"She's changed Edward, what did you expect after all these years? That she would be waiting in her room, open windows for your return? You wanted to live her life without you; congrats you got your way." – Borrowed from "Changes in the Moon" by TwilightTrin
AN: Pictures of the boy's outfits are on my profile and pictures of the girl's outfits are coming soon. Thanks so much Chris for your photoshop work, since I can't even resize pictures. I'm so hopeless.
Please check the songs on my profile, as well. The music adds a lot to this story, and this chapter especially.
Chapter 6 – "Blessing in Disguise"
I knew something was wrong the moment Edward sat down at the piano. I flitted down the stairs and waited just outside the doorway. I wasn't foolish enough to think I escaped his notice, but I wanted to give him some sense of privacy. None of us get that much anymore.
He ignored me and stretched once, his long fingers cracking before he placed them on the ivory keys. The dissonant notes of Art Tatum's "Elegie" drifted through the house, Edward picking up speed and frowning furiously at the keys.
Oh dear. This was not a good sign.
The past two years had been harder than any of us could have anticipated. Edward spent a lot of time away from us, mourning and missing Bella, but even when he was gone, an air of bitterness settled around our family. It poisoned everything we did. Rosalie was smug, thinking she'd been right all along. Alice was devastated, having lost a real friend. Emmett was sad, because Bella's clumsy charm always made him smile. Jasper was just a wreck, feeling all of our emotions at once.
The last time Edward had returned, from somewhere in South America this time, I planned to speak with him. I couldn't stand my family being so miserable. If Bella had still been pining for Edward, the choice would have been obvious, but it obviously wasn't that simple.
I'm not sure what any of us expected. Either Bella would still be a wreck over Edward, like Alice said she was for weeks after we left, or she'd have moved on. It was surprising to find she had moved on, but without a special someone in her life. These gray areas are so confusing, even Alice isn't sure of her future.
Carlisle hadn't returned t the hospital yet, so I got to enjoy having him around the house and working on projects with me for a few days. We painted the entire house a pale pink, then blue, then back to just barely off-white. Sometimes it's nice to have vampire speed.
Suddenly the music shifted to a minor, off-key version of Bella's lullaby. This was too much. I couldn't sit and let him butcher every song he knew while thinking about her.
"Edward." I stepped forward, gently taking his shaking hands from the keys and holding them in my own.
"What happened?" He just looked at me, his eyes strangely blank and dark, though he'd hunted only a few days ago. He finally focused on me, before a single, wet tear slid down his cheek. I was stunned. "Carlisle, get down here!" I yelled over my shoulder, pulling Edward into my arms and to the couch as he began to sob.
Carlisle came down the stairs from his study, pausing for a millisecond before crossing over to us, looking terrified and confused. Edward just buried his head in my shoulder and cried as I rocked him. Alice appeared at the doorway, looking concerned, Jasper behind her. A cloud of tranquility extended from Jasper, allowing Edward to calm enough to take a deep, shuddering breath.
He and Alice exchanged a glace, before she blurted out "Edward and Bella had sex."
I hadn't noticed Emmett and Rosalie in the doorway until Emmett let out a huge laugh, yelling "Way to go Edward!" He crossed the room to clap Edward on the back before noticing the serious feeling in the room. "Uh…go Edward?" The hand he had raised for a high five dropped back to his side, and he knelt with the rest of the group.
"She doesn't want me." Edward's voice sounded so pained I jumped and hugged him harder.
"Obviously she does, sweetheart. She's probably just confused. Our returning has to have been hard on her, Edward." I smoothed his unruly hair as I spoke, encouraging him to breathe deeply. I know he didn't mean to talk about this in front of all of us, but sometimes these things happened.
Rosalie snorted. "She's changed Edward, what did you expect after all these years? That she would be waiting in her room, open windows for your return? You wanted to live her life without you; congrats you got your way."
I stood, drawing myself to my full house and leaning into Rosalie. "I've had enough of your cruelty, Rosalie. Go hunting. Go somewhere. Leave your brother alone." Rosalie glared at the family before stomping out of the house and jumping across the river. I turned back to Edward, hugging him again.
Emmett took Edward's hand and pulled him forcibly form my arms. "Suck it up, cupcake. We're going hunting, and we're going to have a manly talk." He smiled at me, and I instantly felt better, knowing Emmett would be full of tough love, but also had some good advice to share.
The four men of the family ran towards Canada, hunting the lions Edward preferred. Just after we passed the border, we caught the scent of a large pack. For once Edward hung in the back of the crowd, not pouncing until all of us were drinking deeply from our kills.
Once we were all satisfied, we lit a small fire and sat down. Emmett seemed like the MC, putting an arm around Edward's shoulders and smiling. "So, Eddie, was she THAT bad in bed?"
I smacked Emmett across the back of the head, sighing, before adding "You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to, Edward, but I think it may help. You've been alone so long, and she makes you alive again. We're here if you want to talk."
Edward smiled at me, playfully snapping his teeth at Emmett's arm, but leaving it around his shoulders. He took a deep breath, sighing as he exhaled, and began telling us the entire story – how he accidentally invaded Bella's privacy, how she reacted physically and how she reacted this morning after she woke up. His eyes were sad, but there was also a spark I hadn't seen before.
Emmett broke the short silence. "That sucks, bro. Look. I know how hard it is, but I can understand her perspective. She wants you. She loves you. But she loved you before, and you left. We left. She was part of our family and we just left her. I think she's just scared to really let you in again. It sounds like she got swept up in the moment, but she's terrified of feeling that loss again."
The three of us stared at him, jaws dropped.
"What? God, I was human, you know!" He looked mock-offended, before laughing. Jasper laughed, a rare sound.
"He's not wrong, either. Her emotions are conflicted, at least when I'm around. I haven't influenced her at all, just tasted the medium. She does still love you, Edward. It's there. And she knows it's there. It annoys her that it's still there, after all this time. I'm thinking she got caught up in the moment and now she is, maybe even unconsciously, trying to show you just how badly you hurt her."
Edward looked thoughtful, chewing on his bottom lip. "I have to show her what she means to me, and win her back. All of our lives were wrong without her. Her life was obviously wrong without me, without us. I have to come up with a way to show her how I feel."
We sat for a few more hours, Emmett and Jasper enjoying the process of burning things far too much. Emmett also picked a fight with a grizzly bear, but left it alive after an evening of gorging. We made it home within an hour, where my lovely Esme greeted me with a kiss.
She turned to Edward, smiling. "Bella came by, Edward. She seemed a bit chagrined about the whole situation and I think she wants to apologize for how she acted. I think she's still confused, but she wants to be friends, Edward. Maybe, for now, that's enough."
Edward smiled and nodded, thanking Esme and heading up the stairs after his brothers, up to his room.
I sighed, turning back to Esme. "Oh, how troublesome life is as they grow up."
She smiled, running a hand through my blonde hair, grinning. "I wonder if we would have had so many misunderstandings in our lives, if we had known each other before you changed me."
I laughed. "Well, considered you were married and had a child, I'd imagine we probably would have. The last thing I needed was to get into a fight with a human defending his wife." She smiled, grabbing me by the shirt and planting little kisses along my jaw line.
"Good thing that was a long time ago, huh?" She took my hand, leading me up the stairs to our master suite. She shut the door behind us, grinning and unbuttoning my shirt in vampire speed. "It looks like we've still got a long way to go in making up for lost time."
The past weeks felt even shorter than normal. Being a vampire changes your perspective of time, but the weeks before the club opening flew faster than I imagined. Rosalie and Alice were in full force, both helping Bella plan menus and shopping for costumes.
The opening had a theme – "Time Flies By." Not only did that match my past few weeks, but it was kind of cool. Everyone was invited to wear period clothing from the time they were changed. Alice had contacted Maria and found my old Confederate uniform. I have no idea why Maria kept it, but it was very well preserved, without any stains. I was excited to wear it again, and see what everyone else was wearing, too.
Things have calmed considerably, even though we were still worried about Lilith's intentions for Bella. Edward and Bella had a talk after "the incident," and they've decided to stay friends and take it slow. They're obviously head over heels for each other, but they're both terrified. They're using the opening as a chance to spend every moment together, though they have an agreement that if Bella closes her window, Edward won't come in and watch her sleep. There's something creepy about that habit.
The uneasy alliance with Jacob Black's wolf pack is also a bit stressful, but I can't doubt their motives of protecting Bella, and all the other humans in the area. Lilith had said every human in attendance would be there by choice, and that blood was extracted beforehand to avoid any exposure to venom, but the pack still saw it as a gross breach of human trust.
I was personally torn on the issue. I missed human blood, and this was an opportunity to have it without harming anyone. I wouldn't partake, because it would devastate Carlisle and Alice, but I sort of saw what Lilith meant. No worries of turning someone, no harming them, no draining, no death. It seemed win-win, but I knew the rest of the family wouldn't see it that way.
The day of the opening was a bit frantic. Edward and Emmett were off helping Bella and Jacob finish the food. Alice, Rosalie and Esme were at the spa, preparing for the big night. Carlisle and I were playing chess with Civil War reenactment figurines. It was a bit of a guilty pleasure, and Carlisle was kind enough not to mention my collection to the family. Alice knew, of course, but I refused to play with her after she started saying "pew pew" after she took one of my men. Women.
Carlisle eyed me as he captured one of my bishops. "Jasper, son, are you okay? You seem distracted."
Sometimes I forget how perceptive he can be. I ran a hand through my blonde locks, sighing and twisting a piece of hair just behind my ear. "I'm worried about exposure to that much fresh blood at one time, to be honest. I still feel so weak compared to the rest of you."
Confession time with Father Carlisle. I hadn't planned that, but it felt good to admit it.
"Alice has assured me that I'll be fine, but she's lied to me before. It's just…it's hard to deny myself when I can justify by thinking no one will get hurt." The words came out rushed, but Carlisle smiled. I moved a pawn, completely sidetracked from the game.
"You know, Jasper, I think you're the strongest of all of us." My jaw dropped, and he smiled wider. "You are such a protector. We'd all die for each other, but you've protected us all. Your fear is only natural. It's 'human,' if you will. It's part of what keeps you tied to the world around us."
He leaned forward, resting his chin on one hand, gazing at me with golden eyes. "Even those years ago, when you leapt at Bella the night of her birthday, you showed some restraint. Willingness to be torn away. I truly believe that without your humanity, we never would have been able to stop you from killing her. Even then, in a dark moment, you chose to let her live. Don't ever forget that, Jasper."
I shuddered at the mention of that night, guilt flooding every cell of my being. If I hadn't been so stupid, so impulsive, Bella and Edward would probably be married and having their happily ever after. I'd torn my family apart, and Carlisle, in all his compassion, was offering me praise.
I put my head on the table, scattering my precious figurines. I tried not to remember the smell of her blood in this very room. I tried to forget Edward's snarl as I crossed the space between me and her in a split second. Hell, I'd tried to forget the past two years, but there was no luck there.
"I know it's more difficult when there's a blur between 'right and wrong' in drinking. But that's a slippery slope, Jasper. Only you can tell whether you can taste human blood, indulge, and still avoid killing. I leave the choice to you."
He clapped me on the shoulder, inclining his head as we heard the girls' car approaching. I knew Carlisle would never betray my confidence by mentioning our conversation, so I moved quickly to pack away my collectibles. As I was locking them in the closet, Alice crossed the room and kissed my cheek, giving me a knowing look.
I glanced at the clock, amazed that it was already time to get dressed. Edward and Bella had left to set up the food, but Emmett bounced through the door and put on his suit in record time. We were taking Carlisle and Rosalie's cars to Seattle to keep up appearances, but it wouldn't take us long. Alice had checked our rote to ensure we wouldn't be pulled over, and Edward had his own version of radar detection.
Everyone looked amazing. We hadn't had a wedding in awhile, so the girls went totally over the top with dressing up. Alice was wearing a cream colored, beaded dress, her normally spiky hair falling in loose waves. Esme's dress was black and less fitted, more traditional. She wore a cloche hat, all the rage in the 1920s. Rosalie, of course, went for bold and sassy, with a tight fitting red dress with feathered sleeves, her long hair curled with black feathers. I was surprised none of them were dressed as flappers, but Rosalie laughed. "Been there, done that. This is the kind of dress no one could afford back then."
Carlisle looked silly, but was wearing a frilly suit that would have marked him as royalty back in the 1640s. Emmett had embraced his inner gangster, wearing a dark, baggy zoot suit with a black fedora, red feathers in the band in a nod to Rosalie.
The drive was short and fairly quiet. We pulled up to the club right on time. It was in a large seemingly abandoned building in the warehouse district, a neighborhood that was seemingly deserted at night. The parking lot was packed, belying the busy club's nondescript exterior.
The club was surprisingly posh, with lots of midnight blue, plum and black with silver accents. Leave it to the ultimate antediluvian to avoid the clichéd blood red décor. There were plush couches, with about fifty humans strewn about the room, enjoying drinks and food. I had to admit – human food hadn't smelled this appealing in a century. Carlisle presented our invitations to hulking guards and we made our way into the cavernous room. I hardly recognized Bella, scurrying around and setting out food with Jacob, dressed in 1950s style clothes. Bella's long hair was pulled up in a bouffant, and she looked hot, wearing a blue dress. I'd always loved the fashion from the 50s, and Alice had indulged my pinup fantasy on more than one occasion. "Jasper, shut up." Oops. Mind reading brother in range. I shook my head, focusing instead on my beautiful wife. She smiled, winking at me. Edward's voice wasn't loud, but I knew every immortal in the room heard him. He sounded annoyed, but I could hear the smile in his voice. Lilith crossed the room to us, wearing nothing but strategically placed fig leaves and a smile. "Hello, Cullens! Might I say you all look fabulous? Truly top notch. Welcome to the party, please make yourselves at home and have a good time." She gestured around the room, nonchalantly ignoring the stocked bar near the door that reeked of various blood types. My mouth watered, venom welling in my throat, but I swallowed, trying to ignore it. Alice claimed a table at the front of the building, near a large stage where a band was setting up. Lilith crossed over to Bella and Jacob, speaking briefly. Bella blushed crimson, but Jacob laughed and nodded enthusiastically. Bella was shaking her head frantically, but Lilith took her hand and led her to the stage. The band played a little fanfare as Lilith climbed the steps, taking the microphone. "Hello, everybody! I'd like to welcome you to opening night here at Haemo, Seattle's finest Immortal social establishment. A special welcome to our human visitors, who have made this club possible. Eat, drink and enjoy - humans only! I shouldn't have to remind you vampires to behave yourselves. Anyway, without further ado, I would like to introduce our entertainment for the evening, Bridenbrad, with a special song by my friend, who is also responsible for the great food you're enjoying here, Bella Swan!" We all looked at each other, shocked. Emmett started giggling, his eyes wide as Bella turned impossibly red. She took the mic from Lilith, sending Edward an apologetic look. The band began to play and Bella's voice sang out, smooth as velvet. "I never promised you a ray of light.
I never promised there'd be sunshine every day.
I give you everything I have, the good, the bad.
Why do you put me on a pedestal?
I'm so up high that I can't see the ground below,
So help me down – you've got it wrong, I don't belong there. I always said that I would make mistakes.
I'm only human, and that's my saving grace.
I fall as hard as I try, so don't be blinded.
See me as I really am, I have flaws and sometimes I even sin,
So pull me from that pedestal. I don't belong there."
If she hadn't looked so horrified, I'd have sworn she planned it. Her eyes were watering, and Edward looked thoughtful, and then smiled at her reassuringly. Bella closed her eyes, swaying slightly on her high heels, radiating both relief remorse. Edward was surprisingly calm, but for some reason Rosalie was pissed.
Bella finished the song to loud applause, Emmett and Jacob competing for the title of most obnoxious fan. Jacob was standing near a group of humans with a pretty brunette girl I'd never seen before. Bella awkwardly descended the stairs, hurrying over to us. We were still cheering and smiling, but she frowned, seeking Edward's eyes.
He took her in his arms, murmuring "Bella, I love your human nature. It is your saving grace." I felt it coming a split second before it happened, but I just grinned and pulled Alice closer. She gasped when he dipped Bella deeply, kissing her sweetly on the lips before righting her and steadying her on her feet. Bella's jaw dropped and she blushed again, the smell of her blood attracting the glances of several vampires around us.
The ones that hadn't noticed her blood stared at the odd human/vampire coupling. Carlisle sighed, grinning but covering his face with his hand before groaning "Way to keep a low profile, Edward." Bella mock-glared at him before giggling, pulling Edward over to the couch.
Lilith was watching from across the room, a martini glass full of O positive in her hand. She caught Edward's eye and raised her glass, grinning, before turning to the guests surrounding her. The band was a great group I'd heard before, an assembly of vampires who played everything from old Celtic tunes to current pop songs.
The band struck up "I Like Bananas (Because they Have no Bones)" by the Hoosier Hotshots. Oddly enough, it was one of Alice's favorite songs from her era and the whole family began to dance, even Carlisle and Esme, and I've got to admit – my Mom can do a mean lindy hop.
Lilith had planned for everything – dance demonstrations from the 1400s to the 1970s, food, drinks and even a vaudeville show. I was still avoiding the blood bar with a passion, desperate for a drink but not in the mood for the interrogation I'd get from my family. Alice and I were on one of the couches, taking a break from dancing, when her face went blank, Edward flashing over to us with Bella in his arms.
I grabbed Alice's hand, shaking her slightly. "Alice, what did you see? Alice?"
Edward and Alice answered at the same time, turning toward the club's doorway. "Victoria."
AN: Okay, so it's almost a mini-cliffie, just to see if anyone is actually paying attention. Honestly I was going to do the party all in one chapter, but it got way too long and I didn't want to feel rushed in the telling.
Thanks to everyone who sent me kind messages about my Dad. He's off traveling in the Galpagos Islands, harassing huge turtles, so obviously it's not too bad or they wouldn't have let him go. I'll keep you all updated, hopefully in the next couple of chapters.
Also, PLEASE review! I respond to every review, good or bad, and keep every review/story alert/favorite e-mail, because I am a sap about these things. Yesterday I had a crappy day and I actually read some of the kind things people have said, and it made me smile. So yeah, I'm pathetically begging for reviews. I'll give you cookies!