Bottle Variation


June 23, 1996
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved thunderstorms. I’d curl up under the afghan my Gram made for me when I was a baby and, through my bedroom window, I’d watch the sky purge whatever had been making it dark. Then, more often than not, I’d do the same. My current ritual has changed a bit. Now I’m in a much bigger bed, snuggling under a fleece stadium blanket embroidered with Harvard’s logo. Stranger than that is the fact I’m not alone—Edward is stretched out beside me reading a book. Needless to say, I couldn’t pay attention to the storm if my life depended on it; I’m far too focused on him. Ever since his birthday dinner, he’s been withdrawn, almost melancholy. As I want to be there for him—to support him any way I can—it’s hard for me to do if I don’t know what what’s bothering him. Edward needs to purge just as much as the storm clouds, but I know he’ll never do it on his own.

What was your mom like?” I ask.

“Whoa,” he says, laughing. “That came out of nowhere.”

“Not really. I just met your dad, and you’re not like him at all.”

“You don’t think so?”

“No. I mean, you lapse into this weirdness where you use words like ‘daresay’ and speak with your mouth mostly closed, but those are just mannerisms. You’re warm; he isn’t. I’m guessing you’re more like your mom.” I shrug. “But if talking about her makes you upset, you don’t have to–”

He rolls onto his side, facing me. “It’s doesn’t—believe me. It’s just the last thing I expected you to say. You’d think after all this time, I’d realize how hard it is to predict what’s going to come out of your mouth.”

“Oh, come on. It wasn’t that random.”

“Maybe not for you,” he says smiling.

Several seconds pass before he speaks again. “This is harder than I thought it would be.”

“The last thing I want to do is upset you–”

“You’re not; I just don’t know where to start.” He closes his eyes, sighing. “I could tell you how strong she was, that she was selfless and put herself last, but it wouldn’t mean anything—it’s what we’re supposed to say when we’ve lost someone. In her case, it was true. She’s why I want to go into politics.”

“Your mom was a politician?”

“No. She was what people would call a socialite, though she hated that word. Yes, she was born into privilege, but she was also a tireless advocate for children and education. She never lost sight of the full picture and always did what she could to help those who couldn’t help themselves.”

“You look like her,” I say, staring at the picture of her on his desk.

“Do you think so?” His demeanor seems to brighten. “I know I have her coloring, but I always thought I looked more like my father. Alice is the exact opposite. She has my mother’s facial features but our father’s blue eyes and blond hair.”

“Get out!” I smack him lightly on his shoulder. “Alice is a natural blonde?”

“You didn’t know that?” He slides his hand under the hem of of my tank top, brushing his thumb against my bare skin.

“I knew she dyed it, but I’d always assumed her hair was reddish like yours.”

He shakes his head.

“I can’t believe I didn’t know that.”

“Bella?”

“Yes?”

“I don’t want to talk about my sister.”

The second I feel his lips against mine, I don’t want to talk about her, either.


November, 29, 2009
As much as my life has changed in the past week, my apartment is just the way I left it—well, almost. The one exception is a faded yellow sheet of paper prominently placed in the center of my kitchen counter. I don’t have to look at it closely; I know exactly what it is.

“Come on, Carlisle. Surely you have better things to do on a holiday than rummage through old boxes.”

“Huh. Right,” he mutters. “And Senator Cullen doesn’t.”

I roll my eyes. “I heard that.”

“That was my intention. I do have some control over what comes out of my mouth, you know.”

“I don’t like you very much right now.”

“Because I say it like it is.”

“Hardly. You know very well my box is not old. It’s pretty—pink and sweet-smelling—kind of like a dew-covered wildflower on a lovely spring morning.”

“You’re missing the point.”

I cross my arms over my chest. “Wait—does that mean you have one? Ugh!” I groan, covering my eyes with my hands. “What will it take to for you to trust my judgment and be happy for me?”

“Look at me.” He pulls my hands away from my face but doesn’t let go of them. “This isn’t about you. You’re strong and smart and more than capable of making sound decisions in every area of your life—except when it comes to him. And if the two of you spent the week the way you claim you did—if you told him exactly why you left—then there’s nothing in that letter that will upset you.”

As much as I don’t want to cry in front of him, I can’t stop myself. “You think I’m setting myself up…” I angle my head toward the letter on the counter. “…for a repeat of that.”

“You have to at least acknowledge it’s a possibility. Come here,” he says, pulling me into his arms. His embrace is strong—comforting. “Listen, Izzy. I understand why you don’t want to look at what you wrote in that letter. And you know what? You don’t have to—you lived it, and that’s enough. Cullen is a different story. He needs to read it.”

He’s right, but that doesn’t make this any easier.

“I love the shit out of you.”

“It’s mutual, you know.”

“It had better be!” I give him a quick squeeze before stepping out of his embrace. “I’m a mess,” I say, wiping under my eyes. Then I see the marks my mascara left on his shirt. “You’re worse.”

“Eh.” He shrugs. “I’m a chef; every article of clothing I own has stains on it somewhere.”

I smile. As much as I know I’ll miss Edward, it’s good to be home.


November 30, 2009
I’m becoming like a teenager about my cell phone. Every time it makes a sound, I reach for it excitedly, knowing there’s a chance it’s Edward. Even crazier, more often than not, it is him—this is why I pull it out of my apron pocket the second I feel it vibrate. It doesn’t matter that I’m with Esme and Carlisle’s mother, Sarah, or that I’m supposed to be making pastry for the beef wellington. Though it’s a message from Alice, the image it contains is worth the interruption.

From the Cullen family album. You’ll never see this one in People Magazine. Enjoy!

When I click the thumbnail to make it full-size, I see Edward and a pint-sized Alice are sitting on the sofa beside their father. It’s no surprise to see her dressed as an elf—what’s shocking is the sullen, ginger-haired adolescent at her side is wearing reindeer antlers which may or may not be blinking. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard.

“What’s so funny?” Esme asks.

“It’s better for you to see for yourself.” I hand her my phone and resume kneading the dough. “Trust me.”

“Okay, that’s hilarious. You’ll love this, Sarah.” She gestures for her mother-in-law to take a look. “Awkward Family Photos has nothing on this picture of Izzy’s boyfriend.”

If Sarah thinks the picture is at all funny, she doesn’t laugh. That in and of itself isn’t strange—she doesn’t know Edward personally, and that’s a huge part of what makes this so funny. I wait for her to return my phone, but she doesn’t. Instead, she stares at the picture for what seems like a ridiculous amount of time, while all the color drains from her face. When she finally gives it back to me, her hands are shaking.

“Is everything all right?” I ask.

“Why wouldn’t it be?”

It’s the first time she’s jumped down my throat in the decade I’ve known her. I’m not sure how to respond, so instead I look down at the picture of Alice, Edward, and Carlisle.

Carlisle?

I must be losing my mind. I know very well who the man in the picture is—he’s Edward’s father. It only seems weird because I’ve never seen a picture of him when he was in his thirties. If it’s true what they say—that everyone has a twin—Carlisle’s would surely be William Cullen. It makes me curious to see what Carlisle’s father looks like and if he bears any resemblance to Edward, though I know there’s no way I’ll ever find out. Carlisle knows nothing about the man, and Sarah insists it’s better this way. He won’t even let people use his first name—he hates the fact he was named after a man he considers nothing more than a sperm donor. On exactly one occasion, I made the mistake of calling him William. He freaked out.

Oh my god.

My hand flies up to my mouth, inadvertently flinging my phone across the room.

Esme doesn’t even look up from her chopping board. “That’s it, Izzy, you’re cut off. No more armagnac until we get some food into you.”

I tell myself none of this means anything—that it’s all a bunch of freak coincidences—until Sarah lays her hand on top of mine and mouths the word please.

“Hello, ladies. Sorry I’m late.”

Carlisle’s voice startles me. I fake a smile as he kisses his wife and his mother before joining us at the counter. Over the past ten years, I’ve gotten to know his features well. Given the evolution of our relationship, it makes sense that I would. We’ve been roommates, best friends, lovers and now that he’s with Esme, it feels as if he’s family. There have always been aspects of his appearance that reminded me of Edward, but I’ve never thought about it much. Given the fact I’ve been intimate with both of them, it always felt kind of wrong to compare. At the moment, I’m too shocked to care if it makes me feel trashy. I stand there for what feels like an eternity, staring at Carlisle. He’s taller than Edward, but not by much. They have the same chiseled jaw, the same smile, the same laugh. Usually her eyes are the same clear shade of blue as Carlisle’s, but at the moment they’re hazy, as if she’s about to cry. When she raises a trembling finger to her lips, I know.

I know without a doubt.

Carlisle is Edward’s brother.





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  1. on 25 Mar 2011 at 2:40 pmLisa

    oh my lord! AMAZING chapter! thankyou! xx

    [Reply]


  2. on 28 Jun 2012 at 7:13 pmSimone

    Once again, you’ve created an incredible and complex dynamic to explore. I have to know where this will lead. I. Can’t. Wait.

    [Reply]