Sugar-Sweetened Battery Acid
June 20, 2000
When I get home, I’m relieved to find the apartment is empty. I go straight to my room, telling myself I’ll feel better when I get out of my work clothes. I don’t. I get in the shower, hoping the hot water will soothe more than just my muscles. It doesn’t. I come out of the bathroom dripping wet, a towel wrapped loosely around my body just in case Carlisle comes back. When I throw myself onto my bed, my sheets stick to me.
It will all be better if I hear his voice. I’m halfway through dialing his number when it hits me. If he doesn’t want to hear from me, calling will accomplish nothing besides ruin his birthday.
I hang up the phone. As much as I miss him, I’m not that selfish.
“Izzy? Are you there?”
Startled by Carlisle’s voice, I bolt up in bed, leaving the towel down around my waist.
I’m trying to cover myself when he pushes the door open.
“Uh, whoa.” He backs out of my room, pulling the door closed behind him. “Sorry.”
When I throw on clothes and meet him in the living room, I don’t have to ask what he saw. I can tell by the way he’s acting he saw everything.
The crazy thing is I’m too busy missing Edward to care.
December 20, 2009
Shivering, I rummage through my purse. “Found them!” I slide the key into the lock and open Carlisle and Esme’s front door.
“Do you always just let yourself in?” Edward asks, following me inside.
“I do when they’re expecting me.” I shrug out of my coat and hang it in the closet by the door, then gesture for Edward to give me his. “Besides, I used to live with them.”
He looks appalled. “Both of them together?”
“No, separately. They’re probably in the kitchen. Come on.” I head to the back of the house, pulling him with me. Passing through the dining room, I notice there are only four places set at the table.
When we get to the kitchen, Esme looks up from the pot she’s stirring and smiles. “I thought I heard your voices. Carlisle had to pick up something at Manna for this week’s column; he should be back any minute now.”
“Column?” Edward asks.
“He writes a weekly column on vegetarian cooking for one of the locavore blogs.” I turn to Esme. “Is Sarah still pissed at me?”
“I don’t think so. I mean, if she is she didn’t mention it,” she says.
“Then why isn’t she coming?” I ask.
“She didn’t want to make Edward uncomfortable.”
“She wouldn’t,” he says. “My father on the other hand…” Shaking his head, he fakes a shiver.
“There’s no risk of running into him here,” Esme says, laughing. “In all seriousness, I’m relieved to hear you say that. Now I just have to convince her she’s welcome at Izzy’s on Christmas, and hopefully things will start to get back to normal around here.”
“Fuck.” I close my eyes, sighing. “I haven’t officially invited her. I didn’t want to call her if she was still mad at me.”
Esme picks a baby carrot up from a plate on the counter and throws it at my head. “Pussy.”
“I’m sorry!” I whine. “You know how much I love her. If I called and she gave me the cold shoulder, I don’t think I could take it.”
“There’s an easy solution.” Edward takes his phone out of his pocket. “What’s her number?”
Esme tells him, and he dials.
Meanwhile, I just stand there with my mouth hanging open.
“Hello, Sarah? It’s Edward…Cullen…You know, Isabella’s boyfriend?” He laughs. “Senator Cullen works, too. I know—I wouldn’t expect to hear from me, either. Isabella lost her voice, so I’m inviting people to Christmas dinner on her behalf. Will you be joining us?…Great. We’ll see you then.” He ends the call and puts his phone back into his pocket. “She’s coming. She’s also bringing cookies.”
“Thank you, Edward,” Esme says. “That went above and beyond.”
“I know how it feels to spend holidays alone. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
“Well…” She reaches across the kitchen island squeezes his hand. “I think it’s safe to say that’s not something you need to worry about anymore.”
“Wait, what’s the headcount for Christmas dinner now?” I do a quick mental tally. “Seven? That’s going to be a tight squeeze at my place.”
“We can have it here if you’d like.”
“Let me think about it. I know Edward’s looking forward to watching me cook.” I leave out the part about being naked except for one of his shirts. “Then again, I could cook Christmas Eve.” I look at Edward.
“It’s up to you,” he says.
“Know what the best part of having it here would be?” she asks. “You’d be able to excuse yourself if things get…well…”
“Tense?” I offer.
“You know holidays can bring out the worst in people…” She stops when the security system chimes. “That must be Carlisle. Have him pour you cocktails while I finish up.”
Edward and I return to the living room to find Carlisle hanging up his coat.
“Sorry I’m late,” he says, kissing my cheek. “The thing with making a quick trip to work is that there’s no such thing as a quick trip to work.” He offers Edward his hand. “Senator.”
“Good evening, Carlisle.”
There’s no warmth to their greeting—if anything, it reeks of obligation. I kick off my shoes and plop down on the loveseat.
“Oh, sure,” Carlisle says. “Make yourself at home.”
“Don’t mind if I do.” I pat the cushion beside me, and Edward takes a seat.
Carlisle sits opposite us on the sofa.”We got a huge wine shipment at Manna this week.”
“Manna?” Edward asks.
“That’s Carlisle’s vegetarian restaurant,” I explain. “Everything they serve is locally grown—including the wine.”
“I brought a few bottles home. In fact, I put your favorite Chardonel on ice before I ran out.”
“Ooh.” I bounce in my seat. “When will it be ready to pour?”
“By the time we sit down to eat. Now Izzy, you’d better pace yourself. I know your history with Chardonel. The last thing we need is a repeat of the ’06 Illinois Wine Conference.”
Edward narrows his eyes at me. “Dare I ask?”
“It’s not as bad as he’s making it sound. Carlisle had to carry me out of the Springfield Hilton, and he’s never let me live it down.”
“No.” Carlisle shakes his head. “The entire Illinois wine community won’t let her live it down. It doesn’t help that she kept referring to their board of directors as les coqs au vin.”
“Wait a second.” I hold up my index finger. “Carlisle’s not giving you the whole story. First of all, I didn’t think anyone could hear me–”
“You were sitting on a tasting panel and there was a microphone in front of you.”
“I didn’t know it was turned on!” I turn to Edward. “You used to live in Springfield. I’m sure you know what the Hilton looks like?”
He nods. “Locals call it the Penis on the Prairie.”
“That’s what I’m saying! It lends itself to cock jokes—hell, I would have made them sober. Anyway, I challenge anyone to taste that much wine and not get trashed.”
“Ah, but I did taste that much wine,” Carlisle says, “and I didn’t have so much as a buzz.”
“That’s different and you know it.” Looking at Edward, I point to Carlisle. “After he tasted, he spit.”
Carlisle flashes an evil smile. “And you know Izzy—she always swallows.”
I fake a cough. “Okay, moving on.”
Ever the politician, Edward deftly changes the subject.
“Does Esme play?” he asks, gesturing to the piano.
“No,” Carlisle says, “I do.”
And there it is—something I never thought I’d experience in Carlisle’s presence. Awkward silence. There’s only one thing I can think of that could possibly help.
“Would anyone care to join me for a cocktail?”
Carlisle bolts to the liquor cabinet. “So, Edward, what can I get you? I know Izzy’s having armagnac.”
“I’ll have the same,” Edward says.
“Really?” I try to hide my surprise.
“I still maintain it tastes the way I imagine a sugar cube would after being wholly dissolved in battery acid, but I’m willing to give it another try since you love it so much.” His eyes lock on Carlisle. “Anything important to Isabella has a place in my life—even if I don’t understand what she sees in it.”
Carlisle meets Edward’s steely gaze with a smile. “I know exactly what you’re saying, and I couldn’t agree more.”
Oh, brotherfucking hell.
I open my mouth to try to smooth things over, then decide against it. They’re adults and, whether they want to or not, they have a relationship with each other outside of their respective relationships with me. Edward’s a big boy—hell, he’s a United States Senator. He can be held responsible for his own snark. Then again, Carlisle started it.
“I’m going to see if Esme needs any help in the kitchen,” Edward says, rising to his feet. “If you’ll excuse me…”
Once he’s out of earshot, I go over to Carlisle and smack him on the arm.
“Ow! What the hell was that for?”
“You promised me you’d behave!”
“I am behaving.”
“Right.” I lower my voice an octave, imitating Carlisle. “Izzy always swallows.”
“That shouldn’t be news to him.”
I smack him again. “That’s not the point and you know it. Just…how could you…” I shrug my shoulders and flail my arms. “Gah!”
“What you need is a drink.”
“No, what I need is to check on my boyfriend. Excuse me.” I’m halfway down the hallway when I hear Edward’s voice.
“I’m sorry,” he’s saying. “I offered to help with dinner because I wanted to get out of the living room. The Carlisle-Izzy comedy hour was starting to get old. I should warn you—I’m a complete failure in the kitchen.”
I don’t plan on eavesdropping, but for whatever reason, my feet stay frozen in place.
“In fact,” he continues, “I’m bad at just about everything that seems to come naturally to you—cooking, wine, pretending it doesn’t bother me that my girlfriend used to sleep with your husband.”
“What makes you think I’m pretending?” Esme asks.
“How can you not be? You see the way they are with each other—the flirting, the innuendos, the way they look at each other—there’s a lot of emotion between them.”
“There should be. They were together nearly seven years.”
“And you trust him not to–”
“Do I strike you as the kind of woman who’d marry a man who was hung up on my best friend?”
“No.” He sighs. “How did it end between them?”
“Carlisle wanted a commitment. When Izzy wouldn’t give him one, he moved out. Look, I understand why it bothers you. But if they wanted to be together they would be.”
I feel guilty as I make my way to where Edward’s standing in the kitchen.
“Are you okay?” I ask, wrapping my arms around him.
He presses a kiss against my forehead. “Yes. I daresay I’m the most relaxed I’ve been all week.”
If the rest of the evening is tense, I don’t notice. I’m too busy wondering how I got so lucky.