Complete Story Summary:
Edward's life was a non-stop party – the drinking, the drugs, the girls – he was completely out of control. The night he woke up in the hospital with a broken arm, two broken ribs, cuts, scrapes, bruises and charges of felony possession of a controlled substance his father gave up trying to save him. Determined to get back in his father's good graces, Edward befriends Isabella, the only daughter of Carlisle's close personal friend who has come to live with the Cullen's for the next year while she fulfills her scholarship to study contemporary ballet under the prestigious Victoria James at the Washington Academy of Performing Arts in Seattle. Edward's plan backfires when Carlisle forbids his son from being with Bella, but can Edward keep his distance now that he's found his new addiction?
Genre, Main Characters, & Pairing:
- AH/AU/Canon Couples
- Main Characters = Bella/Edward, Told from EPOV with some BPOV thrown in as needed.
: M for Language, Lemon, References to Drug Abuse
I use several lines directly from Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn and Midnight Sun. They are obvious quotes from the books, no plagiarism is intended. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
I am a Project Team Beta Author! Special thanks to my Beta's on this chapter: BelleDean and Aniseed. And my permanent Beta's Jennrosee and blahblahblah.
Damn it! What the hell?
I moan, roll over and peel open one eye to glare at the alarm clock on my nightstand.
Seven fucking thirty
Ugh, I can't believe I'm up. I should be asleep. Hell, I should be unconscious after last night. I'm surprised I'm not still drunk. Shit, if I really think about it, I probably am still drunk. I can't believe Jazz talked me into going out again. I was pretty hung over from the night before, but when Jazz called last night, having scored us two free tickets and backstage passes to the Godsmack concert, there was no way in hell I was going to stay home. We partied like rock stars - with actual rock stars. Now that I'm coming down from a two day drinking binge, I'm starting to think the rock-n-roll lifestyle isn't for me.
Slowly, I sit up, but the more vertical I get, the more my head pounds. Ugh, why am I awake?
As if someone is answering my internal dialog, an earsplitting SCREECH tears through the silence and rips into my pounding brain. The screeching stops with a deafening thud and piercing clang of off-tune notes, as if someone dropped a piano - my piano - out of a third-story window.
I think my head is going to explode.
I wait for more sounds to assault me but hear nothing. I groan, throw the covers back and drag my lifeless body from the bed. I stumble out of my room toward the noise and end up grasping the walls for support. Yup, I'm still drunk.
I begin to reassess what I remember from the night before. The concert. Yes, I remember going to the concert. And afterwards, I remember going backstage. I remember tequila – lots of tequila; my stomach flips at the thought. I have a fuzzy memory of some chick trying to stick her tongue down my throat, but I can't even remember what she looked like. Honestly, I don't care. Nothing is really clear after that. How did I get home? And when?
Carefully, I make my way down the hall toward the mumbling voices coming from the room next door. The door is only open a crack, but I still shield my eyes from the blaring sunlight streaming in. I push the door open the rest of the way, and I'm not surprised to find Emmett, my brother, attempting to shove my massive grand piano across the room. He's braced his back against the shiny black casing and is using all the strength of his legs to coerce the enormous instrument to slide across the wood floor. When the piano was first moved into this room, it took two burly guys and a specially designed furniture dolly. Now, Emmett is single handedly trying to use his pure brute force to accomplish the same task. And, damn, he's doing it.
Of course, the half-wit didn't think to close the case. As the piano collides with the far wall, the lid comes crashing down with another explosion of sound.
"What the fuck, Emmett?" I glare at him.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Did I wake Prince Charming?" he says, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Get your ass in here and help us." He looks up and glares at me. "Fuck, man, put some clothes on!"
I look down. My shirt is missing, and I'm only wearing tight gray boxer briefs. I must have stripped down to my underwear last night before I passed out.
I mumble an unintelligible "screw you" and shuffle back to my room. I pull a plain black t-shirt out of my dresser drawer and throw it over my head. I search around my bed, kicking a few books and dirty clothes out of the way as I attempt to locate the jeans I wore last night.
I run my hands through my hair and take a long, hard look at my room. It looks like a hurricane blew through it. Every flat surface is cluttered with a mix of items: CD cases, books, unmatched socks. Piles of dirty clothes scatter the floor, and my laptop is buried under a mountain of papers on the desk. A t-shirt hangs from the acoustic guitar leaning against the wall, and I haven't made my bed in months. I really need to clean this place up.
I find my pants, my favorite worn-out blue jeans, and pull them on. The back pockets are ripped and the fabric over the right knee is completely shredded, but I would never throw them away. I don't bother trying to find my shoes and shuffle with bare feet back down the hall toward the music room, ready to give Emmett hell for waking me up at this ungodly hour.
Emmett and I have never been really close. Although we are only six months apart in age, Emmett being the older, we are as different as they come. Emmett lives for sports - specifically football. He is the poster child for every dumb jock stereotype out there, right down to his mammoth size and prom-queen-head-cheerleader-preppy-blonde girlfriend, Rosalie Hale.
Emmett was adopted two months before I came to live with Dr. and Mrs. Cullen. We were both eight years old at the time. They thought we'd be instant friends, and Emmett was thrilled to have a brother.
I just wanted to go home.
A drunk driver killed my parents. I was in the car too. I survived, they didn't.
I lie when I say I don't remember them. In truth, I remember everything about them. I remember my mother's chestnut-colored hair and green eyes; I see them in my own reflection when I look in the mirror. I remember how she would always smell like vanilla and the songs she would play for me on her piano. I remember my father's booming voice and the way he would ruffle my hair when he was proud of me. I remember our house in the small town of Forks, Washington. I remember the way my father's shoes would tap against the kitchen floor every morning when he would leave for the office in his black suit and tie. I remember my swing set in the backyard and the surrounding forest I would play in for hours. I remember fishing trips and camping trips, birthday parties and neighborhood friends coming over to play. I remember being happy.
I never talk about the accident either, though I can recall that night with perfect clarity: the bright green of my mother's favorite dress, the way my father laughed at the DJ on the radio, the sound of the rain hitting the windshield - the smell of blood. The deep scar above my left eyebrow serves as a constant reminder of that night.
No, I never spoke about my parents or the accident. Ever. Not even when the Cullen's tried to put me through counseling when I was fifteen. The therapist assured them that sorting through the emotions of my "trauma" would quell some of my "teenage rebellion". Yeah right. I told the douchebag where he could stick my "rebellion" and never went back.
Around that age, Emmett and I began drifting apart. He seemed to take the proverbial "high-road" in life whereas I … did not. He concentrated on sports and becoming the biggest meat-heat jock at Seattle Prep High School. He was easily the most popular student at school - this year's senior class president, head of the student council, and, of course, quarterback of the football team. Emmett was well on his way to being our senior class's Most Likely to Succeed, Most Popular and Most School Spirit.
Most Annoying Motherfucker on the Planet.
What a load of bullshit. If my classmates would have a senior superlative for Most Likely to Get Drunk and Disorderly, there isno doubt my name would get the most votes.
I tend to keep to myself. Even when I was younger, I spent hours alone in my room. But, back then, I was never really alone - I had my music.
My mother began teaching me to play the piano when I was six. She always said I had a natural talent for music. At seven, I began taking formal lessons twice a week from the old lady down the street. When my parents were killed, the only thing I insisted on taking from our house was my mother's piano. After I was so adamant about keeping it, Carlisle and Esme didn't understand why I refused to touch it that first year after they adopted me.
It wasn't until I met Mrs. Cope, the music teacher at my new school in Seattle, that I began to play again. I was walking to my classroom when I heard the familiar melody of my mother's favorite song coming from the choir room. It had been so long since I had heard it, I was instantly drawn toward the sound. Mrs. Cope finished the song and turned around to find me standing in the doorway, tears streaming down my face. She held me while I cried and when I told her I knew how to play, she offered to continue giving me lessons.
Mrs. Cope taught me how to play by ear, how to listen to a piece and recreate the notes without reading from sheet music. She told me if didn't remember the names of the songs my mother used to play, I could try to recreate the tune myself. I became obsessed with the task. There was so much music. I would reconstruct song after song on my piano. Melodies would flow out of me without restraint. I would write and rewrite entire symphonies, obsessed with getting every note perfect. Maybe, in some sick, twisted way, I thought that if I could bring her songs back, somehow my mother would return to me, too.
I would spend weeks, sometimes months, devoted to a single song. Before school, after school, during weekends and holidays, I would sit at the piano and work diligently at my project. Esme would set food on the piano bench, hoping I would at least remember to eat. She never complained about my missing family dinner, and she never interrupted me.
When the last song was finished and I had written every tune I could remember, every note recreated to perfection, there was nothing left. It felt like my mother had died all over again. It made me angry and resentful. I started lashing out at home and at school. I would talk back to my teachers and blatantly disrespect my adopted parents. I spent many afternoons in detention and many weekends confined to my room. I quit going to see Mrs. Cope. I quit playing the piano entirely.
Right around the same time, I met Jasper. I was skipping English class and hiding in my usual spot, behind the bleachers of the football stadium, listening to my iPod when Jazz stumbled around the corner. He was tall and thin, his blonde wavy hair hung down past his ears; a clear violation of the school's dress code. His shirt was untucked and the red and black plaid uniform tie hung loosely around his neck. I could make out a faint purple bruise above his right cheek, likely the remains of a black eye. I removed the headphones from my ears as he approached me.
"Hey, man, you got a light?" he muttered around the cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
He removed the cigarette from his lips and tucked it behind his ear before extending his hand toward me. "I'm Jasper."
"Edward," I replied, shaking his hand.
Jasper appraised me from a moment. "Whatcha listening to?" he nodded towards the iPod in my hand.
"Um, it's just shuffling through everything." I shrug. "Right now it's Breaking Benjamin."
"You know there's a concert next month. Me and Eric are gonna get tickets. You should come."
Jazz and I were inseparable after that day. His dad was in the military and was stationed overseas, Iraq or Afghanistan, one of those hellholes. Jazz wanted to enlist as soon as he turned eighteen. His mom worked two jobs and was never home. Without parents breathing down his neck, Jazz did what he wanted and no one stood in his way.
Back then, I wanted to be just like him.
Jazz and I did loads of crazy shit. At first, it was mild: cliff-jumping, shoplifting, cutting school, and sneaking out. Later on we got into the heavier stuff: partying, drinking and the occasional recreational drug use. The more furious my adopted parents were over my actions, the more I wanted to misbehave. It was if seeing them suffer would make me smile. I didn't give a shit about anything or anyone.
Eventually, I started getting into fights… getting suspended… getting arrested. Of course, Carlisle and Esme blamed Jasper for the change in my behavior, but it wasn't entirely his fault. Beating the shit out of Mike Newton after he mouthed off to Jazz was my idea, after all. And it sounded like a good one – until Mike's parents pressed charges. One would think getting arrested for physical assault would be a wakeup call. Not for me. I didn't give a shit what they kept threatening to put in my "permanent record."
My life was a non-stop party – the drinking, the drugs, the girls – I was completely out of control. It wasn't until I wrapped my car around the guardrail on Interstate 5 after a two day bender that things started to change. I woke up in the hospital with a broken arm, two broken ribs, cuts, scrapes and bruises all over my body and charges of felony possession of a controlled substance.
Carlisle and his team of highly-paid lawyers managed to keep me out of jail, but I was sentenced to two years' probation and monthly drug screenings. If I screwed up again, I was royally fucked. So since that night, I had been keeping my nose clean – literally and figuratively.
The wreck, the drug charges and the fact I practically killed myself that night wasn't the worst of it. No, what got to me was the look on Carlisle's face as he stood over my hospital bed. He wasn't angry or upset. He looked absolutely defeated. That night - the look in his eyes - he just gave up. That was worse than any punishment.
I spent a week in that hospital bed with nothing to do but think. It began to gnaw at me; the guilt over the things I had done to my adopted family. They didn't deserve any of it. It wasn't their fault my parents had been killed, yet I continued to punish them as if it was. All they had ever done was welcome me into their lives and treat me as if I was their own flesh and blood. I started to regret the damage I had done to them and myself, but I couldn't go back and change those things. For a time, I wished I would have killed myself that night on Interstate 5, or died with my mom and dad when I was eight, and saved my new parents the regret of bringing me into their once happy family.
Esme could see my struggle and reached out to me. She had tried a thousand times before, but this time I actually listened. She saw right past my "don't mess with me" persona to my core that was covered in the calluses of grief and pain over my parents' death. She didn't want me to hurt; she didn't want me to go through the things I was going through. She personified the unconditional love of a mother unlike anyone I had ever met.
Carlisle is another story entirely. He stopped talking to me after the accident, only speaking to me when absolutely necessary. He would probably still be giving me the silent treatment if Esme hadn't put a stop to it. But even now he addresses me coldly. I can sense he wants nothing more to do with me, biding his time until I graduate, turn eighteen and can move out so he won't have to deal with me anymore.
So, I have been staying out of trouble. I want Carlisle to regain some of his faith in me just as Esme has done. I have adopted the philosophy that my actions speak louder than my words, assuming when he sees I am making an effort to be good, my spoken apology would carry more weight. I started going to class every day, finishing my junior year with straight A's. I never miss a meeting with my probation officer and my drug tests are always clean. I even try spending less time with Jazz, all in an effort to appease Carlisle.
A few months have gone by and my good behavior continues to go unnoticed. It's irritating to work so hard and have him completely ignore my progress. It's so easy to fall back in to my old habits when I get aggravated by Carlisle. Like last night, hanging with Jazz and getting drunk at a rock concert. Of course, I regret it now and not because of my splitting headache, but because I feel like I'm always taking two steps forward and one step back. What the hell do I have to do to get back in his good graces?
I shake my head and try to clear my thoughts as I make my way back to the music room and lean against the doorway. I watch Emmett as he effortlessly lifts the glossy black piano bench over his head and carries it across the room. As he walks, he lifts and lowers the bench over his head in a series of reps. Emmett can turn any task into a workout and he's always dressed for the occasion. His standard uniform – Nike basketball shorts that hang down past his knees and a Property of Seattle Prep Football t-shirt.
I wait until Emmett slides the bench under the piano where it now rests against the far wall.
"What are you doing with my piano?" I ask.
"Oh please, you haven't touched this thing in years." Emmett tosses a white sheet over the top and spends several minutes gingerly arranging it. I just shake my head. Why he didn't think to take this much care when moving the damn thing... moron.
"Edward, we talked about this." Carlisle's serene voice comes from the opposite wall. I didn't even realize he was even in the room. Damn it, I need to watch my mouth. "Isabella will be here next Saturday, and we need to get this room ready. Esme is having the mirrors installed tomorrow and floors refinished this week."
Fuck. I completely forgot. That chick from Phoenix; Carlisle's little pet project. She's coming to live with us for the next year. She's some kind of ballet genius and the only daughter of Carlisle's college roommate. I don't know how it entirely slipped my mind since Esme has been practically giddy with her project of turning the old music room - my old music room - into a private dance studio for our guest. It didn't even register with me when the state-of-the-art surround sound system and new recessed lighting were installed two weeks ago. Why a ballet dancer needs recessed lighting than can be dimmed by remote control, I'll never understand. This prima ballerina is already starting to be a prima-pain-in-my-ass.
I growl and pull my hands over my face and into my hair, attempting to wipe away the frustration I'm feeling. It doesn't work. Even though I haven't set foot in the music room in over a year, losing it to some spoiled princess isn't sitting too well with me at the moment.
"Why is she coming to Seattle anyway? Aren't all the prestigious dance schools in New York?" I realize I'm almost whining.
"Yes, most of the ballet schools are in New York City, but Isabella's concentration is in a style of contemporary ballet. She was offered a scholarship to study under Victoria James at the Washington Academy of Performing Arts. Apparently, this Victoria is the leading instructor in contemporary dance in the United States. From what I read, Isabella is poised to become the greatest contemporary dancer in the country."
"Don't they have dorms or some shit at this fancy dance school? Why does she have to stay here with us?" Emmett gripes. I swear he practically read my mind.
"Emmett," Carlisle's tone is scolding, "Isabella is going to be part of this family now. I expect you, both of you, to treat her with respect and kindness."
He glances at me then back to Emmett. We both nod in silent agreement.
"Charlie is a close personal friend and very protective of his daughter. As Chief of the Phoenix Police Department, you can imagine he's seen some pretty horrific things in his line of work. He tends to err on the side of caution when it comes to his only child. When he thought of her moving to a big city alone, he almost kept her from accepting the scholarship. It's a huge opportunity for her: a chance for her to completely change her life, so I offered to let her stay with us."
Although Carlisle would never say it out loud, I can tell by his tone that he thinks Charlie's a bit overprotective.
"Fine, whatever," Emmett groans. "But she's not gonna sleep here in the music room, is she?"
"No, Emmett. Isabella will use this space to rehearse. Since you're practically living in the basement anyway, I was going to suggest we just move your bed downstairs, if that's alright with you."
"Hell yeah, that's alright with me!"
Of course it is. Emmett has practically converted the basement into his private gym with every model of workout equipment ever invented. Every meathead's dream man cave. I swear he would already be sleeping on his weight bench if he wasn't so big.
"Great. Thank you, Emmett. When we're done in here, we'll move your bed downstairs, and I'll have a new bed brought in this week."
The house is plenty big to accommodate all of us. There are two stories - three if you count the basement – now Emmett's room. The third floor consisted of three bedrooms and a bathroom down a long narrow hallway. My room was on the far end, the music room in the center, and now her majesty would be taking up residence in the first room at the top of the stairs. Outside, the three rooms of the third floor are joined by a balcony, which overlooks the back of the property. The far wall of each of the rooms is made up entirely of glass French doors, that provide access to the terrace. You could effectively walk from one bedroom to the next without setting foot inside. It was great for sneaking out.
"Edward." Carlisle turns to me. "This means you and Isabella will have to share a bathroom. Is that alright with you?"
"Fine," I reply curtly. Like I really have a choice at this point.
Emmett glowers at me. "Speaking of bathrooms, go take a shower. You smell like ass."
That's all the invitation I need. I turn and trudge back to my room.
I don't make it to the shower. I collapse face first onto my bed.
I nurse my hangover for the rest of the day on Sunday and into Monday. I'm never drinking again.
As scheduled, construction crews descend on the room next to mine and install floor to ceiling mirrors along the adjacent wall of my room. Each strike of the hammer pounds into my still aching head. I haven't even met the girl yet and already I'm cursing her existence.
On Tuesday, the wood floors are stripped and sanded and a new bed is delivered for Isabella's room. By Wednesday, the floors are shiny and new. Much to Esme's dismay, we are instructed not to walk on them for twenty-four hours. She is almost in a panic about not being able to hang the curtains and immediately begins making frantic calls to reschedule the delivery of some kind of "bar" for Friday.
Esme is fully engrossed in her redecorating project. Secretly, I think she's excited to have another female in the house. The daughter she always wanted. Isabella's bedroom is outfitted with new bedding, matching curtains and rugs, and an antique dresser. My bathroom – our bathroom now – isn't forgotten either. The old shower curtain, rugs and towels are all thrown out and new ones brought in. Everything is now in a gender-neutral shade of green. I would have happily just ignored all of this commotion if it weren't happening right outside my door, literally.
Friday arrives and Esme somehow talks me into hanging soft, gauzy, fucking girly, pink curtains from the French doors of the music – er – dance studio. I don't see the point of these thin curtains; they won't block out any sunlight like the heavy black ones in my bedroom.
I'm hanging the last curtain when Emmett trudges in, carrying what appears to be a piece of construction scaffolding over one shoulder - two thick gray iron poles welded perpendicular to a stand on either end.
"Where do I put this?" he grunts under the weight of the steel. "Christ, it's heavy!"
"Emmett! Watch your mouth!" Esme scolds. "Set it down right here and don't scratch the floors!"
"OK, OK. What is this thing anyway?" He drops the structure where instructed and Esme walks over to inspect the item.
"It's a ballet barre." Esme places one hand gingerly on the top rung and begins moving her opposite arm in typical ballet movements. "Dancers use it for balance or stretching or warm-up exercises."
"Huh, well, it's heavy." Emmett is clearly unimpressed. "So, what time is twinkle-toes gonna get here tomorrow?"
"Carlisle and I are picking her up from the airport at one."
The flight is uneventful, thank God. I hate flying. I usually try to sleep on the plane, but I am so keyed up about what is awaiting me when I land, there is really no point.
I trudge along the crowded terminal toward baggage claim, glancing around nervously, looking for any sign that someone is waiting for me. I'm not entirely sure who is picking me up.
Would Dr. or Mrs. Cullen come themselves? Or maybe send one of their sons? Or do rich people just send their chauffer for these trivial tasks?
Charlie, my dad, filled me in on the Cullen clan before I left. I met Dr. Cullen only once before, but I was really too young to remember him. He stayed with us for one night in Phoenix when he was speaking at some big medical conference. Mrs. Cullen was an accomplished author, about to publish her third novel, likely another New York Times Bestseller. Between their two highly successful careers, they had more money than any family could spend in a lifetime. Something I couldn't relate to.
Dr. and Mrs. Cullen had adopted their two sons, Emmett and Edward, when the boys were young. Charlie seemed quite taken with Emmett, a rising football star, quoting various sports stats and figures that made no sense to me. He didn't say much about the other one, Edward. Only that he was a "troublemaker" and I should just avoid him.
Nice, thanks, Dad.
I arrive in baggage claim and find my bags easily enough. Renee, my mom, insisted on loaning me two enormous hot pink suitcases. They are both the size of washing machines and easily hold everything I own. I'm glad I refused the third one. At first, I figured the obnoxious color was just Mom being – well - Mom. It fit her larger-than-life personality. Now I understood, it served a greater purpose. The fuchsia stood out like a flame among a sea of black rolling bags. As the first bag reaches me, I bend forward to lift if off the conveyor belt, only to have it snatched from my hand.
"Please, allow me, Isabella."
I straighten up and turn toward the tall man standing beside me. Dr. Cullen was more familiar than I thought he would be. I instantly remember those kind eyes and stark blonde hair. Obviously, I was too young when I first met him to truly appreciate how handsome he is. I appraise him from head to toe, taking in his dark gray slacks and blue button-down dress shirt, likely all designer labels and professionally tailored to fit. When my eyes finally meet his again, his smile fades and his face turns to an expression of concern.
"You are Isabella Swan, aren't you?"
I realize I've been staring, likely with my mouth hanging open, and haven't spoken a word since he addressed me.
"Er... ah... yeah, yes! Of course… Dr. Cullen… thank you." Good job, idiot. Awesome first impression.
"Please, call me Carlisle. Is this your suitcase as well?" He gestures to the second vivid pink bag barreling towards us on the rotating belt.
"Yes, that's the last one."
He effortlessly plucks the second bag from the conveyor, raises the handles and begins rolling both monsters toward the exit. "Right this way. Esme is waiting right outside with the car. I parked illegally." He twists his face in an expression of mock concern, and I can tell he's teasing.
I have to walk quickly to catch up with his fast pace. The doors automatically slide open, and the cool Washington air assaults me. It whips through my long hair, and I'm instantly trying to tame it back away from my face. The air feels heavy and wet, like I'm drinking it in instead of breathing. The sky is gray and gloomy as if a rainstorm had just passed. The wet concrete and puddles along the curb confirm my theory. Guess I'd better get used to it.
Carlisle makes his way towards a shiny black car parked at the curb. I'm not a car enthusiast – by any stretch of the imagination – but even without the noticeable Mercedes logo on the hood, I know a car like that likely cost more than Charlie makes in an entire year. As we approach, the trunk pops up at the same moment the passenger side door opens. A small woman exits the car, also immaculately dressed from head to toe. Her smile is contagious as she approaches me with arms open wide and pulls me into a gentle hug.
"Isabella, I'm so glad you're finally here." She pulls away slightly, but keeps both hands firmly on my shoulders, staring intensely into my eyes. "I'm Esme. Anything you need, dear, you just let me know, OK?"
"OK, sure," I feel my face flush under her close gaze. I'm not used to all this attention.
Carlisle loads my bags into the trunk, we slip inside the car, and within minutes the airport is behind us. We maneuver around the city, making small talk about my flight, the weather, and whether or not I've eaten lunch. My growling stomach answers that question for me.
Carlisle asks about Charlie, and I briefly update him about his work, his latest big case, and his love of all things fishing. There really isn't much else to say about Charlie.
"Your father has made arrangements for you to have a car while you are here," Carlisle informs me. "We can pick it up Monday after your orientation."
"Um, orientation?" I don't remember anything about an orientation. Maybe it was in the packet they sent. I need to pay more attention...
"Yes, dear," Esme turns around in her seat to face me. "Your advisor wants to meet with you Monday morning to discuss expectations for the next year and outline the provisions of your scholarship. Carlisle and I will have to accompany you as they need us to sign some medical releases and such, since we will be your legal guardians for the next year."
"Oh, right, of course." My scholarship.
I started dancing when I was six years old. I was such a clumsy child, always tripping over my own feet, so my mother signed me up for classes in hopes it would improve my coordination. One class a week turned into two, two turned into four, and by the age of twelve I was dancing four hours a day, five days a week. I couldn't get enough. To this day, I still feel more at home in a cold, hardwood studio than my own bedroom. Dancing became my first and so far only love. It is my life now.
At fourteen, I landed my first professional role - Clara in the Phoenix Ballet Company's production of The Nutcracker. It became a recurring role for me every Christmas for the next three years. At sixteen, while other kids my age were getting summer jobs working part-time at The Gap, I was hired as a backup dancer for the MTV video music awards. Then, last spring, I was the youngest featured dancer in the March issue of American Dance Magazine. Sure, I've had a few reviews written up about my performances in the local paper, but that one article changed my life. One week after the issue came out, the head of the Washington Academy of Performing Arts flew to Phoenix to meet me.
Victoria James - the Victoria James - was in MY studio watching ME dance! I was so star-struck, I have no idea how I didn't fall flat on my face.
Victoria offered me a full paid scholarship to attend the Washington Academy of Performing Arts in the fall. I am to study under her exclusively and, if all goes to plan, graduate with a high school education and promising dance career ahead of me. So now, here I am; moving to Seattle, living with the Cullens, and starting my senior year at a new school. It's all a bit overwhelming.
I'm about to work myself into a full panic attack when Carlisle slows the car and turns down a gravel driveway. The house at the end is magnificent, two stories, but not intimidating. It looks like it was plucked from the New Orleans French Quarter, complete with cream colored exterior walls and thick black wrought iron railings surrounding the balcony. From the outside, it feels warm and very inviting. Carlisle brings the car to a stop right before the front door.
"This is beautiful," I sigh, my eyes wide with amazement.
"Thank you, dear," Esme said graciously. "Come, let's show you to your room and get us all something for lunch. I'm famished."
I follow Esme up the front steps, through the front door and into a wide, open living room. It's a vast room but quite adequately lit; the afternoon sun streaming in from the floor-to-ceiling windows across the far wall. The room is painted in a creamy off-white, broken up by silky, deep purple curtains on the windows. The floor is wood, stained a dark russet color and accented with a deep amethyst rug that fits the expansive room nicely. In the center of the room a large, white sectional sofa takes up most of the floor. It's positioned perfectly for watching the flat screen mounted on the wall directly in front of it.
Esme points out the kitchen, on my right, which bleeds into the living room, only the countertop separating the two rooms. The counter is likely used as a bar for casual eating; three barstools are carefully tucked underneath, although there is a large dining room table sitting perpendicular to the kitchen in front of the massive bay of windows.
Directly opposite from the kitchen is a white, marble staircase which leads up to the second story. The steps are narrower at the top, growing wider as they cascade down to the ground floor and spill into the living room like the train of a wedding dress.
I try my hardest not to gawk at my new surroundings as I follow Esme up the stairs. She continues to point out the master suite and Carlisle's office; tucked away down the hall on the left, Emmett's room; in the basement, and Edward's room at the far end of the long hallway on the second floor.
"This way, sweetheart, your room is the first door on the right." We reach the top of the stairs and she gestures toward the door across the hall. "The bathroom is there, on the left. I'm afraid you and Edward will have to share. I hope you don't mind."
"No, no, I don't mind at all. I can't tell you how grateful I am that you'll let me stay with you. I…..I…" I can't seem to find adequate words to express my gratitude. I can feel my face blush and instead I look down to my feet.
"Isabella, sweetheart, we are overjoyed to have you with us. Believe me," Esme reaches out to gently touch my arm, "I have been outnumbered by all these men far too long. Thank you."
I can't help but giggle and relax at her words. I can relate, having lived with Charlie for the past three years. I can only imagine what it must be like with three men at home. I guess I'm about to find out.
I moved in with Charlie shortly after my mother remarried. Before then, I shuffled back and forth between Charlie's house in Phoenix and wherever Renee was living at the time. It was hard, of course, uprooting my life every few years, but I didn't mind. It made my parents happy. When Renee married Phil, a minor league baseball player, she sold her house and bought an RV, traveling around the country with him as he played. Obviously a life on the road wasn't feasible for a teenager who was starting high school, so I went to live with Charlie.
The three years I spent in Phoenix were the longest I had ever stayed in one place. I actually made friends and had a social life, it wasn't a glamorous social life, but it was enough to make Charlie nervous. I thought he was going to have an aneurism the first time I missed my curfew. I was only fifteen minutes late but he had already called every hospital in town looking for me or reports of a Jane Doe fitting my description. I was grounded for three months when I came home a little tipsy after the homecoming dance. When he caught me kissing Ben Chaney on the front porch after our first date, he made an appointment for me to visit the gyno so I could get on the pill that week. I don't even want to think about what would happen if he knew I wasn't a virgin anymore.
Needless to say, I am glad to be around another female figure and she seems genuinely happy I am here as well.
"My friends call me Bella," I offer shyly.
"Bella," she repeats with a smile. "This is your room here."
Esme opens the first door at the top of the stairs and ushers me in past her. The room – my room - is large and inviting. My entire bedroom back home could probably fit inside this room twice. An antique four-poster bed takes up most of the floor space. I walk around it, dragging my fingers over the soft fabric of the sheets. Just like downstairs, the far wall is nothing but glass. As I walk closer, I notice they aren't windows, like on the first floor, but doors leading out to a wide balcony.
I turn and realize Esme has been watching me this whole time; she hasn't moved from the doorway. "On a clear night, you can see the lights of the city from here," she says.
"This is amazing. You have such a beautiful home. Thank you." I can feel myself getting choked up thinking about her overwhelming generosity to open her home to a complete stranger.
"Bella, this is your home now too. I'm serious; anything you need, don't hesitate to ask, OK?"
I just nod and stare at the floor, afraid my voice will betray me.
"Here we are!" Carlisle's voice breaks the tension of the moment, and he enters the room, hauling both of my suitcases, one under each arm.
"Oh, gosh, let me help you!" I rush forward and grab one of the enormous bags from him. He's breathing heavy from having to drag my luggage up the flight of stairs.
"Thank you, Isabella. Now, what was that about some lunch? All this heavy lifting has made me hungry."
"She prefers Bella, dear," Esme corrects him. "Now, come on, you two, I'll have some sandwiches whipped up in no time."