I hadn’t spent much time with Esme alone. I was rarely without Edward, and that was fine with me. Every once on a while, however, I knew he really liked going on a hunting trip with his brothers. It made me smile to think of them horsing around and laughing. I was glad he had them.
My boys had left from Alaska with the Denali boys and the rest of us were set to travel home. They’d be gone for four days we were set to hunt locally. After returning on a full stomach, I was sitting on the couch braiding Renesmee’s hair, when Alice’s eyes changed. They glazed over for a few seconds and I knew she’d seen something.
“Alice?” I asked.
She snapped out of it quickly but looked at Esme instead of me.
“Esme,” she said, “It’s time. It’s going up for auction in three days. Westchester county.”
I was puzzled. Esme had a small smile on her face but was looking down, but she nodded.
She walked into another room without saying anything about it and I didn’t press the issue. I just continued to braid Nessie’s hair.
I put Ness to bed and was closing the door to her room when Esme appeared next to me.
“I wondered if you’d leave Renesmee with Alice and Rosalie for a few days so that I could show you something,” she said.
I looked at her. I was both surprised by her invitation and curious. She’d never asked to spend time alone with me. I wasn’t opposed to it in anyway. I liked Esme very much. It just hadn’t ever happened before.
I nodded having no reason to deny her. I was also curious.
We went to the airport with the others but got on a different flight. I stole a glance at Alice who had a smirk on her face. Obviously, she knew where we were going. For once, I was content to let things unfold as they would without being impatient. After all, I literally had all the time in the world.
An auction, I thought. What could she possibly want at an auction, and why didn’t she already have it. I mean, if she wanted something, couldn’t she just take it?
The flight was a red eye so most of the passengers were asleep, and of course, it wasn’t hard for us to converse without anyone hearing anyways. It was me that finally broke the silence.
“Can I ask where we’re going exactly?”
She smiled. “Yes,” she said. “There is a necklace that belonged to my grandmother that is up for auction and I want it. The previous owners were kind to me so instead of taking it, I decided just to wait for it to become available. I knew it meant something to the lady that just died. She of course, has no idea what significance it has to me. To her it’s a family heirloom that she wouldn’t have parted with for the world, but not that she’s gone and no one in her family remains to pass it down to, I’m going to take it back.”
“What does it look like?” I asked.
She smiled again. “It’s a simple little thing. It has a silver chain and a one inch pendent. It is oval shaped and it actually has the Cullen crest on it. Around the outside it has an intricate pattern also of silver. It’s really very beautiful.”
I had never thought about where the Cullen crest came from. I was intrigued. I knew she could have a replica made if she wanted to so I was interested in finding out why this particular necklace warranted not only a trip across the country to acquire it but also the patience to have waited for it in the first place.
She must’ve seen the question in my eyes.
“How much has Edward told you about me?” she asked.
“Just that you are biologically three years older than Carlisle and that you tried to jump off a cliff like I did. He said Carlisle found you and changed you to save you,” I told her. Edward and I had not had a conversation about Esme’s past since I became a vampire and I couldn’t remember anything more from before my change. And whether that was due to memories being lost or not, I wasn’t sure. My two years with Edward as a human didn’t exactly leave much time for random conversations. It had always been so jam packed with worry and angst. At any rate, I was content to hear them first hand from Esme herself.
She smiled and look away from me like she was remembering. Finally she spoke.
“I actually met Carlisle for the first time when I was sixteen years old,” she began.
I was shocked. I knew she’d been married and had a baby with another man so this was unexpected to say the least.
“It was stupid really,” she continued. “I had climbed up in a tree in my parents’ back yard. You have to remember, back then we didn’t have the same kinds of pastimes that people do nowadays. My parents had a farm just outside of Columbus Ohio.”
“What was your name before it was Cullen?” I asked her.
“My real name is Esme Anne Platt,” she said. “It was Evenson after I married, but we’ll get to that.”
I was about to tell her that she didn’t have to tell me all this if she didn’t want to. The last thing I wanted to do was pry. But she continued without any hesitation so I just sat back and listened to her.
“I fell out of the tree and broke my leg. They took me to a hospital. It was night time when they got me to the hospital and the regular doctor had gone away for the night. It was a gorgeous blond doctor that took care of me that night.” She smiled and shook her head. “I specifically remember the first time I saw his face. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. When he looked at me, it felt like he looked right into my soul. I felt like if I wanted to hide anything, I couldn’t have because he could already see. I was a little scared at first because I’d never felt like that before but he was so kind and when he smiled at me, I knew, right then, that I’d never be the same.
“I was in the hospital for six weeks while my leg healed. I had trouble sleeping at night and he always said he was never tired. He’d come to me and read to me while the others slept. I loved the sound of his voice, and his eyes always stayed on me just a little too long. I was…happy then, but I had no reason to believe he’d leave.”
“At the time, he was posing as a 35 year old and it was just about time for him to move on. I was devastated when he left but since he was “35” there was no way he could be with a sixteen year old. He never said goodbye even.
“I never got over the experience. Every other man I met was unable to measure up. I eventually conceded that no man ever could and agreed to marry whomever it was that my parents decided I should marry.
“At first, I wanted to be a school teacher. I enjoyed the idea of living on my own, but my father didn’t think it was suitable for a woman to live on her own and in the woods no less. All my other friends had gotten married. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, but there just wasn’t anyone that caught my eye, at least not like Carlisle did.”
I understood that. When Edward had left me, Jacob’s love had been staring me in the face, and I hadn’t seen it.
She continued. “My father had been friends with another family in town and convinced me to marry their son. I was indifferent to him but I agreed to give it a chance. His name was Charles Evenson. Very soon after we were married, his true self came out. He”-she paused and looked down-“was abusive. He used to hit me over the slightest thing, mostly because he was drunk.
“It was a relief to me when he left for the war. I told my parents about what he was doing to me but in those days, you didn’t divorce for any reason. I remember them telling me to just continue on as if nothing happened and to be a good wife.” She shook her head.
I was angry. The thought of someone hurting Esme pissed me off. She was nothing but kindness, and why someone would do such a thing was beyond me.
“When he came back from the war I became pregnant. As soon as I realized this, I decided to run away. There was no way I was going to raise a child in that environment. I made it to Milwaukee first, where a cousin of mine lived, and eventually to Ashland and where I began teaching. I was able to hide for a while but my parents figured out where I was, and of course, I was pregnant, so I couldn’t run. My baby was born sick. He was all I felt I had left. My parents were not on my side, my husband was abusive, and I hated my life. My boy died four days after he was born from a lung infection.” She looked at me.
“Believe me I know,” she continued, “exactly how you felt when you were pregnant with Renesmee. I’m glad I was able to speak for you. Even though it was hard to watch you go through that knowing you might die, I knew how you would feel if you lost her.”
I felt a twinge of pain. I remembered what it felt like to think I might lose Renesmee. Even though, at the time, I thought she was a boy. I knew it would’ve killed me in a way that no man, even Edward, would’ve been able to understand. It’s a bond that can only be understood by a mother.
“Did others wonder where your husband was? I mean, how did you hide that?” I asked her.
“I just told them that my husband died in the war. It was easy enough to blend in since so many other women had the same story.
“Once my baby died, I was…empty. I was beyond dead inside, and I didn’t want to go on. I knew there were cliffs close by so I decided to kill myself. I had no idea that Carlisle was working in the hospital in Ashland at the time. I threw myself off the cliff and broke my back but I didn’t die. Some strangers found me and brought me to the morgue. They knew I was not going to make it.
“I opened my eyes and saw Carlisle’s face. I actually thought I was dead. He looked at me with such concern. I remember him telling me that everything was going to be alright. Then the pain started, and not the pain of my injuries. This was a fire- a fire from inside me.”
I knew what she was referring too. Carlisle’s venom was what healed her injuries and brought her into this life.
“I had no idea what was happening to me but he never left my side. He held my hand the whole time. When it was over, he told me that I was different now and that I had to stay with him for a while, but after that, he said if I wanted to leave him, I could.
“I had no intention of leaving him. Even after he explained to me what he was, I knew I wanted him. The life of a vampire was a small price to pay to be rid of my former life and to be connected with his. It took no time at all for him to return the affection that I felt for him.”
I was happy for her. I can imagine that it was a hard life to go through.
“Do you ever regret what happened to you?” I asked her. “ I mean, do you ever wish, like Rosalie, that it had just ended for you?”
“No!” she said quickly. “I am completely content here. I think that once you fall in love, you never want it to end. I can’t imagine ever being without him. Everything else in my life is secondary to my relationship with him.”
I nodded, and completely understood. It was the same way I felt for Edward. Being a vampire was just the price to pay for what I’d gained. Edward had once explained his choice to be with me as a human as “opportunity cost.” Being around me as a human had been incredibly difficult for him and even dangers at times.
“When I was five years old, my grandmother showed me a necklace. It was something her father had made. I always remember her wearing it. When I got hurt, that first time, she gave it to me. I had it on when Carlisle helped me. He commented on it and even touched it once. It was something that was precious to me because I knew he liked it. And when he was gone, it was a reminder, both of him and of my grandmother who had meant so much to me.
“When I ran away and made it to Ashland, there was a girl, about the same age as me, whose family took me in and helped me. I could’ve had my cousin help, but I worried that she would tell my parents where I was. And as it turns out, she did. But while I was in Ashland, this other family, the MacNamera’s helped get me the teaching job and a place to live. The mother helped me through the pregnancy and even delivered my baby.
“Rachel, was the daughter’s name, and she was such a good friend to me. They had no earthly reason to help me and I had no way of paying them back. Their kindness was without condition it seemed. When I decided to kill myself, I wanted to leave something with her. I placed my necklace on her dresser before I left for the cliff.
“She kept it after I’d been reported dead. She knew it’d been passed down to me, so she passed it down within her family. I wanted it back but there was no way I was going to just take it away. And since it continued to be passed down, I decided to wait until it became available without having to steal it. Its last owner was the great grandchild of Rachel’s. Her name was Jacqualine. I had known that she didn’t have any children to pass the necklace on to, and Alice told me that it would be put up for auction.
“So that’s where we’re going. We’re going to bid on the necklace. The original Cullen crest. Carlisle knew I liked that necklace so he gave me a bracelet with the same symbol on it when I was first changed. We’ve been using it ever since.”
“Do you ever regret it?” I looked at her “Do you regret being changed or anything else?”
“No,” she shook her head, “not at all. If when I was human, you were to have told me all about this and I truly understood, I still would’ve done it. In comparison, this isn’t a big deal at all. I was always in love with Carlisle. And when I was changed, that love just intensified to the nth degree. I love everything about him. I love everything about being with him, including all of you. I couldn’t have asked for a happier life.”
“I know what you mean. The whole time that I was human, I knew there was a price, but…I was totally willing to pay it to be with Edward. I don’t regret my choice even for a second. Even if you’d told me all that I would have to go through, I still would’ve done it gladly.
“Part of me is surprised though,” I said.
“About what?” she asked.
“Well, I’ve never been really close to anyone in my human life, except my parents. I mean, I had friends and all, I was never close to them like this.” I shook my head and continued. “I never thought I’d fit in with anyone like I do with all of you. It’s like this is where I was meant to be the whole time.”
She gave me a hug and smiled. “We feel exactly the same about you, Bella.”
I was happy. I truly was happy with my life. There was nothing I wanted for-nothing at all.
We arrived in a Mt. Vernon, Ohio and went through the auction process. Alice had informed Esme about how much money she’d need, and of course, it came true. Esme’s eyes sparkled as she held the necklace in her hand.
She let me look at it. It was beautiful. I touched it with my finger and was grateful for the family that had been kind to Esme. Who knows how things would’ve turned out if they hadn’t. I’d learned that the smallest decision could change so much about the future. Perhaps I had them to thank for my life with Edward too. Edward was with Carlisle when he changed Esme. Perhaps if this family hadn’t chosen to help Esme that their path would’ve been different, and different enough to have not crossed mine.
Then she looked up at me. She smiled and began to put the necklace around my neck.
I was speechless.
“Wait,” I said to her, “what are you doing?”
“This is something that gets passed down to family members. Now I’m giving it to you.”
“You haven’t had it in years, and you’re just going to give it to me? Just like that?” I asked her.
“Yes,” she responded. “Don’t be so shocked Bella. You don’t have anything with the Cullen crest on it anyways, and it’s not like I won’t be able to see it if I want to. Besides, you’re one of us now, and I want you to have it.”
I shook my head and ran my fingers over the pendant.
“Thank you, Esme. It’s beautiful.”
“You’re welcome. And you’re right by the way.”
“Right about what?”
“About fitting in with us. We’ve waited a long time for Edward to find the right person. It’s always felt like something was missing. And now it doesn’t. You and Renesmee made us whole. You made Edward whole, and I can’t tell you what that means to us.”
I ran my fingers over the pendant again and smiled. Neither one of us said much on the return home but I knew that we had bonded. That’s not to say that we hadn’t before, but now I knew her story, and I knew that I was right where I belonged. More and more each day, I felt a part of the Cullen family and knew that it was my first and best destiny.