Pick A Pic Challenge
Title: Forbidden Muse
Penname: Chocolate Lover 82
Rating/ Disclaimer: Rated M for language and lemons. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and all its characters, I just had a little fun with them.
Summary: When Edward Cullen had to return home after two years in Italy, he never expected to find new inspiration in a woman that was off limits. AH, EPOV, ExB. Written for the Pick a Pic Challenge.
To see all the stories that are a part of this contest please visit: www(dot)fanfiction-challenges(dot)blogspot(dot)com Enjoy!
Also, you can find the banner that inspired this O/S on my profile :-)
Thanks to Riotanthem for betaing this in the first place. Her patience knows no bounds :-)
02/21: FM, the O/S, has been re-edited and now split into two chapters. Thank you so much to Songster for her help in the re-edition.
The wind was picking up, making it difficult to keep on sketching, but I couldn't stop now, not when I didn't know how long she'd be sitting there under that tree. Seeing that the light was starting to slowly die, she'd be leaving at any second now.
No, I couldn't stop now.
I'd been coming to this park and sitting under this tree for the past two weeks, ever since I came back to the city. I didn't know how much I missed it until I took a walk around the neighborhood on the first day of my arrival. The noise, the people hurrying to get to their jobs, homes or wherever it was they were going, even the sounds of traffic sent me to a peaceful place, if you could believe it.
This place also took me back to my childhood years, when my brother Emmett and I used to run around the blocks on our way to the park chasing each other, driving my mother insane in the process. Once we got there, she'd just give up on trying to "rein us", as she put it, and let us be on our own for a few hours. We loved it. It was the few hours a week where we could be ourselves and get dirty without having to worry about homework, studying or anything else. We were there to be kids. Then my mother would take us to have lunch on a nearby restaurant and then we'd walk back home. It was a perfect day, one we used to wait so much to arrive during the week.
It all seemed so far away now. Like a lifetime had happened in between, and I supposed it had. Emmett and I grew up and stopped going to the park with Mom, stopped talking to each other, just ... stopped. In time, Emmett and I grew apart. We had different interests and friends, so coming here seemed more and more childish to Emmett, who was two years older than me.
I never stopped coming here though. Every time something bothered me or I just needed to be alone for a few hours, I'd come and watch the people pass by, wondering where did they go, who was waiting for them and what was the story behind them. That was how my love for drawing and painting started. I wanted to record on paper that little moment, that split second in which my life intersected with theirs, even if they didn't know it did. Maybe photography would've been a more obvious choice, but I liked adding little things oblivious to them and seeing how it was somewhat imperfect when I did it.
In time, I found myself drawn to this place more and more, which drove my mother crazy most of the days since I skipped school or forgot to tell her where I was going. Once she had enough of it, she suggested if it was something that I was taking this seriously then I could take some art classes and expand my interest so I could finally, finally stop going to the park so much. I was beyond happy with her for that and gladly traded my time there to go to art classes.
That turned out to be the best decision I'd ever made.
After high school I went to an art school here in New York. It opened such a big world of possibilities, not just in terms of finding new methods to express myself and discovering new techniques, but I also in finding a world I didn't even know existed. People from all over the world came to study here, each of them more different than the next one. It was such a difference from the sheltered world I came from. But that also introduced me to different types of experimentation: drugs, alcohol and women, usually all three of them together. It didn't help that my professors started to notice my work more and more which in turn attracted critics to our expositions so, in the end, they let it slide when I didn't show up at an important workshop or went to class barely able to stand straight.
Meanwhile, my brother, Emmett, went to get a business degree and specialized in finances. He was great with money, and it was a way to take care of the family money as well. Not that there was much need in the first place. We had plenty to spend.
When school was finally over, I couldn't wait to leave the city, see other places and start living off my work. I had money to support myself for a long time so there was no hurry for me, but I wanted to make it on my own and deep down, to prove to my parents and my brother that I was not the screw-up I ended up becoming in time. Yeah, I had a big ego by then and thought nothing could touch me, that I was better than the rest of those wannabes out there. This tore me away from my family. They tried to help me get clean, but time after time I went back to it, because I thought it made everything better.
When Irina, my ex counselor from school, told me about a one year program in Italy that was interested in having me, I jumped at the chance. I thought that I was too big now for the States and I could now show my worth somewhere else.
My parents were less than happy about it. We'd been having very little contact for the last year, except for the times when they wanted me to enter rehab, and me going to Italy was not going to help the situation. We had a big fight the night I broke the news to them and pretty much threw it in their faces that I didn't need them at all or their money. I was high and angry, thinking they didn't want me to reach my full potential, that they were the ones holding me back. Again, I was an arrogant prick.
Later that night, while I was packing, Emmett came to visit me saying mom was beyond consolable about my behavior and called me a "disgrace of a son". At that moment, it was like something snapped inside of me. Who the hell did he think he was? For years, he was the aloof son that only cared about money and how to make more of it. Now here he was telling me how much of a bad son I was being? It really didn't help that I was high at the moment, but years of putting up with his ridiculous behavior had to come out some day and that night it did. We fought and threw things at each other. I could only remember half the fight if I was being honest, but from that point on, the little relationship we had up until that point pretty much evaporated.
Twenty-four hours later, I was on a plane on my way to Italy.
I was really excited to be starting a new life there, away from all the drama and people who, in my opinion, didn't appreciate me. Soon, the reality of the real world came crashing down on me. I was nothing special there. Being surrounded with so much talent was a very sobering experience and it drove me to do my best work, to prove that even though I might not be better than them, I was better than what I claimed to be up to that point.
Renata, the woman in charge of the program, was the person that pretty much changed my life. She took no bullshit and saw the true artist that I was, pushing me beyond my self imposed limits. This drove me to get, and stay, clean and to focus on my work more than anything else. After that, I started to really enjoy painting again. One of the things that I had always loved, and seemed to be good at according to my professors, was observing the people around me and their behavior, something that I had stopped doing and thought I had lost in time. With the help of Renata, I started to really observing the world around me, to notice things that before I wouldn't have. She helped me to open my eyes again and this time I was not willing to close them again.
After finishing the program a year later, I moved around a lot, big cities or small towns, it didn't matter to me really. All I wanted to do was to tell stories, a moment in time that was forever painted on my canvas. I also loved to hear people's opinions of what they saw. Was it the same thing I saw? Were they able to maybe see more than what I had intended?
And that was what I did for the next two years of my life after leaving New York.
I called my parents whenever I was able to, after rekindling my relationship with them. It was still strained, but it was better than nothing and listening to the happy voice of my mom was all worth it. I also spent weeks at a time engrossed on a piece, changing it, redoing it or plain old starting it over, so under those circumstances it was hard to keep up with the events of my family.
Three weeks ago I was finally able to get out of my little world and called my parents for news from home. That was when everything changed. My mom was sick and had been for a few months. At her insistence my dad didn't contact me sooner. I was so mad at myself and for a moment at him, but what was he going to? I was hard to find, and he would do pretty much anything for her.
After that phone call, I decided to pack my things and get everything ready to come back to the States. I let the friend I was staying with know that I was leaving so he could get someone new and started packing my things. I left some of my pieces at the gallery they were in and they could contact me if they were sold. My most important pieces I was taking with me.
A week later, I was on a plane to New York to see my mother. I just hoped to God that I wasn't too late and that she'd be able to beat this.
As the taxi drove through the city, memories of the places of my childhood surrounded me. So much had changed but, at the same time, it remained the same. I wondered how much my family had changed.
When the taxi reached the building, I was a nervous wreck. I told my dad I was back only after I arrived at the airport, that way he and mom wouldn't go to the airport to get me. I wouldn't be able to stand the silence of the car ride if only my dad showed up and if mom was there too, I wouldn't know how to react. How did she look? Did she already know I knew? How bad was it? Too many questions that would've been too much at the moment. I knew I was going to see her today, but I wanted that first time to be on a more familiar territory, a place where we could both be comfortable and without the audience of the travelers at the airport. Yes, this was much better.
I took my things, paid the driver and entered the building. Thank God, Ben was still working here and recognized me so, besides looking rather surprised at my presence, he helped me get my things to the elevator. The ride to the top floor was filled with anxiety for what I might find once I reached it. When the doors opened, the first sight to greet me was the one of my dad standing by the door to their two-floor apartment. I guessed Ben had let him know I was on my way up. At first glance, he looked the same as the last time I saw him. But looking closer, he had purple circles under his eyes, his skin looked paler, more wrinkles adorned his eyes and his hair had more grey in it now. But the biggest change was in his eyes. The once blue and warm eyes that were one of his best features were lifeless now, dull. God, how bad were things?
When he saw me, a little bit of light appeared in them and for a moment the Carlisle from two years ago was back. There was true happiness and pride in them. It made me regret the time apart and my part in it.
He opened his arms and came to me. I dropped my bags and went to meet him half-way. He hugged me like his life depended on it as his grip tightened on me. I let myself go and hugged him back with everything that I had in me. Years of being away without this came flooding back. It was good to be home again.
We broke the hug and he stared at me for a moment as if he didn't believe his eyes and he might wake up at any second. I did this and it killed me to see that look in his eyes.
"Hello, son. Welcome home," he choked and led the way into the apartment. He helped me with my bags and we left them at the entrance hall. Dad said Angela would take care of things and take them to my old room.
I took in everything around me and noticed little changes here and there. But the main things were just the same.
"She just woke up from her nap. She'll be mad that we didn't tell her you were coming but thrilled to see you just the same," he said once he turned to me.
I nodded with a lump in my throat and asked, "How is she? Tell me the truth. I need to know what I'm facing before seeing her. How bad is it?"
He looked at me for a moment as if debating telling me what I was asking him. Finally he said, "It's not very good right now, Edward. She was diagnosed a couple of months ago and has been through hell. She just started a new round of chemo and she's weak because of it, but we're hoping there was an effect on the tumor this time." He shook his head and looked up at the ceiling. "She's strong and wants to live, but this … thing is eating her alive and it's killing me that there's nothing I can do to stop it but just wait and see if the treatment works."
When he looked at me, his eyes were filled with unshed tears. There was so much pain and hope in them; it made him look much older than he really was. I prayed to God that the treatment would work.
"She will get better, dad. Like you said, she's strong. She will be able to beat this and we'll all be here to help her," I said and looked at him in the eyes so that he knew the truth behind my next statement. "I'm not going anywhere anymore. I'm staying here for as long as she- no, for as long as you all need me."
My dad was looking at my eyes the entire time I was saying this and once he saw that I was being truthful, he sighed with relief. They will not be alone anymore.
"I'm glad to hear that, son. Now the family is together again, as it was always meant to be," he sighed. "Ok, now let's go see her and give her the surprise."
I followed him up the stairs and through the hall. We stood by the closed door, and he entered first to see if Mom was awake and in condition to see anyone. I stayed by the door in the meantime, so nervous about what I was going to say and do when I saw her. Would she be hurt by my absence? Angry that I got to see her like this? Suddenly my dad opened the door with a smile on his face, the first one I've seen on him in years.
"She wants to see you now," he said and moved out of the way to let me in.
The moment I saw her, my heart broke into a million pieces. I hated myself for not being here earlier. I even hated myself for the light that was in her eyes the moment she saw me, because that light should have always been there. They should be always shining the way they were at that moment.
She looked so skinny and her once beautiful caramel hair was short and thin. Her pale skin was almost translucent under the sunlight that came through the window. But with all of this, she still remained Esme, the beautiful and elegant woman that everyone who knew her loved. Not everything was lost, it couldn't be.
I looked into her eyes once again as I approached her. There, behind all the weakness of her body and the tiring of her battle, were the eyes of my mother. I was truly home once again. I all but ran toward her outstretched arms and held her while she cried in my arms, being careful not to harm her, she felt so small. I kept chanting that I was sorry and she kept telling me that it was ok, that I was finally here with her and that everything would be alright now. I hadn't realized I was crying until she moved back and started wiping my cheeks with her thumbs.
"I'm so glad you're finally home, Edward. I've been waiting for this for so long. I've missed you- we've missed you," she said while she glanced at dad, who was behind me close to the bed. I looked at him and saw that he also had tears in his eyes.
I stayed in her arms for a while, while dad slipped from the room and let us have our moment together. I settled beside her on the bed and started telling her stories of my time in Italy and other countries. The people I met, the places I saw, the food I enjoyed and, most of all, the art I saw that inspired my own work. She asked questions every now and then and closed her eyes trying to imagine those places, even the ones she already knew. She was seeing everything through new eyes, my eyes. After a while, the excitement wore her down, so I told her that I'd let her sleep and that I'd be seeing her later. She seemed appeased by that, knowing that I wasn't going anywhere soon.
I went to find my dad at his study and we talked for a while. I told him again that I wasn't leaving, but that I needed my own space for painting and storing the rest of my pieces. I decided that I was going to find a studio in the city and stay there a few nights working, that way I wouldn't disturb mom since most of it was done during the night. I would still stay with them a few nights a week and probably eat with them often, since mom loved to have dinners with us and she had already commented on my "starving artist" look. I rolled my eyes at that but smiled at her, seeing her so happy with the prospect of taking care of me.
"So, are you even gonna ask about your brother Emmett?" my dad said after a while, doing a 180 on our conversation so far.
"What's there to ask? I assume he's ok and making money left and right at this point. He left it pretty clear last time we saw each other two years ago that he didn't approved of my 'lifestyle' and that I was pretty much a disgrace to the Cullen name by not getting a 'real job' like he did and that I was not to come crawling back when the money from my trust fund ran out. Does that qualify as to 'ask' about my brother Emmett, Dad?" I didn't mean to be this crass but this was a sore subject, and after two years of pushing the issue to the back of my mind, bringing it up after finding out about mom was not the best.
My dad stared at me as I told him this and simply sighed at my answer.
"I know that things haven't been the easiest for the both of you for a long time now, even before you left for Italy. I never wanted to get in the middle of it, preferring to just let the two of you handle it in your own time. But things changed." He cringed when he said this, as if it pained him. "And you two need to sit down and work things out. You both need to step up and be the men that your mother and I raised you to be and not let this rift get any bigger. If not for you two, then at least for your mother, Edward." He was pleading by now and with all of this in my mind, all I could do was nod. We'd see how things work and how would Emmett react.
After that, I went to unpack some of my things and started to settle to my new life. After a few hours dad and I had dinner with mom, which she didn't eat that much of, and I told her about my plans with the studio. She was a little sad about it, but understood and knew that I'd be here for her whenever she wanted me.
Next day, dad made a call to his realtor so he could find me a studio as soon as possible. Since mom slept most of the day, I took my sketch book and went to take a walk. I already knew where I was going. My park.
When I got there, I found my favorite tree and went to settle there. I loved this tree. It gave the perfect shade to shield me from the sun and allowed me to see everything without being seen that much.
I opened my sketch book and started to draw some lines of whatever caught my eye at the moment, kind of warming up to what would inspire me later. What was that? I didn't know yet.
And that's when I found what I was looking for. Inspiration.
A few feet from the tree where I was sitting, was a woman, mid twenties maybe, sitting under her own tree, leaning against it, reading a book. She was so entranced by her reading that she didn't notice the kids playing around her nor the noise from a group of guys playing catch. No, she was in her own little world of words, just as I was in my world of lines and shapes and color whenever I was working. That was a world I wanted to put onto paper, to record and never forget it.
Without thinking, I took my pen and sketch book and started drawing her. I had to work fast if I wanted to not only get all the details, but also add some color into it. God knows if I'd ever see her again and I couldn't count on my memory to be that good.
I started with the soft waves of her brown hair and how it fell down her shoulders, how those pouty lips were just perfect and I started wondering how they would taste. I continued with her elegant and naked neck. She was wearing a pair of jeans and a blue t-shirt that only accentuated the creamy white color of her skin. Once I was sure I got her features right, I started adding the color. I wanted to get just the right shade of brown for her hair with little red accents that only showed in a certain light, the right kind of color for her skin and the little tinge of pink that covered her cheeks, the contrast between the white and the blue of her skin and t-shirt.
By then I was in a frenzy. I wouldn't be able to stop even if I wanted. I wondered what it would be like to touch her neck, her arms, her cheeks, how soft they would feel against my hands, against my lips, my tongue. How my hand running through her silky hair would feel. But no, she was only the model here, only the inspiration to my next work, nothing more. I was here only to watch from afar, never be part of the scenery.
As I was thinking this, she started rising from her spot, never facing me. Took her things and started to walk way from me. As I watched her leave, I wondered if maybe I should run after her, do something to stop her? But why? Why did I care if I never saw her again and what could I possibly say to her? I'd look like a stalker, which is exactly what I've been doing this afternoon. No, I couldn't do that, so I just watched her leave. Once she was out of my sight, I looked at my work. Yes, it wasn't bad, but not what I really wanted it to be. There were so many details that were slipping through my fingers right now and that I'd never get back. Feeling frustrated, I took my things and walked back home. There would be no more work for me today.
As much as I tried to sleep that night, the memory of that girl kept me from it. Finally, I gave up and went to look for my sketchbook. I sat all night drawing her; her lips, legs, her hands and never feeling satisfied with any of them. There was something that was missing from them … her eyes. I realized I never saw her eyes and that was what was missing from all of my sketches: A soul.
This only drove me more insane; since there was a big chance I'd never see her again. After a while, I just gave up and went to bed, more frustrated than ever.
Next day, I was on edge and my mom noticed. I didn't want to worry her and put more stress into her life, so I told her that it was gonna take a while to get used to this new routine but she shouldn't worry about it.
As the afternoon started to approach, I got even more restless. Would she be there again as yesterday? Probably not, but at this point I had to find out, I just had to. It was already eating me alive and it had only been one day!
I took my sketchbook and walked to the park. I took my time getting there to calm myself down a bit and and enjoy the scenery. It did offer some relief and peace, as it always did. I doubted anything else in the world would offer me this.
I got to the park and sat down under the same tree and started watching the people around me. What they did, who they were with. And that's when I saw her. She was wearing a red dress today and carrying not only a book but some sort of blanket under her arm as well. I could still not see her face very well from where I was, but what I could see blew my mind. If I thought she was beautiful yesterday, today she looked like a goddess. The sun was shining on her hair, highlighting even more of those red traces I saw yesterday. And her body ... what can I say? She had perfect curves, long legs and the color of the dress even gave her skin some rosy color that I hadn't noticed before. Yes, there was a lot I hadn't noticed and it was looking more and more that I would be aware of new details every time I saw her in the future. If that were to ever happen again.
She set the blanket under the same tree and settled in, finding a comfortable position before starting to read again. At that moment a soccer ball was tossed in front of her, startling her. The moment she picked it up, she started laughing. And what a laugh it was, I would give anything to hear that again. A small child came running through the field and she gave him the ball back. She started talking to him but he was blocking my view of her. When the little child left that was when I saw it. Her face. She was looking in the direction of where he went and had a beautiful smile on her face.
I could see more details of her face now; the color of her lips was a beautiful shade of cherry; the softness of her skin, the shape of her eyes, jaw, nose. Her cheeks were a little pink, maybe from the laughing with the little boy and the little rays of sun that illuminated her face from where she sat. When she turned to go back to reading her book, our eyes met for a moment and I finally got to see her. Truly her.
They say the eyes are the windows to the soul and I never believed it until now. She spoke with her eyes; two chocolate pools of emotions and secrets, things that I found myself desperate to know more about. She broke the moment by going back to her book, a small blush covering her skin.
It was at that moment that I realized that all of the work I had done yesterday was useless now. I could never draw her without thinking of those eyes. None of those drawings would ever be complete without them. It was almost pointless trying to use her as a model, for any of the drawings would always be incomplete. If today I found a million details that I never even noticed only a day before, what would I notice tomorrow? Or the day after that? She would always haunt me and would be an unfinished work.
I took big breaths, trying to calm myself from this realization. I had to get out of here. I would not let her own me like this. I got up, picked up my things and took off, without even looking at her again.
That night was even worse than the one before. Those damn eyes kept haunting me. The colors of her skin, her blush, her lips, her hair and her eyes all played in front of me. The shapes were taunting me to take them and put them in a canvas. To not let them go. And that's what I did. I got up and took one of my blank canvases. Taking and mixing the right colors that I needed, I started painting.
The next day, I was a wreck and I couldn't face my mom like this. Thank God my dad's realtor found me a place, a studio that was available right away. I sealed the deal and planned on moving in that same day. I could see that my mood was upsetting my mom, as she often asked me if I was ok. Again, I played the "getting used to this new life" card, but I could see she didn't believe that very much.
"Edward, I worry about you," she said later that day. "I understand this 'moody artist' look you get now, but I don't have to like it. You seem so edgy lately, and I hear you working until very late at night. You look so tired and barely eat. Talk to me, honey. What's going on?"
I hated to worry her but most of all, I didn't know what to tell her. I didn't even know what was going on with me anymore.
"It's nothing, Mom. Please don't worry about me, worry about getting better. I'm just being my 'moody artist' self, as you put it." I smiled the best smile I could to try to convince her that I was ok. She sighed and placed her palm on my left cheek. After looking into my eyes for a while, she nodded, kissed my forehead and stood up. Yes, she definitely didn't believe me.
I got all my things together with the help of my dad and started to unpack in my new place. The size of it was perfect for me. It had a large open space where I could set my canvases and paints and work under the light that came through the windows. To the left, there was a small place where the bedroom would be located and a door that went to the bathroom. It had one of those old fashioned bathtubs, which I'd find no use for, but it had a shower as well so as long as I could clean myself, I didn't care about the rest. To the right side of the studio there was a small kitchen, with all things necessary to cook. Not that I'd be cooking that much, especially once I started working on a piece. I barely remember the time of the day, let alone remember to eat.
Once I was settled and my Mom was done giving me ideas about how to make the place look more 'homey', the memories of yesterday started to come. The colors, the shapes, her voice, all of it. Especially the colors, they haunted me. I closed my eyes and saw all the reds, whites, pinks … browns. They were begging me to set them free, out of my head and onto a canvas. And that was what I did. I didn't go to the park that afternoon and barely stopped for the rest of the day.
I didn't stop until dawn.
The next day, Friday, I was restless. I was surrounded by paintings and drawings of this mystery woman. They were scattered all over the place and even though it seemed like she was everywhere, I felt like I needed more of her.
I picked up my sketchbook and a few things and headed out the door. I was going back to the park.
Once I reached my spot under the tree I saw that she was already sitting under hers, reading. I settled slowly without taking my eyes off of her, trying to see her reactions to seeing me there. Did she remember me? Was she as affected as I was? She didn't seem to be, and for some reason, that bothered me. Why was I the only one that felt this?
I opened my sketch book and started drawing her, trying to get the details as good as I could. I was glad that at least I was able to exorcise some of what had been haunting me for the past day. The moment I placed my pencil on the paper, was the moment I found peace and let myself go. It had always been the case when I work, but now it felt different, like unraveling the secret that was this woman drove my work this time.
I didn't stop until she lifted herself from the ground and got ready to leave. It was then that I realized that darkness was starting to cover everything. How long had I been sitting here? It didn't seem enough.
I picked up my things and I mimicked her in starting to get ready to leave. I saw her walk away and prayed to God that tomorrow she'd be there once again and that I'd be able to see her again. This was becoming too much of an addiction now, but I couldn't help it anymore, I just gave in into this.
Next afternoon, she was sitting under that tree once again.
It had been two weeks since the day I decided to come back to the park in search of that mysterious girl, or 'Book Girl' as I now liked to call her.
Not only had I been drawing and painting her, but she'd inspired new work. I felt more alive than I had in a long time. It was hard for me to leave my studio now. Esme visited some times and had seen the evolution of it, although the 'Book Girl' pieces I reserved for the nights when I was all alone and I got no distractions. It was something that was only for me. Mom seemed so proud of me and, even though I hate the attention, I was glad she was happy, especially since she'd been so tired lately from her treatment.
I had dinner with my parents almost every night now and tonight was one of those nights. Everything seemed so normal when we were like this. No illness, no worries and no hauntings. I loved watching my parents interact. I had to admit I thought it was kind of gross when I was growing up, watching them hold hands, steal little kisses here and there but then again what kid wanted to see that in their parents? Now, I could see that for the first time, maybe I would want that too; touches between two lovers, the shared secrets privy only to them, the need to be touching each other at every moment, even if it was just for a second.
It also made me see that I'd probably never find that. I wouldn't put anyone through the demons that haunted me, making her see what rested beneath the surface. She would run, just like the others before her did. Yes, I was better than I was two years ago, but would that side of me resurface once again? I was always trying hard not to let that happen, but what if that was not enough? I couldn't do that to someone that claimed to love me.
My thoughts were interrupted by my parents' talk.
"Yes, he arrives tomorrow morning from his trip to San Francisco. So we'll have dinner with him and Bella on Saturday night," Mom said.
"Who are you talking about?" I asked them, already dreading the answer.
"Well, Emmett of course. Haven't you listened to anything we've been talking about? He's been in San Francisco for the last month handling some business mergers or something like that, can't remember. Anyway, he's back tonight and will be joining us for dinner tomorrow. He'll be bringing Bella with him as well." At my confused looked, she added, "I'm sure I've told you about Bella, right? Bella is your brother's fiancée. They've been engaged for the past two months now. You'll love her, Edward. I'm sure." She looked at me with a little sadness in her eyes.
I realized it was because it was awful that I didn't know any of this. Emmett was engaged? My own brother was going to get married and up until now I didn't even know her name. I kept screwing things up time and again. I supposed Saturday was D-day now. The day when I would see Emmett once again after two years, after that last fight.
"I'm sure that I will, Mom. But how come I haven't seen her visiting you here?" I asked, getting a little angry that this girl didn't even have the decency to visit her future mother-in-law while she was this sick. I bet she was one of those vain supermodel types Emmett was so fond of in the past and didn't care about anyone else but herself.
"Oh, well, she's an editor and has been traveling for the last couple of weeks. She got back about a week ago, and we've met for lunch a couple of times. She's been here actually, but since you moved to your studio last week, you've missed her," she explained.
Well, at least she wasn't as awful as I thought. But still, I already knew what I was in for.
On Saturday, after my work at the park, I was getting ready for this dinner from hell. I decided on a dark pair of jeans, the only clean ones I had at the moment, and a black shirt with the sleeves rolled up to my elbows. This was as far as I'd go in terms of getting ready and it was only because I was meeting this new girl and didn't want Mom to get upset.
When I arrived to my parent's place, everything was just perfect for dinner. You could tell Mom put in an effort into this. Emmett and this Bella girl haven't arrived yet so I got to talking to my dad for a while and Mom joined us after that.
Then the bell rang, and Mom got all excited about it. I was really nervous now, not because of my meeting with Emmett, but because I didn't know how we were going to react in front of our parents. Would I be able to rein my anger? Was there a reason to be angry anymore? All questions that I needed to ask Emmett first, and that I should've. I was cursing myself for agreeing to come here tonight without speaking to him first.
A voice interrupted my thoughts. It was feminine, soft and warm all at the same time. I saw my dad was smiling to someone behind me. He had a new light in his eyes.
"Bella, how lovely to see you tonight. You look beautiful as always, dear," my mom greeted her.
"Thank you Esme, you too as always. I see your wearing the earrings we saw yesterday. They look beautiful," the woman said.
As they talked and laughed about things I neither knew nor cared about, I turned to meet Emmett's fiancée. When I saw her standing there, it felt like I was punched in the stomach. Standing there in a red dress, looking even more beautiful, was my 'Book Girl' and standing next to her was Emmett with an arm wrapped around her waist.
Realization hit me even stronger at that moment: 'Book Girl' was here and she was my brother's fiancée.
She then looked my way and her face froze when her eyes met mine. Did she know who I was? Of course you idiot, you've been gawking at her for the past two weeks! She would have been blind not to see you there. But she never made any sign that she knew I was there apart from the only time our eyes met.
"Oh dear, where are my manners?" my mom's voice interrupted my discovery. "Bella, honey, this is my other son, Edward. As you know, he's been in Europe for the past two years working as an artist." At that, Emmett snickered. So much for an easy night.
"Edward, this is Bella, Emmet's fiancée."
I walked toward her and extended my hand in greeting.
"Hello, Bella." Beautiful. "Pleased to meet you."
She was still looking at my eyes with a face of … recognition?... and extended her hand for me to shake.
"It's you," she whispered as I got closer to touch her hand. I stared at her for a moment before taking her hand and bringing it to my lips to kiss. Her skin was so soft, even softer that I imagined it would be after weeks of watching her. She had seen me.
"It's me," I whispered so low that only she could hear me. At that, I was rewarded with that beautiful blush I saw that first time. It was even more entrancing up close.
My father cleared his throat and broke our moment. She seemed to wake up from whatever trance she was under and gave my dad a smile and a greeting.
At that moment, I noticed Emmett standing there looking not very pleased. I went to him and only nodded in greeting.
Mom looked nervous and a little disappointed at this, but at least we were able to be in the same room without killing each other. And that was something if you asked me. She told us dinner was served and that we should head to the dinning room. Boy, she had timing.
Our parents sat at each end of the table while Emmett and Bella sat next to each other to dad's right and I sat to his left, right across from Bella.
"So Edward, how's that artist business of yours? Have you made any money in the last past two years or are you still using the trust fund?" he sneered the words like it was a bad taste in his mouth.
And we were back to two years ago. The last time I saw Emmett was the day before I took off to Italy. We had a huge fight, that I remember only little pieces of, about the kind of life I was living back then and he made it very clear that if I was going down the road of 'hobo artist' then I shouldn't do it with the family money, or more accurately, his money, since he was the one managing it. He didn't want to be the one financing my 'lifestyle'. After I pointed out that he was an ass and that it was not just his money, I told him that he could go fuck himself and that I didn't need anything from him. That I would survive with the money I made. My dad had to intervene, and he pointed out that I had a trust fund that was separated from the rest of the money that Emmett was handling, so he would indeed not be working for me. That pissed him off even more. Not only was he beyond angry at me for this, but somehow dad took a swing at his rage. From what I understood, he barely tolerated dad now and he was only home to see mom.
Like I said, an ass.
"Well, Emmett, glad that you asked. Because I'll have you know that not a cent of that money has been touched, apart from the plane ticket I bought to get to Italy." His face fell. God I loved this. "When I first got there, I lived in a little apartment above the studio where Irina, my professor, had set me up with. I gave some classes there and that's how I earned my living before actually being able to sell my work.
After a few months of this, I sold my first painting. Then, word got around and I started to sell more of them. In time and during these past two years that's the only way I've been surviving." I looked at Emmett in the eyes to make my point. "With my money alone."
He gave me a murderous look as I said this. Not only had I proven him wrong, but I did that in front of my parents and Bella. I'd say this dinner was getting better and better by the second.
Mom broke the silence and the stare contest.
"Oh Edward, I'm so proud of you for that and I've seen some of your work. I'm glad that other people saw what a great job you do. Imagine that, having your pieces hanging up on the houses of Italian families, and God knows where else!" She was beaming. And I was an ass for doing this shit in front of her. Damn Emmett, he always knew how to push my buttons.
"So, Bella, tell Edward what you do and how you and Emmett met," Mom suggested.
I focused all of my attention on her. I wanted to know all about her and was really interested in knowing how Emmett found such a woman.
She looked surprised and blushed again. Beautiful indeed. I wondered if perhaps she didn't like the attention.
"Well, Edward, I'm an editor at Volturi Publishing House. I concentrate in finding new talent and helping them get better at what they do. I meet with them at my office downtown or sometimes, I fly to the cities where they live to work more face to face since they come from all over the country. This gives me the opportunity to work with few people on a more personal level and get to know not only their work, but them, the writers, and what motivates them to tell their story. That makes my job that much easier and, in turn, better." Her face lit up while she talked about her work and her words held so much passion, you could tell she cared about her clients. They were not just a number to her. They were people with stories to tell, and she wanted them to succeed in that. Amazing.
"And how did you meet Emmett?" I asked, because after listening to her I was very much interested in knowing how the hell this came to happen.
"Well, I was attending a Christmas work party at Emmett's investment firm, which is something I never do really, but my friend, Alice, works there and she invited me. She left me alone for a while to go dance with her husband, and that's when Emmett approached me and asked me to dance. I told him I was really bad, but he didn't believe me. Well, I proved him wrong since I stepped on his toes more times that I could count," she laughed while remembering the story and looked at Emmett with adoration. I loved that laugh and, for some reason, I wanted her to look at me that way.
"We only danced to that one song and then started talking," she continued. "By the end of the night, we realized we had a lot in common and we were laughing at all his drunken coworkers. He asked me out that night and I said yes. The rest, as they say, is history," she finished, but strangely enough, the look in her eyes was not the one she gave Emmett a moment ago. This one was sad, almost longing.
The rest of the dinner went as good as you could expect, under the circumstances. I kept looking at Bella when she talked or to see her reactions to some story one of us would tell. I also started noticing more details about her features, like little freckles on her cheeks or how the color of her hair had more shades of brown than I originally saw. The more she talked, the more passion you could see she had for her work and even for life.
Halfway through dinner, Emmett got a call about work and had to leave early. He offered to take Bella home, but Mom insisted on her staying there since it was too late and she lived at the opposite direction of Emmett's office. Mom asked if Bella would like to sleep in Emmett's old room and then leave in the morning.
Once dinner was over, we moved to the living room and I started talking more and more with Bella. She seemed more relaxed now that Emmett was gone and I wondered why that was. The more we talked, the more I found we had things in common. She was funny, witty and truly cared for other people. My whole perception about Emmett dating some of the girls that he used to date flew out the window the moment I started talking to Bella. It made me wonder even more why she was with him. Was it the money? She didn't seem that type. This only made me want to know everything about her.
Once my parents went to sleep, Bella and I stayed there talking some more. When I realized we were alone, I asked her the question that had been bothering me since I saw her today, well, at least one of the questions.
"So, Bella, what did you mean when you said 'It's you' when you saw me today?" I asked, looking at her in the eyes.
"Oh...yes," she blushed, and looked surprised by my question. "Well, I've seen you at the park every day for the past couple of weeks. You always carry a sketchbook with you and seemed so focused in your work. I knew you were drawing and painting, but being Emmett's brother? Wow, that was just ... too much," she laughed awkwardly.
"Yes, I've always liked that park and that particular spot. It has some great light and it's far enough from the noise of the people so I can really concentrate, but at the same time close enough for me to observe them without being seen, so that I can truly-"
"See them," Bella finished for me. I just stared at her and keep wondering if she'd ever stop surprising me.
"I feel the same way. That's why I go to that spot as well, quiet enough to read but close enough to watch people pass by. I like to imagine their stories. Where do they go? Is there someone waiting for them at home? Why are they alone?"
We stared at each other for a while, just thinking about what the other said. She was so different from what Emmett preferred but I could see the appeal. She was a good and beautiful woman that one day would make a great wife and mother. Is that why Emmett was with her? Because she looked perfect in his little world?
"So you only knew Emmett had a bohemian brother, huh? How come you didn't recognize me when you saw me at the park?"
"Well ... " she hesitated. "The thing is, Emmett doesn't get along with Carlisle very well so he doesn't like to come here very much, but he adores Esme and tries to come to dinner just for her. But other than that, he has no ties with his family. There are almost no photos of his childhood at his apartment, just a few of his parents and him. I knew you two had a fight before you left, but Emmett doesn't talk about it. So I guess that's why there are no pictures of you in his place." She paused before continuing. "I've been here several times before, but Esme and I mostly have lunch at a restaurant downtown, hardly ever here." She really liked and cared about Esme and Carlisle, even more that their own son did.
I was pissed, not at Bella, but at Emmett. I thought I was the one hurting my mother with my living at another continent, but Emmett was just minutes away and all he could think about was money and his fucking pride? Why? Because Dad stood up to him two years ago? Was he that much of a child?
"I see, well, that's Emmett for you there I guess. Good luck with that." I looked at her and saw that she had a sad expression. I didn't mean to be such an ass to her about this, but this whole fucked up thing was getting on my nerves. "Sorry, I didn't mean it. I guess bad habits die hard and all that." I tried to make light of it.
"Well, he's good to me, and we care about each other very much. We're getting married soon and between you coming back and Esme's condition, hopefully that would make him reconsider some of his views." I noticed her eyes got a little watery at the mention of Esme. She was too good for him, that's for sure.
"Yeah, we'll see." I didn't want to tell her that there was little chance of that happening, but she looked like she wanted to believe those words. She needed to believe them.
"I guess I'm going to bed now. It's getting pretty late and I have brunch with some friends tomorrow," she said while heading toward Emmett's room.
I followed her since my room was next to that one. We both stood by our doors while looking at each other. I could look at her all night.
"Goodnight, Edward. It was nice meeting you," she whispered while she entered the bedroom.
That night, I thought back to everything that had happened during dinner. If I wanted to get things right with Emmett, there was going to be some hard work ahead of us and that was if he wanted to fix things, which didn't look like it at all.
Then my thoughts went to Bella and the beautiful woman that she was, both inside and outside. The last thoughts I remembered before drifting to sleep were of warm browns and reds and how I needed to make some changes to my paintings, since once again, I got the colors wrong.
Next morning, I woke up feeling more energized than ever. Now I knew who my muse was and how to find her, but as much elation as that gave me, it all came crashing down the second I remembered how we came to find each other.
She was marrying my brother.
There was no question about it. She was much too good for Emmett, but at the same time, she was completely out of reach. Did that matter? Did I want something more with her? That was ridiculous, I just met the girl. Up until last night, I didn't even know her name for crying out loud. On the other hand, I'd been watching her for the best part of the last two weeks. I felt like even though I just met her, I knew her, in a way that even Emmett hadn't seen.
And I was so fucked. I should not be thinking about my brother's fiancée like this.
I got up excited that I might see her this morning. However when I got to the kitchen, I found only mom there having breakfast. When I asked her where Bella was and if she was joining us, she said she left early in the morning since she has a brunch date with some friends.
"So what do you think of Bella, Edward?" my mom asked me once we were sitting.
"She's … different from who I'd picture Emmett with. I guess she sees something in him that I sure as hell don't."
She was looking right at me when I said this and kept her eyes on me for a few moments, as if contemplating saying something. What? I had no idea.
"Yes. It was a surprise when your brother brought her here the first time. But I'd seen the way he was with her and that's a side I've never seen in him." Her voice sounded a little sad.
I didn't miss the part with the 'was with her', but held my tongue. Was he not good to her now? I didn't want to interrogate her and make her upset.
As I headed home, I thought about everything that had happened since last night. What are the odds that my muse was my brother's fiancée? What did I do now? Should I go to the park today? Would she go? If we did, should we acknowledge each other or pretend we were the strangers that we'd been for the past two weeks?
Fuck, this was giving me a headache.
There was only one way to find out. I was going back.
I slowly approached my spot. Every step felt so heavy, my hands were sweating and I was gripping my sketch book so hard that my knuckles were white. Did I want to see her there?
That question was answered the second I saw her reading under her tree. She was there, reading as if she didn't have a care in the world. At that, I started feeling kind of angry at her. Why did she get to be that calm? Why was she not freaking out like I was? I felt like a fool for feeling guilty over this. Of course she didn't feel anything for me other than the fact that I was her stalker-soon-to-be-brother-in-law. Yeah, great title. I wanted to turn around and leave this place before she saw me standing there, but then I noticed her a little better. She was gripping her book a little tight as well and her posture was tense sitting there, unlike the other times I'd seen her there so relaxed and almost at home.
No, she was just as nervous as I was. She just was a little better at covering it, but not from me. I'd been watching her too much in the last two weeks to know her tells.
She was as lost as I was about this.
What sealed the moment was when she looked up and saw me standing there. Her eyes said everything.
She wanted this as well.
We stared at each other for a while, and I could not only see, but feel her want, her need. She wanted me here, painting her every afternoon. Even though we never spoke a single word when we were here, the peace we gave each other was palpable now. How did I miss this? I was not the one getting the best part of the deal; she was as well. In what form? I didn't know yet, but this was not the moment to talk about this. It was time to give each other what we came here for.
I moved to sit under my tree without breaking our stare. I saw relief in her eyes upon seeing me doing this. Her body relaxed and she broke my stare to go back to reading her book. I took it as my cue and got my pencils ready to start a new draft. We remained that way for a few hours. Bella reading her book, not acknowledging me as I drafted and painted her. Once the light died down, I gathered my things and Bella took her book and blanket under her arm. She looked at me for a moment, nodded and turned to leave. And this is how we sealed our arrangement.
And started a routine for the rest of the week.
Thank you for reading :-)