I can give you all the excuses in the world as to why I haven't updated sooner, but it doesn't change anything. I suck, I know.
Thank you tawelephant for fixing my mistakes! She's all kinds of awesome!
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and all of the characters, but this story and plot are mine.
Chapter 19: Tonight
It's been two weeks since I've seen her. Two weeks since I've touched her or held her in my arms. Two weeks since I was granted her smile, one that I haven't seen in more years than I like to remember. And one that brought back more memories than I liked to admit too, good and bad.
Two weeks isn't really long in the grand scheme of things. We had gone for almost fourteen years without seeing, or so much as talking to each other. Then, after the funeral, we went for a couple of months before we talked again.
No, two weeks isn't really that long. But at this moment, it has seemed like forever.
Where is she?
We have talked or texted each other almost every day in the past two weeks. The Sunday morning after spending most of the weekend with her talking and figuring out where we went from here, I texted her to make sure she was okay. I could have called, but in the end, I thought that I would give her some space and just text her to let her know I was thinking about her and wanted to make sure she was okay.
I didn't have to wait long for a response. She texted me back quickly, letting me know that she was fine and even asked if I was okay.
Was I okay? Am I okay? Yes. In fact, I feel better than I have in years. Lighter, if possible, if that even makes any sense. The heaviness that I drug around with me because of my past doesn't feel near as heavy anymore.
Maybe, just maybe, Bella wouldn't be the only one who will come out of this feeling better. All of the worry and guilt that I have carried around with me all these years over how I treated Bella and everyone else that was in my life at that time seemed to seep away after talking with Bella. I truly hoped it helped her as much as it helped me.
"Edward," Jasper calls to me from across the stage. "You ready for a sound check?"
Oh, yeah, I'm playing tonight, while Bella is here. Hopefully I won't puke out my guts as nervous as I am.
When I asked her to come watch me play, I was so shocked by the fact that she accepted that I didn't even tell her what kind of instrument I played.
She finally asked me one night while we were texting back and forth. She was truly surprised when I told her that I played the guitar and sometimes played the piano. I wasn't as good at the piano, but I was almost twenty when I started to learn.
Playing the guitar was something I picked up when I came here. Music was, and is something that I could always relate to. Talking with Jasper when I first got here, made me realize what an important part music was in all of our lives. He started the music program for that reason. He said that it would help give all the kids here something to do and allow us to express ourselves in a productive way.
Jasper's brother Garrett played the drums and his dad played the piano and they came to the farm twice a week to teach whoever was interested how to play. When Jasper asked me to help, I told him that I didn't know anything about music. He said it didn't matter, he would teach me whatever I wanted to know. Not only did he teach me how to play the guitar, he taught me how to let myself go with the music.
Because the kids enjoyed learning and playing so much, Jasper started a music night two nights a month. All the kids were allowed to play to show off what they accomplished. The parents and other family members were invited so the kids could show them what they had learned. It was a great way for everyone to join in.
After the sound check, I can't stand it anymore and go outside to watch for her. Jasper has already called me out on how nervous I am acting, but he said he understood and calmed me as only he could.
As I wait, I pace up and down the sidewalk, impatient as hell for her to arrive. The sky is darker than normal because of the storm moving in, giving me the impression that it is much later than I believe. When I look down at my watch for what seems like the thousandth time, I see that it is still early and I'm just worrying for nothing.
Finally I see a set of headlights beaming through the dark, and then the bright, yellow blinker light signaling the car is turning into the parking lot. When I see that it's her car, my stomach does a little flip in excitement. I know, I feel the same way, if I was able to flip, I would.
My body's reaction to seeing her is foreign to me. In the past, when I would see her, I would always feel content and happy to be around her. But now, this is different and not in a bad way. I've just never felt this way before.
Once she parks the car, she sits for a minute and I watch as she grips the steering wheel tight. She looks as nervous as I feel. I watch as that steely resolve settles over her features as it did that night she came to my house and she steps out with her head held high.
She's dressed much like she did when we were younger, a black hoodie, faded jeans with holes and a pair of Converse shoes. The image makes me smile. It's not how most girls liked to dress, but it is exactly what I remember Bella would wear. It's her and its perfect.
The moment she sees me, she smiles and my stomach is doing a full acrobatic routine now. "You came," I breathe in a relieved sigh.
She blushes and looks shyly down to her shoes, her hair falling forward hiding her beautiful face from me. That won't do. No, that won't do at all.
Reaching out, I take one finger and tuck her hair behind her ear. Tiny sparks shoot up my arm when I touch her. Her eyes meet mine, deep chocolate orbs looking up at me with so many questions swirling around through them.
I know exactly how she feels. I have so many questions myself. One of the most important questions of all, is do I deserve her after all that I've done? I may not, but she deserves better from me than how I treated her in the past. If I have to, I will spend the rest of my life making it up to her.
She takes a deep breath and her smile reaches her eyes. It's an image that I file away to keep. "Yes…I said that I would."
"Yes you did," I gush almost giddy. "And I'm so glad that you're here. Please, come in and let me show you around." I guide her forward with my hand at the small of her back. Even though the hoodie is thick, I can still feel the heat from her body radiating out against my finger tips.
Each time I walk into the music building, my chest swells with pride at the thought of all the time and hard work I helped put into the construction. Jasper had a wonderful idea when he started the music program. Between the kids being able to help with the construction of the building and then using it for what they built if for, it has had amazing results in more ways than one.
"Wow," Bella murmurs quietly, "this is great." Her eyes are darting around to all the different areas of the room. The entire end of the building is comprised of a stage, with a small area for dancing in front and then tables set around the floor for people to sit and listen. At the other end, there is a serving area, where on music nights, some of the kids will sell homemade cookies and serve cokes. It may look like a bar, but of course there is no alcohol here.
"I love it," I answer sincerely. "Of all the things we built on the farm, this has been the best thing for everyone involved."
Bella turns to me with wide eyes and her mouth gaping open. She doesn't know the whole story of the farm. "Come, sit down with me for a minute and let me explain." She nods, seemingly at a loss for words.
I lead her over to a table over to the side but close to the stage. Once we are seated, I start telling the story of how this all came to be. "Jasper had a brother named Peter. He died of leukemia when he was seventeen. Jasper, his older brother, Garrett, and the rest of his family wanted to do something to honor his memory. Since Garrett was already a counselor at another drug rehabilitation center, he came up with the idea of having a home for troubled kids on a farm. The whole idea was for the kids to work on the farm, whether working in the garden or helping with construction of some of the buildings, anything so that they would learn to have a constructive outlet for their frustrations. Jasper's grandparents donated the land, and they built the meeting house and dining hall and sleeping quarters which housed thirty kids to start."
Bella sat silently listening to every word.
"At first, some of the neighbors objected, but with Jasper's persuasion, they stopped trying to halt the construction. Once the farm started, it was a success in more ways than one. Jasper always gave back to the community and he encouraged the kids to volunteer for different projects around the county. The kids attended the local school and some of the teachers there came and volunteered at the farm. The town began to realize that the kids weren't bad, just misdirected and needed guidance and something to focus on besides drugs and alcohol."
"I can see why you love it so much," she murmurs after absorbing everything I told her. "Maybe sometime, you can show me the rest of the place," Bella asks quietly.
"I would love too." I want nothing more than to show her my life now and how I became the person that I have become.
I see Jasper making his way over with a huge smile on his face and I know he is coming over to meet Bella. Before I can even think of what to say to warn her, he sits down at the table with us.
"Hello, Bella. I'm so glad you came," Jasper introduces himself before I have the chance. Bella looks surprised that he knows her name. If she only knew that I have never talked about another girl besides her. "Sorry, my name is Jasper. I'm Edward's brother in law."
Bella stiffens slightly when she hears his name. She knows that Jasper is Alice's husband because of the conversations that we've had. She overcomes it quickly and nods. "It's nice to meet you. You have a wonderful place here. From what Edward has told me and from what I've read on your website, you are doing an amazing thing for these kids."
It surprises me that she has taken the time to look up the farm and do research on it. It also makes me very happy that she did.
I can tell that this makes Jasper happy as well and his face beams at her compliment. "Thank you. This place is near and dear to my heart," Jasper drawls in his southern accent. "But most important, I love working with the kids. They're really great."
Garrett goes up to the stage and announces that the first set is about to begin. Jasper stands to go and turns to Bella. "It was very nice to meet you Bella. I really hope to see you again," he implores ardently, taking her hand in his and squeezing gently. Jasper was never one to hide how he feels and believes touching is a way to show someone that they mean what they say.
Bella blushes, smiling shyly at his affectionate gesture. If he weren't my brother in law, I might be jealous of him touching Bella that way.
"You coming, Edward?" Oh yeah, I'm playing. I keep forgetting.
"Yeah, I'll be right up." Jasper nods at me and Bella, then darts through the crowd saying hello and shaking hands with people as he goes. I've always been envious at how easy he is with people.
"He's really nice," Bella whispers quietly. She sounds surprised. I'm sure it has to do with how she remembers Alice. That is a subject that I'm not thrilled to discuss with Bella even if Alice and I have mended our relationship with each other. I know that Bella was truly hurt by Alice and I can't say that I blame Bella for feeling the way she does. After I found out what Alice said to Bella I was very angry with her over it.
"He is. I can't imagine where I would be without him. Not only did he save me from myself, he is my friend." I hear the conviction in my words and so does Bella.
"I'm glad you found someone to help you." Her words are a mixture of sadness and relief. Her eyes fill with tears, but she quickly blinks them away. I want to beg her to tell me what she is thinking, but I think I already know. She is relieved that I finally found the help I needed but sad it wasn't her.
The truth is I'm sad it wasn't her too.
I want to stay with her and tell her how I feel, but I have to go up on stage. "Don't go anywhere, okay? I'll be back shortly. One of the kids will come around and get you anything you want." I tuck her hair behind her ear before taking off to the stage.
When I reach the stage, Jasper gives me a questioning look. "How's it going?"
I let out a deep breath. "It's going good. She's here and hasn't run yet. So, I think we're okay."
Jasper nods. "Just give her time."
I smile back in response. "I'll give her all the time in the world."
Jasper smirks at me then turns to Garrett to ask him if he is ready to start.
Hopefully my song choices tonight won't make Bella uncomfortable. I hope she doesn't freak out and run away.
Jasper's opening notes break me out of my thoughts and I start to play. All I can do is stare at Bella as the notes and sounds fill the room.
The words flow freely with the music. It was tough deciding on what to play tonight. Sometimes I wish I could write my own music, but I'm just not that talented. It's hard enough to express myself sometimes, much less put it to paper.
Now, I'm sorry that I left you,
I can't go back, I can't change anything,
I'm sorry that I said so long,
I never meant to hurt you.
Sorry I waited so long
Sorry I waited so long
If I could do this all over
I'd want to go back, I'd want to go back
If I could only start over
I'd take it all back,
I'd take it all back for you
I'd take it all back for you
Bella sits, gazing up at me, mesmerized at what she sees and hears. My voice carries out through the speakers and I hope that she hears more than just the sound. I want her to know me. I want us to know each other again. I want to learn everything there is about her and get her to trust me. It may be a long shot, but something I'm willing to work hard at.
As soon as the first song ends, before the cheering and clapping subsides, we segue into the next song. We are only the opening act. The kids are the ones that we want up front and center. The only reason we play first is to get the kids pumped up and to break the ice for them so to speak.
Once the last song is over, I shake hands with Jasper and Garrett, quickly making my way back to Bella. I am anxious to be close to her again and to see what she thinks of my playing.
Bella shakes her head back and forth at me as I sit down. I'm not sure if that is a good sign or not. "Well? What did you think?" I whisper.
"What do I think?" She murmurs softly. "I think you were amazing."
I don't think I've blushed in years, but at her compliment, I can feel the heat spreading across my cheeks. Her admission seems to have embarrassed her too and she blushes as well. The way her cheeks are tinged with pink is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
And I don't really know where that came from. All I do know is that I have this overwhelming need to touch her.
"Hey! What's up doc?" Seth, one of the kids who is a resident here, takes a chair, turns it around backwards and sits down breaking the bubble that Bella and I were in.
"Seth, I told you not to call me that." I chide gently. I am far from being a doctor.
He laughs in that booming voice of his that rattles windows. "I know Edward. I just like messing with you." His eyes dart back and forth between me and Bella. I know the questions are about to begin. "Who's your lady friend, Edward? Hmm?" He asks waggling his eyebrows at me. If I didn't love this kid so much, I would drag him out by his ears for embarrassing Bella.
Bella of course is watching and listening with rapt attention. I can tell she is more than curious about our interaction.
"Seth, please meet Bella. Bella, this is Seth." I wave my hand between them.
"Well, hello Bella." Seth responds, drawing her name out. If he wasn't just a kid, I would be jealous and certainly be dragging him out by more than just his ears.
Bella giggles at his smarmy attempt to woo her. Seth seems to be the only one who doesn't realize that he is only sixteen and Bella is twenty-nine. "It's nice to meet you, Seth."
"Okay, introductions are over. Seth, aren't you supposed to play soon." I give him my sternest look hoping he will realize that I want him to get lost.
"Yea, yea. Don't get your knickers in a twist old man. I'm just trying to have a talk with the lady." He leans over towards Bella and mock whispers, "We don't get much action around here."
At that Bella laughs so loud that I think I'm hearing things. She seems to realize it too and covers her mouth with her hand only to snort out through her nose. Her eyes widen comically and I can't help but to burst out laughing with her.
For a moment I worry I've offended her, but she continues to laugh and I laugh right along with her. Laughing with her is the most wonderful feeling.
Seth on the other hand shakes his head at us and gets up, moving towards the stage mumbling something about old people along the way.
Bella's laughing finally subsides. "I hope I didn't offend him. Or you, for that matter. That was the funniest thing I have seen or heard in a long time."
I smile at her, my heart and chest swelling with something that I can't explain. "Nah, Seth is a good kid. His only problem was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His parents gave him a choice, military school or here. He chose here."
"I understand." Unfortunately, she understands all to well. Her thoughts don't seem to damper the moment and I am glad. We both are going to have to learn to not let ourselves be dragged down by our memories.
Seth and his group start to play. His music is lively, but not overly so and something you can dance to.
"Would you…I mean…would you like to dance…with me?" My words come out jumbled because I am so nervous asking Bella to dance with me for the first time in my life.
She looks surprised at my request, but nods shyly. I stand, taking her hand in mine, pulling her to her feet and to the dance floor.
There are a few parents that are swaying to the music and some of the counselors that live here on the farm dancing as well.
I turn Bella to face me and I am momentarily lost as to what to do. I finally take her hand that I am holding and place it against my heart. With my other hand, my fingers grasp her around her hip and pull her towards me.
We are close, but yet separated slightly by our hands intertwined between us.
I think it is a good start and nothing that would seem too presumptuous. I don't want to do anything that might scare her away.
We move together easily. It's strange that we seem to do so considering that we've never danced together before. Neither of us steps on each others toes or misses a step. It's really kind of awesome.
At one point, I lean forward resting my chin on top of her head. She takes a shaky breath, then contently sighs, the air blowing out against my chest. Her breath is sweet and hot, warming me in a way I never thought possible.
Everything around us seems to fade away while she is in my arms. I have never felt so content in my life. I berate myself for not seeing what had been right in front of me all those years ago.
When the next band starts, their music is more grunge sounding and not something you can dance to unless you like being in mosh pit.
I guide Bella through the crowd with my hand on the small of her back. As we sit down, she begins to yawn.
"You're tired." I state.
"Yea, I stayed up late last night with Renee." She laughs lightly. "We now have a movie night once a week. Last night, it was The Hangover. Then we watched the second one right after that because Charlie was at a friends playing poker."
"Come on then, I'll walk you out." I don't want her to leave, but I don't want her driving while she is sleepy either. Instinctively, I grab her hand and lead her through the crowd. It is not lost on me how well her hand fits in mine.
"Thank you so much for coming." I lean over and whisper in her ear as we near the door.
"I had fun, hanging out." She looks up at me and smiles. There goes the acrobatics routine in my stomach again.
As we walk out the door, my throat tightens with fear because of the storm that is moving in and I'm worried about her driving in it. Out in the distance, you can see the sky flickering from the lightning as the thunder booms like cannons.
The rain begins to fall softly as the storm slowly rolls in. The lights on the outside of the building are casting a glow around us. When I turn to Bella my heart thumps in my chest at the sight of her. Her skin is glistening from the rain and with the light shining behind her she is glowing.
I reach out and tuck her hair behind ear, the wet tendrils silky to the touch. Slowly, I lean in and place a kiss on her cheek. My lips linger and I inhale deeply, the scent of rain and Bella mixed together filling me and all my empty spaces within. Her skin is warm and wet from the rain against my lips, and when I pull away, I lick my lips tasting her there.
Bella gasps softly looking at my lips then up at me with wide eyes filled with surprise.
I don't know what came over me. Bella and I are trying hard just to find each other again and I do this. I hope I didn't fuck things up, but I just couldn't help myself. Right now, I have to do the right thing and let this be on her terms.
"Be safe, Bella," I whisper to her, taking her hand in mine. I want nothing more than to pull her in my arms and hold her to me, but I can't and I won't. She nods, seemingly in a daze and turns, darting away through the rain to her car.
It's raining hard when she drives off, but I stand here watching her until her tail lights disappear into the night.
Now that she is gone, I have this empty feeling well up inside me. If the emptiness I am feeling now is anything like the way she felt, I can see why she was so angry with me.
Is this the way it felt for her? Did she worry for me like this each time I walked away from her? Was a part of her missing when I was gone? If she worried for me like this every day we were apart, no wonder it tore her to pieces.
And the fact that she loved me only makes what I did to her so much worse. A lifetime will not be long enough to make up for the way I treated her.
The thought of being separated from her for long is almost more than I can bear. I don't like the idea of her being away from me and I wonder how long it will be before I can see her again.
I know there is no way I'll wait as long as I did last time.
I feel so alive tonight,
You got me feeling sublime,
I want to yell it from the rooftops down,
Until it's over, and we're older.
1st song - Sorry by Art of Dying
2nd song - Tonight by Seether
There really is a farm for troubled kids close to my hometown.
Thank you Nicffwhisperer for recommending HFL for Fic of the Week at The Lemonade Stand. And thank you for those of you who voted for me. In the world of Fan Fiction, it's like being nominated for an Oscar…lol!