Inspired by true events discovered during a random lyric search. I just made them happen to E & B. The song is "Falling Slowly," by Glen Hansard.
The Seattle karaoke bar is packed. Laughter mingles with loud songs and clinking glasses. One particularly shrill peal of laughter turns my head, and that's when I see her.
Her long brown hair trails over her shoulder as she leans into a tall guy, straining to hear his words over the music. They are clearly together together, even though they are sitting with two other girls, one gorgeous and blonde, the other short and spiky-haired.
My eyes are riveted, and only when Emmett pokes me in the ribs do I stop staring. He smirks, and I roll my eyes. "She's got a boyfriend, Em. Drop it."
"I didn't say anything," he says, but he looks otherwise. Soon, he is distracted by our friend Jasper as they pore over the thick white ring binder that holds the bar's song selections. Then, I am free to return to my shameless staring.
I watch as a waitress serves the girl's table, depositing plates with mozzarella sticks, and chicken fingers and a few bottles of beer. My eyes follow the blonde and the short one as they get up to sing "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."
They are obviously having the time of their lives, strutting their stuff and making these little choreographed dance moves, like they've been practicing for months. This time, I notice it's Emmett and Jasper who are entranced, unable to take their eyes off these girls. I grin, smacking each of them upside the head as I stand to get us more beer.
I tell myself that it's unavoidable – I have to walk past her table to place my order at the bar. I sidle close, gesturing to the bartender for three Buds. And then I hear the girl's voice. I know it's hers, because it can't belong to anybody else.
"Come on, get up there with me!"
"No, Bells, it's really not my thing." The man's tone is cutting.
"Just one song. Jake, no one cares if you're good or not. I mean, listen to these guys!"
I turn my head casually towards the stage. I notice that Jasper and Emmett finally grew a pair and were singing "Livin' on a Prayer." Actually, they were butchering it, what with Em's high-pitched wails and Jazz attempting the robot sound effect. They are metal-heading and air-guitaring the shit out of the song. I duck my head away, laughing and embarrassed.
This Jake guy shakes his head, distracted by his phone. The girl – Bells – is still looking through the song book. I still don't know why I can't stop looking at her; I wonder at her name, Bells. It has to be a nickname, and I wish I knew what it stood for.
"Hey, here you go. Eighteen dollars, please." The bartender nudges my hand with the cold beer bottles. I hand over a twenty, and tell him to keep the change. As I head back to my table where Em and Jasper are now waiting, I catch Bells' eye. She smiles shyly, and looks down at the table.
Her brown eyes are luminous, even in the dark.
His eyes are still on me. I meet his verdant gaze, and I swear my breath hitches. It should creep me out, but it doesn't. It's electrifying.
Jacob sits next to me, texting on the damn office Blackberry. Rosalie and Alice trip off to the ladies' room after their performance, laughing hysterically and eliciting catcalls from a honey blond and a massive guy, who then proceed to take the stage and pretty much massacre a Bon Jovi song.
Jake had reluctantly agreed to take my friends and me out for the night. I had promised them a girls' night, but he had insisted we see each other tonight, and things are so strained between us lately that I don't have the heart to say no. Rose and Alice hadn't minded, though they are subtly ignoring him at every turn.
"Come on," I try to persuade him gently. "Here, you pick the song, anything. It doesn't even have to be a duet –"
"Bella, I told you, I don't sing!" Jacob cuts me off a little too loudly and too rudely. The guy with the green eyes and odd copper-colored hair has not moved far, and turns to us, nostrils flaring and jaw clenched at Jake's outburst. I'm used to Jake's bluntness, and not easily offended, so I shake my head slightly at Green Eyes. He backs off with a nod.
"Fine," I snap, picking up a mozzarella stick and smothering it in marinara sauce.
Rosalie and Alice bounce back, giggling and waving at the cute guys. I notice that Green Eyes is with them, as he sits at their table. I try to ignore the pull of his gaze and focus on my friends.
"So, what did you pick?" Alice asks brightly.
"Nothing. Jake won't sing." I try to keep the sullenness from my tone.
Jacob's phone rings, saving him from a reply. He looks at the display screen, inexplicably flushing red. He excuses himself, sprinting for the door. I roll my eyes, sighing after him.
"Well, we can do another one," Rose suggests.
"Yeah, another awesome girl anthem!" Alice yells. "Maybe some Gaga –"
"'Bad Romance'! Or 'Poker Face'!"
They go on and on about Lady Gaga, spewing some very nonsensical song titles. I interrupt once to ask them, "What the hell is a disco stick?" before I decide to give up.
"Guys, this sucks, maybe we should just go home." I move to gather my coat and purse, when Alice's hand on my arm stops me.
"Bella, don't let Jake get you down. Come on."
"Things are weird between us right now. I don't know." I hesitate.
"You can sing, at any rate," Rosalie says. "You have a great voice, Bells. Let's do it!" They pull me towards the stage, and we just have to walk past the cute guys' table. I try to ignore the burn of Green Eyes' gaze on my back. While the girls talk to the DJ about cutting in front of the other song requests, I glance behind me towards the door. Jake still hasn't returned.
Suddenly, I'm tired of feeling ignored all night, when I'm supposed to be having fun with my friends. I grab the thick song book from Alice's hands.
"Yeah, I think I'll sing something. Here." I shut my eyes, and let my index finger travel down the page. I stop at random, and look at the song I've picked.
"Shit, it's a duet – Rose, can you – "
"I'll sing with you!"
The three of us turn, face to face with Green Eyes.
I could smack myself. Blurting that out of nowhere? What the fuck am I thinking, singing with another guy's girl? Not to mention, one who looks like he can own my ass.
"Excuse me?" The Bells girl asks politely, blinking at me in surprise.
"Sorry," I stammer, "I just happened to overhear… not that I was listening in… but if you really want to sing, I can – "
"Yes, you can!" Her friends yank her arm, taking the book from her hands and practically shove her into my arms. The perky short one prances up to the DJ and whispers in his ear. Meanwhile, I glance around to make sure her boyfriend has really disappeared from the bar.
"Pushy bitches," she mutters, and I notice that she is still clinging to me. I inhale deeply, the smell of strawberries and freesia enveloping me. It's heady and intoxicating and I don't want to let her go. I glance down at her, and she blushes rosy red. Beautiful.
"I'm Edward, by the way." I release her gently, and we climb awkwardly onto the stage.
"I'm Isabella. But everyone calls me Bella." She offers another shy smile, and I smile back – mystery solved.
The opening chords begin, a strumming guitar tune I vaguely recognize. I take the microphone off the stand, my hands sweaty with nerves. She adjusts the mike stand to her height, much shorter than me.
The male part lyrics flash across the screen, and I'm barely ready.
I don't know you, but I want you
All the more for that…
My voice shakes a little bit; I'm hit with bright lights and I can't make out anything beyond the edge of the platform we stand on. I look at Bella, her hands trembling as she grasps the mike and joins my voice for the next part of the song.
Words fall through me, and always fool me
And I can't react…
She's great. Nervous like me, but her soprano complements my tone perfectly. I catch some whooping from the general direction of my table, where her friends have perched themselves comfortably with Emmett and Jasper. We glance at each other and smile as I continue solo.
And games that never amount
To more than they're meant
Will always play out…
Bella is gesturing towards her friends at this point, some sort of shushing motion before she gives them a covert finger. I grin and touch her arm briefly, indicating the duet continues. I swear I feel a shock coursing through my hand at the contact.
Take this sinking boat, and point it home
We've still got time
Raise your hopeful voice
You have a choice
You make it now…
We are aware of the people whistling and clapping as our voices join effortlessly and meld into one another, rising and falling with the harmonies.
Eyes that know me
And I can't go back…
We are good together, if the crowd's cheering and hollering are any indication. As the song wraps up, I catch Rose and Alice waving their lit cell phones around like at a concert. Idiots.
People clap and whistle a lot as we descend from the stage. My heart pounds and I blush furiously, and lean in to whisper a quick, "Thanks for doing this," to Edward. His scent permeates the air, citrus and spice and him. I am stunned for a second, and he flashes a crooked smile in my direction with a soft, shy, "Anytime."
There are introductions all around. I learn that the honey blond and the huge guy are Jasper and Emmett, newly infatuated with Alice and Rose respectively. I insist that we go back to our table, much to everyone's disappointment. I stumble as I sit on the banquette, drunk on something other than alcohol. The high from the performance is wearing off. Jacob is nowhere to be found, as my friends gush endlessly. I cannot stop grinning stupidly until Alice's comment grounds me again.
"You guys looked so cute together!"
I am instantly sobered, and with a murmured, "Yeah, so did Jake and I," I look around for the exit and make my way to it, rushing past Edward's table. I can feel his eyes on me still.
The chill November air hits me hard, after the warm smokiness of the club's interior. I spy Jacob leaning against the wall, still on his phone.
"Hey, you missed –" But Jacob's not listening; he hasn't even noticed me beside him.
I catch the end of his whispered conversation.
"Love you too. Bye."
I freeze, my heart pounding with surprise, anger, hurt… I'm not even sure.
"Love who, Jake?" I say quietly. He jumps, startled, but the guilt on his face is answer enough.
"Hey Bells, I –"
"Was that your dad? One of your sisters?" I cut him off, but I refuse to raise my voice. I hold his gaze, and he sighs. Jake pushes himself off the wall, and faces me.
"Bella, things haven't been working out lately between us, and I think you feel it too…"
I slump against the club's brick façade, hands behind my back. A lone tear had escaped during Jake's rendition of, "It's not you, it's me," culminating in his admission of an infatuation with a girl named Leah. It drives the point home – it definitely wasn't me.
I am surprised at how well I take it, probably indicating that the relationship was nearing its natural end. I forgive him, and we hug it out. Jake even gives me his car keys, telling me he will come by tomorrow for it, and to pick up his stuff from my apartment. With a goodbye peck on the cheek, I was left to ponder the whys and hows of our relationship, and I can't even find it in me to be mad at Jake.
I hear the club door open and an epic fail of "My Heart Will Go On" streams out. Sweet Jesus.
My head shoots up. It's Edward.
I wipe my hand under my eyes for any telltale traces of tears. "Nothing. I'm okay."
"So, did you find Jacob?"
"How do you know about him?" I ask, confused.
"Your friends told me. I saw you run out of the bar… I was worried about you."
"Yeah," I say. "I found him. He already left." I gesture weakly down the street packed with people and cars.
"Did he hurt you?" Edward's voice is concerned, low and bordering on anger on my behalf.
"No, it's not like that. We just – he broke up with me." I don't know where to look so I examine my shoes intently. He is practically a stranger, but singing with him had been so intimate, I can't help but share this bit of me.
"Oh, God, I'm sorry." He puts a comforting hand on my shoulder. I feel it again, that electric tingle, like I felt when we sang together. So it hadn't been my imagination.
"Thanks. It was time, I guess. I think we'll be on good terms, regardless." I straighten up, combing my fingers through my hair as it whips around my face.
"Want me to get your friends?" Edward offers with that lopsided grin.
"Nah, I'm going back in. Have a few drinks maybe. Care to join us?" The words spill out before I can think.
"Oh, um, sure," he says, pleased. "Mind if Emmett and Jazz come too? They're quite… taken… with Rosalie and Alice. They have a thing for 80s tributes, as you already saw." He laughs.
"Yeah," I smile. "I think they'll like that."
Edward leans in suddenly, and whispers in my ear, soft, close, and perfect.
"You have suffered enough, and warred with yourself… it's time that you won."
Hands brushing, we walk inside together.
We dance to that song at our wedding.