"Entry for the Naughty or Nice Holiday Contest"
Story Title: Snow, Light and Angels' Flights
Summary: Bella Swan went to the Chicago Symphony with the state's Golden Boy on Christmas Eve. She left him to find Edward Cullen, the famous composer, her secret infatuation, as if he were waiting for her.
Pairing: Edward and Bella
Word Count: 4,294
Disclaimer: Everything Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer. All songs and compositions belong to the respectful owners. This author is in no way associated with the creator, producer of the franchise Twilight, book or movie, or to the creators of all the music mentioned. No copyright infringement intended. I don't own the rights to the books/movies or to any of the music mentioned, okay? I don't own the rights to the "Lost Christmas Eve" album from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, just a copy.
Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Romance
Rating: M, for language
Beta Reader: Duchess Michelle
A/N: The title comes from the narration of the Lost Christmas Eve, from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I've only ever heard it once, but I did find it on the net. This one shot is for the "Naughty or Nice Contest", hosted by the Twi-Muses. Voting begins on December 5th, and ends on December 12th. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy it!
It was all a very posh occasion. The usher led Bella and Michael to their seats, the plush red cushions a glowing beacon in the growing darkness. Sure, they were late, but that was because Michael had needed to check his pockets – again. It niggled at Bella, but she was determined to ignore it; she focused on the joyous occasion and hoped that all else was soon to be forgotten.
They were to see the Chicago Symphony, with Edward Cullen as their guest performer. She sighed, her anticipation getting the better of her. The tickets were all she had asked for for Christmas and Michael had delivered – though with much scoffing and eye-rolling. Truly, he had never understood her fascination with classical music, instead belittling it, treating it as a passing fancy. But this was all Bella had asked for, she reminded herself; I will not feel guilty, I will not feel guilty. The remorse wiggled through her resolve, though, and she began to second guess her decision. Not much to do about it, now. The tickets were paid for, they were at their seats. She was determined to enjoy her night out, regardless of Michael's flippant attitude.
They were seated in the middle of the theatre, right in the centre. Michael hadn't gotten the cheap seats – but he never did. It was always the best for him and Bella, his "girl", as he said, as though they were stuck in a 1950's movie. She scoffed at the thought.
The theatre went completely dark. The stage lit up in a flash of colour, the orchestra filling their spots, surrounding the grand piano in a semi-circle. Quickly, efficiently, they picked up their instruments ready for Edward Cullen to come out. The conductor pulled out his wand, at the ready. Edward Cullen then came out, clothed in a dark tuxedo, a red kerchief in his breast pocket, and holly decorating his lapel; festive.
Bella gasped at his face. Of course she'd seen his face in pictures and on the television, but so close? In person? He was a vision – strong jaw line, proud nose and cheek bones; she fancied she could see his deep emerald eyes from this far, twinkling and sparkling in the spotlight. But on a whole, his face was a thunderhead – Mr. Edward Cullen was not impressed. But even with a murderous expression, Bella reflected, the man was beautiful. She sighed quietly, while surreptitiously glancing at Michael, who was already checking the time. She rolled her eyes, but didn't say anything, not wanting to spoil the evening.
Edward bowed to the crowd slightly, his face dark. He flipped the coat-tails out before sitting at the bench, his hands hovering above the keys. He nodded to the conductor, before playing. The music poured forth, a gentle number. Bella refused to close her eyes, as the music often moved her to do, because she wanted to see the vision before her. Edward melded with the music, as if it came not from his fingers, but from his soul, heart and mind. It in itself was breathtaking to see. She swayed slightly in her chair, letting the music inside of her, caressing her soul. The rest of the symphony joined in then, a beautiful harmony to the notes from the piano, entwining together to enchant the audience. Bella detected the violins singing, the flutes and clarinets chirping – the flash of bronze clued her in to the beginning of the brass, even before they began. She could hear the harp, steady if slightly quiet. It was beautiful.
She knew this number – it was often attributed to Edward Cullen's rise to fame. "Sunrise Delicacy" bled into Vivaldi's "Winter", the transition seamless. Bella could barely discern the change, but it was there. She loved the depth of the music, a drastic change from the first, especially because there was no piano piece in Vivaldi. She mused that Edward Cullen had done the transposing himself. The focus in the piece was clearly the piano, so loud and deep and scary. It evoked such strong emotions in Bella, she was determined not to cry – or hide. She was being ridiculous, but it didn't matter to her. The music was shaking her soul. Again, after another flawless change, "Silent Night" came from the stage. A choir came out from above the orchestra, in perfect harmony, singing the lyrics of the song. Edward Cullen had a solo, in between two verses, inordinately long, but Bella didn't care. He looked – a most serene up there. She fancied he looked better than he did when he first came up on stage.
The orchestra was there only for Edward Cullen, backing him up, it was clear to her. Their music was submissive to the glory of the piano and the notes that came from it and its player. Bella was in awe of both. Edward made the piano and its ferocious notes look utterly feral, while he was the tamer. It was an epic battle before her eyes and she loved every second of it. The song changed to "Christmas Canon", the piano soft and caressing the music. The choir was beautiful with their voices, the lyrics that came forth so much prettier than on the radio. Bella loved the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, but this cover of the song was to be her favorite, she knew immediately. Edward looked like a god on the piano in this song – he loved it too, she could tell. And so he played, a wide assortment of songs, ranging from Christmas Carols, some with the choir and some without, like "Little Drummer Boy", his own compositions, and classics, like Beethoven's "Piano Concerto no. 2". It was mesmerizing to see the music come together from such a myriad of instruments in a variety of songs and concertos. Bella loved every second of it, her discomfort soon forgotten.
The crowning moment of the night was the final song. It was Edward Cullen's piece, "Tempest's Heart", with deep notes and heavy piano that made her evening. It was her favorite piece that he wrote, so soulful and heart-wrenching. It was terribly sad and angry – she absolutely adored it. Bella found it odd though, that they would play it at the end, to close the performance – a composition so full of heartache to close a holiday show. It didn't matter to her, so long as he played it. He got up from the piano, signifying the end of the night, and turned to the audience, bowing. He smiled slightly, and left the stage. The applause was thunderous, shaking the theatre. Edward Cullen stepped out from the curtains, and a bouquet was handed to him from a gorgeous woman, her hair perfectly coiffed, body covered in a spectacular dress for this single moment. Bella envied her completely. Edward bowed to the crowd, smiled before exiting the stage again, permanently this time. Bella sighed as Michael nudged her out of her seat.
"Happy, Bella? Merry Christmas, sweetheart," Michael said, as he bent to kiss Bella; she moved her face at the last second and Michael's lips grazed her cheek. He looked down at her, concerned but brushed the incident off.
"Now, you must know I really love you, since you made me sit through that! C'mon baby, it's almost Christmas. I want to be home with you" – the stress on these words left nothing for Bella to guess at – "when the clocks strike midnight."
Bella didn't respond, but allowed Michael to pull her through the crowd, out into the main hall of the theatre. It was opulent, with marble columns, and frescoes on the ceiling imitating Renaissance art. A large chandelier was directly in the centre of the room, with about five tiers of crystal reaching down. It was dark inside here, and dramatic. Michael suddenly stopped, turning swiftly to Bella.
Michael was fiddling with the contents of his pockets. He pulled out a blue box (the blue box of the coveted Tiffany hue), before pulling his pant leg up. He bent down, on one knee and Bella gasped.
Instead of her past flashing before her eyes, it was her future – staying at home, while Michael made a name for himself in the political circles; having blond-haired children, little mini Michaels racing about; a trophy wife, something to parade about, a decoration, a bauble; another affair to deal with – Michael had already had a few, and would continue to do so, as if Bella was stupid. Suddenly a pair of green eyes, an angry face and unruly bronze hair danced about her mind.
"Isabella Swan, you've been the light of my life for so long. You've warmed my heart and soul. I love you, and I always will. Will you marry me? Will you make me the luckiest man alive?" Michael asked, though Bella barely heard it. Instead she heard the gleeful whispers and felt the pointed stares.
"Oh Michael," she whispered, tears inexplicably coming to her eyes. She knew then, that she wouldn't be able to love Michael. Bella never really had, if she was going to be utterly truthful – she'd believed in the relationship, but it hadn't been enough.
"Bella!" He cried, getting up and slipping the ring on her finger, before pulling her in for a kiss. She shook her head violently, almost hitting him in the nose.
"Mikey," she whispered, using her old nickname for him. "I can't. I just… I don't love you." The anymore died on her tongue – she couldn't lie and say she had once loved him in her life.
"But – Bella –"
"Michael – I can't get into this. You've… the relationship was convenient for us both. And I thought it could work but… but, you, Michael, you thought I didn't know?" Bella snapped, suddenly angry. She didn't know where it came from, and she didn't care that the group watching her was growing, each person eating up the drama with their greedy eyes. She knew that many of the people would recognize Michael as the governor's son, and how he was obviously being duped, but she didn't let it deter her.
"Know what, Bella?" he sneered, the rare insight to his true personality strangely refreshing.
"The fact that you cheated, Mikey? The fact that you fucked at least three women that I know of? I trusted you, you bastard – I thought I loved you. But I loved an idea. Goodbye, Michael. You can ship my stuff to my apartment." Bella said before turning away, letting her tears fall finally.
"You can't do this!" He screeched.
"I damn well can. You can't boss me around and you can't treat me like a possession. I don't love you, Michael," she said. Then she ran. She pushed passed the crowds, their shocked whispers following her out the door.
Once outside, she turned blindly, trying to outrun the outraged look on Michael's face, the harsh murmurs and her own pain. But they followed her with each twist and turn into the city. Defeated, she stopped and slumped in a door step, her tears racing down her cheeks, each one invariably falling on her heart. She didn't cry for her heartbreak – or Michael's – but for what could have been, had she loved him, had he been faithful – had he loved her, respected her, and trusted her. Perhaps, Bella thought, I knew this. I think I always knew he was an ass.
So she sat in the doorway, crying for a different life based on 'what ifs' and fantasies. Those green eyes came back to her, bringing with them the truth that she loved a man she'd never talked to, met, or seen, before that evening. It was insane to love the man, but it was his music that had so inspired her as she wrote. Edward Cullen… Bella cried harder, all the while snow falling delicately to the ground; the romantic setting pulling her tears out even more.
"Heyyy, girl, why's a pretty thing like you cryin'?" a man slurred from her left. The rancid smell of body odor and old alcohol preceded him slightly. Bella wrinkled her nose, disgusted.
She looked up to face a scruffy man, his long beard matted and dirty and his clothes unkempt. He leered at her, and she shifted on the step.
"Please… I need to be alone," she hiccupped. He moved closer to her. Bella pulled her knees up, wrapping her arm around them.
"Aww, tell me whas the matter, baby. I promise to make you feel better. C'mon, girl," he said, shuffling ever closer.
"No, please. Leave me be!" she cried, her voice scratchy from lack of use.
"Aw, y'know I'm her fer ya, baby. I'll keep you warm, tonight, girl!" he laughed, making an awkward lunge for her. His inebriated state caused him to hit the wall right beside her. He shook himself off, no longer laughing. "C'mon bitch. You and me's gonna have a fun time."
"No! Just go. I don't want to be anywhere near you!" she screeched, her voice hoarse with fear. She began to cry, her body folding in on itself. Bella rocked herself in the doorway, her body locked in the fetal position. It refused to budge.
"Good thing, ya know not to run. Imma fast runner, kay?" He smiled wickedly then. "But hey, who doesn't like a little chase, huh?"
"Take my purse. Don't touch me please," Bella shrieked again. Her pain over the breakup forgotten, her mind was now clouded with terror.
"If you're a wise man, which I highly doubt, I would greatly suggest that you leave the woman alone and get on with your miserable life." A velvety voice was heard then, and it immediately reminded Bella of angels. So clear and beautiful, it was surely a sign of the seraphic beings.
"Wass it to you, if I leave her alone her not?" the drunken man asked.
"Nothing," the man said ruthlessly. "But she is too good for you, you bastard. Leave her be."
The man flung himself at the other, stumbling on the uneven sidewalk and collapsing on Bella's savior. She hastened to get up, her intuition immediately telling her it was safe. She hovered in the doorway, relief and gratitude warring within her at the sight of her rescuer. And then her heart stopped.
He had gorgeous bronze hair, permanently mussed up. A proud jaw line, not unlike the one she had been ogling over a few short hours ago. She hadn't heard him speak at the concert, his voice but a faint memory from the one radio interview she'd managed to catch. Edward Cullen was there, with the drunken fool by the throat, ready to smash his face with a fist.
"Please, don't ruin yourself over him. Your hands are too precious," Bella rasped.
Edward looked despairingly at her, over the wriggling body, vainly trying to get out of the iron band. "No." And Edward sent him sprawling to the ground with a single punch.
"Come along now. I'm not going to leave you out in the cold," Edward called brusquely. He walked slowly to Bella, grabbing her hand gently and pulling her to a silver car.
"A Volvo?" she asked, an eyebrow raised.
"Yes," he said curtly. "Come on." He opened the door, waiting impatiently for her to enter. As soon as she'd smoothed her skirt beneath her, he slammed the door, rounding the car to the driver's seat. Barely waiting for the seatbelt to lock into place, he peeled out of the street, racing for the nearest intersection.
"What I don't understand is why a woman all dressed up like you is out in the frigid weather, on Christmas Eve? In one of the scariest Chicago neighborhoods, no less?" he said, bitingly.
"What I'd like to know," Bella shot back, the awe of her rescuer wearing off, "is why you are here."
Silence. His jaw set, a murderous frown marring his features, as he wove in between the snow and other cars; more often than not, blaring horns followed him.
"You're a bit overdressed, but I think it'll do," Edward said suddenly. "It will have to, I guess."
"Why? Where are we going?"
"A bar," he replied shortly.
"Take me home," Bella demanded.
"Do you really want to go?" he asked, his eyes flashing to her face.
Yes was on the tip of her tongue. In fact, it was right there when she opened her mouth. But "no" popped out instead. Frowning, and slightly embarrassed, she looked out the windshield, suddenly so avidly interested with the snow swirling downward.
"Fine, then. The place is a bit of a dive, but it is atmospheric. I think you'll enjoy it…" he trailed off. "What's your name?"
"Bella Swan," she replied.
"Edward Cullen, but I suppose you already know that." He smiled, his mood warming quickly.
"Please, Ms. Swan, explain to me why you were huddled in a doorway, with a drunken terror about to… well, I don't need to scare you, I'm sure you know what was to happen," he said, a frown forming on his brow.
Bella didn't want to tell him. She was embarrassed; a delayed adrenaline rush was coursing through her system. But instead of brushing the question off, she began to answer him, explaining to the musical god her failed romance with Michael Newton Jr., the governor's spoiled son. She continued through the story, her cheeks flaming as she described the way he had proposed, and how she had ruthlessly rejected it. The guilt that should have came at that singular moment began to affect her now, twisting her insides. She began to shake, her breathy words escaping in short gasps.
"Easy, Ms. Swan," Edward suddenly took a u-turn, ending in a parking space on the other side of the street.
"It's… It's Bella," she corrected stubbornly.
"Bella…" Edward sighed pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Is it weird," Bella started, taking a quick break to catch her breath. She closed her eyes, trying to focus – they sprang back open of their accord when she felt a thumb – Edward's thumb – rubbing soothing circles into the back of her hand.
"What?" he asked.
"That I feel guilty… not because I loved him, or that I believed I made a mistake, or because I felt he really did love me and I'm a bitch. But this is going to be scandalous. My name will be blown up in the press, as the witch that dumped Illinois's Golden Boy. I feel guilty because my parents liked him – but they didn't know him. I feel bad that I wasted three years of our lives on a near fictitious romance. I feel terrible that –"
"He was a prick," Edward cut in sharply.
"What?" She yelped.
"Michael Newton was – is – an asshole. Do you know he tried to bribe me, and ask that I play something new, and entirely unpracticed? He wanted Vivaldi's "Autumn" to be played, because he knew you liked it. He tried to threaten my career, the fool of a man. Blackmail, bribery, none of it worked, and the only thing he succeeded in doing was pissing me off," Edward sighed, running his fingers through his hair.
"That's why you looked ready to chew nails when you came out." She shook her head. "What an idiot. Sure, it's a beautiful piece, but I've enjoyed the Toccata and Fugue for far longer." She didn't need to say who it was; Edward didn't need any sort of explanation in regards to the most famous classical composer, Bach. She was embarrassed the thought had even passed through her mind. Predictably, her face heated up.
"Bella…" Edward whispered, brushing his fingertips lightly over her pink-stained cheeks.
"Edward," she gasped.
"This is, this is..." his fingers continued to caress her face, lightly tracing her silhouette. "wrong." Came the heart-wrenching continuance.
Bella sighed, willing the desparity she felt to go away.
"So… are we there?" she asked, subtly moving her face away from his gentle touches. She still felt the loss of his warmth.
"Ah, yes we are. Welcome to the Barman's Haven." He gestured to the quaint pub outside the street.
He led Bella outside the car, this time waiting for her outside the car. He placed his hand at the small of her back, leading her into the pub.
There was a blue haze from the real fireplace throughout the room. It smelled of cedar, a scent Bella adored. Small tables were outlined through the smoke, and a long bar ran along the far side of the pub. It was a classic '70s deal, with diamond shaped mirrors behind the colored glass of the alcohol bottles. There was an American flag hung proudly in the corner, along with pictures of the winning White Sox over the years. She turned slightly, and noticed a dilapidated wreath hanging on the door. She smiled, immediately in love with the building.
"Edward, how are ya?" the bartender asked, beaming at the couple.
"Not too badly, Felix. And yourself?" Edward replied easily.
"Fine, fine. You know where everything is, don't let me stop you," he smiled, waving the couple away. Edward grabbed her hand, pulling her to an ancient upright piano in a little corner of the pub. He sat her down on the edge, sliding in next to her. His fingers touched the keys, almost absentmindedly, and music began to pour from the piano. He played for a while, while Bella looked questioningly upon him.
"Butterflies and Hurricanes?" Edward asked. "The song, from Muse? No?" he seemed deeply offended.
"No, sorry," she said, ducking her head to hide the telltale blush.
"We'll have to remedy that," he said firmly.
And he began to play. This was so much more different than the music from the symphony – it was loose, and so very liberating for Edward; Bella could see that in his eyes. He played Muse, "educating" her, as he put it. He played swanky jazz numbers that made Bella wiggle in her seat. Elton John, Billy Joel, Vivaldi, Beethoven and Bach, all from Edward and the piano.
He began to play his own music for a while, and Bella watched with rapt attention at something that came from somewhere so deep in Edward, she felt as if she were intruding on something intimate. A melody she had never heard of before came from the man and the piano, so sweet and innocent she smiled at the purity of it. Then it changed, so suddenly, into the Toccata and Fugue and Bella was completely spellbound. There was such passion in the way he played; it seeped through the air and became something tangible.
"Oh Edward," she murmured, completely in awe.
"Bella," he responded, abruptly getting up. He got them each a drink, a white wine for Bella, and a bottle of Coors for himself. He fiddled with something beneath the counter; Christmas carols began playing softly from the speakers around the book.
Edward pulled Bella up and against him, and began to dance around the floor. Taken aback, she stumbled, simultaneously saying that she didn't dance.
"Nonsense. It's all in the leading," he replied smoothly, swirling her around while Bing Crosby crooned "White Christmas". She sighed, leaning her head against Edward's chest. His breathing quickened.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't be quite so –" he uttered, eyes wide and wary.
"Edward… just stop, okay? I know it's about Michael," she said sternly. "I'm over it… I was for a while, I think."
"Just, are you sure?" he asked, his green eyes pleading with her.
Bella wanted to do something rash. She had adored this man, loved him even, for a long time. She was unattached, finally free from Michael, the domineering prick, and she wanted to prove it. She pulled Edward to the centre of the room, right where the light fixture hung. Attached to it, flowing freely was mistletoes – no literally, it was a bundle of the plant itself, with little ceramic feet dangling beneath the bag. She snorted, but continued with her plan. Stopping right underneath the mistletoe, she pulled Edward Cullen down to her and looked him in the eye.
"Merry Christmas, Edward," she said. She knew he didn't have a clue what was about to happen. His response was on his lips when she pressed her mouth to his. Chastely, they kissed for a few moments, before Edward pulled away, breath ragged.
"Merry Christmas, Bella," he gasped, before dragging her close and kissing her again – this time it was full of lust and passion. It was deep ad sensual, and lasted far longer than Bella had ever been kissed before. It was amazing and godly – it was perfect. Bella knew in that instant that she would never feel such a reaction to her again; it was only Edward. Michael was completely forgotten.
"I've wanted that to happen since that idiot showed me a picture of you," he said, holding her close.
"He what? When?" she yelped.
"Three weeks ago, when he tried to blackmail me. Bella, he was never good enough for you," Edward said.
"I know… Edward," she said peacefully, laying her head on his chest. They stayed in the bar for a few more minutes before Edward explained to Bella that he had a key. "I use this place to practice, sometimes, or to get out of my head." he shrugged. He locked up and led Bella outside by the hand.
It was snowing – not a lot, but enough to create the most perfect night Bella could ever imagine. This, moments like these are why I love winter, she thought happily.
Edward swept her up in a hug, holding her close. He kissed her temple, murmuring against her silky skin, "Merry Christmas, love."
A/N: Leaving me a line and tell me what you thought would be a wonderful way to start my Holiday Season. Thanks for reading!