Dom Perignon


December 31, 1999
It’s nothing like I thought it would be. Based on what I’d experienced eating at four-star restaurants with Edward and his father, I though the patrons at Jude’s would be middle-aged, conservative, and uppity—kind of like Brooks Brothers threw up on them. The people here are entirely different. For one, the age of the clientele is more diverse. Sure, some look enough to be my parents, but there are just as many in their twenties and thirties. There’s a formally-attired waitstaff serving wine and dinner, but given what Carlisle’s said about his job, I expect that. What catches me off-guard is the crowded dance floor and the DJ spinning Groove Armada. I try to picture Edward out there “shaking that ass”. Somehow, I just can’t.

“There you are!” Carlisle comes toward me, looking every bit as pulled together as he did the last time I saw him. If he’s at all stressed by how things are going, it doesn’t show. Then again, the fact he’s holding a glass of champagne probably doesn’t hurt. “Laurent said I’d find you here.”

“Have I done something wrong?”

“What?” There’s confusion on his face, then it changes to a smile. “No. Nothing like that.”

“I’ve been up here for a few minutes, just kind of watching. I have a hard time picturing this kind of scene at any of the high-end restaurants I’ve been to in DC. Is this a Chicago thing?”

He shakes his head, laughing. “It’s a me thing.”

“I don’t follow.”

“Most people think you can’t have haute cuisine without stuffiness. The atmosphere of most well-respected restaurants doesn’t appeal to people our age, regardless of how into food we may be. When I open my own place, I want to incorporate elements of traditional fine dining into more of a club-like setting. Last New Year’s Eve, they did the usual holiday bullshit here—a prix fixe menu, three timed seatings, a champagne toast at midnight. They also barely broke even. It took months for me to convince the owners to trust me enough to let me try something new.”

He stares into space, intent yet seemingly focused on nothing—much like Alice does when she’s lost in thought. When he turns back to me, he catches me staring at him.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “Something about your face just then made me think of my best friend back in Washington. I miss her so much.”

“Why don’t you give her a call?”

“I can’t; she’s Edward’s sister.”

His narrowed eyes shift from one side to the other. “So?”

“Am I supposed to tell her how to get in touch with me then ask her not to tell her brother? Considering how close the two of them are, that just doesn’t seem fair.”

“You know what else isn’t fair? Not letting her decide this for herself.” He looks down at his watch, then grabs me by the hand. “Come on.”

He leads me out of the dining room and down the hall. When we’re in front of a closed door, he pulls keys out of his pocket and unlocks it. After a quick look around, he pulls me inside with him, closing the door behind us. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the lighting enough for me to take in my surroundings.

“Is this your office?”

“Uh, no. And as much as I’d like to give you privacy, if anyone finds out I let you in here by yourself, I’ll be in deep shit.

“I don’t understand.”

“See that?” He points to the phone on the desk. “The caller ID is blocked on that line. If she doesn’t know where you’re calling from, you’re not asking her to lie for you.”

I open my mouth to thank him, but he’s already stepped out into the hall. As he pulls the door closed behind him, I pick up the receiver and dial. On the third ring, she answers. It doesn’t matter if she’s so drunk she slurs her one-word greeting, I think her voice is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.

“Hi, Alice. I don’t have long—I’m working right now, but I miss you and wanted to wish you a happy new year.”

“Oh my god! Izzy? Is that you? What the hell is going on? Do you have any idea how worried we’ve been?”

“I left you a message. Didn’t—”

“Look, I know things were shitty with you and Edward for a while, but you have to know he didn’t mean it that way.”

“Mean what?”

“Our mother’s pearl earrings—he just wanted you to have something of hers that also meant something to him. That’s all it was.”

Alice keeps talking, but none of her words register. I replay Christmas in my head. If he’d only told me why he was giving them to me, I wouldn’t have jumped to conclusions. Everything would be different now. Then again, if he’d been more accepting of our differences—more accepting of me—there wouldn’t have been any conclusions to jump to. If I knew the earrings were his mother’s, I might not have left when I did. Eventually, though, I’d have left over something else. I know this without a doubt.

“…believe me, Izzy, I know how he gets—but we both know that’s not who he is. I wish you could see what this is doing to him. You have to know how much he loves you—”

“Please, I can’t hear any more.” I blink back tears and do my best to keep my voice from breaking. “I can’t take this.”

“You have to! Don’t you get it? I mean, I don’t have a fucking clue what you’ve been off doing this week, but if you’d just listen—”

“I need to go, Alice. I love you, and I’ll talk to you soon.”

I hang up the receiver with such force, the bell inside the phone lets out a quick chirp. Wiping my cheeks, I take a deep breath and open the door to the hallway. Carlisle is standing there holding our drinks, just like he said he’d be. From off in the distance, I hear voices. That we’re nowhere near the dining room doesn’t matter—the countdown is loud enough that we may as well be on the center of the dance floor.

Ten! 
Nine!
Eight! 
Seven! 
Six! 
Five! 
Four! 
Three! 
Two! 
One! 
Happy New Year!

The cheering and yelling eventually give way to “1999” by Prince.

“Fucking A! Is there anyone on the planet who isn’t sick to death of this song by now?” Carlisle shrugs, shaking his head. “That son of a bitch is supposed to be playing ‘New Year’s Day’ by U2. When my boss finds out Jude’s welcomed the millenium with a cliché, it won’t mean shit that thanks to me we did ten times the profit we did last year—oh no! I’ll still be demoted to busboy.”

It doesn’t matter that I’m almost positive he’s joking—the next thing I know, I’m a snot-sobbing mess. In a last-ditch effort to pull myself together, I lower my head and stare at the battle-weary toes of my Docs. Halfway through the song, I still haven’t moved. What surprises me is that he hasn’t, either.

“Hey.” His voice is soft and, when I look up at him, there’s only concern on his face. He hands me my champagne flute, then touches his glass to mine. “Happy New Year, Izzy. Despite what you think, it gets better from here; I promise.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

“I’ll stop payment on his check. Or better yet…” His eyes widen and, when he opens his mouth, he’s singing. “Hang the DJ! Hang the DJ!”

This time when I try to laugh, my eyes stay dry. I raise my glass to my lips and take a sip.

“Whoa,” I say after swallowing. “That’s different.”

“What did Laurent pour you?”

“Dom Pérignon. I’ve never had it. It’s almost…” I take another sip. “Creamy? Wait, is that even possible?”

“That’s the art of wine making.”

“It’s so different from Veuve Cliquot. I mean, the slightly nutty flavor is the same, but here it’s more like almonds.”

“Do me a favor? When you go back to the wine cellar, tell Laurent exactly what you just told me.”

“Why, so he can make fun of me?”

“He won’t; trust me. I need to get back to work. Are you okay?”

“Yes; I can find my own way back to the dining room, and from there, I’m good.”

“I’m not talking about that. I mean are you okay?”

My instinct is to lie because it’s easier, but then I look at him and his concern seems genuine enough that I want to tell him the truth.

“No,” I say, “but I think I will be.”

I only hope the same is true for Edward.




December 16, 2009
Long after the rest of the city is asleep, we stay awake talking. As we sit cross-legged on my bed opposite each other with clasped hands, he’s clad only in boxers and I in one of his undershirts. It doesn’t matter if we’re not fully naked—for what is probably the first time ever, we’re completely exposed.

“What made you settle down in Alton?”

Laughing, he raises an eyebrow. “We promise complete openness and honesty, and that’s what you want to know?”

“I’m starting off with the easy stuff—just think of it as a warm-up question. Besides, it is something I’ve spent the past few years wondering.”

“Fair enough, though the answer is probably exactly what you think it is.”

“It was your best shot at being elected to the State Senate?”

“Pretty much—that and it was as far away from my father as I could get without leaving Illinois. It worked out well for me though.”

“Because you were elected on your first try?”

“You know…” He pauses and gives my hands a squeeze. “It’s not all about politics for me.”

“Maybe not now.”

“It never was. Anyway, I like living in Alton. I can relax in a way I can’t when congress is in session. There aren’t cameras everywhere, and no one bothers me.”

“Wait. You actually live there?”

“Yes. I’m only in Washington when I have to be.”

“Huh.” That explains why his apartment there seemed so impersonal. “I’m sorry; I just have a hard time imagining that.”

“We’ll see if you still feel that way after you’ve been there with me. Okay, my turn. Why is it so hard for you to talk to me?”

My face heats up in a way it hasn’t since I was a teenager.

“What, I don’t get a warm-up question?”

He shakes his head, smiling. “I play hardball.”

“Apparently.”

I try to pull my hands out of his so I can fidget with the hem of my t-shirt, but he doesn’t let me.

“No, Izzy,” he says. “No more hiding.”

“I’m not.”

“Then look at me.”

“Fine.” I raise my eyes to his, keeping my gaze as steady as possible. “It’s because you intimidate the hell out of me.”

“Then or now?”

I swallow hard. “Both.”

If my admission affects him at all, it doesn’t show. “Do me a favor?”

I nod.

“Don’t let me.”

Taking his advice, I ask him something that has been eating away at me for days.

“The night I told you about Carlisle, you said you were angry with yourself for letting your father and me have all the power. I get why you’d feel that way about him, but as far as I’m concerned? I don’t understand.”

This time, he does react. His eyes close tightly, causing his forehead to wrinkle.

“It’s the same for both of you.” His ensuing sigh comes out with such force, I feel the damp heat of his breath against my face. “I care what you think of me.”

“You care what everyone thinks of you. You always have.”

He shakes his head. “To some extent, yes, but mostly just as a means to an end.”

And there it is. Coming full circle may have taken us a decade, but it doesn’t matter. We’re still right back where we started. I don’t even bother trying to keep the bitterness from my voice.

“Let me guess—approval ratings.”

“No. Just your approval.”





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  1. on 16 Dec 2011 at 9:14 pmJ

    I totally sympathize with the senator this chapter. It seems she sees his need for her approval as a negative, and I don’t. There is a real difference between what he needs from people to have power, and what he needs from her to simply feel loved and accepted. I like how you presented this dynamic in their relationship.

    And the following is so well done:

    “Happy New Year, Izzy. Despite what you think, it gets better from here; I promise.”

    “And if it doesn’t?”

    “I’ll stop payment on his check. Or better yet…” His eyes widen and, when he opens his mouth, he’s singing. “Hang the DJ! Hang the DJ!”

    Might be my favorite chapter in the book, both for 1999 and 2009.

    -J

    [Reply]


  2. on 29 Jun 2012 at 1:04 amSimone

    I very much relate to what Edward revealed to Bella. Isn’t that what we all want, really?

    [Reply]