Behind Closed Doors – C5

DISCLAIMER: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m here having fun.

-BCD-

Chapter 5: The Professor

My phone starts vibrating, and when I show my boss, Emmett McCarty, who it is, he nods, knowing I need to take the call.

“Hello, Professor Cullen,” I tease with a singsong greeting, but know he will correct me without fail.

“Good morning, Isabella. How’s my favorite, former student? And didn’t I tell you to call me Carlisle?”

“I heard that,” Emmett grumbles, standing to leave my office after our morning meeting.

“I should probably have told you that you’re on speaker.” I blush at my faux pas, even though he can’t see me.

“It doesn’t matter. Tell Emmett to get back to work and stop eavesdropping.”

“I think you just did.” A giggle escapes at the adversarial relationship between my mentor and boss.

“Tell Carlisle I’m planning his retirement party. I only need the date. An old relic like him will draw out all of academia, and I’ll make sure we have plenty of rocking chairs. We can squeeze him in next month before he becomes too senile to remember us.”

“At fifty-five, I’m nowhere near ready to retire. I have at least another twenty years left, and who would keep the two of you in line if it weren’t for me? I doubt either of you can keep up. I’m headed to Vienna next week for the World Conference on Human Rights. Did you want to join me?”

“I’ll talk to you later, Bella. Keep taking your vitamins, Carlisle.” Emmett raises his voice loud enough for Carlisle to hear him, waving as he leaves my office.

“I take it that’s a no. When is that kid going to learn the meaning of respect?”

“Oh, you know, he does. We both do. He just likes ribbing you and knows the easiest way to push your buttons.”

“Regardless, how are you, Isabella? We haven’t had a chance to catch up in a while, and I wanted to hear from you before I take off next week.”

“I’m good. Busy, but good.” I push some papers out of the way, and grab a notebook and pen, because I always take plenty of notes during our calls.

“I’ve got some thoughts and ideas for you, if you have a minute. I think you could really do some good and maybe point your career in a new direction.”

“I always have plenty of time for you. What’s on your mind?”

“I think, first and foremost, it is the refugee crisis. This is a human crisis of mass proportions that everyone keeps ignoring. Our political leaders barely give it a second glance, and we can’t continue sitting by and doing nothing. These people are leaving everything they have behind in hopes for something better. What does that tell you about what they are leaving? Our inaction has gone on for long enough. We need to push this one closer to the spotlight.”

“I don’t know how I would attempt to tackle this issue. It seems bigger than my abilities. I just can’t get my head around it or even know where I should start.”

“You’re going to need to break it down. Put it on a level most people will understand. You have to make them care. Human stories are everyone’s stories. Your reader needs to experience the pain and suffering through your words. These women and children don’t speak the language or understand the local customs of the new countries where they are finding themselves. Refugee camps split up families, leaving young children without a parent nearby. Husbands and wives are forced apart when they separate the men from the women. It’s tragic. Many of the women don’t understand their basic human rights. The number of refugees alone is astronomical. Sixty-five million people have been displaced, largely due to the Syrian Civil War.”

“Do you think I should travel to Europe?”

“I believe it will be in your future at some point since many of the refugees are migrating to areas all over Europe. I want you to start your research because it’s going to take time to get you up to speed. You should start digging into the root of the problems, learning the players, and understanding the politics. There’s massive corruption and greed in these ravaged countries. Those with the most resources are in a tug of war over land, forcing people from their homes while destroying schools and other important resources for their communities. If they ever get the opportunity to return, at this rate, there will be nothing left.”

“All right, I’ll start looking into it. Maybe we can talk again, and I can share my ideas after some research. What did you think about my story on hydraulic fracturing?”

“I thought it was fantastic. Great information that an uninformed reader can understand and well thought out, but Isabella, be careful. This is one where you’ll be seen as someone taking up the President’s causes. You and I know you’re objective, but others may not see it that way. You’re already walking a tightrope whenever you get involved with Native American issues.”

“I understand, but everyone should be worried about protecting water, wildlife, and public health from the oil and gas industry. There are over 700 million acres of public and tribal lands at risk.”

“Are you doing a follow-up article? Because a colleague of mine, Bob Banner, who chairs the Environmental Law Department here, can be helpful if you need him.”

“Yes, with everything tied up in the courts right now, he sounds like a great contact. Can you forward me his information? I’ll give him a call.”

“Sure. Did you end up going to your Women’s Luncheon?”

“I did, and I had a chance to meet a friend of yours.”

“Oh? This should be interesting.”

“Yes, Justice Denali.”

“Ah, Kate. Of course she would be there with her recent appointment to the Court.”

“She spoke fondly of you and mentioned your adept skills at rugby with her husband, Garrett.”

Carlisle laughs heartily. “She did, did she?”

“I didn’t know you played rugby. You continue to surprise me.”

“Oh, Isabella. There’s a lot about me you don’t know. If I was twenty years younger, no man besides me would have a chance with you.”

“You’re such a flirt. Well, next time I visit, I expect to see some photos of you in your rugby uniform.”

“I’ll see what I can do. How are you balancing work with your personal life? Anyone new I should know about?”

I did not see that one coming. The problem is I do have someone, now that Edward and I have hashed out an agreement to date privately. However, this is something I would have confided in Carlisle with in the past, and now it feels wrong to keep it from him, but I do.

“Pshhh, you know how it is to be focused on your career. There’s little time left for anything else.”

“You’re right. I do know, but that doesn’t mean I don’t wish I had found someone to share my life with every day. I hope you don’t see my bachelorhood as any type of role model. Companionship is always desirable at any age. What works for one person may not work for another.”

“Do you ever wish you had kids of your own? Some days I feel like at twenty-eight, my biological clock is ticking like a time bomb. Other days, I think maybe I’m not meant to be a mother, not every woman is required to have kids. Is there something wrong with me that I don’t want kids at this point in my life or even see them on the horizon in the future?”

“There’s nothing wrong with you. Sometimes I think it would have been nice, but it just isn’t in the cards for me. I travel, teach, and work year-round. I have you, Emmett, and my students anyway, and Emmett is like a child, always reminding me of my pending expiration.”

“He can be a handful. How’s everything else at my alma mater? Are you behaving yourself?”

“When have I ever behaved myself? I ruffle feathers at every turn.”

“So, you’re still scaring incoming freshmen with your stories from around the world.”

“How else will I stoke the fires of their curiosity? They need to understand issues at their core. The rest of the world isn’t as it is here in America. So, yes, I’m still sharing my trip to China, which uncovered the deaths of roughly 39,000 girls a year because they are not given the same access to food and medicine as boys. I always cover my time in Sudan where the most vicious form of ethnic cleansing exists in a campaign of murder, rape, and pillage. I bring tidbits of the world to them through my travels. We need to shed light on the issues that plague us and the ones that go unheard. Young hungry journalists all need a push in the right direction.”

“Just like me.”

“Yes, but I have yet to encounter another student who was able to make such an impact right out of the gate. You have a real instinct for getting to the truth while helping others and uncovering injustices. You’re exceptional with facts and figures, and your debating skills can make a grown man cry.”

“Thank you, Carlisle. That means a lot coming from you. I pride myself on bringing men to their knees.” I can barely finish the last statement without bursting out laughing.

“Speaking of bringing men to their knees, is Emmett still treating you well at the Post? Because there’s always a spot at the Times if he becomes intolerable. I can make a few calls.”

“We both know intolerable is the last word to use for my boss. Emmett is great, and don’t act like you don’t know this to be true since you’ve had a hand in his successful career, too.”

“Of course you would bring that small detail up. Don’t get me wrong, Isabella. Emmett is good, but you have the potential to be great. One of Emmett’s strengths is his ability to listen. He doesn’t miss a single detail, verbal or visual. I think it’s his great memory, but he’s a whiz at reading body language. Emmett charms through laughter and a natural, subtle ease, which disarms even his most unyielding critics. He can land the toughest interviews and have them spilling their secrets in no time.”

“I heard a rumor around the office last week that he was talking with a producer from either Dateline or 60 Minutes.”

“Oh, really? I’m not surprised. He would be fantastic on either one, but I don’t think that’s Emmett’s goal. It’s nice to be wanted though. The Post is lucky to have him. I know it’s tough to remember at times, but he shouldn’t forget.”

“I agree. He hasn’t mentioned a word to me. So, I doubt anything will come of it.”

“All right. I’m going to let you get back to work. Maybe once I return from Vienna, I can slip down to D.C. one day and take you and Emmett out to lunch.”

“That sounds like a winner to me; just let me know when you’re headed this way.”

“I will. Take care, Isabella. We will talk soon.”

“Okay, good bye, Carlisle.”

As I gaze over a page full of notes from Carlisle and my earlier ones from Emmett, I start to form a plan of attack for everything I hope to accomplish when my phone buzzes with a text.

How about lunch? I’m nearby.

Are you willing to brave a food truck in Franklin Square?

I have an iron stomach. Years of training. Bring it on.

I’ll be down in ten minutes. x

See you soon.

I gather my notes together, tucking them in a file, knowing I have plenty to keep me busy for the next few weeks. While I close out my email and the open documents on my computer, I’m reminded of my pending deadline for Emmett. I grab my purse and head to the elevators, looking forward to my last-minute lunch date.

We both smile when I see him, but I think he spots me first with his eagle eyes.

“Bella.”

“Hi, Dad.” I give him a quick hug, then we walk toward the variety of food trucks parked along Franklin Square. “I still can’t believe you’re texting. It always catches me off guard.”

“Yep, I’m high tech. There’s no stopping me now.”

“What brings you to my neck of the woods?”

“Can’t a father just want to have lunch with his daughter?”

“While that’s a nice idea, it has yet to happen. So, what’s up?”

“I had a meeting this morning at Harry’s place.”

“Of course you did.” He’s always so casual about his visits to the White House. “Anything you care to share?”

“Not with a Post reporter.”

“How about your daughter?”

“Her either.”

“Well, then, I guess the only thing left is for you to pick your poison. Our choices for today are Spanish, Japanese, Indonesian, Mexican, or American, and I say that hesitantly, as all they serve are meatballs. So, who knows what you could end up with from Ball or Nothing. Anyway, the world awaits your decision.”

“Have you tried any of these?” He waves his arm in the direction of the colorful line of trucks.

“Dad, Emmett is a food truck fanatic, and there’s always a variety parked just footsteps from our office. I’ve tried all of these.”

“Let’s have tacos then, my treat.”

“You sure know how to have a good time. Mexican it is. Hopefully, I can avoid the siesta later.” I chuckle as we take a spot in line and wait our turn.

“You seem to be in a good mood. New man in your life?”

I know better than to make eye contact with him after a question like that. So I pretend to study the menu board, even though I already know what I’m ordering.

He can’t possibly know about Edward, can he?

I have only one choice: deflect.

“Oh, I just got off the phone with my old professor, Carlisle Cullen. Do you remember him?”

He nods.

“I guess I’m a little excited about starting something new. Carlisle wants me to work on some specific issues and turn them into stories. So, he threw out several ideas and gave me plenty to research.”

“Sounds like you’ll be busy.”

“I always am.” I smirk at his familiar saying.

Dad’s mustache twitches, and I’m positive we’re both thinking the same thing: like father, like daughter.

We step up to the D.C. Taco truck, and I order shrimp and grilled fish tacos, while Dad chooses chicken and steak tacos. It doesn’t take long to get our food, and we find a nearby bench to share our lunch.

“These are some of my favorites.” I’m quick to unwrap one and bite into the grilled fish taco. “Mmmm.”

After finishing the first bite of his steak taco, Dad seems happy with his choice. “You’re right. They are good.”

We eat in comfortable silence as both of us people-watch, noticing an unusual amount of homeless people shuffling around the park.

I lower my voice. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing so many homeless people. It wasn’t something that happened in Forks, but there were plenty I would see daily while I was at Harvard, and they seem to be everywhere in D.C.”

Dad nods. “It’s the veterans that really bother me. We should be taking care of them.”

“There are so many problems in the world, Dad. How do we ever fix all of them?”

“One at a time, Bella. One at a time.”

After finishing our lunch together, I give Dad a parting hug, and we head back to our respective offices. In no time, I am lost in my tasks at hand: doing research, making appointments, and lining up interviews. When I finally check the time on my phone, it’s after seven in the evening, so I decide to pack up for the night.

I’m exhausted when I enter our apartment, but Angela hasn’t made it home. I can’t decide whether I really need dinner or just to shower and crawl into bed when my phone vibrates with a text.

Are you home yet? I need to hear your voice.

I decide not to text back, but I locate his number on my phone. Pressing the button and waiting for it to connect, I decide to pour a glass of wine from the bottle on the kitchen countertop.

“Hello, darling. How was your day?”

Forget food or a shower, Edward and a glass of wine is exactly what I need to unwind.

A/N: Huge thank yous to Hadley Hemingway, LizziePaige, Honeymoon Edward, and purpleC305 for pre-reading and Midnight Cougar for beta-ing. xx

This chapter, we met Carlisle who is a huge influence on Bella and Charlie stopped by too. I hope you enjoyed a glimpse into those relationships. Were you surprised she held back sharing the news of her budding relationship with Edward from Carlisle? Do you think Charlie knows about Edward at this point?

Also, there’s a quote on one of the walls inside the Washington Post offices I wanted to share with you from Ben Bradlee, a legendary editor for the Post. “The truth, no matter how bad, is never as dangerous as a lie in the long run.” I picture Bella passing it daily as those little lies of omission stack up about their secret relationship.