Bitter Winters

Summary: Turn of the century Moscow: Bella is a dancer living with the Russian Ballet Company, determined to become the prima ballerina when fate makes her question the sacrifices she's made. Can Edward reignite her passion for dance, love and life?

Disclaimer: We don't own twilight, we don't own any of the characters. We really don't own much of anything, except an extremely large collection of nail polish, one large cat, and one small dog. We are just building sand castles on Stephanie Meyer's private beach.

Chapter One: The Girl in the Mirror

Your father left you here, Isabella. His only wish was that you dance!

The other girls at the ballet studio envied what Madame Irina saw in me, but that didn't help my life here. At least the chill of another Christmas left the halls empty, so I could focus on dance. While the rest of the girls were given time to spend with their families, to bustle to church with their parents and then hurry home for a warm dinner, I had the floor to myself. Only my reflection could scrutinize me, even as I watched and scolded her in my head.

I spent five years watching her without understanding. When my father brought me to the ballet company, I was four years old. I didn't understand then that he was leaving me, not until a few days later when he didn't come home and neither did I. Perhaps, even, I didn't understand until that day.

Now that my father was dead and I was truly alone, the revelation changed something in me that I couldn't explain as a nine year old child.

I watched the other girls when their parents came to get them that morning. Their mothers had cupped their cheeks and hugged them tightly. I heard the pride they all felt spill from their lips. I wanted to think that my parents would have been there too, but somehow even then the thought wouldn't bring me comfort. Even if my mother had been alive to stroke my hair and tell me what a precious and graceful little doll I was, would she have been there? Or would she have been walking the streets? Would my father have patted my head and handed me a brightly wrapped package with a new dress inside?

My reflection gazed back at me in the mirror, her arm swept above her head, chin lifted up dramatically. I should have judged her, that was the reason we practiced in front of mirrors, so Madame Irina told me, but I had always felt like the doppelganger held more power. That day in the ballet studio, I wanted the same things I wanted every day: grace, poise, determination. I always wore them on my face, but I never felt them.

I always felt something else, something that doubled for the things I lacked. I was the most stubborn pupil at the ballet. Madame Irina called me spoiled, Isabella, the little princess, and she swatted me for it often, but that same quality that made me misbehave made her more determined to make a fine dancer out of me.

That and Baron Aro's insistence. I remembered the first time I saw the Baron come to the ballet company, when I was five and still so very young and naive. His clothes were the finest things I had ever seen and I wandered out from the studio, down the hallway to peer at him. Madame Irina commanded me back, but the Baron stopped her, beckoning me closer with a soft voice and crook of his finger.

"What a precious child," he said.

"Isabella, Baron," Madame Irina replied. "She is a new addition. Turn for us, Isabella."

I hesitated for a moment, staring at the Baron's fingers, a large sapphire gleaming out from the setting on his ring. I had slowly spun in a circle, my arms held out, fingers pointed to the floor.

"She shows promise," the Baron said. "I trust you will give her special instruction."

"Her...situation has made such a thing difficult, Baron," Madame Irina replied.

"Ah, do not worry, Madame," Baron Aro said with a smile. "I shall always have your interests in mind."

I thought about my father, and though I hardly knew him or my mother, they had put me on this path, to become as regal and beautiful as the image in the mirror. That had brought me to this moment, practicing in solitude on this chilled winter morning. I looked my reflection in the eyes, her dark brown lashes fluttering like leaves in the wind. I could be that, if I let Madame Irina have her way, if I practiced day and night, if I wanted it enough. The training, the classes, they wouldn't give it to me, even with all the natural gifts I had. My father, Madame Irina, Baron Aro, they couldn't give it to me either. I had to want it. If I wanted to be the prima ballerina.

"Be better," I whispered. "Be the best."

"Good advice," a voice behind me said, the one from my thoughts. How I could have missed Baron Aro's reflection in my mirror, I have no idea, but when I torn my eyes from my hardened face, they came to rest on his smiling face. "Isabella."

"Baron," I said, whipping around and dropping into a curtsy. "What are you doing here? It's Christmas."

"I didn't see you at church with Madame Irina and the other girls," Baron Aro said. "I have a gift for you, Isabella Swan."

I approached Baron Aro with care, the way I always treated him. Even as a child, I could sense something lurking beneath the surface. Perhaps it was because I could always see the way his smile never reached his eyes but never fell from his lips when he watched me. I stopped in front of the Baron, keeping my expression neutral and polite. Despite my unease, I knew that he expected my obedience and gratitude.

"Here you are, Isabella," the Baron said.

I wished that he would stop saying my name, not liking the way it rolled off his tongue. He extended a hand and my eyes traveled down his wrist to the tips of his fingers. A pale pink ribbon wound its way around them. It was a simple gift for a simple little girl, but it was the gift I could remember being offered. I tentatively took it, careful not to touch the Baron, and I forced myself to hold it. Oh how I wanted to tie it in my hair right then, but I had to be polite.

"Thank you, Baron," I said, once again curtsying to him, this time with more enthusiasm and energy.

"I hope you wear it often," Baron Aro said.

"Of course, Baron," I replied.

"I must be off," the Baron said. He fell silent, regarding me again. Through my delight at the present, I felt that familiar chill that he sent down my spine return. "Isabella."

After he left, I stood frozen still for a moment, my fingers brushing over the smooth fabric of the ribbon. A thought crossed my mind, solidifying everything I had been thinking before Baron Aro's appearance. If I could dance, if I could be the best dancer, I would have more than a pink ribbon in my hand. For a child, the idea built a foundation for a host more.

The prima ballerina could have everything, and that could be me.

AN: We are Ms. Pacman and Madame Wang. Welcome to our first Edward/Bella twilight fic. We wanted to add a very important note to this chapter because of the content we've chosen to lead in with: THIS IS NOT CHILD PORNOGRAPHY and ARO IS NOT A PEDOPHILE (just in case you were worried). This fic will be Edward/Bella very soon, or if you prefer, Bella/Edward (I enjoy alphabetical myself). Stick with us, we have big plans for this bad boy.