Cask Strength

December 30, 1999
During the day, it’s easy for me to be productive. No one conducts job interviews the week between Christmas and New Year’s, so instead of actively looking for work, I use the time to get my bearings in my new surroundings. The busier I stay, the less I think of Edward. Then night finds me alone in what feels like someone else’s apartment, and there’s nothing for me to do but think.

It’s ridiculous that crying is as much a part of my bedtime routine as brushing my teeth or putting on lotion. I never forget that it was my decision to leave. Sobbing nightly isn’t healthy, but neither is sacrificing myself for someone unwilling to do the same for me.

This night is no different. On my newly-delivered bed in what still doesn’t feel like my room, I hug my knees to my chest and let it all out. It isn’t until I stretch out under the covers that I hear it—Vivaldi’s Guitar Concerto in D. Carlisle must have turned on the stereo to drown out my sobbing, and that makes me feel like an ass. I get out of bed and head to the living room to apologize, stopping in my tracks the moment I see Carlisle.

He’s wearing nothing but black chef pants. It’s the first time I’ve seen him without his shirt, and though he has a nice chest, that’s not what renders me immobile. It’s the realization the music I assumed was a CD is actually coming from him.

His eyes are closed, and he’s swaying. In this moment, it’s as if nothing exists for him but music and his guitar. I’m not sure why, but I feel like I’m intruding on something not meant for my eyes. It’s awkward, and I’m about to tiptoe back to my room when he opens his eyes and catches me standing in the hallway like a tool.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“You didn’t.”

He continues to play, never pausing or missing a note. Since he doesn’t seem to mind my being here, I walk into the living room and sit Indian-style on the floor in front him, marveling at his talent.

“Thank you,” I say when he’s finished, “for letting me listen.”

“Are you feeling better?”

“What do you mean?”

Then I realize what he’s asking.

“Oh.” Embarrassed, I look down at my lap. “I was hoping you couldn’t hear me.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

I shake my head. “Not really.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

“How long have you played?” I ask, changing the subject.


I nod.

“Since high school. I was in a band with a few of my buddies. It was piano and saxophone before that. Then in college I pretty much had to learn a little of everything. What about you?”

“I learned a little of everything in college, too. I’d like to forget some of it, but that’s easier said than done.”

He smiles. “I was asking if you played any instruments.”

“Oh. I don’t. Do you think you could do me a favor?”


“Play something else for me. I don’t care what; it’s just nice to listen.”


He pauses for a moment, then starts to play a song I don’t recognize. At first I think it’s another classical piece, but then he starts to sing.

Oh amigo, here we do things slow.
Money, art, a broken heart—where did you want to go?
Señor, por favor.
To the hotel Zona Rosa, what did I come here for?
Oh señor, I run, but the damage has been done.
Miles have gone away, and my amor, he never come…

I may not have told him why I was crying, but I think he knows. With my eyes closed, I listen to my newfound friend sing about an old love.

December 16, 2009
“They’ve been gone twenty minutes now,” I say, staring at the clock on my oven. “Whatever the hell is going on out there, it can’t be good.”

“I’m sure it’s fine.” Esme takes a sip of her martini. “Besides, I’m Carlisle’s next of kin. If he lands in the hospital, someone’s going to call me.”

“‘If he lands in the hospital?'” I repeat in disbelief. “How can you be so calm about this?”

“He’s a fourth-degree black belt. There’s also this.” She raises her glass. “This takes care of everything else. You should have one; you’ll feel better.”

“I’m going to need something stronger than that.”

She puts her glass on the counter and heads to the liquor cabinet in the living room. “Have anything cask strength? Never mind; for a second I forgot whose apartment this is. Which would you prefer—Macallen or Lagavulin? Ooh, you have a twenty-five year bottle of Laphroaig? Don’t let Carlisle see this—he’ll be pissed off you’ve been holding out on him.”

“I was saving it for after Christmas dinner. I figured with everything that could go wrong that night…”

I stop when Esme walks back into the kitchen holding the Laphroaig.

“Santa came early this year.” She gets a tumbler from the cabinet, pours two fingers, and hands it to me.

I stare at the amber liquid. “That isn’t the right shaped glass to appreciate the nose–”

“Drink it, Izzy.”

After throwing it back with a single gulp, I look at the clock again. “Thirty-two minutes—this is killing me! I feel like we should do something.”

“Me, too.” She gets a second tumbler from the cabinet. “Let’s have another round. This time, I’ll join you.”

The cool crystal graces my lips for about a second when the front door opens. In walk Edward and Carlisle, in the middle of a conversation that’s surprisingly civil, if not warm.

“So, Izzy, what are we drinking?” Carlisle asks, shrugging out of his coat.

“Laphroaig,” Esme says. “Cask strength, aged twenty-five years.”

“Where’d she have that hidden, way in the back?” He turns to me, shaking his head. “You’ve been holding out on me.”

Ignoring him, I make my way around the kitchen island to where Edward is unbuttoning his coat.

“Is everything okay?” I ask.

“Why wouldn’t it be?” He hangs his coat in the closet then kisses the top of my head.

“I’m assuming you take your single-malt neat?” Carlisle asks from inside the kitchen.

Edward laughs. “Is there any other way?”

I busy myself with getting dinner on the table. As we eat, I focus on how relieved I am to have passed this hurdle with everything seeming okay. Then Carlisle asks Edward what I was like when I was eighteen, and sibling rivalry reigns supreme. Of course, they don’t fight over the usual stuff. Oh no. The source of contention is which brother witnessed my most humiliating moment. I’m not sure why I worried that they’d kill each other. The two of them actually getting along is far worse.

“No,” Carlisle says, shaking his head. “The best was the time Izzy jerked off after slicing jalapeno peppers and was convinced the burn was karmic retribution for telling some guy it felt good to rub poison ivy on your pubes.”

“Okay.” I kick Carlisle under the table. “You win. Can we please stop now?”

“Seriously?” Edward looks at me in apparent disbelief. “I mean, not the bit about poison ivy. Obviously, I remember that happening—that was the night I realized I was in love with you. But jalapeno peppers?”

“Oh, don’t give me that! As if none of you have ever tried to sneak in a quickie while the pot is boiling.”

“Sure,” Carlisle says, “but generally, I wash my hands.”

Edward nods. “Oh, definitely. I can’t even boil water without destroying the pot, and even I know to wash my hands.”

“I did wash my hands! At least, I did before I went back to cooking. Speaking of which, I should go get the cheese course.” As I leave the table, I cover my mouth and fake cough while saying, “Fuck you, Carlisle.”

The sound of laughter follows me into the kitchen. I’m smiling, but I don’t let them see it. If Edward and Carlisle find each other through all of this, my own mild humiliation is a small price to pay.

“Are you sure you don’t need me to call a taxi?” I ask, walking Carlisle and Esme to the door.

“I haven’t had a drink since before dinner; we’ll be fine.” Esme kisses me on one cheek and then the other. “I’ll call you in the morning.” She turns to Edward. “And you…” She puts her arms around him and pulls his face to hers. “You be good,” she says, kissing his cheek. “Á bientôt.”

After they’ve left, Edward pours himself another drink. “That went better than I thought it would.”

Air leaves my lungs in a gush, and my posture slacks with the release of tension. “Okay, so I’m dying here. What did the two of you talk about?”

“You know the conversation was about you. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have felt compelled to leave.”

“What about me?”

He takes a swig then wipes his mouth with the hand holding his glass. “I apologized on behalf of my father even though I genuinely believe Carlisle’s been better off not knowing the man. I thanked him for taking care of you all these years, for putting you first and not taking advantage of your situation. The whole discussion was…enlightening.”

“How so?”

“Tell me something.” He swallows the rest of his drink then places the empty glass on the countertop. When he looks at me, he’s wearing his campaign face. “Are you unaware of the fact he’s in love with you, or did you just choose not to tell me?”

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  1. on 20 Oct 2011 at 12:50 amDalida

    Hello, I’m actually catching up to this fic now since I just recently found out about it. It’s amazing! I love the way you describe Bella’s feelings about herself and Edward. Yet more on herself and the way she see herself, it feels like the emotions that are ineffable or stuck in your brain and hard to form into real words and that s just truly inspiring!
    Anyways, I just read the last chapter on Fan fiction and noticed that it was last updated on 03/10. Though I haven’t read your whole page yet, I was wondering if this fic is going to be finished or if it’s placed on hiatus? I would LOVE to keep reading this. Thank you


  2. on 20 Oct 2011 at 12:59 amDalida

    OH WOW! I’m such a fool and apparently have been staring at a computer screen way to long! I thought the last update was on 03/10 but that was the date published! whoops! Well great, I can’t wait for the next update!


  3. on 29 Jun 2012 at 12:43 amSimone

    Whoa! Wait a minute… what?! Cue the awkward moment alert…