A/N: Thank you to Honeymoon Edward and LizziePaige for pre-reading, and Midnight Cougar for working your magic.
Age tracker for this chapter: Emmett (51), Lily (20), Tanya (47), Edward (49), Bella (47), Esme (77)
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m just here having fun.
C19 – Happy 20th Birthday, Lily
“… getting married…”
My eyes flutter open to the darkness and deafening silence as I wonder where I am.
I’m disoriented by my surroundings, but shivering cold as I listen to the sound of rain pattering against metal.
There’s a bloody taste in my mouth and I try to move, but when I do, there’s immediate pain in some areas and numbness in others.
A burning chemical smell overrides all of my senses as sirens wail in the distance.
“Over here! He’s moving,” someone shouts.
It feels like hours pass as I fade then wake to noises around me.
The darkness changes as lights flicker blue then red.
A den of muffled voices can be heard until one is louder than the others. “Let’s try to cut him out.”
“Ambulance will be here in five minutes,” another voice shares.
“Hold on, buddy. We’ll have you out of here as quick as possible. Bring the spreader.”
My eyes close and my head falls back against the headrest. My mind tries to make sense of the swirling thoughts and voices around me until they fade into silence and I give into a deep, satisfying sleep.
I’m annoyed at a repetitive beeping sound I hear.
I try to open my eyes to figure out where the alarm is coming from, but they feel like they are glued shut.
The exhaustion is overwhelming, but I need to stop the alarm or I’ll never get back to sleep. I try opening my eyes once again, but when I do, it’s bright and I realize I’m not at home.
“I think he’s waking up. Go tell the nurse and call Lily,” a soft female voice instructs.
I hear a door opening and closing while it feels like someone is holding my hand, and I squeeze it to check.
There’s a gasp and a muffled sob. “Emmett, sweetheart. It’s Mom. You’re in the hospital.”
The sound of the door opening and closing happens again then another soothing, female voice speaks. “The ladies at the desk said someone will be in shortly. I’ll step outside and call Lily. She’ll want to know he’s awake.”
“He squeezed my hand. I think he can hear me. Maybe we should lower the shade and it will be easier on his eyes as he wakes up.”
It’s my mom.
She’s here—wherever here is.
“I should call Tanya and let her know too.”
The voice sounds familiar, and it’s easier when I open my eyes this time.
I recognize the woman immediately. “Beh—” I try, but my throat is dry and I’m unable to form the word.
“Maybe some water.” Mom brings a bent straw to my mouth.
I take a few sips then nod once.
Bella’s here, too.
I blink my eyes a few times and hope for them to focus better as I try to sit up.
“Don’t move, Emmett. Let me raise the bed a little.” Mom presses a button, making it a million times easier to be upright.
“Ben will want to question him now he’s awake.” Bella sounds distraught. “Maybe I should call Aro first, then Edward.”
“That sounds like a good idea, sweetheart.”
“I’ll be out in the hallway if you need me.”
“Okay.” Mom watches Bella leave then focuses back on me.
“What happened?” I ask.
“What do you remember?”
“Uh… nothing.” I try to think of the last thing I was doing. “Lily’s birthday. I was Facetiming her at the house.”
Mom nods. “Then what happened?”
“I don’t know. We were talking.” I search my memory for anything… then remember a bit of the conversation. “She’s getting married?” I ask, confused.
“No, she isn’t. Lily has a new boyfriend, though. Did she tell you?”
“A new boyfriend?”
“No. He’s old news. This one is French. Do you remember her telling you the name?”
“I don’t know.” I try to recall our conversation, as there’s a knock on the door.
“I hear somebody’s awake?” An older woman enters the room and comes to my bedside, checking on the beeping of the monitors. “I think we can put these on silent for now. I’m Claire, your nurse. How are you feeling?”
For the first time since waking, I lift my head to look down at my body. My left arm and leg are both in casts. I try to wiggle those fingers and toes, but feel nothing.
“Shit. What the hell happened?” I stare in disbelief as an alarm wails.
Claire reaches up to silence the noise. “Try to calm down, Emmett. Are you in any pain?”
“I don’t know.” I look up at their curious faces.
“The pain relievers we gave you should wear off in the next thirty minutes and we need to stay ahead of your pain. There’s no reason to suffer in silence.”
There’s another knock at the door and a glimpse of my past walks to the end of my bed with an electronic hand-held chart.
“Mr. Cullen. It’s good to see you’re awake.”
“Kate.” I sigh in relief.
“The attending will be in to see you in a little while, but I can go over your injuries with you.”
“You’re a doctor?”
“Emmett, I will wait outside with Bella while she calls to let everyone know you’re awake. I’ll be back later,” Mom says.
I nod, as Nurse Claire follows her outside the room, leaving me with Kate.
“I told you I was sick.” I laugh at my old joke I always used to get her in my bed, but grab my side when the pain becomes too great.
She grins, taking the chair next to my bed. “I’ll make a note in your history that nothing’s new in last two years for my favorite patient.”
“You’re still beautiful. I liked it when we played doctor.” I reach up barely touching a long wave of blonde hair.
“I know you did, but now we aren’t playing.” Kate smirks, switching into doctor mode. “Mr. Cullen, you arrived in the emergency room early this morning after being cut from your automobile. Any headache?”
I shake my head, but feel a little dizzy at the movement, and close my eyes to try to will away the nauseous feeling. “What’s with the Mr. Cullen talk?”
“Are you going to be sick?” She reaches for a pan next to the bed.
Fuck. She can read me so easily.
“No. I hope not.” My eyelids flutter open when she shifts to standing and leans over me.
“I’m trying to be professional, Mr. Cullen.” Kate pauses, takes out a penlight, and examines my eyes. “I believe we can also add concussion to your list, but I will do a thorough assessment and interview later.”
“I can’t wait. You said a car accident?”
She nods. “You have sustained cuts to your face and neck, which required a few stitches. We reset your dislocated shoulder then cast your left arm and leg as we found multiple fractures after X-ray. You also have cracks in your ribs, a few hairline fractures in the left side of your pelvis, and some bruising from the seatbelt.”
“Shit. It sounds like some crash.”
“The airbag saved your life. Your memory and vision may be fuzzy for a few days. Any trouble with your hearing?”
“No. At least I don’t think so.”
“Good.” Kate makes notes on my chart then stops looking concerned. “Emmett—”
“What is it?”
“We took blood samples when you arrived.”
“Even if you aren’t at fault for the crash, your blood alcohol level was well over the limit.”
“Fuck. Any chance the cops don’t have a copy of my blood results?”
“As your friend, my best advice is to talk with your lawyer.”
“I need to check on my other patients, but I wanted to come and see you before I return with the attending. I didn’t want you to be surprised at me showing up out of the blue.”
“Thanks. You’re a sight for sore eyes.” She still looks as good as I remember maybe better.
“That won’t be the only thing sore when the pain relievers wear off. Don’t be a hero. Ask for relief. Also an Officer Cheney has been here twice asking about you. I’m positive he has questions.”
“Well, I don’t have answers. So, he will be disappointed.”
“It may come back to you in bits and pieces. Don’t rush it.”
“Try to sleep. It won’t be easy with us constantly checking on you now you’re awake, but any rest you can get will help your recovery and get you out of here sooner rather than later.”
“Now I know you’re here, I’m in no rush.” I smile, letting my head fall back against the pillow.
“Always such a smooth talker. I’ve got to go.” Kate winks and stands to leave, squeezing my hand.
I watch her walk out the door and drift off once more. I wake in pain and know I’ve pushed it too long, needing more medication immediately. After pressing the call button, Claire arrives with the relief I need. She’s finishing giving me a once-over, when there’s a knock on the door. It opens and Tanya sticks her head in the room.
She smiles. “You are awake. Are you up for a visitor?”
“Sure. Are you alone?” I ask, and hope I’m not too obvious at wanting to avoid her former co-worker.
“Yes, who else would be with me?” she asks, confused.
“I heard Officer Cheney wants to chat.”
“Emmett, I don’t know how many times I have to tell you. We weren’t partners, and I was only filling in the night we pulled you over. Bella is the one who called me and said you were awake. I was in the neighborhood and thought I would stop by. How are you feeling?”
I shrug then smile. “I’ve got the good drugs.”
Tanya and I have been casually dating for the past few months, but she’s been a stickler about my drinking and keeping me at arm’s length, which is why things aren’t more serious. I don’t need another person hounding me about anything else. Irina has been up my ass about every little detail of my life, ever since I started having sessions with her again.
Tanya slides into the chair next to my bed, and we sit in silence until she makes a confession. “I saw pictures of the Ferrari. You’re lucky to be alive. Broadside collisions are the worst ones.”
This confirms she still has her connections in the police department and is using them, whether she wants to admit it or not.
I sigh. “I have no idea what happened. The last thing I remember is talking to Lily, and I was home.”
She narrows her eyes, then tilts up her chin. “Were you drinking?”
I shake my head. “I don’t remember.”
“Emmett, you’re a highly functioning al—”
“Tanya, stop.” I cut her off, knowing where she’s headed with this conversation before we go round and round again.
“You need help,” she states.
“You need more than you’re getting now. What you’re doing isn’t working. There are some great places, Emmett. They can get you sober and help you figure out how to stay that way.”
My anger builds because we’ve had this argument many times. “I’m not an alcoholic.”
“So the next time you get behind the wheel with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit, what should we do? Tell me, Emmett, because I don’t have a clue how to stop you when you don’t give a damn about yourself or anyone else around you. Are we waiting for you to kill yourself or someone else? How will your daughter like visiting you in prison when you’re sentenced and guilty of murder? Or maybe she’ll be at your graveside? Because you and I both know you’re spiraling, and until you get treatment, there will be a next time—or a last time.”
“That isn’t fair. You leave Lily out of this, Tanya.”
“Is this rock-bottom? Or are we still waiting for something worse to happen?”
She waves a hand toward my casted arm and leg. “You don’t look fine. As a matter of fact, you look pretty fucked up.”
“It was an accident—bad timing. I’m positive.”
“You think this is a fucking coincidence? How much more of a sign can the universe give you? You ran a red light while more than legally drunk.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Apparently, I know more than you. The traffic cameras don’t lie. The driver who hit your car was sober, as were the eyewitnesses. Where were you headed? The liquor store? Oh right, you have no memory of what happened.”
“So much for retiring. You seem to be on the case—my case.” I huff, but know if what she says is true I’m in deep this time. I can only hope no one other than me was hurt and Aro can save my ass once again.
“What am I supposed to do, Emmett? I thought we were trying to make this work between us. You know how I feel about your drinking. Am I not supposed to care? Have you given up on us? You’re worrying your mother sick. Bella and Edward can see you deteriorating into another world right before their eyes and they are powerless to stop it. Lily has no idea how bad it is, but I would guess after this accident, she will have some new insight.”
“I don’t have a problem. I’m not going to stop drinking,”
“Denial for you too, I see. Now is it, can’t or won’t stop drinking?”
“There’s no difference.”
“Emmett, that’s where you’re wrong. There’s a huge difference. And I will not stand by and let you throw your life away. We may never be more than friends, but I will do everything in my power to be the best damn friend you’ve got, because everyone around you is enabling your drinking. Your family fills the avoidance and denial camp, while your friends keep you out to all hours of the night, doing God knows what with God knows who. And what about the times when you’re at home drinking alone? I see it so clearly, but you don’t. Is there even a point where you stop drinking? Or is it all day now?”
“I’m sober at work,” I defend.
“Are you sure about that? A hangover is an impairment.”
“You don’t know what I’m dealing with every day. I’ve lost everything. Lily’s gone and—”
“Not everything. Trust me. That’s where you’re wrong. I’ve lived a lifetime filled with lies and broken promises. You have no idea what it’s like for a child or teenager living in an uncontrollable situation where you don’t know if it will be a good day or a bad one. The mood swings—God, the mood swings. The good days are fantastic. They make you feel not so fucked up, like the possibility of a real family is within your reach. The bad days—well, they are filled with nothing but physical and emotional pain. I know those days. I do. I’ve lived that life with the most tragic consequences possible, because I not only lost my father to addiction but also my mother at his hands.
“She made all the typical excuses for him. ‘Daddy’s job is stressful,’ or ‘he’s just had a little too much to drink.’ My mother worked two jobs to give the three of us the basics while he was hell-bent on drinking every penny he earned. She would hide the bottles when she found them—pour them out when he wasn’t around, but that never stopped him from buying more. God forbid, if he caught her pouring his money down the drain, because the beatings were…heartbreaking. I listened to her fear and anguish, silently begging him to stop.
“I was filled with guilt and shame, thinking I needed to do something, anything to stop this crazy cycle we were on, but I was a kid. I didn’t know how. Maybe I should have confided in a teacher or someone, but I didn’t. I stayed silent because I knew if I didn’t, it would get worse.
“At one time, I idolized my father; he was my everything and the reason I became a cop. I guess you could say I was a Daddy’s Girl following in her father’s footsteps. I always held out hope that one day things would turn around for him and us.
“Then one day, the beatings did stop, but I wasn’t there. I wasn’t there to lock her away and nurse her wounds while he slept it off. I wasn’t there, but I had the money and a plan only to find I was too late. Too late to save her. Too late to save him. I failed them both, but I will not fail you.
“You may hate me during this process, but please, Emmett, let me help you. Let me be your friend. You don’t need alcohol, but I know all too well how difficult it is to walk away from something that has become an addiction. Say the word and I’ll make the arrangements. We’ll get you clean and sober. You’ll have therapy and peer support. Your family and me. I’ll be there every step of the way. I won’t let you relapse. I promise.”
I stare into her eyes filled with hope. “You think I’m worth saving?”
“I know you are,” she states confidently. “But you can’t do this for me or Lily or your family. You have to do it for you.”
A life without alcohol. I can’t imagine what that looks like.
“Your father—” she starts.
I hold up my hand, stopping her from continuing. She had to play the father card. That one word allows me to imagine what it would look like.
Carlisle Cullen was an honorable man who built a family business with a strong work ethic and a friendly smile. He provided for his family and loved his wife and children unconditionally. He was never a man out of control and always had a kind word for everyone he met. He wouldn’t be proud of the man I am today, but he would still believe in me despite my shortcomings—a lot like Tanya does. Maybe he’s the reason she’s here and there is some higher power at work, hoping to save me from myself.
I let out a deep sigh and nod. “Okay, make the arrangements. When they say I can leave, I’ll go to wherever you think they can help me. Let’s hope we’re not both wasting our time and money.”
“We aren’t. I’m positive. Thank you, Emmett—for trusting me. I won’t let you down.”