Some Portuguese translations: Âvo means grandfather, Senhor is like the Spanish señor, a term of respect, or sometimes abbrieviated Sr. for Mr.. Niña or niño means child, female and male respectively, but is sometimes used as a term of endearment for a young person. I don't know Portuguese at all, and I only know a little Spanish. So please forgive me, native speakers, when I err.
Since I haven't updated in a while, a reminder: Edward is living in a derelict mansion in Brazil. Set during New Moon. Not entirely canon.
Chapter 2: The Only Way to Get it Out
Drug addict was her first thought, when the young man opened the door. Adonis on smack. What else could account for the pallid skin, the dark circles under his eyes, the face filled with despair? His eyes darted mercurially from her grandfather to her, taking in the walking stick and the heavy worn guitar case. He seemed to comprehend instantly that her grandfather was blind.
"Boa tarde, Senhor Amiento," he bowed his head. His voice was like melted chocolate.
Too smooth, she thought. Conman. Thief? She gripped the guitar handle. It was worth tens of thousands of Reais.
"And senhorita. I am Edward Cullen." He did not extend his hand. "Won't you please come in?" His Portuguese accent was crisp – almost aristocratic. Possibly foreign.
"Wait—" she started, her voice shaking more than she'd like. "We'd like payment first."
"Bella," cried her grandfather. "Really, you are too much!" He started apologizing profusely and decrying the poor manners of her generation.
"You don't see what I do, Âvo," she hissed in his ear. The broken lock on the front door. The grand, threadbare staircase leading to a gaping darkness. The young man's strange, otherworldly eyes. She raised her head to look at peer at them again and stifled a gasp. They were blazing at her like amber coals from hell.
"Your name is BELLA?" Edward demanded hoarsely, his nostrils flaring.
Adrenaline opened into her veins. Flee.
"No, no—it's Mirabella. Only my grandfather calls me that!" she cried, feeling that her answer was key to their survival somehow.
"Well, then," he blinked, and just like that he seemed young and vulnerable again. He took a shuddering breath. "Yes...of course. I will pay you now, Senhor. You may stand there or come in, whatever you like." He stepped backward and opened the door fully.
Jesus. Mirabella thought she was going to faint.
"Well, well," chuckled her Grandfather. Couldn't he sense her fear, the old fool? He tapped his stick against the doorframe, pulling her forward. Though every instinct told her to run, now, Mirabella swallowed and gave in, shuffling forward. Edward gave her a little nod – was it an apology? – and turned away, disappearing down a hall.
"Forget this Âvo," she urged. "This place looks like a drug den. Let's go now, while we still can."
"What? No, no, Bella, the young man was very sincere on the phone. Quite serious I thought."
The scenario was just too weird. No one had asked for a lesson from Alberto Amiento in ten years. And at two hundred Reais an hour? In this decaying mansion? "Are you SURE he wants a guitar lesson?"
"I do beg your pardon," the old man huffed. "He asked about my recordings – he knew some of the old songs. It was like he was quizzing me, to see if it really was me, the once great Senhor Amiento."
She rolled her eyes. "Hmph. Well, I'll bet he is an illegal squatter here, then. A runaway...or a beautiful ghost," she muttered under her breath. "Maybe he knows about the guitarra. And he will simply pull out a knife and take it from you."
"What an imagination you have, mi corazón! You are feisty monkey. But give me some space now. I want to assess if the boy has any talent."
"Listen, there isn't even any furniture in the house to sit on. And I smell mold." She peered into a huge and empty salon off the entryway. Then Edward was back, with a white envelope, unsealed.
For a moment, he hesitated. "I assume," Edward said, narrowing his eyes at Mirabella, "that the fee goes to you, Senhor Amiento."
"Ah, no, niño, give it to Bella. She pays my rent and might allow me cerveja or two at the taverna later, si? If I am good and eat my vegetables," Grandfather chortled at his own joke.
"Mm." Edward nodded once and put the envelope into her hand. "May I help you with that?" he said to her, indicating the guitar.
"No," she said, clutching it closer to her legs. She stuffed the envelope in her purse with her free hand. "Show us where you are planning to have this...ah, lesson." She found the whole idea ridiculous still.
He led them patiently through another grand vestibule, populated by only a wooden bench. Grandfather's stick swung back and forth, hitting nothing but the floor. There was a sliding panel door on the far wall, which looked like it had been impaled by some impossibly large fist. The wood had broken and splintered, but the hole was nearly round. What violence had happened here? She gripped her grandfather's arm once again.
"Oh!" she uttered involuntarily. "Deus meu." Behind the panel was a small and exquisite library with floor to ceiling books, the kind with leather bindings and gold-leaf lettering. There was even a rolling ladder. Metal filing cabinets and cardboard boxes, stuffed into the corner, somewhat ruined the effect, but otherwise the room was like a portal into another time. A Chippendale leather sofa, cracked with age, and a huge hulk of desk crowded the floor like fat brown matronas at a party.
"Are you comfortable here, Senhor?" Edward was asking Grandfather, helping him into a chair.
Too solicitous and polite, for someone his age. Edward's eyes turned to her, and she swore that she heard a 'tuh' of indignation.
He walked over to where she stood in the doorway, still clutching the guitar case handle in her hand. She hadn't noticed before how tall he was, how broad his shoulders. He loomed over her. "Feel free to come back in an hour to pick up your Grandfather," he said softly, almost like he was singing. "I assure you that Sr. Amiento will be fine here."
"No, I don't think I will, thank you," she gritted her teeth. She would not fall for his velvet persuasion. "I will stay here during the lesson." She would have moved into the room, but he stood in her way.
"Listen," he leaned in closer, and put one hand up on the lintel above them. A pale bicep bulged from beneath the sleeve of his perfectly white t-shirt. His breath was honey and wine. She swayed a little. "I cannot learn a damn thing with you hovering over your grandfather and your precious guitarra. I want...I need to speak with him, to learn..." he gestured with his other hand, emphasizing, "...his art. Do you understand this?" His angular jaw worked back and forth.
My God, what a face was all she could understand for a moment or two. He blinked, stepped back abruptly and suddenly her head cleared. "NO," she said, not really even sure she remembered the question.
"FINE," he growled and he pushed past her into the vestibule. He grabbed the back of the wooden bench and dragged it along the floor until it sat facing the sliding panel.
"See this?" he seethed. He slapped the seat with his hand. "If you sit RIGHT HERE, you can see right through the hole – see this hole?" She stepped aside and he slid the door along its track until it closed off the library. "I believe you'll have a fantastic view – a clear and perfect view! – of your grandfather and his guitar. Try it!"
She frowned, not wanting to be any further away than she he had to.
"Please." he appealed, swallowing. "I cannot focus, if you are sitting right next to him." His look of abject misery was back, written all over his face. That was no act. What on earth had happened to him?
"Bella..." appealed her grandfather from the library. His hearing was still too damn good.
Goddamit. Taking a breath, she nodded and reluctantly held out the guitar in its case.
"Thank you," Edward murmured, and he went into the library with the guitar, sliding the panel closed behind him.
She lowered herself to the wooden bench. He was right, her view was perfect. The ragged hole in the panel was enormous and at just the right level for her to see her Grandfather sitting in the library. Edward removed La Mujerita from its case – she watched him carefully, for some sign of appreciation. If he recognized greatness, he hid it well. Edward released the guitar into Grandfather's lap with just an oh-so-brief caress of the burled wood.
But Grandfather did not play, nor ask Edward about his music education. "Play for me, niño," he requested simply and Edward began on his own shiny new guitar (she could see the polish from the vestibule), playing Eric Clapton of all things. Grandfather, hunched over with his old man's posture, rested his chin on top of La Mujerita and frowned.
"Again," said Âvo, when the song was done, and Mirabella shifted just a little to see Edward's reaction. His eyebrows were up, his mouth stiff. He was clearly waiting for some kind of critique...approval? She smirked a little. Edward began again, the same Clapton song, when Grandfather interrupted briskly: "Something else."
A moment of silence, then Edward launched into a Segovia composition, a mournful piece she recognized but couldn't recall the title. It was a foolish choice, she thought, technically difficult. From her new position she could see his long fingers on the bridge, shifting so quickly she almost thought it impossible. Clearly he was not high, at least not at the moment. He was quite good, actually, for someone so young.
What a hair color, she thought, watching his bent head. Colors, really, in the plural. He glanced at her for a split second, right through the portal, with a look of irritation. Then he shifted, so he was out of her line of vision again.
He finished. She could hear him breathing hard, as if he'd just run a mile. Grandfather's frown was unchanged, or possibly deeper. "Again," he repeated. "Something else." Surely Edward would protest; they had been there twenty minutes and so far they had only argued about where to sit and listened to the pupil play. Not much return for your 200 Reais there, Edward.
But no, he launched straight into a third composition. This time Edward's chose a folk song of some kind, but it had an edge. Probably about peasants revolting and murdering their masters or something. His play was almost defiant, plucking so hard she thought he'd snap the strings. She stifled a smile, enjoying the tension.
"Stop, Edward," Âvo interrupted suddenly, placing his hand on the bridge of Edward's guitar, distorting the sound. "Stop."
They were silent for a moment and she wondered – she half-hoped -- that Edward would be so put off by Âvo's demands that he would never ask them back again.
"What is it..." Grandfather said in his wheezy baritone, "...what is it that you want, Edward?"
Grandfather could be really opaque sometimes. Was it a small question (answer: a lesson, please) or a big one (answer: to perform one day at the Teatro Nacional)? Mirabella strained to hear Edward's response.
But he did not answer. After a moment he put down his guitar and she saw him stand and move past her porthole.
He came back with a crusty old LP in his hand. "This is you, Senhor, is it not?"
She thought for a moment that Edward had forgotten Âvo was blind, but he hadn't. He carefully slid the record out, put the jacket into Âvo's hands, and said: "It has a watery blue background, with bulbous orange letters. The year was 1962 –"
"Ah HA, my boy! Songs for Lovers and Other Fools, yes! My third album, was paid a ridiculously huge sum of money for it too—"
Which you pissed away in drink and women, thought Mirabella.
Edward moved out of her view and was fiddling with something. "This, Senhor, is what I want." He spoke with almost painful intensity: "I want to play just like this."
A tinny, scratchy sound came from the room. It was Grandfather playing the guitar; an old recording on an even older record player. She couldn't help herself, she shifted on the bench to see. It was a wooden boxed thing, straight from the 60's or even the 50's. That it worked was a miracle.
Edward had sat down again; she could see him perfectly now.
The melody was simple; the playing complex. The recording was badly scratched, but it could not hide the brilliance of Âvo's skill. Mirabella had never heard this song before. The familiar voice, but youthful and confident, the voice of a man at the top of his career, broke into song. The lyrics spoke of lost love and a broken life, of a girl with long hair and soulful eyes.
Grandfather nodded his head in time to the music, his face enthralled. Âvo was his own biggest fan, she thought drily. The he put his hands in their places on the guitar and he picked up the song, matching the recording from memory, note for note. Strong and clear his voice came through the hole in the panel, the clean and distinct tones of La Mujerita putting the old recording to shame. Edward reached over and turned down the volume without moving his eyes from grandfather.
Every night, Âvo would play in the kitchen, in the dark, usually alongside the whoosh whoosh of the dishwasher. This was nothing like that, nothing.
Mirabella felt a lump come to her throat; she lowered her chin, feeling overwhelmed suddenly with pride and affection. And with sadness: the song was the very essence of loss. When had he stopped playing like this? She tried to recall what year her grandmother had died. Is this what inspired such longing in a single song?
Through blurred and teary eyes she gazed back through her portal: Edward was bent over too, leaning on his new guitar. He pressed his face into the crook of his elbow and his shoulders sagged with the weight of who knows what. Silently...he wept? She looked away, feeling like an intruder.
When Grandfather finished, the last note rang in the air and no one moved or said a word for almost an entire minute. Grandfather's face was triumphant, the proud performer once again, even if the audience was only one young man.
Edward seemed to gather himself. "Please," he said at last, into his elbow. He lifted his face, and she was actually surprised to see it was tearless. "Can you teach me to play like that?"
Grandfather's expression clouded. He shrugged and gestured with his palm in the air. "I do not know," he said gruffly. "I was already a seasoned professional when I made that recording. Lessons cannot bring one talent, you know."
The implication was harsh. Mirabella almost felt sorry for the young man. Edward looked like his heart would break.
"You are technically competent..." Grandfather trailed off. "But...you would have to be committed."
"Si, senhor, I am, I will...." There was a note of desperation in his beautiful voice.
Oh God. Now Âvo was the conman, giving this boy hope.
"Are you attending school?" Grandfather continued.
"No, senhor. I have plenty of time to devote to practice."
Unemployed then, she thought. Yeah, what a surprise. He's not stupid; he should be in college. Or working. Where are his parents? He murdered them and is on the run, she thought wildly. They died in a fire and he is homeless. He is a Portuguese Prince, and has embezzled the royal purse, haha; there's an idea.
"Good, good," Âvo clapped his hands together, showing alarming signs of enthusiasm.
Mirabella started to rise from her chair, to put a stop to this. Next, Grandfather would try and extort some exorbitant fee from Edward, and who knew where that money was coming from.
Edward held up his hand, sharply, as if he'd read her mind.
"Please," he said, firmly. And his eyes slowly swung to her through the hole in the door. "Once a week, for an hour. Or two if you can spare it. I have to try."
"Why?" asked Grandfather curiously. "Tell me why you want this."
Edward kept his eyes on Mirabella, but leaned forward and whispered his answer in Grandfather's ear.
"I think you enjoyed that," she grinned at her grandfather, as they drove back across town.
"No, no, how could I?" Âvo disagreed, dramatically, his hand over his heart. "The boy has a broken heart."
"I wonder why..." she murmured. "So. Are we back for next Thursday then?"
"Sí, sí. Edward needs us," nodded Grandfather.
Maybe you need him too. "He doesn't think he needs me there, that's certain."
"Not you, Bella. He needs Mi Mujerita and me."
"Oh, thanks a lot. Ask your mujerita to drive next time then," she said, and they both laughed.
Mirabella waited until they were near their local tavern and then asked: "Âvo, what did Edward tell you, when he whispered in your ear?"
"He spoke to me in confidence, niña. I can't tell you. Hey," he recognized the turns and stops near their home. "Do you think I can just have a little one? I've earned some money today."
"One beer? I don't know. I'll think about it."
"Aren't we near the tavern now?"
"What did Edward tell you," she repeated,"when he whispered in your ear?"
"You are a sly monkey, my Bella. He said: 'It is the only way, to get it out.'"
"What the hell does that mean? To get out what?"
"I don't know, Bella. I don't know."
She dropped Âvo off at the door of the tavern.
That night she dreamt that Edward stood over her in the doorway, his hands holding onto the lintel above them. She reached up to press a finger to the hard bulge of his pale, pale bicep, then realised he was holding up the entire building.
"Oh Edward, oh Edward. Are you all right my dear?"
"I'm okay. Thank you for your long texts."
"Just keeping you abreast of your family's news...not that there is any, really. Are you feeding properly?"
"Yes. I have direct access to the jungle."
"Well, we all miss you terribly. Even Rose."
"I miss you too. Is everyone well?"
"You don't sound right, Edward."
".... Is everyone well?"
"Um, yes. Alice had a bit of a falling out with Tanya and now Tanya's gone off somewhere for a few months. We're trying to decide where to go live next. Denali is lovely of course...but we are visitors here."
"Esme. Has...have you.... Is there any news of...?"
"Bella? No, dear. Alice is trying to stay out of her future."
"Unless you want her to look...?"
"No, she shouldn't look. She shouldn't. Okay... I..."
"Say hello to everyone."
"I do wish you'd come home."
"Not yet, Esme... I'm not...I can't."
"I understand son. Please don't neglect yourself."
"Okay. Don't worry."
"Text or call, anytime."
He sounded awful, hardly like himself at all. Practically stammering! Esme put down the phone and cried for a little while. She had been good; she didn't ask about the old man and the brunette of Alice's visions. Esme felt jealous, a bit – though glad he wasn't entirely alone. Alice had assured Esme that these new humans offered therapy, not comfort, but Esme didn't like the idea of Edward consorting with any new young woman. If he ever became like the Denali sisters, taking random human lovers for pleasure... well... she shuddered. Bitterness could drive him to it, she supposed. Oh Bella, she thought. It's not too late.
End notes: If you read this entire chapter, then thanks for giving my OC's a chance! Fun to write, often disregarded for canon characters.
So... what do you think of Mirabella? It's hard to know if I'm hitting my intended goals without a full beta, so I would welcome your opinions. Yeah, there's no sex YET in this story. Do I have to write some in to get a review...? ;) Also if you see errors, let me know. Thanks!