WAKE ME UP WHEN SEPTEMBER ENDS
Disclaimer: Twilight and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. Mr. Nobody belongs to Jaco Van Dormael (if you haven't seen this movie yet, you so should). The title song belongs to Green Day. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: Words can't express my gratitude to awesome Frenchbeanz for beta'ing this story and to my pre-reader Detochkina for giving me the incredible support. I love you so much!
And I do not condone underage drinking and drug usage.
He wears a studded leather jacket and listens to punk rock. He likes the idea of being a rebel, so he smokes and ditches school now and then.
It's early September and he skips his music class and rides his bike home. When he turns around the corner of his house, something is wrong. His father's car is in the driveway, and he stops the bike, feeling a sudden nausea. Not because he is about to be caught, but because if his dad is home that early, something must have happened—something really bad.
He enters the house, trying to make his steps noiseless, and even from the doorway he senses it. A sorrow. It is hanging in the stiff air in the hall, and when he enters the living room, Mommy and Daddy sit on the sofa, embraced, and she is crying.
"Mom," he calls. They shift their eyes and she opens her arms for him. She clasps him to her chest and holds him so tight it almost hurts.
"Edward, something awful has happened today. There's been a car accident with Aunt Charlotte and Uncle Peter. They passed away at the hospital in the morning." She sobs, striking his hair with her trembling hand.
Aunt Charlotte is Mommy's cousin. He doesn't remember her too well, for the last time he and Mommy visited them in New York was five years ago. His memory of that journey is a blur of skyscrapers, crowded streets with yellow taxis, sickness after too many rides on The Cyclone at Coney Island, and a nasty girl his age. His second cousin.
"You remember Rosalie, Edward?" Daddy asks, as if following his line of thoughts. "You see, we are her only family now. We've been appointed her guardians."
He is getting lost. What does that supposed to mean?
"Of course, we could not make this decision without asking you, son," Daddy continues, "but I'm sure you feel the same way and will not disagree. Because really, all the other options are unthinkable…" Daddy pauses. "Edward, your mother and I, we want Rosalie to live with us."
On one hand, he feels really sorry for the poor girl. He can't imagine losing Mommy and Daddy; they just can't cease to exist. He feels cold in the stomach at the thought that one day, they will be no more. On the other hand, this place is his little world, and he feels suddenly defensive about it. He doesn't want intruders. Especially if they are girls.
But Mommy's look is pleading and he feels a pang of guilt for being so selfish.
"Okay," he says and notices a proud smile appearing on Daddy's face.
Mommy leaves for New York in the evening. A week later, he is watching TV in the living room when he hears Daddy's car pull into the driveway. Mommy and Daddy enter the house, carrying large suitcases, and go upstairs to the room next to his, where he used to keep his old toys, now packed in the carton boxes at the attic. He rushes to the hall, and there she stands.
Her face is very pale and there are dark circles under her grey eyes. Her lifeless blond hair is tied up into a ponytail. She's wearing dark jeans and a plain black t-shirt. Just the average teenage girl. When she sees him, she clutches her backpack to her and casts him a timid look from under her lashes, as if she's somewhat afraid of him.
"Hi. I'm Edward," he says, offering her his best friendly smile.
"I know," she replies faintly. "I remember you. You took away my teddy bear," she manages to smile, but her eyes are sad and it doesn't sound funny at all.
Ugh, he thinks. He clearly doesn't remember the teddy bear episode. "I'm sorry."
It's awkward as they stand in the hallway, looking at each other in silence. He wishes he knew what to say, because he hasn't expressed his condolences yet, but his mind is oddly blank.
"Rose, honey, let me show you to your room." Mommy steps in, and he is thankful for the intrusion.
They have dinner altogether. He notices Rose is picking up at her food but hardly ever eating. Daddy keeps shooting Mommy worried glances, but she just smiles reassuringly, as if everything will be okay eventually.
Later that night, he can't sleep. He really needs to pee, but his and Rose's rooms have a shared bathroom and there's no lock on her door. Also, he can hear her crying. He wishes he could say something to cheer her up, but can't think of anything good enough. When the sun rises, he is exhausted and he begins to hate her, and then he hates himself for feeling that way.
He gets up early to use the bathroom before Rose, and decides the lock will be the first thing he does after school. When he's washing his hands, he sees there's a little pink toothbrush standing in the plastic cup and there are a few long blond hairs on the sink as well. He can't help but cringe in disgust. Not because he thinks she's untidy or anything, but simply because she is now in his bathroom, as a matter of fact.
He's suddenly impatient to leave the house; he dresses quickly, grabs his jacket and rushes for the door.
"Edward, breakfast!" Mommy shouts from the kitchen.
"Sorry, Mom. I have to do some piano practice before homeroom today," he shouts back, already on his bicycle. He feels like a moron sneaking from his own house, but he can't explain to himself why he does it.
When he arrives at school, Jasper and Alice are already there. They wait for him at their usual spot under the bleachers.
"Isn't your cousin coming today?" Jasper asks, taking a cigarette from a pack and lighting it.
"She is. Dad's giving her a ride," he replies, and suddenly feels a little guilty.
"I thought you'd bring her along." Alice pouts. "I'd love to finally have a girl to hang out with. I'm so tired of you two."
"Yeah, maybe later, it's just…I'm not ready for the attention now. Like, people would stare at us and whisper and all that shit," he explains.
The look Alice gives him is full of utter disdain. "You know what? You're a callous, arrogant jerk," she spits. "This girl is already having a rough time, and you just had to add the humiliation of being alone while they stare at her like she has two pairs of eyes."
"So how could I prevent them from staring?" he wonders sincerely.
"You're an imbecile, aren't you? No, clearly, you are!" Alice turns her back to them and heads to the school parking lot.
"Al, wait." Jasper finishes his cigarette quickly and runs after Alice.
He sighs and continues to smoke there all alone. Seriously, how will it make shit better for Rose if I stand there beside her, humiliated as well? he thinks, but deep inside he knows he's somewhat wrong.
Later that morning, he comes to the lockers and sees them. Alice shows Rosalie around, introduces her to their schoolmates, laughing and gesticulating wildly. Suddenly, he notices that a tiny smile appears on Rose's face. The first real smile since she arrived in town. Or maybe even since…
He turns to his locker to avoid the daggers that Alice will surely be shooting at him. She was right: I'm an imbecile, he thinks. He stares blankly into the darkness inside of his locker, infuriated with himself for being so slow. He doesn't have a chance to see the look of regret Rosalie casts, when she passes him by.
First thing after school, he sets the goddamn lock. He feels relief as he works, like the borders of his privacy are suddenly growing more solid with each screw in place. But in the evening, he discovers another really irritating trait of his new neighbor. Rose seems to spend an eternity in the bathroom. After waiting for half an hour, he finally loses his patience and runs quickly to the guest bathroom downstairs, cursing under his breath. What could she possibly be doing there for so long, anyway?
He returns to his room and drops to his bed, feeling exhausted from the lack of sleep the night prior. Just as he begins to drift off, he hears her sobs again. But tonight he is prepared for that. He opens the top drawer of his bedside table, producing his iPod. As his favorite band lulls him to sleep, he wishes he would wake up to find the past few days were just a bad dream. The lyrics of the song that is too noisy to actually be a lullaby, seem all too appropriate:
Summer has come and passed;
The innocent can never last.
Wake me up when September ends.
x x x
Eventually, his life gets back to a routine. He still rides his bike to school every day, still meets with Jasper under the bleachers for a smoke, they still hang out at his or at Jasper's place after classes. The only difference is Alice either doesn't join them, or she brings Rosalie along with her. The first thing upsets Jasper. The second upsets him, as he still doesn't know how to behave around Rose, and he's also afraid she might tell his parents about smoking, or ditching school, or some other illegal activities he and Jazz are involved with. That is to say, he usually feels tense.
One day in December, Jasper gets him to go Christmas shopping at the mall. He becomes annoyed with it after the second shop, but Jazz is determined to not leave the mall without buying something exclusive for Alice, something that would help to finally declare the love Jazz has been feeling for her since kindergarten. It doesn't seem like an easy task, and he finds himself actually relieved that he doesn't have such a pain in the ass—a girlfriend.
When he gets home, he's tired and his head is about to explode from all that bullshit. He opens the door of his room and stops dead. The lights are on and Rosalie stands near the bookshelf containing his impressive music collection, holding a CD case in her hands. She starts and turns to the squeak of the door, and there's sheer terror in her eyes when she sees him.
"What the fuck?" he snaps. "Don't you ever dare come in my room and touch my stuff!" he yells, glaring at her, all the anger and frustration and annoyance and bitterness flowing through his words.
Rose quickly puts the CD back on the shelf and rushes out of his room without saying a word. When she brushes past him in the doorway, he notices her eyes are moist and it cools him down minutely. He wants to smack his head against the wall for being such a shit to her.
And when Christmas comes and among the other presents he discovers the "Ultimate Alternative Collection" CD, he simply wants to die.
x x x
His hair is dyed black and his lip is pierced. It cost him a long speech of disapproval from his parents, but the increased girls' attention is so worth it. He's not particularly interested in any of the local girls, but he enjoys being popular and realizes that unavailability adds him some dreamy points.
He and Jasper have a band now; he sings and plays guitar, while Jazz plays bass and Tyler Crowley plays drums. At prom, they put on a great show, playing covers all night long. He feels like a real rock star when people applaud them.
He's really looking forward to a summer filled with band practice, but his parents have another idea. They decided to send Rosalie to sports camp and since they didn't want her to go there alone, they ask him to accompany her. He is annoyed that Rose's sports practice seems to be more important to them than his music, but of course, he can't say no.
It's torturous because he hates sports. Especially team sports. The only thing about the camp that makes it manageable for him is mountain climbing. Not only because he likes nature, but also because it helps him to stay away from Rose. Their relationship hasn't changed much since Christmas, neither becoming better nor worse. It's just a mutual tolerance; they try to avoid each other and speak only when absolutely necessary. He's glad she has joined the cheerleaders because it makes him feel less guilty for not keeping her company.
On the last day of camp, there is a Goodbye party. He thinks of not going to the dance at all, because he's definitely not a dance kind of guy. Then he gets bored with sitting all alone and decides to hang out for a bit before going to bed. He doesn't give a shit about dressing up, but he notices that the girls' eyes are still on him regardless, and he smiles at them crookedly.
He looks over the dancing crowd, finding the way they shake their bodies mostly funny and ridiculous, but then his eyes fix on a girl who dances in the center of the floor. He cannot see her face, but he is fascinated right away. She moves with such a grace, like the dance is her element and she puts her every emotion into it. Her scarlet dress underlines her perfect curves and her blond hair flies when she moves, making his heart sink and his blood run faster in one particular direction. He's just a sixteen year old boy, after all.
Suddenly the girl turns, and his mouth falls open in astonishment, because he sees that it's Rosalie. He can't believe his eyes—he had no idea how beautiful she was. He realizes he's never actually looked at her that way before.
He recognizes the guy dancing next to her—it's Royce King, the captain of the basketball team. He thinks that Royce is such a jerk and she could have made a better choice. Who wouldn't want to dance with Rose when she has that dress, and those legs, and that hair, and those eyes…
He shakes his head, leaves the party and decides to go around the corner for a smoke. After lighting his cigarette, he hears laughter. It's too dark to see, but he recognizes the voices as Rose and Royce. They come really close to where he stands, but they can't see him behind the corner. Royce says something and Rose giggles back, and then they are quiet for a couple of seconds. He wrinkles his nose in disgust and takes the last puff, but when he hears Rose's voice again, he almost chokes on the smoke.
"Royce, please, no!" she is practically begging. Her breathing sounds erratic. "Let me go!"
Something is wrong. He doesn't have time to analyze the situation, because the tone of her voice clearly indicates that she's in trouble. Without giving it too much thought, he drops his cigarette and rushes to where the sounds come from.
He sees them just around the corner. Royce is pressing Rosalie to the brick wall behind her back and trying to kiss her, totally ignoring her attempts to resist.
"Let her go!" he shouts.
Royce starts and turns to face him, releasing Rose. "What the fuck is your problem, man?" Royce asks angrily.
"You are my problem," he spits, glaring at Royce. "Are you deaf? She told you to back the fuck off!"
"It's not any of your motherfucking business, Cullen! Piss off, if you don't want me to kick your emo ass!" Royce's hands clench into fists.
"It is my business since she's my cousin." He casts an eye at Rose and she looks scared, but it seems that she's more anxious about him than about herself now.
The air is heavy with tension as Royce steps closer with an unblinking gaze.
"So, you're jealous because you want to fuck her but know you can't?" Royce's lips stretch into a wide wicked grin.
And then, before his mind processes what's going on, he punches Royce in the jaw. He doesn't know what he's doing because he has never been in a fight before, but he just can't stop himself.
"Edward, no!" Rosalie screams as she tries to catch Royce's shirt. But Royce just shakes her off with a growl and the next second, Royce's fist attacks his face.
The following few minutes are a blur. He's lying on the grass, because Royce is physically stronger and knows exactly how to strike a blow. He somehow manages to hurt Royce, too, and when someone finally comes and separates them, he sees Royce's nose is bleeding. Soon it's over and the members of the basketball team lead a cursing Royce away.
He stands up, shakes dirt off his clothes and walks away, without looking at Rosalie. He is too high from the adrenaline to feel the pain yet, and he knows he won't get any sleep when it comes, so he decides to go to the lake. He walks down to the pier, washes his hands and his face in the warm water, and then sits on the edge with his legs dangling and lights up a cigarette. His pierced lip starts to hurt and he is wondering if he should remove the bead ring when he hears light footsteps behind him.
He turns and sees Rose. She is coming down the pier; her feet are bare, her shoes are in her hand, and she's still wearing that scarlet dress. She approaches and sits on the edge of the pier next to him, not uttering a word. He stares ahead to the reflection of the full moon in the still black waters.
"Thank you," Rose finally says in a low voice.
"Don't worry about it," he replies, looking at his hands and twisting a ring on his finger.
She sighs and the silence reigns again. They sit like that for a long time, and suddenly he realizes that Rose's presence is surprisingly comfortable for him. For the first time in almost a year, it feels right just to sit next to her and not think of something to say. He starts looking for possible explanations in his head, but Rose interrupts his train of thought.
"Let's swim," she suggests and he knows that she is smiling even before he turns his head to look at her face.
"No, thanks." He doesn't like to disappoint her, but he just can't do it. He can't.
She is persistent, though. "Why, Edward? This is our last day here! Come on, the water is so nice."
He thinks for a few seconds, considering if he can reveal the truth or if he should lie, but his mind is too tired to come up with any plausible reason.
"I don't know how to swim, alright?" he finally confesses. "Tell anyone and you're dead," he warns her, cringing internally in anticipation of her laughing at him.
Rose does not laugh, though; her face expresses only surprise. He can see how her look changes, like she makes some calculations in her head.
"I can teach you," she finally says, and he hears the notes of resolution in her voice. "It's really simple."
Before he can reply, she stands up, reaches for the hem of her dress and pulls it over her head. His jaw drops and his heart stops beating, because she stands in front of him in red lacey underwear, and her bare skin sparkles in the light of the moon. The motherfucker must have hit my head pretty hard, he thinks. She squats down under his astonished gaze, and gingerly climbs down from the pier to the black water. It isn't deep in there; she stands at the bottom and the water is only up to her waist.
He looks at her and thinks that the best way to see things now is to imagine she's wearing a swimsuit. A red lacey swimsuit.
"Come on." She turns to him. "Don't be a chicken," she teases, smiling reassuringly.
Of course, he can't let her think he's a coward. He swiftly pulls his t-shirt over his head, removes his sneakers and socks, and hesitates for a moment before unfastening his belt and taking off his jeans. Once he's only in his boxers, he is really glad to be exhausted from the fight because in any other situation his body would probably betray him and things would get way too awkward.
He gets into the water with a loud splash. Now he has other things to worry about besides the swimsuits, because he really can't swim, and to be honest, he's scared to death of even trying to. But Rose knows better. She takes his hands with confidence and instructs him how to breathe right and keep his head steady. It takes him three attempts to even let his head go under water, but Rosalie's a patient and persevering trainer. Eventually, after some more tricky steps, his body is floating and even though he's tired and cold, he feels victorious.
By the time they get back to the camp, the sun is coming up.
"Promise me something," Rose says when they stand by the girls' dorm. "Promise me you'll find a swimming pool and take more lessons, so that the next year when we come here we'll swim across the lake. I haven't been to the other side."
He laughs and nods back. Deep inside, he hopes he'll never go to the camp again, but he'd promise her anything just to see her smile again.
There's a nice surprise waiting for him at home—his parents have bought him a car. A shiny silver Volvo is parked in their driveway. He's a bit disappointed, because he thinks that a Volvo would better suit a forty-five year old accountant than a teenage rock star, but it's a sophisticated car nevertheless, and it is good just to have a car, after all.
On the first day of school, he doesn't leave early like he used to; instead, he waits for Rosalie to appear on the front porch.
"Hey, Rose!" He smirks. "Need a ride?"
A goofy grin shows up on her face. "Sure," she says and climbs onto the passenger seat.
x x x
Soon this becomes the new routine. They still don't really talk, but the tension between them seems to dissolve to the great joy of Jasper and Alice, for they still spend a lot of time altogether.
The autumn passes quickly. Eager for new sensations, he decides to date girls, but is disappointed with the whole idea very soon. Once the novelty of the physical part of the dating wears off, he notices the girls from school seem very shallow and they are only drawn to him because he's popular and attractive; they bore him instantly. After his last attempt with Jessica Stanley which ends with her practically stalking him, he finally gives up on the local girls, completely satisfied with the amount of experience he was able to get in such a short time. Since he has a lot of spare time again, he remembers his promise to Rose and signs up to take swimming lessons.
Christmas time is really nice this year; he spends the holidays at home, practicing guitar and sometimes piano and getting ready for New Year's Eve. His parents are leaving town for a couple of days, and he's very excited at the prospect of throwing a real party, with lots of alcohol and all.
It turns out even better than he expected. The house is crowded with his schoolmates, and it looks like everyone is having fun. People dance and sing karaoke and laugh and drink. A lot. Pretty soon, he can hardly stand from the amount of alcohol in his system, combined with some weed Jasper and he have smoked in the kitchen, considering New Year's Eve a special occasion for this kind of entertainment.
At a quarter to midnight, he looks round the room, searching for his friends. Of course, Alice and Jasper are occupied with making out on the couch, but he can't see Rosalie. He starts looking for her because he doesn't want her to miss the countdown. She's nowhere to be seen on the first floor and he thinks that she must be in her room, so he climbs up and knocks on her door.
"Rose, you in there?" he asks and when no answer follows, turns the door handle and enters the room. There's nobody inside. The room is dark, but he notices a band of light coming from under the bathroom door. He approaches and hears the distinctive sounds coming from inside. He flings the door open, and sees Rose hanging over the toilet bowl, her body shaking in convulsions.
"Go away," she manages to spit before another wave of vomiting rolls over her.
When he sees her misery, he immediately comes down from his high. He doesn't leave; he comes closer and holds her long hair while she continues to throw up. Eventually, it seems to be over. She flushes the toilet and sits on the floor, leaning her back against the wall, her face so pale it almost merges into the white tiles. He takes a glass from the sink, fills it with water and hands to her.
His mind comes into its blank state again. Not knowing what he should do next, he sits down on the cold floor next to her. He can hear the music from the party and thinks that they must have missed the countdown, but to his surprise, he can't bring himself to care.
"I fucked up." Rose chuckles without humor, as if reading his thoughts. "Great way to start the year."
He raises his brow, trying to recollect if he had ever heard her saying the F-word before. "Could happen to anyone who mixed different kinds of alcohol. I'm sorry, I should have watched for you or something," he says in a flat voice.
"Nah, stuff like that always happens to me. You know, when I was a kid…" she begins to tell him a story from her childhood, and he laughs because it is really funny. Then he tells her his stories, too, and then it suddenly dawns on him that they actually are talking.
Him and Rosalie.
At first, he thinks that maybe it has to do with the alcohol. But when they meet in the kitchen in the morning and Rose offers to help with cleaning up the house, it is still there. It feels like once they started, the flow of information they want to share with each other is endless. He finds that Rose is actually good company, she knows a lot of things and has opinions on everything, including his music. She tells him that he should write his own songs instead of doing covers, and he thinks she's probably right, and the fact that she cares makes her so unlike the other girls.
It doesn't escape him, how things really change after New Year. They tend to spend more time together, dramatically turning the so-called routine into a friendship. They do their homework together, they watch TV and eat dinner together, and it makes his parents happy. He is not only driving her to school, he is also waiting for her in the school parking lot to drive back on the days when she doesn't have the cheerleading practice. He uses the time when she's occupied to take his swimming lessons; it's his secret and he wants to surprise her next summer. She's still uninvited to his band rehearsals, but he likes it when she's watching him playing piano at home. He starts writing his own songs and even though they are far from being perfect, she likes them and tells him he's got a voice. It makes him happy; he believes Rose, because she's always straightforward and says what she really feels.
On Valentine's Day, he comes home from rehearsal early, because Jasper has plans for a romantic evening with Alice. He goes upstairs, and through the open bathroom door he sees Rosalie brushing her hair in front of the mirror.
"Hi," he says to her. "You going out?"
"Hi." She turns and smiles at him. "Nope, I'm staying in and watching a movie. Not really a Valentine's Day kinda girl."
Yes, you are, he thinks, I bet there was more than one guy who asked you out.
"What are you going to watch?" he asks.
"Not sure. Maybe something romantic. Wanna join?"
"Sure, I'll go get us some snacks."
They sit on the sofa in the living room, watching Love, Actually and eating cherry tarts that Mommy baked earlier today before she and Daddy left for their Valentine's Day dinner.
He doesn't pay enough attention to the movie because he's suddenly aware of the girl sitting next to him. She doesn't wear that fancy red dress or anything similar, just her usual pink velour sweat suit—nothing unusual. Yet, today it feels different, like some strange vibes are radiating from her. It's the Rosalie that he knows, and at the same time, it's not. She is tapping her bare foot on the floor, indicating some tension he can't fully comprehend. He turns to look at her, and she's staring right at him and biting her lip.
God, tell me it's not what I think it is, he begs internally.
But he knows that it just is.
She looks him in the eyes, and the determination he sees in her stare is astonishing. She slowly brings her hand to the back of his neck and touches his hair. He freezes and at the same time feels his blood starting to rush faster in his veins in anticipation, fear and longing.
And of course, his mind goes blank.
Rose begins to lean her face closer to his, and as if he's moved by some magnetic pull, he bends to her and somewhere in the middle, their lips meet.
Her mouth is so soft and warm and tastes like cherries when he locks her lips with his. The kiss starts carefully, like they try waters before diving into it. In a few seconds, he feels dizzy and opens his eyes to meet her dark and urgent gaze. She encircles his neck and takes control, plunging into the kiss completely, and as she parts her lips, breathing him in, his tongue gently slides between them.
His still-blank mind registers that kissing her is somewhat different from kissing other girls; it's not only a physical sensation, but something else entirely—some new unfamiliar feeling is building inside his chest. His hands move on their own will, tracing the lines on her shoulders and her hair, bringing her closer to deepen the kiss, while his mind struggles to understand what this feeling—so right but at the same time very wrong—could possibly mean. His mind suddenly becomes alert and the awful fact dawns on him: he's not kissing a random girl; he's kissing his second cousin, for God's sake!
He pulls away abruptly. "We…we can't…we're cousins," he's panting, his eyes wide in shock.
"We're second cousins, Edward," she gasps, "and I don't care. I love you."
Her last words sound like a thunderclap to him. Finally everything, everything falls into its place, like a jigsaw puzzle assembling from tiny pieces. From their talks; from waiting for her at school; from the songs he writes for her to hear; from the fucked-up New Year's party; from his failures with the other girls; from the swimming lessons; from the red lacey swimsuit; from fighting Royce; from the scarlet dress; from last year's Christmas presents; and from the little pink toothbrush.
The new feeling that is taking over him finally has a name. This knowledge fills him with so much relief and at the same time, with great panic. But when he looks into her eyes, there is such confidence and resolution in her stare, that his insecurities are long gone.
"I love you too," he whispers, and kisses the small smile that appears on her lips.
Maybe this can really work out somehow.
x x x
The routine had ceased to exist a long time ago, because what they have just cannot be called that. To everyone else, they are best friends, but no one knows their secret. No one knows that it's a miracle their homework is still being done because most of the time they are occupied with more important tasks. No one knows that he holds her hand while he drives to school. No one knows that for the past few months he clasps her to his chest when they fall asleep in his bed. It costs him a certain physical discomfort in the mornings, but he can handle that and they are past the awkwardness. They both want more than long and rather exhausting make-out sessions, but they don't feel ready to bring their relationship to the next level yet.
On prom night, he sings his own songs in public for the first time. He feels sick to the stomach when his band enters the stage, but Rose is standing in the front row; and once he sees her in the scarlet dress and thinks that tonight she's wearing that dress only for him, he forgets about the crowd. He sings just for her, because the rest of the world doesn't exist when she smiles like that and their eyes are locked in a loving gaze.
The success of his new songs is overwhelming; he can't believe it's real when people applaud and ask them to play more. When the show's over, he's so high from its drive that he can hardly control himself. He goes behind the scenes and Rose is all he sees; he instinctively pulls her into an embrace and kisses her passionately. It takes him a moment to realize that something is off when she stiffens in his arms. He opens his eyes and wishes he never did. Because right there stands his dad, watching them with an expression of utter shock. And here comes the disaster, the words resurface in the back of his mind, but he's not able to feel the heaviness of the situation deeply yet.
Daddy is alarmingly quiet all the way from school to home. Only when the door of the study closes behind the two of them, does the real outburst of anger begin.
"Edward, what the hell are you thinking?" Daddy shouts at him and he winces, because his father has never raised a voice at him before. "This…relationship you have with your sister, it's so sick!"
"She's. Not. My. Sister," he snaps at Daddy's face.
"Technically, she's not. But she's still your cousin!"
"She's only my second cousin, and this is perfectly okay," he defends calmly. "Second cousins are officially allowed to get married, dad!" He googled that fact before.
"Not under this roof!" Daddy yells, glaring at him.
He turns to the door and sprints out of the study, running his hands through his hair in frustration. He wants to find Rose, he needs the comfort of her embrace, but he knows he doesn't deserve it because it is entirely his fault that they got busted.
She's in her room, lying at the center of the large bed she never actually sleeps in. Her face is hidden in the pillows and her shoulders are trembling. He crawls to her on the bed and crushes her to his chest.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm such an idiot," he pants.
"No, Edward, it's not you, it's all my fault, we shouldn't have…" she begins, her voice breaking with tears.
He shivers and presses his palm to her lips to stop her from finishing the sentence. "Never say that again! I love you, and I don't regret a single minute we spent together. It's not wrong, okay? It's the most right thing that has ever happened to me! We will figure something out, I promise." The thought that his life can change is unbearable. Tears are running down his face, and when he finds her lips, the kiss is desperate and salty.
To his surprise, Daddy doesn't initiate further discussion of the subject; and even though there are obvious elephants in the dining room anytime they have a meal altogether, no word about them is said aloud. He and Rose become more careful; they never forget to lock their bedroom doors and never make out when his parents are at home. It makes him uneasy that he often sees her looking sad these days, but whenever he asks what's wrong, she tells him she just misses her parents.
July begins, and he wonders why there is no talk about the camp yet. He is actually looking forward to it, not only because they will have a chance to stay away from his parents for a while, but also because after so many lessons, he can finally swim well, and he's intent to fulfill his promise to Rose. One day at lunch, he brings up the camp question and suddenly everyone is so quiet, like he has said something totally inappropriate.
He observes the faces of his family; Rose's look is fixed on the fork in her hand; Mommy and Daddy are staring at each other, like they're having a silent conversation.
Finally, Daddy looks at him. "You are not going to camp. I thought you were not particularly fond of sporting activities, anyway," Daddy says in a cold voice.
"I… I'm not, but… I actually enjoyed it the last year," he says, feeling the anxiety knotting down in the pit of his stomach.
There's silence in the room, and something is wrong; he can see it in their tense faces.
Mommy looks at him, and then at Daddy again. "Tell him."
Daddy sighs. "Edward, you are not going to camp because at the beginning of the fall, Rosalie is leaving for Paris."
He doesn't get it.
"What on Earth does her trip to Paris have to do with the camp?" he asks with irritation.
Nobody replies; they just stare at him—Daddy with regret, Mommy with love and concern, and Rose… Rose's eyes are moist and she's biting her lip.
It crashes down on him all of a sudden.
"It's not just a trip, is it?" he asks, internally pleading, please, it can not be true…
"Rose will study at boarding school in Paris, Edward." Daddy's voice is soft and calming.
The can't do this. They just can't. He jumps and storms away, then runs upstairs and collapses on the floor beside his bed. He doesn't know how to survive this. The worst case scenarios he had imagined were not even close; they are taking her away completely. It's all over. Love, life. Over. He wants to cry, but he's too drained, too empty, like there is no more air in his lungs.
She enters the room and leans against the door. She looks…scared.
"You knew!" he almost weeps. "You knew and you didn't tell me!"
"It wouldn't change anything, Edward. There's nothing we can do." Her voice seems so composed.
"There must be something, just…don't go!" He gets up, approaches her and kneels down.
"Please, don't go!" he pleads, his eyes searching hers.
She brings her hand to his hair and starts pulling it gently. "Baby, it's only one year. Next spring, I'm eighteen and they won't be my guardians anymore. Just one year. You won't even get to miss me," she says it in a flat voice, but firmly, and he thinks she must have been preparing this speech for a long time.
"I miss you already," he whispers, pressing his face against her thighs.
A few days later, he wakes her up at six in the morning.
"We have something really important to do today," he explains with a cryptic smile. "Put your swimsuit on. I'll be waiting in the car."
"Where are we going?" Rose yawns when the Volvo pulls away from their driveway.
"It's a secret." He winks at her. "Trust me."
An hour and a half later, they drive up to the camp. Rosalie looks around in wide-eyed astonishment. "What are we doing at camp?" she asks.
"Come on. I'll show you." He takes her hand and leads her to the lake. There's no one around at this early hour.
It clicks for Rose when they stand on the shore. "You want to get to the other side?" she guesses. "But… how?"
He grins widely, because it's his moment of triumph he's been waiting so long for.
"I didn't forget my promise, babe," he tells her and starts undressing.
She looks in disbelief as he enters the water. He's a bit uneasy too, because he has only been swimming in a pool and the water feels slightly different, but the determination to complete this task takes over his mind.
"We'd better hurry up if you don't want an audience," he calls to her.
She throws off her t-shirt and shorts and he smirks at the memory of red lace. Thankfully, today she's wearing a plain navy blue sports swimsuit.
She comes down to the water and they swim. The lake appears to be not too narrow; by the time they reach the shore, he's breathing heavily and almost collapses on the grass. Rose lies down next to him and takes his hand.
"We did it. I can't believe we did it." She laughs light-heartedly, trying to steady her own breath.
As they lie on the grass, holding hands and staring into the clear blue sky, he wishes the hands of time would stop and this moment could last forever.
Unfortunately, time always tends to run faster when you don't have enough of it.
September comes too fast. Summer's over and she's leaving tomorrow.
He comes to her room, leans against the door frame and watches her packing her things. "I've got something for you," he says, holding out an old shabby teddy bear he had found at the attic a few days ago. "He's in a pretty bad shape, I'm afraid." He chuckles humorously. "We used to sleep together a lot when I was a kid."
Rose doesn't smile; she reaches out, takes a toy from his hand and clasps it to her chest. "Thank you," she says, hiding her eyes and turning back to her suitcases.
Final preparations wear him out. When it gets dark, he's lying on his bed and staring at the ceiling, too numb to feel or think of anything. His mind registers the squeak of the bathroom door and Rose's light steps on the floor. She climbs into the bed next to him. For the next few seconds all he can hear is the rapid beating of her heart, and then suddenly every cell of his numb body springs into life.
He turns and his trembling lips join with hers, willing to savor her every breath. She reaches out and pulls his t-shirt away, and for once, they just know that nothing is wrong anymore. He feels her slightly shivering when he kisses every inch of her hot skin, trying to memorize the sensation of her softness on his lips, the perfection of her curves under his fingers, every note of her scent and every little sound that escapes from her mouth. There's a mix of consuming love, tenderness and affection, blending with the frustration of loss as their fingers entwine and their breaths merge into groans.
The morning is inevitable. They sit in the backseat of Daddy's car, holding hands, unable to let go of each other. The way to the airport, always so long and tiring, seems to fly by in a flash. He doesn't remember getting out of the car and walking the last steps to the final point.
He watches blankly as Rose's large suitcases slowly move on the conveyer belt behind the check-in counter. Daddy embraces her, wishes her a pleasant journey, pats him on the back and walks away. They stand alone in the middle of the crowd. They don't speak; they just stand there, drowning in each other's eyes and touching hands, knowing that the second they break the contact they will be no more. He doesn't hear the announcement that her flight is boarding, but Rose whispers "I've got to go," and he takes a deep breath.
"I'll come home for Christmas." She attempts to smile. "They can't forbid me to come." He nods, but something deep inside doesn't believe her.
Their last kiss tastes bitter, their tongues desperately trying to fight against losing each other. They pull away simultaneously, and she steps back, letting go of his hand. Unable to say goodbye out loud, Rose sends him one last look before she turns and walks away, not looking back.
He watches her disappear behind the glass doors and his vision becomes blurred from the tears he doesn't bother to hold back anymore. He stands there, rooted to the spot in the center of the Departures lounge, until someone comes and puts a hand on his shoulder.
"Be a man," Daddy tells him softly.
x x x
Rosalie remains calm and composed as she walks through the passport controls. She smiles at the flight attendant who helps her take her seat at the window. She watches an in-flight safety demonstration. Only when the plane takes off and the land beneath them turns into a green blur, does she finally let go. She gets the old teddy bear from her purse, buries her face in its fur and cries silent tears.
"A tissue?" She hears a male voice on her right and turns, wiping her cheeks. There's a guy about her age sitting next to her. He looks big and strong, and he's wearing a happy-go-lucky grin on his face. And he's actually offering her a tissue.
"Thanks," she mumbles, taking it from him.
"Nice bear," he points at the toy on her lap. "I love bears, too." And she can't help but smile at his comment.
"It's so much better to see you smile, especially since it's gonna be a long flight," he says. "What's your name, by the way?"
"I'm Rose." She reaches out her hand, and he takes it into his large and warm palm and shakes. "Nice to meet you, Rose. I'm Emmett."
x x x
The next day is the first day of his senior year at school. It's raining so he pulls his hood up; he doesn't remove it once he's inside the building. He wishes it would make him invisible, because today he's incapable of dealing with people's attention. It hurts to answer questions and he simply wants to be alone. He sees the smiling faces of his schoolmates, all glad to see each other after summer break. He hears the buzz all around, but it only annoys him. At lunch, he drags his ass into the cafeteria and when he sees Jasper and Alice, his mood improves for a second, but then he notices an empty chair at their usual table and it breaks him down.
"Hey, man," Jazz greets him, "have you seen the new girl yet? She's all anyone is talking about today. Like she has two pairs of eyes or something."
"Nope," he replies. A sickening feeling of déjà vu twists in his stomach and he realizes he's done with school for today. He ditches his next class, Biology, and drives home.
He enters his room and drops onto the bed, burying his face in the pillows that still keep the traces of her scent. He wants to wallow in his misery; he takes the iPod and runs through the playlist until he finds the album of his favorite band. As the music starts to play, he suddenly remembers another September day two years ago, when he was wishing he would wake up and find that Rose's appearance in his life was just a dream. Looks like that wish has come true, he thinks bitterly.
He closes his tired eyes and falls asleep. He is dreaming that he wakes up in the morning and the summer sun is shining brightly through the windows. He goes downstairs and it's all quiet, there's no one around. And then he sees her. She's leaning against the piano, smiling at him reassuringly. She's beautiful as ever; her skin sparkles in the sunshine, her feet are bare and she's wearing the scarlet dress.
…as my memory rests,
But never forgets what I lost,
Wake me up when September ends.
A/N: Thanks to everyone for reading this story. If you want to see how I imagined these characters, take a look at the awesome banner that Allysue08 has made me (the link is on my profile). Sorry, but there will be no sequel.