"There are certain shades of limelight that can wreck a girl's complexion."
– Audrey Hepburn
The sun was slowly inching down on Rome's horizon as I sat in my hotel room, looking out at the gorgeous city. Memories flooded my mind of a previous time when I had actually been able to go around the ancient wonders and sight-see. Being a closeted Audrey Hepburn fan, I traveled from landmark to landmark pretending I was in Roman Holiday. It made it that much more thrilling that my companion, at that time, was alluding the paparazzi. We spent an entire day going "incognito," laughing at ourselves, and insisting to anyone around us that we were regular American tourists. Yet, even with sunglasses and baseball caps on, he couldn't fool anyone. Just walking around in the sun, there was a radiance that shined off of him. I closed my eyes and imagined his warmth next to me, standing in front of the Trevi Fountain…
"Ouch!" I was immediately brought back to the present, as my right ear felt in flames.
"Isabella, keep your head still and we wouldn't have this problem!" My hair stylist scolded me; wagging the same curling iron at me that had just done damage to my earlobe.
"Wait, you're the professional. How is this my fault?"
My makeup artist swooped in front of my face and began smearing concealer on with a sponge. "Isabella, darling, you are the only person either of us have had the pleasure to work with that does NOT like getting makeovers! You resist the change, instead of letting us make you into the beautiful superstar that you are. And because of that, you get burned."
I rolled my eyes at her double-entendre. "You know that I appreciate you both very much and there's no way I could make myself ever look this good on my own." They both nodded in agreement. "It's just been a very long tour. I've loved every single minute of it. Part of me doesn't want it to ever end; but I'm also ready to go back home to my own bed for awhile."
Just then my father knocked on the door and peeked his head around. "Almost ready, kiddo?"
"Just a few more minutes, Charlie."
"There's an American reporter here to see you." He had a glint in his eyes. "He's from Rolling Stone."
I whirled my head around, immediately causing my hair and makeup artists to curse at me again. "You're kidding."
"When do I ever kid?" This was true. Charlie had always been a straight-forward kind of guy.
"What's he doing here?"
"To see you, obviously." Yup, no beating around the bush with this guy. He glanced at his watch. "He'll be up in 5 minutes. Be ready."
My stylists got down to business. There was no more joking around and I kept my head perfectly still for them. By the time there was a second knock at the door, they were already packing up. I looked in the mirror. Damn they did a great job. My brown eyes popped with the eyeliner that encircled them; with just a slight shimmer to the top of my lids. Everything else was very natural looking. My long, brown hair was set to loose curls with plenty of volume at the top. I looked down. I was still in jeans, with a rip in the knee, and a fitted Mariners t-shirt. Well this will have to do.
"Come in!" I called out. My stylists ushered their way out the door as a young-looking man walked past them. The look of surprise could not have been any more apparent on my face as my mouth, literally, hung open. I was expecting a middle-aged journalist with glasses, a pencil, and a notepad. Instead, I was greeted with an extremely handsome, tanned guy, who couldn't have been any older than me. I did a quick once-over and noticed his nice shoes paired with jeans and a simple white button-down, short-sleeve shirt that barely covered his biceps.
"Isabella Swan?" He asked and smiled, flashing his brilliantly white teeth. I just nodded.
He walked in and extended his hand. "I'm Jacob Black. I'm with Rolling Stone and have been sent to write a piece about you for our upcoming issue. It's an article about the Top 10 artists to be on the lookout for this year. We've seen how much success you've had over here in Europe and think it's only a matter of time before you hit the States."
This is too good to be true. Wait – what if it is too good to be true? Immediately, my suspicion started to rise. How come I wasn't notified about this before? And since when did Rolling Stone journalists become so young and good-looking?
"And they sent you all the way to Rome for this interview, Mr. Black? Surely you've taken a look at my schedule and saw that this is my last night on tour. I head back to the States tomorrow. Wouldn't it have been more cost-efficient to wait one day?"
"You can call me Jacob. And to be perfectly honest with you, I just happened to be in Italy on vacation this week when they called me and told me to cover your final night on tour. They want an interview with you, pictures of you on stage, and some sound bites from your fans."
"Please don't view this question as ungrateful, because I'm extremely excited about finally being recognized back home…but why wasn't I informed of this interview beforehand?"
Jacob glanced down. "I um…think it was a last-minute decision. They want all this emailed to them by tomorrow." I wasn't an idiot and knew exactly what he was tactfully trying to say. I wasn't their first choice.
I wasn't sure how Jacob thought I would react to this news but he suddenly had a hard time looking me in the eye. I laughed, immediately lightening the mood. "Well I guess I'm extremely lucky that you're in Rome this week. Although, I'm sorry to cut into your vacation time."
A look of relief crossed his face, as he made eye-contact with me again. "Really it's my pleasure. You're actually helping me out."
That suspicion started to tingle at the bottom of my stomach again. "How so?"
His cheeks flushed red. "Well…um…I hope you don't take offense to this, but I'm actually an intern with Rolling Stone. I'm finishing up my last semester in Journalism at Columbia University. I just happened to be on my Spring Break here with my buddies when my supervisor called me to let me know they needed this story. If I do a good job, I could have a position waiting for me at the magazine after graduation."
"So I really was the bottom of the barrel for this article, huh?"
Jacob blanched. "Oh no, Ms. Swan, that is not what I meant at all…"
I held up my hand to stop him. While humor was definitely not my father's strong suit, I had received plenty of sarcasm from my mother. "It seems to me, Jacob, that a bit of luck has come both our ways. You need this article for a job and I need this article for a career. So how can we help one another?"
Jacob's showed his pearly white teeth with a huge smile. "Have any deep-hidden secrets I can expose for an explosive piece?"
"I can't sing a lick. Auto tune is my best friend."
"So American Idol is all a big conspiracy."
"There's your cover-story right there." I gave him a big grin and reached into the hotel refrigerator to pull out two Cokes and tossed one over to him. Already I was feeling much more at-ease.
"How about we start with the basics and I'll get the juicy details out of you later?" He winked at me. If I didn't know any better, this guy was flirting.
I spent the next half-hour going over the same biography that could be found on my website. I inherited my artistic genes from my mother. She taught me to truly appreciate music and the classics like Joni Mitchell and Carole King. Every Sunday was cleaning-day. My mother would put on a record, give me a rag, and we would go around the house singing; using our Pledge cans as pretend microphones. It wasn't long before I started singing in local festivals; but living in a small town like Forks wasn't going to get me very far. When I was 12 years-old, Charlie decided the best chance I had at being discovered was in a big city. So every weekend we'd hop in his red pick-up and drive to Seattle or Portland. During vacation time we'd travel even farther to San Francisco and Los Angeles. I'd sing for anyone who would hear me. At the time, I was having a blast. I was doing what I loved while having family road-trips across the country. We did this for 3 years and I couldn't have asked for more.
But my mother wanted more – or actually less. She told Charlie she couldn't handle moving around so much. In an argument I heard between them, while they thought I was in bed, my mother said that she wanted me to follow my dreams and become successful but she didn't want to have to give up all her dreams as well. She gave Charlie an ultimatum – go back to Forks and continue the normal life we once had; or keep chasing this dream without her. I can't imagine the turmoil Charlie must have gone through having to pick between his wife and his daughter. In the end, he called her bluff and we continued to travel without her. Only it wasn't a bluff. A few months later, we came home from one of our weekend excursions to find all of her stuff packed up and gone from the house. A simple note said that she wanted more in life. She wanted a divorce.
My mother made her new life in Phoenix, where I would visit her twice a year. Ironically, she got remarried to a baseball player where half of her year was spent traveling around the country after his team. I guess his dream was a good one for her to follow. My father, on the other hand, never got over the divorce. He never forgave himself for that matter either. We stopped traveling and, aside from small school musicals in Forks, I stopped singing.
Jacob broke into my thoughts, "Do you feel your singing was to blame for your parents' divorce?"
I was taken aback by his bold question. No one had ever asked me that before; not even my closest friends. I swallowed and took a deep breath before answering. "I'm not the naïve little girl I was 8 years ago. I know it takes a lot to destroy a marriage and my mother loved me dearly. Neither of them would ever want me to feel like I was the cause of their divorce. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't hold some resentment towards my mother. She made my father choose between me and her. And when he refused to do so, she made the choice for him and chose a life for herself."
"You can hear a lot of that pain in your music."
I studied his face. "You've heard my songs?"
He smiled sheepishly. "I picked up your CD on the drive over here and listened to it. You have some great upbeat tunes and some beautiful melodies, but your lyrics are what caught me. They're pretty raw."
Jacob Black was turning out to be full of surprises. "Thank you," I said. "That means a lot. I guess any artist needs to be a masochist and dig deep into their pain to let it all out, huh?"
"The good ones at least." He smirked. "Speaking of good artists – how'd you end up on American Idol?"
"Is that a dig towards AI?" He shrugged his shoulders and waited for an answer. "I went to Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle for music. I had toyed with the idea of moving down to Los Angeles after high school, but didn't want to leave Charlie by himself. At least, in Seattle, I could come visit him on the weekends. My roommates and I watched the first couple seasons of it and when we heard auditions were coming to Seattle, we decided to take a chance. The rest is history."
"But you didn't win."
I took another sip of my Coke. "Thanks for ripping open that old wound," I said teasingly. "Nope. I came in 5th. According to Simon, he didn't think I had what it takes."
"So how'd you go from 5th place on a reality show to headlining your own small tour in Europe?" He looked genuinely interested.
"A lot of luck." I winked at him.
After the American Idol tour ended, I was fortunate enough to meet up with some record producers, who wanted to immediately start making an album. The album was too dance-music for my taste; and ultimately because I don't think I enjoyed the music I was singing, it never got released. However, as luck would have it, one of my slower songs off the album was heard by some movie producers, who used it in the film Love Actually. Charlie took over being my manager because he insisted you couldn't trust anyone in the music industry. He was able to get me a small opening gig for the modern rock band, The Volturi,when they were touring Europe. I was able to begin writing an album that I actually wanted to make while on tour.
"From there Europe embraced me and I've embraced Europe," I finished telling my biography. "It's hard to be seen as anything more than a Reality TV star in America; but I feel my album really speaks for itself and I just need to be given a chance."
"Hopefully this article will give us both a chance," Jacob said.
"I'm counting on you," I said, flashing him a big smile.
He glanced beside me at my bed and shifted a bit in his seat. He cleared his throat, "Speaking of The Volturi…I have some questions about them…"
My heart dropped a bit. It never failed that my name was always brought up alongside The Volturi's – more specifically the lead singer. It didn't help that the band was made up of three astoundingly beautiful men that immediately produced high-pitched screams from female fans. The last thing I needed, as my career got off the ground, was an angry mob of fans turning on me because I was linked to their true-love. I wanted to make a name for myself and I wanted to make it on my own – not attached to anyone else.
I glanced in the direction where Jacob's eyes were focused and silently cursed to myself. I left my laptop open on my bed and, sure enough, my screen saver was outing me to this journalist with affectionate pictures. I quickly, without any suave whatsoever, reached over and snapped my laptop shut.
"Yeah The Volturi are a great group of guys," I said quickly. "I learned a lot from them on the road and they really helped me write some of my songs and figure out my music style. They'll forever be some of my life-long friends." Now please drop it!
Jacob either didn't get my subliminal message or completely ignored it. "There have been rumors circulating for months now about you and the lead singer. And I couldn't help but notice those pictures on your laptop…"
"Just friends!" I cut him off. "Right now I'm only focused on my career and don't want relationship rumors to hinder that opportunity," I looked him straight in the eye. "If you understand what I'm saying?"
"I understand Isabella," he gave me that shit-eating smile again. "It's hard to let go of an opportunity that's been given to us; especially when it can further one's career." And in that moment, I wanted to cry. Because I realized that while he was trying to further his career as much as I was; the only way for him to do that was to ruin mine. Jacob had been extremely sociable and easy to talk to – two traits that I just became a sucker to. Hold it in…don't let him see you upset. Hold it in.
"Well thank you for the opportunity," I said briskly. "Hopefully there's a way that we both get what we want out of this."
"I'll do my best," he said and got up to leave. Sure you will – your best at ruining me.
"Before you leave, make sure you talk to my father. He'll set you up with as many VIP tickets you need for tonight's show."
Jacob turned to walk out the door but then spun around and stared at me one last time. "You have an amazing story to tell, Isabella. It's all there in your music. Europe usually catches on to good music before USA does. There's a reason they love you here and I have no doubt you're going to become an International success."
He exited without waiting for a reply and I was left standing, open-mouthed, in the same position as when he first entered. Did I have him wrong? Was he speaking the truth right then and everything would work out? Or was he just using his charming ways and sweet-talking skills one last time?
I sighed and flopped back on the hotel bed. I'd find out soon enough when the article came out. I glanced at the clock – only one hour 'til show time. My last headlining show. While I was exhausted from my 3-month tour and ready to be back home, I wanted to make sure I savored this moment. It could very well be my last time touring.
Just then my phone rang. I flipped it open, without looking at who was calling and mumbled, "Hello?"
"Congratulations on your last show, baby. I wish I could be there with you tonight."
Just as he could do every time, his voice made my heart leap. "Edward."