Pick A Pic Challenge
Title: The Girl with the Book
Rating/ Disclaimer: K. The quote on the book is by Aristotle.
Summary: Edward isn't happy about being changed, but he's formed a tight bond with his creator and father figure, Carlisle. Then Esme joins the duo and steals Carlisle's heart, and Edward's life changes all over again. Edward POV
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The Girl with the Book
From the moment Esme and Carlisle saw each other, I knew what was going to happen. They were destined to collide, like trains sharing a track. It was only a matter of time before everything went up in sparks. And let me tell you, I did not like that. Perhaps I was being possessive, but I still needed Carlisle. He was like a father to me. I was mad at him a lot, and I'd disowned him several times, but really we shared a strong connection. He helped me come to terms with my second life, and tried to inspire me into thinking that we had souls and we could live fulfilling lives just as humans might. I didn't believe him, but I was beginning to feel like I might find a place in this life where I was content. That's when a certain tragic beauty was discovered half-dead in the hospital morgue. Esme Anne Platt.
Carlisle brought her home and sent his venom racing through her veins, only pausing afterwards to look at me with a pleading expression, so like a child who had fallen in love with a stray dog; can we keep it?
"NO!" I wanted to shout. I was already taking second place to her, and she was practically dead. But I couldn't do that to him. After all these years of loneliness, how could I take away this chance? How could I extinguish the tiny hope he had of finding whatever the equivalent of a soul mate was for us? He wouldn't change his decision because of me - it was too late for that anyway - but he would hate himself for making me feel this way. So I nodded.
It was little things that made it obvious. The way she set out his work clothes for him every morning, the way he left a thankyou note when he left. The way he kept anonymously feeding her artistic habits, and how she kept using up all the yellows and golds: she couldn't help thinking of him as she painted and drew.
She watched him pray.
He watched her garden.
Hovering in the background, I watched all of this unfold. They were both oblivious, of course, to the other's attentions; both quietly dreaming to themselves. Nevertheless, Esme was slowly but surely taking possession of Carlisle's heart. I wished him every happiness, of course, but I was bitterly jealous as I watched and listened to him being pulled haplessly towards her. I wouldn't have been surprised if my skin shone emeralds instead of diamonds. Carlisle and I had been companions: we shared everything, we helped each other, we knew things about each other's lives that nobody else in the world could ever truly know. And then this ruby-eyed, caramel-haired temptress stole him away.
One clear, beautiful summer day, it was made official. It was a bright, cheerful sunny day, so we had to stay out of town. The three of us were spending the day far away from civilisation, in a lovely meadow of tall grass and flowers. Carlisle presented Esme with a beautifully crafted artists' journal, bound in black leather. Emblazoned on the front was the quote:
The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.
She modestly thanked him for his gift, and he modestly assured her that it was no trouble at all and that he hoped she'd enjoy it. Of course, neither knew that the other was hopelessly overjoyed about their simple exchange. I rolled my eyes. I'd always expected it from her - the romantic type with the tragic past, risking her heart again because she couldn't help it - but from him? For a man with such a mind, Carlisle was made a fool by one look from her.
Esme flitted ahead, stopping here and there to sketch something into her newest prize possession. She was honestly engaged in her drawings - which, even I couldn't argue, really were lovely - but every now and then, she glanced back at us, daring to hope that Carlisle was paying attention. Carlisle strolled amiably, observing Esme with far more detail than he'd ever admit. I, of course, followed them in silence, trying not to look as wounded as I felt by Carlisle's unwitting rejection as he admired every detail of his secret sweetheart.
At one point, Esme caught sight of a butterfly. She chased it for a while, turning back to face us and pausing as she watched it settle on a flower. Hearing the way he thought about her, seeing her through his eyes in that moment, was nothing short of magical.
He admired the way the light danced off her skin, the way her eyes watched the butterfly so deeply, seeming to draw its essence into her. How she held the book at her side as if it were already a part of her. How the simple indigo summer dress looked as beautiful on her as the wings of the butterfly she so meticulously observed. How she sat down without disturbing the life around her, and opened the sketchbook with care. How her gentle hands lovingly illustrated her muse's every feature onto the pages he had given her. How she glanced back at him with cheerful autumn-coloured eyes, seeking his attention, which he was only too happy to give.
"Join me," she offered, waving him over. Carlisle was hopeless to obey. He made his way across the field to her, clumsily knocking the butterfly from its perch as he passed. Hating to disappoint Esme, he caught it in his hands and held it out for her to continue to draw. She did not. She took Carlisle's hands and held them into the air. The butterfly took off, and the pair of them watched it disappear into the blue sky. Then they locked eyes for one fateful moment.
I felt like I had been struck by lightning - once, twice, three times. Once for Carlisle, who - at nearly three hundred years of age - had never been kissed: not like that. Twice for Esme, who had never initiated a kiss in her life. Thrice for myself: when I realised what that kiss really meant, it was like running into a brick wall.
Carlisle had a new person to share his interests, his fears, his dreams with; a person with whom he would be much more tightly bound to than me. Esme had found a man who would love her and take care of her until one or both of them perished. He would never lift a finger to hurt her. And me? I was doomed to second place, to being the third wheel, to being the hindrance on their perfect world of two.
To ruining this...there was no denying it...love they shared.
I turned and ran home before the two of them could break out of their trance. I doubted they'd try and stop me anyway, but just in case...I had to get out of here before they got back. I was old enough, experienced enough now to handle myself. I'd go and find Carlisle's friends. Tanya liked me. I'd find happiness enough there. Carlisle and Esme could forget about me and strike up a new and happy life.
I packed away my violin and put a few of my clothes and such into a suitcase. I would likely be amongst humans for quite some time in the near future, and it would do me no good to miraculously survive on nothing. I emptied the secret stash of money under the floorboards in my room, and shoved that into the bag too. Just as I reached the bottom of the stairs, Esme and Carlisle arrived with panicked, hurt expressions.
"Edward, where are you going?" Carlisle asked.
"Please don't leave, Edward," Esme whispered.
"I don't know, and it's for the best," I growled, hitching my bag higher onto my shoulder, determined not to be tricked into another moment of being a shadow.
"No, it's not," Carlisle breathed. "I know I've been neglecting you lately, and I'm sorry, but this is...frankly, kind of intimidating for me."
"And I was so worried, Edward," Esme interrupted. "I didn't want to come between you and your fa- I mean, you and Carlisle."
"Yes well you did, didn't you?" I snapped. Esme jumped. Carlisle looked flustered; he wanted to defend Esme but he didn't want to side against me.
"Edward, please," he begged. "Please just...stay."
"Why should I?"
"I...I don't know." Carlisle's eyes dropped away from mine, and he stepped out of the way of the door. I stormed towards it, refusing to look back, but Carlisle's memories stopped me.
His wandering through a poppy field in France, kicking up the dust, not seeing the beauty around him because he was so painfully lonely. My mother's bright green eyes, begging him for help. Watching, waiting, anticipating with excitement and terror until at last I opened my new red eyes. A few of my fits of rage and frustration: I yelled and threw things and ran out of the house, but I never went far. The wonder on my face as I tried out my new piano.
My stiff nod when he begged for my consent over Esme...how grateful he was about that surprised me. Myself and Esme, sitting quietly as, in her mind, she poured her heart out to me. He found it a valuable thing that she and I were so close already. Funny, I had always thought it was because she was scared to talk to Carlisle about it. His purchases from an art store in town: a set of oil paints for Esme and...a hundred pages of blank sheet music for my compositions. And then...just now, in the meadow...Esme's drawing. She had been watching the butterfly, but on the page she drew something entirely different.
I forced myself out of Carlisle's head, whipped around on my heel and snapped angrily at him, shocking the memory away before I could see. I didn't need my resolve weakened any further. I was leaving: final decision, end of story.
"Edward," Esme's quiet voice interrupted, pressing her book into my hands. "Please take a look. Please."
Her gentle hands coaxed mine into opening the book. As if the hand of Destiny were turning them, the pages fell open to the last drawing. It should have been a blue and indigo butterfly, resting on a bright butterscotch flower. It was not.
It was me.
"The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance," Esme quoted.
"But what does that have to do with..."
"I was sketching the butterfly's inward significance, Edward. It reminded me so much of you, I couldn't help myself. Lonely, beautiful, artistic, polite, but a free spirit...silent, faithful, a watchman, a keeper of secrets, a shoulder to cry on..."
That's a lot to get from a butterfly. I looked over the book at Esme's face. She looked happy and sad at the same time.
"Edward, if you really want to leave, I won't stop you, but I want you to know that you will always be welcome here. Your fath...Carlisle and I love you very much. I...I don't think you realise how much."
"You can address Carlisle as my father, you know," I told her.
Really? Her eyes widened. Behind her, Carlisle also jumped to attention.
"You really think of me in that way, Edward?"he asked hopefully. Had I really never told him how I felt? I nodded. He smiled modestly.
But...what does that make me? Esme wondered sadly, her eyes falling to examine the carpet at her feet. I held her book out to her.
"I guess that makes you my mother, doesn't it?"
"Oh...Edward, I could never...I mean, your mother..." she spluttered, hugging the book to her chest. Mother...I've always wanted to be called Mother...does he really mean it?
I smiled in consent, and Esme threw her arms around my neck.
"My son," she squeaked joyfully, relenting her grasp so Carlisle could say his piece. Very much to my surprise, he hugged me too, his arms pinning mine to my side.
"My son," he murmured as he stepped back. "I couldn't ask for a better one."
The three of us stood in appreciative silence for a moment, looking around at our family: the mind-reader, the doctor, and the girl with the book. It was small and undoubtedly eclectic, but the evaluation was unanimous.
I couldn't ask for a better one.