Chapter 5

There was actually an intramural flag football game going on when I reached my car after class the following Monday evening. Under the bright florescent lights, what looked like a bunch of undergrads shouted and jeered at each other as they raced across the field. Mind-boggling, as a cold snap had rushed through southeast Michigan and the high today was below freezing.

Some of them were wearing shorts.

“Crazy,” I muttered, as I opened my car door and slung my backpack into the passenger seat. Collapsing into my seat, I put on my seatbelt and shoved the key into the ignition.

Nothing.

“Oh, you have to be kidding me,” I muttered. Jamming my foot down on the clutch, I tried a second time.

The ignition didn’t even click.

Just what I needed.

“You stupid, stupid, stupid car,” I yelled, slamming my fist against the wheel. I yanked the hood release, wrenched open the door, and leapt out to open the hood.

As though my looking at the engine was going to do anything. Where was Jacob Black when I needed him? Or Edward, for that matter, the great stealer of spark plugs?

My stomach twisted at once.

No, I was alone. No one else in the parking lot that I could see, and the football game was going on at least four hundred yards away.

“Fuck!”

“My thoughts exactly,” came a voice from behind me. “Except that particular word in my mind was followed by the name ‘Alice.'”

A blond head disappeared beneath my hood, examining my engine as though it were some kind of medical specimen. After a moment, he righted himself, allowing me to get a better look at him. Today he at least wore a coat, a pea coat which went to his knees and through the collar of which I could see a dark blue scarf. His hands, however, were bare.

“You need gloves,” I told him.

“Gloves?” He looked down at his hands.

“It’s below freezing. You need gloves.”

I was carrying two pair, as it happened; both the silly little black stretch gloves I’d grabbed for a dollar a pair at CVS. Dad had sent me a pair of thick ski gloves at the beginning of October, but they were impractical for just running around town (although Kelsey told me I might wear them anyway come January). Reaching into my pocket, I fished one pair out and shoved them at Carlisle.

“Put them on.”

“Bella, I don’t need—”

“It’s below freezing and a human body needs to keep its hands warm.” Idiot, I wanted to add, but thought better of it.

He stared at me a moment, then pulled on the gloves. He leaned over to inspect the engine once more.

“Well?” I asked. “Do you have a verdict?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know very much about cars. Always left that to…” He stopped himself, and gulped audibly. “Well. I never had to deal with my car.”

Of course. The gearheads in that family were Edward and Rose.

Was there anything we could talk about?

I changed the subject. “My battery might be dead. Do you think you could give me a jump?”

He looked stricken.

“You don’t even know how to jump start a battery?”

Gesturing vaguely to the engine, he said, “I understand it in theory.”

I rolled my eyes. The summer before my sixteenth birthday, Charlie had insisted on taking me through what could really only be described as automobile boot camp. “I’m not having my little girl out there on the roads if she can’t take care of herself in a jam,” he’d said. So our entire two-week vacation, in between trips to the beach and hikes in the woods, he showed me how to use a jack, how to check pressure, change my own oil, throw on a spare tire, and jump a dead battery. Sadly, between the red truck and now my rusted Corolla, the skills had come in handy.

“Okay. Well, I understand it in practice, so would you go get your car? My cables are in the trunk.”

He gestured to the car next to mine, a breath-mint-colored Honda that was at least two body styles behind the current model. It looked to have been in a scrape or two—there were a few noticeable dents, and like my car, it suffered severely from wheel well rust.

Nothing like the sleek Mercedes I’d known in Forks.

“This is your car?”

He rolled his eyes and pointed to mine. “Medical student.” Then he pointed to his. “Medical student.”

Touché.

The Cullen kids had never minded standing out in the Forks High School parking lot, although they had piled themselves every morning into Edward’s Volvo, the least ostentatious car of the lot—though not by much. I realized at once that I had made an automatic assumption that Carlisle would likewise favor luxury over fitting in.

Like every assumption I was making about him these days, it was wrong.

“Hence why I was cursing Alice,” he added. “I’m certain she knew that if I drove today, I would park next to you.”

And that was a bad thing? Especially since Alice must have seen that I was going to have car trouble…

My confusion must have registered on my face.

“I don’t always want to run into you, Bella,” he said quietly.

As though his showing up everywhere and being such a jerk was somehow easy on me? “Well, I don’t exactly piss my pants with excitement every time you show up, either, if you’ve noticed.”

He frowned.

“Just open your hood, will you? It’s cold out.”

“I’m sorry. Yes.”

The hood popped open while Carlisle stood there. It was a half-second later that I heard his car door slam.

God. Edward had always been careful not to move at his full speed around me; he worried it would make me uncomfortable, that I would focus on his predatory nature and would fear him. Carlisle didn’t seem to have any such qualms.

“Step back,” I told him, and he rolled his eyes.

“Are you worried I’m going to be electrocuted?”

“No, I’m worried you’ll get in my way.” Positive, positive, negative, ground, I thought to myself as I hooked up the cables, first to his and then to mine, back and forth. I’d no sooner snapped the last alligator clip to my car’s frame under my hood than Carlisle materialized behind his wheel.

“Now it’s your turn to step back,” he said.

I did.

His engine roared, and my dome light went on.

“It worked!” He sounded pleased with himself.

“Not so fast. I need to actually start mine.” I slid behind my wheel and turned my key. My engine reluctantly also came to life.

We both got out again.

“It worked,” he repeated.

“Jumping a battery isn’t exactly rocket science,” I replied, beginning to disconnect the cables. “Don’t look so smug. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to spend a bunch of time driving.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“The battery needs to charge, so I can’t just go home and turn it off. I need to drive it for a half-hour or so, so that the thing will wake up again tomorrow morning.”

He looked at his own car, which idled smoothly beside mine. The next thing I knew, his car was no longer running and he had materialized in my passenger seat.

“Get in,” he said, when I didn’t move. “It’s cold.”

I slid in, closing the door behind me. The heater was still on full blast from the morning, and it was fogging up the windshield.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“I’m coming with you in case something happens.”

“Nothing is going to happen. I’m just charging my battery. It’s not going to die while I’m driving.”

“I would feel better.”

“You would feel better.”

“I would feel better, yes.”

I rolled my eyes. “Ten minutes ago you just said you were annoyed that we ran into each other, and all the sudden you need to ride in my car for a half an hour so that you can feel better?”

“I am a vampire surgeon. I am nothing if not a walking contradiction in terms.”

“Carlisle, I don’t really want to spend a half-hour alone with you.” The truth of those words surprised me. At the beginning of September, a long stretch of alone time with Carlisle would’ve been exactly what I wanted. Not so much now.

“Will. And it doesn’t sound like the greatest idea to me, either. So go, so that we can get this over with already.”

He buckled his seat belt. I stared. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’d seen Edward buckle his seat belt, and all of them had been in the presence of humans who didn’t know the secret.

I had chalked a lot of things up to Edward being a vampire. It seemed many things were far better chalked up simply to Edward being Edward.

“Okay, fine.” I jammed my foot down on the clutch and shoved the car into gear. “Let’s get this over with.”

I pulled the car out onto Fuller, and hung a left to head toward downtown.

“You might be better off driving toward 23. That’d be an easy way to put some miles on this without having to go through all those lights.”

I rolled my eyes. “If you’re coming, no backseat driving.”

“I believe this would be passenger seat driving.”

But he shut up.

I took the car through downtown without a peep from him, and then shot out Main Street toward M-14. Carlisle did have a point, I supposed, in saying that a freeway might be my better choice. I could cut over to 23 and then south to 94, and just make a nice wide circle at 70 miles an hour.

“I’m sure this is unbearably slow for you,” I said as I merged onto the freeway.

He shook his head. “I don’t drive as fast as Edward does.” Another gulp. “Did.”

Past tense. “I’m sorry.”

“Me, too.” He gestured to the sign ahead, indicating the junction with 23 South. “Don’t miss the exit up here.”

“What makes you think I want that exit?”

“I presumed you’d take my advice.”

Rolling my eyes, I turned on my blinker and made the exit.

He stared out the window.

Exits flashed by, the lights overhead flooding into the car and turning Carlisle’s skin a strange shade of orange. We said nothing, both just staring out the windows.

“So, Carlisle.” I said after a few miles.

“Will.”

“Yeah, why is that, exactly, now that you mention it?”

“Why is what?”

“Will. Why Will?” It was as good a topic for small talk as any. And it had next to nothing to do with Edward.

“Because Bill is an awful nickname.”

Ah, the king of evasive answers struck again.

“I mean, why William?”

“It’s my name.”

“Carlisle—”

“William Carlisle,” he corrected. “Not just Carlisle.”

What? Now that was something Edward had never mentioned. Come to think on it, I didn’t know any of their middle names.

“Your name is William?”

He pretended to be very interested in the dashed line on the freeway. “I hate it. I don’t use it. When I came off the boat in Massachusetts, I gave my name as Carlisle Cullen, no middle name.”

“Why do you hate it?” And if you hate it, why are you using it, I thought, but didn’t voice this one.

His jaw flexed, and he said nothing. We zipped past another exit.

“Fine. I don’t need to know. Sorry for asking.”

It took another minute for him to answer.

“It was my father’s name,” he said finally. “I think it was my nurse who called me Carlisle. I recall that was what my friends called me. My father wanted me to become a mini-him. Go to seminary, fight demons, torture people. I hated who he was, and I hated being related to him, and I especially hated having his name. So I got rid of it as soon as I could.”

“You didn’t get along with your father.”

The words sounded odd. It was hard to imagine Carlisle not getting along with someone—well, old Carlisle, at least. The guy in my passenger seat, well…it was a challenge to imagine him getting along with anyone.

Least of all me.

He shook his head. “We were constantly at each other’s throats. In fact, we fought that last night. I remember screaming at him before I stormed out the door to go ‘flush out evil,’ as he put it. He called me an ingrate, and I called him an imbecile…and then he never saw me alive again.”

I wasn’t exactly sure what to say to that, so I didn’t answer.

We reached I-94. Michigan seemed to be well-known for these horrible cloverleafs that involved merging exiting and entering traffic. They scared the shit out of me, and I usually avoided them at all costs, but tonight, traffic was light, and I found myself on 94 westbound with minimal heart palpitations.

“Where do you live?” he asked at last, when I’d exited back onto Main Street and started our drive back downtown.

“Northwoods four.”

“On North Campus?”

“Yes.”

He sat silent.

“What about you?”

“I have a house in Dexter.”

“Dexter?”

“Real estate in Ann Arbor is overpriced.”

As though he couldn’t write a check for the biggest house in the city. I rolled my eyes.

“It is. That I can afford it is beside the point.” He gestured to a no-parking zone off to my right. “Pull over.”

I did. At once he unbuckled his seat belt and began to open his door.

“This is my street,” he said.

His street? “Don’t you want me to take you back to your car?”

“No, I’ll get it tomorrow. I could use the walk.”

Dexter was at least ten miles.

“You’re going to walk to Dexter.”

He shrugged. “That’s how I usually get here,” he said. “Unless the weather looks nice. Alice texted that I should drive today because it was too cold and people would notice if I was out walking. Of course”—he gestured to me—”she seems to have had ulterior motives.”

Indeed she had. But it had been useful, I supposed. At least in a very limited kind of way.

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was supposed to do. Did I hug him? Shake his hand? Bid him a good evening?

“Thanks for coming with me,” I said.

Holding up a hand, he wiggled his fingers. “Thank you for the gloves.” He began to get out of the car, but then stopped himself.

“You know,” he muttered, “I look back on that last fight with my father, and I think, That’s about the only thing I did right.”

“Calling him an imbecile?”

He blinked. “No, not that. That was me being a tempestuous twenty-three year old.” He gazed out the window. Some girl in a tiny shirt leaned on her boyfriend’s arm as they walked down Main, laughing so hard her head was thrown back. We both stared.

“The last words I exchanged with my father were words of anger and hate,” Carlisle said finally. “But the last thing I said to my son was that I loved him.” Another gulp. “That much…that much I did right.”

I’d barely opened my mouth to answer before my passenger door slammed. And before I could so much as turn my head, Carlisle weaved through the crowd of students. I watched him go, the shock of blond hair reflecting the streetlights and glimmering as he made his way across the street.

“You did a lot of things right, Carlisle,” I said to the empty car.

Then I put it back in gear and headed home.

~||x||~

“So what are you doing on Saturday?”

Kelsey dropped into the chair next to me, causing it to creak in protest. Taubmann Library was the medical library on campus, and I’d been spending more time there hitting the books of late. Our Pat Pop unit ended the week before, and now Gross Anatomy would be coming to a close. Our cadavers were in carefully labeled pieces, and it seemed probable that in the near future I might not go home smelling like formaldehyde every day. The prospect was exciting.

But of course, both of these things meant studying, and so I moved into the library. As I probably would be this weekend.

“I’ll probably be right here,” I said, gesturing to my books. “I’d like to not waste the time.”

Kelsey rolled her eyes. “Oh, for heaven’s sake. You’re one of the top students in our year. You could take a break every now and again without killing your GPA.”

Well, not taking breaks was my M.O. The same “avoid other students at all costs and study” technique that had so surely gotten me through undergrad was doing a great job of getting me through medical school as well. But I supposed Kelsey had a point. Unlike undergrad, there were actually a handful of people who seemed to think it would be fun to hang out with me.

Go figure.

“Okay, fine. What are you doing on Saturday?”

“We thought we’d go to the cider mill.”

“The what?”

She rolled her eyes. “You are so from the desert. The cider mill—it’s where they press apples into cider, and they also make homemade donuts and sell a bunch of other apple-related stuff like jam and apple honey and cookies. It’s fun. Dan and I used to go all the time during undergrad but we haven’t been yet this fall. Fucking studying.”

“Tell me about it.”

“So, fuck studying.” She grinned. “For one morning, anyway. You can come back and study to your heart’s content all afternoon, but this way you can do it with a gallon of cider and some brown sugar donuts.”

I leaned back in my chair. “Where is it?”

“It’s on the river in Dexter. We can take Huron River Drive out there; it’s a gorgeous drive, and you won’t feel like you’re anywhere near campus.”

“Well…” I looked at my pile of books. They were four deep, with notecards spread across their covers. My anatomy coloring book lay off to one side along with a giant box of colored pencils.

“Oh come on, Bella. It’s one morning. Take a break for once.”

I shrugged. “Okay. What time?”

She grinned. I half-expected her to clap her hands. “Maybe we’ll leave at like, nine? It takes about twenty to thirty minutes to drive out there because it’s all 25 miles an hour.”

“Nine works.”

“Yay!”

We made arrangements to meet at her place—she lived on North Campus also, but in an apartment complex across the main drag that was not owned by the university—and then she bounced off, leaving me alone with my notes again. I began coloring a new page in my book, this one about the endocrine system. I was just shading in a pyloric gland when it suddenly hit me.

Dexter.

“I have a house in Dexter,” Carlisle’s voice repeated in my mind. “Real estate in Ann Arbor is overpriced.”

After the night with my car, I saw him a few times on campus, but always from a distance. As always, he had a penchant for vanishing into the ether, especially if I so much as thought about talking to him.

He was avoiding me.

So did I dare invite him out?

He would almost undoubtedly say no. Or ignore my e-mail entirely—that was what he usually did. I’d sent him a brief thanks for helping me with the car, and except for the fact that I didn’t get a bounce back, there was no evidence whatsoever that it had landed at all.

Well, hell. In that instance, there wasn’t much to lose. Turning to my laptop, I opened my gMail and started to type.

 


Isabella Swan to William

Hey, Carlisle,


 

What did I put after that? “Hope you and yours are well?” “How’s it hanging?” Or…nothing…

 


Some friends of mine wanted to visit the cider mill in Dexter on Saturday morning.


 

And I figured he didn’t get out much? I thought he was probably sitting at home alone, rocking himself in the darkness? That he spent his Saturdays slouched in front of the television?

 


I thought you might like to join us.


 

That worked okay. Did I say I wanted to see him? That wasn’t entirely true. I wanted to see old Carlisle. I wanted to see the Carlisle who’d made the comment about telling Edward he loved him. I didn’t much relish the idea of seeing the jerk with the seemingly ever-present sneer.

But maybe this would go a little ways toward getting rid of that guy?

 


We’ll be there around 9:30. If you don’t want to join us, I understand. But I thought I’d extend the invitation.


 

I sat back in my chair. How did I sign it? “Love, Bella”? Yeah, right. “Best, Bella”? Too formal. So I just wrote:

 


—B.


I re-read the entire email from top to bottom. It worked. It was an email from an acquaintance to another; it didn’t assume too much familiarity, because honestly, I wasn’t that familiar with him any longer. It was the same email I would’ve sent to any of my other M1 classmates if I were inviting them along.

And he could do whatever the hell he wanted with it.

I clicked SEND.

~||x||~

The Dexter Cider Mill had to be the most gorgeous place I’d been since arriving in Michigan. It sat directly on the banks of the Huron River, and from the little lawn out behind the mill, you could hear the gentle whoosh of the water. The drop to the river was a steep hill, so we didn’t venture down it, but you could easily stand at the top and watch the river go by. The building itself was adorable; a quaint red barn-like building with just a small gravel parking lot out front. True to Kelsey’s word, there were all sorts of treats inside. We each had bought a gallon of the unpasteurized cider to take home, a half-dozen donuts apiece, and a little Styrofoam cup of hot spiced cider to enjoy while we were there. Dan had also insisted on a bag of snicker doodles which had quickly disappeared.

Kelsey brought a quilt from their apartment, a big red, white, and blue thing which she spread out on the lawn while we enjoyed our snacks, and we sat there, chatting about school and work and nothing in particular.

As expected, I hadn’t heard back from Carlisle. So I was completely caught off-guard when Dan sat up a bit, looked out across the parking lot and said, “Hey, isn’t that the Asshole?”

My head snapped up. Sure enough, a rusty, mint-green Honda sat in the lot. Next to it stood Carlisle, his pea coat buttoned up to his neck and his hair whipping in the cool wind. He stared at us, no doubt having heard Dan’s comment.

“How odd. He doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who’d want to visit a cider mill,” said Kelsey.

“I sent him an email and told him we’d be here,” I answered absently. “He lives around here.”

Dan guffawed. “You invited the Asshole?”

“Shh. Stop it. He’ll hear you.” Or, to be more accurate, he already had. I could see the scowl on his face. I waved to him anyway, beckoning him over.

He shook his head.

I set down my cider. “Make sure that doesn’t go anywhere, okay? I’ll be right back.”

I hiked up the hill to the parking lot. Fortunately, Carlisle didn’t move.

“Hey,” I called, when I was within human earshot.

He didn’t move.

“I’m glad you came.” And I was, I realized, as the words left my mouth. It was a relief to see that he actually hadn’t blown off the invitation. Perhaps there was a possibility that the two of us might get along, after all.

“I’m not sure why I did,” he answered.

“Come join us.” I gestured to the blanket. “I’ll pour you some cider, and you can tip it into the grass or something.”

The corners of his mouth turned up just the tiniest bit. But his feet didn’t move.

“Oh come on. You don’t live far from here, and we’re leaving soon anyway.” And obviously, he’d wanted to come, or else he wouldn’t be standing here, but I chose not to point that out.

He reluctantly started toward the blanket. When we reached it, I flopped down at once, but he stood there with his head hung and his hands jammed into his pockets.

“Sit,” I commanded him.

He did, dropping into a cross-legged posture with such grace you would think he was a master yogi.

“This is Dan and Kelsey,” I said to him, gesturing to them. “Friends of mine from cohort. You guys know Will.”

They both nodded, speechless.

We’d nabbed a handful of Dixie cups for trying our cider, and I grabbed one and poured Carlisle a few ounces from my gallon, being careful to leave enough room at the top that the liquid wouldn’t actually reach his lips.

“Unless you want it hot,” I offered.

He frowned. “Cold is fine.” He pretended to take a sip.

No one said anything for several minutes.

“So,” Dan finally piped up. “Bella says you live nearby?”

Carlisle nodded. “It’s cheaper out here.”

Never mind that he probably owned an eight-bedroom mansion.

“How do you get in to school?”

“I drive.” He gestured to the parking lot. “I have a grad student permit. Besides, I don’t study on campus very often. I stay home on the days I don’t have class.”

Kelsey laughed. “Me, too. Hell, I stay home half the days I do have class. Lecture just takes away from reading time, and it’s not that useful.”

“It used to be that lecture was the only way they taught,” Carlisle said. “There weren’t good textbooks, outside of Gray’s Anatomy. There was no way to learn except to go to class.”

“And now class is almost irrelevant,” I added, before Kelsey started wondering exactly why he’d bother to bring up how medical school used to work. “There’s so much to memorize, and you can’t do that in a lecture.”

“But that’s why we get away, right?” Kelsey added. “Drop the studying for a few hours. Of course, getting this one”—she poked me—”to leave her books even for one morning was like pulling teeth.”

Carlisle actually smiled. It was almost undetectable, but knowing his face thoroughly as I did, I could just barely see it.

“You always were studious,” he said.

“So you guys knew each other in high school?” Dan this time.

“We did,” Carlisle said carefully.

“Will was a year ahead of me.”

“And she dated my brother,” he added.

So he was onboard with the story he’d overheard.

“Only for a few months, though.” That part was true enough. Even though it had been nearly a year before Edward had gone barreling to his death, we’d dated for six months.

It seemed so short now, and unfair: unfair that I’d had Edward in my life for such a short period of time, yet his death ripped me to shreds.

Of course, my six months with Edward didn’t hold a candle to the time he’d spent with Carlisle…

“High school romances are so funny,” I mumbled. “I thought it’d be forever.”

Literally.

Kelsey grinned. “And yet, how many sixteen-year-olds actually go on to marry their sweethearts?”

“Well, I certainly hope college romances aren’t as transient,” Dan piped up, taking Kelsey’s hand and squeezing it. She laughed.

“Don’t worry. I’m not going to dump you over something silly. Over the baseball, maybe, but not over something silly.”

“Baseball?” Carlisle piped up.

Dan turned to him. “Do you play?”

Only if you counted games where all the players could run over eighty miles an hour.

Carlisle shook his head. “Just watch—but I watch a lot.”

Dan’s face lit up. “Who are your teams?”

“Atlanta, Chicago Sox, Cincinnati, Boston sometimes. The A’s.”

“What about the Tigers?”

Carlisle cocked his head. “I’m learning about the Tigers. Never paid them a lot of attention until I moved to this region.”

“How do you feel about the Yankees?”

His lip curled. “They’re a corporation, not a team. When you’ve basically bought the perfect lineup, it’s not a sport anymore.”

“Yes! My thoughts exactly, Bro.” He raised his hand, and after a brief half-second in which I could almost hear Carlisle thinking through what he was supposed to do with it, Carlisle slapped him a high-five.

The next thing I knew they were off talking animatedly about trades and players and triple-A ball and this upcoming season’s recruits. Words like “RBI” and “ERA” and “MVP” started flying around. After a minute of this, Kelsey leaned in to me.

“Do you know what they’re talking about?”

“Not a clue.”

She rolled her eyes. “Boys.”

Boys. It was an odd word to use for Carlisle. I was so used to him being the serious one, the leader, the one who could command the entire room simply by speaking. But now here he was, sitting on a blanket in the grass, animatedly talking stats, and she was right—he seemed just like any guy.

Kelsey and I leaned back and kind of half tuned in, but mostly just listened and chatted ourselves about the cider mill, and school.

It took the boys a good forty minutes to exhaust what seemed to be every possible permutation of this upcoming year’s baseball season. When it seemed like they were winding down, Kelsey asked, “So, have you two managed to figure out who is going to win the World Series next year?”

“I think it’s possible the Tigers will go all the way,” Carlisle answered absently. “It’s going to depend on Philadelphia and Washington. Or if the Giants come in and upset things. But the American League is so superior to the National League right now; I just don’t see it.”

Kelsey laughed. “I was kidding. But thanks; I’ll keep that in mind in case Dan actually convinces me to make a fantasy team.” She gestured to the parking lot. “Shall we?”

Dan reluctantly got to his feet. “Yeah, I guess. It was good talking to you, man.”

“Likewise.”

And there it was. An actual, honest-to-goodness grin.

I smiled.

“Hey,” Dan added, “we’re throwing a party this Saturday after the game. You guys should both come. You know, if you’re a football fan, too.”

He gestured to Carlisle, who looked about as surprised as if someone had just told him germ theory had been disproven.

“I’m…not much of a party person,” he mumbled.

Was it possible he’d ever even been to a house party?

“Bella, we’ll see you, right?” Kelsey asked as we started to fold her blanket. “It’s at our place, so you could walk if you needed.”

I shrugged. I also wasn’t much of a party person, but then, today had actually been fun.

“I could maybe try to make it.”

Kelsey laughed. “Try. Hard. And then come to the party.”

I rolled my eyes. Lifting my grocery bag of cider, donuts and cookies into my arms, I staggered backwards half a step. Carlisle caught me at once.

“Can I take that?” he asked.

“I’ve got it.”

He looked at me warily, but when he saw I actually did have control of the bag, started up the hill. The four of us made our way up to the parking lot. I’d driven with Kelsey and Dan; Dan popped the trunk and we loaded all our cider. The he turned and offered his hand.

“It was nice meeting you, Will.”

Carlisle took it. “It was a pleasure meeting you, also.”

“And do think about it, man,” Dan said. “I’d like to introduce you to some of my buddies.”

He nodded.

I turned to Carlisle. Was I supposed to hug him, since I was supposedly the close one of the three of us?

“It was good to see you,” I said cautiously.

He nodded again, but his gaze shifted to the gravel. “Thanks for inviting me.”

If he could’ve blushed, I was fairly certain he would have.

“We’ll see you around, Will.”

We hopped in the car, and rolled the windows down. Dan started the ignition, and at once the CD player started right back up with the same pop music we’d listened to on the way over.

“Well,” Dan said, as we started to pull away. “Who’d have thought? Turns out the Asshole is kind of all right.”

I cringed. With the windows down, there was no way we were out of vampire earshot. I twisted in the back seat, expecting to see a crestfallen look on Carlisle’s face.

But he was still grinning, and only waved.

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§ 25 Responses to Chapter 5"

  • StormDragonfly says:

    Carlisle is full of contradictions, and I’m quite enjoying them.

    Alice seems to be a little manipulative. It was good to have Carlisle and Bella get together for a reason other than her foresight or prodding. I like that it’s unclear what motivated Bella to send out the invite, or him to accept it.

    Of course, you’ve also thrown in some wonderfully mundane things that we all have to deal with, and make them work for your story. Carlisle’s puzzlement and hesitation on jump starting a battery paired with Bella’s sarcastic know-how is charming.

    The way things have been going in this story, I’m willing to bet that Carlisle’s property in Dexter is not a mansion. Wonderful way to set up the curiosity on that, and the fact that we’ll likely find out. *That’s* what makes your writing so good. You know just the right touch of hint-dropping and foreshadowing to have, so that the reader gets an expectation without even realizing that she or he has it. 1) Bella realizes that the assumptions she’s been making about Carlisle are wrong. 2) Bella makes another assumption. So we start thinking that her assumption is wrong, and that we’re going to somehow see Bella discover that she’s wrong. Which makes us wonder how she ends up at Carlisle’s place – and what will happen once she’s there. And thus we’re sucked into wanting to read more.

    Baseball. Of course it would be baseball to make Carlisle thaw out a bit with the humans. :)

    Looking forward to seeing more of Asshole Carlisle and Thawing Carlisle.

    • giselle says:

      Aww yay. That you’re sucked in makes me all excited.

      Bella’s first visit to Carlisle’s house is one of those chunks that’s been lying around fully written for ages and yet hasn’t found its way in yet. I shall be no more spoilery than that.

      And yes, Alice is pushing this stuff, a bit hard, at times. But I like to think she nudges just enough to get the people she loves to heal their own pain.

    • giselle says:

      Oh and thank you for the help on the typos. :)

  • Tina says:

    Carlisle still breaks my heart in this story. Losing the simple things – someone to look at his car, someone to play baseball with, someone who knows his history. He’s so isolated.

    I loved that he talked baseball and actually had a reason to smile.

    Can’t wait for more. Not to be pushy or anything… ;)

  • jfly says:

    Can it be possible that Bella is easing his grip on the cat o’ nine tails with which he has been flaggelating himself since Edward’s death? Calling himself by a name he hates, isolating himself from the populace that he devoted centuries to nurturing, and turning his back even on the loving members of his (former) family who also mourn the same loss as he– our hero’s pain is difficult to witness, especially because he wallows in it. It’s good to see that Bella doesn’t consent to enable him. She is not the pliable damsel she was as a teen under Edward’s thrall. She is strong and independent, and she has a woman’s heart that genuinely hurts to see her old friend hurting with a too familiar pain. These two have a beautiful chemistry because of these shared circumstances.
    Now, this chapter was delightful. We saw Bella whittling away at the vampire’s resolve to be an ass. I enjoyed the memory of Charlie. I enjoyed a taste of vampire stubbornness. I enjoy the ay Bella doesn’t censor herself around Carlisle. And she doesn’t call him William, even though he insists, unless others are around– because he hates the name. She isn’t one to put up with BS. If her “friend” hadn’t pressured her to go out, would she have pressured Carlisle? Obviously not. They’re in more similar of a situation than either of them even yet admits.
    Thank you for this.

    • giselle says:

      “Whittling away at the vampire’s resolve to be an ass.”

      This, of course, implies that Carlisle has resolved to be an ass…
      I like it.

  • LJ says:

    Wow, Carlisle (WILL, dammit!) grinning. Astonishing.

    The car battery was great, but poignant. I could just see Carlisle distancing himself as he rode in the passenger seat. His expression, his eyes. Very cool.

    Loved the cider mill munch fest. The baseball stats were so fun. I don’t get it, but they do and that matters. It was a great “in” with the other two.

    Bella is so believable, here, and I like her. Still. She’s brave and plucky but observant for real, too.

    • giselle says:

      I like “plucky.” I don’t think I would’ve thought to categorize what I was shooting for with her character as “plucky,” but you’re exactly right. It’s going to take someone who’s gained a bit of inner strength to pull Carlisle back here, and she’s earned it over these years.

  • verseseven says:

    Sigh. As always, your writing is beautiful and heartfelt. I smile and then my heart breaks. So good it hurts! I would say update soon, but whatever you write is worth the wait.

    • giselle says:

      Aww, thank you. I really do hope to finish this story in something like a timely manner, but these guys don’t always cooperate with me! :)

  • E (ATONAU) says:

    I really do adore this story. Sullen Carlisle is the best, though it’s nice to see a bit of sun shine through his clouds at the end there. Love that it was baseball that finally got him to socialize a bit.

    I thought it was interesting that Bella has had to basically start dishing it back, and then treat him like a mere acquaintance to draw him out. They have this bond of history, and the fact that he can speak openly, but these things that allow an intimacy of sorts he sees as a burden. Only by stepping back and starting over, in a sense, is she able to get him to meet her part way.

    Carlisle “blushing” near the end… if the other students weren’t already talking about the fact that he singled her out to meet with, that awkwardness will probably start the rumor mill. That should prove interesting.

    Thank so much for writing. Each chapter has been delightful.

  • miaokuancha says:

    As one who has the hardest of times moving on from a loss, I can only admire your two protagonists. I also wonder and wonder what is happening with the rest of the family. Where are they? What are they doing? I think of how one for all and all for one they were. What can it be for them to face eternity without one (actually two) of their members? Can they even remain a family? (Recollecting that Carlisle and Edward were the founding members of the family. How can they go on with both of these ones gone … ? Wow, this is making me really sad.) I can only imagine how unbearable this must be for Alice above all – experiencing the permutations of the future. Hopefully Jasper is beside her.

    This story.

    “For a Season” was hard enough to read. This – such a similar premise of shared loss, but in this case without the (almost) hundred years of shared history to hold them in its heart together. They must build it all from scratch. And from their pain. God.

  • Lila says:

    For a couple of chapters I’ve been pondering the idea that Carlisle and Bella might end up together and wondering if I’m okay with that. I mean, if Edward is really dead then what would be the point to the story. Short of Esme’s death, I can’t imagine him being able to move past her, heck even if she did die I can’t imagine it. You’re brilliant at story telling though and I look forward to seeing where you go with it… even if it is C&B.

  • foufymaus says:

    Is the real reason why Carlisle is using the name William a subconscious bid of self flagellation? What better way to to inflict harm on your psyche by using a name that you despise. Also …*big kitten eyes* might there pretty pretty please be an update soon-ish. LOL Take your time. This one needs a bit of extra love because of all the angst. ;)

    • giselle says:

      Awww, thank you. This made my day, you have no idea.

      And yes, there will be an update soon-ish. My heart isn’t done with Carlisle or Twilight or these vampires, even though the actual fandom causes me more pain than joy these days. I’m finishing my two novellas, PATROCLUS and PRESENT PERFECT, and will post those to FFnet, and then I’ve decided this will be my little private joy of a story to share only here as I write it. Fandom became something I didn’t love, but the people and the writing and the characters I still burn for and I’m not ready to leave. So this fic, I hope, will become my constant reminder of the intense joy of sharing fic only for the sake of sharing it, and I absolutely *will* finish it, because I need that joy in my life.

      As for Carlisle and “Will” as self-flagellation? I’m the author, so I always know why I do things, but I like to keep things open to interpretation. That though, is definitely one interpretation I hope to keep open. :)

  • Sandra says:

    Damn. Carlisle is just one contradiction after another. I wonder if he feels drawn to Bella because she reminds him of happier times, and then at the same time repulsed by her for the same reason. And also too guilty to actually feel happy, or not deserving of happiness.
    After having found out about why Carlisle chose Will as his name, I wonder if he did that to punish himself. That theory would also work for his last name, since it’s a constant reminder of the son he lost.

    Excellent work. Thank you!

  • Sisterglitchff says:

    Just chiming in with the “please update” crew here. I finished Stregoni Benefici the day you posted the epilogue, grieving that it had finally ended…but forgot I had been following this one long long ago — and loving it.
    Great concept. Thanks for all the excruciating discomfort of this tale!

    • giselle says:

      I so do plan to update this soon. I think the problem may be that I have told my betas too much about Chapter 6 (there are some of my favorite moments coming and so I’ve advance squeeed too much) and so I’ve kind of killed it. But like I said, this fic is like my little life preserver in Twific. Reminds me why I fell in love. It will be finished, no matter what.

      Thank you for the note. It is fuel :)

  • DH says:

    After finally finishing Stregoni Benefici I felt compelled to revisit this story. I do hope you finish it sometime.

  • Lotta says:

    I just wanted to say I read all five chapters today and they were so lovely. Thank you! Your writing makes me happy.

  • dicat33 says:

    Well…can I mention the little dance I did when I saw this in my email box???

    It is wonderful to see something new from you and this my dear is an exceptional story. I’m usually a B & E fan all the way, but the way you have given Carlisle a life with flaws included (all the stories) make me hungry for each and every word. The detail and subtlety is flawless as usual….thank you for giving me a new “thinking man’s story”.

    Love ya, Diane

    P.S. Ithaca will always be in my top ten!

  • EdwardsMate4ever says:

    My goodness, I just loved this. It’s wonderful to see Carlisle written with such depth. In Twilight, he was a fairly static character, but you have given him layers like a real person. I also quite enjoy your version of Bella, a character I don’t usually enjoy in fanfiction. But I feel like calling your work fanfiction is a disservice-it is definitely something more in my mind. I am so happy Carlisle came out and had some fun…I sure hope they both go to the party. I love how the conversation about his namesake harkins back to Stregoni. I feel almost like Carlisle and Bella might end up together…speculation of course, but who could understand the other better?

  • Jenny says:

    Regarding seatbelt epiphany: Much like the french fries, the coughs, the foot shuffles, etc., Car-Will is a much more convincing human than any of the rest of his former “family” and I’ve never quite decided if his success is attributable solely to his nature being greater than their or merely his years of mimicry being so much greater.

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