The Twilight Twenty-Five
Pen name: Addicted to Edward
Summary: Sometimes love is found where you least expect it. Edward Cullen is a depressed loner when he meets Jasper Whitlock. Jasper soothes Edward's soul, but he has his own demons to conquer. Can Edward and Jasper heal each other?
A/N: Sorry it's been SO LONG since my last update! This chapter gave me some difficulty. But it's here at last! I hope the rest of the chapters won't take this long. Obviously, I'm not going to be able to finish all 25 by April 1 for the Twilight 25, but I'm going to keep plugging away at this story, no matter how long it takes me.
A HUGE thanks goes out to my PTB betas who have been wonderful: SueBob, Maggie Cullen, Brandy, and Kendra. Thanks especially to SueBob for her help with my ballet questions, KenoshaChick for her suggestions on improving this chapter over the lousy first draft I wrote, Julie for her lovely comments and encouragment, and Michelle M Marie for putting up with my whining.
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight, but I do have Edward and Jasper dolls now. If only they were more posable...
Chapter 4: Fragments
Wake me up inside (I can't wake up)
Wake me up inside (Save me)
Call my name and save me from the dark (Wake me up)
Bid my blood to run (I can't wake up)
Before I come undone (Save me)
Save me from the nothing I've become
Now that I know what I'm without
You can't just leave me
Breathe into me and make me real
Bring me to life
-- Bring Me To Life by Evanesence
* * *
"Edward! Please, help me!"
"I'm coming, Bella. Where are you?" I call as I run down the narrow road in the dark. Dim streetlights are all the light I have.
"Here! I'm here!"
I run toward the sound of her voice, but the walls close in on me and I can't go any further. I turn back and try to find another route.
"I can't find you, love," I yell frantically. "Where are you?"
"Here! Here!" Her voice is fading.
The light is fading and the darkness becomes overwhelming. "BELLA!" I scream into the blackness.
"Edward…," she whispers. And then I hear nothing more.
I heard nothing more except my own screams as I bolted upright in bed. My whole body shook and dripped with sweat.
I only ever had two kinds of dreams anymore. There were the happy ones, the sweet ones, at least until I woke up. They reminded me of the love and happiness I once had but lost, that I'd never find again. I woke up from those dreams with a smile on my face, until I realized I was alone in my bed. The other dreams were the nightmares that woke me with screams, adrenaline, and sweat. They were the ones that reminded me of my failure to protect Bella.
I'd gone to bed still on the high I had been feeling from watching Jasper dance last night. I'd hoped that would have spared me from the nightmares, at least for one night, but apparently, I was not so lucky. Even worse, the pain that now coursed through my body felt magnified by ten. I held my head in my hands, digging my fingernails against my scalp. My hands clenched as I pulled at fistfuls of hair, trying to pull oxygen into my lungs. My chest tightened as I gasped at the air, drowning in the loneliness that was my life without Bella.
It hadn't been this bad since the beginning, those first few months after her death. But something had happened inside me last night. The box I'd so carefully wrapped my emotions in and hidden away had ripped open and refused to close again.
I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to remember the feeling from last night, the pure joy that Jasper's dancing had stirred in me. I tried to picture the way he moved across the stage, so fluid and smooth that it was as if he were an angel, floating just above the ground.
My memory just couldn't do justice to his grace. No matter how hard I tried to envision him, I couldn't recreate that feeling of being wrapped in warmth, protected from sadness.
I would have to see him again.
I forced myself to get out of the bed and made my way to the bathroom. Fuck the shower and fuck shaving. I splashed water on my face and made a few half-hearted attempts to tame my mess of hair by running my fingers through it.
I pulled on my clothes mechanically, choosing my well-worn jeans and a shirt at random from my closet. After a cup of coffee and two pieces of toast, I grabbed my jacket and headed out the door. The library was just a short walk away and had free internet access.
* * *
As soon as I stepped through the doors of the library and saw the shelves upon shelves of books, I knew it was a mistake to come here. Bella had considered the library her second home. I'd spent many hours in the library at the University of Seattle with her. Her sense of responsibility to her schoolwork had been a good influence on me. Fuckload of good it did me now, though.
Why didn't I go with her that night?
It was a question I asked myself over and over, and there was no response I could give myself that satisfactorily answered it.
I leaned against the wall just inside the entrance and tried to catch my breath.
Once I could stand straight again, I wandered aimlessly around the perimeter until I spotted a group of computers arranged in a ring around a circular table. I sat at an available one and clicked the "Log in as Guest" button. While I waited for the computer to finish doing its thing, I gazed at the shelves across from me. "Classic Literature" read the sign above the shelves.
A small smile formed on my lips.
I'd been walking by the narrow aisle of Classic Literature books in library at Forks High School when I'd noticed a girl with long brown hair stretching to reach a book on the very top shelf. She was standing on her tiptoes on a small step stool, apparently not realizing her feet were off-center and causing the stool to begin to tip.
I was no physics genius, but it was beyond obvious that she was going to fall.
Moving faster than I thought possible, I was at her side before the stool completely tipped. She tried to catch herself as she fell, pulling a few books down with her. One hit her on the head and the other three pelted me in the shoulders. Still, I somehow managed to snake my arm around her waist and keep her upright without causing more injury to herself – or me.
"Oh," she gasped when she felt my arm around her.
"Are you all right?" I tried to keep the smile out of my voice and off my face, but it was impossible.
She looked up at me and blushed as she rubbed the spot on her head where the book had hit her. "Yes, I'm fine. Thank you. I should have known better than to try to reach that book on my own."
I didn't release my hold on her right away. I was too busy staring into her large, brown eyes. They were the most beautiful eyes I'd ever seen. She simply stared back at me.
"Sorry," I mumbled a minute later as I pulled my arm from her. As soon as she was out of my arms, I yearned to touch her again. I swallowed. "Which book did you want? I'd be happy to get it for you."
She blinked several times. "Book? Oh, right! It's this one," she said as she bent to pick up one of the books that had fallen. "The books didn't hit you when they fell, did they?"
I smirked. "I'll live."
She covered her face in embarrassment. "Oh, God! I'm so sorry!"
I resisted the urge to take her hand and pull it away from blocking my view of her eyes. "It's not a big deal. Really. Here, let me put these back for you."
"You really don't have to do that…"
"I wouldn't want you to fall again," I teased.
She scowled at me, and I couldn't hold back my laughter at her anger. She was just so … adorable. As if she could even hurt a fly.
I picked up the remaining books off the floor and righted the step stool. I replaced the books on the shelf easily and turned to face her again.
"I'm Edward Cullen," I said, holding out my hand.
"Bella. Bella Swan." She placed her small hand in mine, and my heartbeat immediately quickened with her touch.
"Excuse me, are you still using that computer?" a nasally voice said from behind me.
"What?" I said, confused as I slowly came out of my memories and back to reality. I blinked and stared at the computer screen in front of me.
"Are you still using that computer?" the woman repeated, very slowly as if I were incompetent.
"Yes. I am," I snapped as I clicked the mouse to bring up the web browser.
She huffed and walked away. I pulled out the wrinkled ticket stub from my pocket and smoothed it out as best I could. "The Washington Ballet" it said, so that's what I typed in for the search term, and the number one result was the official website. Perfect.
The first thing I looked for was the calendar of events. There was another performance of The Sleeping Beauty this afternoon and this evening. Clicking the series of links brought me to The Kennedy Center's website and eventually to ticket ordering.
Sold out? Seriously, not a single fucking ticket?
I returned to the website for The Washington Ballet to find the next performance. Fuck me. Not only was tonight's the last one for The Sleeping Beauty, but there were no shows the entire month of March.
I couldn't go an entire month like this, no longer numb, especially not without learning more about Jasper and why he had this strange effect on me. I would gladly sit through two more hours of ballet if it would bring me the same joy it did last night. I would do anything to get rid of the ache in my chest.
Perhaps there were simply no tickets available online, but if I went to the studio, they'd have some available to purchase in person. I explored the rest of the ballet website and found Jasper's picture and a brief history of his ballet experience:
JASPER WHITLOCK, of Dallas, TX, is in his tenth season with The Washington Ballet and has spent his entire professional dancing career with the Company. Some of the many dances he has performed include the role of Lucentioin John Cranko's The Taming of the Shrew and a principal role in William Forsythe's In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. In addition to becoming one of The Washington Ballet's most talented principal dancers, Mr. Whitlock has recently taken to choreographing new ballets for the Company to perform. Before joining The Washington Ballet, Mr. Whitlock trained with the Ballet Academy of Texas under Ms. Jenny Johnston and Mr. Thomas Nicholson.
I printed that page out and continued exploring the website. I found a few more pictures of Jasper in various ballet positions randomly throughout the site and printed those out as well. Finally, I printed the page with the directions to the studio. It looked simple enough, a few stops away on the metro and then several blocks south on Wisconsin Avenue.
I logged off the computer and walked down the Classic Literature aisle. My fingers trailed along the spines as I looked for one in particular.
"Catcher in the Rye?" I'd asked, pointing to the book in Bella's hand.
She shrugged. "I need it for reference for my English Lit essay. I couldn't bring all my books with me, just my very favorites. The rest are back home with my mom."
I smirked. "Very studious for your first day."
"How do you know it's my first day?"
I resisted the urge to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear, just to see if it felt as soft as it looked. "It's Forks High School. Look around, Bella. Everyone knows everyone. Except the new girl." I winked.
Her cheeks had reddened ever so slightly. "Oh. Right."
I pulled the book from the shelf and ran my fingers over the title. "I miss you," I whispered.
I went to the front desk to pick up my printouts and check out the book. I rolled my eyes as I filled out the paperwork to get a library card, but once I had the card in my hand, I smiled. Bella would have considered her library card one of her most prized possessions.
I folded the papers in half and stuck them in the book before heading toward the metro stop two blocks away.
* * *
I spent the entire ride staring at the pictures of Jasper I'd printed, trying to figure out what it was about him that had affected me so deeply. It was useless, of course. There didn't seem to be anything extraordinary about him. He was very good-looking, that much was obvious even to me, but what did that matter? I flipped through to the other pictures, perhaps taken during a performance as he was in position with a female dancer. Even in the black and white photos, his passion leaped from the page. The expression on his face, from the rise of his eyebrows to the set of his jaw, the placement of his hands on his partner, everything about his pose made them appear to be lovers, rather than actors.
Was this it? Was this that elusive factor about Jasper that affected me? It reminded me of the passion I'd once had, the way I used to lose myself in my music. I squeezed my eyes shut, waiting for the pain that was inevitable whenever I thought about my life in Seattle, but instead, I heard a melody. It started small, just a few opening chords, and grew bit by bit. Then it repeated over and over, burning itself into my memory.
A few minutes later, the train approached my stop. I folded the papers and placed them in the book again.
The ballet studio was easy enough to find. I stepped through the doors, surprised to find that the reception desk was empty. I waited for a few minutes to see if anyone would return, but the entrance remained as deserted as it was when I walked in.
I noticed a brochure on the desk for a wine tasting sponsored by the ballet studio, coming up in a couple of weeks. I grabbed one and tucked it into my book for later consideration. Maybe I'd be able to see – even meet – Jasper there.
I walked around the corner to my right, passing a couple of open doors and empty rooms. Finally, I came across a room with the lights on and the door closed. Peeking through the small glass window, I could see a group of ten or so children repeating the same movement over and over. An adult in the front of the room called out instructions. Clearly, this was a class in progress. Not wanting to interrupt, I turned around and headed back to the lobby and this time took the hallway on the left, but it too proved to be just as empty. Just as I was about to turn around, something caught my eye.
In the corner of the last room on the left, there was a piano. It was a basic upright, but its shiny black finish drew me in. I walked slowly over to it and then ran my fingers across the slick surface on the top. I hadn't touched a piano since I left Seattle over three years ago, but somehow it was familiar. The way it felt under my fingers, the way it smelled, everything was so familiar and yet somehow foreign at the same time.
The melody I'd heard in my head while on the metro started playing again. Could I? Would I remember how?
I walked around to the keys and sat on the bench. I rested my fingers on the keys. They seemed to settle instinctively in just the right positions, with my right thumb on middle C. I drew in a breath and pressed down with some fingers, again by instinct.
The clear, rich sound of the C-major chord was simply beautiful. Something in my chest stirred and I couldn't breathe for a moment. Closing my eyes, I listened intently to the melody in my head. Then I willed my fingers to play the tune I heard.
The resulting sound was the most horrific, inharmonious noise I'd ever heard. I practically jumped off the bench in shock. I tried again, adjusting my fingers slightly, producing a less offensive but still awful noise.
I dug my fingers through my hair. Where was I going wrong? I tried again, pressing harder, making the sound louder, as if that would help anything.
Again. And again. And again.
"Are you all right?" a deep, masculine voice said.
I looked up, startled. I hadn't heard anyone come in. Leaning on his arms against the top of the piano was Jasper. It would have been impossible not to recognize him after staring at his picture on the metro. My heart pounded as I waited for him to demand what I was doing here, but his deep blue eyes were full of concern rather than anger.
I swallowed. "I can't get it right. I can hear it in my head, but I can't play it."
I tried again, shifting my hands slightly. It was still awful. I shook my head, wanting to scream in frustration. "It's not right."
As I continued to try to find the right notes, he walked around the piano to stand next to me. He placed his hands on top of mine. My fingers instantly relaxed in the warmth that spread from his hands to mine, cutting off the sound from the piano. My head snapped up and I met his eyes. They were intense and piercing. The moment his hands had touched mine, I felt a calm spreading through my body. My breathing and my heart rate quickly returned to normal and my frustration lessened.
He gently pulled my hands off the keys and placed them in my lap. "Maybe you should just take a break," he said softly.
I had to explain myself to him, make him realize I wasn't some lunatic. "I used to be able to do it…hear music in my head and be able to play it. It used to be my favorite thing to do."
You still sound like a fucking lunatic.
"Maybe if you had the sheet music, it would help?" he suggested.
I shook my head. "There's no sheet music. It hasn't been written yet." I smirked as I tapped my temple. "It's all in here."
"You write your own music?" The surprise in his voice was unmistakable. Who could blame him?
"Used to," I corrected.
"Could you play something you've written before? Maybe that will help you get back to writing new music."
I held my breath for a moment. Every piece of music I'd written was tied to a memory of the life I'd left behind. Bella's Lullaby. Esme's Ballad. Carlisle's Opera. The Meadow. I expected the grief to overtake me. I waited for the walls to cave in.
But nothing came but a slight rawness within my chest. Nothing more painful than what I'd lived with for the past three years. I shook my head slowly. "It's been over three years. I'm not sure I remember…"
I remembered every piece of music I'd ever written, perfectly. Maybe I was able to hold myself together just thinking about it, but actually playing it, hearing it – assuming I even still could – would be pushing my luck. I wasn't sure what would be worse, being able to play it and listening to it or not being able to play it at all.
There was always other music to play, though. Yes, something I'd played so many times in the past there would be no way I could have forgotten. "Maybe a Chopin nocturne instead…"
I closed my eyes. My favorite Chopin nocturne. Chopin Nocturne Op.72 No. 1.
I listened to the music in my mind.
Key of E minor.
One sharp. F.
I could hear Jasper moving beside me, but I didn't let that break my concentration. I drew in a deep breath and gently placed my hands on the keys again, letting them fall where it felt right.
I opened my eyes. I was ready. I began with an E-minor scale.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that Jasper had pulled up a chair and was sitting next to me, watching me. I repeated the scale, and then an E-minor chord for good measure.
And then my fingers started playing. Hours and hours of playing this nocturne had trained my fingers to play it without needing conscious thought. Like riding a bicycle. I couldn't play it at the correct tempo, and my fingers slipped every now and then, hitting a sour note, but that didn't matter.
It was beautiful. It was magical. How had I gone three years without this? I could feel the shift inside me, a feeling of peace, of completeness.
Had I been missing my music as much as I'd been missing Bella?
The longer I played, the more at home I felt. I forgot about Jasper watching me. I forgot about the pain of losing Bella. I forgot about the anguish I'd left on my parents' faces when I told them I was leaving and never coming back.
There was only the music and me.
The final chord faded and the spell broke. I remembered where I was and that Jasper was sitting next to me, watching me play.
I turned to him and smiled. "That has always been one of my favorites. I'm so out of practice."
He just gazed at me, his full lips creating a perfect, red circle and giving his otherwise strong features a sense of vulnerability. It reminded me of the way Emmett had looked while watching Jasper dance. I could feel my cheeks flush at just the thought of Jasper being as awed by my playing the piano as I was by his dancing. After a moment, he blinked. "It was lovely. You should start playing again. And writing music."
My smile widened. I felt like I was truly smiling for the first time in so long. "Yeah. I think I'd like that."
He smiled, too. Then, without warning, he stood up and put the chair back under the desk across the room. "I – I've got to go. Thanks for the beautiful music."
I watched him leave the room in a hurry, shocked at his sudden departure. I remembered there was a performance of The Sleeping Beauty this afternoon. He probably had to return to the theater. What was he even doing here? Shouldn't he have been in costume, preparing for his performance?
I took one last longing look at the piano and brushed my fingers along the slick surface again.
* * *
On the trip home, I thought about my brief meeting with Jasper. It was weird and awkward in some ways and yet, in others, I'd felt as comfortable with him as if I'd known him for years. I'd been so distracted by the music and then he'd left so quickly that I really knew nothing more about him now than I did this morning.
The way he looked at me made me feel both flattered and nervous. I didn't want to jump to the conclusion that he was gay – it just seemed rude and cliché given his profession – but I still felt like there was something more behind his intense stare.
All I knew was that there was something about Jasper that kept me calm and peaceful. The underlying depression that I lived with every day was still there, but somehow, when I was with him, it was manageable.
There was a message on my answering machine when I got home. Emmett or a telemarketer?
"Holy shit, you actually left your apartment? I knew going out with me and Rose would be good for you! Call me back, bro."
I rolled my eyes as I dialed Emmett's number. At least a telemarketer could be ignored.
"Dude! Where were you?"
"Hello to you, too, Emmett." I even smiled. Emmett was a pain in the ass, but I did love him.
"Sorry. I'm just so proud of you, little brother." He faked a sob.
"Shut the fuck up. What do you want?"
"Just hear me out, okay? I know I promised not to bug you, but I'm not bugging. I'm just asking, okay?"
"What do you want?" I asked again, this time through clenched teeth, my good humor gone.
The words came out in a rush. "Well, me and Rose are taking her cousin out to dinner tomorrow night, and since you watched the ballet with us, we thought we'd ask if you wanted to come, too."
"I got the feeling Rosalie didn't like me much. Why would she want to go to dinner with me?"
"Well, you know, you could make a better impression this time, maybe?"
"Does she even know you're asking me?"
"Of course she does. Okay, okay, it was my idea, but that's not the point. Stop changing the subject! Are you coming or not?"
I sighed. As much as I'd rather just stay home, it might give me the opportunity to learn more about Jasper, since this afternoon's venture was a bust. I could ask Rosalie's cousin if there truly were no performances in March. Maybe she'd even know if Jasper was attending the wine tasting. Then again, I wasn't not sure spending more time with Jasper was a good idea after making such a complete ass of myself in front of him.
Of course, I'd have to find a way to ask her all this without Rosalie and Emmett hearing. The multitude of questions it would generate from Emmett made my head swim. Questions I didn't even have the answers to myself.
"All right. Where and what time?" I said finally.
"Yes…before I change my mind," I threatened.
"The Source. It's a fancy-smancy place in Penn Quarter, right near the Archives-Navy Memorial station. Reservation's for seven o'clock."
A thought occurred to me before I hung up. "Shit, Emmett, this isn't some kind of scheme to set me up with Rosalie's cousin, is it?"
Emmett laughed so loudly that I had to hold the phone away from my ear. "Dude, trust me, that's the furthest thing from my mind," he said when he'd recovered. "I'll see you tomorrow."
The Washington Ballet: http://www . washingtonballet . org/
Inspiration for my dancing Jasper: http://www . washingtonballet . org/_webapp_1827223/Nelson_Jared
Chopin Nocturne Op.72 No. 1 http://www . youtube .com/watch?v=I6hcKt7-h4k&feature=related