Six thousand words later...

Hello all! So happy to be able to get this out to you in less than forty-eight hours! Yay!

I really wanted to split this in two, as it contains so much stuff but I didn't...sooooo I hope you give me plenty of reviews telling me your opinions on everything - I really, really want to know!

Thanks to all who reviewed last chapter! As always, it makes writing a lot easier when you are constantly giving me reminders and inspiration and opinions!

I hope you enjoy!

Cry, Everybody Lies, Kiss Me - Jason Walker

Blunt the Knives - Howard Shore (Hobbit...again...can't wait!)

It Is You (I Have Loved) - Dana Glover (though I mostly listened to the piano version. Was singing it at breakfast this morning because it is just so beautiful!)

Two Steps From Hell

I froze on the stairs. Vicky? It was Vicky? I turned around slowly. She looked up at me with desperation in her eyes. "That makes no sense," I said. "You can't be…"

"I'm not that old, Bella," she said. "I was in my last year – I was a Royal and Jacob and Edward were in their first year, both auditioning for Albrecht."

"You're the one that Jacob fell in love with?" I asked, sitting down hard on the stairs. She nodded and tentatively came to sit below me. "You're the one who Edward said had to tell me the truth and wouldn't?"

She didn't look at me, instead becoming increasingly interested in her nails, "Edward is a very honourable person. I'm not. He begged me to tell you what conspired between the three of us but I refused." She glanced at me, "Even though he warned me this might happen if I didn't."

"He's gone," I said quietly. "Nothing you could tell me will change that. We've made peace – I told him to go for other reasons."

Vicky gave me a sad smile, "He didn't want you to know so that you would be with him, Bella. He didn't think he deserved to be forgiven. He just wanted you to know who you were dealing with with Jacob."

"The guy who gets drunk when things go bad – I know."

She shook her head, "There is far more to the story."

"And you're going to tell me now?" I said doubtfully.

"Yes," said Vicky. "Because Edward, as usual, was right – you should know." She sighed and rested her elbows on her knees, "Jacob had a crush on me from the first day of term. I guess he admires talent above all else, and I was the best Royal in my year and far better than any of the girls he had to partner in his normal classes. But I also understood his education – how he trained and everything."

"You studied under Monsieur Repin?" I asked.

She shook her head, "No. A woman in California who had similar, though less intense ideas of how to dance. So we often ran into each other after hours, sneaking in for extra practise and everything. I think he was lonely. He found it so hard to relate to everyone else. They saw him as a god, even Leah."

"Nothing's changed," I murmured, thinking of how even now, Leah and Adela and Gerry and everyone still bowed down to him. He was the king of the Royals – it was the first thing I had realized when I had arrived at Aro's.

"He was so used to having Edward around," said Vicky. "I think it took a hit on his confidence that Edward had left him and Monsieur Repin and seemed to be so much happier for it. It was like he had left Jacob for bigger and better things. We talked a lot about that. We talked about everything, really."

I looked at her, taking in her reminiscent, saddened face. "You loved him back, didn't you? But you didn't tell him – he never mentioned it."

She gave me a dry look, "I began to. I never let on to him that I was because I wasn't sure. But he's…magnetic, isn't he?"

I nodded, feeling the strange sensation of speaking to someone who had gone through the exact same experience as I had gone through. It was even weirder that this was with my teacher…

"Then the NFSI rolled around," she continued. "And of course Jake managed to wrangle his way into the auditions for Albrecht. Carlisle took Edward along like that blonde girl this year, to observe and all that. But of course Edward, being Edward, was spotted straight away by the other teachers and asked to audition for Albrecht, same as Jacob. A USB girl became my understudy and Edward became Jacob's."

"Why did Jacob get it?" I asked. "I mean, I know now that there are some serious faults in Monsieur Repin's technique and Edward…"

"Edward hadn't quite struck the balance between technique and emotion," Vicky said with a smile. "It is definitely possible to go to the extreme in the other direction, you know? He just wasn't as good technically as Jake was. I mean, they were only First Years – it was demanding choreography." She gave another sigh, "Anyway, Jacob and I rehearsed as hard as you, though without quite so much drama."

I frowned, "How do you know?"

"Edward's been keeping me informed the past few weeks," she said. "To try to convince me to tell you, above anything else."

"That stuff was confidential!" I exclaimed. "He had no right – "

"Bella," Vicky said in her commanding, teacher tone. "For goodness' sake, he didn't tell me anything I hadn't already seen for myself. You and Jacob had the subtlety of a nuclear bomb. When it comes to Edward keeping secrets, you really don't need to worry. Particularly not you."

I exhaled frustratedly, putting my head in my hands, "Sorry. Long day. So you were rehearsing with Jacob?"

"Yes," she said, sounding relieved to get back to the story. "And that was all fine…but when he wasn't rehearsing, he was spending all his free time with Edward. Since time with the both of us was limited, with me in my last year and Edward at Force, we ended up hanging out a lot together, all three of us." She took a deep breath, "Edward was so carefree. So unburdened. And so kind – always kind, to everyone. I guess the same could never be said for Jacob, though he was always on his best behaviour around me. He was so gentle and kind to me that it was almost overwhelming."

I thought of him kneeling before me in his dressing room…I guess I had even experienced that overwhelming kindness, too.

Vicky stretched her arms above her, looking up at the slits of light coming through the stairs. "He was so young and innocent. I think I was probably the first girl he had crushed on since kindergarten. He treated me like a goddess." She let out a breath, dropping her arms back down. She did look younger. "Maybe that was why I started turning to Edward. He was so much more genuine and sure of himself. Comfortable as the person he was – not just constantly trying to fix things.

"And then Jacob injured himself and, to my secret joy, Edward became my partner."

"And stole Jacob's career," I muttered. "Everyone liked him more, didn't they? Like they still do now?"

Vicky nodded, "They loved him. I loved him. And Jacob didn't suspect anything."

"Did Edward know?" I asked, not sure I wanted to hear the answer.

"Of course not," Vicky said. "When we got to that final morning and I realized this was my last chance and kissed him in the park, he was shocked. Jacob was just in the wrong place at the wrong time when he saw. Edward pushed me away. He explained that he liked me but that was all – there was just something missing, that I couldn't give him."

"Harsh," I said quietly.

She smiled, "When he's open with his emotions, he is very open. Even then, Bella, I think he was waiting for you."

I bit my lip, not willing to let the words get to me. "You are like my own personal perfection," Edward had once said to me. It worried me, how quickly I believed Vicky's thought to be true. I couldn't be his only love. He had to find another person. Someone better…

"Anyway," Vicky said, seeing my absent expression. "Jacob tried to approach me about what he'd seen. He was broken hearted but so was I. I was angry at him for ruining my chances with Edward – I blamed him for Edward's rejection, even though I knew it really wasn't his fault at all. I told Jake to stay away from me – that I was in love with Edward and didn't care about him. I'm guessing you know the next part."

"Jacob getting drunk and thrown off stage for it?" I said. "And then Edward coming along like the white knight of ballet and taking his place?"

"Jacob was furious," she murmured, staring at the dusty floor. "And so betrayed. Edward took his career and me in one day." Vicky looked at me, "And that's all you know?"

I nodded. "Which is why I don't understand how Edward could hate Jacob so much."

"He didn't," she said quietly. "He felt so guilty – we both did. Jacob was our friend and we were responsible for what happened to him. And things only got worse for him. There were discussions with Caius and the other teachers and so much ridicule from the rest of the company. He couldn't escape it."

"How come Alice didn't know about it?" I asked. She had only said that Edward had taken over his role – not anything about the drinking.

Vicky shrugged, "She would have been a First Year. Everyone at Aro's knew about it but that was because Jake was here. And of course it was in the summer that year so all the Third Years had left Force. It was only Edward who knew about it, and he wasn't going to embarrass Jacob even more by spreading the news. And everyone was on vacation, anyway."

"So then what happened?" I asked. What could possibly have caused Edward to hate Jacob after the NFSI finished?

"Jacob changed," Vicky said, crossing her arms over her chest as if she was cold. "Edward had taken everything from him and he wanted revenge. He wasn't innocent and baby-faced anymore – it was like something had broken in him." She sighed, "Not that I realized. I was so, so anxious for his forgiveness that I decided I would do anything to make him happy again. We were both spending the rest of the summer in Seattle and so I paid him a visit and started to…well, rekindle our relationship."

I stared at her, "Did you actually want to be with him?"

She shook her head shamefully, "No. But I thought he wanted to be with me and all I wanted was for him to be happy. So we went out. And things got…you know," she gave me a meaningful look. "Deeper."

"Right," I said awkwardly. I was really having this conversation with my teacher?

"And then, a few days later the, uh…" she trailed off, turning her face away from me.

"The what?" I pressed.

Vicky swallowed and picked at her thumbnail. Her voice was barely audible, "The police came round…and charged me with statutory rape."

"Freaking Hell," I scoffed, standing up. "That is ridiculous, Vicky. I shouldn't have listened – "

"It's true," she said, raising her voice slightly. "He was fifteen, I was eighteen. Three years apart – that's the law. Just ask Jacob. I'm sure he won't be able to hide his shock that I've finally told someone what he did."

I just blinked at her, open mouthed, then slowly sat back down. "I don't understand how that is possible," I said shakily. "I don't…he can't have…he wouldn't," I said resolutely. "No one would do that just because someone rejected them."

"For his best friend," she stressed. "Bella, you have got to understand that there were only two things in the World that mattered to Jacob – his dancing and the people he loved; me and Edward. We've already established that both those things were destroyed. Think about it, Bella. It's Jacob; his world has been about fixing things for so many years now. 'Getting close to perfection', or whatever it is he says. He thought that getting back at me for hurting him would make the hurt go away."

I shifted on the cold step, trying to cope with the uncomfortable feeling that Vicky might be telling the truth. "Did you go to jail?" I asked quietly.

"No," she replied. "When my parents found out, they refused to be party to any of it. So I called the only person I could."

"Edward," I murmured.

"Edward," she said reverentially. "He was beyond furious. He was as disbelieving as you at first, of course, but it very quickly became apparent to both of us that Jacob had changed and I had been played. That whole time I had been pretending to want to be with him, Jake was pretending to be in love with me so that he could ruin me forever. He didn't care about me. He didn't care about anything but getting revenge." She took a moment, pressing her lips together, battling something. Eventually, she said, "But Edward was there for me. Edward and his father."

"Mister Masen?" I spluttered.

"Anthony," she said with a smile, then glanced at me in my astounded silence, "He's not that bad, really. He does have a moral compass. Edward explained to him that he was partially responsible for what had happened and so Anthony volunteered to be my lawyer, free of charge – which is saying something, considering his law firm's the top in Chicago. He was amazing, truly. He managed to lower it down to a fine instead of county jail."

"On what grounds?"

"He knows the laws back to front," she said. "And he gave Jacob a serious beating when he testified. Everyone could tell that it was unfair." She let out a breath, "Still, statutory rape is statutory rape, and having a criminal record was devastating. I was eighteen. I should have been auditioning for companies."

"But none would accept you with what had happened," I finished, feeling an aching sympathy for her. I looked up at her. "You should be in a company right now, not here."

Vicky nodded soberly, "I'm only twenty-one. I wanted to dance with the Australian Ballet or BC. I didn't want to stay in Seattle, at my own school…but it was the only option open to me. No company would take me as a dancer and no school would take me as a teacher. Anthony pretty much blackmailed Caius into allowing me to teach there, though I have always been so worried that if anyone found out, I would be done for here."

"But you teach Jacob," I realized. "You have to face him every day…"

"Yup," she muttered. "You wondered why I was a little venomous towards him?"

"And why he was so disrespectful to you," I added. I frowned, "Is that why you were so harsh with me at the beginning?"

Vicky flicked me a smile, "No, Bella. I was harsh on you because you were dancing seriously badly. But I was worried when you started spending so much time with Jacob. That was why I tried to put you back into Class C. And then I was just harsh on you because you were turning into a female version of Jacob. No offence," she added wryly.

I sighed, "None taken. I deserve it."

"I might have actually done something more if I'd known you were Edward's ex, not just another Leah."

I bit my lip, "Why would that make a difference?" It was a pointless question – I already knew what she was going to say. I just didn't want to hear it.

Vicky gave me a look, "Bella, Jacob was not just betrayed by me, not in his eyes. He might have ruined my life, but Edward's still always had the upper hand on him…"

"What are you suggesting?"

Vicky took a deep breath, "All I am saying, Bella, is that I find it a bit of a coincidence that Jacob chose Edward's ex-girlfriend to be his partner."

"He chose me because no one else fit," I told her, even as I began to remember the vagueness with which Jacob had answered that question.

"Right," she scoffed. "Because Monsieur Repin's logic would definitely suggest choosing a broken, unhappy, inexperienced, emotionally damaged girl to be his partner?" She shook her head and stood up, stretching out her long legs. "Look, Bella, I'm not saying he's definitely got an agenda. God knows I've misjudged Jacob Black far too many times to be an expert on his motives, but Edward was clearly worried about it – he wouldn't ask me to tell you something this personal if he didn't think it was important."

"Why did he let me tell him to leave, then?" I whispered to myself.

"Because he wanted you to be happy," Vicky said with surprising gentleness.

"I did it to make him happy," I murmured, then let my head hang back, looking up at the stairs above. "It doesn't matter, anyway. Whatever Jacob is or isn't doing, I don't want Edward to have any part in it. I want him to forget about all of this and just try to have the career he deserves."

Vicky pursed her lips, thinking carefully, but then nodded, "I agree, if you really are capable of pushing him away from you then that shows that he's better off without you – maybe he is better off as far away from here as possible."

I nodded and stood up, "Then I guess there's nothing more to say, if our mutual interest in Edward is satisfied."

She grabbed my wrist as I tried to go, "Bella, wait." She fixed me with that authoritative gaze of hers, "What are you going to do about Jacob?"

I considered for a moment – it was a good question. "I'm going to ask him first thing tomorrow," I said finally.

"And you think he's going to give you a straight answer?" Vicky said incredulously.

"I think that I have jumped to too many conclusions about people and their actions recently. Even if I've become a bitch through spending time with him, Jacob picked me up when I was at my lowest point and he deserves the respect of being asked." I looked at Vicky, "I have made so many mistakes now and hurt so many people. If I only define Jacob by his past, how can I expect people to do any different to me?"

"You really think he's changed?" she said.

"He was fifteen then, Vicky. And even if he saw me as Edward's ex at the beginning, there's no saying that those feelings haven't changed." I remembered his tenderness tonight. He had looked at me like he truly wanted to forget Edward. "He has always been honest with me about his hatred towards Edward. He's always been honest with me about how he wants revenge on Edward, even if he didn't explain the full story to me. I always knew that he felt Edward had betrayed him."

"But now you know how far Jacob is willing to go!" Vicky exclaimed, getting agitated. "I mean, he almost put me in jail!"

"I know," I said, trying to stay calm. "But I just want to ask him."

"He'll lie to you, Bella," she said, gripping my hand. "He'll just drag you in again and then one day he'll betray you and you will end up hurt and alone."

I pulled my hand away, "What happened to you doesn't have to happen to me, Vicky."

She opened her mouth to retort but then seemed to think better of it. Instead, she turned away, pushing her hair off her face. She rested her hands on her hips, as if she was trying to catch her breath. "Alright," she said eventually, turning back to me. Her eyes were resolved, "Talk to him. Just don't tell him that Edward's gone."

"Too late," I said.

"Shit!" Vicky cursed, then huffed, "Well I guess we're just going to have to find out the hard way."

I watched her stalk back up the stairs. What had she meant? Did I even have the energy to care?

As I heard the door swing shut above me, I tiredly began my ascent, climbing all the way up to my floor. As I came out into the corridor, I saw Seth and Amanda leaning against the wall, Seth seething.

"I don't get why he can't just leave me alone," he was whispering. "I'm not interested – doesn't he understand that – "

Seth cut off, seeing me standing there. "Can I help, Bella?" he snapped, but then seemed to recoil. "Sorry," he muttered. It reminded me of my first day at Aro's – he had been kind to me.

I looked at him sadly, "You're letting your pride get in the way of how you feel about him."

"I'm not gay," Seth hissed.

I shrugged and headed down the corridor, away from them. I was too tired to argue.

When I knocked on my door, it opened immediately. Rosalie, Emmett and Jasper were all there with Alice, worry dormant on their faces.

"Have you seen Edward?" Emmett demanded, "We haven't seen him since class and he isn't returning my calls and all his stuff is gone."

I closed my eyes and leaned against the doorway, feeling the pain wash over me all over again. "Edward's gone," I said quietly, pressing my forehead against the cold wooden frame. "He's flying to London in the morning."

"What?" Jasper said, his arm tightening around Alice's waist.

"He would say goodbye," Rosalie snapped. "He wouldn't just go."

"Is this what you meant?" Alice whispered, looking at me through teary eyes. "When you asked me what choice I'd make?"

Silently, I nodded.

"He's gone, then," she said weakly, sitting down on her bed. Jasper gently tucked her head into his chest.

"Why?" Emmett asked me hopelessly, looking like a sad schoolboy in a weight lifter's body.

"Because I told him to," I said, my voice cracking. The tears began to flood out. "I told him to," I repeated, pressing a hand to my mouth, the enormity of everything suddenly becoming too much.

But then I felt Emmett's strong arm around my shoulders, and Alice's gentle hands as he sat me down next to her. I rested my head on her shoulder, feeling the comfortable weight of my friends all around me. I had treated them so badly, but that didn't matter to them. They cried with me and sat with me until the sounds of the city quietened. Until all my tears had been shed and my mind finally surrendered to sleep.

I dreamt of him. It wasn't a happy dream. It didn't let me sink into a world where he was with me and everything was right. No. Instead, I watched him through a pane of glass as he rehearsed Swan Lake, all alone in a dark studio. It was our studio, at Force, where we had danced to Clair de Lune and forgotten all our worries. But there was no moonlight tonight. He moved with the music, his t-shirt rippling as he leapt, landing silently on the wooden floor. His face was blank. His jaw set, his eyes unyielding. If anything, they were haunted. Absent of life because his mind was elsewhere, absorbed in a thought. That thought was more than sad, though. It was beyond despair. Beyond everything.

I tried to speak. Nothing came out. He kept going, forever trapped. I slammed my hand against the glass, but there was no way to tell him what I needed to tell him. There was no way to make that look in his eyes go away. I was gone from him and he from me. It was impossible.

I hadn't set my phone alarm. I woke up to the creak of a floorboard as Alice tiptoed to her suitcase.

"Thank you for last night," I said quietly.

She turned, giving me a little smile, "How are you feeling?"

"Like I'm not going to feel better for a very long time." I slipped out from under the sheets and picked up my phone. There was a message from Jacob, from last night; Goodnight, Bella. I love you.

I swallowed and grabbed my towel, trying to escape from those three words.

I spent a while under the hot water of the shower, as if it could wash away more than sweat and tears. I let the steam wrap around me like a blanket, hiding me from what I had to face today. Jacob. The World. My first day without Edward. I wondered when his flight was leaving. I wondered if he was thinking of me. The answer to the latter was simple – I knew he was. I knew he would not move on easily. But I prayed that Vicky was right – that he was better off away from me and that he would one day find someone else.

I got dressed into a long sleeved red leo, even though I didn't feel like being a Royal today. Meanwhile, Alice was pulling on a fuchsia leotard with a keyhole neckline. "Edward's departure doesn't mean bad fashion," she informed me with a smile and threw me a long white cardigan. I pulled on a pair of jeans and gratefully put the cardigan over my leo.

"Thanks, Alice," I said.

She shrugged, "I am a fashion Goddess, I know."

"For everything," I added with a grin. Only Alice could actually make me smile on a day like this. Outside, even the sky was grey.

But the grin soon vanished as I slung my bag over my shoulder and headed up to Jacob's room. Nerves thrummed in the pit of my stomach. How was I meant to phrase this? 'Vicky told me everything and I just want to know if you're planning on putting me in jail, too' didn't have a good ring to it. Even with Jacob's temper and hatred toward Edward, the ideas that Vicky were unfathomable. And probably not true, I thought as I counted down the door numbers. Jacob had saved me. He had taught me so much. He had been so patient with me and believed in me. But, what's more, his words last night had been so sincere.

We had had ups and downs, and I was certainly not over Edward, but Jacob and I were a partnership.

It was with that thought that I knocked on Jacob's door.

"Come in," came a mumble from inside. I frowned and opened it to find Gerry sitting on his bed, his arms hugging his knees. Jacob was nowhere to be found.

"Where's Jacob?" I asked.

"Rehearsing, probably – as usual."

"Thanks," I said. I was almost out the door when Gerry stopped me.

"Wait," he said quickly. "Bella, I, um…"

I turned back around. I swore I could see a tear slip into his beard.

"Gerry," I said, taking a step towards him. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," he muttered, quickly covering it with a hand.

I sighed and came to sit next to him. He gave me a nervous look and I returned it with tired patience. "Seth's an ass," I said bluntly.

"You said he liked me," he replied. "You shouldn't have gotten my hopes up."

I shook my head, "I'm sorry if I was wrong, Gerry, but I don't think I am."

"Then why does he keep on saying he's not even…you know…"

"Because he's probably trying to keep it a secret, like you were before Jacob ousted you."

"I forgot he did that," Gerry said, scratching his beard absentmindedly. "But why wouldn't Seth just accept it once it came out?"

I shrugged, "You don't know what his family's like or what he's gone through in the past. People keep secrets for a lot of reasons," like my stupid concealing of my scholarship to Aro's. "Even if those reasons hurt other people." I elbowed him, "Not all of us have your incredible wit and intelligence."

He gave me a much more Gerry-like look, "I don't feel very intelligent. I feel like I'm just not worthy of him or something. Like I'm not good enough for him."

I frowned and shook my head, "No, Gerry. It's the other way around. If he doesn't see what he's doing to you and what he's missing out on, then he doesn't deserve you. There are plenty more fish in the sea."

He raised an eyebrow, "Not so many for gay guys."

I smiled and put a hand on his arm, "Gerry, come on. You are a ballet dancer. Half of male dancers are gay – you are going to be spoilt for choice."

He quirked his lips to one side, a light in his eyes, and covered my hand with his, "Really?"

I rolled my eyes, "Of course, you crazy boy."

"I should have been nicer to you at the beginning," Gerry admitted. "I was a dick."

"Worse things have been done," I replied quietly. "The First Year girls at Force once dumped all their footbaths into my trunk."

"Nasty," he said, making a face. But then his expression suddenly became serious. He looked me up and down, "Bella, you should find Jacob. He's at the theatre."

"Okay," I said, my nerves returning to me.

Gerry wordlessly gave my hand a squeeze as I stood up. "Hurry," he said as I pushed out the door.

I shivered as I walked, thinking of what I had said to Gerry. I had used the same advice for myself with Edward. He too had deserved better than me.

The lobby was full of NFSI students, making their way to the tiny hotel restaurant for breakfast. "Bella!" I heard someone call over the clamour of thirty hungry dancers.

I turned around. Leah, of all people, was fighting her way toward me, elegantly elbowing one guy in the gut to get to me. "Going somewhere?" she asked, flicking her layered hair away from her eyes.

"I don't see how that's any of your business, Leah," I said with a curt smile.

She snorted and folded her arms, "Wow. So kind. I'm just trying to look out for our mutual little blonde friend."

I frowned, "Lauren?"

"Yup," she said, popping the 'p'. She raised her eyebrows, "Interested?"

"What about her?"

"She's really unhappy about something or other and she won't come out of her room."

"Well have you told Carlisle?" I asked. "He's the one looking after her."

"Actually, Edward seemed to be taking care of her but he's disappeared," Leah shrugged, "Any ideas where he's gone?"

I sighed and pushed a hand through my hair, forgetting it was up in a bun, "What's her room number?"

"Oh I can't remember," Leah said tragically. "Why don't we go ask?"

I felt like I was turning into some kind of counsellor as Leah and I awkwardly stood in the lift. She kept on glancing at her phone clock. "Somewhere to be?" I asked.

She looked at me with those impenetrable eyes, "Not really. You?"

"Rehearsal," I said stonily.

"You guys rehearse too much anyway."

"I think this rehearsal was quite urgent," I continued. "Gerry told me to hurry."

"Gerry?" Leah said stiffly. "Well, he's always been anxious."

"Lauren better be there, Leah."

And she was there, sitting resolutely on her bed. "Oh yay," she said when I entered. "Quality time with Bella."

"You seem fine," I said, leaning against the wall. "Are you?"

Lauren just gave me a sarcastic smile and stood up to pack her dance bag.

"And how's Ben?" I inquired politely.

"What does that guy have to do with this?" Leah said, folding her arms again.

"Well," I said calmly, folding my arms in the same manner. "He is of course your boyfriend, Lauren. A guy who is probably the kindest and most caring person in the World, who would definitely be wondering why you and your dear friend Leah, who I am sorely regretting introducing you to, and Gerry are all trying to stop me from getting to my rehearsal with Jacob."

Lauren stared at me. Leah was silent.

"Great," I said. "So I guessed right."

"Actually," Leah said, looking at her phone again. "We weren't trying to stop you." She snapped it shut, and looked at me with a smile, "Have a good rehearsal, Bella."

"Give Vicky my regards," I said and charged back out of the room. Of course – Vicky. She hadn't wanted me to talk to Jacob and who better to stop me than two of her favourite students?

I wanted to track her down and give her a piece of my mind, but I knew that it was more pressing to get to Jacob. Was all that she had told me a lie? Was that why she didn't want me to question Jacob? Was there something more?

The lobby was empty now, with loud conversation pouring out of the restaurant. I pushed through the revolving door and out onto the street. The heavens had opened up, the sky a dark grey. Rain ricocheted off the wet pavement and cars shot past, spraying frigid water onto the curb. Taking a deep breath, I stepped out from under the hotel awning and started to run.

The wind thrashed at me and tugged at my bun. Alice's cardigan might have been fashionable but it wasn't exactly waterproof. Soon, it was saturated. But I didn't care. Something was up. Something with a definite time limit, which, by Leah's parting words, I had probably already missed. But that wasn't going to stop me and neither was the rain.

It seemed to take forever before I saw the throne of the Civic Theatre approaching. The rain lashed in my face, dripping from my lashes and into my eyes. Finally, I reached the shelter of the huge stone columns of the entrance. I put my hand against one of them, breathing heavily.

A shiny silver Mercedes smoothly pulled up against the curb. The door opened. First, a crutch came out, and then, in a perfectly tailored black suit, Anthony Masen climbed out, wincing as he stood upright.

"Mister Masen?" I breathed.

He turned and looked me up and down, then gave me a short smile. "Bella," he said. "May I call you that?"

"Sure…" I replied confusedly. "I'm sorry, sir, but…shouldn't you be in hospital?"

Mister Masen waved my words away with his free hand, "No, no. I discharged myself this morning. No point in missing a perfectly good day just to lie in bed."

His good-natured tone confused me, as did the way he looked at me – where was the distastefulness of our two previous meetings?

"Right," I said eventually, with a distracted smile. This was getting increasingly awkward. "Well, I'm, uh, kinda late for rehearsal, so…"

"Of course," Mister Masen said. "May I walk you in?"

He had Edward's manners. Except now, for some reason, he had decided to use them on me. I nodded cautiously and then offered my arm for him to take.

"Thank you," he said. He really shouldn't have been out of hospital, I realized as we slowly walked into the spacious foyer. "I wanted to apologize, Bella, for yesterday."

"That's okay," I said immediately, my voice echoing around the high walls. I could hear the music from the Balcony Scene coming through from the theatre. "I shouldn't have been there and you were having a stressful time."

"My actions were unacceptable, Bella – I think you know that," he gave me a sideways glance, taking in my uncomfortable expression as I opened the door for him. The recorded orchestra became louder. He chuckled, stepping through, "I'm a very blunt person."

Don't I know it, I thought, then looked across the thousands of seats to the stage.

There was Jacob, in his red V-neck and black tights, performing his great tour of leaps around the stage, glorious in the precision of each landing. He ended in the centre with a flourish, down on one knee, facing the staircase.

Tanya emerged at the top and lightly ran down the steps, a pale gold skirt trailing behind her. In a second, she had leapt from the last step and into Jacob's waiting arms and together, they began the pas de deux.

Our pas de deux.

Thoughts? Opinions? Expectations? Predictions? Hatred?

From Vicky's story to Gerry to Leah and Lauren to Mister Masen and now...well, who knows what with Jacob? - please do comment!

Next update will be up as soon as possible, though a Christmas cake needs baking and I have a performance tomorrow...which I completely forgot about...oops...

Thanks again for reading and reviewing! Hope you enjoyed!