Sorry for the long wait - this is quite a brief one but hopefully the next will be up faster, i've just been completely bogged down with exams & coursework. Enjoy!

Chapter 10 – Coping With Life

EPOV

I had never seen my face so pale. Bella was staring at my agent, Mike Newton, as if he had just sprouted tentacles from his ears. It was rather amusing.

"So how many people are we expecting to turn up?" She asked.

"About a hundred thousand each night; although the numbers might change as we take Eclipse on tour."

I cleared my throat, gently touching her elbow, "That's amazing; it'll be such a great night."

Mike looked at me with sharp, dark eyes, "It sure will."

"Yeah" Bella muttered, "Sounds just fabulous."

"So," he continued, "Any concrete decisions on what you'll be singing yet? Obviously your single 'Firelight', it's the most recent in the charts, and 'Biscuits, Sweets and Hot Chocolate' that's always a crowd pleaser."

I winced; I hated that bloody song. Bella looked at me with a mixture of horror and amusement. I don't think she could decide which the appropriate emotion was.

"But have you thought of anything new? The crowds have paid for a stunner, so you'd better deliver." Mike frowned, "Is there anything you could work on?"

Bella shook her head, "Not that you haven't heard already."

"Shame." He sighed.

"But Edward can sing whatever he feels comfortable with, right?" I asked, looking poignantly at Bella. She grimaced.

"Yeah, whatever he likes. The fans will love him regardless. He could sing 'Baa-Baa Black Sheep' for all they care."

"Thanks Mike." She said, dryly.

He raised his head and faced me, mouth pursed so slightly it could have been a trick of the light. "You never did tell me, Edward, who this charming young woman is."

I coughed. "Bella."

"She's a friend of mine." Bella added.

"Mmm" he nodded, "A good friend to have. Anyway, I must be off – people to see and all that. Don't forget the warm-up gig's in a few weeks time and I'll need the information you want on the literature for that. And keep practicing: that voice and body of yours is worth its weight in gold."

"See you later Mike." Bella replied, following him through to the front door. I stayed where I was, leaning against the cold marble kitchen surfaces. It was all I had, these icy, meaningless rewards for a natural talent.

When she came back into the room her eyes were downcast, shoulder slumped in defeat. "Are you alright?"

"I can't do it Edward." She glanced up carefully, "I can't sing."

"But I can – and you have my voice. Just try for me, please? Sing a couple of scales right now, give it a go."

She opened her mouth and almost whispered the faintest tune.

"Take a deep breath through your nose first, that's it; now push the sound out from your diaphragm, not from your throat."

She did as I bid, only she belted the lyrics so hard that her voice cracked and she froze with her hands clapped over her mouth, "My God, I'm awful."

"Don't worry, it could be worse, you might have to go shopping with the devil incarnate."

"I'm assuming you mean Alice?" She said.

"Who else? Besides we can always get Mike to cancel, and you never know we could be back in our own bodies before then."

"How? Are we going to go to the doctor's?"

"And say what?" I grinned, putting on an aged voice, "'So Mr Cullen what is the matter with you today?' 'Well you see, recently, I've just been feeling like such a girl.'"

She snorted. On the table top her phone suddenly leapt up, vibrating and trilling metallically.

"At least you don't sound as bad as that." I said reaching to answer it, "hello?"

"Hey, Bella? It's your dad."

"Hi Charlie," I replied, smiling at his daughter, "How're you?"

"I'm good thanks Bells." He paused, "Life treating you alright?"

"Not too badly." Bella poked me in the ribs, hard. I flinched mouthing 'Ouch' and backed away from the violent girl.

She raised an eyebrow, hands on hips, whispering, "You'll make him worry."

"Hey Bella?" Charlie asked once more.

"Yes dad." I replied, ignoring my indignant companion.

"I actually called to ask you something."

"Ok, shoot."

"Well, we're having this party-thing in a week or two, I don't really know what's going on, Sue's organising it, but I think we're having a barbeque of sorts. It should be nice – and Jacob will be there, his band is playing. It would mean a lot to him if you come along. He misses you. Everyone does, they haven't seen you in months. I doubt we'll even recognise you." He chuckled, but it was a sad, tender sort of laughter. "Say you'll come – there's something I need to tell you face to face."

I hesitated, wondering how to relay the message to Bella for a quick decision.

Charlie coughed, "And you can bring a friend too if you like, if that...helps."

I swallowed, "I'd love to come. I wouldn't miss it for the world."

"Thank you. It's on the 18th, six-thirty at Sue's place."

"Six-thirty, got it."

"Love you Bells."

"You too."

He put the phone down and the hollow ring of the dial tone sang out. Bella watched me minutely from across the room, her hands clasping the counter top.

"Did you hear?" I asked.

"Every word – he always did speak too loudly over the phone. When I was little I used to always tell him off for shouting when I called." She flung her head back and laughed, "Its funny isn't it? My life is in an absolute mess, and I don't even have to sort it out – you're left with all my issues."

I frowned. Then calmly her laughter morphed into tears, and she slid to the floor, trembling. I went and knelt down beside her, I held her in my arms as she wept and tried to soothe. "I'm sorry." She murmured.

"Don't be."

"But I am. Charlie was right; they won't recognise me I've been away for so long – running, always running and trying to prove I was stronger than any of them. When I'm not."

I rubbed her back, softly, "You're the bravest person I know, Bella."

"Oh, shut up."

"Why? It's true. How many people can wake up in another person's body and not totally freak out – and not need major counselling? I rather thought it was you dealing with the mess of my life, not the other way around."

"You don't need counselling." She sniffed.

"Bella, I needed counselling even before all this chaos." She giggled and I grinned, "Trust me, you're a special person."

"Yeah, special needs."

I shook my head, "And yet utterly incorrigible."

Bella leant forward and hugged me tight, our arms wrapped around one another like the branches of two intertwined trees, clinging on too afraid to let go.

Behind me I heard footsteps and then a throat being cleared. I turned only to see my father shuffling away, red as anything. He saw us looking at him and smiled, tentatively, "Please don't tell your mother I interrupted you." And with that he rushed from the room.

I hope you liked it, their relationship is really starting to bloom i think. As always reviews please!!!

W.F.L xx