Edward calls him “Dad,” now. There was something about how she never used it for Charlie, how he went to the ground never hearing it. Life is too short to call your parents by their first names, she told him. And even though Edward’s father is already in the ground, and Carlisle considers himself a poor substitute, he likes it.

It’s maybe the only good part of this mess.

She was seventeen. Edward thought she was too young to make such a permanent decision. Hadn’t seen enough. Didn’t know what powerful love even was. And when that eighteen-wheel logging truck missed Chief Swan’s emergency flare and jackknifed like it was a stumbling fawn, she got one phone call and decided Edward was right.

She’s way on the other side of the country now. They moved, not her. Esme’s island isn’t the only one he owns, and they set up shop on the one in Bar Harbor. Edward went for a swim the day they got here and came back a year later. His eyes were still golden, though.

Carlisle’s sitting in an Adirondack chair, his bare feet dangling in the water. The waves swell in and out, each time pulling a little sand from beneath his toes and slowly burying his feet. Esme’s in the garden behind the house, humming as she works–she grows vegetables, for reasons unknown. They get destroyed by the birds and this one red fox that got here God-knows-how. She doesn’t care. Gardening is Esme’s distraction, and they all need those.

It’s just the three of them here, in a cottage with two bedrooms. Rosalie went off to work with special needs kids–she loves acting like a mom, and Emmett coaches basketball for a team where the point guard, the center, and one of the forwards all have Down’s. Jasper’s doing another stint as a professor, this time at Boise State. Alice is designing skiwear.

He’s not practicing full-time anymore. Just a few days each week at the clinic on Mt. Desert. He says it’s because he has to stay home; that his son has a terminal illness.

That’s near enough to the truth.

The annulment papers are in Edward’s underwear drawer. Carlisle suspects he takes them out at least once a day, but vampires don’t have skin oil, and it’s impossible to be certain. He’d like to throw them in the shredder, but he doesn’t take choices away from Edward.

A creaky, off-key thrum and a snap tell Carlisle someone has come through the screen door. He can still hear Esme humming, so he knows it’s Edward even before the scent reaches him.

He’s clutching a piece of paper; it’s crinkled in the middle where his fingers clench. Carlisle can just make out the garish primary colors of the Gmail logo. Edward just stands there for a long time, the paper fluttering against his hand.

“It’s a boy,” he says finally, staring out at the water. “Patrick. Nine pounds even. She says he’s going to play football like his dad.”

Bella’s second husband’s name is Bruce. Played linebacker at Wazzu. They met when Bella went down to Pullman to finish the degree in early childhood education that she started at Peninsula Community College. He sells life insurance now, and she teaches Montessori. They live in a split-level in Puyallup, and they’ve been trying for Patrick awhile.

She and Edward email and talk on the phone. They were all invited to the wedding and to the baby shower, but there was no way to withstand that heartbreak. They sent dozens of gifts, and opened a trust fund for Patrick’s education. She emails, Carlisle thinks, because even though every missive about her thoroughly human life is like isopropyl alcohol in an open wound, they all know Edward will hurt even more if she doesn’t.

Carlisle’s chair trembles when Edward falls to his knees, the hand that holds the email relaxing, the paper fluttering away. It lands in the water, and he watches the ink begin to bleed as it sinks.

Edward wanted her to stay human. He’d simply had no idea what that meant.

They had the conversation six years ago. He couldn’t live without her, he’d said. He could live, if she was living, but one day, she wouldn’t be.

Carlisle agreed. When the time came, he would help. If he is not a father, he is a sire, and Edward is his responsibility to the end.

Not to mention he doesn’t want Aro to be the last one to touch his son.

So for the first time in Carlisle’s life, the clock is ticking. For the first time he has to worry about breast cancer, drunk drivers, cardiac disease. And even if nothing interferes, she’s twenty-eight. According to statistics, this gives them another sixty years at best.

He’s a bit stronger than his son, and he’s able to pull Edward to him with one arm. The lanky body comes easily, and there’s almost room on the chair for them both. He puts his arms around Edward , and the head with its mop of unruly hair falls on his shoulder.

“I miss her, Dad,” he says at last, his lips shaking so badly it’s hard to understand him. But the words are said to Carlisle’s collarbone, and he hears them more from inside than out.

“I know,” Carlisle whispers. “I know.”

Even though they live on the easternmost edge of the country, the house faces west. It’s only four o’clock, but the sun is beginning to dip, sending orange rays skittering across the water.

She was seventeen. Too young to make such a life-altering choice, he’d said.

But what Edward had forgotten was that he was seventeen, too.

The waves lap at his ankles. Esme still hums in the garden. Overhead, the shrill cry of the gulls echoes against the trees.

And Carlisle sits on shore, rocking his child and marking time as one more day comes to a close.

§ 6 Responses to Seventeen"

  • Sisterglitch says:

    Twenty-eight is not so old. There’s still time and hope. A thirty-year-old woman marrying a seventeen-year-old is not so strange in a world where money can effectively isolate you from people.

    Just heartbreaking. For Carlisle most of all.


    • giselle says:

      That’s very true (re: the age), although I think if given time, Bella might have realized that what she wanted was something quite different than what Edward could offer. I dunno. I’m the fandom cynic. 😛

      Thank you, as always, for reading.

  • Em says:

    Sigh. I can’t imagine this happening. To think an entire decade has passed without Edward seeing Bella! It’s so heartbreaking, and Edward is definitely not going to make it, I see that.

    Poor Carlisle, this must be beyond what happened during New Moon. *Another Sigh*

  • RobinVanDam says:

    Yes, I saw this in “New Moon” when he tried to prevent or postpone Bella from becoming a Vampire. Of course she would out grow him if he refused to allow her to be “Changed”. She would have other desires and needs as she matured. How could she not? His protrayed future with Bella at that point included “no physical intimate contact” which basically meant life with him would be “physically frozen”. That was the problem. Edward was “frozen” at seventeen, he can learn, he can understand, he can experience and now love Bella and all that life has to offer, but being “frozen” he can not mature…meaning in his level of thinking as a “man”. His inability to realize that Bella never wanted to “grow old” was not just in her appearence, but in her maturity. She knew when she loved him as a teenager that she would always love him as a “teenager” if she too was “frozen” within those years. Her thoughts of having children were never a desire she would grow into…unlike Rosalie, who was raised to want a home with a loving home and children in the 1830’s. In 2005 what “teenager” wants a child? This is what Bella understood better than Edward in her desire for him to “change” her. This is what she truely wanted that he would not give her because to her, Edward was everything…”I will never want anything more than I want Edward.” This was the alternate future Edward did not understand awaited them. It may be heart wrenching, but it was the future Edward threatened.

    Will there be more to this?

  • RobinVanDam says:

    Oh, by the way, I am surprised that Carlisle would not have seen this himself and that you did not address the issue of him explaining to Edward the devistation awaiting him for choosing this path. Carlsile at 23 should have known and done everything in his power as Edward’s “Father” or “Sire” to persuade Edward (or taken it upon himself) to “change” Bella as she is Edward’s “life line”. Carlisle also had this choice, which would not be “forcing” anything on Edward if he had made it. He knew Edward’s resolution of following Bella to the grave.

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