There are a few people to thank for their help in the creation and publishing of this story. First, thanks to A. for being the bestest friend ever. She has edited like a madwoman and helped in the brain-storming process. Next, thanks to R. for being the best boyfriend ever. He's read this over for me countless times even though he detests Twilight, and he's kept me laughing for days with his Andy Bellefleur impersonation.
Lastly, thanks to my beta, Starrynytex, who is awesome and believes in me. Her story, The Boy in the Red Sweater, is in the finals for the Indie Twific Awards, and her Edward rocks my socks by making me grateful for my own nerd boyfriend with adorable glasses.
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. Stephenie Meyer does. I only own a nifty Dell laptop, a 2005 Nissan Altima, and ridiculous amounts of music I bought off of iTunes.
A man takes my hand and leads me to a room. I can't see his face because the lighting is too dim, but I know that he is a stranger. After we walk through the door, he asks, "Do you trust me?" kisses the hand he is holding, and leads me to the edge of a large, dark hole. I cannot see the bottom of the abyss, and I am scared. He repeats his question, then drops my hand. He removes all of his clothing and stands before me, letting me gaze upon the lean muscles of his legs and strong muscles of his shoulders and stomach. He repeats his question, his voice sounding both more desperate and more seductive. He quickly grabs my hand, whispers into my ear "Here we go," and pulls me down the abyss with him. We are suddenly on the street where I live, and this man is lying on the ground, covered in blood from a gaping wound in his side. I scream for help, but no one comes. He smiles at me and whispers, "My angel,", and moves his hand up, pointing at my torso. I look down at myself and see that I have a matching wound.
Every time I have that dream, I wake up in a cold sweat and screaming. My roommate and brother, Emmett, used to come in and check on me, but now he just stays in his room and waits for me to come to him. I haven't gone to his room in three days now, but that's because I haven't slept enough to have the dream.
This is going to wreak havoc on my creative flow, I thought. If I can't sleep, how am I going to finish my third novel?
At that moment, my door opened and a tiny blur of black hair and pale skin jumped into my bed with me. Alice, my best friend since the age of five, and my other roommate, had decided it was time to wake me up. She obviously didn't know that I'd only gotten two hours of sleep the night before.
"Damn, Bella, you look like shit. Don't you sleep anymore?" she asked as she crawled under my purple comforter with me. It was definitely a plus to have her sleeping in the bedroom next to mine. Alice has always picked up my slack and driven me to succeed, from cookie selling in Brownies at age seven to making sure I wrote at least five pages a day now at age twenty-one. She was my most motivating force, but officially she was my personal assistant. On the side, she paints, sculpts, and dances.
"Not for the past three days, no. I can't seem to shake this dream," I replied. She nodded sympathetically as she cuddled in next to me. After a few minutes, I scrambled out of my bed and headed to the closet, hoping that I had a clean pair of jeans and a sweatshirt to hide in. I selected a dark denim pair with holes in the knees and frayed edges at the bottom. I didn't have a clean sweatshirt, so I chose a long-sleeved black shirt with a V-neck and roses embroidered on the hem and up and down the sleeves. Alice had bought this shirt for me, as she had almost all of my clothes, stating that a writer had to look either a little Bohemian or a little scary to be taken seriously.
Ugh, I thought. I have to get some writing done today, or my editor will kill me for letting it fall so behind. I headed to the bathroom to brush my teeth and hair and to put on make-up as Alice rambled on about the guy she'd been dating for about three months.
"Jasper and I had the most romantic dinner last night. He cooked me this wonderful parmesan risotto, and the salad had the most divine dressing! I love a man who can cook," she said as she sat down at my desk chair, twirling in a circle and giggling to herself.
"Uh-huh," I mumbled back around my tooth brush. Alice had already told me this twice: once directly when she got home, and again just before she went to sleep.
"And even though he's a corporate clone, he's so creative. On Saturday he and a couple of friends are playing a show at Yorkie's. The music is decent enough, even for the standards of a crazed music elitist like yourself. I want you to go with me this time, is that ok?" she asked.
"Uh-huh," I mumbled as I pulled a snarled ball of tangle out my hair with my hairbrush. I was getting kind of sick of hearing all about Jasper. Sure, he was a nice enough guy; he always had an encouraging word, a new joke, funny story, or a good weed connection. Still, I didn't need to hear his name five hundred times a day. Of course, I could always weasel out of going to the show by stating inspiration had struck. But she'd know you were lying; she always knows. Oh, shut up, internal commentary.
"And the best part about him is he has an extra dick! I love the feel of both of them at once!"
"Uh-huh….wait, what?" I choked out as I drew a black line of eyeliner down my cheek.
"Just making sure you were listening. You're off in never-never land, sweetie," she giggled as she hopped off the chair and stood next to me, staring at our reflections in the mirror. Even at six AM Alice looked perfectly put-together, and I looked….dead. "Are you sure you're okay, B? Maybe we should take the day off and go shopping. I'll even let you buy some of that mixed up mess of cheesecake and seventy other flavors from Marble Slab that you love so much."
"Thanks, Al, but I'm already behind twenty pages. I'm just really tired. I may have to go over to Jacob's and grab some of that awesome herbal tea. And some stronger pot." I hugged her with one arm, and then moved out of my bathroom to my desk to turn on my computer as I finished putting on mascara.
"Jasper says that his buddy slash new roomie gives these amazing massages. He said that it felt like all of the tension just melted away," she said, sitting in lotus position on my bed and stretching her arms straight up into the air.
"Yeah, and is the friend female?" I teased as the password screen lit up. I typed in my password, and watched my desktop picture pop up as the rest of the start menu loaded. My desktop picture was the cover of my first book, a golden scene of clouds and sky and sparrows floating across. I felt like it was mocking me for not having the inspiration for the third.
"No, actually, it's a guy he knows from the New York corporate scene. His name is Edward, and he's, like, Jasper's best friend in the whole world. Oh, and guess what Edward's doing out here on the West Coast?" she asked as she stood up and did one of the tree poses from the yoga class we go to. I'd always been jealous of Alice's grace, and balance. My eyes flitted to my knee, which I knew was bruised from tripping over a shoe yesterday, before staring back up at the desk top picture. Stop mocking me, you stupid fucking birds.
"Escaping the hustle and bustle of one metropolis for the smog and pollution of another?" I asked, hoping Alice had taken my silence for thought on a witty reply.
"No, he's taking a sabbatical from the money-hungry yuppie life to work on composing."
"Real music or commercialized packaged feces for the masses?" I asked as I opened up the file for the newest chapter. Unfortunately, it had only one sentence written on it: I suck I suck I suck. I began to twirl in my chair as Alice had done earlier, trying to erase the sentence from my head.
"Oh, you are snarky this morning! Real music, like classical piano sonatas and choral masterpieces and whatever the fuck else classical people compose nowadays. He was apparently a child piano prodigy, supposedly even better than Mozart. He even went to Julliard. I don't know how he ended up in corporate land, but now he's slumming it with us bohos." Alice bent down at her waist to touch the floor as she stretched her body into an inverted V.
"Why this outpouring of information? I've never even met the guy, and I'm not sure I want to, since he associates with Jasper and all, " I teased as I looked back at my blank computer screen. I suck I suck I suck. Right now I fucking hate my job. Back to twirling.
"Shut it, biotch!" Alice winked at me. "You know you like Jasper. And you should care, because Edward's super nice, and sensitive, and talented, and he doesn't know anyone around here except for me and Jazz. Please try to be his friend? And yes, I realize I'm being too forward and I'm meddling in the lives of others."
"Oh, like that hasn't stopped you before."
"True." She giggled to herself. "But you'll at least have a lot to talk about because of the music and writing thing. Artist types always get along, look at us!"
"And he also gives great massages, apparently. I wonder if he's professionally trained. Maybe he'll give me a happy ending?" I joked as I reached over and tickled Alice's side. She collapsed and rolled onto her back, giggling and pulling my arm so she could reach me to try to tickle me, to no avail.
After the attempted tickle, Alice responded, "Who knows? I know all of my massages from Jasper end in a happy ending." We looked at each other for a moment, then burst into giggles. I rolled out of my chair to join Alice on the floor.
"Oh, tell me more, Alice. I'm dying to hear details," said Emmett, who was leaning on the doorway. My big, burly bear of a brother winked at us, and then motioned to my computer. "Getting started already?"
I got up off of the floor and walked back to my computer chair. "I'm trying to, but this little pesky pixie keeps distracting me. Granted, I have no inspiration, or drive, so who knows?" I replied, hoping that he got the gist and would call my publisher to beg for an extension. Emmett was my agent and financial manager, partly because he was one of three people I could trust not to fuck me over, and partly because he was so attuned to my needs that he knew exactly how to get me what I wanted from my publisher.
"I'll put in a call to Angela and see what we can do. Maybe we should go on vacation soon? A change of pace might be what you need," he said as he walked out of the doorway into the living room.
"So, anyway, Edward's going to be at Yorkie's, too. He's singing with Jazz. Please tell me you'll at least try to talk to him?" Alice begged as she got to her feet.
"Fine. This better not turn into a repeat of the Newton situation. Remember how you told me to be nice and he practically stalked me for a month?" I asked as I stood back up and sat back down into my computer chair, putting my feet on my desk.
"It won't, Edward's not like that," Alice reassured. "You know, some breakfast might get the muses going. I'll go make pancakes!" said Alice, skipping out the door of my room and closing it behind her.
"Or maybe I just need some fucking sleep," I mumbled to myself as I stared at the blank word processor screen in front of me.
I suck I suck I suck. Oh, computer, you have no idea. After a minute, I followed Alice into the kitchen, knowing that trying to write today would be futile.
I woke up at five AM, after going to sleep at two. I knew I wouldn't be able to fall back to sleep, so I decided to try to work on this damn composition. After three hours of thinking and hearing the music in my head, all I had to show for it was a C minor chord. Some musical genius you are, Cullen, I thought to myself. It took you three hours to write one of the most basic chords there is. At least it wasn't an A minor chord. I just needed to write something of substance to break this dry spell. I haven't composed anything real for almost five years. Hell, I haven't even played the piano in five years.
"No wonder I suck so much," I said to no one.
Then the inspiration hit me. I typed in a title for my C minor chord into the composition software: I Suck I Suck I Suck by Edward Anthony Cullen. Oh, yeah, this astonishing work will get as many awards as the mezzo-soprano art song set I wrote for…..anyway.
"Ok, it's not good for you to sit at a computer for three hours straight. If you're going to do that, you might as well do something constructive, like play World of Warcraft or something. I'm sure there's a guild needing a bard or some shit," said my closest friend and new roommate, Jasper Whitlock. I had met Jasper when I was a sixteen-year-old wunderkind studying piano performance and composition at Juilliard's Pre-College Division classes. Jasper was a normal kid who found me sitting in Central Park writing compositions in my notebooks and looking like a thrift store vomited on me. He was my first real friend, since when you're in Juilliard on the weekends you just don't have time for socializing.
"Is that what you do in the big fancy office of yours? And here I thought you actually did your job well. I guess I have to call up Alice and tell her that her boyfriend's a giant nerd who actually knows shit about role-playing games. By the way, World of Warcraft doesn't have a bard class," I said as I turned my computer chair around to look at him.
"It's pitiful that you know that. And this from a guy who's been awake for God knows how long writing masterful compositions or whatever. So, did the muse come back?" he asked as he bit into an apple he had in his hand.
"Yeah, well, apparently I'm still battling my writer's block, as evidenced by the single solitary chord written on this screen. So I have no idea what to do with the rest of my day. Hey, aren't you supposed to be at work or something?" I asked him as I stretched backward over my chair.
"Nah, I decided to take the day off. Alice isn't doing anything today, so we might go get lunch or something. She mentioned something about going to a shop that sold all kinds of clothes from different eras, and the owner used to be an actress in these indie movies from the 80's and early 90's. We'll see where the day takes us," he said with a goofy grin on his face. Alice was a really sweet girl, although a little too energetic and enthusiastic for me at times. Despite the ADHD tendencies, Jasper was completely head over heels for this girl, so I figured she must be a good egg. He's a good judge of character.
"I hope she doesn't spend all your money. I've heard tales of the destruction Alice Brandon can cause in a clothing store. In fact, didn't you tell me last week about…"
"Oh, there's Alice now," he interrupted as he took out his cell phone. He wandered out of my room and into the living room, saying, "Hey, babe, what's up?"
I turned my attention back to the measly little chord on my computer screen. You need a new voice to write for, dude, I thought to myself. Someone vibrant and full of dark overtones and dramatic flair. Someone completely different from the harpy who sang sweetly in your ear and cost you your music. If only you could just write the music for yourself like you did when you were a kid. Fucking Tanya.
Jasper came back into the room and sighed. "Well, looks like it's you and me, buddy. Alice is doing damage control for her BFF. Apparently you're not the only one with writer's block."
"Which friend are you talking about again?" I asked. I don't remember Jasper mentioning a friend of Alice's who wrote or composed or something similar. Although I hadn't really been listening too much to what others have said around me since I moved to Los Angeles. I've been in my own depressed artist fog, trying to break through and be great again. You'll never get it back since you walked away. Shut it, conscience.
"Have I not told you about the magnificence that is Bella Swan? She's a published best-seller at nineteen, working on her third novel. She has this amazing house in Laurel Canyon that she lives in with her brother and Alice. She's hot, she's smart as a whip, and she knows almost as much about music as you do. She's like the female you….minus the piano and Mozart comparisons, and adding in the most popular pieces of fiction since those vampire books that came out a few years ago."
"Huh," I pondered as I stood up from my chair. "Have you read her books?"
"Of course! Alice said I wouldn't get a second date until I read Wings on the Summer Wind. The girl is fucking devoted to Bella, and if I wanted her, I had to read. Granted, it's like a teenager love fest, but it's a decent enough story. And the second book, Emerald Azure Ruby, was about fairies and witches and shit like that. I never read it. I'm hoping that her next book has more of a bite to it, though. Well, if she ever gets it finished. Oh, and you'll get to meet her on Saturday, because Alice is bringing her to see us at Yorkie's."
"Jazz, you know I'm not dating right now. Don't try to set me up," I said, walking past Jasper, through the living room, and into the kitchen.
"I'm not trying to set you up, man, I'm just trying to get you laid," responded Jasper as he followed me, nudging my arm as he walked past me. "Something or someone needs to help you forget Tanya. She was a bitch, and she used you to get ahead in her career. It happens. But you have to move on sometime. It's been five fucking years. And Bella is smokin'….the complete physical opposite of Tanya, so you won't have anything embarrassing happen like calling out the wrong name."
"I don't know. I'll have to meet the girl." Jasper grinned at me with a look in his eye that said he was plotting something. "I'm not committing to anything, mind you. I just said I'd talk to the girl."
"Whatever you say, E. Now go get dressed. Looks like you're my date for the day," he chuckled as he walked out of the kitchen.
As I made myself an omelet for breakfast, I thought about what Jasper had said. Maybe you do need a good lay to forget about Tanya. You haven't dated in who knows how long. Maybe a new girl will give you a new perspective on the composing thing.
"Yeah, right," I said to myself. "What you need is some sleep."
Saturday. Fucking Saturday.
Jasper loaded all of the equipment into his gas-guzzling SUV as I finalized the set list for the night. I made sure to arrange it to have a variety of different types of music so that it reflected more of my personal tastes. I was fortunate that Jasper and the rest of the guys in the band - Tyler, Ben, and the bar's owner, Eric - had similar tastes. They'd already learned the music I had chosen for the night for previous shows.
As we got closer to the bar, my heart rate started increasing to an alarming rate. I knew that I would start panicking about being on a stage again when I told Jasper I'd sing with the band of misfits that he plays with. I didn't expect it to be debilitating. Maybe it was debilitating because four days had passed and I hadn't written anything.
We stepped into the bar, and I looked around and saw…. people. Lots and lots of people, and I didn't know a single one. I started to count my blessings that I could at least hide behind the piano. Except you haven't played in public for five years, you ridiculous, fucking idiot. I swallowed thickly, hoping I wasn't sweating through the blue silk button down Jasper had made me wear. I am so fucked.
Next thing I knew, it was Saturday. I still hadn't slept more than three hours a night, and this morning I had the dream again. I was not in a great mood, and Alice still insisted I come along. I agreed, but only if I was allowed to pick my outfit. I wasn't going to dare step outside of the house feeling like death warmed over if I had to wear an Alice concoction. I mean, tonight she was wearing fairy wings. I wasn't having that. I opted for jeans that were slung low on the hip and a men's black tank top. I did relent and let Alice do my eye make-up in dazzling, glittery shades of dark blues and black.
Then we stepped into the bar. I looked around us, noticing that there were a lot of people. More people than I thought there would be for a band that just played cover songs. Great, just fucking great. I feel like shit, and I have to be in a fucking crowd. I am so fucked.
Jasper patted my shoulder and said, "Alice is over there! Come on!"
I followed, trying not to bump into anyone as we walked through the crowd. I looked in the direction we were headed and saw Alice. She was wearing a simple black dress, pink glittery stockings, and fairy wings. Her face was covered in glitter. The girl knew how to grab attention, I'll give her that.
We finally reached her, and she said loudly over the noise, "Bella went to the bar to grab some drinks for the two of us. She'll be back in a minute." Then she grabbed Jasper and basically shoved her tongue down his throat. Thanks, Jazz, really appreciate being left to my own devices here. I wondered to myself if Alice was drunk already, or if she just missed Jasper that much. I just hoped Alice's friend would get over here soon so I wouldn't feel so….alone.
I finally got the drinks - a cherry vodka sour for me and a tequila sunrise for Alice - and looked around the room. I spotted Alice and Jasper making out near the stage. Great, now I get to try and make conversation with a complete stranger. As if I weren't already awkward enough with the clumsiness. I walked over to them, stumbled once after tripping on the shoe of a rather tall man wearing copious amounts of leather, and was about three feet away when I noticed Jasper's male companion shifting anxiously from foot to foot as he stared at the ground.
Hot damn, this man was gorgeous. Tall and thin and lean and scrumptious. His face was all perfect cheekbones and a perfectly angled jaw. His lips…. my God, those lips…. were full and soft-looking. His hair was an interesting reddish-brown color that reminded me of bronze, and it was sticking out all over the place like it hadn't been combed in days.
Then he looked up, and his eyes about killed me. Green. Fucking green eyes, and Alice knew that green eyes were my weakness. I felt my body getting warm and tingly all over. Of course Jasper's friend was pure sex in blue silk, it was just my luck for things to work out this way. I'd never felt such…. lust….. before, especially for a man that I had never even talked to before. I normally needed to know a man had a brain before I entertained the idea of wild monkey sex.
Then I realized I'd been staring for a while. Oops. I decided to walk over to the group with steely resolve not to jump Hottie McHottie's bones.
"Alice! Tequila!" I shouted at her, startling her out of her Jasper-induced fog. She squealed and took her drink from me as my eyes stayed focused on Mr. Sex Hair.
Jasper cleared his throat. "So, Bella, this here is my friend, Edward Cullen. Edward, this here is Alice's friend, Bella Swan." I smiled at the beautiful man and tried to keep my already crumbling composure. I had a feeling this wasn't going to end well for any part of me except my libido.
Jasper was talking, but I didn't really hear what he was saying. I was too busy staring at the stunningly beautiful girl in front of me. She was so small….kind of short, and rather thin and waif-ish. Her hair was a rich, lustrous tangle of brown curls, and her eyes were a deep brown that had this glowing fire about them. The glittery dark make-up around them intensified the way they shined at me. Her lips were a perfect Cupid's bow, and I found myself wondering if they were as soft as they looked. I'd never been so physically drawn to a person before…..it was like a Bella magnet had a hold of my cock. Hold on, Cullen, gotta focus on talking now.
"Edward Cullen? Like the composer of La fille avec les yeux brillants? Are you that Edward Cullen?" she asked, eyes smoldering, and I immediately tensed up. Of course this diminutive beautiful girl knew Tanya's song cycle.
I paused before replying, "Yeah, I composed that. I take it you're familiar with the piece?" I swallowed, feeling nervous and a little angry at the mention of that particular work. It was the last piece I wrote for Tanya, and my crowning achievement, forever tainted now by her memory.
"I sang it in my senior year in high school for a competition. I always loved singing, I was in choir in high school and during college, but quickly realized I was better at the writing thing." She smiled at me, and her eyes burned brighter. Such passionate eyes. They stared into mine, almost as if she knew I was drowning in them.
"And how long ago was that? I wrote that like six years ago." I smiled back at her, starting to relax. She had a sweet smile and fiery eyes, and because of them I had this feeling like I could talk to her for hours about everything and never be bored. But hey, it'd be nice to have another friend around here besides Jasper, even if I wanted to take this "friend" to the bathroom and bend her over the sink.
"About four years ago. But I have a recording of it done by Cecilia Bartoli, and I listen to it all the time. It's a really wonderful piece, you should be proud of it." She moved her hand to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, almost as if she were nervous about something. Those eyes darted across the room , glancing in Alice's direction for a moment before settling back on me again. I was too busy wondering what other music she listened to, since she'd already shown great taste in operatic mezzo-sopranos.
Instead, I answered, "I guess. Jasper told me you were an author. I've never read your books, I'm sorry." I ran my fingers through my hair, hoping that she wouldn't catch on that I was still staring at her. I saw a small strip of a black lace bra strap peeking out from under her tank top. Lord help me, black fucking lace.
"It's okay, you're not part of the target demographic. When Alice told me Jasper had read Wings on the Summer Wind, I questioned his sexuality for a while." She winked at me, and her smile turned into a full-on grin. Fuck, she was dazzling me and had no idea.
"Yeah, well, I still continue to question it. Did you know he waxes his eyebrows?" I winked at her and swore I saw her breath hitch before she laughed. Such a sensual, throaty laugh.
"Hey, now," Jasper interjected, "Alice can attest to my preferences for the female form. Anyway, E, we need to get up to the stage," said Jasper.
I gave a weak smile to Bella, nodded my head to Alice, and said goodbye to both. Jasper gave Alice a quick peck on the cheek and led the way to the stage and my imminent doom. Hopefully I wouldn't embarrass myself too much.
A/N: A few notes...
The title of the chapter comes from the poem "To A Stranger" by Walt Whitman.
La fille avec les yeux brilliants means "the girl with the brilliant eyes" in French. It is not a real composition.
Cecilia Bartoli is a wonderful operatic mezzo-soprano. Look up one of her many performances on youtube or iTunes. I suggest "Voi che sapete" from The Marriage of Figaro.
Reviews are as exciting and appreciated as black lace.