I'm so sorry this has taken such a long time...I've had performances and auditions and school work and writer's block and perfectionitis and then unperfectionitis and everything...
This chapter is ten thousand words long. It has taken me two weeks of writing for quite a few hours every day (which I've never done before). I originally wrote four thousand words - my standard length - and ended up scrapping it entirely and starting afresh. Arg...
Still, here it is - the final chapter.
There will be an epilogue, though, which will be along very shortly.
Thank you so much for all your reviews and support! You are simply amazing!
This one's been a hard one, but I haven't given up thanks to your messages!
The difference you make is...heh, indescribable...
I'm sorry for any mistakes - I have checked most of it but I'm so sorry if there's anything which doesn't make sense.
I've tried to break up the blocks of words as much as possible, but use controls at the top right of the page if you're staring at the paragraphs going 'oh lord...'
The second floor corridors were dark and ethereal as we walked through them. The night had closed in, and though I knew that in the theatre it would be bright and loud, here it was so peaceful...hushed.
I leant heavily on Edward's strong body, keeping my bad leg from any pressure. "I'm sorry," I said softly, "You must be sick of having to half carry me everywhere."
He smiled, "It's what we danseurs are trained to do."
"Usually the danseuse does a little more to help, though," I pointed out. "I can walk."
He rolled his eyes, "I think you've already done way more than you should on it. Really, I should be handing you off to Doctor Hill, not making you move even more."
"As soon as Doctor Hill gets at me, I'll be locked in a dance-proof cell for the rest of my life."
Edward grinned, glancing at me as he helped me down the senior corridor, "You'll find a way out, just like you did this time."
"I didn't want to break the rules," I said.
He raised an eyebrow, "But you had a decent reason."
I paused as we reached the door to the Senior Common Room, "What do you mean?"
We went in. None of the lights were on, but the heater in front of the deceased fireplace glowed a warm orange. Edward helped me over to one of the couches and sat me down, pulling up a coffee table and a cushion to rest my ankle on. I felt so helpless...but warmth spread through my chest. I had always fended for myself...this was strange, but so...nice...
"You didn't break the rule not to dance out of spite," he said, sitting down on the edge of the couch to face me. "Or because you wanted to show off...you wouldn't need to break them for those things. But for the dance itself?" He gazed at me, "I think you'd sacrifice nearly anything to perform that...you danced it like it was a part of you – as much as your name or your face. It wasn't just choreography which could be danced by anyone, Bella...it was yours." He smiled, "We have a right to protect our property. You had to dance it, regardless of any rules."
I looked at him, my heart beating steadily in my chest, "Most people wouldn't take that as a legitimate excuse."
His smile turned a little bitter, "I know."
"You've done the same thing?" I asked.
He nodded, "Once upon a time I did it a lot – danced to my own rules, not the rules of others."
"What happened that stopped you?"
Edward ran a hand through his hair, "In my first year at Force, I was a teacher's worst nightmare. I don't think there was one day when Master Hinde didn't tell me off for something or other. Me and Em and Jasper were always making a racket in the Dining Hall. We used to get up after lights out and meet up with the girls. One time we even snuck into the Staffroom at midnight to heat up some pop tarts and found Madame Cox in there having a smoke with Master Rodriguez."
He smiled reminiscently, "I still worked hard, though. I was late to pretty much every ballet history and music class, but never to the dancing ones. I stayed near the top of the year group – Jasper and I were always fighting for the first spot. But the greatest thing about those first six months was the freedom. I loved ballet like nothing else – the way it could express everything I felt..." He looked distantly out the window, "Back then, when I performed, I gave myself over to music. Every single part of me. I didn't think about the next move or my technique. I rehearsed enough so that they would become second nature, so that I could move with total freedom, in complete connection with the music and my emotions. I really danced..."
He flicked me a smile, "Of course, sometimes my technique did drop, and teachers got a little angry...but I didn't believe there was anything stronger or surer than the link between the music and the emotion and the dancer – the expression. And I thought that that expression was all you needed. Yes, the technique and the theory they kept going on at me for were important, but if you didn't have expression then you were destined to be in the corps for the rest of eternity, dancing in uniform order with twenty nine other elegant robots. It was a bit of a fairytale idea, but I believed it..."
He sighed, "But then I was invited to this weeklong course in LA. Dancers from all over the country coming to impress the dignitaries," he smiled dryly, "It was a collaboration of all the major American companies – they sent their most experienced principals or soloists. Their job was to just teach us the choreography and give us tips, and all the while they scoped out potential dancers for their own companies. It was a good opportunity, and I did well. They gave me a small solo, nothing compared to some of the older guys, but it was a good one, with decent choreography.
"On the final night, we performed a showcase at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in front of some very big names in the Ballet World. Frank Rebrevae was there, along with a whole load of other artistic directors from some of the World's top companies..." Edward took a long breath, "I was nervous as hell, but I managed to get myself into the wings without chucking up like a couple of the others were doing."
"They were throwing up?" I repeated. "Poor guys..."
"I don't know; they were more intelligent than me. They were nervous because they knew that their performances on that night could make or break their careers. Of course, I was the one who should have been worried, but all I was thinking about was giving an entertaining performance."
Even in the orange light of the heater, Edward face looked a little pale. "What happened?" I asked softly.
He swallowed, looking at me, "I went on. The music began. And the nervousness left me. The moves flowed perfectly from one to the next...I could feel the audience, almost as if they were under my spell. And I told them all the emotion and serenity that the music asked for...and as the end came, there were faster notes and I was going in a fast set of leaps..."
I pictured him in my head, on a big stage, cutting high through the air, like a god... "It was like the epitome of freedom, and I took the audience with me, higher and higher in exhilaration until I knew a simple leap wouldn't be enough...and, like the move had been there all along, I leapt higher and spun...and then as I landed, I felt the most god awful pain in my life."
I looked at him, the dream he'd created suddenly shattered, "No..."
"I can still hear my shout echoing through that theatre...my knee felt like it had been wrenched from its placing..." he shook his head, looking blankly at the floor. "I collapsed in front of a thousand people...and when everyone expected me to get up, I couldn't, even though I tried."
"But you were injured..."
He gave me a wry look, "'there are no excuses'...still, they eventually caught on that I wasn't going to be able to walk, let alone finish the dance. They shut the curtains and then carried me offstage and drove me to hospital. I was too delirious with the pain to know what was really going on, but I knew it was bad. I got x-rayed, and when I'd been drugged with enough pain meds to make me sane, they told me my knee needed reconstructing...and that it'd take at least two months before I could even think about dancing again."
"That must've been awful..." I whispered, my hand reaching out of its own accord to touch his. He stiffened a little, but then stroked his thumb across my knuckles. My heart thudded.
He nodded, "I didn't come back here to get my stuff – I couldn't face anyone. What I'd done was so shameful, so stupid...I went straight to my father's house in Chicago and just sat there for the four weeks before the surgery, though that was hard enough with my father glaring at my knee every time we were in the same room."
"Is he a dancer?" I asked.
Edward chuckled, "Thank God no. He's a lawyer. My mom was the dancer before she died."
His mom died? "I'm so sorry," I said quietly. "I had no idea."
"It happened when I was two," he said, smiling sadly, "I don't remember her at all...I guess that's almost a good thing...although her legacy is still there for me to continue. She was in the corps of the US Ballet. She would've gotten further if she hadn't been chucked out for getting pregnant with me." He looked away distastefully, "I don't believe my father to be a particularly honourable man, but at least he took responsibility for the whole business. He realized he'd stopped her dream from coming true, so he decided I could take over instead. 'It's what your mother would have wanted' has been his catchphrase ever since."
"So it wasn't your choice to do ballet?" I said.
"Not really," he said, "I guess my father was lucky that I loved it so much. He's paid for everything. Private lessons, shoes, clothes, flights to Russia and France and England just to watch single performances, training with the Paris Opera Ballet School, with the Bolshoi briefly, with Force. He would probably have paid for Tanya if her own family wasn't loaded, just because she's my partner and might have some effect on me getting into USB."
"That's a little extreme," I murmured.
"Very," he replied, "Which is why he was royally pissed when I screwed up so badly in front of Frank Rebrevae and everyone else of any importance. My choreographer for the LA piece had gone and told everyone that I'd put that move in on the spot, to make sure that he didn't get any of the blame, which I guess was fair. My father and the director of the course, Helen Fortescue, visited me in hospital. My father bleated on for a while about how stupid I'd been, and why couldn't I have just danced the choreography? I tried to explain that the move had just felt right at the time, that it had expressed what needed to be expressed, and that the fall had just been a mistake, and if it hadn't happened he would have been patting me on the back right now because the move would have made the piece look better. He still wouldn't have it, though, but then he doesn't know much about ballet anyway. I never listened to him, still don't.
"But then Helen Fortescue stood up," Edward took a breath, "She was much smarter than my father. She asked me if I was serious about ballet, whether it was what I wanted to do with my life. I said yes...and then she told me that if really did then I needed to stop acting like a five year old. That the whole idea of expression and dancing from the heart was an idea for Disney, not for real life. She said that everyone else had grown out of that idea long ago."
"What?" I said. "Who the heck would say that to someone?"
He nodded, "I haven't met many people as forward as that woman. She told me to grow up. That my solo really hadn't been that good because the gawky facial expression I'd had on my face was marred by the fact that my technique wasn't up to standard. She said I'd been dancing 'blind', I'd been so intent on looking dramatic. So I told her that I'd thought characterisation was half the performance." He ran a hand through his hair, "But she agreed and said instead that expression was important and should be choreographed as much as the steps. It shouldn't just be whatever the dancer feels like on that particular night. Ballet is always carefully planned and rehearsed and controlled, which is why it is superior to other forms of dance.
"She said that if I was serious in having a career in ballet, I should stop screwing around like Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princesses, going on about expression and passion, and start focussing on what will actually get me a career – memorization of movements, plots, mime, and flawless technique. She said that anything else, any lovey dovey crap wasn't worth even thinking about. If I wanted to be great, then I couldn't let my emotions get in the way," Edward let out a short breath, "And then she stood up and left."
"What?" I exclaimed with a jolt. "That'sbullshit!" I gasped as the movement shifted my ankle.
"Bella..." Edward said with a grin, putting his hand on my calf, "Calm down."
Despite my shock, a little sparkle of pleasure tickled in my chest at the feeling of his hand on me. "You didn't believe her, right?"
He leant back, taking away his hand, "Not at first."
"What?" I said again.
"Being injured gives you a lot of time to think, Bella. I thought she was a bitch, but I still had to take her words into account. Director of the LA Masters Course is a position you'd only get if you were very successful. And she had a point. Before LA, I hadn't even thought about my career. I'd just assumed I'd get into the US Ballet and make my way up the ranks. I never questioned whether I'd be able to get in or not. But suddenly I was lying in my bedroom back in Chicago with a screwed knee. I had just embarrassed myself in front of all the artistic directors who mattered in the World. I had no dignity...and I wasn't dancing. That was the most important thing; I wasn't dancing..." he looked at me, "And not being able to dance is like..."
"Like the World ending?" I said softly.
He nodded, "And I focussed all the blame for it on my emotion. The way I gave myself over to the music because I thought it was the most important. I decided I would never do that again, no matter how much freedom I got out of it. Because it was wrong. Because I was the only one stupid enough to do it."
I swallowed, looking straight ahead at the notice board on the wall. Where only a few moments ago I had felt warm, my chest suddenly felt cold again. My doubts rushed back to me. Because what he said was almost certainly right...and it contradicted all my actions. Almost everything I had done had gone against the rules, and all of it had been simply the feeling I felt when I danced.
"Bella," Edward said softly. Suddenly I felt his finger on my cheek, gently drawing a warm line down to my chin.
Nervously, I looked at him.
His eyes were earnest, "You surely can't think it ends there?"
"It could," I said, my heart thudding.
He raised one dark eyebrow at me before he dropped his hand back into his lap. "I spent the rest of my recovery buried in books and YouTube videos. I studied everything. The physics of pirouettes. The mythology behind the classic ballets. I learnt Benesh Dance Notation. I read up on how to teach ballet, on careers advice, on mime and characterisation. Every word I read made me want more and more to go and dance, and I hated my actions in LA more and more as the want got stronger and stronger. I began to take Helen Fortescue's words as law.
"When I finally returned to Force, I was much less of an arse than when I'd left," he smiled a little, "I quit messing around. I didn't join Emmett and Jazz in their late night adventures, instead I was sneaking into one of the studios trying to catch up on anything I had missed when I'd been recovering. I focussed more than ever on my technique. On what I knew now to really count. I don't think I left the grounds for over a month. I stayed and I studied until I was beating Jasper and all the danseurs by a mile. Until I was better than the some of the second years...but it was never enough...
"I worked hard to learn the characterisation; the appropriate facials and eye fluttering timed to a semiquaver. In productions, I learnt the other's parts so I would be entirely in sync with them. I practised my moves so much in the mirror that when I stood on the stage it was almost terrifying not being able to visually correct myself. And every step I made, I was adjusting and changing it to make sure it was perfect.
"I never got lost in a dance again. Even when I performed, I was constantly telling myself what I'd just done wrong. I didn't think the audiences were missing out on anything...only me, and, as I'd learnt, my own feelings were unimportant in such a grand art form."
He continued, "I only danced with total freedom on a few occasions, alone. When there was truly no other way to get my feelings out without screaming. But it wasn't the same just dancing alone, not sharing it with an audience or anyone. I felt empty..." he looked soberly out the window. "And I thought that that emptiness would be filled with the next stellar ballet exam or the next gold medal or the next newspaper review...but somehow it never was..."
He trailed off, staring at the grills in the heater.
I thought back to the studio, the night when I had arrived here. Then, there was no doubt that that was Edward dancing for himself...the way his body moved so perfectly with the music. The emotion in every step. How could he deny an audience that passion? How he could deny himself that passion? When it was so entrancing it had stolen tears from my eyes...but maybe that was just me. Maybe the rest of the world, like that horrible 'Helen' lady, knew better than to think what I saw was beautiful.
"Of course everything changed," he said quietly, "When you came."
My chest tightened. Edward gazed at me, a small smile on his lips, "I didn't give much thought to you when Mike Newton asked to have you as his partner."
I flicked him a smile, "Plain, am I?"
He laughed, "No; I've just become desensitized to beautiful girls, like every danseur has to do if he doesn't want to go insane."
I felt blood rush to my cheeks. How strange it felt – when was the last time I'd had reason to blush? When one of the Forks High Jocks had come up to me after dance showcase in assembly and asked me whether it was true that ballet dancers didn't wear underwear? A while ago, at any rate...
I bit my lip, looking back at Edward.
He smiled, "Anyway, it was only when that pathetic excuse for a teacher Madame Wright came in that I finally noticed you..." he looked away, "When Mike Newton put his hands on you..."
My heart sent another jolt through my chest at the aversion in his voice, "He didn't know what he was doing," I said in Mike's defence, though I still remembered the bruises on my stomach.
"I know," Edward murmured, "I should have been watching him more carefully when he was with Jessica, but I suspect he wasn't as bad with her, since she didn't make a fuss about it. He probably held you tighter because he was nervous about dancing with you."
"He couldn't have been as nervous as I was," I murmured.
Edward gazed at me, "You didn't show any of it. Even when you showed your pain for a split second, you covered it so well I wasn't even sure I'd seen it in the first place. That was the first thing I noticed about you; your irrational resolve...and how similar it was to my own...even if you hid the pain, you didn't look like the others. You looked determined, and you kept going..." he sighed, running his fingertip over the prickly edge of the top layer of my tutu. "Even when that bastard almost suffocated you..."
I remembered...the air getting squeezed out of me...my mind panicking...and Edward's fearsome shout to stop.
As if he were remembering the same moment, he ran a hand through his hair, "There are few times when I have been as angry as that. I couldn't believe him...the only thing worse was the look on your face."
I frowned, "What do you mean?"
Edward's finger reached the first of the gold vines embroidered into my tutu. He traced the curl as he spoke, "You looked repelled. As if Pas de Deux was the worst thing on Earth. That was when I realized how awful the entire class had been for you. Like I said yesterday, Bella, on the driveway; I could see that you had lost all confidence in Pas de Deux."
I looked blankly at my swollen ankle, "And it was your duty as my teacher to prove it otherwise." I didn't want to hear it again.
His finger halted, "No." He said, making sure he caught my eyes. "I danced with you for a very different reason, Bella."
"Why?" I whispered.
He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, looking distantly down at the floor. The light from the heater cast a warm glow on his face, "I'd watched you the whole lesson..." he smiled faintly, "I was mostly focussed on what Mike Newton was doing, of course, but I couldn't help but notice the way you moved...it was as if you were the dancer of my mind's eye. When I visualized movements, I imagined that the person would move in the exact way you were moving. It's hard to explain..." he put a hand to his chin. For the first time, I saw him struggle for words.
"There was just something about you which set you apart from the other dancers. Everyone else had their quirks. Angela kept her arms more bent at the elbows. Jessica tilted her chin down slightly in pirouettes. Megan's moves had a tiny little snap at the end..." he shook his head, "There's nothing wrong with them at all – everyone looks slightly different, and to anyone else, you probably do as well...but to me, when I first saw you move..." he looked up at me, his eyes shimmering in the dim light, "you were like my own personal perfection."
I stared at him, once more transported back to when I had first seen him in the studio...perfect, he had looked perfect...
My heart trilled with the possibilities of this...but I took a breath, trying to keep composed, "So you decided to dance with me?"
"I asked you," he said, "Even though it was hardly a good idea after what had just happened with Mike...but I couldn't let you go without trying. Without seeing if it was really possible."
He smiled disbelievingly, looking at the floor, "It was as easy as breathing...usually I have to think about the moves – I have to watch the girl to know whether she needs more speed on a pirouette or exactly what her rhythm is or how she's shaping her moves to fit the music. But with you...it was like we were dancing on the same page...your pirouette and my turning were the same thing, if that makes sense..." he ran a hand through his hair again, "It wasn't like we had different roles. Our roles were the same, somehow, even though our moves were different. Everything was one. The dance was one thing...there weren't two interpretations. Everything was..."
"Connected," I said softly, my heart thrumming.
He looked up at me, a smile spreading across his lips, "Exactly. But maybe that would have been okay; I could still have convinced myself that I just demonstrating with a student...but there was that lift..."
That perfect moment when I had been brought up in exultation...raised almost to the ceiling. Like I was soaring about the world...
"I was such a hypocrite," Edward muttered, "I said we shouldn't be doing lifts at all and then I did an overhead."
"There was nothing else to be done," I said boldly. This wasn't a good idea... "There was no other option."
Edward looked at me, "No one would understand you if you said that."
"But do you?" Anxiousness crept unbidden into my voice.
Edward frowned as he heard it, and sat back up. He gently touched my cheek, "You know I do, Bella...I felt as though I would burst, the feelings running through me as I danced with you. It wasn't even a proper dance – just a combination...but I discovered so much in those few steps...and somehow a tiny lift wouldn't have described it..." His finger traced the line of my cheekbone. My eyes fluttered shut a moment, fire erupting in the path he drew.
When I opened them, Edward was looking at me intently, "It felt natural, Bella. Just like how I knew how much to turn you, or how close to stand; it felt like the natural thing to do...to lift you up above everything...because it felt like you wanted to fly..." he dropped his hand from my face to his lap, "It's the stupidest thing, Bella, but I meant what I said; with you, everything felt as one. And when I held you up, it was as if I could feel your freedom...almost like I shared it."
"Like we were both above everything," I said quietly, feeling a soft happiness begin to bubble in my chest. A smile broke out on my face, "I felt that, too."
Edward's grin matched my own, "It was like nothing I've ever experienced before, Bella..." he leaned in closer. Our hands touched on the top of my tutu, "I never thought it was possible to share something so indescribable with anyone else..." his thumb brushed my knuckle, "But I was proved wrong."
My smile lasted one beautiful second longer before I looked down at our hands. "Then why did you leave?" I whispered, even though I was beginning to think I already knew the answer. Edward's hands slipped from mine and back into his own lap. He sat back, bringing a knee up to his chest. He rested his elbow on top of it, staring across the dimly lit room to the window.
"Honestly, Bella...the feeling in me when I danced with you was so strong that it terrified me. I felt everything that I'd been working for go out of me. I didn't care about technique. I didn't care about whether I'd drop you or whether you were doing alright or how it would affect my reputation. I didn't think about the consequences with Tanya. I was just consumed by the girl in my arms...by the way your feelings and mine were so intertwined...and that infinite freedom as I held you high..."
He sighed, "But that's the thing. That moment ended, and I came back to reality. I looked at you and I realized that I had just defied everything I'd learnt in LA. I remembered that you were a First Year. You were my student. And I'd just danced with you...almost intimately...in front of an entire class without any thought. I had danced blind, as Helen Fortescue would have called it. And that made me vulnerable. It was what had made me lose everything last time...so I left. I walked out, furious at you...because you brought out in me what I had tried so hard to hide. Furious at myself for forgetting everything I'd learnt."
"Did you ever plan to explain it to me?" I asked quietly.
Edward finally looked at me, "No...and I'm sorry, more sorry than I can even express, that I acted the way I did. You didn't deserve it. I didn't want to explain anything to you, though. I didn't want to even see you again. I went to Esme and told her Newton had hurt you – that was all I planned to say, just to make sure Newton got some sort of a consequence." He sighed, "But Esme's very perceptive of me. She could tell something had changed, and she grilled it out of me." He picked at a loose thread in his tights, "I told her, and even though I said it had been nothing, she knew it had been everything. And she told me not to fight what had happened, that I should embrace it because what you and me appeared to have was rare."
"Is that what she meant tonight?" I asked, "When she said that you'd have saved people grief if you'd embraced it earlier?"
He nodded, "Esme Cullen is one of the smartest people I know. She's never given me a bad piece of advice, neither in ballet nor in life. But I didn't listen to the most important piece she's ever given me...but it was just what Helen Fortescue had warned against; fairytales, romanticism..." Edward gazed at me, his voice turning soft, "And what could be more of a romantic fairytale than some sort of bond between a danseur and a danseuse who've never even met each other?"
"It's like a Cinderella story," I said, understanding. He was right; it was...unrealistic.
He nodded, "The prince falls in love with a girl he doesn't even know, after just one dance with her."
My breath caught for a moment. Don't overanalyse those words...
"The prince wasn't as honourable this time, though," said Edward. "Like I said, this was the exact thing Helen Fortescue had told me to ignore, if I wanted to be successful. In real life, Cinderella wouldn't have married the prince at all. Because the prince was a prince and he had his duties."
"You're a talented dancer and you have your career to think about," I said.
"Precisely," he said, "So I went against Esme's advice, instead siding with a woman I'd met only once a few years ago and hadn't even liked. I tried to act like it had never happened. But I was constantly reminded. Word spreads way too fast in this school, as I'm sure you know."
I nodded, "Particularly with my various episodes in the dining hall."
An unexpected smile crept across Edward's face, "Did you really say my name in your sleep?"
I blushed profusely and ducked my head, "Yes..."
Edward burst out laughing. I groaned and pushed my forehead into his shoulder, "I didn't mean to..."
He snorted and put his arm round my waist, "It's flattering."
"And creepy," I mumbled into his t-shirt. The scent was slightly intoxicating...
"Well," He said, "If it makes you feel any better, after everyone went on about Peter Davidson and you at breakfast, I thought I overheard him complaining about you in the corridor."
I withdrew a little, "What was he saying?"
Edward rubbed his chin with his free hand, "That's the thing – turns out he was talking about Isobel Yeats or something, not you, but I didn't know that before I stormed over to him and giving him a massive lecture about respecting his partner because he was so damn lucky to have her."
"Oh no," I grinned.
He nodded distastefully, "Everyone in the corridor knew exactly who I was talking about and exactly what it meant. Alice wouldn't stop grinning at me all day. She was onto me from the moment she heard I'd danced with you. She was like Esme, only more insistent. I don't know how many times she tried to put me in your path in those five days after."
"I never saw you," I said.
"I can be just as strong minded as Alice," he told me as we sat back again. "I ate here instead of in the Dining Hall, I tried to mingle with the crowds in the corridors, and, of course, I stopped teaching your class. But even without Alice's constant reminders, I couldn't keep my mind from you. Everything seemed so much duller now that I knew what fulfilment felt like. My gaze drifted in barre when my eyes should have been glued to the mirror, watching every minute detail. As much as I tried to pull it back, I couldn't help but wonder. Wonder about you. Who you were...whether you'd somehow make it past my avoidance."
He smiled, "And of course rehearsals with Tanya were that much worse. Nothing was the same since I had danced with you. Tanya and I dance well together...but in comparison to you it felt terrible. The gap between us felt massive. Like she wasn't just on a different page, she was in a different book altogether. And you were constantly there in my thoughts..." he gave a nervous smile, "When we were dancing Moonlight Sonata, I could almost picture you dancing it with me. And of course that led to me asking Tanya to change a whole load of things, which she did not take well."
"I can imagine," I muttered.
Edward sighed, "But I stayed with her. I fought back all my questions and tried to remind myself of the lesson I learnt in LA and kept doing what I had always done. It got easier to focus the more time that passed where I didn't see you. But then I was in the gym when Mrs Cope burst in and thrust a phone into my hands."
I frowned confusedly. "What?"
"It was Esme demanding where the hell I'd been when I was meant to be taking your class."
"Angela," I said quietly.
Edward put his head in his hands, "It was my fault that any of it happened. If I hadn't been such an idiot, I would have been there and I would have stopped Madame Wright from doing such a stupid thing...Angela could still be dancing right now if I had."
"It was Madame Wright's fault, Edward," I said, "She was the teacher, not you."
"You said it yourself Bella; if I knew anything about safety, I wouldn't have left your class to her."
"I didn't mean that," I told him desperately. If only I could have gone back and kicked my past self... "I was just angry at you for ignoring me. It wasn't your responsibility to make sure we were safe in that class. You were just there to see how to teach."
"There's a reason why I was put in that class and not another, Bella," he said, "Carlisle trusted me to make sure Madame Wright didn't do anything stupid."
"He should have fired her if he was so concerned!" I exclaimed. "It wasn't for you to be mediator. Besides, Angela doesn't blame you."
"She wouldn't," he said. "She's too nice a person."
I put a hand on his tensed arm, "Then don't insult her judgement, Edward."
He didn't move, "There's a chance she might never dance again, isn't there?"
I swallowed and looked down, knowing I couldn't lie, "Maybe – they don't know yet...but you could regret a thousand things in your life which you couldn't have foreseen the consequences of and it would do no one any good. You couldn't have known that this was likely to happen, otherwise you would have stayed."
Edward looked up at me, "How did you get to know me without me ever saying an honest word to you?"
I shrugged, "Maybe, somewhere deep down in my subconscious, I knew they weren't honest and I read the inverse instead..."
He smiled at me, his eyes shining, "You're a force to be reckoned with, Miss Swan."
I grinned, "And you're a story teller who hasn't finished the story, sir."
Edward made a face, "I hated it when you called me that..." He gave a heavy sigh and sat back up, "Where were we, then?"
"The next day," I said, "Pas de Deux."
He smiled, "Finally I got to see you." His features darkened, "Along with Peter Davidson...he really got on my nerves..."
"He's a good dancer."
Edward raised an eyebrow at me, "And he has the emotional drive of a plank of wood."
"Edward!" I smacked him on the shoulder.
He held his hands up, his eyes bright, "What? It's true!"
"He's shy," I said. "And he was a good partner."
"What?" Edward exclaimed, "He was terrible. Everything he did looked wrong."
"To you...but to me he was almost perfect because the one person who would have done it better..." I bit my lip, "I thought hated me."
"Bella..." Edward said softly, "I spent that entire lesson trying not to think about how much I wanted to be in his place. When I'd first come in I'd been determined to treat you like any other student, but one look at you with him and I knew I couldn't. I wanted to be the one to hold you...to gain the trust that you gave him...and I wanted to dance with you again. I didn't hate you. Not for a minute. And I didn't really hate Peter, however much I wished he wasn't there." He frowned, "I was infuriated when I found out he'd dropped you."
"That wasn't his fault at all," I said. "Angela pretty much fell into me. It happened way too quickly."
"And you didn't tell anyone you'd blacked out."
"I knew what would happen if I did," I said, looking at him meaningfully.
"I couldn't let you keep dancing, Bella," he said. He gestured to me, "You looked like you were going to faint."
"You didn't have to take me to Doctor Hill."
"You needed to be checked out. It could have been much worse than it was."
I sighed, knowing he was probably right. "Well it certainly made things problematic."
"Just a little," Edward muttered, "I'm sorry all the crap that you got from your class. When they were having a go at you in the Dining Hall, I had half a mind to go and punch Lauren's snarky face..."
I laughed despite myself, "I wish..."
"I wanted to go to you so badly after you walked out," he said, his eyes sad, "But I knew that if I talked to you properly just once, I'd end up dropping the last of my fight. So I asked Alice to go instead."
"You asked her?" I repeated.
He nodded, "She was just waiting to see if I'd go before she did, though. She cares about you a lot."
"She didn't say anything about what we talked about, right?"
"No, of course not," he looked away, "Apart from telling me that I was the biggest jerk in history."
I laughed, "Alice..."
"Alice indeed," he said, "I'm sorry I didn't talk to you, Bella...I don't know how I managed to ignore the fact that you were hurt...I won't again."
"You didn't yesterday," I pointed out. "My class was terrified."
"Good." He smirked, "I had to try very hard not to laugh through that whole lesson. Lauren really didn't have a clue. It was a total abuse of my teaching authority, of course, but it was worth it...I wish I'd been there to see Emmett and Jasper's stunt, too."
"You three are all geniuses," I said.
He grinned, "Glad we could be of service."
We were quiet for a moment, sitting in the half light. He had told me so much...I needed to process it. I had never even thought of not having expression...of not dancing with anything less than your heart...even if it sounded like something off the Disney Channel, I had to believe it was true. It was what had gotten me through all the catching up I'd had to do, starting so late. It was what had made me want to start in the first place...it was what made pointe shoes worth the pain. It was what made the long classes bearable. It was what made me want to give up my education and my home for ballet...but then I wasn't at the level Edward was at.
And maybe that was it, like that Fortescue woman had said; if you wanted to be a successful ballet dancer, you couldn't have all the 'from the heart' stuff. I had no proof that it was otherwise. I wasn't successful. Jeez, I was in First Year...maybe Edward wouldn't have been where he was at now if he hadn't given up the passion. Maybe that was the price you had to pay...and so maybe it made sense for Edward to ignore me...to not acknowledge what we had between us. He wanted a good career, not to crash and burn with a partner who was nowhere near his level.
The water heater in the kitchen clicked on and began boiling.
Edward and I seemed to come back to each other simultaneously. He sat cross-legged now, facing me.
I brought my good leg up to my chest, resting my chin on my knee.
"Yesterday afternoon wasn't as good, was it?" He said with a sad smile.
"Not exactly..." I frowned, "Why did you pick me up? I wouldn't have known if you'd driven past"
"I picked you up because you looked like you were going to get hypothermia, Bella," he flicked me a smile, "I'd already done far too many dishonourable things to leave you standing in the rain. It was coincidence. I'd been driving around for a while, thinking...wondering whether I'd have been better off if Helen Fortescue had never come into my hospital room. If I had recovered and had kept dancing for the feeling. But I knew that I had become as good as I was because I'd focussed solely on the physical. I knew that I'd have a better career if I continued with that."
Yet my curiosity about you was so strong...was it really going to affect my career so much? It was the same question that had been plaguing me since you'd come. I was still undecided when I saw you at the bus stop, and all the way to Wrystone...to Tanya and Irina," he grimaced, "And suddenly they were offering me a fast track to the US Ballet and I had to make a decision."
"And you chose them," I said softly.
Edward shut his eyes, taking a breath in. When he opened them, he looked directly at me. "I chose what I knew. What was certain. I didn't take the risk. I chose what my father had always wanted...and honestly, what a lot of me wanted. The US Ballet's a prestigious company, with great dancing and world tours and so many opportunities. I could have a great career with them...so I said yes, even as you sat across from me. Before you came, I would have said yes without a second thought. But yesterday, as soon as I agreed to it I felt my heart sink."
He rubbed his eyes, "So I tried to make it seem like nothing when you confronted me on the driveway. When I told you that I danced with you because I could see you'd lost confidence and it was my job to restore it...when I told you I stormed out because I'd taken you out of your depth because I was used to dancing with more experienced dancers...I was telling you what I wished were my excuses. That this was just some simple thing about me screwing up as a teacher and that it didn't have anything to do with the fact that you'd unlocked something in me which I'd kept hidden for such a long time and that I was so uncertain of. I hoped, though, for a split second that you'd believe me and that it would somehow release you from the bond that we felt. So that you wouldn't miss it..."
"I believed you," I said quietly, "But did you really think I could just forget all about you?"
"God no, Bella. As soon as I saw your expression, I knew that you were as likely to forget as I was."
"I didn't think you'd felt a single thing, Edward," I said shakily, "I thought I was just being stupid. I thought I was just deluding myself...and you let me keep thinking that...you tossed me back and forth so many times...all the times you looked at me like I was nothing but an irritating little girl and all the other times when you looked at me like you knew my soul...one minute you'd be ignoring me and then you'd be there like some sort of a guardian angel..." I bit my lip. I needed to calm down...
"Bella..." Edward breathed, and then pulled me into his arms. I clung to him, my head tucked under his chin, his heart beating steadily against me. "I'm so sorry..."
"I know," I whispered into his chest. "It was just...difficult."
He held me closer, and I shut my eyes against the World.
I don't know how long we sat like that; I didn't count. I hardly thought. I just let myself sink into his blissful embrace. He was here now...that was what mattered.
Eventually, I pulled back. Edward gently brushed a stray piece of hair from my cheek, gazing at me. "When you kept on pushing me away this morning, I didn't understand just how much I'd put you through..."
This morning...it seemed like such a long time ago. "You just took me by surprise," I said, remembering finishing my dance and seeing him just standing in the doorway.
"So did you," he murmured with a very small quirk of his lips.
I frowned at the change in his tone, "What is that meant to mean?"
"That particular piece of music is...very well known to me."
"I know," I blurted out with a grin, before I realized how weird it sounded... "I mean...I caught a glimpse of you dancing to it once."
Edward smiled, "It was the one I danced to in LA."
"What?" I said, "How can you dance to it when..."
"When it has all the bad memories?" He shrugged, "I don't know. It's the one piece I still let myself be free with. I give myself over to the music...and I know that's strange, because it was the exact one which stopped all of that freedom...but I think that maybe there was a link there...the majority of times when I've danced to it have been because the emptiness got too much. The emptiness which I only got because of the injury I got dancing to the song...I guess it's ironic. Either way, it's become the piece closest to my heart...and then this morning I was walking around mindlessly, trying to convince myself that I'd made the right decision yesterday, and I heard it playing. And there you were..."
He looked at me, "You were the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, Bella. Ever. The way your very essence was poured into your steps...and it was just like when I first saw you. I knew the way you moved. I almost knew what you were going to do next, with the way the music went. My music. The one piece I had confided myself in. The piece which almost defines me, when every other piece I dance to is simply a ghost of the real me...and you were dancing it with as much understanding as I did..."
He shook his head disbelievingly, "If I hadn't had such a screwed up sense of pride, I would have told you right there and then that I'd been lying every moment since I'd danced with you." He shut his eyes, "I wouldn't have left you when you were so upset..."
"You had your audition to get to," I said softly. "You had to go."
He glanced at me, "Wouldn't you have rather I'd stayed?"
"It was a massive opportunity," I said, avoiding the question.
He raised an eyebrow at me before he leaned sideways against the couch, "It was one of the most depressing car journeys I've ever had. Tanya was chattering on about anything and everything in her usual way before a performance. Usually I support her, but today I was too messed up myself to care. We got on the plane and I spent the full four and a half hours staring out the window...
"Usually when I'm going into a performance, I think through each step I'm going to make, all my weak points. I listen to the music and mark out all the moves. I prepare myself for what to expect...but all that was in my head this time was your face. I knew I was going to get the part, along with Tanya. And we were going to tour the country as soloists earlier than we'd ever dreamt, with a real company...but I could only think that I would never see you again. I would never find out all that I'd wondered about you. I'd never dance with you again. Never talk to you...
"I'd ended it before it had even begun, Bella..." he looked down at his hands, cupped in his lap, "But I knew that this was such a big opportunity, and that I shouldn't let my emotions get in the way. I had to forget about the fairytale which had begun when I'd first danced with you. For the good of my career..."
He let out a breath, "We arrived in New York, and we got to the USB Building. Frank Rebrevae met us at the door and shook our hands and smiled like we were his saviours, which I guess we were. We passed all the posh practice rooms and the cafeteria and the walls and walls of photos of dancers. We saw five famous faces in the first ten minutes...and he showed us to a studio where we could warm up. And I looked around me and I realized that I was nervous...nervous like I've never been before."
"Why?" I asked, "You knew the audition was just a custom. You were already in."
"And that's why I was nervous," he said, "I was nervous about the fact that I was going to get in...that I was going to achieve all my goals, get my career...and the question just hit me. Why did I want a career? Why did I want to spend my life doing it? Why ballet, above everything else?"
He gazed out the dark window, "And I knew it wasn't for the fame or the physicality or the travel. It was for the love of dance. And I realized that when I had answered Helen Fortescue all those years ago when she'd asked me if I wanted to do ballet as a career, I had answered with the assumption that I would always be able to dance with my heart and nothing less." He looked to me, "Because that is why I do ballet. And I was nervous because I knew that if I got this job, I would be throwing away the very reason for getting it in the first place.
"Ever since LA, I have danced with the belief that I would get something out of it...but not once did I wonder why I was putting myself through so much stress and heartache...but then today I finally did...I ran out of the USB building without a single word of explanation to Frank Rebrevae or any one. I told Tanya that I couldn't do it, and that she should do it alone and get them to find someone from the company for her.
"I guess it was a little harsh...but she didn't need me..." he frowned, as if remembering, "And of course now I've seen her true colours, I'm not sure I can care that much anyway. She followed me, though, screaming at me as I hailed a taxi and tipped the driver heavily to get us to the airport as fast as he could. I knew I had a ridiculously short amount of time before any flight that left would get us there too late. I was so desperate I rang my father as we ripped through New York and told him to get us a flight back."
"What'd you tell him it was for?" I asked.
"He didn't know what I was in New York for – thank God I hadn't told him. I just said I'd been in New York teaching little kids or something and that I had to get back to the review because Tanya and I were dancing in it and Jeffrey Evans was in the audience and it was almost an audition. Ironic, I know."
I grinned, "So you got the plane?"
"My father pulled a few strings...well, he wrenched them, actually, seeing as he thought I had a chance of getting into the USB if I got back to Force on time. He got us business class tickets on a flight which was meant to have left ten minutes before we arrived at the airport. I don't think the people of New York were not prepared for some crazy guy running down the main terminal of the JFK in tights with Irina and Kate Denali's kid sister screaming behind him. I was lucky we didn't get pulled up by security.
"We got on the flight just in time. Even my father can't halt the whole airport. All the passengers looked totally miffed, but God I didn't care." Edward laughed, shaking his head, "I spent the whole flight marching up and down the aisle in my costume, as if my urgency would somehow make the plane move faster."
"Did it?" I asked jokingly.
"No, but I did manage to charm the air hostess into letting us off the plane before all the First Class people."
"You charmed her?" I said.
He shrugged nonchalantly, "There's something about air hostesses...they just succumb to me."
"What, to your male charm?"
Edward grinned, "Every female wants a straight ballet dancer as a boyfriend – we have everything. The body, the looks, the commitment, the manners – "
"The unending modesty," I chimed.
"Oh come on...you don't even find me slightly attractive?"
I looked away indifferently, "Peter's more my type." I couldn't smile...I could not smile...my lips quirked slightly.
"Oh really now?" Edward said.
"Yeah," I got out. "He's just..."
I bit my lip, "Well, he's..."
"He's got nice posture," I said reasonably.
"Right," Edward said, his voice thick with sarcasm. "What else?"
"Well his hair's nice..." I kept my eyes fixed on the coffee table. What did his hair look like?
"Miss Swan," Edward said studiously, "Would I be right in thinking that you're struggling to give me answers?"
"You're just jealous," I said politely. I sat back into the couch, "Ah, Peter..."
"Alright, that's it," and suddenly he was pulling me to him. I caught a single glimpse of his bright eyes before our lips met hungrily. My hand cupped his neck, his arm wound tightly around my waist. I felt his smile against my mouth as we pulled each other even closer. My breath was loud to my ears. His fingers ran up my bare back. Our lips met again and again, in total bliss. We clung to each other, for everything that we had denied before...
My hand slid up his hard chest, and suddenly he was falling back, pulling me down with him. I lifted my right ankle high and laughed as I landed on top of him, our stomachs in line with each other. Edward smiled up at me, his chest rising and falling heavily under my hands, "Still going for Peter?"
I rolled my eyes and pecked him on the lips one last time.
He chuckled, "Thought so."
I rolled off him and we lay facing each other, Edward's hand still resting on my hip.
"So how much did you see?" I asked.
He propped himself up on his elbow, "We got off the plane at about...ten to seven. Ran through security, and managed to drive here in about half an hour."
"That's fast," I said. "You weren't speeding, right?"
He raised his eyebrow, "What else is an a hundred thousand dollar Mercedes for?"
I shook my head as reprovingly as I could, lying on a couch.
Edward grinned and continued, "It's still parked outside the door, which might create a bit of an issue with all the busses later, but I was in a bit of a rush. Master Hinde, the idiot, wouldn't let me into the audience where Carlisle was, so we went the backstage way, past all the dressing rooms."
"Wait, you mean you might have run right past my door?"
He nodded, "Possibly. God, that could've made things easier...still, I really didn't know what I was doing, trying to get Esme and Carlisle to change their minds two minutes before your class was meant to start. I just knew that you'd been so upset this morning and I had to try and solve that when I'd failed to before. It was lucky you'd already decided to go against the rules...I reached backstage and was just about ready to shout for Esme when Alice shoved me into a dark corner and told me that if I valued anything behind my ballet belt, I'd shut up and do as she said. And then she pushed into one of the front wings, the one in front of your class."
"So that I wouldn't see you..." I murmured. Alice was smart. Because if I'd seen him...well, I probably would've fainted just as the curtains opened...
"I couldn't believe it when I heard them all say your name..." Edward's eyes shone brightly, "And then you came out looking like a Prima Ballerina..." his fingers traced the seam of my bodice, "And you danced like one...God, I was hypnotised, Bella..." his eye dropped, "Which is why I hardly had any thought as to where Tanya had gone."
"And then I face planted," I said.
"It wasn't too bad. Trust me, there have been worse..." he grimaced, "Emmett was just about to pull the curtain shut, and then you got back up and started dancing again...that was insane."
"But was it obvious?" I asked, "That's what's important."
"No...but I could tell you'd lost your spark. The link with the music. I knew you were in pain – you wouldn't have stopped it otherwise. And I knew that you would keep on going...even if it killed you."
"It wouldn't have come to that," I scoffed.
He looked at me seriously, "A bad injury could've ruined your career...so I went on, without a single thought..." he smiled, "And you know the rest from there."
"A dance of complete spontaneity," I said proudly.
He nodded, "And there is no way that it could have been wrong, Bella. It felt like perfection. I'm sure Carlisle will have plenty to beat us down with...but that dance will never be replicated...and never be bettered, in some ways..."
"I wish we could do that every performance," I said quietly.
Edward gently traced patterns over my waist, "I know...but I don't think this...bond we have with one another is likely to end with the first hint of choreography Carlisle throws at us..." he frowned, his hand halting, "That is, of course, if you want to continue with me after...everything I've done."
I gazed at him, "Do you promise to never do it again?"
He looked at me with his deep emerald eyes, "Never, Bella. Never again."
"Then yes," I said, "I want to be your partner for as long as you'll have me."
He smiled and kissed me on the forehead. "Forever."
I snuggled into his side, feeling calm despite all the turmoil that was sure to come in the wake of tonight.
After a minute, my eyes were beginning to droop closed, my thoughts lulled by the steady beat in Edward's chest.
"Come on," he sighed, his cheek pressed against the top of my head, "You're meant to be getting locked in a dance-proof cell, remember?"
"Ugh," I groaned, "Not yet..."
He chuckled and stood up. I whimpered at the loss of his warmth.
Gently, he slid his hands under me and lifted me up, one arm under my knees, the other on my back. I opened my eyes as he gently set me down in front of him. In the dim light he did not look like a human...he looked like a God. How was this possible? That he was here...with me?
"Are you sure you wouldn't rather be in New York, with a real company?"
He smiled and shook his head, "No, Bella. I still have so much to learn...what happened in LA cannot happen again. There is an entire world of dance which I haven't let myself touch, and I need to be here, at Force, if I'm going to be able to experiment..." his eyes glinted darkly, "and besides, the most important thing of all is here..." he reached out and took my hand, "and I'm going to need to be in the same place if I'm to dance with all of my heart..." he brought my knuckles to his lips,
"Because she owns a part of it."
Epilogue coming soon...