So here's my story You and the Night and the Music from Edward's POV. I finally got around to finishing it a couple of weeks ago but it's unbeta'd so any mistakes are my own. The title is a song by Frank Sinatra.
Please let me know what you think, my confidence in my writing is very low at the moment but I have lots of ideas for stories that I'd love to share. I don't care if you hate it or love it, I want to know what people think, I really want try to improve my writing but I can't do that without feedback.
I was not looking forward to tonight, it was going to yet another night that I was expected to talk to and charm every woman present, most of whom would either be pushing themselves or their daughters on me. My cousins had to endure the same thing every time as well which didn't make me feel quite so bad; at least I wasn't alone in my torture. It was always the same, over dinner there would be the furtive and calculating glances in our direction from both mothers and daughters alike. Then when it came time for dancing we would suddenly find ourselves surrounded by women, all hoping to be the first to dance with us. We were then obliged to dance almost every dance so as to not insult anyone by refusing to partner them. It was very tiring and I often lamented my mother raising us to be proper gentlemen during these evenings.
That said, a small part of me was looking forward to tonight. Lord Hale's balls were supposedly some of the best in town; this was apparently due to the influence of his wife and daughters, who were among the most sought after women in London if you believed the gossip. Nonetheless, an invite to a ball hosted by them was not to be turned down according to my parents, especially when it is in honour of their eldest daughter's birthday. We had had the good fortune to meet his two daughters, Lady Rosalie and Lady Alice, at the Queen's ball last week. My cousins were immediately infatuated with the sisters and had clearly been thinking about them almost constantly all week; it was most annoying when they would stop paying attention to those around them to day dream about the ladies. Lady Rosalie and Lady Alice had told us about their cousin, Lady Isabella, who had been bedridden by a horrible illness and was unable to attend the ball. I had heard much about Isabella Swan, and her cousins, since our return to London society. I was told on several occasions of their beauty and intelligence but people often said that Isabella, while still beautiful in her own way, was no match for her cousins. From those reports I was expecting to find a pretty girl who was reasonably pleasing to the eye but nothing extraordinary. However, it would not do to judge a woman on her looks solely; many of the girls I have met so far have been very pleasing to look at but a bore and often a trial to talk to.
I did not realise where we were until the carriage came to a stop outside a large town house. My parents, who had been talking quietly between themselves for the journey, stepped out of the carriage followed by my cousins and then myself. Jasper and Emmett had hardly spoken a word since we left home; they both seemed to have been off in their own little worlds, thinking about the Hale sisters, no doubt.
"Come on, Edward, it won't be so bad. Jasper and I get to see Alice and Rosalie again and we all get to finally meet the mysterious Isabella we've heard so much about." Emmett always tried to make these situations fun, even though we all knew of the possible torture that awaited us. He might be annoying to live with sometimes, but Emmett could never fail to lift a person's spirits.
By this time we had walked up the stairs and entered the house. It was staggering to say the least. I had thought our house and some of the houses we had visited since we had arrived were grand but Lord Hale's house put them all to shame. It was certainly a house fit for a family of their wealth and social standing, Lord Hale, himself, was a Member of the House of Lords, his wife was the daughter of a Duke and his niece, Isabella, would inherit her father's Dukedom on her next birthday. I have even heard rumours claiming they are closely related to the royal family but no one seems to know if that is true or not. It was little wonder that the ladies of this family were so highly sought after. The entrance hall was very impressive. It was large and extravagantly decorated. The doors to the right, which I assumed lead to the ballroom, were thrown wide and from what I could see, the ballroom rivalled many that I had seen.
My eyes were soon drawn to the people waiting near the doors to greet their guests. I recognised Lord Hale, his wife, Lady Jane, and his daughter Alice. I assumed Rosalie would be making a grand entrance once all the guests were assembled in the ballroom. However when I turned my gaze to the girl next to Alice, I found that I could not look away. This was, I assumed, Isabella Swan, Lord Hale's niece. Nothing that I had been told about her did her justice. She was beautiful, quite possibly the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Her mahogany hair was styled up with a few tendrils of hair remaining down a framing her face. Her skin was pale with dark eyes and full lips. When her eyes met mine there seemed to be a connection that neither of us was able or willing to break.
It was not until Jasper elbowed me in the ribs that I found I could look away from the exquisite Isabella. She and Alice curtsied and Isabella quickly welcomed us, "It's a pleasure to meet you all."
We bowed back and I couldn't help but sneak another glance at Lady Isabella. She was talking with my mother and her aunt but I wasn't paying attention to what they were saying. We soon left our hosts in the hallway and made our way through to the ballroom.
As I looked out at the crowd of people gathered for the celebrations I couldn't help but be... not disappointed per say, rather I was un-enticed by the other women present tonight. I could not understand it. I had only met her briefly once but now I couldn't get her out of my mind and it seemed that her beautiful vision had tarnished that of every other woman. My parents were talking to some old acquaintance or other and Emmett had disappeared, most likely in search of a drink for us. Jasper simply patted my shoulder and smiled at me before he walked off in search of our cousin.
I soon found myself in conversation with some of my Oxford classmates but I could not remember what we were talking about later in the evening, my mind was focused elsewhere. Our focus was drawn to the entrance to the ballroom where Ladies Jane, Alice and Isabella had walked through and were clearly waiting for the arrival of Lord Hale and Lady Rosalie. As they entered the ballroom I suddenly became very aware of my companions conversation.
"They are all lovely to look at, to be sure, but I would much prefer Rosalie to the other two..."
"Many would agree that she is the real beauty of the three but I think that there is something to be said of the other two, particularly Alice. She has a certain air about her that one cannot help but desire..."
"Personally I think that Isabella is the most beautiful of the three. In fact I intend to begin my courtship of her very soon. Her uncle will gladly approve the match and we shall be engaged before the end of the season, just you wait and see." Michael Newton had joined our group while my attention had been diverted. I had never got on well with him but I had never hated him before now. It was irrational to hate a man over three sentences of speech but I couldn't help it. I decided to rejoin the conversation then.
"Is that so? I had heard that Lord Hale had made it clear to all that the ladies would be the ones to decide on whom they wish to marry and that he would not force them into any union they did not agree with."
I could see that I was beginning to get to him. "Of course, but he would see the wisdom in accepting my proposal on behalf of his niece. He might have no need of those gains but he is no fool. Lord Hale knows the gains to be had by allying his family with my own."
"True, Lord Hale is certainly no fool, but then again neither are the ladies. I have heard that you have been trying, and failing, to court Lady Isabella for months now but she has always found some way to refuse you." I knew it was a low blow but I couldn't help it. I felt very protective of Isabella and her family for some strange reason and I did not want Newton of all people to try to force his proposal on her. At that point in time, I refused to analyse the reasons behind this protectiveness.
Fortunately for me, dinner was called before Newton had a chance to reply. I was able to bid my companions farewell and make my way across the room to where my family was being seated for dinner. Once I rejoined them I realised that we were to be sat at Lord Hale's table. It is a great honour to be sat at the host's table but that thought did not cross my mind at that moment in time. All my mind could think was that I would be near Isabella during dinner at least and I could try to get to know her a bit better, so long as we weren't sat far away from each other.
However as we were seated I realised that my mother and Lady Jane had obviously been involved in the seating arrangements as I was sat opposite Isabella while Emmett and Jasper were sat opposite Rosalie and Alice. I would have to find some way to thank my mother without revealing to her the depth of my gratitude but I doubt that she would be fooled. She had always been able to read me like a book but she wouldn't say too much about it if she did understand the depth of my feelings. They began serving dinner which was, naturally, delicious.
The conversation at the table to seemed to occur around me while I used the opportunity to study Isabella more. Her skin was pale but the orange of her dress gave her some extra colour. I continued to look at her but I began paying attention to the conversation. I learnt much about Isabella and her family's past as well as how we used to be close with both the Swans and the Hales before we moved to America to take care of my aunt and Jasper. It was strange though that I could not recollect knowing them before.
Over the course of dinner my mother and Lady Jane had successfully secured the first dances for us all. While the servants moved the tables out of the way to create more room for those who wished to dance I noticed Isabella stood alone. I was about to approach her to claim her hand ready for the first dance as I saw Newton doing the same. I hesitated for a moment, unwilling to risk causing a scene in a crowded ballroom if I was faced with Newton again but also unwilling to allow him near her after his earlier comments. I noticed his demeanour change from arrogance to obvious disappointment and it gave me great pleasure to see her refuse him. He was just skulking off as I approached her for our dance.
We stood to one side of the dance floor while Emmett accompanied Lady Rosalie to the centre of the dance floor as it was her responsibility to open the dancing for the evening. Not long after the music started I lead Isabella onto the dance floor, quickly followed by Jasper and Lady Alice. My parents and Lord and Lady Hale soon joined us and the dance floor began filling up with other couples. We were silent for a long time; I was simply enjoying the feel of her in my arms and revelling at how right it felt to hold her like this. She certainly danced very well. I eventually thought I should say something to her while I had the chance.
"So Lady Isabella, why have we not met before? I find it very strange that I have never seen you before, or so I can recall?"
"I was ill at the time of the Queen's ball, where I'm told you met my cousins, and I only received my physician's permission to get out of bed and attend social functions two days ago. My cousins have been very strict with me though. They made sure I had plenty of rest today, and I am under strict orders to sit down if I feel even slightly lightheaded. They worry about me far too much." We shared a small chuckle but I was disappointed to note that our dance was coming to an end and that I would have to let her go. I bowed to her at the end of the dance and we swapped partners.
Next I partnered my mother, followed by Ladies Jane, Alice and Rosalie, all of whom were wonderful dancers and I found myself able to enjoy very pleasant conversations with all the ladies. I could see why my cousins were so infatuated with Rosalie and Alice, they were both beautiful women and they had something about them that was so hard to come across in our world, they were genuine. They had all the airs and graces of proper ladies but they didn't put up a front to try to impress people, they were simply themselves. I believe they'll be very good for my cousins. I was practically forced into dancing the next two with two very insipid young ladies who had been thrust in front of me by their overzealous mothers and so I lost sight of Lady Isabella and my family.
By the time the second dance had come to an end I had found my cousins standing off to the side with Lady Rosalie and Lady Alice and made my way hastily to them. I breathed an audible sigh of relief when I reached them and Jasper handed me a glass of wine.
"And how are you enjoying the dancing cousin? I don't think I've seen you dance that many dances in many a month." Emmett asked with an obvious smirk on his face. He always delighted in watching myself and Jasper suffer during social outings such as these.
"My first few partners were excellent dancers but I'm afraid the last two were far too vapid with heads full of nothing but dresses and husbands to be of any good company in comparison," I explained while surveying our surroundings to make sure that the few people near us had either had too much wine or were not paying attention to our conversation. As much as I hated these events, I did not want our topic of conversation to cause any problems and ruin Lady Rosalie's birthday. It seemed that both the ladies had though the same when Lady Alice spoke up.
"We have known Lady Alyssa and Miss Croft for many years and neither of them have ever been the greatest conversationalists of our acquaintance, unless of course one wishes to discuss society's most eligible bachelors in frightening detail for many hours interspersed with the occasional swoon and sigh."
The look on Alice's face caused us all to laugh. "So you mean you don't enjoy swooning at the thought of a man's societal status, financial situation and achievements for hours on end?" Although not normally one to joke, Jasper's question made us laugh all the more, attracting some strange looks from the people around us.
"One might be persuaded to swoon if the gentleman in question's character was suitably worthy of such high commendation, however, when the list of gentlemen that Lady Alyssa and Miss Croft see fit to swoon over includes Michael Newton and other such men, I find it difficult to agree to it." It seems I was not alone in my dislike for Newton. It is difficult to believe the man thought he had any hope with Lady Isabella when both the lady in question and her family held him in such low regard.
"Speaking of Newton, is that not him over there?" Lady Rosalie, it seems, had been making better note of what was happening around than the rest of us.
I looked where she was pointing and it made my blood boil to see him leaning over Isabella who was sat on the opposite side of the room. He held out his hand to guide her to the dance floor with a very smug look on his face. My expression must have given away my thoughts as I felt Jasper place a hand on my shoulder to try to calm me down a little and pay attention to the conversation again.
"We have protocols in place to deal with Newton's infatuation with Bella. First they have to dance a little so that he will not be too rude when one of us or our parents interrupt the dance stating an urgent need for Bella's assistance and then we whisk her away before he can protest. Bella found it too difficult to avoid him for an entire evening so the three of us came up with this." Rosalie explained to myself and my cousins while Alice kept a close watch on Newton as he led Isabella to the floor.
"I assume then that Emmett and myself shall have to miss out on dancing the next with you since your cousin is in dire need of your assistance?"
At Japer's words Alice's attention returned to our conversation with a sad but resigned look. "I am afraid so since my parent's attention seems to be distracted by our guests tonight."
"Unless I keep an eye on Newton while you two couples dance the next and rescue Lady Isabella when it is time?" I had seen the pleading looks my cousins were sending me and I was not about to allow Newton to ruin their potential courtships with Isabella's cousins, and it gave me a reason to keep watch over the woman that had captured my attention in such a short space of time.
"Oh thank you Lord Edward. When Bella wants saving from Newton, she will most likely look this way again and try to gain your attention." Both the ladies and my cousins looked so relieved I could not envy them when they left me to find a space on the dance floor.
As the first strains of music began I almost saw red when I recognised the dance that Newton had chosen to partner Isabella in. It was one that required the young couples dance closer than is deemed appropriate at any other time in society but it was neither indecent nor frowned upon by their families. I saw Newton leaning down to talk to Isabella and after a minute noticed that the lady was searching the room, most likely for her cousins or anyone able to rescue her from her current predicament. When she saw me her eyes turned almost begging and I assumed that this was the look that Alice had been talking about. However before I could signal to her that I was on my way Newton had steered her round in the dance so she could not see my face without making it obvious and was saying something to her again. I quickly set my empty glass on the table next to me and made my way through the dancing couples to them.
They were on the other side of the dance floor but I could hear snippets of their conversation as I got closer to them.
"…. called on you ….. go for a ride … afternoon tea … talk to your uncle."
I could not hear what Isabella said as the music swelled at that point but I heard the end of her reply as I was only one or two steps away.
"….. my choice of suitor and that it was completely up to me whom I court, and I am not looking for a husband at the present time."
As she finished speaking she looked up and seemed visibly relieved to see me standing behind Newton. "Newton, do you mind if I cut in? Lady Isabella did promise me a second dance this evening after all."
Michael looked like he was about to protest but Isabella cut him off. "Of course not, Lord Edward. I am a lady of my word, and I refuse to do anything that would point to the opposite."
I bowed to her and after Newton left, we started dancing together. She seemed to relax a little when I took her hands to continue the dance as I lead her through the steps. We didn't say anything for the rest of the dance and just continued seamlessly into the next one. We simply looked into the others eyes, neither of us wanting to break the peace that had settled between us. There was something about her eyes that I could not tear my eyes from. One thing that astounded me most was her natural beauty. Many women used products like rouge to try to attain the blush that seemed to come to Isabella's face so easily. She had the complexion that was envied by many women present tonight and that just added to her beauty.
All too soon the dance came to an end but I was determined to not allow her to fall prey to Newton again tonight. "Would you like to walk with me in the gardens for a while? I feel the need for fresh air and I'm sure you could do with some as well after all that dancing."
"Why, of course." She seemed a little shocked by my request but I offered her my arm and lead her out of the ballroom into the gardens. I paid little attention to the looks we were getting as she seemed to relax even more once we had crossed the threshold into the fresh air.
"So tell me a bit more about yourself, my lord. I hardly know anything about you and have heard only one bad account of your character. But I shan't believe anything that was said by that particular person if you prove otherwise to me."
"I will tell you everything about myself so long as you call me Edward from now on, I hate using titles between friends."
"Of course, but if I am to call you Edward you must call me Bella."
"Very well. What would you like to know, Bella?" I could not help the smile that spread across my face as her preferred name rolled off my tongue.
"What is it like in America?"
"Well, it can be very different depending on where you are..."
And that was how we went on for the next couple of hours, simply asking and answering questions about each other.
After about an hour we found ourselves near what looked like the kitchens. "Wait here, I'll be back in a minute," and with that she ran off into the house, leaving me staring after her.
My momentary solitude gave me a few moments to think about what had transpired tonight and the intriguing woman that had entered my life. Bella and her cousins were all very different in comparison with the usual type of women that one found at society events such as this. They did not seem to be aiming to gain a husband in everything they did and they were actually capable of holding an intelligent conversation on matters other than dresses and hairstyles for more than two minutes. It was refreshing to meet women that were not only interested in a man's material wealth or title but also their mind and character. At some point during my thoughts I had begun looking at the stars in the clear night sky but my attention was diverted when I heard Bella return.
As I looked toward her, I was taken away by her beauty and the way the moonlight seemed to reflect off her flawless skin while it seemed like her eyes twinkled with the light from the stars. Almost without thinking about it I reached out to take the blanket from her hands once she was with arm's reach. Holding onto something helped quell the need to reach out and touch her to make sure she was not a dream.
"Let us find a spot on the lawn to sit and continue our conversations," she suggested. "All this dancing and walking has made my feet very tired."
I offered her my arm again and we walked on the grass. It didn't take us long to find somewhere to sit that was far enough away from the patio that we would not be seen easily but close enough to hear if someone called us and where we could still hear the music being played in the ballroom. There were some torches placed about the gardens to give any occupants some light.
Not long after we sat down, there was a slight lull in the conversation but it was peaceful rather than awkward. I was trying to work up the nerve to ask her something that had been on my mind since we entered the gardens and when I had finally worked out how to phrase my question I looked up to see her shaking out her hair with a number of hair pins collected in her lap. The reflection of the moonlight mingling with the light of the torch that stood nearby only made her seem more beautiful and ethereal to me. "Bella, I hope you don't think me too forward but I was wondering if what you told Newton was true, that you were not looking for a husband?"
She seemed to think about my question for a minute or so before responding: "It's not that I do not want to marry, it's just that I have yet to meet a man who I would want to marry. Well, that's not entirely true, I have met someone tonight but I highly doubt that he would ever be interested in me in return. But I tell people that I'm not looking for a husband to mainly discourage Sir Michael. He is the most insufferable man I have ever had the misfortune to meet! I would rather die a lonely old maid than marry him."
She had refused to meet my eyes during her explanation but when she looked up at me through her eyelashes she seemed to notice the inexplicably large smile that had overtaken my face. "Well I'm very pleased to hear that you have not given up on the institution all together and are willing to contemplate a man's proposal."
"And why would that make you so happy?" My breathing hitched at her question, which was one that probably should have expected but failed to prepare myself for.
"Because I..." But my response was cut off by the sound of both my cousins and hers calling our names. Not a minute later they'd found us.
"There you two are! We've been searching everywhere for you! Have you been out here the whole time?" demanded Alice.
"Yes we've been out here ever since we left the ballroom. Why? Did you need us for something?" Bella replied while I glared at my cousins for interrupting us.
"I don't think they do. I think they just wanted to be nosy," said Emmett. He chuckled until he noticed the glare that he was receiving from Rose.
"We were not being nosy. We were simply curious as to where you two had been of the past two and a half hours," explained Rose as they all decided to join us on the blanket.
"The past two and a half hours? I didn't realise that we had been gone so long." I was a little shocked by the amount of time we had been outside but was not quite so vocal in it as Bella.
"Well you have. Your cousins were getting very impatient with being made to wait for your return. It took all of our combined efforts but we could only hold them off so long," apologised Jasper who also received a glare from Alice.
"Well then, you have my thanks, Jazz. We got so carried away that we did not notice the time," I tried to explain as I saw Bella's cousins turn to her while Emmett and Jasper both gave a look that told me I would be on the receiving end of many jokes until something else got their attention.
"Bella, why is your hair down? We are supposed to have the same hairstyle, it's our tradition."
"I'm sorry Alice but the pins were really hurting my head. You should take yours down as well; it feels so much more comfortable." As she said this, Rosalie began unpinning her hair with a look of relief. Alice, however, did not look impressed yet went along with it anyway.
While they took their hair down, we made easy, light hearted conversation and joked around with each other until a young girl approached us. She stopped just before she reached us. "Begging your pardon, my lords and ladies, but her ladyship sent me to request that you all return to the house to say farewell to the guests."
"Oh, of course. Can you tell my mother that we will be there momentarily, please Mary?" asked Alice jumping to her feet.
We all stood up, collected our things and the blanket and returned to the house. When we reached the ballroom, it was to find that it had emptied significantly since we had left, and there was a myriad of plates, bottles and glasses that the servants had begun to clear away. My cousins and I found my parents while the ladies went to assist Lord and Lady Hale in bidding their guests farewell. I was trying to make conversation with my family when my cousins noticed me trying to search the room for Newton.
"Cousin I think you would like to know what happened to a certain gentleman after you left, am I correct?" People sometimes thought that Emmett was the least intelligent of the three of us but he was very observant of those he cared about and he was not one to flaunt his mental abilities to others.
"When you and Isabella left the room earlier, his face turned a very deep shade of red. I did not think a man's face could go that colour. Alice told me that Bella had always refused his requests to walk in the gardens with him at any social function, and seeing her do so with you made him very angry."
"He did not say another polite word that evening. He left about an hour or so after you went outside in a very foul mood. His mother did not look impressed when her son stormed out of the house without even saying farewell to his hosts."
I did not let my mother see the smile on my face at my cousins words, she would no doubt have scolded me for my pleasure at another man's misfortune, and if it were any other man I would have felt pity and regret for him, but not Newton. He was by far the most unpleasant man of my acquaintance and I would do my utmost to make sure Bella would not have to suffer his company if it was in my power to prevent it.
My family and I were the last guests to leave but not before my mother and father had made plans to meet with Lord and Lady Hale in the next couple of days. I decided to use the time in which they were making these plans to talk to Bella. "Bella, I know that we have only known each other for one evening but I want to get to know you more. Would it be alright to call on you in the morning?"
"It would be more than alright. It would be a delight to see you again so soon, Edward."
But before anything more could be said, my father called to us telling us that they needed to be off. I glanced over and saw that both Emmett and Jasper were stood with Alice and Rosalie and they were all smiling. I bowed and kissed Bella's hand before taking my coat from the butler at the door and we left but not without one last look at Bella over my shoulder.
As we got in the carriage I noted that my cousins were both wearing smiles that would probably match my own. It was certainly true that Lord and Lady Hale's balls were not to be missed.