Hey, this is my first time on FanFiction and I'm nervous as hell. Be gentle, will you?
This story will have about thirty chapters.
And here it comes: I do not own Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse or Breaking Dawn.
Chapter title belongs to Noel Coward ("Ace of Clubs")
CHAPTER 1: Would You Like to Stick a Pin in My Balloon?
Great. It's Friday night and I am at a party that Alice forced me to come to. I'm tired after a long day of rehearsing and frankly, I just want to sit on my couch, have a bowl of popcorn, watch an episode of Mad Men and have my cat warm my feet. Well, running across the apartment and driving me nuts is more like it, but that's beside the point. I don't want to socialize. I mean, I've only known Alice for three weeks, how could she coerce me into this? The answer to that is relatively easy: she's a scheming, evil little pixie with an unusual brand of charm, who convinced me that I need to meet people from the outside world, the 'real' world, as she put it.
"There'll be quite a few, single, heterosexual guys, you know," she said, with that sugar-sweet and hopeful expression in her large, blue-green eyes.
"Alice, really, I'm not up to meeting a man. I've been through enough shit during the past year…"
"You're not supposed to find someone to marry," she said, pouting. "Just, you know, have a little fun, Bella." She batted her eyelids. "Pu-lease?"
And I knew she wouldn't take no for an answer.
So here I am, wearing my favourite, navy-blue woollen dress and holding on to a glass of white wine.
"I'm so glad you came!" she squeals, almost jumping up and down. I wish I had her energy.
"Thanks for the invitation. Wow, your apartment is breathtaking. Did you decorate it yourself?'"
I turn around to take it all in. High ceilings and deep carpets, a big leather sofa and several lounging chairs. There are works of art on the wall facing the fireplace, and I can tell they're unique. Rows and rows of books, and plants and flowers – everywhere.
"Thank you! Well, I did it with my Mum's help. She's an interior designer, you know."
I take a large sip of my white wine, which, by the way, is delicious. Dry and juicy and invigorating.
Alice looks lovely, her spiky chestnut hair pointing in every which direction. She's tiny, but she exudes this enormous, vivaciousness and energy. Tonight, she's wearing a little black dress with white polka dots. No one but her could get away with that.
We chat a little and I feel really quite good in her company. A few minutes later, Jasper, her boyfriend, joins us. I like him as well, even though I've only met him two times prior to today. He's tall, which looks cute and funny in contrast to her. Everything about them is a contrast, really. He's rather quiet, and, I guess, about ten years older than she is. He's a writer and history professor. His eyes are grey, and he has this way of making you feel comfortable.
"How's the play doing?" he asks, raising an eyebrow. I can see, again, why Alice fell for him in the first place. I dig his Southern lilt, as well. He told me he was from Texas when we met the first time a couple of weeks ago.
"Quite okay." I shrug. "But considering it's low budget and an off-off thing, rehearsal times are a little overwhelming. We're at it six days a week. I'm almost glad I have this smallish part, otherwise I wouldn't know how to keep working at the bar."
"Bella!" Alice cries, "I told you, you need to get an agent!"
"I know. But it's not that easy to find one. New York's full of actors, after all…"
I sigh. I've been trying to find an agent for the past six months, since the week I moved to New York in the first place, actually, but with work at the bar in order to earn a living, auditioning whenever the chance arose, and just trying to grab every acting job that presented itself, not much has come of it.
"Well, that's why you have to meet more people!" Alice's expression is a little frightening it's so decided. "If I have to personally schlep you to every party and function in my reach myself."
"I'm not a party-person, Alice."
Jasper chuckles while he takes a chug of his beer.
"I know another one of those, although I doubt he'll grace us with his presence tonight," he says.
Alice groans softly and runs a hand through her hair.
"My little brother, that old sourpuss."
"Did he even say he'd come?" Jasper asks.
"No. He'll probably call tomorrow and tell me he had to work. Like always."
For a second, a streak of deep sorrow breaks through Alice's eternal sunshine.
She then turns back to me.
"Hey, Bella, what do you think? Come shopping with me tomorrow?" Her eyes dance with anticipation. "We'll need to get you some dresses for the play, anyway."
Alice is a costume designer, and she's responsible for our clothes in the play. That's how I met her: she came to one of our rehearsals to introduce herself and take measurements of the lead characters. Not me, but we met, and I liked her instantly, her buoyant, naïve, carefree way with everyone. Even Riley, our somewhat creepy director seemingly didn't intimidate her.
Actually, I'm rather enjoying myself at Alice and Jasper's party. About forty people are cramming their apartment, and I do meet a number of people I'd actually like to see again. There's this guy, Raoul, who's been complimenting me on my huge dark eyes for about twenty minutes, and he's nice, and funny, and attractive, and he keeps asking about my acting career. Apparently, he thinks being an actor is glamorous, so I don't tell him about my job at the bar. It's just too nice to have a little attention, you know? He keeps showering me with sweet words, and I'm flattered.
Maybe, just maybe, I'm not the Cat Lady after all.
The party is in full swing, people are dancing, and the place looks like a madhouse. Everyone's drinking and laughing, and I'd be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy myself, though I politely decline the joint that Raoul is offering me. Going to the kitchen, which is also crammed with people, I get myself another glass of wine. Everyone is laughing like banshees at a guy burping loudly. I quickly fill my glass with chilled white wine and make my way back to the living room. This really is a lovely and quite impressive apartment, either Jasper's books are selling extremely well or one of them must be loaded – Alice can't be making that sort of money by designing costumes for low budget productions such as our current one of Chekhov's Three Sisters. There are large bookshelves on the walls and I take the time to study some of the titles. History mostly, and costumes, and, well, costume history.
I can see Jasper across the room and he gives me a friendly smile before returning his attention to the guy he's talking to. I can only see his back, noticing the uncommon colour of his hair. It's like bronze, and quite wild. Artfully dishevelled probably describes it best. I see him run a hand through it, noticing his long fingers. Jasper nods in response to him, compassionately patting his back, then gesturing towards the kitchen, probably suggesting a drink. As they proceed, I chance a look at him, strangely intrigued by his presence. When I see his face, I gasp. This is quite possibly the most beautiful man I have ever seen in my entire life. And I mean beautiful, not handsome or attractive. He looks as if he'd stepped out of a Botticelli painting, as if he'd been chiselled out of marble. A sharp jaw line, a long fine nose, full, sumptuous pink lips and long-lashed, almond shaped eyes. He's tall, well built, and broad-shouldered. All in all, he looks like an Armani model. I swallow and try to pick up my tongue from the floor, hurriedly busying myself with the bookshelf. I think my heartbeat just sped up a little, too. I think I've seen an apparition. A beautiful apparition. A couple of minutes later I scan the room as inconspicuously as I can until my eyes settle on him once more. This time, I see his profile, and I need to swallow again. Is he even real?
Raoul accosts me then, and I try and make small talk. He's a little stoned, and quite drunk, which suits me fine, since I can talk to him while continuing to ogle my Mysterious Stranger and hopefully won't get caught. He seems worried, or angry, or sad, I cannot decipher it, but clearly, he's not happy. Yet he still looks fabulous, wearing dark jeans and a pale blue button down with the sleeves rolled up, showing off some rather muscular forearms.
"And so I'm sayin', 'Get the fuck outta here'," Raoul rambles on. "But he's like, 'I sure will not, 'so I'm like, 'Dude you'd better listen to me…'"
I zone out, staring at my own McDreamy, who is running a hand through his already messy sex hair.
I wonder how that would feel beneath my fingers…
"And then, he punches me, so I punch him right back…"
He talks with his hands a lot, his beautiful, long fingers flying through the air. I see Alice walk up to him, and they hug closely, and for quite some time. McDreamy kisses her ear. Hm. Jasper sure is not the jealous kind. Not that he isn't handsome himself, but if it were my girlfriend this obscenely hot guy was kissing, I'd be a little pissed.
Sexy shakes his head with a look of anguish, then says something to Alice to which she listens with a serious look on her face.
I bet he smells nice.
"Isabella?" Raoul pulls me out of my reverie.
"Sorry, Raoul, what were you saying?"
"I was asking you if you wanted another glass of wine."
"Oh, um, yes please."
He takes my empty glass and scampers off to the kitchen, and I return to looking at the books so as not to be too obvious at checking out my Hot Guy.
"Bella!" Alice's happy girlish voice is behind me. "I want to introduce my cranky, party-poop of a brother to you."
I smile as I turn around to face her.
"Nice introduction, Alice. I'm sure he…"
Fuck. Me. Hard.
"You're sure? What?" Alice's chirpy voice yanks me out of my stupor.
"Oh… erm… Nothing?"
God since when does my voice sound like I'm on helium?
"Hi." Hot Guy/McDreamy/Greek God smiles. A breathtaking, crooked, panty-dropping smile. "I'm Edward."
Green. His eyes are green. The greenest green I've ever seen. I stare at him. This close, he's even taller than I thought.
"Bella?" Alice says, "Are you okay?"
I nod numbly.
AM I okay?
"Hi," I say. "I'm Bella."
He takes my hand, and a shiver runs through me. His hand is large, and soft, and a little cool.
"I told Bella that you probably wouldn't show up, but now you're here, I'm glad for the two of you to meet. Edward, Bella's an actress, and a freakin' good one, too. She plays Natasha in the play I'm currently doing, you know, the one I told you about? Three Sisters?" She turns to me. "Edward loves Chekhov!"
He scratches the back of his neck in an almost shy manner. The upper buttons of his shirt are open, and I can see a smattering of hair peek out. He slowly licks his lower lip.
God. Kill. Me. Now.
"You do?" I croak.
"Well, not in a scholarly way, but yes, I like him. I think he and Tennessee Williams among them wrote some of the greatest plays of the 20Th century."
And then, I get it. Of course. How could I be so stupid? Why would little Alice even introduce her gorgeous God of a brother to me? The hands, and the almost feminine way he uses them. The delicate beauty, Tennessee Williams, the artful mess of hair… Armani model is gay.
An hour later, we're side by side in a quiet corner of the room. After my initial klutziness we began talking, and we haven't stopped since. We started off on plays and authors, and then got to films and music. Edward asked me tons of things about acting, but never the obvious stuff, as Raoul did, never the "Oh, have I seen you on TV?" stuff. He wants to know what it is like, and why I wanted to go into acting in the first place. So I tell him about my childhood in Seattle, where my dad is a police officer, and also how my mother left us when I was nine years old to never return, and how I started taking ballet lessons and acting in school plays because my dad always thought I was too shy, and the child psychologist recommended I should get out more. As I have absolutely no talent in sports to this day, I chose an artistic outlet, and that's where I stayed hooked. Ten years and countless school plays later, when I told my dad that I was serious about becoming an actress, he wasn't exactly thrilled, but seeing that it was what made me happy, he promised to support me in every possible way when I applied to the University of Washington's Drama Section.
"How long have you been in New York?" Edward's eyes are mesmerizing, and I can feel that he is genuinely interested
"For six months only." I bite my lip, suddenly embarrassed that I'm going on and on about myself. I've been telling him about the plays I've been in and the low-budget films I've made, I even told him about my difficulty in finding an agent in New York, and my job at the bar.
"What?" He slightly cocks his head. "What is it?"
"I'm sorry. I don't normally talk this much about myself…"
It's just that I feel so damn relaxed with him. His presence makes me feel strangely peaceful and… yes, secure. Under any other circumstances, I would probably have tried to impress him, or ask him lots of questions about himself so I could then proceed to admire him and make him feel great. It does work with most men. It always worked with-
No, don't go there. Not when you're having such a lovely evening.
I feel natural with Edward, and since he's playing for the other team, there's no need to pretend to be anything I'm not.
"Don't be sorry," he says softly. "I did ask you. And I did because it interests me."
"Well, you know quite a lot about me by now, and I know literally nothing about you, which is not fair. You never even told me what you do for a living."
I bet he's a designer, or a painter. Or a hair stylist? That would explain the Miracle Hair.
"I'm a doctor."
Or a doctor. See?
"Lenox Hill. That's why I came so late, you know. I had to work. "
"Well, I guess you're quite the hit with the patients, be they male or female," I say and smile.
He gives me an odd stare, and takes a sip of his white wine.
I feel a little uncomfortable and play with my necklace.
"You have the most beautiful eyes," he says, his voice so soft I almost don't hear it. "But I guess about everyone tells you that, right?"
"Thank you…" I murmur.
His pocket rings.
Moon River. I smile.
"Sorry," he mumbles, taking out the phone and checking the caller ID. The expression on his face changes, becoming hard, his jaw tensening. He utters a tiny, heartbreaking sigh and slips the phone back into his pocket, where it continues ringing for some moments before it abruptly stops. I guess the answering machine will be picking up. From the look on his face, it's probably some stalkerish ex-lover. I refrain from commenting, and ask him if he wants another drink.
He nods, and together, we walk to the kitchen. I can feel his hand at the small of my back. It feels good, but I quickly chide myself.
Get realistic, Bella. You've had enough shit in your love life to last for a long, long time. No need to fall for a super-humanly beautiful gay man.
We clink our glasses together and return to our quiet corner.
When I check my watch, it's after one a.m. and we're still sitting in our corner, talking about everything that comes to our heads, conversation never wearing short. He's incredibly funny, with a quirky, raunchy, and always self-deprecating sense of humour, his long fingers fluttering in the air when he describes something, or rumpling his hair when he's searching for words. I haven't laughed this much in a long time, and it's liberating. I'm a little tipsy as well, feeling so comfortable in his presence, feeling that I can tell him everything, and he won't judge. It is as if we'd known each other forever, not just a few hours.
I am still dumbfounded by his brilliant good looks, the beautiful high cheekbones, the soft pouty lips, the light trace of a two days' worth of stubble, and that heartbreaking, slightly lopsided smile. It's hard to guess at his age, and I can't decide whether he's closer to thirty or forty.
He tells me about his years at medical school, despite his initial wish to become a pianist.
"But my dad was completely against it. He just wanted me to follow in his footsteps. So I did, and went into cardiac surgery, like he did. He always told me it was too insecure a lifestyle as an artist."
"Well, maybe he was right," I smile sheepishly. "Look at me, working in a bar, rehearsing for an off off show…"
"Your day will come," he says with an odd certainty.
"You haven't even seen me act!"
"True enough. But I'm sure you're brilliant. And the seeing-you-act-part will be remedied soon. When's your first night again? Ali told me, but I forgot…"
"I'll be there." There's a soft smile on his lips. I get the impression he's about to say something when his cell rings again. Just like the first time, he sees who's calling and lets it ring.
"Sorry," he says.
Across the room, Alice is calling out shots.
"You're in?" He looks at me through long, long lashes.
He takes my hand as we cross the room, and once again, there's this warm tingle that goes from his palm into mine, going through my arm to my chest, ending in a warm ball at the bottom of my stomach.
The apartment is emptier. Alice's cheeks are reddish; she's plastered, standing on a chair holding a bottle of vodka above her head. Jasper is holding her by her legs; clearly worried she'll land on her ass.
"What are we drinking to?" Raoul slurs. Wow, he's still here, and he was wasted and stoned even four hours ago.
"To a fuck-tastic new year!" Alice sings.
"It's February, Ali," Edward reminds her.
"To a marvellous Valentine's Day, then!" she declares.
I can see Edward raise an eyebrow and sigh slightly. Well, whatever shit he's going through with his boyfriend or lover or whatever, I'm on the same page.
We down our shots, and I shudder. Edward chuckles, shaking his head in quiet amusement.
Second and third shots follow, and my head is starting to feel a little fuzzy. When Alice raises the bottle for a fourth round, I shake my head.
"Are you okay?" Edward is close to me, looking concerned.
"Yeah, I… I guess I just need a little air. I think I'll step outside for a moment." I turn for the direction of the balcony.
"Care for company?"
We step into the chilly night air. Six floors below, the New York traffic has slowed down. I shiver a little.
"Wait." He runs back inside and returns after a moment with an afghan, which he wraps around my shoulders. Such a caring, gentle gesture.
He gazes down on me. His eyes are dark and glistening from the light of the almost full moon above us. There's a slight smile around his lips.
"What?" I smile back. "Do I amuse you?"
He takes a moment to answer while the smile reaches his eyes as well.
"You seem so very young," he says. "I can't quite connect that with how worldly-wise and well read you are."
"I'm hardly worldly-wise," I snort, blushing a little. He never takes his eyes off of me.
"And so very, very…" He sighs a little, a shade of pain, or sorrow, crossing his eyes. "Beautiful."
I swallow, unsure what to make of this. Here is this obscenely beautiful man that I cannot have, telling me I'm beautiful.
"Did I say something wrong?" he inquires softly. "You seem… discontented."
"No… No. I'm just… confused, I guess…"
"You," I state sincerely.
"I don't quite know what to make of this-" I gesture between us. "Of you."
He brings his face closer to mine, so close that I can actually feel the breath on my face.
Fuck he smells good.
"I like you, Isabella," he says softly. "And I think you're beautiful."
"And to be perfectly honest, I'd like to kiss you very, very badly right now."
At this moment, two things happen simultaneously. His phone starts ringing again, and Alice pops her head out on the balcony.
"You two must be freezing," she says. "Come in, we're playing charades!"
My heart is hammering away in my chest, and my knees are a little wobbly.
"Just a second, Ali," Edward says, checking his phone, and finally turning it off with an exasperated groan.
Could I have been mistaken? I had my assumption based on my observations earlier tonight but, truth be told, he never once mentioned anything that would lead to the conclusion that, indeed, he is gay.
Oh my God. If he's straight...
Wait. He's interested in me?
"Come on in, you two!" Alice whines.
"Just one second, okay?" he says in a clipped voice.
"Okay, okay…" Alice raises her hands. "Sorry."
She goes back inside, closing the door behind her.
"Well." Edward shrugs, his brow furrowed. "Way to kill a good moment, right?"
"Yeah…" I'm still too taken aback to form a coherent thought, incapable of saying anything remotely intelligent.
And then he does it again, bending his head so his face is close to mine.
"If I asked you if you'd care to have dinner with me sometime…" He does this lip-licking thing again and it makes my whole body tingle.
"Would you say yes?" His warm, sweet breath washes over my face.
His face lights up. I haven't seen him this happy all night.
"That makes me very, very happy," he says. And then, when I think thing can't get much better, he puts a soft, chaste kiss on my cheek, lingering there for a second longer than is appropriate to categorize as "chaste".
When we get back in, there's only a dozen or so people left, sitting on the couch or ambling on the carpet, playing a very inebriated version of Truth or Dare.
"I guess charades were beyond them," Edward whispers in my ear, snickering.
We never partake, sitting side by side in the loveseat, lost in our thoughts, our thighs touching lightly. I can still feel his warm lips on my cheek, and I can't get over his clean, manly, utterly stimulating smell.
Alice giggles about something and Raoul is passed out in an armchair with his legs dangling over the armrest. Everyone's arguing over the correct rules of Truth or Dare when the doorbell rings.
"Ooops," Alice cackles. "Are we being too loud? It's only like four in the morning…"
Jasper gets up.
Everybody is silent for a few moments.
"You really think it's the neighbours?" I muse. "The music isn't loud anymore…"
That's when we hear a female voice from the hall, husky and hysterical.
"I don't fucking care what fucking time it is, Jasper! I need to see him. Now!"
I can positively feel the change in Edward's posture and expression, his hands balling into fists, his jaw line hard. He closes his eyes for a second, as if trying to summon his strength.
Alice's eyes are huge as she stares at him.
"Oh, no," she mouthes.
Edward gets up, and I miss his physical presence immediately.
"I'll go get her. No need for you to see the show." He grabs his coat, puts a kiss on top of his sister's head and vanishes towards the hall, where the woman is still yelling at Jasper. Then we hear her start crying, and Edward's low voice. A moment later, the front door closes, and it's silent.
"Wow," Alice says, shaking her head. "I think I'm sober now."
Jasper returns to the living room, a pained expression on his face. Alice gets up and wraps her arms round his slender waist.
"She needs to get treatment," he says. He looks so sad, his grey eyes hooded.
"I know," Alice whispers. A sole tear runs down her cheek "But she needs to want that", she sniffles.
By now, everyone but Raoul, who is blissfully drooling himself in the armchair, looks up at the two of them, waiting for an explanation. My heart is doing a crazy race.
"Sorry for that, guys," Alice says, wiping away a few more tears. "That was Tanya."
Jasper kisses her brow, lightly massaging her neck, and Alice utters a deep, heartfelt sigh.
"You Were There" – Noel Coward, "Tonight at 8.30"
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