Summary: Though Bella's overbearing mother has groomed her for stardom all her life, she is having trouble dealing with her popstar success. Edward, a police officer with political ambitions, is assigned to guard her and thwarts her suicide attempt. They feel an instant connection, but their families oppose the romance for fear they will stray from the courses planned for both of them.
Thanks for joining me for a new Bella and Edward. This time, we get to meet Popella and Copward.
A huge thank you goes to Midnight Cougar for being my seemingly tireless editor extraordinaire; she's truly awesome. I'm also grateful to Paige Edwards and Musica Daydreams for prereading and sharing their initial impressions.
Bella, Age 9
. . . . .
Bella's feet were heavy and her knees shook as she walked out to the center of the stage, breath wheezing in and out of her throat. Each step seemed like a mile long, but in less time than she'd imagined, she reached the red X and had to stop. Slowly, she turned and faced the audience. Everyone was looking at her, and she felt faint as her heartbeat started banging in her throat. It was so quiet that she could have heard her stomach growl. Frantically, she searched the audience for her mother. When she found her, she was giving Bella a pronounced look and nodding at her impatiently.
Oh. The song. The song.
Her mom was always telling Bella that her voice was a gift that should be shared with others, which was why she entered her into the talent contest.
You're going to be a star one day, baby girl. This talent contest is just the first step.
Little drops of sweat were running down her back. Her mouth was hot and dry, even though she'd taken a long drink of honey water before walking up the steps to the stage. She kind of felt like she shouldn't be up there at all, and she was starting to panic, but she couldn't panic. If she didn't sing the song, her mom would be angry, and she didn't like it when her mom was angry.
"Bella Swan," announced the man standing to her left. "Singing 'Blackbird'."
Nina Simone's song, "Blackbird," was the first thing her mom said she'd ever sung. It was a sad song, and she didn't really want to sing it now, but her mom had insisted.
You're an alto and this song shows your depth and strength perfectly.
Bella suddenly realized that her hands weren't clasped, and hurriedly rectified her stance. Keep your hands clasped loosely in front of you, her mom always said. It shows ease and confidence. Shoulders back, chin up, smile. But she couldn't smile. Her face muscles were frozen.
There was no music to go along with what she was singing–her mom said just her voice was beautiful enough and didn't want the music to drown her out, so she was singing it a cappella. It was up to her to begin. Bella swallowed and closed her eyes, took a big breath, then let the first lyrics go.
Why you wanna fly
You ain't ever gonna fly.
Her eyes opened again. It was good. Her voice was tentative but strong, not shaky as she thought it'd be. Her mom was smiling. So were other people. It was good, she was good.
No place big enough for holding
All the tears you're gonna cry.
As she went on, so did her mom's smile, and she could finally smile herself. She was doing it!
'Cause your mama's name was lonely
And your daddy's name's pain.
After she was done, Bella raced back to her seat as if someone was chasing her.
"Oh, you did so good," her mom said and hugged her tightly, and Bella was on cloud nine.
She knew she did good; she felt it, but more than that, it was over and she survived.
Later, as the official began announcing the runners up, her mom grasped Bella's hand tightly. She held it so tight that it almost hurt.
"Second runner up," the man with the golden tone in his voice said. He was dressed in a dark blue suit and red tie without an overcoat because it was so hot. "Erica Johnston performing the hula hoop routine!"
A black-haired girl in a yellow tutu and little matching yellow hat ran up to the stage while people clapped. Her outfit was really something. Bella was just wearing a blue shirtdress, something simple, not dressy at all.
"She wasn't that good," her mom said, but Bella thought Erica had done an awesome job. There was no way she could have jumped through the hoop that fast without falling, and the one time she'd tried to hula using her neck, she'd almost choked herself.
The man was talking again. "And now, for the first runner up . . . Bella Swan, singing 'Blackbird'!"
Amazed and shocked to hear her name, Bella started to stand when her mom's grip tightened painfully. She wouldn't let go. "Mom," she said, and the people in the row ahead turned around to look.
"Miss Bella Swan?" The man on stage was looking for her.
Her mom finally let go, but her face was awful–it was the look she got when she was really, really mad. That was when Bella knew she wasn't proud of her any more, and she ran up to the stage, trying to hold back tears. Wasn't second place good? She had to blink away tears to see the stairs and not trip. Going up them was much easier this time because she knew the hardest part was already done. The man looked relieved to see her and handed her a heavy red and gold trophy with a big smile, and she couldn't help but smile back. Then she saw his head jerk to the side as something behind her caught his attention, and his smile was replaced by a look of horror. When she turned to see what had upset him, she found her mom right behind her. She'd followed her up on stage!
Bella's mom grabbed her by the hand, then jerked her down the steps so fast that Bella nearly tripped and lost her trophy.
"This is bullshit!" Her mom yelled into the sudden silence of the theater. "Bullshit!"
Bella's face and ears were hot as her mother dragged her back down the aisle in front of everyone. The looks of bewilderment and shock on their faces as she passed made her want to die.
"Well, uh, ladies and gentlemen," the man said, obviously still taken aback, "This year's contest winner is . . . little Tammy Toulson performing the tap routine!"
"Girl was a rhythmless idiot," Bella's mom said as they emerged from the building. "I saw her counting her steps!" She let Bella's hand go as if it burned. "Fucking hula-hooping and tap dancing? It's such bullshit!"
Bella was dazed as she followed her mom through the parking lot to their car. It was August and hot outside, but she was cold down to her bones.
"No," her mom said when Bella tried to get into the car. "That thing is not coming with us. Throw it away."
She swallowed and cradled it against her chest. "Why?" she asked and her voice cracked.
Her mom bent down so they were face-to-face and gave Bella a hard look. "Do you want to be a runner-up or a winner?"
Dumb question. Of course she wanted to be a winner, but it was the first trophy she'd ever won. Why couldn't she keep it? But the look on her mom's face said, No way, no how, was that thing coming with them, and Bella knew that look meant business.
Numbly, she let it fall to the ground, and watched as the head on the statue's figure broke off and rolled away.
Notes: This story is based on the movie Beyond the Lights. While the movie has visual depth and kick-ass music, my story will have more character context and depth. Plus Edward. It'll have Edward.
I'm hoping to post Chapter 1 on Monday. I'm also tentatively planning on a weekly post schedule, with new chapters going live on the weekends.
So. What did you think of Renee?