine. I don’t know if I’ll ever belong in his world, but that doesn’t matter because I belong with him.
I think I always will.