In a small, sweet-smelling coffee shop, two old friends sit, their minds an hour down the road.
"Have you heard from them?" Charlie asks, brusquely pushing his sleeves up to his elbows.
Looking down at the steaming cup in his hand, Carlisle sighs. His hands are not what they used to be – a surgeon's hands. They're withering with age, and there's a slight tremble there that wasn't before. It's stress, the therapist says. No shit, he thinks.
"No," he finally whispers. "Not since… that day. I'm afraid he won't call even if he needs us. He's just too…"
"Stubborn," Charlie finishes. Like Carlisle's quivering hands, his old friend bears similar scars. There's more gray at Charlie's temples than there once was, and a deep crease splits his forehead in two.
Charlie sips his mug to buy some time. His Adam's apple bobs before he speaks. "No. Bella hasn't come home at all. I… shit… Her mom's a mess. We both are."
"How long since she called either of you?"
Without a moment's hesitation, he answers, "Two months and four days."
"How'd this happen, Charlie?" Carlisle breathes. It's an old conversation, one that they've had a half dozen times over the last few years. Yet he still can't reconcile the picture in his mind – two beautiful children, smiling and laughing on graduation day – with the reality of now. "They were such good kids. Top of their class."
Charlie's eyes drift to the window. His voice is tired just like his body. "I don't know. I never thought… not them anyway. I mean, I've seen tons of kids through the precinct – good kids, too… just somehow got wrapped up in it. But even still, it didn't even occur to me to worry about this kind of thing with my own."