I stood in the doorway and watched the sunlight add a halo effect to my chestnut haired beauty. She was diminutive in stature but massive in persona, and she was the only reason I continued to take breaths and live. Suddenly she lifted her petite hand and placed it over middle C on the piano. Then she extended her index finger, pressed it harshly onto the ivory note and the room exploded into a cornucopia of sound. Just as quickly, the noise subsided. There was saddened silence.
I wondered if she knew I was watching because it almost appeared as though she was performing, but she never looked up.
I continued my veiled observation as my lips began to curl into a warm smile. She was made for that piano; she dominated its presence. I noticed her deft hands lift and begin the piece; Debussy's Claire de Lune. She was brilliant, succinct, poised, and she was the love of my life.
As the music drifted through my ears, I realized tears had sprung to my eyes. It was then I found myself drifting off to another time, another place, and what seemed like another man's life.
"Edward… Edward Anthony Cullen, get yourself down here now. It is time for your piano lesson. I do not like you keeping your grandmother waiting. Edward, do you hear me?"
I smiled to myself as I listened to my mother become winded with worry. It was a game I played with her. You would think after a dozen years at it she would understand the rules, but apparently she didn't. I would never think of keeping my adorable, very French, very special, grandmother waiting.
"Mom, I'm coming. Take a chill pill I have plenty of time."
I had taken piano lessons from Grandmother Mera for the last twelve years like clockwork on Saturday mornings at nine AM This morning to me held no difference, but I noticed Mom had an edge to her demeanor, and I was not sure why.
"What's up, Mom? You sound uptight. What's your hurry? You know I never keep anyone waiting and most of all, I would never keep Grandmother waiting."
"Oh I know Dear, but today is very special, or have you forgotten? You meet your companion for the duet today. You know Mera has gone to great lengths for you to play duet with this girl. She is very talented, and she is French like your Grandmother Mera."
I rolled my eyes. I did not want to play a duet at the charity concert my parents were hosting in eight weeks. I especially did not want some snotty socialite's daughter to play side by side with me for said event. I worked alone. I did my best work alone, and I always would.
"Oh great Mom, now that gives me incentive to be on time. Jesus, why does Mera think I need a companion on this piece? I have played it dozens of times by myself. What is up with that?"
"Edward, don't say Jesus it's disrespectful. It is Grandmother to you not Mera, and you are to listen and obey. Mera knows what she is doing. Now straighten up, or I will call your Dad and let him deal with your insolence. Do you understand?"
Christ, one more year of this bullshit and then I would be heading to college and out of this freakin' house. I loved music and felt lucky that I was born with the talent I have, but I wanted to be a doctor like my dad more than anything, not a concert pianist like my Grandfather and Grandmother had both been.
"Yeah, I got it Mom. Sorry."
We made our way across town, and I arrived at my grandmother's door at exactly 8:58 A.M. on that warm, sunny day in June of 1990. I was seventeen years old, about to start my senior year of high school, so full of myself, and completely unaware my life was about to change forever in that very moment in time.
My grandmother opened the door and as always she had the most beautiful smile on her face and both of her eyes lit up the moment she saw me. I loved this old woman with all my heart and as selfish and self-centered as I was at seventeen, I could never hurt her.
"Mon Cheri, Edward. Come in, and give your old grandmother a big hug."
She was small, five three to my six three frame, but she always found a way to tousle my bronze colored hair and make me feel smaller than she was. I would forever be nine or ten to her, and for some reason, it didn't bother me coming from her.
I hugged the dear old woman and spoke, "Hey Mera, I love you."
For some reason it didn't bother Mera that I called her by name, but it bothered the crap out of my parents. Might be why I kept it up all these years.
Mera and my mom dispensed with their usual greetings, and Mom left us to continue with my lessons.
"Edward, I am so excited for you to meet my best friend's granddaughter. She has been taking piano lessons as long as you, and she and her family have just relocated from Paris. She grew up in Paris, and I have known her family for eons. I just know you will love her. By the way, she is fantastic on the piano."
"Oh Mera, you know I don't like playing duets. I am a loner; remember, just like my dad."
Carlisle was my father; Mera's only son. From what I understand, I was very much like him in personality but not in looks. He was tall and so was I, but that is where the similarities ended. I looked like my mother, Esme. I had her bronze colored hair that was never able to be tamed and vibrant green eyes while Dad was blond haired and blue eyed, like his father. I never had the chance to meet him. Mera spoke of him fondly and has pictures, but he passed before I was born.
"Shh now, I know who you are and what you like, but I also know what you need and what is best for you. I should have interfered with your father when he was younger; until he met Esme, I thought there was something wrong with that boy. Women fell all over him, and he just kept his nose buried in his books all day and all night. Edward there is a big, glorious world out there. It is just waiting for you to pluck from it and spread your dazzling self from one end of the earth to the other. Embrace it, Mon Petit. Now enough, let us get ready for her arrival. Go warm up while I make tea."
Christ, this was going to be an all-day event. What the fuck? TEA? I did as I was told though and began warming up for the practice. After a few minutes, I heard the doorbell ring. Mera went to open it, and I could hear several voices; it sounded as though they were exchanging hugs and hellos when all at once it became quiet.
I looked up from the keys, and standing in the doorway with my very tiny grandmother was an equally small, raven haired girl. She appeared to be about my age, and as she looked up, she had the biggest chocolate colored eyes I had ever seen. Her skin a creamy pale in stark contrast to those rich brown eyes... She smiled, and I swear the sun filtered into the room at that exact moment, and I know I remember hearing angels sing. Everything is dramatic when you're seventeen. God she was exquisite. Fuck, I was gone.
I was brought out of my state of lunacy once I heard my grandmother speaking.
"Edward, come. I would like to introduce you to Isabella. Isabella Swan, this is my adorable grandson, Edward Cullen."
I was speechless, and my heart would not stop pounding. I couldn't decipher her words because all I heard was the pulsing blood in my ears like I was about to keel over and have a heart attack or something. Fuck, what was my problem?
"Edward, where are your manners? Say hello to Isabella."
She extended her hand to me and spoke before I could get a chance to open my mouth and employ my vocal chords.
"Bonjour, it is Bella. Nice to meet you umm…Edward."
I found my voice, extended my hand to hers, and then we both drew back quickly; as if a bolt of electricity rushed through our bodies.
My green eyes bore into her brown eyes, and we both giggled like children. What the hell was going on here? Did Mera notice, or was I just becoming paranoid?
I came back to the present for a moment as the beauty at the piano began another piece; this time Minuet in G. She was magnificent as she played, and I found myself wandering back once again to the 1990's.
Bella and I became inseparable from that day on. As luck would have it, her family settled nearby. We attended the same high school, shared most of our classes, and of course, continued our piano lessons with Mera every Saturday morning.
As small as she was, she was deceptively large in her personality and compassion for the world. She loved books and writing and even though she was devoted to the piano, it was not her first love; just another "item" we both seemed to share.
We played the duet together for the charity event, and over the course of our senior year, we played many more times together; to the delight of my grandmother and both sets of our parents. We did it for them. Well Bella did it for them, and I did it for Bella.
"Edward, when are you going to tell your parents you intend on going to medical school?" she questioned, her soft breath heavy on my neck.
We were lounging around after school one day. It was April, and we were trying to study for our final exams. Damn, it was hard to study with her lying beside me pulling her fingers through my hair. My dick got so hard sometimes I didn't know what to do with it. I knew what I wanted to do with it—with her. We had played the dance of extreme foreplay but had never gone "all the way". As much as I wanted to and I think she did too, we both found the courage to quit just at the right moment. At least I told myself it was courage. Christ, I was a seventeen year old boy, not quit eighteen, and my hormones were running rampant within my system.
"Jesus I don't know, Bella. I think my dad knows. To be honest, I think he is happy I want to follow in his footsteps; my mom, she is another story. How about you? Do you think your folks will be disappointed you want to study English Lit and not music?"
Our teenage angst continued for weeks, but as luck would have it, neither set of parents were upset with our decisions concerning our college studies. They told us whatever made us happy would make them happy. They only wanted us to succeed at whatever we chose. With this knowledge, we both excitedly applied to NYU without further ado.
Prom was coming up, and as into each other as we were, we had actually formed some very good friendships that year with other couples. Emmett and Rosalie, and Jazz and Alice were as inseparable as Bella and me. We were known in our high school as "The Gang". We thought we were quite suave and worldly. As the dance approached, we, the guys, planned the entire evening out. We ordered a white limo, Navy Blue Armani Tuxes opting for a straight tie, and flowers for the girls. We made dinner reservations at Barbetta's and even booked a suite at the Waldorf for the evening; throwing our parents off our trail with all of the "after parties" that typically took place.
"Hey, Bro! What up, Dude? You look troubled. Talk to old Emmett my man. What be on your mind?"
God, he annoyed me at times, but Emmett and I had known each other since elementary school. He was my best friend. I just shook my head and laughed at his bullshit talk.
"Em, you know how much I love Bella, right? I mean I would do anything for her, and I would never want to treat her well, you know… treat her like…."
"Oh for fucks sake Bro, spit it out! You want her bad. You want to pop her cherry, right?"
"Damn Emmett, you make it sound like she's a conquest or something, you bastard... Fuck you."
Even through my embarrassment that day, I was still glad I had him to bounce off my plans. I indeed wanted Prom night to be the night Bella and I made love for the first time. For Christ sake, we had been dating for almost an entire year, and not many of those days had gone by that we were not with one another. I was so fucking in love with that beautiful woman, and make no mistake, in my eyes she was all woman, and I desperately wanted to be inside of her.
I was brought back to the present when once again, I heard the music had stopped. I looked up, noticed my eyes were blurry from tears, and saw her dark chocolate eyes staring back at me with an odd look about them.
She spoke quietly.
"Are you crying?"
I wiped my eyes, broke a smile, and lied.
"No, I think I just have an allergy to something blooming in the garden. That was beautiful; what you just played. What are you doing in here this morning? This is your day. Shouldn't you be primping or something?"
She chuckled to herself, and I chimed in. She needed no primping. She was exquisite just the way she was; sheer perfection.
She motioned for me to come and sit beside her on the piano bench. I did, and then she asked if I wanted to play chopsticks with her. We both chuckled to ourselves, and I loved that she always had a way of lightening the mood when things got too tense.
We began the duet. It suddenly overwhelmed me and brought back the familiar feelings of long ago when I played duets in those days. I held my emotions in check and kept up the charade of the moment, allowing my mind to drift again to that time long ago.
"Jesus Bella, are you sure? I mean Christ, we used a condom. Isn't that what the damn things are for? Fuck. Fuck. Fuckity….. Fuck"
I was such a bonehead. I didn't even realize how Bella must have been feeling. She was shaking, and the tears were streaming down her face, and her sobs, oh God, each of them was like a mini earthquake. She shook my bed so hard I thought it was going to crash to the floor.
"Edw, Edwa…" her sobs were uncontrollable, and seeing her like this was killing me. "Edward, are you…blaming me…for—being pregnant?" She was shaking and gasping for breath, and the look of shock and pain in her eyes was all that was needed. I was scared shitless, but I knew, however I must be feeling in that moment didn't really matter. I was disgusted with my pity party and realized how much this girl I had fallen in love with so deeply was depending on me. "I can't believe…" she chokes on her own words, and I stop her.
"Bella, I'm so sorry. That's not what I meant. God Baby, it's okay we'll figure this out. Shhhh…" I took her into my arms gently, and then hugged her to me as I whispered sweet love words to her while I stroked her gorgeous brown hair; her hair smelled like a field of strawberries. What was I thinking? No matter what, I loved this girl, and we were going to figure this out because she was—my everything; she was my life.
Thank God we had Mera. Bella and I chose to tell her first because she always knew how to tell my parents things that might be a bit delicate to understand. She advised us to bring both sets of parents to her house and drop the pregnancy bomb on all of them at once.
She laughed a bit and said, "We will just consider my home Switzerland for the day. Hopefully that will help dissipate the sharp emotions that will be laid out on the table."
She hugged us both and assured us that all would be fine. Something in Mera's hug held healing properties and knowingness.
Truth be told, everything was fine. I mean our parents weren't elated I had knocked her up, especially Charlie, Bella's Dad. But all in all, it brought the two small families together, and a bond was formed from that day forward; one that still exists today.
Once again, I was nudged out of my trance by the beauty sitting next to me.
"Hey, why don't you tell me what is going on. You have been pensive all morning. What is up with you? Are you thinking of that day again?"
She knew me so well. We had endured so much together. I guess I owed it to her to try and purge these emotions as best I could so we would be able to enjoy the festivities we soon would be partaking of.
"Yes Love, I was. I am so sorry, but I was."
She urged me to expunge my memories, and I acquiesced to her as I always had and always would. Then I finished telling her our story.
We both were accepted into NYU. We loved the city; even Bella fell in love with New York, although her home had been Paris for so many years.
Somehow with the help of our families and by the grace of God, we finished our schooling and moved into the brownstone next to Mera. She and Grandfather had bought it along with their townhome back in the sixties. It was perfect for us.
The small brownstone was close to Bella's publishing job, which she had been at for almost five years now. She was damn good at what she did. Even with her job and taking care of our sweet child, she still found time to write her own novel, and her company had agreed to publish it. She was amazing.
I, on the other hand, had finally started my residency at Presbyterian Memorial Hospital alongside Carlisle. He was so proud of us, and he was like a peacock when he introduced me to the staff at the hospital.
At that moment, Mera chose to peek around the corner at us. We exchanged knowing looks. My dark haired beauty sitting next to me rose offering her seat; Mera came and sat next to me on the bench. And my beauty took a seat in my lap.
"Edward, this is her wedding day. Are you trying to ruin it for her?"
"No Mera, just trying to tell her, the ending to my story. Did you want to stay and listen?" She simply smiled; the knowingness of this eighty-nine year old woman was comforting. These women both exchanged glances and waited for me to continue.
It was a beautiful, autumn day, and I was just coming off a forty-eight hour shift. Bella was home and had just gotten the little one off to school. We made love, which seemed like the first time in months, and then she told me the news.
"Edward, my book, it is number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Can you believe it, number one?"
She was so excited, and so was I. We had come such a long way and endured so many hardships, I could hardly believe our good fortune. Life seemed to open up that day, and I was happy.
Mera reached out to squeeze my hand and urged me to continue. I had to do this; to say it out loud—I needed to finally purge.
With a bestselling book there came promotional tours. Bella's first tour would start on a Monday. It was to be held at a Barnes and Noble in Boston. She wanted me to drive up with her over the weekend, but unfortunately because of my residency, I wasn't able to go with her. She reluctantly booked a flight in to Boston for Sunday evening instead.
I had however finagled a couple of hours off so I could properly send my famous author wife off to her first tour. She was to continue from Boston on to California. We had talked for hours about how we wanted to travel one day soon and southern California came up often because of our daughter. She wanted to see were Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck resided and not to mention her favorite princess, Cinderella. I promised her someday we would get there, but it looked like she was going to beat me to it.
I kissed her goodbye, told her how much I loved her and watched as she strutted down the aisle to the plane. She turned once and waved, and then she was encased in the belly of the metal plane.
Sunday night the brownstone was eerily empty without her, and my Little Brown Eyes woke with a nightmare, so I tucked her back in bed and waited until she drifted off. Bella and I spoke later that night, and the next morning after her tour; it went well. She was a bundle of nerves and excitement. Tuesday morning we rushed I love you's on the phone before her plane took off towards the golden coast.
I was heading in to work after settling my little one at Mera's; she had been sick and stayed out of school. As I got into my car and began my short but crowded commute, I noticed there were an enormous amount of sirens going off in the air. I flicked on the radio and to my horror, discovered a plane had flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. There was chaos, and panic, and the security had tightened within a few minutes around the city.
Panic rose within me as I tried to get to the hospital, I knew Bella was in the air, and I couldn't contact her. I needed to talk to her hear her voice, to let her know what the hell was happening. As they continued regurgitating the same information on the radio, they finally announced the flight number, and the horror struck. No!
My Bella, my innocent wife, best friend, a daughter, a mother, my lover of ten years was gone. Terrorists killed her, and the anger that flooded over me was uncontrollable. She was gone.
I pinched my nose and rubbed the tears from my eyes. Nessie came and sat in my lap and wrapped her arms around me while Mera just rubbed circles around my back. We were quiet for a few minutes, and then Mera brought us to the present day.
"Mon Petite Cherie , it is time to come with me. I think I just heard Auntie Alice and Aunt Rosie come through the door. It is time for you to get your wedding dress on and prepare yourself for that handsome man that is going to be waiting on you at the end of the aisle in three hours."
Mera turned to look at me, ran her hand through my mess of hair as she did when I was a boy, and then Nessie looked at me, kissed me on the cheek and spoke softly, "Dad, I miss her too, especially today. What girl about to get married doesn't want her mother with her? But Dad you being here and being the father you have been to me all these years means more than you could ever know. I love you, and I love that you have always kept Mom alive. Thank you. I will love you forever and ever."
With those words, the women turned; my very old very French grandmother and my very grown, very beautiful daughter. I was left alone at the piano.
I sat alone on the piano bench for what seemed like hours even though I know it was mere minutes. I lifted my hands to the ivories and began to play the piece Bella and I had played so many years ago, Clair de Lune.
I let my mind drift back to that time and allowed myself to grieve one more time for the beautiful woman who had made my life so wonderful at such a young age. She had given me so much in the span of a mere ten years, however it had kept me going for another ten years as I raised our daughter to womanhood.
As I finished the musical piece, I slowly lowered the top to the baby grand. As it descended, so did the program from the duet performance Bella and I had performed all those years ago. It had somehow been caught in that piano top all these years and was a tad bit yellowed. I gently lifted it to my nose and for some reason sniffed it. I swear I could smell her as I shut my eyes and took a deeper whiff, as my eyes opened there she stood in all her glory; then she was gone.
Bella always said our love for each other transcended time and space. She was right. I waved to her and left the room to prepare to walk our daughter down the aisle to what was to be her future and her destiny.