Beyond the Pale Contest
Title: Dancing on the Edge
Pen Name: Jessypt
Characters: Jane
Disclaimer: M for graphic cutting, bulimia, and suicide attempts
Image that Inspired You: 11 (http:/beyondthepalecontest(dot)blogspot(dot))

To see other entries in the Beyond the Pale Contest, please visit the C2 page:
http : / www . fanfiction . net/community/Beyond_the_Pale_Contest_Entries/83159/

Summary: She is graceful and elegant, what every dancer longs to be, but the price of perfection is steep. As she watches the red drops drip on the floor, all she feels is relief.

Huge thanks to mycrookedsmile, jadsmama, bittenev, and kdc2239 for prereading and consulting on some many parts of this! And to einfachmich, I wish I had words to even begin to describe all the handholding, encouraging, and reading she did along the way. Without her this would never have come to fruition. I'm immensely grateful for her insight and even more so for her friendship.


Standing in the middle of her bathroom, she turns and looks at her self in the mirror. Her eyes are red, bloodshot from crying and lack of sleep. Her body is thin, practically emaciated, but all she sees is the figure of a girl – lonely, sad, and never good enough.

She can hear their voices in her head, Aro, Edward, and her mother, each in rapid succession.

You can't hold your line, your pirouettes are off, and your performances have been weak. Perhaps Bella is better suited for this role.

You'll never be warm like Bella. You're cold and stiff – on the dance floor and in bed – and no one will ever want you.

Jane, you've gained weight, haven't you? How do you expect Edward to lift you in the air?

"SHUT UP!" she screams, her face twisting angrily as she desperately tries to silence their disgusting voices. "I hate you! Just shut up!" she screams again at the mirror, her hands ripping at her hair as she squeezes her eyes closed.

She looks at the kit in front of her, and the box of blades beckons. She knows it's the only way. She pushes aside the candle, scissors, and tweezers; she won't need them. Not tonight.

The razor, glinting in the light, feels so good in her hand. She knows the relief it will bring.

She leans against the counter, her body heavy and fatigued. "So tired," she says weakly, as she takes in the dark, ugly circles under her eyes.

She doesn't hesitate as she skims it against her skin, nervous and scared, but desperate to make it all stop. To make the pain, their voices, all of it go away. She knows it won't matter if she's gone. She'll never be good enough. She's never beenenough.

She doesn't think or maybe she does. Maybe this is the most clearheaded thing she's ever done.

A deep breath.

A searing blaze as the razor slices through her skin, up the length of her right arm.

She blinks back the tears that run unhindered down her cheeks, unaware they'd even started to fall, and shakily switches the bloodstained razor to the other hand.

Blood. Hot and red flows against her pale, almost translucent skin, running in jagged, broken lines.

This time she doesn't hesitate. She just slices. Deep.

Relief. It's all she feels as she watches the red drops drip on the floor.

Sticky. It's what she thinks as the razor sticks to her fingers. How she never realized it before she doesn't know, but it is.

Jane presses the fingers of her left hand against the open wound on her skin, relishing the burn, the way the voices are no longer there. Silent. She knows it won't last; it never does, but then she thinks about what she's done and smiles as waves of euphoria wash over her.

Her head is spinning, and she smiles.

She thinks of the one good thing in her life – Felix – and imagines him calling her name, chasing after her, pounding on her door, but she knows he won't come for her. Not after she pushed him away.

She lifts her bloody fingers, staring at the way the light makes them look so strange, and trails them along the white of the wall as she crumples, weak and lightheaded, to the floor.

Maybe now they'll see. Maybe they'll understand how they made me feel, she thinks, as her head thuds softly against the cold, hard tiles.

She's so tired, more so than she's ever been before, and yet she watches, mesmerized, feeling strangely strengthened by the sting of the air and the blinding relief she feels as all the bitterness and rejection runs free.

The darkness pulls her down. As her dappled white and grey world fades to black, warmly enveloping her in its arms, she hears him again.

"Jane! Baby, please."

Act I: Scene I

I love to dance.

I am graceful.

I am beautiful.

Jane repeats this mantra to herself, fighting against Aro's latest round of harsh critiques and the cool distance Edward is constantly fighting to put between them.

"Again! Jane, you are the principal of this dance company. If you can't perform this piece, I'm more than happy to give the role to Bella," Aro sneers as Jane dabs the sweat from her brow.

Nothing incenses her more than the threat of Bella Swan being given her role. Jane has worked tirelessly, devoting practically every waking hour, sacrificing her social life and her body for the sake of the one thing she loves more than anything.

"Then tell Edward to quit dreaming of his precious Bellaand do his job properly," Jane says venomously as she turns to glare at her dance partner.

He lifts his eyebrow in challenge. Jane has been dancing with Edward for the last four years, two of which they were together. Jane was happier and danced better in those two years than she ever had in her life, but everything came to a screeching halt when she walked in on Edward and Bella having sex in herbed.

When she'd returned to her apartment hours after she'd made her hasty retreat, Jane found a note from Edward telling her he was sorry, they were over, and he was moving out. The whole thing was cold and cruel, and Jane knew she'd never forgive him. She was forced to continue dancing with him, because he was the best male dancer in the company.

Aro doesn't acknowledge her outburst. Instead, he simply lifts his finger, and the pianist begins to play. Jane moves over to Edward and waits for him to get into position. Her body is erect, tense, and she has to brace herself for the way he makes her feel. When his fingers wrap around her waist, she can feel his disdain, and she growls.

"Touch me like you want me, Edward. That is the role you're supposedto be playing, or have you forgotten what that feels like?"

He leans forward, his hot breath brushing against her neck. "I wouldn't have to pretend if you weren't such an ice queen, Jane. Now dance," he spits as he digs his fingers into her ribcage, propelling her forward.

The next two hours consist of harsh, bitter jabs and shouts of frustration and criticism from Aro. By the time he calls the rehearsal, Jane is exhausted. She hates feeling this way. She hates that Aro and Edward have this kind of sway over her.

Annoyed and angry, she roughly shoves her pointe shoes, towel, and shrug into her bag. All she wants to do is go home, take a long hot bath, and soak her aching feet. Luck, however, is not on her side as her phone rings and her mother's name – Camilla – flashes across the screen.

Jane groans. She isn't in the mood to deal with her mother's nagging or bullshit. She pushes the end button, sending the call to voicemail only to have it ring again almost immediately. With a huff of frustration, she throws the bag over her shoulder and answers the phone.

"Yes, Mother," Jane says impatiently.

"How was rehearsal?" Camilla asks in that all-knowing, condescending voice Jane knows so well.

Jane suppresses a sigh she desperately wants to let escape. It isn't worth getting into it with her mom. It wouldn't matter anyway; her mom would inevitably find something to say regardless of how well or poorly a rehearsal went.

"It was fine. I'm heading home. What do you need?"

Her mother huffs in annoyance. "Please tell me you didn't forget dinner tonight with the Webers. I told you about it weeks ago. Their son is going to be there, Jane, and I promised Angela you would be there, as well."

Jane's whole body tenses. She hates these datesher mother tries to play off as social gatherings. It's all about appearance and status, and Jane, despite her upbringing, has never been able to stomach small talk or contrived social gatherings. She knows exactly how this evening will play out. Her mother will play the perfect wife and mother – graceful, polite, and doting – but always with a hint of disapproval in her voice. No one will notice. No one except Jane. After the day she's had, Jane has no desire to meet someone, much less pretend she's interested. She's exhausted, irritated, and can't believe she's going to have to put up with this tonight.

"Good grief, Jane. You did forget, didn't you? I knew I should have reminded you." Camilla pauses and then her voice hardens. "Well, regardless, your father and I will be downstairs at 7:30. Make sure you wear something nice," she says as she hangs up the phone.

Jane holds the phone against her ear and squeezes her eyes tightly. The implication is clear - do not embarrass her.

Of all the fucking nights to have to entertain, to be perfect, to deal with her mother.

She glances at her phone and sees how little time she has to get ready. She practically runs out of the studio and flags down a cab. By the time she arrives at her apartment, her temper is flaring. The conversation with her mother, Aro's threats to give Bella her role, and Edward's bitter jabs are a tortuous soundtrack to accompany the cacophony of New York City traffic.

Stomping through her apartment, she lashes out against them.

You're company would be nothing without me, Aro.

Bella is a little self-promoting whore. I can't wait for her to dump your sorry ass, Edward.

You don't own my life, mother.

She jerks the curtain open and wrenches the water on, turning it all the way to the hottest setting. As steam fills the room, she forces herself to take several deep, cleansing breathes. She knows she needs to calm down, to pull herself together, but she can't get past all the hurtful things that have been said to her today.

In a last ditch effort to calm down, Jane throws a lavender shower fizzy in the bottom of the tub.

It doesn't help.

She viciously scrubs her body, roughly washing and conditioning her hair, and desperately trying to drown out all the voices in her head.

If you can't perform this piece perfectly, I'm more than happy to give Bella the role.

She grabs her razor and quickly pulls it up the length of her shin, over her knee.

I wouldn't have to pretend if you weren't such an ice queen, Jane.

With each passing thought, she presses harder, until she feels the razor burn against her skin.

Don't embarrass me.

She swipes furiously and practically screams as the blade cuts the side of her knee. Blood quickly pools against the cut, mixing with the water to run in crooked lines down her leg. She winces at the sting of air and water but feels the tension drain and the voices quiet. Her eyes close, and she breathes in, relishing the profound sense of relief she suddenly feels.

Silence. Blissful quiet.

For the first time today her chest doesn't feel tight.

Until she realizes the cut might scar and that her mother will almost certainly notice. Her mother's voice – so judgmental and loathsome – echoes in her mind.

Don't embarrass me.

These people are important.

This boy is important.

Don't embarrass me.

The sting of tears burns behind Jane's eyes as she turns off the water. She furiously wipes her eyes. She refuses to give her mother the satisfaction of her tears. She dries her skin and then sees the blood running down her leg. She quickly blots it away and then presses the towel tightly against her leg, desperate to make it stop.

Fumbling one handed in the bathroom drawer, she searches for a Band-Aid and some ointment and quickly dresses the wound. As she runs her fingers across the top of the Band-Aid, effectively sealing the cut, she feels that same twinge and burn and inhales sharply. She closes her eyes against the sting, feeling the bitter words that have played on repeat dull to a quiet hum.

Jane glances at the clock on her phone and scrambles to get ready. As she sifts through her closets, she knows she needs to cover her leg; she doesn't have the time or energy to field questions about a dumb shaving cut on her leg.

Finally, dressed in a simple red suede skirt that hits just below the knees, black tights, a flowy top with red and black poppies, and a pair of tall black boots, she grabs her purse and heads downstairs.

The black town car is waiting for her when she walks outside. The driver – Peter – sees her and immediately opens the door.

"Good evening, Miss Jane," he says politely.

She glances at him and nods coolly as she gingerly slides across the black leather seats.

"Is that the best you could do, Jane?" her mother grumbles.

"Hello to you, too, Mother. Daddy." Jane barely looks at either of them as her eyes immediately flash toward the window.

Camilla grips Jane's knee to get her attention, inadvertently pressing against the cut. Jane winces but refuses to pull her eyes from the passing city around her.

"What's wrong with your knee?" her mother asks, pulling up the hem of her skirt.

Jane bats her hand away and glares at her mother. "Get your hands off me, Mother. There's nothing wrong with my knee," Jane grounds out as she roughly pulls at the edge of her skirt.

Jane knows her mother is angry. She can tell by the way she's huffing and shifting around. Finally, as they pull up to the restaurant, the hard edge of her mother's voice slices through the silence. "I suggest you fix your attitude, Jane. I won't tolerate disrespect. Not here and definitely not in there."

It's both a promise and a threat, and Jane despises her mother and her life more so than ever before.

Act I: Scene II

Jane watches herself in the mirror as she feels the music take over. With her eyes closed she loses herself in the feel of her muscles contracting and burning with exertion. As the music begins to build, she launches herself into the air, timing her gorgeous jete perfectly with the climax. Her feet hit the ground on the downbeat, and the exhilaration she feels is overwhelming.
This is what she has always enjoyed about dancing. She can be carefree, can allow her body and the music to communicate in a silent conversation to which only she is privy.
Over and over again she allows the music to carry her away. With each pulsing beat or slide of the violin's bow, she lets go of the previous days events.
After enduring an almost unbearable evening with her parents and their guests, Jane had returned home exhausted. As usual her mother had refused to let her order for herself. Jane knew it wasn't worth the argument, especially in front of guests. Her mother would have handled it with grace, but the payback would have been hell. In the end, Jane had managed to force down the poor excuse for a salad, made the requisite small talk, and then perfectly managed to shrug off dessert.
Throughout dinner she had given little thought to the incident in the shower, but as she'd peeled off her tights and saw the blood soaked Band-Aids it had all come rushing back. Never before had she felt such an acute quelling of tension, and she still isn't sure what to make of it.
As the music changes to the piece she and Edward worked on the day before, she closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, and gets into position. She forces all thoughts of cuts and blood, her mother and her damned controlling tendencies from her mind, allowing the music to consume her. She extends her arms, one in front and the other behind, and gracefully moves across the dance floor, perfectly in step and as if Edward were beside her.

She imagines his hand resting on her waist, the other resting just below her extended arm. With each note, her movements are succinct yet graceful. She can visualize herself on the stage, the black abyss of the audience in front of her, and she feels the familiar dancer's high.

She feels alive. Passionate. Ravished by the music.

When the music comes to a close, only her breath and the sound of two hands clapping can be heard. She whirls around to see Aro standing in the doorway, a huge smile across his face.

"Well done, dear one," he says, pushing off the frame and walking toward her. He stops in front of her and presses an affectionate kiss to her damp forehead.

"Truly, Jane, that was your best performance of this piece to date."

She beams at his compliment and silently chuffs that she did it without Edward's help. After spending fifteen years with Aro as her private instructor, she knows he doesn't dole out unmerited praise. "Thank you, Aro."

"Will you dance with me?" he asks, extending his hand.

Jane does not hesitate. It is rare she has the opportunity to dance with him, and she will gladly use this as a chance to learn from the best.

"I'd love to."

He squeezes her hand and then releases it to restart the music. In position, Jane feels Aro grip her waist, just as she imagines Edward would.

As the music starts, she lifts her leg, gracefully swirls her arms, and leans away from him. He pulls her back against him, effortlessly assisting her in the air and moving with her across the dance floor. Down on one knee he releases her as she floats away, pirouetting once then twice and landing on one knee. Together they move seamlessly, Jane lost in Aro's strength and power.

By the time the music comes to a close, Jane is panting from exertion, and sweat is glistening on her face. She has always loved the music, but nothing could have prepared her for the way it feels to move like that.

Aro stares at her as she dabs a towel across her nose, cheeks, and forehead.

"That is what it should feel like, my dear. I chose you for this part for a reason. You have to feel it, even if your partner doesn't."

Jane nods, feeling uncharacteristically overwhelmed and too choked up to speak. Aro is right. While she feels nothing but fatherly affection for him, she saw just how powerful her own movements could be when she allows her body to move and her soul to swallow the music.

As he turns to leave, Jane reaches out and touches his arm. "Thank you," she manages to whisper.

He stares at her for a second longer. "Get some rest."

Jane watches him walk out the door, and for the first time in a long time she smiles.


Act I: Scene III

The next few weeks pass in a dull blur of normality. Jane spends practically every waking minute in the studio practicing for the upcoming show. She starts each morning with the company, warming up at the barre. The tinkling of the light-hearted piano provides the perfect accompaniment to the round of pliés, tendues, ports de bras, and countless other exercises.

She has always loved working at the barre. It is comfortable and familiar and reminds her of a simpler time in her life when she could just dance. As a young ballerina, she had fallen in love with the beauty of the dance. She loved the way she looked in tights, a leotard, and skirt. She felt the joy of each new routine, costume, and class, but nothing compared to the way she felt the day she received her first pair of pointe shoes.

"Mom, these are gorgeous," Jane says, beaming as she snuggles her pointe shoes against her chest.

She lifts them to her face and breathes in the scent of satin and glue, a smell she'd grown to love in the ten years she had been dancing. She trails her fingers lightly, almost reverently, across the smooth, cool fabric, and can't help the grin that spreads across her face.

"Try them on, Jane. Let's see how they fit," Camilla says, smiling.

Jane immediately sits, pulls off her ballet slippers, and gently slides her foot inside. After wiggling her toes a bit, she stands in several different positions, rising slightly en pointe and then down into a demi-plié.

Beaming, she says, "They're perfect."

She thinks about her mom and how things have changed over the years, and quickly turns her attention and thoughts to the exercises she is performing. She does not want to dwell on how her mother has transformed from supportive, proud dance mother to the cold, controlling queen of the ballerina princess.

As the warm up comes to a close, Jane bends to adjust one of the ribbons around her ankle and can see a handful of girls, including Bella, snicker.

"Is something funny?" Jane asks, her voice instantly frozen, as she whips up and around.

"Not everything is about you, Jane," Bella says, her lip curling up in the slightest hint of a sneer.

"Whatever." Jane rolls her eyes and turns back around. She knows Bella's little slut posse hates her. The feeling is mutual. They may be good dancers, but they aren't the best.

I am the best, Jane chants to herself, knowing she has Aro's full support.

As the day progresses and Jane turns her attention to rehearsal, she finds herself being pulled out of the moment time and again by the snide comments and barely audible whispers as she moves across the floor.


"Can she flex her foot anymore?"

"You might want to try actually extending your leg on your grand jete."

"Bloated, much?"

She tries to ignore them, and for the most part she does, but she can see them snickering, gesturing, and making rude faces in the mirror.

With each leap, pirouette, and arabesque penchée, Jane smiles coldly, knowing beyond a shadow of doubt she is spot on. For grins, each time she extends her arm their direction, she gracefully raises her middle finger and quirks her eyebrow.

Yes, ladies, fuck you.

Just in case there is any doubt about her prowess, she breaks free from Edward and launches in a long series of fouettés. She knows no one in the company can perform these tight, whipping turns with the technique, strength, or stamina she can. When she finally comes to stop, she gracefully extends her leg backward, arches her back just perfectly, and smiles radiantly.

Take that, bitches, Jane thinks as she takes in the bitter look on Bella's face.

Triumphantly, she walks back to grab a drink of water.

Aro calls for a break and dismisses everyone.

"What was that little stunt?" he asks, his eyes glinting with irritation, as he stops in front of Jane.

She tilts her head, her chin lifting defiantly. "Just a little improv."

"Next time you feel like making a spectacle of yourself, give me a heads up. I'm sure I can help you."

Jane's eyes narrow. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me. This is not a playground where you can go tit for tat with a bunch of girls you don't like. This is a dance studio, and I'm in charge." He pauses for effect. "Do I make myself clear?"

Jane wants to snap back, but she knows it isn't worth it.

Backing down, but just barely, Jane nods. "Perfectly."

"Let's get started," Aro calls out, flapping his wrists back and forth to draw everyone back to the dance floor.

As everyone files into the room, laughing and teasing, Jane stands and moves to take her mark.

"Take a seat, Jane. Bella, get in position."

Jane whirls around, aghast. "What?"

Ignoring her, he turns to face Bella. Jane watches the entire scene – her looking at Edward, her smiling like she's just won the lottery, herpopping up, adjusting her skirt – unfold as the triumph she felt earlier dissipates.

Bitter resentment wells up inside. She will notlet Bella Swan take this part from her. "Bella, sit down," she says icily.

"I'm the director of this company, Jane. Now, take a seat." His voice is tight and controlled. Jane knows she is pressing her luck, but there is no way she will take this sitting down. If Aro wants to play this way, she will. She can play nice, reassure him she'll tow the line.

"I am the principal of this company, Aro. There's no need for Bella to step in for me." Jane says the last part as kindly as she can manage, but the hard edge to her voice is still present.

"Thanks for your permission, Jane," Aro says, sarcastically emphasizing her name, "but my decision is final. Take a seat or leave."

Jane stares at him, completely caught off guard by his blatant dismissal of her role in the company and the way his eyes soften when he looks at Bella.

Paranoia sets in as all her insecurities – hers and the ones her mother has voiced on countless occasions – rears up inside.

He used to look at me like that.

I'm not good enough.

I told you mistakes weren't an option, Jane.

Aro requires perfection – in your weight, in your performance, in your dedication. Now, he's chosen Bella over you.

She tries to force the voices to be quiet, but they won't. Enraged, she cannot help the scream that escapes as she storms out of the studio, the sound of Aro's voice telling Bella to, once again, get into position.

Frustrated and angry she roughly rips at the ribbons on her ankles until she's loosened them enough to tear off her pointe shoes. She doesn't bother changing, just throws her shoes in her bag and slings it over her shoulder. As she runs out of the building into the pouring rain, unwanted bitter tears escape. She doesn't think. Her feet pound the pavement, ignoring the ache and the fact that running is terrible for her legs.

With each step, she tries to shut out Aro's harsh words, Bella's stupid gloating smile, and the happy gleam in Edward's eyes as he wrapped his arm around Bella's waist. Each memory is like a slap in the face, jolting and angry, reminding her of her failure.

As she rounds the corner and bursts through the door of her apartment building, she collides into the solid mass of a man. She doesn't see him standing there until she is flat on her back, staring up at him.

"Shit," he grunts. "Are you okay?" His voice is soft but rough as he leans down to help her up. Jane blinks a few times and tries to catch her breath. She stares up at the man before her and almost gasps at the tender concern in his grey eyes.

The next few minutes feel like they pass in slow motion as he sinks to the ground, slides his hand beneath her head, and gently pulls her up – almost to the point he is cradling her against his chest.

"Are you hurt?" he asks as his eyes rove over her scantily clad body.
Jane has never been self-conscious, but under his scrutinizing eyes she feels naked and vulnerable.

"Miss?" he asks again when she doesn't answer his question.

His gravelly voice pulls her back to the present, and she nods slowly.

The equally slow smile that spreads across his face causes her already erratically pounding heart to skip and beat faster.

"I'm sorry. I... I wasn't... I didn't see you there. Are you okay?" she asks after another quick glance into his eyes.

He laughs, his eyes flashing brilliantly. "With all due respect, you probably don't weigh more than a hundred pounds, even soaking wet."

She glances down at herself and shivers, fully realizing she is indeed sopping wet and sitting in a small puddle of water.

One hundred fiveshe thinks as her mother's ever present voice consistently reminds her.

"I'm Felix, by the way. And you are...?"

She swallows. "Jane," she says as she cautiously tries to sit up.

Felix shifts and practically picks her up, waiting until he is sure she is okay to stand on her own before releasing her. As his hands leave her waist, Jane shivers again, the loss of his warmth palpable.

Anxious to clear her head, she gives him a small smile. "Thank you again for your help, Felix," Jane says as she grabs the strap of her bag.

She doesn't give him a chance to respond before she turns and starts climbing the stairs. Just as she is about to reach the top, he calls out, "The pleasure was all mine."

She stops and looks back to see a huge lopsided grin on his face. Confused and caught off guard, she unwillingly smiles back, ignoring the way her cheeks flush and her entire body warms as she turns back to the stairs in front of her.

Act I: Scene IV

Once Jane is in her apartment and the pink in her cheeks has long since gone away, she can't help but think about the debacle at the studio. She cannot wrap her head around Aro's attitude. His complete dismissal – betrayal – cut her to the quick, and she can't shut out the way his voice, so cool and distant, sounded.

"Next time you feel like making a spectacle of yourself, give me a heads up."

"Take a seat, Jane. Bella, get in position."

"Thanks for your permission, Jane, but my decision is final."

Anger washes over her as she thinks about how the other girls in the company had mocked and criticized her, the satisfied smirk on Edward's face, and the way Bella had gloatingly grinned as Jane rushed out of the room. She hates them – all of them – for being so malicious and mean.

Why? Why do they hate her? Is it really because she's the principal? Didn't she used to be just like them at one point? She has never openly gloated about her position in the company, never been critical of others beyond what is expected as a fellow performer. The more she thinks about it, the more upset she becomes. Tears prick at her eyes, but they don't fall, even though she most desperately needs the release.

The muscles in her neck and shoulders are so tense they ache, and her chest is so tight she can barely catch her breath. She just wants to relax, to release all the tension, anger, and anxiety from the day. She looks around her apartment as she pulls off her leg warmers and strongly considers having a glass of wine – or a glass of something stronger – but knows it would be foolish given the early call time for tomorrow's rehearsal.

A good fuck would do wonders.

She immediately thinks of Edward and feels her chest tighten further. She closes her eyes, trying to force all thoughts of him out of her mind, but instead is met with image after image of him with Bella – kissing her, his hands tangled her in hair, him hovering above her, his body gliding over hers – and feels the bile well up inside her throat.

She runs to the bathroom and falls on her knees, her arms wrapping around the cold porcelain, as she heaves nothing but air. Angry, disgusted tears well in her eyes. but Jane blinks them away. She will never cry over Edward Cullen. Not after what he did.

As she shakily stands, she stares at the girl in the mirror, and all she sees is a tired, pathetic woman. She doesn't want this life, this anger that's been crashing all around her, the constant imperfection.

"I just want it to stop," Jane whimpers. It feels forced and fake, and she harshly tugs on her hair, knowing the jolt of pain will help.

And it does. A little. Not enough.

She remembers the way she felt when she cut her leg in the shower – the relief, the euphoria, the silence in her mind – and she doesn't think. She grabs her ballet bag from the living room and quickly removes the tools she uses for preparing her shoes.

She pulls a razor blade out of her bag and quickly removes the cardboard protector.

Seconds later, Jane is back in the bathroom and has pulled her leotard off the top half of her body, exposing her pale skin to the cool air. She stares at the way her rib bones protrude, the way her breasts sit untouched, neglected, for far too long. Her mind flickers to Edward and then her run-in with the guy in the lobby, but she immediately pushes both thoughts from her mind.

She grips the thin metal and slowly drags the razor across her ribcage. The anticipation, the feel of the cool blade causes her skin to prickle with goose bumps.

Jane looks up at her reflection in the mirror and then presses the blade sharply against her skin and pulls it in a straight horizontal line.

She winces and hisses as she slices through the tender skin. Beads of blood rise to the surface, delayed as she drags the blade just below it once, twice, three more times. The air hitting the cuts makes it sting and burn, and just like before, she feels the tension ease in her chest, and her muscles start to relax.

Her fingers trail through the bloody cuts, and all she feels is relief.


Act I: Scene V

The next day, Jane walks into the studio refreshed and focused. After bandaging her cuts the night before, concealing them with a nude colored Band-Aid, she fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

"Morning, Aro," Jane says sweetly as she presses a kiss against his cheek.

Aro stares at her a beat too long, and Jane knows she has caught him off guard. In all likelihood he had been preparing for some sort of showdown, and the fact that he didn't hide his surprise makes Jane smile.

"Good morning, my dear. You appear well rested."

Jane turns and smiles, nodding her head, before she sits and begins warming up her feet. The company is performing Sleeping Beautyin less than two weeks, and Jane knows there is still a lot to be done.

Company members trickle in, all looking a bit tired and less than enthusiastic about the earlier than normal rehearsal. Before she'd left her apartment, Jane vowed she would not allow the girls – and Edward – to get under her skin. Her behavior yesterday was out of line and unbecoming of someone in her position. If Bella or any other person wants to take her slot, she's not going down without a fight.

Hours into rehearsal, Aro calls for break.

"Grab your water and take a seat," he says.

Aro waits for everyone to get comfortable and then lifts his hands. The room quiets immediately.

"As you know, our next show is in less than two weeks. After that, we are doing something a little different. There will be a series of one-act performances designed to showcase ballets between the 1940s – 1960s.

"Our company, along with several others, has been asked to participate. We will be performing Le Jeune Homme et La Mort, the story of a young man driven to suicide by his faithless lover. It was first choreographed by Roland Petit in 1946.

"Is anyone familiar with it?" Aro asks after a brief pause.

The room remains silent, and with a nod, Aro proceeds.

"The role ofthe Young Man has been performed by Rudolf Nureyev, Jean Babilée, and Mikhail Baryshnikov, to name a few. Deathhas been performed by equally prestigious ballerinas Zizi Jeanmaire and Nathalie Philippart.

"Of course, they aren't the only ones, but it is safe to say the two dancers chosen to perform this ballet will be joining a short list of highly accomplished dancers."

Excited chatter begins to sweep across the room as the dancers begin to dream of the possibilities. Jane looks around to see Bella and a handful of others staring at her and knows without a doubt each of them will do anything to get this part.

Jane makes a silent vow to do whatever it takes to get this role. The hairs on her arms prickle and stand on end at the thought of playing Death. To play the jilted lover with Edward, who will almost certainly receive the role of The Young Man, would be the ultimate payback.

With a determination she hasn't felt in years, she arches her eyebrow and turns to look at Bella. They exchange a look that could turn water to ice in a flash.

Jane turns back and lifts her hand into the air.

"Yes, Jane," Aro calls.

"How will the performers be chosen?"

A slow grin spreads across his face. "Ahhh, the million dollar question."

Nervous laughter follows.

"Over the next two weeks I will be watching for overall performance in rehearsal, attitude within the company, and for subtle behaviors I believe are needed to portray each character.

"From the handful of dancers I select, two will be asked to perform the role twice – once with each potential partner."

Before anyone can say anything, Aro holds up his hand.

"I know this is a non-standard way of choosing the performers, but I want to make sure I'm giving everyone the opportunity to show me what they've got."

A cacophony of voices immediately fills the room, but Jane immediately tunes them out. With Aro's try-out plan, she is more determined than ever to earn this role. Once and for all, she wants to prove she truly is the best.

Act I: Scene VI

Still thinking about the curve ball Aro threw at the company today, Jane strolls right through the front door to her apartment building. She makes her way across the lobby and over to the mailboxes. Mechanically, she inserts her key, grabs her mail, and pulls it out. She turns, sorting through the pile of junk that has accumulated over the week and runs right into Felix.

She stumbles backward, stunned, just as Felix reaches out to grab her.

As his fingers wrap around the tops of her shoulders, a frisson of heat courses through her.

"Are you okay?" he asks, chuckling, as he makes sure she is comfortable on her own two feet.

Jane looks up at him, her face burning with embarrassment. She nods, still slightly dazed.

Déjà vu doesn't even begin to characterize the humiliation of this moment.

She opens her mouth to speak, but Felix beats her to the punch.

"You know, we've really got to stop meeting like this," he says as his upper lip curls into a lazy half-smile.

She laughs, because there is nothing else to do. To run – literally – into the same guy – twice – is so ridiculous.

"You must think I'm such a klutz," Jane says through her laughter. The irony of course, is that she doesn't typically have problems with balance or spatial awareness.

"I can't say I mind." He grins, his eyebrow quirking up along with a full-blown, cocky smirk.

Her face flushes and her stomach twists in that I "I just missed a step" sort of way. It has been a long time since that happened, and something inside her shifts, the playful part of her that's been dormant for far too long stirs, yawning and stretching.

"So, I was just heading out to get a bite to eat. Would you care to join me?" Felix asks, tucking his hands in his pockets and rocking just slightly on the balls of his feet. It's the first crack in the bad boy persona, and Jane finds it endearing.

The fluttery feeling in her stomach intensifies, and her heart starts to beat a little faster. She has no idea if this is a good idea or not, but there's something about the way this guy acts that makes her want to give him a shot.

"I'd love to, but I need to change," she says, pointing to the tights and leg warmers she's still wearing.

There's a playful twinkle in his eyes, and the confident smirk is back in place. "I think you look just fine."

Jane giggles. Giggles. She can't remember the last time she did that.

"Well be that as it may, I want to change. Can you give me a few minutes?" she asks as she shifts her bag back onto her shoulder.

He takes a step back and stares into her eyes. "This isn't your way of blowing me off right?"

Jane grins and decides to go toe to toe with him. "Trust me, you'd know it if I did."

The look of complete surprise on his face cracks her up as she turns and heads toward the stairs. "See you in twenty," she shouts over her shoulder.

Act I: Scene VII

The restaurant Felix picks is packed, the happy hour crowd out in full force.
He leans in and practically has to yell into her ear it's so loud. "You wanna wait or go somewhere else?"

Jane shrugs. She sort of likes the idea of being in a space that isn't very intimate, but she also doesn't want to have to yell all night either.

Felix turns back to look at the crowded room, and Jane takes a second to really look at him. He is the epitome of masculine – strong jaw, full pouty lips, a goatee that makes him seem mysterious and sexy all at the same time, and a body that makes her heart beat a little faster. He is tall, a lot taller than she originally realized, with thick, broad shoulders that give him that macho man look.

Normally, a guy as… brawny…as he is wouldn't be her type, but he just seems different.

He turns back and nods his head towards the door. "Let's get out of here," he shouts and then reaches for her hand.

That same twisty feeling she felt earlier when he grabbed her shoulders jolts through her.

She follows after him, her hand in his, and when they get outside, he doesn't let go. She's not sure how she feels about it, but she doesn't pull away. No one has held her hand in a long time, and regardless what he thinks it means, it feels good.

"So… where are we going?" Jane asks as her eyes scan the street for possible options.

"There's this diner about five blocks from here. They serve the best burgers and milkshakes around."

That twisty feeling she felt earlier all of a sudden feels like lead in her stomach. Burgers and milkshakes are definitely noton her diet.

He must sense her discomfort, because he stops and waits for her to meet his eyes. "We don't have to go there, Jane. There's a little café around the corner, or…" He pauses, clearly trying to think of an alternative. "There's sushi place not too far from here."

He stares down at her, and part of her wants to say fuck it and eat the burger and shake.

Is that cellulite at the top of your legs?

You better watch what you eat, Jane. I'm the one that has to lift your fat ass up.

She shakes her head, knowing she won't actually go through with it. There's too much at stake. "Um… would you be okay with the sushi place? It's just…" she trails off, embarrassed that she can't be normal, that she can't even have a burger for fear of gaining weight.

"Hey," Felix says, squeezing her hand. "Sushi's great. Who needs a burger when you can have edamame and fresh fish?"

His voice is lighthearted, and when Jane finally pushes aside her embarrassment, she actually smiles.

She squeezes his hand and lets him lead the way to the restaurant.

Act I: Scene VIII

Jane spies her mother sitting at the far side of the restaurant just as the hostess greets her.

"Welcome to Purple."

"Thanks. I see my mother over there," Jane says dismissively as she points across the room.

"Have a nice lunch," the hostess says with a polite smile.

After taking a deep breath, Jane slowly winds her way through the maze of packed tables.

"Good to see you're on time," her mother says without taking her eyes off the menu.

Jane barely manages to suppress an eye roll before she leans forward and kisses her mother's cheek. "Mother."

They sit in silence for a minute. It's not uncomfortable or awkward; it's simply expected. Jane can't remember the last time she and her mother had a pleasant conversation let alone shared a meal together that wasn't laced with some form of criticism.

As Jane peruses the menu, she settles on the vegetarian sandwich and closes her menu. She takes a second to look around. She has never been here, but she knows her mother enjoys this restaurant. She can see why. The place is eclectically decorated and has a unique winding staircase in the center of the room housing hundreds of bottles of wine.

When she turns back to the table, her mother is watching her, eyebrow quirked.

"What?" Jane asks.

"Arotells me you have another ballet coming up."

The implication behind her words is clear.

She shrugs. "I can't focus on that when I've got a performance in two weeks, Mother. I am spending practically every waking minute perfecting my scenes and partnering with Edward."

"Be that as it may, you need to start thinking about what happens after Sleeping Beauty."

"I know that, Mother," Jane says, her tone harsh and annoyed. "I have been doing this for a long time. I know how to manage multiple parts, but for now, I am focusing on my current role. That's part of the whole audition process anyway."

Jane's heart is pounding as she tries to swallow her rising anger. She reaches for her water glass just as the server arrives. She has never been more grateful for an interruption.

"Welcome to Purple. Would you like to hear our specials?" the server asks with a friendly smile.

Camilla shakes her head. "No, I believe we're ready to order."

The server glances at Jane, and she nods.

"Great. What can I get for you?" he asks, turning back to Camilla.

Camilla points toward Jane. "What are you having, dear?"

Jane stares at her for a second then turns to the waiter with a small smile. "I'll have the vegetarian sandwich, no mayo, and a side salad. Balsalmic vinaigrette on the side, please. Oh, and an iced tea."

"Excellent choice, Miss," he says and turns back to Camilla.

"And for you, ma'am?"

"Actually, she'll have the cranberry chicken salad, no bacon, almonds, or cheese, and a glass of water. And I'll have the apple and goat cheese salad and a white wine spritzer."

Her tone of voice leaves little question who is in charge, but he looks at Jane anyway. She wants to shrink down in her seat. It seems hard to believe Jane could be feel this level of shame after having this very scenario play out on countless other occasions, but after last night's restaurant mayhem with Felix, it feels like too much.

With bright pink cheeks, Jane simply nods, and he walks away.

Once they are alone, Jane glares at her mother. "If you already had something picked out, why did you bother letting me order?"

Camilla smiles. It's cool and distant, everything Jane hates about her. "I wanted to see what kind of choices you have been making on your own. Perhaps it's time I send someone to your place with daily meals again."

Jane runs her fingers lightly across the napkin in her lap, fighting the humiliation of a mother who doesn't understand boundaries and her own sense of rage at being incapable of putting her foot down.

"I am more than capable of making food choices, Mother. In fact, I weighed in this morning and was down three pounds." She smiles smugly, knowing there's no way her mother can find fault in this.

Except somehow she manages to, and after a long pull from her water glass simply says, "That's still two pounds higher than you should be."

Jane's jaw drops. At one hundred three pounds she is already underweight for her height.

"Don't look at me like that, darling. Weight is everything, and if you want to keep getting roles, you can't be eating a bunch of carbohydrates all the time."

Jane wants to believe her mother is joking, but she knows she isn't. She has been down this path with her too many times to count. She thinks over the meals she's had in the last two days and knows she has made excellent choices – sushi - sashimi, really - and edamame with Felix, a salad with grilled chicken for lunch, scrambled eggs and fruit for breakfast, and essentially the same the day before.

She looks at the smug, haughty look on her mother's face and hates the way her heart is pounding. Her chest feels tight, and her stomach is twisting uncomfortably. There is no way this meal can get better from here. Jane isn't in the right frame of mind to deal with the criticism, and her mother won't stop.

With a small sip of water, she takes her napkin and gently but deliberately sets it on the table.

"I'm done, Mother. I'll see you later."

Jane pushes her chair back, avoiding her mother's surprised gaze, grabs her purse, and walks away just as the server returns with a basket of bread and her mother's wine spritzer.

By the time Jane makes it back to her apartment, her heart is racing, and it feels like she has a knife in her windpipe. She can hardly breathe as the anxiety twists and pushes the knife a little deeper.

She scrambles to the bathroom and pulls open the vanity drawer. With shaky fingers, she pulls out the little box she purchased to store her things. She quickly sets the candle on the counter, finds a match, and lights it. Something about this process makes her feel more confident. She knows what will come as she rips her shirt over her head and tugs off her bra.

She stares at her naked torso, already marred with harsh crisscrossing red lines and feels like she can breath for the first time since she sat down at lunch. She runs her fingertips lightly over the healing marks, closing her eyes as she relishes the imminent release.

Her mother's words play on repeat in her head as she carefully sterilizes her blade, wiping off the black burns marks then slowly lifts it to her side. With a deep breath, she digs the blade into the soft flesh between her ribs.

She hisses harshly and presses again and again, already feeling the bliss of sweet relief. After several more cuts, she presses her fingers against her bleeding skin and marvels at how light, almost euphoric, she feels as she slowly slides down to the floor.

As she sits on the cold, hard tiles, she vows she'll never let her mother do this to her again. She won't be controlled anymore, but the twinge and burn in her side tells her differently.

Act I: Scene IX

Jane can hear the orchestra warming up, the familiar discord of all the musicians tuning their instruments sets her at ease. The harshness of flat notes, blasting horns, and squeaking woodwinds is the perfect parallel to the craziness she always feels before she steps on stage, and the nerves – the cacophony of sound – leaves only after the conductor brings them all into harmony.

The air backstage is thick with tension as dancers perform last minute warm-ups and rituals. Aro is shouting orders, and the stage manager is dragging people to their places in the wings.

"Are you ready, my dear?" Aro asks as he sidles up next to Jane.

She leans forward, her leg extended on the barre, and smiles. "Of course, Aro."

His fingers brush her cheek, and he nods. "Perfect. You are going to shine tonight. I can already see the reviews."

Jane beams under his praise. Even though Aro has been excessively demanding and overly critical, she knows it is always with her best interest at heart.

He presses a kiss to her forehead. "Stay relaxed, allow the music to fill your soul, and everything will be perfect. Break a leg, my beautiful ballerina."

Jane feels her chest expand and her breath hitch at the compliment he's just given her, a throwback to a more traditional time when ballerinawas reserved for the most exceptional female soloists in the company.

"Thank you, Aro," Jane says, her voice breathy from the unexpected praise.

With another kiss to the forehead he leaves her to complete her final warm up.

As she stretches, Jane closes her eyes, visualizing her opening sequence. She has never felt more prepared for a performance. The countless hours of practice, both with and without Edward, have left her feeling confident and sure.

That's not to say the past two weeks were easy. Aro worked her to the bone and challenged her attitude on countless occasions.

"Jane, how many times do we have to go over this adagio? This is basic. You and Edward have danced this a hundred times. Move your feet and get your arms out of the way," Aro says as he pushes her arms out of the way.

"Then tell Edward to move his body. I can't extend my arms with him blocking me!" Jane bites back.

"Don't blame me, Jane. I'm reading your body cues. Extend your arms where you want them, and I'll get out of the way," Edward snarls.

She bites her lip, anger coursing through her. She wants to say more, call Edward on the carpet for his bullshit answer, but she knows it won't matter in the end. Every single interaction is being watched and judged. Aro's announcement about the casting plan for Le Jeune Homme has put her on edge.

"Enough. Take it from the top," Aro says, silencing them both.

By the time Aro calls the rehearsal, Jane is dripping with sweat, and her body feels like jello. She is tense and exhausted from biting her tongue. She reminds herself to play nice, to shove it all away. It won't do to cause another scene. She knows Aro is expecting it, and she won't give him a reason to find fault with her.

The pressure had gotten to her, leaving her wound tighter than ever. Her preferred release, the thing she had come to depend on, had not failed her. She didn't do it every night, but she relished the way the razor helped her purge all the darkness, anxiety, and stress.

Today was the first time she had cut preemptively. It didn't take much, just four slices at the top of her rib cage, to drain the tension she was feeling. When she left her apartment earlier, she felt light and at ease.

Despite all that, her stomach still flutters nervously. Some of it, of course, is natural, but this performance will be different. There's someone in the audience just for her.

When Felix had asked about attending her upcoming performance after their third date, Jane was surprised. She had assumed he wouldn't be interested in watching a classical ballet performance, but when she saw the hurt in his eyes, she immediately backtracked with the promise of a ticket at the box office.

Their time together has been… perfect. He is attentive, kind, funny, and so full of life. They have spent almost every evening together. At first she was uncomfortable with it, but with each passing day, he makes her feel at ease, relaxed almost, even though she hasn't let her guard down.

Jane has tried to push away all thoughts of Edward when she is with Felix. There is no comparison between the two, but it is still hard. Edward was just as kind and attentive in the beginning, too. Jane thought she knew him, but when she walked in to find him tangled in their white bed sheets, hovering over Bella, her trust in her partner, friend, and lover was destroyed.

But Felix isn't like that,she reminds herself.

Jane can't help the smile that forms as she remembers the way he called her before the show and told her to break a leg. It was perfect and sweet, and she can't wait to see him after the show.

"Jane. You're up next," the stage manager calls.

With a nod, Jane straightens her costume, brushes her hands down the front of her leotard, and makes her way to the stage.

As the music comes to a close and the company dancers shuffle offstage, Jane dips her shoes in rosin and quickly takes her place. With a deep breath, she allows the music to carry her away, just like Aro had told her, and all the pieces fall into place.

Every step, every extension of her arms, every pirouette feels effortless. She executes each movement flawlessly. She is the epitome of grace, long lines and light on her feet.

When she and Edward come together for the first time, it feels like they are flirting, skirting the edge of possibility, exactly as they should. The push and pull of their forbidden love feels effortless as their bodies tangle together on stage.

By the time the final note sounds, Jane can hardly breathe. She is overcome with adrenaline and exhilaration. She has never performed like this, and it is almost surreal.

As the crowd cheers and applause thunders, she can't help the tears that well in her eyes. Finally, everything she has worked for pays off.

When she takes her place on stage and curtsies it's like the weight of expectation, doubt and hateful words fall to the ground. For the first time in a long time, she feels exactly like she should – proud.

Backstage, after the lights have gone off, the company members have congratulated her, and she has absorbed Aro's praise, she removes her makeup and slips into a comfortable pair of pants. Just as she's zipping her jacket, there is a knock at the door.

"Come in," she calls, knowing it's probably her mother. She braces herself for the onslaught of expected criticism but is very pleasantly surprised to see the stage manager.

"Jane, there's a young man waiting to speak with you."

"Did he give a name?"

The young girl shakes her head but smiles. "He just said he was hoping to run in to you tonight before you left."

Jane giggles and follows the girl out to see Felix leaning against the wall, a bouquet of purple and red tulips in his hand.

"Hey," she says as she glides over to stand in front of him.

"Hey yourself."

"Fancy running into you here," Jane says as she nudges his foot with hers.

He grins and holds out the flowers.

"For me?" she asks coyly as she wraps her fingers around his and the light green stems.

"Nope," he says as he pulls them back, effectively pulling her a little closer. She stumbles forward, and his big arm wraps around her waist.

Jane looks up into his blazing grey eyes and relishes the way he can make her feel so many things with a single look.




"Thank you for coming tonight, Felix," she whispers.

He grins. "Thank you for letting me. You were stunning up there."

Her cheeks flush under the weight of his compliment. There is something so genuine, so true about his comment. He doesn't have to lie or pretend; he can be real and has been every step of the way.

Something inside her shifts, and just like on stage, some of the baggage of the past falls away. Under his watchful gaze, she feels at ease, treasured, good.

There's only one thing that would make this night more perfect.

"Will you take me out for a milk shake?" she asks, her voice hopeful and tinged with a hint of leftover embarrassment from their first date.

This time, his face splits into a full, gorgeous grin. "I'd love to."


The clouds have been growing darker all day, and Jane is anxious to get home before the rain starts. She has no desire to be outside, even if it is just to catch a cab. It's been a long day, and she's tired from a very long day of rehearsal.

The pitter patter of raindrops begin to hit the windshield of the cab just as it pulls up in front of her apartment building. She hands the cabbie some money and quickly scrambles out.

By the time she's at the top of the stairs, she is already regretting her decision to skip her normal stretching routine. She walks past Felix's door and almost stops, but she's grimy – dried sweat and rosin – and needs a shower in the worst way.

But luck is not on her side, or maybe it is, because Felix opens the door. It's almost like he was waiting for her to get home.

"You're home," he says with a grin.

Jane can't help but smile. She hopes he was waiting for her, even though it all seems to be moving too fast between them. "I am."

"You want to get dinner or something with me?" he asks, subtly bouncing on the balls of his feet and giving her a hesitant smile.

The crack of thunder startles her, and while she's never been afraid of storms, the idea of going out in this is not appealing.

"I'd love to," she says. "But I really need a shower and to stretch. Can we order in?"

He nods thoughtfully and runs a hand down the length of his chin and the goatee she already loves. "Okay, go take a shower, but don't stretch until you come here."

The quirk of his eyebrow and the smirk on her face tells her he's up to something, but her curiosity is already piqued; she knows she'll wait just like he asked.

"Fine," she acquiesces, "but I get veto power if I don't like your plan."

He laughs, like really laughs, and it is the best sound she's heard all day. Deep, throaty, and real.

She showers quickly and pulls on a comfortable pair of yoga pants, a tank top, hoodie, and thick pair of soft socks. She has no idea what he has planned, but she is going to be comfortable doing it.

When Felix opens the door, he's still wearing the same smile he was when she left him in the hall.

"Feel better?" he asks, cocking his head to the side and eyeing her thoughtfully.

Something about the way he's looking at her makes her stomach tighten. It's not uncomfortable. In fact, she's felt this around him before – after each run-in, at dinner the other night, and when he brushed his lips against her cheeks when he dropped her off at her apartment – but this time it feels a little different, a little more… intense. There's heat behind his gaze, and as if they are connected, Jane's cheeks immediately flush.

"I do," she laughs and walks in as he pushes the door open wider to let her through.

This is the first time she's been in his apartment. She stops, sets her bag down, and takes a look around. The place has a distinct bachelor pad feel – dark furniture, heavy bookshelves, and a large television – without being cliché. There are subtle touches that make it feel comfortable, lived in – the thick, red chenille blanket draped over the edge of the sofa, the plants sitting on the window sill, and the frames of people she assumes are his family – and she immediately feels at ease.

"So," he says, hands in his pockets, his body rocking back and forth just slightly, "this is my place. Bathroom is down the hall, and the kitchen is there, obviously." He points to the large cut-out in the wall where she can see the refrigerator, glass cabinets, and the top of a steaming tea kettle on the stove.

Jane turns and smiles. "I like your place."

He walks up beside her and lightly brushes his hand against her shoulder. "I'm glad you're here."

It's simple, but it means so much. It's been so long since she has even come close to opening herself up to another man's touch, and Felix, at every turn, puts her at ease. It feels like she doesn't have to question where things are, because they are just… where they are.

"I ordered Chinese. I hope that's okay."

He looks nervous again, and Jane hates that her food issues have made him feel this way.

"It's perfect," she says with a soft smile.

Relief spreads across his face and in the sag of his shoulders.

"Great. Do you want something to drink? I've got beer, water for hot tea…"

"Hot tea would be great."

Felix moves quickly, grabbing a mug and tea bag, and then adds the water. It's quiet but not uncomfortable, the rain pouring outside a soothing backdrop as he walks back around the counter.

They sit, her at one end and him at the other, and talk. She tells him about her day at the studio, how she and the other dancers are under constant scrutiny for the next part.

"Which ballet?" he asks as she takes a sip of her tea and flexes her feet. Her legs are getting tighter, and she really needs to stretch.

"I doubt you've heard of it, but it's called The Young Man and Death."

"Sounds… nice?" he says, the last part more a joke than a serious question.

Jane laughs. "Yeah, it's pretty dark. It's about a man who commits suicide after finding out his lover was unfaithful."

"It sounds terribly depressing."

"Yeah, it really is. But it's hauntingly beautiful."

"So, will you be the lead in this one, too?" he asks, almost as if it's a given.

"I'm not sure. I hope so. We find out on Monday." Just as she says it, her leg tightens, and she immediately lifts it up, trying to stretch it out.

"You okay?" Felix asks, his voice laced with concern.

"Yeah, I just really need to stretch. My muscles are tight and achy," Jane offers as she begins to massage the muscles in her calves.

She cradles her calf, her socked foot resting on the couch, and jiggles it like jelly before digging her thumbs into the muscle.

"May I? he asks, brushing his hand against hers.

The jolt of lightening that booms outside could not have been more jarring than the way his fingers feel on her skin.

She looks up at him, his grey eyes dark and intense, and nods just slightly.

Gently, he lifts her leg and tugs her a little closer to him, her body sliding down slightly, so she is leaning against one of the throw pillows.

He holds her foot in his hands and slowly pushes her pants leg up above her knee. He starts to tug on the top of her sock, but she stops him.

"Just leave my socks on," she says warily.

"Why? They're too thick," he says reaching for them again.

"Felix, I'm a dancer. My feet are… pretty beat up." She's never really felt insecure about her feet, but then again she has only ever dated dancers. They all know the kind of beating their feet take, but Felix… he's never seen dancer feet. They are rough, covered in callouses, and her toes are crooked.

"I don't care about that." Without hesitating, he pulls her socks off and begins to rub his hands along the bottoms of her feet.

Jane watches his face for a hint of surprise or disgust, knowing how ripped up and rough her feet are, but she sees none.

His hands, so large and a bit calloused, are gentle but firm. With long strokes, he drags his thumb against the arch of her foot while gripping the top. It's the perfect amount of pressure and strength.

She watches him for a bit then closes her eyes and tries to relax. She hasn't had a massage in a while, and it feels so good.

He moves to the balls of her feet, and as he presses against the muscles, kneading and wiggling them, she can't help the moan that escapes. She's too overcome with how good it feels to even care.

His answering chuckle brings a playful scowl to her face, but then he does it again and she's a goner.

He pauses for a second. "I need some lotion," he says as he stands and leaves the room. When he returns, he has a large container of Vaseline Intensive Care, and now it's her turn to laugh.

"Dry skin?"

"I don't have to do this," he threatens playfully.

"Fine. You win. Just keep… doing what you were doing."

His resounding laughter is exactly what she wants to hear. She settles back against the pillow and closes her eyes.

Slowly and thoroughly he works his way up her ankle and calf. The higher he climbs up her leg, his fingers pressing, digging, soothing, she melts. Every brush of his fingertips, the way he grips her muscles, and alternates between soft and firm strokes sends another spark coursing through her.

By the time he's done with one leg and reaching for the other, she is a hot, bothered mess.

He goes through the same process all over again, just as gentle and perfect as he was the first time around. He strokes his hands forward from the ankle and over the tops of her feet, letting his thumbs curve underneath to hug the balls. With each upward stroke, he alternates his thumbs while still cupping her foot in his hands.

As his thumb digs into a particularly tender part, her foot jerks.

"Sorry," he murmurs but presses on.

Over and over he works on her foot, rocking and sliding his fingers between her toes as if they're holding hands. It is the most intimate gesture Jane has ever experienced, and when he gently pulls on each of her toes – working from her pinky to her big toe – she starts to feel lightheaded and overwhelmed.

By the time he gets to her leg, all she can think about is what it would feel like to have his hands all over her. She is fighting to stay still. This isn't supposed to be sensual, but when he drags his work-roughened hands down her leg for the final time and her eyes flicker open, she can hardly breathe.

The look on his face says everything. Jane stares into the eyes of the man she already feels so many things for and sees the same sense of longing and desire that's threatening to consume her mirrored in his beautiful, stormy grey eyes.

"Jane," Felix says, his voice hoarse and rough with unspoken emotion.

She shifts up a bit, creating the space he needs to move forward and lay next to her. He doesn't hesitate, his eyes still just as intense. He moves forward, his body hovering above hers as he slides just a bit to the side, and wraps his arm tightly around her waist.

All thoughts of massage and fatigue are long gone as she reaches up and brushes her fingers down the side of his face, relishing the day's worth of scratchy growth. He leans into her hand, and his eyes close. It's so vulnerable, so perfect, and hesitantly Jane lifts her head and touches her lips – feather light – to his.

His eyes blink open just as her lips brush against his, and he pulls back. She grabs his bicep; her breath hitches, and her face flushes in embarrassment. "Where are you going?" she asks, her eyes flickering down to her lap.

"Don't look like that. I'm just going to wash my hands," he says as he leans forward and kisses the top of her nose.

She lifts her head. "I don't care," she insists. "Stay."

For a second she wonders if she should have done it, but then he smiles, and his fingers cup her chin. His thumb brushes against her bottom lip just as her hands fall to his broad shoulders. His eyes lock with hers, and her body is on fire, tingling and burning for him, a feeling foreign and familiar at all once.

She can barely breathe as he leans forward, his fingers shifting, now fully holding her face. It feels so good. She feels so good – wanted, desired, loved.

His head dips, and there's no further question, no hesitation. His lips capture her top lip as he drags his fingers down her cheeks, tugging her bottom lip. Her mouth opens, inviting him to take everything.

Over and over his lips claim hers, top, bottom, completely.

He is tender but hungry, gentle but demanding, and it's in this moment as the rain pours outside that something inside her opens, the shackles around her heart fall away at the realization he feels all the things she feels.

Their tongues touch, and this time there is no hesitation, no question. She moans into his mouth just as he hums. They stay wrapped around each, their bodies pressed and writhing, giving and taking exactly what they both want and need, oblivious to the way rain thunders down and lightening rips open the sky.

At some point, the all-consuming need subsides even though their bodies burn. It's not time to cross that line, and Jane is grateful Felix can sense, even in her submission, that she's not quite ready.

"Beautiful," he whispers against her well-loved and bruised lips. "You are so beautiful, Jane."

With a sigh, her eyes flutter closed and a contented smile slowly spreads across her face.

After a beat, the silence comfortable, she says the only thing that even comes close to summing up what this beautiful, amazing man has done for her. "Thank you."

For making me feel.

For showing me I might just be okay.

For giving me a chance.

His eyes blaze and he smiles. And god does she love that smile. "Thank you, Janey," he says just as the doorbell rings.

Act II Scene I

"Attention, danseurses!" Aro calls, clapping his hands excitedly.

Everyone quiets immediately and gathers around.

Aro looks around the room, taking a second to look at the faces of each dancer. Then with a flourish, he pulls a piece of paper from his back pocket and grins. The dancers begin to murmur quietly as they wait for Aro to begin reading.

Jane swallows nervously and glances at Bella, who is staring back at her. They hold each other's gaze, each wondering who will get the part. Jane prays her performance in Sleeping Beauty and the audition will land her this part. She has certainly worked hard enough to earn it.

"This was a tough decision, as all the dancers that auditioned were excellent. Le Jeune Homme is a unique ballet that requires the dancers to project increasing levels of emotion throughout the piece. The performers must have chemistry, must know how to express love, hurt, anger, and countless other feelings as they fight each other.

"And so, with that understanding, I have selected Edward to play the role of the Young Man and Jane to play the role of Death. Peter and Bella, respectively, will understudy.

"Rehearsal begins immediately for all four of you in the studio. The rest of you may begin work with Marcus on an additional ballet we'll be performing a bit later this year. He'll provide the details."

With a clap of his hands he walks away. With her back against the wall, Jane doesn't even bother to suppress her surprise and elation. While she certainly believed she deserved the part for the way in which she had handled the entire audition, the news is still shocking. She knows this is going to further alienate her from the others in the company, and the venomous glare on Bella's face certainly proves it.

Jane watches as a group of girls – namely Rosalie, Jessica, and Angela – surround Bella, trying to comfort her. She is visibly upset, and while Jane knows how much it sucks to be in second place, she can't find it within herself to feel sorry for Bella. Not after everything that happened with Edward, and certainly not the constant chaos she creates among the company members.

She is about to push off the wall and make her way to the studio when she sees Edward walk over to Bella. He pulls her into his arms and runs his fingers lightly up and down her back. He whispers something in her ear, and she chuckles a little.

Jane wants to look away, but it's like a train wreck. He is doing everything she always wanted, everything he used to do to her when she failed to get a part. The bitter bile of jealousy burns the back of her throat, and Jane forces her legs to move. She can't watch them anymore. It hurts too much.

Act II Scene II

"Hey, Janey," Felix says, kissing her tenderly as she opens the door to her apartment.

Jane smiles at his new term of endearment. No one has ever called her anything other than Jane, and the way it just rolls off his tongue makes her feel all sorts of warm inside.

"Hey," she says, wrapping her arms around his neck. She squeezes him tightly, needing to feel something other than the ache deep inside her chest. After the announcement today and watching Edward comfort Bella, Jane had wanted nothing more than to escape it all with the slice of her blade. Unfortunately, she couldn't leave, and she had to suppress the feeling as she began work on her new role.

In the silence of her apartment, though, the feeling returned, and if Felix hadn't returned she would have locked herself in the bathroom and taken matters into her own hands.

"You okay?" he asks as he pulls back to look at her face.

"Yeah. Just glad you're here."

Unsatisfied, he pushes her back enough that he can close the door behind him. With his arms wrapped around her waist, he gently leads her into the living room. With every step, she feels the tension dissipate. He is forceful but not harsh. Jane knows she needs to tell him, to open up about her life and the stress she is under, but the fear of what could happen compels her to keep quiet.

As the backs of her knees bump into the couch, he shifts her around so he can sit then pulls her down into his lap. She leans against him, burying her head under his chin. She can hear his heart beating, the steady thrumming comforting and a reminder that he is here, that he's not Edward, and that he may understand – if she would just shed the protective armor she always wears.

"What's going on, baby?" he asks, his voice soft and hesitant.

She shakes her head and snuggles in a little deeper. His arms tighten around her, and he holds her, waiting as the silence between them grows.

Buried in his arms, Jane allows the day to melt away. There is something so protective, so strong about the way Felix is holding her, almost like he understands more than he lets on.

After what feels like an eternity of silence, Jane takes a deep breath and starts to speak. "It was sort of a rough day today. It shouldn't have been, because I got cast as the lead in that two person ballet I was telling you about."

His arms tighten just slightly, acknowledging her news without pulling her out of her quiet confession.

"But as I looked around the studio and saw everyone supporting Bella – my main competitor and understudy – it just made me feel bad. Not to mention my partner – her boyfriend and my ex – was trying to make her feel better. I wish I could say I wasn't jealous, but I was. Not because I wanted to be comforted by him or for it to still be me… it's just no one congratulated me. And I just felt… lonely."

Jane is surprised by the depth of her confession. She rarely talks about her feelings; she certainly doesn't admit her weakness, but there is something about being supported and cared for that makes her want to let it all out. In a healthyway.

"I'm sorry today was so rough," he says softly, pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

His statement is simple but so meaningful. Jane is grateful he doesn't try to draw more from her. In the time since they first met, he has come to understand her – what you show him – quite well. Never before has anyone knownher, and even though it's not everything, it's a start.

Eventually she pulls back and stares into his eyes. "Thank you," she whispers.

A slow, easy smile spreads across his face as leans forward a bit. "You won't hear me complaining about holding my girl," he says sweetly.

Jane giggles – still surprised every time she does it – and brushes her lips against his. Her fingers move to his hair, gliding through the silky strands as he hums happily.

"You know what would make this night just a little better?" he asks as he presses a sweet array of kisses against the side of her mouth, along her jaw, and just below her ear.

"What?" Jane asks, her voice breathy and distracted as she shifts a bit closer, her body settling heavily against his.

His hands slide down her back and sit just above the base of her spine. He draws lazy circles as he nuzzles her neck, nipping and tasting her delicate skin.


Jane pulls back, a little surprised his thoughts have drifted away from the little make out session they are having.

"What?" he asks as he playfully bites her chin. "I'm hungry. And your mouth will be extra sweet when we're done."

Jane grins, swatting his mouth away from her chin and chuckling at his ridiculous logic. Not that she can disagree. Ice cream makes everything better, especially when she rarely gets to enjoy it. "I was sort of hoping we could stay in tonight, but I'd be up for a couple sucks of yours."

Felix's jaw drops at the mischievous glint in Jane's eyes. "Um… yeah, maybe we should stay in. Raid your fridge or order in," he says, hastily backtracking.

Jane's head falls back as she bursts into a fit of laughter. When she gets herself under control, she stands, extends her hand, and says, "Come on hot stuff, let's find something to eat."

Act II Scene III

As the performance looms ever closer, the pressure intensifies. Aro's criticism grows sharper, Edward's disdain grows, and her mother's tireless running commentary on her life increases.

The next time Jane she sees her mother, Camilla doesn't mention their failed lunch. She greets Jane with an uncharacteristically warm smile and a casual kiss to the cheek.

"Good morning, darling," her mother says as she walks past her to take a seat in one of the chairs along the back wall of the studio.

"Mother," Jane says cautiously. Her mother is rarely this… kind, and it instantly puts Jane on guard.

"What? I can't watch my own daughter, the prima ballerina, prepare for her upcoming ballet?" Camilla's face twists, almost as if she's hurt by Jane's distrust.

Jane watches her for a second and shrugs. "Suit yourself."

With her back to her mother, she proceeds to stretch and prepare for her rehearsal with Edward. She knows it's going to be interesting. Her mother adores Edward and blames Jane for their break-up, the fact Jane found him in bed with Bella seemingly inconsequential.

When Edward walks in a few seconds later, Camilla immediately stands and rushes over, kissing his cheek and dousing him in her fake, sugary-sweet praise. Jane wants to vomit watching her. Her mother is so obvious, and it makes Jane sick to see her fawning all over him.

By the time Aro walks in and the music has already begun, Jane is wound tighter than a ball of yarn and on the verge of unraveling at any second. Her normally fluid movements are choppy, her balance is off, and she can't seem to stay on count.

"Jane, what is your problem?" Aro asks, irritated.

"Just give me a second, please," Jane says as she grabs her water and walks out of the room. She makes her way to her dressing room and takes a seat in her chair. With her ear buds in her ears, she flips through the songs and settles on a song that reminds her of Felix and the way he makes her feel.

Well I'm not sure what this going to be

But with my eyes clenched all I see

Is the skyline through the window

The moon above you and the streets below

Hold my breath as you're moving in

Taste your lips and feel your skin

When the time comes

Baby don't run, just kiss me slowly

As the music washes over, she focuses on the way his mouth tasted after he ate the ice cream he brought from his apartment, how his fingertips dug into and kneaded her aching muscles, and how it always feels to be wrapped in his arms.

The song comes to a close, and Jane takes a deep breath, feeling better. With renewed focus, she quickly makes her way back to the studio. She doesn't offer an explanation, just says she's ready to take it from the top. Aro looks like he wants to question her, but the look on her face – determined, confident – must give him pause.

"From the top," he calls as she takes her place on the far wall. As the music fills the room, Jane watches as Edward lies on the bed, smoking a cigarette. When he pushes off the bed, Jane can't help but admire the way his body looks in the loose pair of jeans he's wearing. Despite the way she feels about him, she knows he is a marvelous dancer. The way he loses himself in the music, maneuvering around the furniture in the room, using a chair to help express the depth of his emotion is breathtaking.

By the time Jane hears her cue, she is fully in the zone. She moves with ease, and when their bodies tangle together it is a dance full of barely controlled rage and sensuality, as Edward – le jeune home –mourns Jane's – death's –unfaithfulness.

When the music comes to a close and Edward imitates his suicide, Jane can't help but relish the irony of the moment. Watching Edward kill himself over her unfaithfulness – when in reality the situation, without the suicide, was the reverse – is almost morbid and yet strangely satisfying.

Silence fills the room, and both Edward and Jane stand waiting for Aro to comment. When he doesn't immediately say anything, they look at each other, confused.

Finally, Edward speaks up. "Well, Aro?"

"Brilliant. Now, let's fine tune some of the pieces, and it'll be show-worthy."

Jane and Edward, suspending their disdain for one another, beam and nod appreciatively at each other. Regardless of their animosity, they both know they are fortunate to dance with together.

They spend the next few hours tweaking and playing with expression, movement, and flow. By the time they finish, Jane feels blissed out. It is so rare to have a practice session like this, and she cannot believe it occurred with her mother in the room.

"Join me for dinner," her mother says when Aro wraps for the day.

Jane hesitates.

"Oh come, darling, your father will be there, as will the Webers. You remember their son, Ben, don't you?" Camilla asks innocently.

The happy feeling Jane felt, the hope she had that her mother might actually just want to have a nice dinner with her immediately dissipates.

"I'm not going to dinner with you tonight. I already told you I wasn't interested in Ben Weber. Plus…" Jane pauses, debating whether or not to say anything about Felix.

"Plus what?" her mother prods impatiently.

"I'm seeing someone. So, I don't need you to play matchmaker anymore, not that I asked you to anyway," Jane says, mumbling the last part under her breath.

"You're seeing someone. Interesting. And just who is this mystery man? And how do you have time to for a relationship with all these rehearsals?" Her voice is dripping with sarcasm, and Jane wants to slap her. It would feel so good.

"I manage. And his name is Felix."

"What kind of name is Felix? What does he do for a living? Where did you meet him?" Camilla fires back a rapid barrage of condescending questions.

Jane glares at her mother, knowing she should leave now, walk away before this goes further down hill. Her mother will never understand, and she definitely will not approve. At that last thought, Jane grins.

"I met him in the lobby of my apartment building. He lives on my floor. And for your information, he's a professional chef." Jane says, pressing her lips tightly together, arching her brow, and crossing her arms over her chest, just daring her mother to fire back.

"A cook, Jane? Are you deliberately trying to be difficult?" her mother huffs, her eyes rolling practically into the back of her head and back again.

"He's not a cook, Mother. He's an up and coming chef," Jane practically growls, knowing it will not matter. Her mother has standards, and Felix does not meet them.

"Chef, cook," Camilla says, her hands slicing through the air dismissively. "It's one and the same." She turns and grabs her bag, and then stops, turning to face Jane once again. "I'll see you outside your building at seven o'clock sharp this evening."

And with that, she waltzes out of the room without a backward glance.

"Then you'll be waiting for a long time, because I won't be there," Jane yells after her, throwing her freshly removed pointe shoes across the room.

Act II Scene IV

As she walks out of the studio, she immediately sends Felix a text.

Hamburgers and milkshakes? – J

Everything okay? – F

Fine. Just want some ice cream and meat. – J

On it. See you soon, Janey. – F

Her chest tightens at his last message. She loves it when he calls her that.

By the time she gets home and showers, she is still tense. She wants to dig into her kit, but she knows she doesn't have time.

She needs Felix to get here. She's not hungry, but she needs a distraction. It is nearing seven o'clock, and her mother will be relentless.

The knock on the door sends her into an almost panic. She tiptoes to the door and peeks through the peephole. With a sigh of relief, she steps back and wrenches the door open.

"Felix," she says desperately, tugging him into the apartment and slamming the door behind him.

She pushes him against the closed door and immediately wraps her arms around his neck and kisses him. Hard.

Surprised, he doesn't move until her tongue flicks out and slides against his bottom lip, a low growl escaping. It jolts him into action, and he immediately sucks her bottom lip into his mouth, nibbling, tasting, and claiming. He may be late to the game, but he knows how to catch up.

Jane moans into his mouth and grinds her tiny body against his. He immediately reaches down, dropping the bag of burgers, and grabs her ass, lifting her up. Her legs wrap around his waist, and she presses against him harder. All she can think is how desperately she needs him, wants him.

He pulls his lips away from hers and immediately burns a fiery, wet hot trail of open-mouthed kisses along her jaw and neck to the top of her tank top.

She throws her head back, completely lost in the way he makes her feel. Free. Light. Sexy. Wanted.

"You are so fucking sexy, Janey," he breathes against her chest as his tongue dips just below the neckline.

She lifts her head, and her eyes meet his. Together, they blaze, and as his fingers reach for the hem of her shirt, realization hits her. Jane immediately pushes his hand away, knowing what he'll see if they take this step. Slowly, she leans forward and reverently kisses him. Their tongues tangle together, less insistent, more sure, and when she finally slides down his body, she feels more in control, more stable.

"Looks like someone was hungry," Felix says with a rough chuckle as his hand brushes through his hair.

Jane's already pink cheeks flush darker. "God, I needed that."

"Happy to oblige," he says as he steals another kisses before bending down to pick up the bag of forgotten burgers and shakes.

He takes a peek inside and grimaces. "Our milkshakes are melted, but the burgers are probably still good."

Jane laughs. "Sounds good."

This lighthearted moment is short-lived as her phone rings. She doesn't even both looking at it as she sends it to voicemail. It immediately rings again, and she silences it again. She fumbles with the buttons and turns it off. She is not going to talk to her mother. She will notdictate whom Jane can and cannot see.

"Everything okay?" Felix asks as he steps into the living room carrying two plates.

"Yep," Jane says, forcing a smile.

They sit in silence, and Jane picks at her burger, barely able to get two bites down while Felix devours his. Her stomach churns uncomfortably. She should not have eaten it. She knows better. Even though it was only a few bites, it is going to wreak havoc on her system. She can't even remember the last time she had red meat.

Felix stops mid-bite and stares at her curiously. He shoves the remaining bite in his mouth, chews, and quickly swallows, wiping his hand across his mouth.

Her stomach grumbles uneasily the longer she watches him. She can hear her mother's bitter, ugly voice.

You're going to get fat.

He's just a cook.

How can you balance a relationship and all these rehearsals?

"What's going on, Janey?" he asks, just as she jumps off the couch and lunges for the bathroom. Slamming and locking the door behind her, she drops to her knees in front of the toilet and heaves.


She waits, knowing it will all come up. She heaves again.

Fat! Fat! Fat!

She squeezes her eyes closed, desperate to shut out her mother's vicious words. She sticks her finger down her throat and gags, praying the burger will come up. Over and over she jams her fingers down her throat until she feels the bile and chunks of barely eaten burger make their way back up.

Her eyes burn with tears, and her throat is screaming in protest. Self-loathing and disgust immediately washes over her, and it's all she can do to stand and flush the toilet.

On unsteady feet, she stumbles to the sink, turns on the water and lets it run. There's only one thing that can take all this away. She pulls open her drawer, removes her kit, and with ritualistic certainly, begins her routine.









As her fingers slide through the blood on her ribcage, she grimaces, finally feeling the tension, the disgust, the bitter venom in her soul seep away.

But just like before, the moment is short-lived.

"You okay, baby?" he asks, knocking gently on the door.

"Yeah, be right out," she says, fighting to keep the strain out of her voice as she reaches for a bandage to cover her flaming red, mutilated skin.

"Um, okay," he says. Jane can hear the uncertainty in his voice.

"How about we watch a movie?" she asks, as she quickly washes her hands, removing the traces of her shame.

"Sounds good." His voice is distant through the door, and she knows she's bought herself another minute. She rinses the blood from the razor, blows out the candle, and efficiently repacks her kit, stowing in the drawer for safekeeping.

When she finally opens the door, Felix's head jerks up, and the concern in his eyes almost stops her cold. She hates that she did this to him, made him feel uncomfortable, unsure.

As she snuggles into his side and lays her head against his chest, a bastion of unwanted feelings – doubt, regret, fear, shame – washes over her. When his fingers begin to graze her side, ghosting against her rib cage, she can barely hide the wince. Her flesh is still too raw, too tender, and she knows this cannot go anywhere. She can't reveal her almost daily mutilation.

He would never understand.

She doesn't want him to.

Act II Scene V

Jane is completely out of it the next day. Her mind is whirling with frustration and shame over her complete inability to deal with her emotions. She is disgusted with herself for allowing her mother to get the best of her, for throwing up the hamburgers she had insisted on ordering, and then worst off all, for cutting herself with Felix in her living room.

By the time she gets to Felix's apartment and he wraps his arms around her, she has convinced herself that all of this must end. She can't do this… not to him… anymore.

They eat in silence, and by the way Felix keeps glancing at her, she knows he knows something is up. Finally, he takes her plate and sets it on the table. Without asking or saying a word, he pulls her into his lap and wraps her in his protective embrace. He whispers how beautiful she is, but it's not enough. It only makes it worse, because she knows it's not true. She is a vile, ugly person, and she hurts people.

When his lips claim hers, hungry and desperate, she forcefully presses her hands against his chest. Felix immediately pulls back and stares at her in confusion. Jane can feel the panic closing in. She shouldn't have done this, shouldn't have crossed this line with him. What had started out as nothing but a simple run-in and dinner had turned into so much more.

Jane closes eyes, needing a moment to collect herself. A war between her heart and mind is being waged inside her. She knows how Felix feels about her. He hasn't said the words – those three little words - but they're there, just below the surface, bubbling, waiting, biding their time. Her heart longs to be open, to accept Felix at face value. He's never given her any reason not to, but the rational part of her knows what happened the last time she did that.

Edward. What had started as friendship had turned into tender touches, hungry kisses, and her willfully giving herself over to him and his promises for the future. He was everything, and in a single act, he destroyed everything they had, including that place inside her where she could love and be loved.

He's not like Edward, she heard her heart say, just as her mind countered with He's a man. He only wants one thing.

She squeezes her eyes tighter and shakes her head, fighting to clear away all the clattering voices.

When she finally looks up, she can see Felix's confusion in the way his head tilts to the side and his eyebrows draw together in a deep 'V."

In that moment, Jane realizes how much she hates Edward Cullen. She hates him for what he did, for creating this person who can't trust anyone, and worst of all, for taking away her chance to freely love someone who clearly loves her back.

It's this realization – that she can't give him what he needs – that propels her out of his lap and to the door.

"Jane?" he asks, his voice soft and tentative.

She shakes her head, her chest rising and falling rapidly. She looks around the room, the tightness in her chest increasing, and quickly locates her bag. She refuses to look at him as she slings it over her shoulder.

She wants to give him some kind of explanation, something to let him know this it's her – not him – and then she realizes how perfectly cliché this whole scene seems.

Jane turns, wrapping her arms tightly around her waist, and looks at Felix.

"I'm sorry, Felix. I… I shouldn't have…" She trails off, knowing it won't be enough to satisfy him. She has to end this here - for him and for her. Resolutely, she lifts her chin a little higher and says the words that blast the remaining pieces of her heart to bits. "This was a mistake," she says coolly, her well-practiced mask of indifference fully in place. "I thought I could do this, but I can't do this with you."

He stares at her, his mouth open and his eyes wide, as he moves toward her. "Please don't do this, Jane. Whatever it is, whatever I did, we can fix it."

"Don't," Jane says resolutely.

Felix immediately stops and stares into her eyes, searching for some semblance of the truth. Jane can see the moment the realization that what they have is over dawns. His beautiful eyes dim, his shoulders sag, and he releases a long, shaky breath. He looks down and tucks his hands in his front pocket, and the way he's standing there reminds her of the day he first asked her out. He was so unsure – despite his generally cocky demeanor - and she hates herself for reducing him to this. She doesn't wait for him to say anything. She turns, wrenches his door open, and bolts down the hall.

As she leaves, tears streaming down her face, she knows she's walking away from her one real chance at happiness. If she is too damaged to find it with Felix – the kindest, gentlest, most thoughtful man she's ever known – she won't find it with anyone. Of that she is certain. She hates that she can't open up, give him what he needs – deserves – but it's too much to risk, too much to sacrifice when she will inevitably let him down.

With each step forward, her heart is screaming at her to turn around, but her mind knows the truth. He will be standing there, his face the picture of hurt and brokenness, and she knows she'll cave. She can't bring him down with her.

With trembling fingers, she unlocks her apartment. In a moment of weakness, she turns to look. He's there, just like she knew he would be, and the look on his face nearly does her in. His face is drawn, his normally smiling face sagging under the weight of loss, and a fresh wave of tears prick at her eyes.

"I'm sorry, Jane," he says, his voice rough and barely audible.

She doesn't think. All she can do is feel the pain of her heart breaking – again – and the blame, shame, and sadness wash over her like a tidal wave as she walks inside.

A slow desperation begins to burn, and she immediately grabs her kit. She feels like she is going to throw up. She knows what she's going to do. She doesn't want to, but it's the only thing that will help. The pain is too much, and the relief will be the reprieve – even if short-lived – she needs.

She strikes a match, inhaling its comforting sulfur scent, and lights the candle. She watches the flame flicker and then grabs her box of razors. Her once shaky fingers wrap around the cool blade in a well-practiced move. She holds the bottom in the fire until she's sure it's sterilized.

Setting it aside, she opens the button on her jeans, tugs on the zipper, and pushes the waistband down just below her hips. With a now ritualistic glance in the mirror, she picks up the blade and cuts. With each swipe of the blade she acutely feels her loss and relishes the pain it brings – the perfect punishment for an imperfect woman.





Blood pools on the surface as she grinds her teeth, hissing in pain.





She feels waves of euphoria, the rush of the release, wash over her, and it hurts so good.






Unlucky thirteen. Because she doesn't deserve happiness and never will.

Act II Scene VI

The night of the performance, Jane is a complete mess. She hasn't heard from Felix in two weeks, and every day that passes is like a vice crushing her heart all over again.

Every practice she's had has been nothing short of a desperate reprieve from her mind. She longs to know what he's doing, what he's been thinking, if he misses her as much as she misses him.

As she walks back to her dressing room, completely lost in thought, she doesn't see the metal curtain anchor that's been placed in front of her door. She trips, her ankle twisting violently as she attempts to catch herself.

She screams in pain and immediately drops to the ground, her hand wrapping tightly around her ankle. Dancers come running, and quickly a small half moon forms around her.

The pain in her ankle is blinding, throbbing with every little move she makes. She tries to breathe, to rapidly inhale some desperately needed oxygen, but it's like all the air has been sucked out of the room. Nothing goes in; nothing goes out.

She looks up, frantically trying to wrap her mind around what just happened. She tries to look behind her but movement off to the side catches her eye.

Rose and Jessica are standing against the far wall, watching… grinning.

Blood pounds through her veins as she rapidly pieces everything together. The rage, the anger, the hurt, the pain all wells up inside her, and she viciously screams, "How could you?"

Their smiles disappear and malice immediately takes its place.

"Jane, dear, what-" He stops short, his eyes immediately falling to her finger-covered ankle.

"Aro," she whispers, her voice raspy with pain and tears.

He reaches down and gently removes her fingers. The sudden release of pressure is like an excruciating jolt of a cattle prod, and she can't help but cry out. His fingers poke and prod, and it's when he looks into her eyes, she knows.

A sob escapes. There's no way she can dance. Hot, angry tears flow unchecked down her cheeks. This loss, on top of Felix, on top of Edward, on top of so many other things is too much to bear.

"I'm sorry, my beautiful ballerina. You cannot perform like this." Jane barely hears what he is saying. His fingers brush her cheeks, pulling her eyes back to his. They are sad, knowing. He knows how much this part means to her, even if she never said a word or gave an explanation. He's been around. He knows what happened between her and Edward.

With a gentle squeeze and another compassionate look, he stands. "Go on, everyone. Show's over."

The crowd immediately disperses, and the only ones remaining are Edward, Bella, Rose, and Jessica.

"Bella, get warmed up," Aro says. "Edward, let's talk."

Bella stares at Jane, a glimmer of sadness marring her very plain features. Jane is the first to break their gaze, and her eyes shift to Rose and Jessica. The haughty smiles she had previously seen are back in full force.

"Looks like it's your turn to shine tonight, Bella" Rose says as Bella walks past her. Bella briefly pauses then walks on.

Jane stares at her in disbelief bordering on rage. "Why? How could you do this?"

Jessica rolls her eyes and scoffs. "You're the one that tripped. How were we supposed to know you wouldn't see the box in front of your door."

The two laugh and start to walk away.

"You bitches are going to pay for this," Jane sneers, all pretense of civility gone.

"Ooooh, we're so scared," Rose mocks, pretending to shake with fear.

"Fuck you."

But it lacks conviction as despair and anger and hurt and hate and all the dark, dark emotions she's been suppressing and fighting for months begin to consume her.

Her career is possibly over.

Felix… she pushed him away.

She has nothing. No one.

She calls her driver to come get her, and when he arrives, he easily carries her to the car. Just as she is about to exit, she hears the beginning cues of the music, and a brokenhearted sob escapes. She buries her head in the driver's shoulder, completely unfazed by the intimacy of her actions.

The car ride home is slow and quiet. She doesn't speak, lost in her jumbled thoughts. The more she thinks, dwells, the more twisted and angry, hopeless and desperate she becomes.

She wonders if her mother will come to the apartment, if for once she'll actually show some compassion, be a mother.

As the driver carries her to the elevator and then to her apartment, she passes Felix's door.

"Stop," she whispers, squirming to get out of his arms. He sets her down, his concern evident as a frown forms on his face.

She hops, gritting her teeth at the pain, to Felix's door and lifts her hand to knock, wondering if he might actually have gone to her show but dismisses it quickly as nothing more than wishful thinking, and lowers it after images of him, dejected and broken, flash through her mind.

More than anything she wants to knock on his door, beg him to forgive her, take her back, tell him everything. But it's too late for that.

Just another reason you had to let him go. You're messed up, Jane.

She turns back, her eyes downcast, but the driver is there, instantly lifting her into his arms.

Once settled in her apartment, the reality of everything that happened rains down on her. It's like hurricane force winds and pummeling showers are drowning her, and the more she fights, the worse it becomes.

Her chest constricts, and her breath comes in short, tight gasps. Black and white spots begin to form in front of her eyes, and she knows it will all feel better if she can just… find a way to ease the pain, the tension, the agony of this moment.

She needs the release, the all-consuming, familiar release. She needs to feel the blade slicing, to see the blood come to the surface, and feel the sting of the air hitting it.

She wonders how this happened? How her life, in a matter of days, has been turned upside down.

I told you not to get involved with someone like him, Jane. He's a cook, for Christ's sake. He's nothing.

It's Bella's time to shine tonight.

Bella, warm up.

Huge sobs rip through her as she remembers the triumphant gleam on Rose and Jessica's faces and the way Edward wouldn't meet her eyes.

Another slice of pain and anger rips through her, and she pushes herself up on all fours and crawls to the bathroom.

The tiles are cold and hard on her hands and knees, but it doesn't stop her. Gripping the sink, she pulls herself up and cries out as she puts weight on her foot. The pain is like a soothing balm to her soul.

Standing in the middle of her bathroom, she turns and looks at her self in the mirror. Her eyes are red, bloodshot from crying and lack of sleep. Her body is thin, practically emaciated, but all she sees is the figure of a girl – lonely, sad, and never good enough.

She can hear their voices in her head, Aro, Edward, and her mother, each in rapid succession.

You can't hold your line, your pirouettes are off, and your performances have been weak. Perhaps Bella is better suited for this role.

You'll never be warm like Bella. You're cold and stiff – on the dance floor and in bed – and no one will ever want you.

Jane, you've gained weight, haven't you? How do you expect Edward to lift you in the air?

"SHUT UP!" she screams, her face twisting angrily as she desperately tries to silence their disgusting voices. "I hate you! Just shut up!" she screams again at the mirror, her hands ripping at her hair as she squeezes her eyes closed.

She looks at the kit in front of her, and the box of blades beckons. She knows it's the only way. She pushes aside the candle, scissors, and tweezers; she won't need them. Not tonight.

The razor, glinting in the light, feels so good in her hand. She knows the relief it will bring.

She leans against the counter, her body heavy and fatigued. "So tired," she says weakly, as she takes in the dark, ugly circles under her eyes.

She doesn't hesitate as she skims it against her skin, nervous and scared, but desperate to make it all stop. To make the pain, their voices, all of it go away. She knows it won't matter if she's gone. She'll never be good enough. She's never beenenough.

She doesn't think or maybe she does. Maybe this is the most clearheaded thing she's ever done.

A deep breath.

A searing blaze as the razor slices through her skin, up the length of her right arm.

She blinks back the tears that run unhindered down her cheeks, unaware they'd even started to fall, and shakily switches the bloodstained razor to the other hand.

Blood. Hot and red flows against her pale, almost translucent skin, running in jagged, broken lines.

This time she doesn't hesitate. She just slices. Deep.

Relief. It's all she feels as she watches the red drops drip on the floor.

Sticky. It's what she thinks as the razor sticks to her fingers. How she never realized it before she doesn't know, but it is.

Jane presses the fingers of her left hand against the open wound on her skin, relishing the burn, the way the voices are no longer there. Silent. She knows it won't last; it never does, but then she thinks about what she's done and smiles as waves of euphoria wash over her.

Her head is spinning, and she smiles.

She thinks of the one good thing in her life – Felix – and imagines him calling her name, chasing after her, pounding on her door, but she knows he won't come for her. Not after she pushed him away.

She lifts her bloody fingers, staring at the way the light makes them look so strange, and trails them along the white of the wall as she crumples, weak and lightheaded, to the floor.

Maybe now they'll see. Maybe they'll understand how they made me feel, she thinks, as her head thuds softly against the cold, hard tiles.

She's so tired, more so than she's ever been before, and yet she watches, mesmerized, feeling strangely strengthened by the sting of the air and the blinding relief she feels as all the bitterness and rejection runs free.

The darkness pulls her down. As her dappled white and grey world fades to black, warmly enveloping her in its arms, she hears him again.

"Jane! Baby, please."


Jane sits at a park bench, her back to the treatment facility behind her, staring at the water and the ducks gliding seamlessly across the glassy surface. It's been three days since Felix's last visit, and the anticipation of spending the afternoon together is making her smile like a fool.

She can hear him crunching through the leaves before she sees him, and her heart skips a beat.

Thick arms wrap around her shoulders and a scratchy beard rubs against her tender skin. "Hey, Janey," Felix whispers as he brushes his lips just beneath her ear.

She turns her face and leans into him, relishing his warmth and rich, earthy scent.

"Hey," she says softly.

He never breaks contact with her as he walks around the bench and sits beside her, careful to avoid bumping into her arms. They are still covered in bandages, still healing from the damage she inflicted on herself.

She looks over at him, amazed and in awe of the man who saved her. She still can't believe he had gotten to her in time, that it washis voice that had carried away so much of her pain.

Jane looks down at her ravished body, and tears, her now constant companion, prick and well in her eyes.

When she looks up, they fall in steady lines, blurring the image of the man she knows she loves and almost lost.

"I'm so sorry, Felix," she whispers, her voice hoarse and barely audible. This has been a long time coming.

Like always, he doesn't hesitate. He cups her face in her hands, and his steel grey eyes meet hers. The intensity of his gaze, the way it penetrates deep into her soul is breathtaking.

His lips find hers in a tender kiss as his big hand comes to rest at the base of her neck.

He hums contentedly against her mouth, and she feels his slow smile before she sees it. She will never understand how she got so lucky, how a chance collision in her apartment lobby could lead to something so… so profound and full and rich, but she knows she'll never look back. Felix saved her that day, not just when he burst through her door and frantically scooped her into his arms, but every day leading up to and since that day.

Things aren't perfect, and they certainly haven't been easy. She still has a long way to go before she is fully healed – whole, for him, for her – but she knows she can do it with him at her side. Admitting it to herself, being this vulnerable, has been hard, but now that she has she feels free –freer, lighter, happier than ever.

Her eyes flutters closed as she breathes him in, loving everything about the tranquility and simplicity of this moment.

"I love you, Janey. Always."

The End.