So my brain randomly decides that writing 7500 word one shots at 4:30 AM is acceptable. This is what resulted from that.
Bella Swan goes to a local bar to watch a band for her media class. She doesn't expect to be moved by the voice - much less the man behind the voice. She only has two weeks with him, and choosing wisely has never been her forte.
This plot was thought up by Ali, and it's been long overdue that I finish it.
Please excuse any errors, as both me and my beta are delirious from lack of sleep. I'll fix them as soon as I find them... hopefully.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Still.
She had heard once that musicians made love like they performed. Raw, quiet, unassuming, passionate, dirty, sweaty, messy. She leaned back against the rough wooden wall of the small bar, sipping out of the tiny red straw that led into her drink of choice. She thought that if this was true, the singer practically kissing the microphone would be hard and fast, satisfying enough only for a moment before being needed again, slower the next time.
He sat at the piano bench, the last song of the evening. His band mates had left this one to him, and so he had taken over, his voice so blues and hot that she felt like she was knee deep in the mud of the Mississippi River. The world fell away around him, and he leaned into the mic so desperately that it shook something inside of her, and she unconsciously leaned forward like it was her mouth his lips were moving against.
He banged the keys and sang out a rough version of an old classic – there's nothin' wrong with me loving you – and she watched as the sweat dripped down his nose and onto his lips. She wondered briefly if someone could get electrocuted that way – saline against a microphone.
The girls in the crowd were enamored, all sipping out of their drinks like they could taste his release, his coda in their mouths. It made her laugh – maybe it was always like this? This was the first local show she had been to, and she wasn't sure of the scene around here. Maybe these women looked at all the men with voices and ivory seeking fingers like that.
He finished his song and looked bewildered at the applause, like he had forgotten there was anyone around. He stood, and she took a good look at him – but not good enough, because he was quick as hell to get off the stage.
He was tall and thin, and he had some sort of neutral hair color that was long enough to plaster to his forehead and dangle sweat into his eyes. She shrugged and sat her empty drink down on the table, ready to leave. Her mission had been accomplished.
She shrugged back into her jacket before she stepped outside. It was a bit chilly, and she drew her arms tighter around her chest. She had a short walk back to her four-hundred square foot cottage, but it wasn't yet midnight, so she lingered outside the entrance of the bar, watching people load up a white van.
She checked the messages on her phone and started walking in the direction of her abode when she glanced up and noticed what looked like a really expensive amp sliding off the back of a cart. Acting on impulse, she rushed forward and shouted an expletive before cradling its fall in her arms.
"Whoa," said a male voice behind her, a small lilt in his words. "Thanks. Here, I got it." He awkwardly maneuvered behind her and grabbed the amp and hoisted it back up onto the cart.
She rubbed her arm, turning around. "That thing was fucking heavy!"
"I know. To say that I'm impressed is an understatement." He laughed, and when she really looked at him, she smiled.
It was him.
"Agreed. I didn't realize I had it in me to lose an arm for a piece of equipment, so I'm feeling pretty great about myself right now." She flexed her measly bicep.
He grinned at her. Without the sweat, his hair was a dark red and fell strangely – some parts were curly and other parts were straight as a board, and all of it was too long. It fell over his eyebrows and flipped up slightly, like he couldn't keep his hands out of it. But his smile was honest, and his eyes were bright under the yellow lamp light, and she found herself grinning back.
"You should. The Superman to my amp's Lois Lane. You're practically a hero." He sized her up quickly. "A hero that deserves a drink."
She shook her head quickly. "No, I really can't. I've got to be getting home." She tucked her hair behind her ear. "You uh… played a great show, though. You're really… great."
If she didn't know for a fact that it was impossible for men to blush, she would have sworn he did. "Oh, yeah? You were in there?"
She nodded. "Yeah. I had to come to a local show for extra credit in my media class. You were really good. I felt it, you know?"
He scratched behind his ear and smiled. "I'm not sure what to say besides thank you. I mean… I'm kind of afraid of appearing insincere, because that's an awesome thing to say – so just… thank you."
She thought of her earlier judgment of him and wondered if she was right. On stage, he had such a commanding yet unassuming presence, but as a person, he was a bit awkward, like he forgot how to command a voice he wasn't using for singing. Maybe his long fingers were truly only good for one thing – the piano, and making love to it, and it alone.
"Sure," she smiled, and then turned to walk away.
She was ten feet away when he called out to her again. "What's your name?"
She stopped and pivoted towards him. "Bella," she said simply.
He grinned. "Like in Lady and the Tramp."
She blinked at him. "Pardon?"
Then he opened his mouth and sang a couple lyrics – oh this is the night, such a beautiful night, and they call it Bella Notte – of a song she barely recognized from a movie she hadn't seen in years.
She turned all the way around. "You did not just try to impress with Disney."
He rocked back on his heels. "With Lady and the Tramp? Please."
Bella crossed her arms over her chest. "Oh, really?"
"I bet my favorite Disney movie you haven't even heard of."
"You're really going to test a girl whose name is in a Disney song?" She was mostly kidding, but she was interested.
Bella racked her brain. "You made that up."
He just smiled an enigmatic smile. "Did I?"
Bella whipped around at the noise, and he whipped around at his name.
"Yeah?" he asked his giant band mate. He was the one with the bass, she remembered. The bass and the gauge in his ear.
Edward, Bella thought, testing it in her mind. She mouthed it slightly, tasting his name on her lips, rolling off her tongue. She liked it there.
"We're gonna go grab some food somewhere. Let's go, amigo." His band mate clapped Edward on his shoulder and nodded at Bella, who gave a half-smile back.
"You wanna go?" Edward asked, tilting his head.
Bella shook her head, declining his second invitation. "No, I really can't. I have a class early in the morning."
Edward nodded, and then laughed, pointing to himself. "I'm uh… Edward, by the way."
"Noted," Bella said dryly. "Antiquated, much?"
"I transcend all generations, little girl."
Bella just laughed, and for the second time, turned to go.
"Listen," said Edward suddenly, grabbing at her forearm. His finger pads were scratchy against her skin. "We're going to be playing around here for the next couple weeks. And I'd really like if you came out to another show."
Bella made a face. "This stuff really isn't my scene. And I have finals – "
"Please," he said quietly. "I have to see you again."
And that was when she knew she hadn't been wrong in her judgment. His eyes flared out at her, a signal in the dark. Those were eyes she could see opening against the night sky, silver with the moon, beckoning her to his side of the bed. Even if he didn't exercise his power, even if he was uncomfortable with it, he was aware of it. And that undercurrent of attraction that buzzed against her skin, warning her but none too loudly, was what made her agree.
Bella was not trying to be coy by not showing up to any of the shows during the following week. She was truly swamped with impending finals and a banal job that drained her of energy. At the end of the day, all she wanted to do was wrap herself in blankets and lay on her bed, reading books about lives she could never have. She definitely had no desire to step into a smoky bar, no matter how much the singing eyes of a crooner called her to.
He texted her every day with the locations of the show, and she had never texted him back with more than a good luck.
When she walked into the bar that night, the show was already in progress. Edward had a guitar in his hands tonight, instead of piano keys against his fingers. He sat on a stool, his knees propped up and the microphone poised at his lips.
He was singing for someone named Emma he knew forever ago and her loveable lies, and she was lost in his closed eyes and open vulnerability. She ordered an amaretto sour at the bar and sat down to drink it, watching him and wondering if he would open his eyes and take notice. She hadn't told him she was coming, opting for the element of surprise. That way she could tell if he really wanted her there - being surprised took away the ability to guard one's self against their initial reaction.
The song changed and he was singing about desire's edge and never forgetting, and she wondered if his music gave him love or if love gave him his music. His hair was tucked underneath a straw cowboy hat and his feet were bare, his toes curled against the bars of the stool.
And he was beautiful.
She raked her fingers through her dark hair, curling burnt orange strands around her fingers, catching fire in the dim light. In the past week, when she had conjured up images of Edward, they had been disjointed and vague – his lopsided smile and the way it curved into his cheek, and the flash of his eyes under the lamp light. But now, seeing him in living color once more, she was almost mad at herself for losing even one inch of detail.
He played a couple more, one upbeat that caused him to smile around his words and tap his fingers against the face of his cherry-wood guitar. The audience clapped along and they were all his sweet things under a high moon and a young night. Then he wrapped it up with the last verse and chorus of Hallelujah, and he was off the stage with a wave.
His band mates came back out to start packing things away, and Bella picked up her drink, wondering how best to surprise him. She dropped her sweet drink into her mouth in one pour, and swallowed it in a burst of courage. Then she walked out of the small bar and to the back where she had seen him last time, a week ago.
He was out there on the phone, shoes thankfully on and butt resting against the wall. He was talking in a low voice, his slight southern accent a sweeter tune against the screeches of the night.
She walked up slowly, not wanting to startle him but wanting to make her presence known. She stuffed her hands into the pockets of her jacket and shuffled forward cautiously, chin down but eyes up.
He glanced over at her, glanced away, and then dropped his foot against the ground in surprise when he looked back quickly. A smile crept onto his face as he stared at her, and she stared back, suddenly shy. He said goodbye to the person on the phone, still smiling, and then pushed off the wall towards her.
"You," he said simply.
They ended up at a late night wings and beer place, sports channels blaring from large TVs all around their table. Bella was squashed between the lead guitarist whose name was Jasper, and his girlfriend Annie or something. She was nice enough, but spent the whole night on her phone.
Bella declined getting a drink and went for a Coke instead, and then asked for a chicken Caesar salad when it was her turn to order.
Four pairs of male eyes turned to her after their server walked away.
"What?" she asked defensively.
"A salad?" said Emmett, the giant bass player. "Edward, you totally owe me twenty bucks."
"Please tell me you didn't bet on what I would order," she groused as she watched Edward pull out his wallet.
"Edward said you'd probably order something hearty and good, like a burger or queso, or something besides a salad."
Bella held up her hands. "Hey! Okay, first of all – I genuinely love Caesar salads. They're delicious and really fattening, just for your information. Second of all – I ate dinner and I'm not starving. So that's really unfair. You'd have to take me out when I'm hungry to gage that kind of bet."
Emmett grudgingly agreed, and Edward put the twenty back in his wallet with a grin.
"Ha," said Edward, sipping the beer the server had put down in front of him with a smile.
"So…" Bella said after a moment, making a crinkled ladder with her straw paper. "Do you guys, like… have a band name? I feel really out of the loop."
Edward laughed. "I keep forgetting that you didn't seek this out."
"It just kind of fell into my lap, yeah," Bella smiled. "So? Band name?"
"Not really," answered Jacob, the drummer. "We kind of… we go by…"
"We go by Untitled," said Edward, finishing his sentence. At Bella's derisive snort, he cocked an eyebrow at her. "What?"
She shook her head. "No, nothing. I don't know anything about this stuff."
"Say it," he urged.
"It's just – Untitled? Isn't that trying a little too hard to be label-less? Oh, don't stereotype us, we're untitled," she finished in a deep voice.
"We go by Untitled because we are untitled," Edward said defensively.
"I'm just saying," she said, sipping on her coke. "Sounds like you're reaching for a label while backing away from one at the same time."
Edward made a face at her. "Well, what would you suggest?"
"Oh, no," she said, throwing up her hands. "Leave me out of this one." She scratched behind her ear. "So, are you guys like… famous? Big? Should I have heard of you? Will I be randomly surprised to hear you on the radio?"
"We aren't that – " Emmett looked a bit surprised by her abruptness. "I mean, this is weird. Usually we talk about music with people who know who we are, so it's a bit daunting to have these questions." He started again. "I mean, we don't have a huge demographic. We're under the radar, but we're actually…"
"They're gonna be in that Rolling Stone issue that lists up and coming bands every year," said Annie/Alice/Ashley, not looking up from her phone. "So, they're gonna be pretty big. Bigger than they already are."
"And you guys are down here playing in bars?" Bella asked in shock.
"We're trying to spread our sound," said Jasper, speaking for the first time. "We've been touring America for the past year, just putting the word out, you know? The South is still the hardest to please. You guys have your country and you don't want anything else."
"Hey there," laughed Bella. "Didn't I hear Mr. Cowboy Hat over here playing a Keith Urban song?" She threw a thumb in Edward's direction.
"Fraternizing," he said without apology. "If you can't beat them, join them."
"Wow," breathed Bella after a second. "Okay, this is pretty cool. But really – y'all are going to let yourselves be put into Rolling Stone with the name Untitled?"
They all groaned and threw balled up napkins at her.
Edward drove her home early in the morning. They had parked their van at Jacob's house, and Edward picked up his car, an unassuming, beat up Volvo that didn't fit him at all.
"This is the car of a rock star?" she asked, poking at the cloth seats.
"I lead a double life," he said dryly. He fiddled with his beat up iPod, and then threw it into her lap. "Pick something."
She put it on shuffle, figuring she couldn't go wrong with that. A strong piano came through, blues and jazz, a strong staccato, and then a timeless voice.
Edward sighed, happy. "One of my favorite songs ever."
She looked down at the screen – it was Elton John. "I've heard this," she said quietly.
"It's like… the ultimate love song for those on the road all the time," he murmured after a minute, listening to lyrics. He sang along quietly for a moment. "Live for each second without hesitation, and never forget I'm your man. Wait on me, girl, cry in the night if helps. But more than anything else, I simply love you more than I love life itself…"
She joined in tentatively during the chorus. "Laughing like children, living like lovers, rolling like thun-dahhhh," she laughed, exaggerating the part. "Don't even listen to me sing. It's an awful noise."
"Discordant," he agreed. "You aren't even in my key."
"I make my own key," she argued. "Just because it's yours doesn't make it right."
"Mine is the same as Elton's. Therefore, it's right."
She huffed but had a grin on her face.
"So, did you have fun?" he asked after the song was over. She was nearly in a trance, listening to his breaths and the way they pushed out and held at the insistence of his notes.
"Hmmm?" She opened her eyes and looked at him.
"At the show. After the show. In my presence."
"Yes. Yes. Sometimes." She yawned. "Take a left here."
He complied, turning the wheel with ease. She lazily watched the veins in his hands pop at the skin, plucked tight like strings.
"I'm here," she said, pointing at the mailbox jutting out, shaped like a manatee. She collected her things and then turned to him. "Thanks for the ride."
"Can I see you tomorrow?" he asked, looking down at his lap, fidgeting.
"Another show?" she questioned.
He shook his head, looked up, and met her eyes. They were a striking green, dark in one place and molten in another. "No, I'm off. I'd like to just… hang out. Take you out. Get to know you."
She bit her lip, her four-chambered organ thumping madly. Bella was a pretty girl – petite, with dark hair that was blonde in some places and red some places, and bright brown eyes that glinted yellow in the sun. She had heard the schpeel before – you're beautiful, I want to get to know you – when in reality, they were talking with their southern hemisphere. But this musician with the strong fingers and stronger voice radiated sincerity, and most of all – humility.
"Yes," she said finally, smiling at him. "I would really like that."
"Yeah?" He looked shocked, and then his handsome face split into a giant smile. "Okay, yeah. That sounds… I mean, yeah. Should I pick you up here?"
She laughed at his eagerness. "Yes, but try not to drool on your cloth seats, you overeager mutt."
"I know you're insulting my excitement to see you in an attempt to mask your own eagerness. It's kind of cute, Bella."
She shut the door in his face, but not before waving her middle finger at him in a goodnight kiss.
The next morning came too early, and Bella groaned against the shrill noise that brought about her consciousness too quickly.
"Hello?" she groused into the phone, once she discovered that it was the source of the racket.
"Good morning to you, too, sunshine." A happy male voice sounded over the phone.
"Oh my god, Edward. It's not even noon. What is wrong with you?"
"I couldn't sleep. I was drooling on my pillows too much in my anxiousness."
That forced a laugh out of her – her first insistent noise of the day, and it caused her to cough against the morning phlegm that had been resting all night. "Ugh, gross. Warn a girl before you say something funny first thing in the morning."
"I'll make sure to let you know next time," he said, and she could almost feel the innuendo in his promise.
"Hmmm," she muttered. "So, to what do I owe the pleasure of this wake up call?"
"Well, I'm kind of outside your house."
She shot up instantly, and ran over to her window. There he was, in a black v-neck t-shirt and raggedy jeans, leaning against his silver car. He must have seen her in the window, because he waved suddenly.
"Shit," she said into the phone. Then she hung up, and on the way to the door, grabbed the first robe she could get her hands on.
She let him in, and he had the grace to look sheepish. "I'm sorry. I think I'm a social pariah."
"I'm going to agree with you," she said, wrapping the white terrycloth robe tighter around her body. "But since you're here, make yourself at home. Want something to drink?"
"What do you have?"
Bella smiled to herself as she turned around. She didn't understand why people turned down offers of something to drink – people were usually always at least somewhat parched, and she hated when people didn't feel comfortable enough to take her up on the offer. If she didn't want to get them something, she just wouldn't ask.
"OJ, Coke, water, and beer," she said, bending at the waist to peer into the fridge. "And pickle juice." She took out the empty jar of pickles that only had brine left in it. "Oops."
"Are you sure there's nothing else in there?"
Puzzled, Bella bent back over to check again. Then, she caught on to his game and snapped up. "You little shit."
"What? I was merely inquiring about your choice of beverages. I couldn't help that there was a shapely derriere in my way."
She smacked him on the chest. "I'm going to get in the shower. You choose your own drink. There's a TV in the other room. Asshole."
As she turned the corner back into her room, she peeked over her shoulder, watching Edward bent over, rummaging through her fridge.
Shapely derriere, indeed.
Thirty minutes later, she emerged from her bedroom. She was showered and in casual clothes – jeans and a t-shirt with the name of some bar in Key West on it that she stole from her first college roommate years ago. Edward was on her couch, shouting at the TV.
"Twelve oh one? I hate people like you! Oh my god, you won! If I was the person who guessed twelve hundred, I would beat the shit out of you!"
"The Price is Right giving you grief?" she inquired, leaning on the back of the couch.
"It aggravates the piss out of me when people do that," he raged, combing at his hair. "Could you imagine being that person? God, fucking assholes."
Bella couldn't help it – she laughed. He was the most mild-mannered person she had ever met, and he was getting worked up over a game show. "Yeah, no. Totally. What an asshole. I'm going to go lay an egg I'm so worked up."
He switched off the TV and stood up. He stretched languidly, and then grabbed her hand and started leading her out of her apartment.
"Where are we going?" she demanded, grabbing her wallet and phone and shoving them into her jean pockets.
"The day is young, and we mustn't rot our brains with television."
"Yeah, I hear you. There better be food involved." She locked the door, and then followed him out to his car. He opened her door for her, and she rolled her eyes and slid in. Secretly, she was charmed.
He gave her control of the iPod as she started towards town, and she put on Jack Johnson – something light and breezy in the morning sunshine.
"Where are we going?" she asked again, sliding her cheap, mock Wayfarers onto her face.
"Food is involved," he said vaguely, and then started humming along to a song about bubbly toes.
They stopped at Bella's favorite diner – it had great character and even better food. Edward put his hand on the small of her back as he guided her inside, and she could feel the heat of his hand through the ratty cotton of her t-shirt.
Once they ordered, and he had unsuccessfully tried to blow his straw wrapper at her, he sat back and considered her thoughtfully.
"So, Bella, where are you from?"
She took a sip from her water. "I was born in Washington. I lived in Phoenix for quite some time, spent my junior and senior year of high school back up in Washington, and then moved down here to Florida for college."
"Quite a bit of traveling," he remarked.
She shrugged. "The bane and boon of divorced parents. I've made some great friends along the way. My roommate, Heidi, is really cool – met her my sophomore year of college in a European art class. We've been pretty inseparable ever since." Then she gestured to him. "What about you, though? Talking about me traveling – I can't even imagine all of what you've seen. The whole US, I'd imagine."
He smiled. "Not the whole US, but we've been pretty lucky. I get to travel and do what I love, and I'm only twenty-three. I'd say I have it made, but there are definitely downfalls to being on the road all the time."
"I'm really… this sounds pathetic, so let's all get out our violins and play a sad song for me – but I'm really lonely. Life on the road doesn't really allow the time to make friends or… well, you know."
"Am I the friend, or the 'you know'?" Bella inquired, teasing.
"That's all up to you, Bella." Edward stared at her quietly, and she swallowed, feeling the conversation was a little too intense for barely noon.
"But what about Jasper?" she asked, changing the subject slightly. "He has… um. Ashley?"
"Alice," Edward laughed. "Yeah, he does. But they're a rare breed, them. Alice comes from a very privileged family, so she gets to travel around the country with her boyfriend and not have to worry about bills or expenses or loans or… anything, really, except when she and Jasper will have enough time to boff."
Bella laughed. "What a difficult life to lead."
"Right? Such a trooper, that Alice." He took a long swallow from his Dr. Pepper, and belched a bit under his breath. "Excuse me." He shot her a charming little grin, and then continued. "I do envy them, though. I think we all do. Emmett has a girlfriend back home, and whenever we have more than three days off, he's flying up to see her. His poor credit card, though. We can't really afford to do that yet. Alice was yukking up how big we are last night. I mean, we have the potential. But we're not. We're still poor as dirt, working towards a dream, just like everyone else."
Bella nodded along, listening. He was beautiful in the early afternoon sunlight, the rays catching hairs the color of newly shined pennies on top of his head and chest. He spoke with such passion and humility in the same breath, and it was such a contradictory combination she couldn't help but feel ridiculously drawn to the musician with big dreams and a future he couldn't secure.
"You guys are gonna make it," she told him as their food was placed down in front of them. "And one day, I'll see your face plastered all over creation, and I'll think back to now, sharing cheese fries with you in a greasy diner, and no one will ever believe me."
His eyes stared at her with such focus that she looked down. "Well, that's what I think, anyway," she said quietly, and then picked up her cheeseburger. "And Emmett owes you twenty bucks. I ordered a burger, ha!"
Edward laughed, and then whipped out his phone to take a picture of her eating it. He sent it to Emmett in a picture message, and they both cracked up when Emmett replied with FUCKERS.
They squabbled over who was paying the bill, and Edward won, even though Bella kept trying to shove a ten in his pocket all the way out. He shoved her away, laughing, and then took off towards his car. She laughed and chased after him, dodging random people in her way. He dove into the driver's seat, and she went in after him, shoving the ten at him in anyway she could. It eventually ended up stuffed inside his mouth, and he choked and laughed and she could hardly breathe.
She crawled over him and settled into the passenger's seat, completely winded. "Well, that completed my workout for the next three weeks."
He leaned his head against the seat, still panting and smiling. "You ain't seen nothin' yet."
They drove down the beach, all the windows rolled down. She blasted Led Zeppelin, and they both sang along, laughing at their voice renditions of the guitar solos.
They stopped at one of the several pagodas set up down the shore, and walked side by side down the ramp to get to the beach. They left their flip-flops by the stairs, and walked in the sand for a very long time.
When Edward finally worked up the nerve to grab Bella's hand in a very deliberate movement, she had been waiting for him for what seemed like eternity. She smiled up at him and squeezed his rough palm.
"About time," she remarked, and he squeezed back, and they continued to walk.
They headed back to the car when the sun was heading west. Bella's phone buzzed in her pocket, and she took the call as Edward brushed the sand off of his feet.
It was one of her friends, informing her of a bonfire later that night. She put her hand over the speaker and asked Edward if he'd like to go, and he readily agreed.
"What to do until then?" he asked, holding her hand over the console. Once he touched her hand, it seemed like he couldn't stop.
"We could go back to my house. I could make us dinner," she offered.
"And she cooks," he muttered loud enough for her to hear. He grinned at her, and she smiled back.
He cooked, too. Instead of wandering off to the TV, he stayed in the kitchen with her and helped her prepare their meal. She made enchiladas – they were quick and easy – and they talked over the light strains of jazz music warbling from her beat up iPod dock.
He grated cheese, and she diced tomatoes. She mixed the sauce, and he seared the chicken. He knew his way around a kitchen without any boastful moves or weird flourishes, and she was struck by how much she genuinely liked him.
She didn't really care for many people. She was quiet most of the time, and sarcastic the rest of the time. But that was the thing – he was, too. She found strange comfort in being around him, strange because he also made her dizzy with desire and desperation. If he were any other boy, he would have tried to at least kiss her by now. The weird thing was, she wouldn't have let any other boy.
They ate and drank a little more, and then gathered up a couple blankets for their short walk to the beach near her house, where the bonfire was being held.
When they reached it, several people called out hello's to Bella. She introduced Edward to those who inquired, and then they grabbed a beer out of a cooler and sat down amongst the throngs of people.
They chattered happily with those around them, and Bella leaned up against Edward and he drew an arm around her waist. She settled farther into him, laughing at other people's antics and enjoying the rumble of Edward's breathing. They talked and talked, and eventually it was brought out that Edward played a mean guitar, and Bella was buzzed and bragged about him until he was pink in the face.
A guitar ended up in his lap, and Bella drew back as everyone went silent. He played a mid-tempo song, country but not, about love and nerves and hope.
And I know tonight might seem like dinner and a movie
But to me it means much, much more
'Cause I'm bettin' my whole heart that you're gonna love me
And I've never took that kinda chance before
It was an easy beat, and people clapped along and Edward smiled around his words. He was enjoying himself – it was evident to her, and to everyone around that he enjoyed not only playing music, but watching music effect other people. When he was done, he passed the guitar back amongst a smattering of applause.
Then he drew her up and asked her to take a walk with him. She felt fuzzy from all the alcohol, and when he pressed her up against him, she was ready for his kiss.
His kisses were so smooth and sweet, bitter with beer but soft with his tongue. She all but clung to him as their mouths came together over and over and over, and then she was whispering to him to take her back to the house.
They stumbled into her bedroom ten minutes later, clothes flying off and hitting the floor with soft, muffled sounds. She drew in the sight of his bare chest, smattered with hair the color of his head. She followed it down to his navel, and then noticed two tattoos peeking up from the waist of his jeans.
"What are these?" she asked, tracing them with her fingers. Then she unbuttoned his pants without giving him the chance to answer.
"F holes," he whispered. "The violin was my first instrument – no one ever believes that – fuck."
She flung his boxers down so she could see the rest of the tattoo. They were massive F holes that framed the muscled V of his hips and enclosed the nestle of copper colored hair and the proud pink cock that strained forward, weeping for her touch.
"That is… the most beautiful thing I think I've ever seen," she said, not sure if she was referring to his body, his tattoo, or his erection.
He laughed. "I'm feeling a bit vulnerable here." He undressed her the rest of the way, and they fell back against her bed.
"I know foreplay is a lost art," he whispered in her ear, kissing every inch of skin he could reach, "but I'm not really feeling like finding it right now."
"Get inside me," she agreed, reaching for her beside table drawer. He tried to help, but they both ended up knocking over nearly everything, and they were laughing when he finally ripped into a condom.
When he pushed inside of her, their foreheads clacked together in their equal urgency to get to each other's mouths. Even as he began to thrust, their mouths didn't leave each other more than an inch, choosing to pant open mouthed or kiss with sloppy, hungry abandon.
She didn't come, but she didn't need to. Watching him sate himself was so overwhelming, she didn't think she could come if she tried. He proved her wrong by finding the lost art of foreplay with his tongue against her. When they were all done, they showered and then fell into her bed, and knew no more until the next afternoon.
The next week flew by with laughter and sex and food and music. She went to all of his shows, and they made out in bathrooms of dirty bars and had sex in the band's van. Bella didn't think much about the future, and she refused to think about the time when Edward would be gone.
The truth was, he had cracked something she thought was impenetrable – the heart that had never given itself to anyone else. But she couldn't let him know, out of fear that she was just some summer, on the road fling. She would have her memories to keep her company, her sweet memories of his skin and song, and her pride.
As the band packed up their last show, she toed the ground, watching with a heavy heart. They would be leaving in the morning for their next destination, for their next crowds to please, for the next batch of girls that would fall for the singer with his music in his eyes and their cadence somewhere in his heart.
He approached her when they were all done, and she saw the sadness all over his face. "Hey," he said, trying to smile.
"Hey," she said back, returning his attempt.
He drove them to her house, and when they walked through the door, it felt like goodbye more than ever. This would be the last time he'd ever make his way into her room, strip off his jacket and sag her bed with his weight. She watched him do all these things, and she had to look away so he wouldn't catch her with the weight of their world crashing in her eyes.
She moved to him quietly, and they stripped without words, and he fell on her, and they made love. It was slow and without much noise, a pant here and sweet sigh there, and in the afterglow he turned to her.
"I've fallen in love with you, Bella."
She shook her head. "Don't, Edward. Don't do this."
"It's true. I have. Knowing that in less than eight hours, I'll be pulling out of this town and away from you indefinitely – I can't even breathe. It makes me want to do a lot of weird, passionate things – like cry. Like die. Like beg you to come with me, even though I know you can't. Like stay here in this place, even though all the world is waiting for me outside. What do I do, Bella?"
She didn't answer. She didn't know. She couldn't do any of those things – she was not an Alice, and she couldn't follow a man halfway across the country.
"You can't stay," she told him finally. "You belong out there."
"I don't belong with you?"
"You belong more out there," she clarified. "Staying here, with me? That would get you nothing."
"I would be here, with you. That isn't nothing. That's everything."
"That's – no, Edward. No. Don't you see? Don't you see your chance to put yourself into the world? The world needs you. It needs your music, your words – it needs your heart."
He got up quietly, and began to dress himself. She said nothing, watching him clothe himself for the last time. There were no kisses, no laughs between them. Only silence, thick and heavy, choking her.
"The world can't have my heart, Bella," he said finally, going to the door. "I've left it with you."
And then he was gone.
Bella cried for days, moped for weeks, mourned for months, and a year later, she found herself staring at a poster of Edward in the record store.
He had just released his first CD, titled Bella Notte, and it was shooting up the charts daily. He had left the band behind and gone solo, and as she stared at the huge picture of him on the wall, a girl sidled up next to her.
"He's so hot," she said, smiling at her. "I can't wait until his show."
"His what?" Bella asked, staring at the girl.
"He's performing tonight down at the Funky Blues Shack," answered the girl, looking at her strangely. "How did you not know that?"
Bella shrugged. "Did you know that I ate cheese fries with him down at Bob's Diner?"
The girl snorted. "Yeah, and I'm pregnant with Virgin Mary's baby." She moved away, shooting Bella a weird look.
Bella laughed. She laughed so hard she had to hold onto the wall to support herself. And when she had no laughter left, she cried.
She was still talking herself out of going as she stepped inside the Funky Blues Shack for the first time since last summer. The cover charge for Edward's show was ridiculous, but she paid it, just so she could catch a glimpse of him.
She was somewhat late to the show, so he was already performing when she walked in. He was playing a song from his CD that she didn't recognize, but he could be singing the Star Spangled Banner for all she cared.
Time had diminished her mind's view of him, but seeing him again like this, making love to the microphone, brought him all back in Technicolor. She now knew the answer to her question – if musicians make love like they perform.
They do if they're in love.
He played a good show, and she was entranced by his talent. She had missed him so much, so stupid much, all the way down to her cells. She hadn't allowed herself to feel anything towards him in such a long time that when it came back, it came slamming back so hard that it hurt twice as much as it had when he left.
After the show, she went around the back of the building to see if she could see him, talk to him – anything, really. But unlike last year, there were actually security guards swarming the area.
"Hey, you can't be back here," one said, catching her eye.
"I know Edward," she protested, realizing how lame it sounded.
The security guard rolled his eyes. "Lady, if I had a nickel for every time I heard that – "
"Ask him. Go ask him. I'm Bella – go ask him."
The guard eyed her for a second, and then said, "Okay, fine. You know what? I'm going to do this for you, just so it'll be even sweeter when we get to kick you out."
Five minutes later, the guard came out laughing. "Edward says he doesn't know any Bella. You have thirty seconds to leave before I have someone remove you."
She walked back into the bar, bought three shots of tequila, and slammed them all without a smidge of salt or a lick of lime. Then she started the walk back to her house, wondering how she could have made a man who claimed to love her hate her so much.
It was two AM and she was almost asleep when there was a loud knock on the door. It was a bruising, harsh knock that startled her from her drunken stupor. She got up quickly, her heart jammed in her throat, and she told it to settle down, because she couldn't handle any more disappointment.
She had no reason to be disappointed. When she wrenched open the door, there stood Edward.
She had imagined herself saying a million different things to him if she ever saw him again. But, she didn't say anything of those things.
"You had me kicked out," she accused.
He smiled a little. "Yeah," he agreed. "It felt good."
"That's really fucked up," she noted. But she was laughing.
She let him inside that night, inside her house and body and heart, and the next day when he clothed himself, they were laughing.
"You broke my fucking heart, you know," he told her. She watched as those familiar tattoos – the ones her tongue couldn't stop tracing the night before – were swallowed up by his jeans.
She nodded. "I'm in love with you, you know."
That stopped his busy hands, and when he glanced up, she saw the sarcastic, carefree Edward of last summer – not the bitter, raunchy musician of today.
"Then why?" he asked, his voice barely above a whisper. "I would have – I would have done anything to stay. Or to take you with me."
"I had my reasons," Bella said. "But I can't remember any of them now. They must not have been very good."
She almost saw him smile, but it was gone as soon as it appeared. "I don't know if I like you very much right now," he said honestly. "But I'm still ridiculously in love with you, as much as I haven't wanted to be."
"We can working on the liking me part," she whispered, and tugged on his belt loops, and they worked very hard on that part for quite some time.
When he finally left, they were pulling kisses off each other's lips like they would never see each other again.
"I'm in town for a couple more days," he told her by the door as she kissed all up and down his neck.
"Stay here," she told him, begged him.
He kissed her madly – that was apparently the right thing to say. "So I stay – and then what, Bella?"
"I don't know," she told him. "But I'm ready to find out."
The songs mentioned in this story are (in order... I think):
1. Let's Get It On - Marvin Gaye (but I love Gavin DeGraw's version)
2. For Emma - Bon Iver
3. Edge of Desire - John Mayer
4. Sweet Thing - Keith Urban
5. Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley version
6. The Blues - Elton John
7. Bubbly Toes - Jack Johnson
8. Dazed and Confused - Led Zeppelin
9. Something to Lose - Corey Smith
And the title comes from the song "Broken Strings" by James Morrison.
F holes look like this:
http : // www . nowakviolins . co . uk / images / ffs2 . jpg
Ali photoshopped what the F hole tattoos would look like:
http : // i41 . tinypic . com / 10eknj7 . jpg
If I ever decide to revisit this story, I'll let you all know. For now, it's complete. :)