September 1, 1996
“This is harder than I thought it would be.” I drag the phone across my dorm room to the fridge and get myself a can of Diet Coke. “I mean, I expected it would be an adjustment, that I’d miss you during the week. But this is way worse.”
“It’s the same for me, you know.” His voice is deep and sexy, like always. It makes me want to see him naked.
“Ugh!” I close my eyes, sighing.
“I called because I thought hearing your voice would help.”
“No. I only miss you more.” I flip the tab that opens the can and take a sip.
“Then move in with me.”
I start to choke; there’s soda in my nose.
“Are you okay?” he asks.
“No—I mean, yes! Sorry. I just snorted Coke.”
“I was drinking when you said that, and somehow Diet Coke wound up in my nose.”
“Oh,” he says, laughing. “I should have known.”
“Were you serious?”
“Yes. My lease is up at the end of this month; I was thinking we could look at places together. We could move into a one-bedroom apartment equidistant to our respective campuses.”
I want to lick him so badly, I consider licking the mouthpiece of the phone. Then I remember it’s campus property and probably germ-ridden. The fact doing so would be borderline psychotic only occurs to me as an afterthought.
“What do you think?” he asks.
I say the first thing that comes into my head. “I love you.”
“Is that a yes?”
As if he has to ask!
November 30, 2009
After I finish making the pastry, I excuse myself to the patio. I stare at the leaves blowing around the backyard, hoping to clear my head enough for me to be able to think. If Carlisle knows—if he’s known all along—I’m not sure what to think. If he doesn’t, it’s only a matter of time before he finds out. This isn’t something I can keep from Edward—that his half-brother is my best friend and former lover. At the same, I don’t know how to tell him—shit, I don’t even know how I’m going to manage to go back inside. The breeze has a bite to it and carries the smell of oil heat and wood-burning fireplaces. I breathe deeply, hoping I’ll calm down enough to go inside and excuse myself for the evening. When my lungs fill with Chanel No. 5 scented air, I know Sarah has joined me.
“I wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“No,” I say without looking at her. “You wanted to make sure I wasn’t on the phone with Edward or Alice. Don’t worry. For the time being, at least, you can go on pretending–”
“Watch it, Izzy.”
My head whips around to look at her. “Excuse me?”
“I know what you’re thinking.”
“I doubt that.”
“Fine then. Look me in the face and tell me you don’t think I’m a whore.”
I don’t say anything, but not because she’s right. I’m too shocked to speak.
“That’s what I thought. I’m only going to say this once—you don’t get to judge me.”
“I wasn’t. I just…this is a lot for me to process.” I cover my face, sighing. “Does Carlisle know?”
“No, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to keep it that way.”
At first, I’m relieved—it makes it easy for me to pretend I don’t know. Then I realize what her request actually means.
“You’re asking me to lie to the four most important people in my life. If they ever find out–”
“They haven’t yet.”
“And at Christmas, when they’re all in same room? What then?” I shake my head. “You have to tell Carlisle before Edward and Alice visit.” Having had more than enough, I walk to the door.
“And if I don’t?”
I turn to face her. “I will.”
I only hope I have the balls to follow through.
The moment I get home, I pour myself a glass of armagnac. Just as I return the cork to the bottle, my landline rings.
Startled, I answer in a panic. “Hello?”
“There you are! I’ve been trying to reach you for hours.”
“What are you talking about? I just left your house.”
“That was my sister’s house, and it was thirty-six hours ago. It felt like an eternity to me, but–”
He laughs. “Who else would it be?”
“I thought you were Carlisle.”
“Did my number not appear on the caller ID?”
“I wouldn’t know; I don’t have it on this line. It’s an old rotary phone wired to the wall in my kitchen. No one even has the number.”
“No one except Carlisle, apparently.”
“He might as well be family.”
“So you say.”
Oh, if he only knew.
Feeling uncomfortable, I decide to change the subject. “How did you get this number? I don’t remember giving it to you.”
“You didn’t. I…uh…have my ways.” Even over the phone, his discomfort is palpable.
I can’t control my smile. “Isn’t that a grave misuse of power?”
“Only if you mind.”
“Then it shouldn’t be a problem. Besides, if you’d answered your cell-phone, then I wouldn’t have needed to look for alternate methods of contacting you.”
“Sorry about that; my phone died while I was making dinner.”
“What, did you spill wine on it?”
“Ha. Just so you know, I never spill wine.”
“I should hope not.”
“My phone’s demise was a bit more dramatic. I kind of threw it across the room—long story.”
“You always have had a bit of a temper,” he says, laughter in his voice.
As much as I want to ask what he’s talking about, there’s something I want to know more.
“Is access to unlisted phone records a senatorial perk?”
“Why do you want to know?” he asks.
“You claimed you never stopped loving me—that you missed me and tried to get Alice to tell you where I was.”
“But if you had access to the information all along, why didn’t you look me up yourself?”
“I didn’t want to violate your privacy.”
“What do you call that stunt you pulled at the airport?”
“The moment I saw you again, I didn’t care about possible repercussions. I just wanted to be close to you again, no matter how briefly.”
“The fact it was under duress didn’t taint the experience?”
“Do you not recall my offer to switch seats with someone in coach? Anyway, I don’t want to keep you. I know you have a long day tomorrow; I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“I am now.” I wasn’t—not by a long shot. But hearing his voice made me better than I’d been, and that’s saying something. “I love you.”
“I love you, too. Sweet dreams.”
When I hang up the phone, a legal-sized piece of paper covered with my handwriting catches my eye. It’s on the counter, exactly where Carlisle left it. After refilling my armagnac, I pick up the letter and bring it to the sofa with me. I don’t read it because I want to remember the way leaving Edward made me fall apart; I read it because I want to remember how Carlisle put me back together.
This feels ridiculous—writing you a letter while you’re here in the apartment. You begged me to talk to you earlier, and though I wanted to, I just couldn’t. Now you’re listening to Automatic for the People. I’ve lived with you long enough to know that means you’re upset, and given the way the evening went down, it’s fairly obvious I’m to blame. So I’m writing what I can’t say and hope you’ll understand.
I don’t know how to explain what the past year has been like for me. You know how it feels when you sleep in a weird position and when you wake up you can’t feel your arm? It’s there and it’s attached, but it doesn’t feel like it’s a part of you. It doesn’t feel like anything at all. It’s wrong and a little frightening. And you have to move, right? There’s no other option. So you do. Your heart does its job, and you slowly regain sensation in this part of yourself that moments ago felt dead. Nothing about it is pleasant. It’s prickly and painful, but it beats losing a limb.
And that’s the only way I can think to describe what it was like to come out here. For the first few months, I felt nothing. It scared the shit out of me, and I knew I had to do something, that if I didn’t I’d feel dead forever. I tried to move on, but it hurt like hell.
For a while, I needed it. I thought if I worked through everything, eventually I’d feel like myself again. The problem is that I can’t remember what that even means. This is why I freaked when you tried to kiss me. Not because I didn’t want you to; I do. You make me feel things I thought I’d never feel again. But then you told me you were in love with me, and I panicked. I don’t handle anxiety well. It makes me do dumb shit like run off to my room and lock the door. What you don’t get is that it would have been far worse had I stayed. My experience may be limited, but there are some things I do know. It doesn’t take a psych degree to know guys don’t deal well when they tell a girl they love her and she starts crying hysterically about how much the last guy who said that hurt her. They don’t want to know she can’t love again the way she loved him, that she thinks that part of herself is dead.
And that’s the thing—all of me could be dead, and I wouldn’t know it. I spent so long trying to be someone he’d want to be with, that I can’t remember who I was before I met him. Four years ago, I ceased to exist as my own person—I was just an extension of him. Without him, I’m nothing but void. Whether you realize it or not, it’s impossible to love someone who doesn’t exist.
This is why I didn’t let you kiss me. It wasn’t that I don’t want you; I do. How could I not? You’re funny, gorgeous, smart—you’re the best friend I’ve ever had. I wanted nothing more than for you to carry me off to bed and remind me why I love sex so much. What I don’t want is for you to fall in love with me. As amazing as you are, I don’t think I could ever return your feelings. There’s nothing left in me to give.
If you want to me to find a new place to live, I understand. Most guys wouldn’t deal well with this. Just know that I don’t want to be anywhere else.
I no longer wonder what I should do or question my ability to go through with it. I head into the kitchen and dial Carlisle’s cell. When he answers, I don’t waste time with small talk.
“You need to come over right now. There’s something I need to tell you.”