Author's Chapter Notes:

No, you're not seeing things!

Hello everyone! How are we? Long time no see and all that :/

I got the most number of reviews for the last chapter than any of this fic so far, but I thought enough time had passed and I'd get the chapter out to you. I hope you don't mind that I didn't reply to you all! I promise I don't usually not, it's just that it's been so long :) Thank you to everyone who did review, and everyone who has stuck around to see the next installment of this fic.

You might not care, but I'm having serious difficulty writing this one. I don't have an updating schedule at all for this fic at the moment, but I promise to keep working on it - I'm not giving up on it - and that whenever I have a new chapter, I'll get it out to you as quickly as possible.

batgirl8968 helped heaps with this, to keep me on track and in with the feeling of this fic, so big hugs to her!

Previously - Jasper found out what Edward tried to do and walked out, stating that they were over and that Edward "ruins everything." Edward got his moment with Bella, told her the truth about his fear of her, kissed the girl numb and then got his heart broken when Bella told him Jasper had got there before him. He walked out, a broken man, and Bella realised the epic mistake she'd made. Since then, her music has been picking up on YouTube and James has turned into the star we all love. Bella confronted her mother about her savings and found herself her own place. She's moved out, moved on and moving up with her life, free of Edward, heartache and her mother.

xx


Chapter 22 – A House Is Not A Home

"Bells, this place is beyond amazing…" Heidi was still impressed by my little slice of real estate. I was sitting on my new, oversized corner sofa, glass of wine in hand as she, Felix and Jamie had a look around.

It was sparsely furnished, as I wasn't willing to spend an absolute fortune in one drop.

Heidi and I had been home shopping three times in the past two weeks, picking out cabinets, beds, drawers, sofas, tables and chairs, but I'd yet to actually buy the half of it.

I knew I had enough to cover everything I had chosen and more, but it was one thing to say I wanted it, and another entirely to blow a small fortune on it. The money I had been given by signing the contract with Volturi records sat relatively untouched in my account.

I still didn't feel like I'd earned it. I'd voiced my concerns to Felix during an informal meeting the week before, and he'd laughed off my reservations. In his eyes, I was worth every penny, but a part of me felt off about it.

With the setbacks I'd already encountered since arriving in L.A, mainly Edward and Jasper, I'd done less work than I thought I would have. I'd had imaginings of arriving in the sun-baked city and hammering out records, but it just hadn't happened that way.

Before, with Renee as my manager, I'd been able to sit at a piano and work on new pieces. There was no pressure, sending my stuff away at my own leisure, having it picked up by different record labels and artists and getting paid the next week for my troubles.

I guess I still hadn't gotten used to being paid up front and then working diligently afterwards.

Jamie said my YouTube page was a massive success, but like before, I was still avoiding it. Nothing original had been uploaded to it, and that was what worried me.

I knew I could sing, hell, we all knew I could sing, but that was completely different from writing something new and releasing it to the world for them to judge.

I took my hat off to artists such as Adele who could write a whole album about her heartbreak, something completely personal, and release it out into the world. I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to do something like that.

Jamie collapsed down onto the sofa beside me, bringing me out of my musings as his fingers worked the muscles out of my calf muscles. I smiled at him gently, again wondering how and what I'd done to deserve his recent affections.

It wasn't unwanted, nor was it inappropriate, and his touch came more and more often. Over the weeks it had become the four of us – Jamie and I, and Heidi and Felix – and despite us just being friends, it still felt like we were two couples.

I felt sad every time I thought about the day that brought us closer. I thought I'd had the "looking glum" down to a tee, but that day at work, Jamie just wasn't himself. Everything else seemed a little duller without his infectious silliness and smile.

He'd refused to take a break, so when I took some lunch back up to the studio for him, I got him to tell me what was bothering him.

It turned out his ex-girlfriend had phoned him that morning to tell him she was seeing someone new. She'd wanted to tell him before any of their friends got the chance. They'd been together for four years and had been friends for ten. Jamie said he'd only broken up with her because she hadn't been able to follow him out to LA and he didn't think a long distance relationship was fair on her.

He said he'd never thought of moving on, or finding someone else, that she'd always been it for him, and it hurt that she had. He'd never really given a thought to her finding someone else while he was gone, but he said he realised it was selfish of him to hope she wouldn't.

We were common souls that day. Both pining for someone hundreds of miles away, both wanting someone we could no longer have. He was doing better since then, but I still caught him staring at the old pictures on his phone with a sad look in his eyes. I hated those days the most, because it was like looking in a mirror – wishing for the past wasn't healthy for anyone.

I rested my head back against the sofa and closed my eyes, letting his touch relax me as I half-listened to Heidi and Felix laugh about something from the kitchen.

I felt at home in that moment, my three friends sharing my new home, staying for some good food and wine, a movie ready to be popped into the machine for entertainment should the chat run out.

I wondered what my mother was doing, and found that I didn't feel nearly as guilty as I once would have. When I'd sat her down on the sofa in my studio, I hadn't thought she'd take my news so well. I'd gently explained to her that I wanted my own space, but that in no way meant I was cutting her off.

She'd become teary, but for the first time in as long as I could remember, she'd put her arms around my shoulders and hugged me to her. She launched into a speech about our relationship, and how, now that she was no longer burdened by managing me, she could see just where she'd gone wrong in the past.

She admitted to putting the money and fame in front of my wellbeing. She admitted to forgetting what we'd left my father behind for, and that she'd forgotten what it was like to be a mother before she was anything else.

I still wasn't sure if I could trust her. I'd mulled the conversation and the tears over and over in my head since it had happened, and I couldn't decided whether she had been acting it all or not.

That saddened me more than anything. It had gone on for so long, that I no longer knew my mother well enough to know if she was being sincere. It was so drastically different from the attitude and comments I'd received from her for years.

It just wasn't conceivable to me that she could change that much, that quickly.

However, she still showed up at the studio most days, sitting quietly behind Jamie as he did his thing. She'd smile at me encouragingly, ask if I needed anything and even go so far as to ask if we could have lunch together.

Up until this point I'd said no, that I was too busy, that I wasn't sure it was a good idea. I still felt bad when I remembered the way her face fell when I told her I wasn't sure I'd be comfortable with it. We didn't know each other anymore, we'd have nothing to say for the duration of a meal, and while it was true, I knew she still held out hope that I'd change my mind one day.

She was continuing to stay at the hotel, and while she'd said she could cover the cost of it, I'd been adamant that I help out. I'd set up a direct debit the day I moved into my new apartment, transferring money into her account every week to keep her afloat. I had no idea if it was enough, or too much, but it was done, and it took a weight off my shoulders.

"What ya thinking about?" Jamie asked me quietly, squeezing my leg in his hand to gain my attention.

"My mom. She's been alone in that hotel for nearly a month now."

"Bella, the way she used to treat you, I don't understand how that could possibly bother you," Heidi answered as she carried a tray of food from her father's restaurant into the living room, Felix on her tail.

"She's still my mom, Heidi. And I don't know, she seems to really be trying…"

"But?" Jamie asked.

"I don't know if I can trust her. There's something about this city; ever since I arrived, no one has turned out to be who I thought they were…including me…." Jamie raised his eyebrows and Heidi coughed causing me to laugh and continue. "Apart from you guys, but you know what I mean. I've changed in the three months I've been here, and I don't know if it's good or bad."

I dropped my head back onto the back of the sofa and stared at the ceiling.

"Don't let the media get to you, Bella. They didn't know the whole story and were only out for one thing. What happened doesn't make you a bad person, you just made a bad decision. We all make mistakes, what makes us better people, is that we learn from them."

Felix whistled at Jamie's philosophical answer and he chuckled, dragging his hand through his hair in a way that reminded me of Edward. I rolled my eyes – everything reminded me of Edward. I wasn't sure there was a moment he wasn't lurking in my mind somewhere.

"Thanks, Jam." It was Jamie's turn to roll his eyes, all of us knowing how much he hated that nickname. Heidi always said it was testament to how much he liked me that he let me keep calling him such a stupid name.

The food was delicious, as it always was, and the wine and conversation flowed freely for hours. It was a Friday night and we were all making the most of having the next day off. Felix had a few afternoon meetings, and I would probably head in to tinker on the piano a little, but having no concrete plans felt good.

I looked towards the glass corner of my living room, seeing the balcony beyond and the lights of L.A beyond that, thinking for the hundredth time how good an upright would look in the empty space.

It was the only thing I'd even contemplated really spending a fortune on, and I was finding it harder and harder to deny how much I wanted it. A piano of my own sounded heavenly, and I was sure it would make the apartment I sat in home.

"Bells, your phone is ringing!" Heidi threw the little contraption towards me and I fumbled as it slipped out of my fingers. I wasn't used to having a flat phone, and was still trying to figure out how to use it.

I'd managed to hit one million views on my YouTube page, and to celebrate, Heidi and Felix had bought me an iPhone. I think I was drunk when I finally accepted it, realising it hadn't really cost them much because it was bought on a contract.

Along with my rent it was the first thing I was paying for myself every month. Well, apart from food and the essentials of course.

"I don't know that number." I frowned at the flashing digits on the screen. "I'm not answering that," I said, a little slurring around the edge of my words.

"Bells, you have like four people in your contact list, everyone is an unknown number!" Jamie replied, causing everyone to laugh. I just stared him down until he mumbled an apology and planted a kiss on my cheek.

At some point during the night we'd fallen together on the sofa, me leaning against his side, his arm lightly resting around my shoulders. It felt comfortable and safe. We both knew the other would never feel anything more than friendship, so it was easy. Being around him was like breathing, and while I'd always count Heidi as my first friend in LA, there was something different about Jamie's friendship that seemed to complete the set.

I swiped my finger across the stupid screen, not knowing if I'd answered the call or not.

Lifting it to my ear I dropped it again, causing everyone to laugh and James to groan my name in sheer frustration. By the time I picked it up, there was no one on the line and we all laughed like it was the funniest thing to ever happen.

As Heidi rolled around on the floor, clutching her stomach, I looked at my phone and had what I thought at the time was a really smart idea. Jamie extricated himself from the sofa and headed to the bathroom, so I let my thumbs tap out a shaky message on my phone.

Sorry, new phone. Can't use it. Who is this? B.

I sent it without thinking, chucking my phone into the corner of the sofa as Jamie reappeared.

It stayed there for the rest of the night, completely forgotten as our drinking and laughing continued until we all fell asleep where we sat – Heidi and Felix curled up on the floor, and Jamie holding me tightly on the sofa, my head on his chest and his hand in my hair.

I forgot about even sending that text until I checked my messages two days later. There it was, sitting innocently enough under the rest I'd sent and received since. No reply had arrived, so I deleted it, erasing the number from my phone's memory and my own.

I arrived to work on Monday morning, unhappy with the weather and my lack of coffee. Something about the machine breaking right as I walked in the damn coffee shop door. I had never been a morning person, and usually caffeine was the only thing to get me through.

I tried to wave at Heidi as I passed her desk, but she was deep in conversation on the phone, pen flying mercilessly across her pad, and brow furrowed. Knowing it must have been important, I left her to it and headed up to my studio, noticing Jamie hadn't yet arrived. It didn't happen very often that I got in before him, but when it did, I used the time to myself to experiment with the piano.

I'd had ideas floating around my head for weeks, but I'd never managed to put any of them together, or even really give them solid footing. As my fingers caressed the ivory keys, I took a deep breath and let my thoughts take over.

I'd spent the better part of a month trying to forget about Edward and his departure, but no matter how hard I tried, it was still there. The feel of his hands on my skin, the taste of his mouth on mine. I heard the sound of his voice – quiet and reserved – as he told me the truth for the first time. I remembered the look in his eyes as he tried to make me understand.

Then I remembered the pain in my chest when I had to shatter his ideas, the tugging I felt deep inside as he walked away from me. The fissure I felt cracking open when Heidi told me he was gone, the shame I felt when I realized it was my fault. The disgust at myself when I realized I'd used two guys at the same time – two best friends – and pitted them against one another unknowingly. The hurt I felt when I lost both of them.

My fingers were flying over the keys angrily until the same melody sounded again and again. It smoothed out when I thought over all the headlines I'd read in that same month – the ones about me, the ones about Jasper, but mostly the ones about Edward.

He was back in New York, back to his old ways: the drinking, the girls, the parties. There was barely a day that went passed without a picture of him falling out of some club with two girls on his arm from the night before.

The days are long, and the nights so cold,

The pages turn, and the tale unfolds,

He left me for another lady.

She stood so tall, and she never slept

There was not one moment he could regret,

He left me for another lady.

I was surprised at the waver in my voice as I sang, and the way my thoughts lined up perfectly, giving me clarity and certainty in what I was saying. I tried the same melody again, changing a few notes to cancel out any dissonance. My voice had clashed with a few chords, and I swapped them around and tried again. My fingers changed, my foot pressed and the notes rand out around me as I moved on.

He took my hand one day and told me, he was leaving, me disbelieving

And I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I

Had to let him go.

Her name was New York, New York

And she took his heart away,

Her name was New York, New York

She had poisoned his sweet mind.

I fell silent. New York had never appealed to me, even when I'd stayed there, but I remembered Jamie saying it was by far the best city in the world. The soul, the music, the sounds, the feel, everything was alive he'd said. I wondered if Edward liked being there, if he felt alive while he was there.

For the first time since he'd left, I wished with every part of my being that he'd walk back through my door. Maybe he'd smile, or maybe he'd just smirk cockily as I lost my nerve with whatever I'd been playing. He'd sit on the couch behind Jamie, cross his legs at his ankles and stretch out like he owned the place, revelling in the way I completely fell apart in his presence.

God, I missed him.

My eyes snapped up when the door did open, but my entire body sagged when Jamie's head appeared first, before the rest of his body slid through the doorway. I was clearly delusional. Edward was on the opposite side of the country, partying constantly, getting laid as often as possible, and back to drinking me out of his system.

He'd given all that up for me when he thought he had a chance, but if the tabloids were right, he'd slipped right back into his old ways when he'd touched down in New York. The guilt that normally hit me, washed over me from top-to-toe – he was living dangerously, avoiding whatever it was he was afraid of, and I'd helped, for a while. I'd even managed to ruin that.

Jamie was unaware of my internal struggle as he flicked through the mail.

"Bells, there's one here for you. Looks like some fancy invite…"

My curiosity piqued, and I tried to rein in my emotions concerning Edward as I padded out to the sound booth. He was right, the envelope he handed me was made of expensive paper, with a silver ribbon weaved through the top of it. My name and address was written beautifully on the front and my heart picked up in speed as I thought how close it resembled Edward's handwriting.

On closer inspection, however, it was glaringly obvious it wasn't. The curls on the letters were too feminine to be his and I had to tell myself to get a grip as I gently slid my finger under the fold and tore it open.

I pulled out the card and read it aloud.

Miss Isabella Swan

Is cordially invited to

The official press party from Volturi Records

Requested presence by one

Edward Anthony Cullen

I stuttered his name in shock, not believing it was right there in black and white. Jamie's head snapped up as he stared at me, his mouth opening and closing as he decided what to say.

"Jesus, he's only been gone for a month…" He held out his hand and I shakily placed the card in his grasp before sinking into the chair nearest me.

It was a typed invitation, hundreds of them had undoubtedly been sent out, but by whom? Who'd written the guest list? Who'd looked over it to make sure it was right? Was Edward aware one had been sent to me? Had he asked for one to be sent to me?

Dozens of questions circled my head as Jamie read the accompanying letter. For a minute I wanted to snatch it back, wondering if Edward had slipped a personal note into the envelope, but I noticed it too was typed and formal.

"He's coming back to L.A. He hasn't finished his album, but they're holding a press party to announce its release date and he's going to perform some of the songs on it. This is huge. The publicity for this thing will bring the city to its knees. He's never done this before."

"But why have I been invited?" I asked, cringing at the uncertainty in my voice.

Jamie looked at me sadly, sympathetically as he answered me. "You're a Volturi artist, they'll have been sent out to everyone. I'm sorry, Bella."

I felt my face flame.

I wasn't sure what he was apologising for. The fact that I'd been sent one in the first place, or that he knew I wanted Edward to have asked for me personally. Or that he hadn't.

I felt rejection wash over me, but it was my own fault. How had I thought so foolishly? I thought I'd grown up, but the mere mention of Edward's return had me hopeful and naïve.

I'd hurt him.

He hated me for it.

I'd broken his only true friendship.

I'd made him flee back to the city he'd only just left.

He was an asshole.

I stopped short, wondering where that thought had come from. It hurt me to think of it as true, but I had to grow up. It was true.

The way he had treated me at the start couldn't be overshadowed by two civil conversations and a kiss I was likely to never forget.

He used women for his own advantage; he drank excessively, and didn't care what he said or did when under the influence. He was an asshole.

He might have been a troubled asshole, but it didn't change the facts. I needed to stop being a naïve little girl who wanted to see the good in everyone. I may have missed him, dreamt about him and wished he were back in my everyday life, but he didn't want the same thing.

He'd made an effort for all of five minutes and I needed to remember that at the first sign of things being difficult, he'd given up and run away. That didn't make him a man, it just made him selfish.

I couldn't ponder on my niggling thoughts. The ones that told me it was my fault he'd given up and run away, that I'd given him no reason to hope or stay. If I listened to those thoughts, it would be far easier for me to get hurt in the future.


Author's Chapter End Notes (PLEASE READ):

Realistically, I couldn't keep Edward out of this any longer, so yes, he is making a return! Once he's back, things will pick up and move forward without jumping time too much :)

Thank you all for your patience and understanding, I hope most of you are back on this journey with me! Hope to hear from you soon :)

Follow me on twitter - at SarahhhhhhJane - or subscribe to my blog for email updates on teasers and goss :D www . liveindakata . blogspot . com

Also, the companion piece for this story, the EPOV I wrote for Fandom 4 Tsunami about 2 years ago! It will be posting soon. It's only a one shot, but I know a lot of you wanted to read it at the time. Add me as a fave author if you want to know when it goes up, otherwise I'll tell you on my blog :D

See you soon hopefully xx