Carlisle and Edward manage to get by in uneventful Ashland, Wisconsin. Both seem to have a hole inside them, aching to be filled. What started off as another routine day at the hospital sends Carlisle's life in a spin as he experiences an emotion he thinks to exist only to humans: love. The third installment of the Afterlife series. This is Esme's transformation.
Third story in the Afterlife series.
Rating 5/5 Word Count 1818 Review this Chapter
by Marauder by Midnight
I round the corner, and he glances up as he hears his name in my mind before returning to the newspaper he was reading.
“War’s ended,” Edward mumbles. He tries not to show it, but the distant look in his onyx eyes gives him away. He and I both know that if he’d survived the epidemic, the normal way, he could’ve been one of those deaths listed casually in the papers.
“I wouldn’t have survived, Carlisle,” he says aloud, smartly folding the papers in his hands, “not without you.” His tone isn’t bitter but neither is it appreciative. He is still distraught over what he probably believed is the loss of his soul and his one-way ticket to hell.
As troubled as Edward sometimes seems at the idea of what he had become, I can’t say I regret my decision. Still, his inability to get over the transformation after three years has me concerned. Unfortunately, now is not the time to address it. “I have to get to the hospital, Edward. Are you going to class today?” I ask as I shrug on the coat I wear now for appearance’s sake.
Edward fleetingly looks out the window. The morning fog hasn’t lifted yet, but already the overcast skies leave no doubt it would be a safe day for us. I am surprised when he answers, “No. Think I’ll stay home today. Maybe feed.”
I nod; Edward is young, still needing to quench his thirst every two days or so in the forest north of the town. I take my lab coat off the rack and put on my hat. “You know where to find me, Edward.” Mentally, I add, Be cautious, knowing he would hear it. He nods in acknowledgement, and I can feel his black eyes burning into my back as I leave the apartment we share as father and son.
Ashland is a very small and inconspicuous city, its first high school, where Edward had graduated two years ago, having opened just seventeen years ago. It isn’t the boasted hometown of any celebrity. It is an insignificant speck on the Wisconsin map. Heck, it probably has the worst climate in the world; the seemingly never-ending fog from Lake Superior dampens the spirits of everything, even the sun who refuses to shine more than once a week. It is perfect.
It isn’t the first time I stayed in a town like this, but Edward has never known anything but Chicago. After three years here, he is still struggling to cope with the loneliness and isolation of the place. Ashland High School and Northland College weren’t what he’d imagined when he had thought about graduation or college. My own feelings of emptiness have been eased slightly with his creation, but I understand his emotions too completely.
My train of thought is interrupted by the cries of the newest nurse at Ashland Hospital, the only healthcare facility in the city. I see her red head bob toward me and the frantic waves of her arms. Of course, I can see her just fine without the flailing limbs, but for show, I hold my hand up to my eyes and squint.
“Dr. Cullen! Quick!” she pants. She is still a good twenty feet in front of me but had stopped to catch her breath. The only emergencies I’ve seen at the hospital are never good. Immediately, I begin to sprint, with restraint, toward the doors where other nurses are watching my approach with apprehension on their faces.
The head nurse, a kindly woman who had been overseas in the war, begins shouting the pertinent facts as soon as she considers me within earshot. “Schoolteacher attempted to commit suicide near the Ore Dock. Eugene Greene brought her in his car. The boulders beneath the cliff broke her real bad.” By then, I have made the (relatively) slow jog to the hospital entrance. “I don’t think she’ll make it, Doctor,” she whispers as if her tears are already threatening to spill.
This isn’t my first experience with death, but in this tight-knit community, the permanent loss is like a personal blow to every citizen here. I see that Officer Greene, one of the few policemen in the city, has taken off his hat in solemn respect. The hospital personnel who have gathered for my arrival all look so grief-stricken. Apparently, this schoolteacher has several admirers in town.
“Where is she?” Awaken by my calm demeanor, the head nurse, Christina, leads me to the emergency ward which is usually empty. The solitary figure lying in the corner bed throws unfamiliar shadows onto the wall. I approach the woman hastily, and whom I see nearly stops me in my tracks.
Last I had seen those caramel-colored locks, they had framed her heart-shaped face perfectly. Those twinkling sapphire-blue eyes, now hidden by heavy eyelids, had clung to me fiercely, as if she’d been afraid I’d disappear. I remember her lips as full and lively pink rather than cracked and smudged with dirt. Her bruised and broken cheeks had been rose-colored, especially when she had blushed. She had gained some weight around her torso but still maintains the petite form I am familiar with.
I had only met her once, treated her for no more than two hours, yet her image had burned itself in my mind so permanently, even Edward saw a glimpse of her every now and then.
Esme Anne Platt. The vivacious sixteen-year-old who lived an hour outside Columbus had come to the hospital I had been working at after falling from a tree she had been climbing. She had a few scratches, a broken leg, and was badly shaken but had been otherwise fine. Nothing would have prepared me for this. The scrapes all over her body are the least of her worries. Broken ribs are likely, but I shudder at what else might have suffered from the plunge. If she is in anything less than a coma, it would be a miracle.
I cannot imagine what this poor girl could have gone through to transform from that playful teenager to this depressed woman who feels her death is the solution to her troubles.
“…Platt Evenson,” Christina is reading off her charts. “Officer Greene had gone to her home to check on her child, but…” Here, her voice falters, “he was found dead in his crib.”
There it is – the problem that had driven Esme off the cliff. Poor child. Poor Esme. I fleetingly wonder where Mr. Evenson might be, and a stab of a human emotion attacks me. Is it…jealousy? I have never felt it so sharply, not even when I was mortal. I shake it off and concentrate on the matter at hand.
There is no hope for Esme; everyone could see that. Nothing I am prepared to do could save her from the inevitable. But what about what I wasn’t prepared to do? I know how to do it; Edward was alive, in a manner of speaking, wasn’t he? She doesn’t have anyone left to go home to. She is in the same predicament Edward had been in back in Chicago.
I mutter some mundane instructions to the nurses who have gathered in the room and move into the hallway, pretending to read Esme’s file. Blast, I couldn’t exactly transform every single dying human that came my way. It isn’t rational, and it certainly isn’t my intention to create vampires everywhere I went.
But – this is different. There has to be a reason our paths cross twice, why I haven’t forgotten her, a human who had flitted so temporarily into my timeless existence. Though I have always been a skeptic, the word ‘destiny’ stands out in my mind. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to have a woman around, I think selfishly. Edward could certainly use a motherly figure, and I – maybe my eternity on this planet won’t feel as meaningless if I found someone to love and live with.
It strikes me as ironic. Edward refers to the pair of us as the villains of a childhood bedtime story, but for me to have, potentially, found my happy ending in this dying woman, it isn’t anything short of a fairytale. My own fairytale.
I make up my mind. Now to get Esme back home before it was too late.
I give out a yelp, one I hope sounds as if I made a discovery, and rush back to Esme’s side. Her breathing has become shallower in the few minutes I had been away; I have to act quickly. I gingerly lift her in my arms.
Gasps erupt all around me. “Dr. Cullen!” a few nurses let out, shocked at such scandalous behavior from their beloved doctor.
I begin trotting down the hall. It takes all of me to keep from dashing madly, and inhumanely, toward the exit. “I must take her to Spooner,” I yell over my shoulder. “Dr. Allen at the Spooner center has made medical breakthroughs with comatose patients. I’m certain he can save her!”
Officer Greene, surprised by my appearance, steps forward to block my escape. “Please!” I scream, my urgent tone not at all feigned. “Before it’s too late!” It is enough to entice Officer Greene to open the car door for me, and I place Esme on the seats as gently as I can. He tosses me his car keys, and I waste no time jumping into the car. As the engine of the motorcar turns over, I can hear the distinct well wishes those who have come out to send us off are yelling.
I head off on the road that leads to Spooner, though I have no intention of going there. As soon as the white building fades from view, I make an abrupt right turn and then another, driving as quickly as I can back to my apartment. I don’t think I could live with the failure of saving the one I love. Just outside my building, I pierce Esme’s soft skin in two precise places.
Edward hears the shouts in my mind as I clamber up the steps with her in my arms and opens the door before I reach our floor. He stares wide-eyed at the body I hold but silently moves aside as I run in. He helps me clear the newspapers he has left on the sole couch and watches as I lay her down.
“Esme,” he whispers as if trying the name out. I know that he recognizes her beneath the wounds, that he sees the face he has seen in my mind. He knows what I have done, yet he shows no signs of approval or displeasure.
I find that I don't care. Edward retreats quietly to pack our belongings, but all I focus on are the eyelids that will soon flutter open again.