A/N: This fic is a sequel to my first AH/AU fic titled If You were Mine. They make more sense in sequence, naturally, so make sure you read the first one before starting on this one. Like the first story, this one has alternating POVs as well. I'm having a great time writing this monster, so I hope you guys enjoy it.
Huge thank you for Mizra and BlondeBubble who helped me so much to get this story together, and were extremely patient with me as I kept bugging them with questions (and still do!). Among other things, Mizra made the story's banner, and BlondeBubble has been my personal advisor for all-things-London. I love you guys, this story was nothing if it wasn't for you.
Enough said. Let's get this show on the road! Happy reading, everyone! Please drop me a review if you like it =)
Disclaimer: the Twilight characters are the eternal property of Stephenie Meyer. I mean them no harm – I'm only playing. The title is a line from Band of Skulls' song Friends, on the New Moon soundtrack.
You Were Mine All Along
You Were Mine All Along
Chapter One – Bella
"Is this a joke?" I asked the faceless voice on the other end. I held the phone so tight it hurt my fingers. With my other hand, I began to rub my temple very slowly, hoping the motion would shake me out of the numbness my mind was rapidly sinking into. I listened to the sound of my own breathing speeding up as I anxiously awaited his reply. A part of me didn't have to wait for the answer to know it wasn't a joke. Another part needed it to be a mistake. It couldn't be happening. Not to me, not now, not ever.
"You are Isabella Swan, aren't you?"
"Yes, but – "
"And you have auditioned for the English National Ballet in front of Miss Philippa Logan three weeks ago in New York, haven't you?"
"Yes, but – "
"Then you might want to start making the necessary arrangements, Miss Swan."
It was the weirdest feeling, being completely thrilled and yet completely flabbergasted at the same time. My palms were sweaty when I finally put the phone down. I could almost hear my heart hammering in my chest. My breathing still wasn't right. I was already sitting down, which was fortunate because all of a sudden I felt really dizzy. The conversation still echoed in my head, and its meaning was sinking in faster than I could take. I wasn't sure if I should throw up or dance for joy.
Never in my wildest dreams had I expected to get in. I'd only gone to that audition as a gesture for Madame La Pierre who got it for me. I'd tried not to let it show, but I'd been skeptic when she had first told me. The English National Ballet? Please. Like I'd ever had a chance. I hadn't truly considered the pros and cons since I'd never expected to actually pass that audition. I finally found my place in this city I loved. I was about to graduate in a few weeks. Moving away anywhere, especially to Europe, seemed so far-fetched now.
It all started about two months ago, when Madame La Pierre asked me to meet her in her office after class. I thought she wanted to discuss the upcoming spring project, because it was that time of year when no one had spoken about anything else, but it turned out she had other things in mind.
"So, you'll be graduating soon," she said after very little small talk. This was how she'd been like: always practical, businesslike and straight to the point. "Any thoughts of the future?"
"Umm, not really," I replied. Three months before graduation, I was just trying to keep my focus on school issues, especially the spring project that was scarcely a month away. A deadline followed a deadline, and there were days I thought the pressure would bury me under. But I couldn't have that. I wouldn't. I had no intention of messing up my last months in Juilliard.
"Have you ever heard about the English National Ballet?"
The random question confused me, but I replied anyway. "A little. I think we had a guest lecturer from there last year."
"Quite possibly," she nodded. "One of the managers, Philippa Logan, is a close friend of mine. We were roommates here a long time ago. She was one of the international students, and she went back to England right after we graduated. The English National Ballet rarely accepts non-English dancers, but ever since Philippa became involved in management… let's just say Juilliard has a warm place in her heart. Every year she asks me to list a few of my outstanding students. She holds a private and rather secretive audition session here. One or two people are eventually accepted." This was where she stopped and pinned me with a significant stare. "She's coming to New York next month." Before I could grasp the meaning of this statement or how it had to do with me, she smiled at me. "I've given her your name."
"W-what?" I stammered, the blood draining from my face.
I was sure astonishment was written all over my expression, but she calmly dismissed it. "A career path to consider. They have excellent reputation, as you probably know. It can be a wonderful starting point for you."
"But I don't… I can't…"
"Bella," she said; her eyes hadn't released mine yet. "I have good eye perception. And I've been following you since your first day here. If anyone can do well on those auditions, you can."
"But I haven't even considered – "
"It will be June before you know it. Maybe it's time to start considering," she actually winked at me, but her amusement was brief. Soon she was all-business again. "I'll be happy to prep you for the audition. I think your usual routine will do just fine, but we can add on some improvements to it and it would be…"
She went on and on, but I was hardly listening. The room swirled around me, and I kept blinking just to make sure I was still awake. She'd just said she got me an audition… for the English National Ballet? It was at some point during my second year here when I realized that being a ballerina and keeping it as a steady profession was going to be harder than I thought. Sure, anyone could find a place in some ballet troupe someplace, but to get into the really good ones, ones that were famous worldwide, was nearly impossible to do. So I didn't give it up entirely, but I'd come to terms with the improbability of it. And I was okay with it. It didn't leave me scarred or traumatized. I loved living in New York. There was too much to give up if I left, so staying was the best option.
And there she was, giving me exactly what I'd always wanted before I made my home here.
Leaving everything behind to pursue a dance career seemed so… romantic, impulsive, everything I was not. I'd built myself a life here, away from my mom and dad and everything I'd ever known before. I didn't have to be anyone's caretaker and I liked it. I loved it. I didn't have to make sure Renée paid her bills on time. I didn't have to worry about getting Charlie's dinner. It sounded selfish, but I could finally be myself here. Sure, I could be independent in Europe too, but it wouldn't be the same. There was too much to leave behind here, too much to give up on. My apartment and this city, my friends…
I cringed. The thought alone was unbearable.
Edward and I celebrated our fourth anniversary this Christmas. Things were, as cliché as it sounded, perfect. We were still living together, but we had our own place now. We shared a dingy apartment with Alice (who was still my closest friend) and Jasper (who was no longer working in Starbucks) at first, after Emmett and Rosalie were back in town, and although it was crowded as hell, it was great fun too.
Then, about two years ago, Edward's grandfather passed away. It was rather sudden and quite traumatizing for Emmett and Edward. Just when they started getting along with him again, they lost him. Up until then, I'd known mourning only from a distance. I was very young when my only grandmother died, and when I saw what the death of their grandfather had done to them, I knew I should consider myself lucky. It was better to lose them as kids and let the memories fade, than experience what I had with Edward in those months after his grandfather died. It happened right before his graduation, and he was so out of it that I feared they wouldn't let him graduate. Luckily, he was on top of his class for four years in a row, and the school committee was extremely considerate. They were flexible on a few deadlines only to allow him to graduate on time.
It came as surprise to no one when, while reading his grandfather's will, it turned out he divided his property between Carlisle, Emmett and Edward. It was a final gesture of goodwill of sorts. Edward, with his dad's advice, decided to use the money to get an apartment in New York. It was three times bigger than our matchbox of an apartment, one I could never afford on my own, but Edward said it was fair enough he'd pay for it considering I'd done most of the housework anyway (he tried, but he was just too horrible in it all).
We moved in last September, when I started my last year in Juilliard and Edward started his Masters. It was something he used to speak to his grandfather about, but after he died I thought it would be too tough a blow for him. Eventually he decided to go for it. He also found a part time job, playing in a ballet studio just off Times Square. Despite the long hours he spent away, he seemed to be enjoying it. And it kept his mind off things, so I wasn't complaining. He was finally happy again.
Things couldn't get better for us. We had an apartment we loved. Edward had his studies and his job, and I had my last year of school to worry about. Emmett and Rosalie lived a short distance away; so did Alice and Jasper. The six of us were really close, and we spent quite a lot of time together, despite everyone's busy schedules. I was having the time of my life. I didn't know if I was able to just give it all up and start from scratch in a new place.
Not that I'd have to, of course. There was no way I'd ever get in.
Showed how little I'd known, really.
Only when I hung up, I realized the vast amount of the trouble I was in. I hadn't told Edward about the audition at the time. I didn't see the need to. Since I had never thought I was going to get in, I wasn't overly stressed about getting things right like I'd normally do before tryouts. And Edward had always been twice as stressed when I had auditions, so there was really no point to bother him over nothing. But now… it changed everything. Our whole lives were here. We worked our asses off to get to where we were today. Did I really want to give it all up?
Would he want to give it all up, if I asked him to?
And did I even have the right to ask?
Those questions still bugged me when I left our apartment an hour or so later on my way to class. I still had plenty of time, but I couldn't stay in. I was too giddy, too wired to sit still. I could feel the adrenaline pumping in my veins, and I was almost sorry I didn't have my modern dance lesson this afternoon. I needed to vent all this energy someplace, and ballet wasn't quite the place for it. A part of me wanted to scream, or skip along the sidewalk, or do anything to let it out even though I wasn't sure what I felt. I was so happy, but at the same time scared out of my wits. More than anything, I wanted to tell someone, just to get it off my chest. Naturally, Edward would have been the first I'd tell, but he was working this afternoon and I had that class to get to. Besides, I still needed to figure out how to break this to him.
As soon as I crossed the street towards the school building, I knew who I wanted to speak to.
There was a payphone right in front of the building, and I had about forty minutes to kill. I stepped into the booth, fished for change in the front pocket of my bag, stuck it in the phone and dialed. I stared at the passersby while waiting for my mom to pick up.
It used to throw me off a little at first, whenever Phil had answered the phone. At some point my mind sort of processed the fact he was there to stay. Four years into their marriage, Renée couldn't be happier. Although I hadn't seen her as often as I hoped, we spoke on the phone a lot, and I knew she was well. "Hey Phil, it's Bella."
"Oh, hey Bells." It had always made me cringe when he used Charlie's nickname. "How are you? How's school?"
"It's busy." It summed everything up perfectly. "How's work?"
"Oh, it's wonderful. Those kids are amazing. Here's your mom."
"Hi, baby!" Renée's voice came through, youthful and zealous as ever, like sunshine through my gloom. "What a surprise! How come you're not in school?"
"I'm on my way. I have a late class today."
"I can't believe you're graduating soon, where did time go? It makes me feel so old!"
"Yeah, it's soon, isn't it?" I asked distractedly. I barely thought of graduation with those new developments. June didn't seem so intimidating anymore in comparison.
"Very soon! We're really looking forward for this trip, and seeing you two. I haven't been in New York City since that first audition of yours, and Phil is all excited to catch the Knicks or whoever the hell will be playing that weekend," she laughed.
"I'll see if Emmett can get him cheaper tickets," I promised. "Listen, Mom, I… kind of need to talk."
Enthusiasm shifted into concern in a flash of a second. "Talk? Is something wrong?"
"Nothing is wrong. Well, not exactly. Something… happened." Yes, that worked.
"Are you and Edward having issues?"
"No, of course not." Except for that one huge blowout when we had only started seeing each other, I couldn't remember one serious argument we had. Disputes seemed like such a waste of time.
"You're not… pregnant, are you, Bella?"
"What? No!" I shuddered at the very thought of it.
"Is it Edward again? I thought he was getting better these days."
"Edward has nothing to do with this, Mom, it's just me!"
The edge in my voice caught me off-guard. The outburst left me at a momentary loss. For so long, it had always been us, I suddenly realized; to such an extent, that me had been pushed into a dark, lonely corner. When did this happen? When had Edward and I become this package deal that buried me, just Bella, underneath it? And where was I to allow this to happen?
And this was when I realized. Here lay my chance to do just that, to stop me from sitting in the wings. This was my chance to do something for myself. It came to warn me right before it would be too late. While I clearly had to tell Edward, it didn't entail I had to ask him to join me. This was my choice, my career. He didn't have to follow me.
"Something came up," I told my mom. "I got this offer… I auditioned for the English National Ballet." I took another deep breath. "I got in."
"What?" I had to hold the phone away. "Bella… honey, that's incredible! Do you realize what it means?"
"Umm, no, not really," I laughed nervously. "I'm kind of in denial. I haven't expected it…"
But she hardly listened now. "Europe! It's just what you – oh, baby, I'm so proud of you! God, I'm going to start crying…" Her voice trembled, and I could hear Phil teasing her in the background. Her excited babbles became almost unintelligible as she repeated what I'd just told her. Then when she was back, she sounded slightly more recovered. "This is wonderful news, sweetheart. We're both very proud of you."
"I bet Edward is all excited," she giggled.
"I… haven't told him yet, actually," I said slowly, suddenly feeling extremely guilty for keeping it from him.
"How come?" There was surprise in her voice.
"He doesn't know I auditioned. It wasn't a big deal, and I didn't actually think I had a chance…"
She seemed to catch on my distress, as if she realized the consequences of such a decision. "What are you going to do?"
"I'm not sure." Helplessness was strange and unfamiliar. When it came to our relationship, I'd been nothing but confident for the last four years, until today.
"Are you actually, seriously considering it? Moving away?"
"It's… tempting," I replied, choosing my words carefully.
"Because if you want to do this, he has to know, Bella. You have to tell him."
"I know," I almost moaned. "I'm going to tell him tonight."
"Have you told your dad? He'll go nuts," she said, laughing softly.
"I haven't told anyone yet. I only found out an hour ago. Please let me handle Dad, okay? I think I should be the one who tells him if…" I let my voice trail with indecision.
"He'll be so happy for you!" I wished I could be half as confident as she'd been. "It'll be fine," she determined, as if sensing my hesitation. "Charlie will understand. And so will Edward."
I hoped she was right, because the more I thought about the possibilities this offer held, the more I wanted it. I felt so strange. Up until now there was nothing I wanted more than living my life here in New York, and possibly staying here for good. But now when this opportunity came up… My old dreams came rushing back, and it was as if those four years had never happened. I wanted this. I wanted Europe. I wanted to be this prima ballerina I'd always dreamed about.
But at what cost?
I knew I had to tell Edward. Despite my wish to prove myself me was still in there someplace, my final decision didn't concern just me. If I was seriously going to consider this step in my career, he had to be a part of this decision. Throughout my studies, he'd always been so sweet and supportive. He'd been there for me through everything, in my moments of victory and distress. My insecurities and panic attacks had never deterred him. There was no reason why I couldn't trust him on this one. He loved me. He'd understand.
I was slightly more confident when I headed home after class. My final year was surprisingly less busy than the previous ones. Twice a week I actually had the entire day to myself except for this one afternoon class, which was cool. What wasn't so cool was the fact that those were the days Edward left home early in the morning and was back just when I left for my class.
The complex we lived in was a short distance from the place Emmett and Rosalie had lived, but it was miles different. It wasn't a giant, extravagant building. It was four-stories high, like all the buildings in our street. It didn't have a doorman in the lobby. The elevator was so ancient that we rarely used it. It was an old building with a tiny lobby and a wide staircase. Each floor had two apartments, except for the top floor which was ours. Our loft wasn't the huge space of Emmett and Rosalie's place, but big enough, more comfortable, more us.
As I made my way upstairs, I idly wondered if he was home yet. It seemed quite dark inside when I looked up while crossing the street. I wondered if I had enough time to make some decent dinner before he was back. Maybe I should just take him out someplace and break this to him outside. Either way, I still wasn't sure I knew how to do it. All I knew was that I had to do it tonight. I wanted it too badly to hide this from him. I'd done enough stalling already.
I unlocked the door and slowly pushed it open, only to halt a second later. The apartment was dark and dimly lit by what seemed like dozens of small candles that were literally scattered all over the living room. Edward was standing by the window with his back to the door. Tall and lean, his hair looked darker in the soft light. I smiled to myself. Even now, a little over four years into this relationship, my heart still lifted at the first sight of him. Sometimes I still found myself wondering how it was possible I was so lucky to have him, to keep him. Sometimes I'd look at him while he slept, and think there was no way this amazing guy was actually mine.
I must have gasped or made some other sound, because he suddenly turned to face me. Whatever he found in my eyes, it made him laugh. I was still rooted to place when he walked over to where I was standing. My hand was still grasping the doorknob. I didn't realize that it was until he slowly released my grip on it. After shutting the door, he took my hand again and brought it to his lips.
"What the hell is all this?" I asked as he lowered my hand. I caught a glimpse of our small dining table, which was set for two. This was when I realized something smelt really good. Italian, I guessed. I gaped at him. "Did you cook?"
"Oh, hell, no. I didn't want to mess things up," he said, flashing a crooked grin at me. He ran his hand through his tousled hair and smiled at me sheepishly. "There's something important I need to talk to you about."
"So you thought candles and Italian would soften me?" I asked, laughing nervously. I should have thought of it while planning a strategy to break my news to him. Somehow he was outguessing me. I should have been more thorough.
"Something like that, yes," he admitted.
"I've got something important to talk to you about, too."
He tugged at my hand. "Talk first, eat later?" he asked, looking almost scared. He must have seen something in the way I was observing him, because he ran his hand through his hair again. "I kind of want to get it out of my system before I chicken out."
"Edward, what is it?" I asked, but followed him to the sofa. For a brief moment, my own worries were all gone. "You're not breaking up with me, are you?" Despite all this time, the insecurities had never ceased entirely. The doubt had always been there, at the back of my mind, waiting for opportunities such as this one to raise its ugly head.
He laughed darkly. "Hardly. Sit down."
"Okay," I said slowly, scooting to one end of the sofa. "But you're starting to scare me here."
"I'm not breaking up with you," he assured me as he came to sit next to me. We said nothing for a moment, just eyed each other uncertainly. Then he cleared his throat, smiling coyly at me. "Ladies first?"
The coward that I was, I shook my head. "Since you planned such an elaborated production, you should go ahead first."
His eyes widened ever so slightly in what seemed like horror. I smiled encouragingly and pursed my lips, waiting. "Okay. Please wait until I'm absolutely finished though, alright? I've never done this before and… I'm not sure I know how. And I want to do this right."
He looked so flustered. His cheeks flared in the soft candlelight. I could have sworn I saw sheen of sweat glistening on his forehead. I didn't know what it all meant, but I thought I should play along to make it easy on him. "Okay, I'm listening."
But even so, he seemed unable to bring himself to speak. He laughed, half with nerves, half with frustration. "I'm scared you'll freak out."
"How bad can it be?" I asked lightly, but now I could feel panic surging through me. Was there a reason to freak out? How could anything he'd say be more terrifying than what I had to tell him? "Just let it out, Edward. It's fine. Whatever it is, I'll handle it," I said with more bravery than I'd actually felt.
"It's just… I remember the first time it came up when we started seeing each other, but it was completely a joke back then. But it's been four years and…" His eyes were searching mine. His gaze was dark, fathomless. "I love you, Bella."
"I love you, too," I echoed, kind of uncertainly. He'd known that. What did this have to do with anything?
"I… I mean, you… you're everything to me. I can't imagine my life without you now. I want to make sure it stays this way, I want to make sure that you… that we…" He stopped, and that same nervous laughter escaped him. "Ugh, I knew I couldn't do this right. Bella," he started again, with slightly more urgency, and took my hand. He locked his gaze in mine, and for a hint of a moment, I had this horrible feeling I knew exactly what he was going to say.
And of course, I was right.
"Will you marry me, Bella?"