Chapter 7

July 3rd, 2013 § 45 comments § permalink

I remembered hearing my classmates complain of hangovers. The night after a big party, or after a big football win, or after finals, or really, just on any random Tuesday, someone would be describing the incredible bender they’d gone on the night before and talking about how they couldn’t think straight the following day. There were a lot of “I’m sick” emails sent to professors.

Not drinking probably had a lot to do with my 4.0, now that I thought about it. I’d never experienced a hangover, and I’d never missed anything important because of one.

So when I awoke in my bedroom the morning after Kelsey and Dan’s party and my head wasn’t throbbing and my throat wasn’t dry and basically, I didn’t feel at all like I’d been run over by a truck, I was surprised, to say the least.

In fact, the only part of me that hurt at all was the crook of my right arm.

I swung myself out of bed. I was still wearing the jeans and sweater I’d been wearing the night before, and my shoes sat neatly at the foot of my bed.

I squeezed my eyes closed. I’d had, what, five or six beers last night? I remembered Carlisle suggesting that we leave. Making a big deal out of a sandwich, and then as we were leaving—ah, crap.

Had I really told everyone that Carlisle was a vampire?

After that was a little fuzzy. I remembered Carlisle’s arm around my waist, and falling once or twice on the stairs. I blamed it on the ice.

I would email him to thank him. He wasn’t a douchebag, no matter what my friends thought. Even though I couldn’t really explain exactly what had happened and why it was that Carlisle had been the one who’d wound up taking me home.

Not to mention—why had he insisted on bringing me home anyway? Out of some sort of obligation to me, what with my having once dated Edward? Out of the same stupid impulse that Edward always had to save me from myself?

Maybe I wouldn’t email him, after all.

I started to lift my sweater over my head. A shower would feel nice. Stepping out of my bedroom, I rounded the corner…and screamed.

Carlisle was sitting on my couch, reading Little Women. There was a small pile of books sitting next to him, all classics. His feet were bare…and so was his chest.

He looked up calmly. “Good morning to you, also.”

“Oh my god!” I yanked my sweater back down over my abdomen and started furiously combing my fingers through my hair. “What are you doing here? And why don’t you have clothes on?”

He gave me an exasperated look. “It is perfectly socially acceptable for a male to go without a shirt.”

“Not in my apartment! It is not socially acceptable for me to see your nipples at”—I looked at my wrist.

“Seven thirty-nine,” Carlisle supplied. “I took your watch off; thought it might be uncomfortable.”

So my watch and my shoes. I guess that made sense, given how prudish Edward had been.

“It’s not socially acceptable for me to see your nipples at seven-thirty in the morning. In fact, you are my dead boyfriend’s father. I really shouldn’t see your nipples ever.”

He winced when I referred to Edward.

But he only nodded toward the bathroom in answer. “I would gladly have remained shirted, Isabella, as it isn’t exactly my desire to wander around your home anything less than fully dressed. However, as it so happens, I found that I needed to clean vomit out of the shirt I was wearing last night, and you don’t have t-shirts that would fit me nor did I want to go rummaging around in your drawers. And so here I am shirtless in your apartment, for which I sincerely apologize.”

Vomit?

Now that he mentioned it…

I took a step backward. “Um…did I throw up on you?”

“You only hit me once. Thank you for keeping a bucket under the bathroom sink. It came in handy.”

I stared. I didn’t remember that part at all.

“Eventually you fell asleep,” he offered.

“Have you been here all night?”

He nodded. “I didn’t want to invade your privacy, so I took off your shoes and then sat out here.” Standing, he began to collect the books.  “Edward never told me you had such good taste in literature. It’s been awhile since I’ve read the Bronte sisters especially.”

“You don’t need to do that,” I told him, and he looked up. Unconsciously, I rubbed my arm.

“Is the site feeling okay?”

I looked down at my arm, then slowly back up at him.

“What do you mean, ‘site?’”

He looked away quickly. I inspected my elbow more closely. It was almost imperceptible, but there was the tiniest red welt there, like a pinprick.

I turned back to him. He winced ever so slightly.

“Carlisle? What did you do?”

“You were very drunk and I was concerned about alcohol poisoning,” he answered quickly. “I didn’t think it was likely that you regularly drank that much or even that you’d ever had that much to drink ever before.”

Well, he was right about that part.

“What did you do?”

He gestured to my arm. “After I got you into bed—again, very glad you had that bucket—I ran to the hospital and stole a saline kit.”

“You WHAT?”

“How are you feeling this morning?”

I recognized the tone. It was the same tone he’d used the first time we’d met, when I had been sitting on a gurney in the Forks Community Hospital ER and he’d been checking my pupillary response with a pen light.

“Oh, no you do not get to go all doctor on me. I’m not your patient. We went to a party together. Carlisle, did you stick me with an IV?”

He looked away.

He had. I rubbed the inside of my elbow. Sure enough, it was tender; as though I’d spent the whole night with a needle in my vein.

“You have to be kidding me. Watching me sleep is invasive, but sticking me with a needle without my consent is just fine?”

“Isabella, you know as well as I do that there are medical exceptions to consent. I’m a physician.”

“And at the moment, not one who’s licensed. Or did you forget about this whole Will Edward charade you’re on?”

He scowled. “You were in danger.”

“This was not emergency surgery! I was just drunk!” I stormed across the room, throwing my hands into the air. This had the effect of lifting my sweater up toward my face. He was right; I could smell a little bit of puke. How much had I thrown up, I wondered. I didn’t remember having done it.

I stopped stomping.

“Why did you even bring me home,” I muttered. “Seriously. I was covering for you, and you go and ruin my night.”

“About that,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest. “If you ever do that again, so help me God…”

And now we were back to Carlisle, the parent. Well, two could play this game. I crossed my arms over my chest, too.

“You do not get to dictate that.”

“I can tell you how I’d prefer you to help me. And what is not actually helping.”

I threw my hands up. “Carlisle, you stuck me with an IV! And you’re upset that I helped you by drinking a couple of beers?”

For a second he looked stricken, but then his face dropped into a scowl. “That’s completely different.”

“How so?”

His jaw flexed, but he didn’t answer.

“I thought so. And why did you even bring me back, anyway? I’m sure Nabil or Kelsey would’ve handled me just fine. Or I would’ve just stayed there and sobered up.”

The answer was immediate. “I didn’t want Nabil bringing you home.”

I raised my eyebrows.

“Bella, everyone knows that when a young man brings home an inebriated woman, he wants only one thing. I didn’t want everyone to think you got drunk and had intercourse with him.”

Did I hear that correctly? More to the point, had he heard that correctly?

“Right,” I answered slowly. “Because obviously the solution was to bring me home so that everyone will think I got drunk and had intercourse with you.”

He looked as though I’d slapped him.

“You seriously didn’t think of that.”

“I’m three hundred sixty-eight.”

“And I’m the only person who knows that. To everyone else you’re the hottie med student that just about any girl would fall head over heels for. I can’t exactly tell everyone that I’m not interested in you because you’re my boyfriend’s dad.”

He went all pensive again.

“Speaking of not having sex with you, would you go put your shirt on?”

A tight black t-shirt covered his chest before I actually saw him nod.

I blinked.

“Still damp,” he said. “But serviceable.”

“Right. Um…” He’d caught me off guard by moving at full speed. “I’m fine. You should go.”

“Yes, I think I should.” He had his other shirt slung over his arm. He looked out the window. “My car is still at Kelsey’s.”

“If she sees you, you did not spend the night here.”

He rolled his eyes. It was an expression I was so completely used to seeing on Edward’s face, but to see it on Carlisle’s was nothing short of comical.

“Remind me not to help you in the future,” he said.

“I could really say the same.” I closed my eyes, trying to remember the previous night. At once my mind flashed to a concerned face, and a perfectly plain sandwich that I had a vague memory of having sung praises of…

Without thinking, I walked to the window. I didn’t see any cars I recognized besides my own.

“What happened to Nabil?”

A dark expression passed over Carlisle’s face for the briefest second, but his features at once relaxed into the solemn, but careful expression.

“He inquired after you when he came for his car.”

And if he’d inquired after me, and Carlisle had been here…

“Please tell me you didn’t answer the door.”

Another Edward eye-roll. “Isabella, you drank so much that you passed out on your bed. He was concerned. So was I.”

“What did you tell him?”

“That you were asleep and that I was staying to sit with you.”

Oh, perfect. So now everyone knew that Carlisle had spent the night in my apartment.

“Carlisle! Are you actively trying to ruin my life?”

He looked shocked. “What?”

“You told Nabil that you were going to spend the night with me!”

“Yes.”

“And that I was passed out!”

“I said you were asleep.”

“Which, in drunk-friend parlance, means I was passed out!”

He looked a little stunned.

“Let me get this straight. You brought me home so that someone else wouldn’t sleep with me, have managed to convince my friends that maybe you did sleep with me, and that if you did do that, I was all but passed out when we did it—”

He winced.

“—and then you stuck me with an IV and spent the rest of the night in my apartment reading without your shirt on.”

Raising an index finger, he said, “Point of order; you vomited on my shirt.”

I closed my eyes. “You need to get out of my apartment.”

“I had planned to,” he said. “When you woke up, and I could ascertain that you were all right, I had planned to leave. So I’ll do that.” He shrugged, and went to my coat closet.

He’d hung up his coat? Mine, too, I saw, as he opened the closet door. In fact, everything in my living room looked a little neater than it had the night before—even the dishes were put away.

“Look,” I said, my voice a little softer. “It’s just that—you’re really good at acting human. You’re ten times better at it than Edward ever was. You do it naturally. All the eating, and the drinking, and the moving at human speeds”—I gestured to his shirt—”except for in private.”

I thought the corners of his mouth turned up ever so slightly.

“But the thing is, you really, really suck at actually being human. And you don’t have to be a human to be human.”

He frowned and folded his arms across his chest. “I’m not sure I follow.”

“Well, like this.” I took his hand, which felt cold and clammy against mine. He allowed himself to be pulled into the bathroom.

I knelt in front of the toilet. “This is what people do when they need to puke,” I told him. “And a good friend doesn’t stick them with an IV.” I reached from my temple backwards, and gathered my hair into my fist.

“This is what a friend does for a friend,” I said. “When a friend is puking up beer, you hold their hair. You don’t stick them with an IV, or tell their friends they’re passed out in the bedroom, or prevent a guy from calling them, or whatever the hell else it is you’ve done in my apartment in the last seven hours. Next time, what you do is, you help me to the john, and then you hold my hair.”

His eyes narrowed. “There will not be a next time.”

“No, there won’t be.” I stood up. “Because if you keep coming out with my friends—and they seem to like you, for some reason I don’t understand—you’re going to have to start figuring more stuff out on your own.”

He blinked.

“You can go. I have to call Nabil and Kelsey and explain.”

He turned around, and there was a sudden flurry of activity near the couch. A second later, my books were all back on my bookshelf—alphabetized, it appeared.

Then he shrugged himself back into his coat, and shoved a hand in his pocket, withdrawing his car keys. When he put his hand on the doorknob, however, he turned.

“Friends hold your hair,” he said. It was sort of a question.

“Friends hold your hair,” I repeated.

There was a long pause while he stood there, his brow furrowed. Then he looked back at me.

“Does that mean we’re friends?”

He might as well have punched me in the gut. It was such a simple question, but the vulnerability behind those words…

At once, a memory of Edward came to me, from over that first summer, when I was teasing him about his relationship with Carlisle. We were sitting on a rock near our meadow—well, Edward’s meadow, but I’d come to think of it as ours. Gone was a day of him asking me questions then a day of me asking him; but I still had so many to ask.

“It must be crazy, having parents who are so close to you in age,” I commented.

Edward shrugged. “Only Esme is close to me in age. And she’s such a mother—it’s impossible not to feel like she’s your mother.”

He had been right about that. Esme took me under her wing just like I was any other of her children, and for the first time in my life, I’d experienced what it was like to have a mother with two feet firmly on the ground, one who was madly in love with her husband, but also madly in love with her role.

“But Carlisle—”  He’d looked away then, into the sky, and closed his eyes. By then, I knew all about his memory; the way every detail of everything he’d ever experienced as a vampire could be recalled in an instant, and I knew that when he closed his eyes, he was seeing specific moments, times when he and Carlisle had been together; the way their relationship had formed.

“Carlisle is my best friend,” he said simply, when he opened his eyes.

I looked at Carlisle now, at the way his hair hung over his eyes as he stood with his hand on the doorknob. He didn’t look like a father, or a doctor, or any of the things that I should be viewing him as, given that he’d all but bawled me out for drinking and shot me up with saline overnight.

He looked like…just a guy.

He looked like a guy who’d lost his best friend.

“Yes,” I said carefully. “That means we’re friends.”

His eyes flickered up to meet mine, and for a moment, we stared at each other.

Then I pointed to the door. “But that doesn’t mean you can stay.”

He nodded, solemnly, and turned the doorknob, but just before he exited, I saw the tiniest hint of a smile.

~||x||~

I spent the rest of the morning doing damage control.

My phone rang twenty minutes after Carlisle walked out the door.

“Will just came by and got his car” were the first words out of Kelsey’s mouth, before I had a chance to say hello. “Does that mean he spent the night? Bella? What happened? Did you hook up with him?”

So much for clandestine operations.

“I did not sleep with him.” Thinking this might put things very sharply into perspective, I added, “I threw up on him, in fact.”

“Gross. And he stuck around after that?”

“Yes.”

I had always been a terrible liar—Edward was well-practiced, and obviously Carlisle was, also, but the closer I could keep my lies to the truth, the better. Although I was dying to play the, “He’s my dead boyfriend’s father” a.k.a “get out of friends-accusing-you-of-a-hookup free” card, I figured the rest of the story could possibly be evidence enough.

“He stayed to make sure I didn’t get alcohol poisoning.” And shot me up with an IV of saline, but I decided not to mention that part. Although, perhaps he’d had a point—aside from feeling a little groggy, I had none of the “killer hangover” symptoms that I’d heard so much about in undergrad. The extra hydration had been a good thing, it seemed.

“You barfed on him and he stayed to make sure you were okay. That’s um, romantic?”

I shrugged. “I think it was just a sense of duty. Little brother’s ex-girlfriend and all of that.”

“That’s right, I’d forgotten about that.” There was a long pause. “So, seriously? You didn’t see him naked?”

Cue mental images I did not need. Although now that I thought on it…

I’d never seen Carlisle in casual clothing before coming to med school, save the few times I’d seen him in jeans and his old-fashioned baseball jersey. And I hadn’t paid much attention to how his body looked in the clothes I was seeing him in. But the chest I’d glimpsed this morning was even more sculpted than Edward’s had been—which made sense, Carlisle was older and had more time as a human to develop his body. Although they didn’t exactly have lifting gyms in the seventeenth century. How had he gotten so toned? Perhaps from manual labor? Did priest’s kids even do that back then?

“He had his shirt off when I woke up,” I said, and then realizing how that sounded, added quickly, “And he was sitting in the living room reading, so don’t get any ideas.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“What does he look like?”

He looked like a vampire, I thought. Pale, impossibly muscled, perfection.

“He looks good.”

I could almost hear the eyeroll. “Bel-la. Come on. Are you serious? The hottest guy in M-1 insists on taking you home, he spends the night even after you puke on him, you don’t end up doing him—because you are insane, I might add—and all you have to say about his body is that it was ‘good’? You suck at gossip.”

Good. That was really all I had. He didn’t look like Edward, that was for sure.

I realized what I was thinking only when I reached the end of that sentence.

“It was good. That’s all I’ve got.”

Kelsey sighed. “And he didn’t even try anything? You didn’t make out with him? Are you sure you didn’t make out with him? You were pretty drunk.”

“Ew, no.”

“‘Ew?’ What ‘Ew’? I bet he’s a fabulous kisser.”

Edward’s father, Edward’s father, Edward’s father, chanted part of my brain, while the other part tried to figure out how to convey this without disclosing his identity even more.

“That was not on the cards. Nor do I want it to be.”

“Why not? He totally has the hots for you.”

What?

“I beg your pardon?”

“Oh come on, are you that clueless? He spent the whole night looking like someone stabbed him with a fork every time Jon or Nabil so much as spoke to you. You should’ve seen the look on his face when Nabil tried to take you home instead. If it weren’t for the fact that it was so obvious he wanted to do you himself, I would’ve thought he was trying to protect your honor or something. It was really almost cute.”

He had been trying to protect my honor; at least she got that part right. It was just that somehow, a man with three centuries of memories and almost nine decades as a husband still failed to understand the implications of modern coed situations.

“He does not have the hots for me. He’s just…socially challenged.”

As the words left my mouth, I realized how hilariously true they were. I thought back to the first day I’d seen the Cullens, in the cafeteria at Forks High. Rosalie, with her impossible beauty, Emmett’s huge grin and doting smile. Alice, who looked like she could’ve danced on water. Jasper, with his cool, but silent demeanor.

And Edward, with his confused look as he stared across the room at me. What I didn’t know then, but I knew now—that he couldn’t hear me, that I’d upset his entire world with my silent brain.

They were all gorgeous. All perfect. And then Carlisle, the most perfect of them all; the perfect record, the perfect history, the perfect husband, the perfect father.

Except that when presented with a drunk human, he was so flustered he’d stuck me with an I.V.

I started to giggle.

“Bella?”

“Nothing,” I said, but I was laughing.

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing. It’s just—it’s so true!”

“What’s so true?”

“He’s completely socially clueless. Gorgeous, yes. Perfect. But my god, he doesn’t know how to behave around people.”

“Maybe that’s why he’s such a douchebag?”

Douchebag. That reminded me…

Somewhere, in the haze of the previous night, I did remember Nabil. That he’d gotten me a sandwich, and that he’d helped me sit down, and then that he’d looked like I’d stolen something from him when Carlisle was trying to get me out the door.

“I need to call Nabil.”

There was a long pause on the other end of the line.

“Hotty McHotterson spends the night, and you have to call Nabil?”

“Yes. Hotty McHotterson spent the night, and I need to call Nabil,” I repeated.

Kelsey laughed. “Okay. Okay, Bella. I don’t know what to tell you. Go call Nabil. But please, please for the sake of all of us who are tied down, the next time Will Edward takes you home drunk, will you please fuck him?”

“I’m hanging up now.”

“Okay. But—”

I hit “end.”

~||x||~

“I’m surprised you even bothered to call,” Nabil said when he picked up.

I deserved that, I supposed—even though I hadn’t intended to go home with Carlisle, or to get drunk, or to do any of the things that Nabil seemed to think we’d done.

“We didn’t do anything.”

“You went home with him drunk.”

“There’s a story.” A long story that started sometime in the seventeenth century and ended with me trying to make it look like a man who was over six feet tall was keeping up with his alcohol consumption. And a story that along the way resulted in said man treating me like I was his charge.

“I’m sure there is.”

I didn’t say anything.

“Listen, Bella, I’ve got to go…”

“It’s Sunday.”

“Yes, it’s Sunday. We have classes tomorrow. I have to study. And I don’t need to hear about what you did or did not do last night with The Douchebag.”

So now he was The Douchebag?

“I didn’t do anything last night with The Douchebag.”

“Sure.” The ‘u’ was drawn out.

“I’m serious. I threw up on him. It wasn’t exactly a romantic encounter.”

A long pause.

“You did what?”

“I puked on him. Too much beer.”

There was another long-ish pause, and then I heard laughter.

“Dear god, that is so what he gets…”

At first, I cringed. I didn’t like the idea of Nabil fighting Carlisle over me—especially since Carlisle wasn’t fighting over me, but I couldn’t very well explain the situation—but he was right. I hadn’t asked to be taken home. I hadn’t asked to be put into bed. And I certainly hadn’t asked for an I.V. (even if it had more or less nipped any potential hangover in the bud).

I was trying to keep him under wraps, and he was insisting on behaving like he was my father, and meanwhile ruining any chance I had with any actual guys…

It was, in fact, so what he got.

For reasons I couldn’t quite place, I started to laugh. Imagining a perfect Cullen, with his Adonis-looks and his designer clothes, covered in vomit to the point that he needed to hand wash his shirt—the picture was hysterical.

The next thing I knew, Nabil and I were both laughing on the phone.

“So wait, what did he do?” he asked.

“He washed his shirt in my sink. I got up this morning and he was sitting on my couch waiting for it to dry.” Realizing that I’d just put a weird mental image out there, I quickly added, “He was dying to get home, but I sure don’t have any clothes that would fit him…”

“Hah, no. I’m sure he’d look great in that Mumford t-shirt of yours.”

My Mumford shirt?

The tickets had been a gift from Phil—the band had come to Jacksonville about a year after I’d moved there. That was in the very depth of what I could only term as “Edward,” because “depression” didn’t quite seem to cover it. But I’d allowed myself to be dragged out, and somehow had endured an entire night of what had turned out to be fairly good music. Prior to that night, I’d never spent tons of time with my stepfather without my mother, but it had been oddly fun, in a tiny way.

It was one of the first nights that I had any sense that I might get through all of this.

Phil bought me a shirt afterward, and since I was at the very depth of my not eating, it was pretty miniscule, and probably too small for me now, but every now and then I found myself pulling it on anyway.

And Nabil had noticed it.

“I don’t know what to say that you noticed my Mumford t-shirt.”

“Well.” He coughed. “You look good in it.”

Another long pause.

“Really, I promise. Absolutely nothing happened. Will was a friend of mine from high school—”

“He reminded us of that last night. He really was into LARP?”

I’d forgotten about that save. Well done, Carlisle. “He became less of a nerd in undergrad.”

Nabil guffawed. “So you’re saying he was ugly in high school.”

I couldn’t imagine Carlisle ever having been ugly. Or even remotely normal on the attractiveness scale. Of course, there had been no photography in the seventeenth century, but I wondered if anyone had ever captured his image somewhere as a human.

Realizing I owed Nabil a response, I said, “He was…a high school guy. I don’t know. I was dating his brother; he was very off limits. And still is, let’s be clear about that. Time doesn’t make him not my ex-boyfriend’s older brother.”

“I guess not.” He paused. “So, nothing happened?”

“Nothing happened.”

“Aside from you puking on him, which is pretty great, I’ll have you know.”

“Aside from me puking on him.”

“And he’s off limits.”

I looked around my living room. There was almost no evidence that Carlisle had even been here, save the freshly-alphabetized books.

“He’s off limits.”

“Care to put your money where your mouth is? Or maybe, your mouth where my money is?”

“Huh?”

“Have you heard of Angelo’s?”

“The breakfast place?” It was something of a campus institution; med students and other people who worked on the medical campus wound up there quite a bit.

“That’s the one.”

“Yeah. Of course I know it. Why?”

“Meet me there at noon?”

At noon? My heart jumped into my throat. Was that a date? It was one thing for him to take me to Kelsey’s party—why hadn’t I recognized that for what it was?—but to ask me out to brunch?

“I have a lot of studying to do…” I began, but he cut me off.

“Bella, come on. You left the party we were at with another guy and then he spent the night. You owe me one brunch after that stunt.”

I looked at the clock. It was ten-forty; enough time to grab a shower and then hop on the campus bus to get down closer to the restaurant.

“Okay. Angelo’s at noon.”

I could almost hear him grinning. “See you there.”

After hanging up, I cast a nervous glance around my living room before I lifted my sweater, not wanting to be surprised the way I had been last time. But the room was decidedly free of shirtless vampires, so I continued into the bathroom. It felt good to peel the jeans off, and I turned on the shower and let the bathroom fill with steam. It was only as I turned back toward the sink to brush my teeth that I saw the bucket.

I’d bought a bucket for cleaning—Charlie always had one. Less girly and less expensive than a cleaning caddy, and on rare occasions I actually used it to mop. I stored my cleaning supplies in it and kept it shoved under the bathroom sink.

It was sitting in the middle of the bathroom floor, completely clean. Now that I looked at it, I realized that my shower looked cleaner than it had the day before, too.

“It was a good thing you had that bucket,” I heard Carlisle’s voice say.

So he’d let me puke into a bucket, repeatedly, it seemed, then cleaned it up, cleaned his shirt, washed the puke down the drain, and cleaned any last residue from my shower.

I nudged the bucket with my foot, then stepped under the spray in my freshly-scrubbed shower.

Perhaps I had been hard on him, after all.

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Momentum

June 4th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Sure enough, as I posted in my last blog post, the second I finished the draft of Patroclus Rising on Friday night, I turned to One Day. I’ve had this chapter in my head for over a year, and half of it written for most of that time, so the rest of it came when it was called. (Although Carlisle’s line at the end…well, I’m convinced he came up with that himself).

I *hope* that the next handful of updates to this fic should tumble pretty quickly—this chapter is really about moving to the following morning, but as it was nearing 5K already and I know I need a good 2.5-3 to hash the morning, I decided to stop Chapter 6 after the party. So, while I make no promises, Chapter 7 should follow on pretty quickly here—most of the dialogue is actually already sitting in a word doc. And then shortly thereafter we’ll hit some of the meat that I’ve been wanting to get to since I first started this fic, much of which is already on paper and just needs to be revised.

Thank you for sticking with me, and happy reading.

Chapter 6

June 4th, 2013 § 12 comments § permalink

Probably the biggest irony in me being the one getting a full ride to medical school at the University of Michigan was that I’d moved from one giant football school to another. I had never cared about football; not in Phoenix, not in Forks, and certainly not at North Jacksonville, the high school in which I had technically enrolled during my senior year. It simply had never been something I’d paid attention to. But then for no reason other than that it was close enough to my shrink, I ended up at Florida for undergrad, where people lived and breathed the sport. On Saturdays, you could barely move through campus for all the drunken students, the girls in their tight orange t-shirts and the boys with their chests painted some combination of orange and blue.

Saturday had always been my day to go into the lab and spend the day with my degus.

At Michigan, as near as I could tell, it would be no different. The only saving grace was that the stadium was nowhere near either my apartment or the medical school, so even though I still saw throngs of students making their way across campus on foot, by bike, and on the big blue campus buses, they weren’t in my way. I still spent Saturdays in my lab or at the library.

So I was surprised when on Thursday after the cider mill, a knock came at the door of my lab and I opened it to find Nabil.

Once I opened the door, he just stared, as though it was me who’d surprised him.

“Yes?” I asked after a minute.

“Oh, hey Bella,” he said, blinking. “Sorry.”

“You look like you were surprised to see me. This is my lab.” I waved him in and gestured to one of the stools on the far side of the table from the two opened carcasses with which I’d been working.

“Sorry for the gore,” I said. “Post-mortems today.”

He nodded. “It’s all good.”

It was extremely odd. None of my friends, if you could call them that, dropped by my lab, really ever. Sometimes Kelsey and I went for lunch, and perhaps once or twice Dan had joined us, but I’d never seen Nabil.

“Oh.” He grinned. “No. Not that. I just needed to ask something.”

“And your email was broken? I mean, Google is downtown, you could get them to fix it.”

He frowned. “That’s the AdSense headquarters, not the gMail division.”

“I was kidding.”

“Oh.”

He stared at the floor.

“So, what did you need?”

“I wanted to know if I could park at your apartment after Illinois.”

“After what?” Or was I supposed to ask, after where?

“The Illinois game. Saturday. For Kelsey and Dan’s party?”

Oh, right.

“I wasn’t really planning on going,” I admitted. “But yeah, you could park at my place if you wanted—aren’t there spots at their complex, though?”

He looked crestfallen.

“Yeah, I guess I could park there. Why aren’t you going?”

I shrugged. “I don’t like parties that much.” Or at all, really. I’d gone to exactly three during undergrad—two in my freshman year and one in my senior. I hated the claustrophobia of other students with their sweaty bodies crushing in on me, and the inevitable stink of spilled, stale beer. Plus there was always the problem that guys usually got a little too friendly after a beer or seven, and I didn’t need that.

“I thought what’s-his-face was coming. I figured you’d show.”

“Who?”

“That guy. The singer. Equal Opportunity Asshole.”

“C—Will?”

Nabil nodded. He spun on the stool a little bit so that it creaked. “Yeah, Will.”

“Where’d you hear that?”

“From Kelsey. He asked her for their address on Tuesday after Anatomy.”

He had to be kidding. Carlisle was planning to go to a house party? I didn’t answer for a good minute.

“What?” Nabil said at last.

“I’m just surprised he’s interested in going. He isn’t really the party type.” Which was an understatement. He wasn’t the fun type, not really, unless you counted the occasional baseball game with his family. In the half-year I’d known him, I couldn’t even remember a time when I’d seen Carlisle so much as watch TV.

Had Alice told him to do this?

Nabil raised his eyebrows. “I guess we’ll find out, huh? Does that mean you’re coming?”

“I’m honestly not sure I could miss that. When are people getting together?”

“Nine-ish. I’ll come by then? We can walk over together.”

“Okay.”

Nabil grinned as he hopped off the stool. “I’ll see you then, Bella.”

When he disappeared, I forced myself to go back to work, and tried to banish thoughts of Carlisle and any possible partying. It took me another hour to finish the dissection and take care of my biohazard waste. On a normal day, I’d be crazy about getting my results written into my spreadsheets right away, and I’d probably spend another two hours carefully picking apart the data as thoroughly as I’d picked apart the bodies. But instead I just jotted down my observations into my spiral notebook, shoved it into the desk on my half of the room, and hopped on my computer.

I only had to type “W” into the “TO” field in my Gmail. Apparently there was only one “W” I ever sent to.

 


me to William John Edward

You’re coming to Kelsey’s party?


 

The reply was instantaneous.

 


William John Edward to me

I am giving it due consideration.

Sent from my iPhone


 

“Due consideration?” I muttered. “Carlisle, you’re ridiculous.”

I opened a reply.

 


me to William John Edward

I’ll see you there.


 

I sat with my computer open for the next half-hour, but no reply came.

~||x||~

            Nabil was more punctual than any guy had a right to be. He showed up at 8:58, according to my phone, and parked his car directly in front of my place. Oddly, he looked kind of nice. He had cleaned up from the afternoon—all my friends had student tickets to the games and went every week—and had on jeans and a collared shirt.

I invited him in while I grabbed my purse.

When I came back, he was staring at my wall of photos. There were a handful from college, but mostly they were of me and Renee and Charlie, high school and later. Renee and me on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale, Charlie looking pensive in a fishing boat.

“These are your parents?” Nabil asked.

I nodded. “Renee is my mom, and Charlie is my dad. And the guy in the baseball cap is Phil, my stepdad.”

He stood, scouring  them, with his hands crossed over his chest.

“My parents are divorced, too,” he said after a while. “Must be nice to have that be normal.”

“Normal?”

He shrugged. “Divorce is rare in Islam. It was a really big deal when my parents split.”

Huh. I hadn’t really thought about it. I’d never been very religious myself—Charlie was a lapsed Lutheran, though sometimes he went to the church in Forks. And Renee was into whatever spiritual exercise caught her fancy at the moment. But of course that made sense; Nabil was obviously Middle Eastern; I’d just never given it much thought.

He raised his eyebrows.

“I didn’t realize you were Muslim,” I said. “I guess I should have guessed.”

He grinned. “‘Nabil’ didn’t give it away?”

“The town my dad lives in has three thousand people.” I gestured toward the door. “It’s ah…kinda white. And my neighborhood in Phoenix wasn’t a lot better.”

“Ah.” He actually held the door for me, then waited for me to lock it before we made our way toward Plymouth Road, the huge thoroughfare that made the official line between the North Campus and the rest of the city.

“But aren’t you from Michigan?” I asked as we walked. “I mean, not that you couldn’t be from Michigan and be…ah, shit.”

He laughed. “You aren’t from around here. And it’s okay to say the word ‘Muslim.’”

I blushed, and hoped it was dark enough he couldn’t see.

The walk light turned.

“Anyways,” he said as we crossed, “Southeast Michigan is full of Arabs. It was always funny in high school during Ramadan—three quarters of the school would just hang out in the auditorium or outside during lunch, and you’d look in the cafeteria and there’d just be the black kids and the Latinos.”

“That’s really wild.”

Nabil shrugged. “That’s what it’s like.”

“So where are you from?”

“Dearborn.”

“Ah, I mean—crap.”

He laughed as I backpedaled.

“Jordan,” he said, when I was fairly certain I might melt. “But I’m third generation. My grandparents live here in Michigan and so do all my aunts and uncles. I’ve only been to Jordan once. Met my third cousins. It was weird. My Arabic sucks; I took French in high school.” He grinned again.

“I took French, too.” Sort of. I’d only been in an actual French class for two years; my third year had gotten cut short by Edward.

Funny how even in my head, even six years later, I still couldn’t form the words Edward’s death.

“Was your dad’s town where you met Edward?”

My heart leapt into my throat.

“What?” I managed.

“Edward. The Asshole. Isn’t that his name? Will Edward?”

Oh. Right. Will Edward. Of course. The part of his new name I almost forgot to pay attention to.

“Yeah,” I answered, after I successfully recovered from the near heart-attack. “Yeah, that’s where I met him. Except I knew his brother better.”

“That’s right. The dude you used to date. Was he as big of a douchebag?”

“No.” Realizing what I’d implied, I added, “And Will isn’t a douchebag.”

Nabil rolled his eyes. “Sure he’s not. A tall blond guy with a body, and none of you girls care at all what he’s like as a person.”

“That’s not true! I just…knew him before all this.”

“Sure.” Nabil gestured toward the apartment building ahead of us. “Well, if he’s not a complete D-bag, maybe tonight he can prove it.”

“If he’s even here,” I muttered, and Nabil laughed again.

“Yeah, there is that.” I thought I heard him add, “Let’s hope he’s not,” under his breath.

Kelsey greeted us at the door and invited us in. Their apartment was on the second floor of a building with outdoor stairs, which was probably going to suck in about a month. She grabbed our coats and threw them over a chair.

“Make yourselves at home,” she said. “There’s snacks and stuff on the counter, there’s beer in the fridge, and the guys are watching…” She paused.

“Wisconsin,” Dan called.

“Wisconsin. Cheese. I don’t know who they’re playing.” She laughed. “Get food.”

I made my way over to the table, which was filled with bowls of chips, salsa and pretzels. There were about eight other people here already, milling around. The TV, a large flatscreen, was on, and was showing a football game. A small knot of guys stood huddled around it.

I didn’t see Carlisle.

That was, I didn’t see him until a small eruption occurred near the television, and I looked to see one of the players running down the field at top speed. Judging from the groans, I assumed it was the team we weren’t rooting for.

“Did you not see that, you morons?” a familiar voice piped up. “I could tell with my eyes closed that he was going to run that ball! Where the hell was the stop?”

A second later, Carlisle stood, a disgusted look on his face.

“Wisconsin needs to fire their defensive coordinator,” he said. “I mean, what was that? They’re playing Purdue.

“Purdue are fucks,” one of the other guys agreed. He slapped Carlisle on the back. “Can I get you another beer, man?”

My eyes immediately darted to Carlisle’s hand. Sure enough, his fingers were wrapped around the neck of a bottle that had a big cartoony orange sun on the front.

Was he actually drinking?

That answer must have been no, because he shook his head and said, “I’m still working on this one.”

As he looked toward the kitchen, his eyes landed on me. He only appeared slightly startled, which I guessed was an improvement.

“Hi,” I said, and waved.

He scowled, took what appeared to be a swig of the bottle, and plopped back down on the couch.

“Wisconsin’s going to blow this game if the defensive line doesn’t get its act together,” he said to no one in particular.

From across the room, Nabil shot daggers. When I made eye contact with him, he mouthed, “D-bag.”

I rolled my eyes and concentrated on filling my plate. College parties had never been my thing in undergrad, they were always filled with too much alcohol and crazy. The crazy, of course, being the bigger problem. But I was glad to see that graduate parties were much more sedate. The guys, it seemed, were mostly huddled around the football game, and the girls were gathered in the kitchen.

“Bella, do you want a beer?” Kelsey called.

“No,” I called. “It’s okay.” I had never been much for drinking. It reminded me a bit too much of Forks, to be honest—of the ways the bored high schoolers in such a small town had nothing other to do than drink cheap beer, Franzia, and Boone’s Farm. I didn’t care for the taste of alcohol, and although I’d been enough of a loner at Florida that my teetotalership hadn’t hurt my already crappy reputation, it hadn’t exactly made me more desirable either.

But then, I looked across the room. Carlisle was standing with some of the other guys near the chips. Every few seconds, Daniel or one of his friends would reach out, grab a handful of Cheetos or chips or pretzels and shove them into his mouth, in what had to be one of the grosser displays of masculinity. Then he would take a deep swig of his beer.

Carlisle, of course, didn’t reach for any food, but every now and then, his beer lifted to his lips briefly. Even from where I stood across the room, I could tell that his was old; it had long since lost the fresh-from-the-fridge sweat that hung on all the other guys’ bottles.

“On second thought,” I called to the kitchen, “what do you have?”

“A lot of Bell’s,” she called back.

For a second, I thought she’d somehow channeled Charlie. “Bells?”

“Oh. Sorry. It’s a brewery in K-Zoo…uh, Kalamazoo.”

Kalamazoo?

“Kalamazoo is a real place?”

Dan laughed and started snapping his fingers. “I got a beer…from Kalamazoo,” he sang, and the others laughed.

Kelsey leaned her head out of the kitchen and rolled her eyes. “Never mind my boyfriend. Yes, Kalamazoo is about an hour west of here. It’s a real city. And they make good beer.” She came out of the kitchen and thrust one of the bottles into my hands—it was the same as Carlisle’s, with the cartoony orange sun across the label.

“Thanks.”

“No problem. If you don’t like it, there are some other types in there, but Oberon is one of my favorites.”

“It’s sweet,” Dan said. “Just like my honey.” He pulled Kelsey into him and smacked his lips against her cheek. She rolled her eyes, but she was grinning.

Apparently I was one of the only sober ones.

That would probably end quickly, I thought, as I lifted the beer to my lips. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant—it tasted a little like an orange might, if you made an orange into a beer. But I didn’t notice much of it; I just chugged it down in large gulps, in between a conversation in which Kelsey started crabbing to one of Daniel’s friends about our Patients and Practices professor and looked to me for corroboration. I nodded and smiled and added “Yeah, yeah, totally,” at all the right times, while Kelsey and Nabil constructed most of the story.

When only a tiny bit was left in the bottle, I mumbled something about going to the dip table. Carlisle and a couple of the other guys had sat back down and were engrossed in the football game again—I kept hearing cheers and scattered applause, followed by the occasional groan or swearing at the referees.

Carlisle participated in all four types of outbursts, yelling right along the other guys.

“That’s it,” he called, clapping appreciatively. “Nice carry, Pedersen. Very nice carry.”

His beer sat on the side table next to him, still as warm and full as ever.

As I slipped past the table, I set mine next to it, then quickly picked his up. For a brief moment, his eyes flickered to me, to my hand with the full beer bottle, and then to the empty bottle on the end table. His eyes narrowed, but when I frowned back at him, his expression softened and he turned back to the TV.

The warm beer was even more gross than the cold beer had been, but I drank it in large gulps anyway. I’d have to keep a good eye on how fast the other guys were going through their drinks—Carlisle was a bit taller and heavier than almost all of them, and it would only make sense that he would finish his alcohol faster. And it wouldn’t matter, I supposed, if he didn’t seem to be getting drunk. His size would likely make it seem fine. And he could always claim he had a fast metabolism.

On the second one, Carlisle frowned at me when I swapped out his bottle, but he still played along with the charade and went to the kitchen to recycle my empty bottle and get himself a fresh one. He gave me a look of concern; I gave him a look back that I hoped said, I’m covering your ass here, knock it off.

I was surprised—I’d never cared much for beer, but this one went down relatively easy. I was on about number three or so when I moved over behind the couch.

“So explain this,” I said to one of Daniel’s friends.

“Explain…?”

“This. This thing.” I gestured to the TV.

He stared from my hand to the TV, and then back to me.

“Football?”

“Yes.” No time like the present, if this was going to be all that anyone talked about all evening. “This is the second football school I’ve gone to, and I’ve never been to a game.”

Somehow, that was easy to admit.

“Seriously?” The guy’s eyes bugged out. “Oh, dude, we’re going to have to fix that.” He twisted in his seat to holler into the main part of the living room. “Who is going to take…”

“Bella.”

“Who is going to take Bella to a football game?”

“I didn’t say I wanted to go to one,” I answered, but I found I was grinning.

It was Kelsey who answered first. “Bella, you’ve never been to a football game? Seriously? Like, not even high school?”

I shrugged. “My one high school was giant so I didn’t have to go, and the other one was tiny and they didn’t really have a team.” And the third one was entirely online from an inpatient psych ward, but I didn’t add that part.

“Well, shit, then,” Dan answered. “We’re going to have to take this chick to see some Wolverine football!”

There was a weird spattering of cheering, and the guy—Jon, I remembered—patted the seat next to him on the couch.

“We shall teach you the finer points of the game, then, Miss Bella,” he said, his voice oddly syrupy. I sat down, and found a warm arm slung over my shoulders. It felt kind of nice.

Carlisle, who was on my other side, suddenly went very stiff.

“Okay, so,” he said, pointing at the screen. “Wisconsin has the ball. They’re the team we want to win.”

“Why?”

“Because we beat them in the conference opener. So if they keep winning, they’re a really good team, and if we beat a really good team—”

“We’re an even really gooder team.”

Jon threw his head back and laughed. “You weren’t an English major, were you?”

“Neuropsychology.” The word was a little difficult to pronounce.

“That’s even really gooder,” Jon said, laughing. “So, yeah, our ranking improves the more they win. So we want them to win. So every time they go, they have four tries to move the ball down the field ten yards…”

Jon started to explain, gesturing to the screen every time something happened, and explaining things which still seemed vaguely disconnected in my head—first down, second down, punt, fair catch, something called a false start, and something else about interfering passing that caused the entire room to break out in booing and jeering and lots of “Purdue, you suck”.

Giggling, I yelled at the screen, too.

It was sort of freeing. Maybe this had been the kind of thing I’d missed out on in undergrad—yelling obscenities at the referees, cheering every time our team made it further down the field. Every now and then I’d yell at something and Jon or one of the other guys would go, “Nah, that was good!” and proceed to explain to me what was good about it, which generally made no sense. But it was still fun to yell about it.

I finished my beer and reached over Carlisle’s lap to put my bottle on the side table, but when I reached for his full one, he caught my wrist in a tight grip.

“Enough,” he muttered through clenched teeth.

Oh, so now he was going to acknowledge me? I twisted my hand out of his, which was difficult—Edward had always told me that he possessed the capability to crush my bones with a single errant grip.

He looked shocked.

“I’ll be right back,” I said. “Can I get that for you, Will?”

Carlisle glowered, but didn’t say anything when I picked up his bottle. This time I came back with two; one which I set next to him, and the other that I shoved between my knees and drank between plays.

Twenty minutes later, I was feeling a little lightheaded, but I swapped the bottles anyway. Jon had his arm around me almost full time now, which felt comfortable and which I didn’t think much of until a hand appeared out of nowhere and grasped mine.

“Bella, let’s get you something to eat,” Nabil said, shooting daggers at Jon and Carlisle both.

Good idea, I saw Carlisle mouth, and I stuck my tongue out at him. What he hell was he doing, anyway? He ignores me for weeks, then we show up at the same party, and all the sudden he wants to be a substitute father and keep an eye on what I’m doing.

Well, that ship sailed.

From somewhere, Nabil produced a sandwich—maybe from Dan and Kesley’s fridge?—and the next thing I knew, I was sitting on a stool at the table. It was ham and cheese and mayo and tasted amazing.

“This sandwich is unbelievable. More people should make sandwiches like this,” I told Nabil.

“That’s only because she hasn’t been to Zingerman’s,” Dan called.

I’d heard about Zingerman’s; it was this world-famous (well, okay maybe country famous, but it seemed like people from out of town knew it) deli in the Kerrytown area just north of downtown.

“Nah, this has got to be loads better than Zingermans.”

“Or…you’re just drunk,” Nabil answered, but he was grinning.

“I’m not drunk,” I told him, laughing. “It’s really good. You must have master sandwich making artistry in your blood.”

He rolled his eyes, but he’d put an arm around me. It felt nicer than Jon’s. “Yes. We are masters of good sandwich making in Dearborn. We make a lot of them.”

Kelsey guffawed at this.

“Yes,” she added. “Didn’t you know that you have to be good at sandwiches to make cars?”

“Hmmm?” I looked up. “What do cars and sandwiches have to do with each other?”

“They make cars in Dearborn, Bella,” Kelsey said. “It’s where the Ford plant is.”

“Oh.”

“And Nabil is from Dearborn.”

“And no good at making sandwiches,” Nabil added.

“Nah, that part you’re shitting me about,” I answered. “This is the best sandwich in the history of sandwiches.”

There was a tiny rustle on the couch, and then I saw the tall blond figure emerge. Carlisle’s look was a cross between pity and concern—over what? I stuck my tongue out at him again.

“Too bad you can’t have this,” I said, holding out my sandwich. “Because it is the best sandwich in the history of sandwicheses.”

For a split second, he looked stricken. But then he said coolly, “I’m sure it’s delicious. I’ll have to try Nabil’s extraordinary sandwiches some other time.” Turning to Kelsey, he said, “I think I’m going to get her home.”

“You can’t try Nabil’s sandwiches next time. You don’t eat food.” For some reason, this was hilarious, and I found myself doubled over laughing. “No seriously, guys. He doesn’t eat anything. No sandwich for you!”

I held it in the air.

Carlisle, who was eight inches taller than me, plucked it out of my hand.

“Bella, let’s go,” he said quietly.

I thought Nabil was going to body-block him, he stepped in so hard and so fast. “I got this, man,” he said. “I brought her here; I’ll take her home.”

Carlisle looked him up and down with this look of incredulousness, as though he was thinking like hell you will.

“I really think it’s safer if I take her,” he answered.

“It’s okay, he’s a vampire,” I told Nabil. “Very safe. Can’t kill him. And he’s super strong.” As soon as I said it, I clapped a hand over my mouth, and my stomach wrenched violently.

Had that actually come out of my mouth? What about the secret? How was it that the Volturi knew if someone violated the secret? Would they be coming right away, or could we outrun them?

“You’re a vampire?” Nabil frowned. “Remind me to bring a stake next time.”

Carlisle laughed—laughed? I was expecting to be dragged bodily out of the apartment.

“Stakes don’t work. I’m a super vampire,” he said. He flexed his muscles, then added, “Also, this is why you shouldn’t go to med school with your friends from high school. They don’t let you forget that you once thought LARP was cool.” He tugged my arm. “Let’s go, Bella.”

When the blast of sub-freezing air hit my face, I had a brief moment of clarity; enough to pull my own coat on over my shoulders, even though Carlisle, Kelsey, and Nabil were all shoving me into it.

A firm arm slid around my waist.

“If you let her fall…” Nabil’s voice said darkly.

“I’ve got it.”

“I don’t know. They always say I have two left feet,” I said, and giggled. “See? Left, and the other left.”

Carlisle rolled his eyes. “Yeah. I see. Let’s go.”

“Be careful on the stairs,” Kelsey called.

We were halfway down the first flight of stairs when I heard Nabil say, “So the Asshole is a LARPer? That’s new.”

Then the door closed and I couldn’t hear the party anymore.

Forward
Back

Chapter 5

June 15th, 2012 § 25 comments § permalink

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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Notes on One Day, Chapter 5

June 15th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

I love long car trips.

I’ve always had this theory that all my fiction ideas are out there floating in the air, just waiting for me to grab them. And that the harder I smack into them, the better they stick. This was why, as a very young child, I was somehow perfectly content to ride my bike no further than one driveway to either side, so that my mom could look out our front window and make sure I was zipping by with some regularity. I would pedal that same 200 yards for hours, making up stories and talking through dialogue. Then, I would come in, boot up our MS-DOS machine, and write it all down.

When I was allowed to go further, I would do the same thing, but throughout the neighborhood, sometimes pedaling the same hill over and over again because with the rush of the downhill side came characters and dialogue and plot.

From ages 13-18, I had a season pass every summer to the amusement park near my home. I would get my mom to drop me off (and later, drive myself), and arrive with a water bottle, a notebook, and a pen. I would spend the day riding the coasters and inevitably leave the park with material for story after story. If riding downhill on a bike caused story ideas, hurtling through the open air at seventy miles an hour was an even better idea.

Nowadays, my “smacking into ideas” happens mostly during long drives (though it’s been a few years since I’ve gone to an amusement park, and I think a visit is in order). Fortunately, I drive a lot by myself. So even though I’m hard at work using Camp NaNoWriMo to get as close as possible to finishing STREGONI, when my drive this week yielded a chapter of ONE DAY, I dropped everything to get it down.

This story, I’ve mentioned before, is one of the oddest and most organic writing experiences I’ve ever had. Ask me when a plot point is going to occur in STREGONI, and I can tell you almost to the paragraph, even if it’s unwritten. Not so for this story. I know exactly where it’s going, and even almost every single step they’ll take along the way (at some points down to the actual dialogue—the exchange about Ann Arbor home prices was written probably a year ago), but I don’t know always when a particular piece will fit, or when these two are going to make a particular stride. For instance, on my drive, along with the scenes in this chapter, I also talked my way through the conversation Bella and Carlisle will have about his divorce…but when I came to put it in the chapter, I found they’re not ready to talk about that yet.

Much to my chagrin.

So, I’m just going to buckle my seat belt, and go for the ride.  Thank you for coming along.