Jack Daniels, Straight-Up
December 21, 1996
Our ornaments this year are every bit as MacGuyver’d as they were last year, but the result is beautiful regardless. I meant to use tonight to finish the afghan I’m making Edward for Christmas, but the tree’s soft glow is mesmerizing enough that I find myself focusing on that rather than than the half-made blanket on my lap. Now that we have an actual bedroom, I can’t spend the time it takes me to fall asleep staring at the flickering lights of the Christmas tree.
It makes me feel ungrateful to admit it, but I miss the intimacy of his old apartment. Though our relationship no longer is relegated to weekends, I see less of him now than I did before we moved in together. This apartment is nothing like his studio was—it’s much larger and is very close to my campus. The extra rooms sound great at first. Then we move in, and soon I realize rooms have nothing to do with space and everything to do with walls. If there’s one thing I don’t need, it’s any more walls between Edward and me.
I tell myself I’m being silly, that he’s no more emotionally distant than he was before we moved here. But when he’s not at school, he’s usually in his study with the door closed. It doesn’t matter that he’s on the other side of the apartment and that I could get him if I need him—I feel completely alone. I wonder if maybe it was too much, too soon—that despite all the school breaks we spent playing house, we weren’t ready for the reality of long-term cohabitation. True though it may be, I don’t dare tell him this. The last thing I need is for him to have further evidence of my immaturity.
When the front door creaks, I shove the yet-to-be-completed afghan under my ass in a pathetic attempt to keep it a surprise. He goes directly into his study, and for a moment, I’m relieved he doesn’t notice it. Then I realize he hasn’t noticed me, either.
November 30, 2009
“This had better be good, Izzy.”
My chest is sticky from the armagnac that soaked my shirt when Carlisle startled me. “Goddamn it. You scared the shit out of me.” I reach for a kitchen towel and attempt to blot myself dry. When it doesn’t work, I twist the towel and whack him with it. “You can’t just walk right into my apartment. I don’t care if you have a key—fucking knock.”
“I did knock; you must not have heard it over your stereo.” Laughing, he raises his hands in self-defense. “First, you call me sounding psychotic and insist I come right over. When I show up you’re blasting Portishead, whom you hate. I bang on your door, and you don’t answer. I thought you were hurt or something.”
“That’s not the point.” I hit him again. “I could have been naked.”
“But you aren’t.”
His eyes are downcast. If I had boobs, I’d think he was staring at them.
“What are you looking at?”
He points to my chest, and I look down. Only then do I realize my alcohol-soaked top leaves nothing to the imagination. Except it’s Carlisle, and he doesn’t have to imagine anything. He’s already seen, squeezed, stroked, and sucked everything I have. Meanwhile, I’m dating his brother.
“I’m going to die,” I mutter to myself. “Or maybe puke.”
“You will not.” His laughter intensifies. “Besides, if you’re dead, you can’t puke.”
“First, I’m going to puke; then, I’m going to die.”
“You’ve seen my boobs!”
“Not recently, though your shirt is a bit see-through at the moment.” His eyes widen in exaggerated realization. “Wait!” He raises his hand and snaps his fingers. “I think I finally get it! You’re going to a wet t-shirt contest and need me to be your bodyguard.”
I fold my arms across my chest. “That’s ridiculous.”
“I know, right? I mean, you have to realize you don’t have a prayer of winning.”
“Fuck you.” I whack him with the towel once more before leaving the kitchen. “I’ll be back as soon as I’m decent. Why don’t you pour yourself a drink?”
“I don’t have all night.”
“Trust me,” I call from my bedroom. “You need a drink for this.”
After I throw on a clean shirt, I remind myself I have no choice but to do this—that he’ll be more upset if I don’t tell him than he’ll be when I do. I take a deep breath, then go back to the kitchen. His back is to me as he pours himself some armagnac. I’m about to blurt it out. Then he turns around, and I lose my nerve. I lean against the wall, sighing.
“This would be so much easier if my phone were still working. Then I could just let you see it.”
“I swear,” he says, shaking his head. “If you dragged me all the way out here to show me porn–”
I roll my eyes. “If only.”
“Would you tell me why the hell I’m here?”
“I’m working up to it! In case you haven’t noticed, I’m kind of flipping out here. I mean, I was shocked enough to destroy my phone–”
He snorts. “As if that’s anything out of the ordinary.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Keeping your emotions under control has never been your strong suit.” He raises his glass to his lips, but rather than take a sip, he uncurls his index finger and points at me. “Remember the time–”
“I know who your father is.” The moment the words leave my lips, I collapse against the counter. “I’m sorry to blurt it out like that, but–”
“Wait, what? That’s what has you worked up?” He laughs. “You know I don’t give two shits about him.”
“You would if you knew who he was.”
“You’re right—I’d hate him. But since I have no idea who he is, I can be apathetic, which is healthier.”
“I know. I wasn’t going to tell you. Then I reread this…” I point to the letter on the counter. “And I knew I couldn’t not–”
“What does he have to do with this?”
“I know what you’re thinking, Izzy.” If he’s at all upset, it doesn’t show.
“Do you?” I’m surprised and relieved. If he’s figured it out for himself, I don’t have to struggle with finding the necessary courage or the right words.
“He’s not my father.”
“But your mother–”
Groaning, he runs his free hand through his hair, then places his glass on the counter. He fills a tumbler with water and hands it to me.
“I’m not drunk.”
“Drink it anyway.”
I don’t take orders from Carlisle, but tonight I make an exception. I chug the water and place the now-empty glass in the sink.
“Let me explain this to you.” He rests his hands on my shoulders. “I’m older than Edward, therefore it’s impossible for him to be my dad. It just doesn’t work that way. You should go to bed–”
“I already have…”
“…with both of you! It makes me feel like such a slut to tell you this, but you have to know–”
“Whoa.” He waves his palms at me. “I’m married, Iz. Esme is my life, and I’m not comfortable with where this conversation is going. As much as I love you–”
“I love your brother.”
“What the fuck did you do, drop acid before I got here? I don’t have a brother.”
“No, baby—you do. This is what I’m trying to tell you. You have a brother and a sister. Though you’ve never met them, that’s going to change in a couple of weeks when Edward and Alice come for the holidays. This is why I had to tell you. You’d have figured it out for yourself after a minute of you all being in the same room.”
“A minute, huh? If that’s all I’d need, how come it took you ten years to figure this out?”
“You’ve always reminded me of him. That’s why it was so easy for me to be with you–”
“Because I remind you of the guy who treated you like shit for four years? Are you fucking serious?”
“Would you please keep it down?” My eyes are wet when I rub them. “I can’t handle you yelling at me.”
For a while, there’s silence. When he finally speaks, his voice is barely above a whisper. “I don’t know what put this in your head, but you’re wrong.”
“No. Let’s put this to rest once an for all.” Turning away from me, he pulls his phone from his pocket and starts pushing buttons. Holding it against his ear, he closes his eyes. “Sorry to wake you, Ma…No, nothing’s wrong—I mean, it’s nothing you can’t fix. I’m at Izzy’s and…” He runs a hand through his hair, sighing. “I hate to even bother you with this, but… What? No, I haven’t seen the picture on Izzy’s phone. What does that have to do with anything?” His eyes fly open; his posture straightens. “No. I mean, it can’t…”
The volume on his earpiece is high enough that I can Sarah talking even if I can’t make out her actual words.
“I don’t want to hear anymore.” Shaking his head, he ends the call.
He’s unnaturally calm, and I wonder if maybe he’s in shock.
“Are you okay?” I ask.
“Can I get you something to drink?”
Letting out a sound that’s something between a groan and a wail, he throws his phone onto the floor, stomping on it repeatedly until there’s nothing left to break.
His eyes are wet when they meet mine. “Do you have any Jack?”
“Just bring me the bottle.”