Entry #54 – AU

Truly Anonymous Twilight O/S PP Contest

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Title: Her Song

Picture Prompt Number: 42

Pairing: Edward and Bella

Rating: M

Word Count (minus A/N and Header): 8,355

Summary (250 characters or less, including spaces and punctuation):

Some people sing what they can't bear to say. Through the veil of a song, can she live again?

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. Lyrics mentioned in this story belong to Adele.

Warning: This story is rated M due to adult content to include foul language, substance abuse and mental/emotional disorders. If you are not of age or if you find these things offensive, please stop reading now.

Her Song

For months after Edward left, Bella wallowed in hurt, embracing the ache in her chest by wrapping her arms around herself and squeezing tight, imagining Edward's arms there instead of her own. But each and every time she would open her eyes, she would realize that he wasn't there and she would recall his words with vivid clarity.

"Bella, I don't want you to come with me."

"You're not good for me, Bella."

"I promise that this will be the last time you'll see me. I won't come back. I won't put you through anything like this again. You can go on with your life without any more interference from me. It will be as if I'd never existed."

New tears would form and fall, dragging her back into a self-imposed isolation. She floated through months like a ghost of her former self. She couldn't bring herself to read the novels she once found enthralling, she couldn't listen to music that had once moved her. Everything reminded her of him and the girl she used to be, the one who fell in love. The one that was happy.

Charlie was at his wits end, pleading with her to seek therapy. She laughed at his request. It was the first time he had heard her laugh in months and it was the emptiest sound he had ever heard, devoid of any humor. Bella knew that no therapy could help her, it wasn't as though she could honest. She couldn't tell anyone that she was in love with a vampire or that vampires existed at all. That was not an option.

She fought with her parents, tried to tell them she was fine but Bella had always been a bad liar, her actions speaking volumes above her voice. She overheard a phone conversation between Charlie and Renee, heard words like catatonic, depression, weight loss, lack of hygiene and possible hospitalization. Bella feared that they were on the cusp of something drastic. Her mother begged her to return to Florida where she could start fresh and move on. Bella spouted excuses about not wanting to change schools, not when graduation was so close but she hinted that maybe college in Florida might be nice. This served to placate her mother to a degree who planned a trip to Washington for Bella's graduation ceremony.

Bella hated the look of concern and disappointment in her father's eyes. She decided to pretend for his sake. She wanted him to think that she was getting better, even if she wasn't.

On a Saturday afternoon, Billy Black arrived at the Swan residence with his son Jacob in tow. Purely for Charlie's sake, Bella acted interested. They talked with an ease that bewildered Bella, she found herself befriending the boy. When she realized that Jacob's feelings for her went beyond platonic, she immediately shied away. Although Bella knew that she cared for Jacob, the fact that she craved his company terrified her. She didn't want to be hurt again and Jacob had been a good friend to her. He didn't deserve to be hurt either. No more were her visits to the tide pools in La Push, making excuses about homework and finals. She applied to a few random colleges, one in Florida, one in New York and one here in Washington as well.

Jacob Black was not easily dissuaded. He went to her house, called her out on her isolation and demanded to know why she didn't come around anymore. Bella looked away from him, hating herself for not being able to be truthful. She shrugged and told him that she would be leaving Forks soon, that she had been busy and then she looked at him, right in the eye. She told him that she simply didn't return his feelings, that he was too young and immature and then she asked him to leave.

When Charlie came home hours later, he brought in the mail, acceptance letters from all three colleges that she applied to. He told her he was proud of her, that overcoming heartbreak was not easy but that college would help her regroup and regain a full-filling life.

Bella cried herself to sleep that night. The truth was that she didn't want to leave Forks. She harbored a secret hope that Edward would return.

Her dreams that night haunted her. She dreamt of herself old and lonely, wasting away waiting for something that never came. She was wrinkled and withered, wishing things had been different. Edward was in her dream too, smiling and thanking her for living but that wonderful lop-sided grin she loved so much morphed into a vicious cackle before he mocked her liver-spots and crippling arthritic bones.

When she woke the next morning, the light coming through the window blinded her. She stared out into the sun, the heat on her skin felt almost foreign but it was good, so so good. It was then that realization struck her. Edward was never coming back. He didn't want or love her and this rainy little town did nothing but remind her of him. Suddenly, moving three thousand miles away sounded very, very tempting.

Her move to New York was exciting. She was deeply enthralled with the city. It was the polar opposite of Forks, loud and dirty, hard lines and a darkness that she thought suited her. School kept her occupied, she threw herself into it and didn't often socialize. She got a job at a cafe and rented a crappy apartment above the shop that always reeked of coffee and on Sundays, the smell of baking bread. Here in the city, she was an ant, not the shiny new toy. No one ever noticed her and that was just fine with Bella.

After almost four months, the solitude crept back in her heart. Her hands would shake, her chest heavy with regret. Bella was lonely. At night she began to have trouble sleeping, her dreams ravaged by supernatural creatures who would pretend to love her then leave her broken.

A co-worker invited to a party and on a whim she accepted. Bella was fond of the girl. Bree was quiet and kind and she reminded Bella of herself. To this party they went and that was where Bella discovered the wonders of alcohol.

It provided a balm, a numbness that took away the jagged tear in her soul. It also provided a flock of people who loved it just as much as she did. She found solace in her little group of drunken friends. They all had problems, issues, just like she did. Dark secrets and haunted night terrors that they could make disappear with a bottle of vodka.

She smoked pot occasionally, which wasn't really her thing although her friends seemed to partake quite often. It was the first time she snorted cocaine that she heard Edward's voice. Atop a circular mirror that was being passed around were lines of white powder. It was heavy in her hand and she was dangerously tempted, buzzed on nasty tasting, cheap gin. She placed the mirror on the table in front of her and took the straw in hand.

"Bella, stop. Don't do this."

Bella experienced something akin to an awakening. Surfacing after struggling for air and suddenly very aware of everything.

"You promised me that you wouldn't do anything reckless."

His voice was utterly smooth but with an edge of anger, fury bubbling under the cool surface.

Good, she thought. She wanted him to be angry. She wanted to hurt him just as much as he hurt her. She smiled and thought, and you promised that it would be as if you never existed, before she leaned down and snorted a line.

She was wide-eyed, dumbfounded, amazed, on fire, dowsed with freezing water.

For first time since her heart break she felt alive.

Here you go Edward, THIS is me living.

A few days later, she was walking home from school with Bree. They past a biker bar, clad with boisterous, beer drinking men who were hanging outside. One of them had caught Bella's eye. He was straddling his Harley, tattoos littering his skin and he was smiling at her with a grin that Bella thought was slightly evil He looked dangerous. When he asked her if she wanted a ride, she heard his voice again.

Bella... He warned, voice laced with disdain.

When she accepted the ride, she heard, "Please...Please don't do this." This was a desperate plea, there was a vulnerability she had never heard in his tone. He sounded ragged and frightened and Bella... She got on the bike with no hesitation.

With every dangerous and reckless action Edward was there, whispering in her ear, yelling at her to stop, begging her to stay safe. Sometimes she saw his face, eyes narrowed, jaw clenched in frustration.

Bella simply couldn't let go of Edward. She knew her actions were idiotic, that she must be crazy, having hallucinations of her vampire ex-boyfriend but it was the only part of him that she had left. It was the only thing she had that felt familiar.

It was a cold night, Bella and a few classmates were waiting for the train, a flask of cheap whiskey being passed around. When trains would go by, the sound was piercing, steal against steal as the brakes were applied. They waited, being warmed by the contents of the flask. They could hear a train in the distance coming closer. Riley winked at her before running toward the platform. He stood with his toes on the edge, arms out-stretched and then he waited. When the train passed, there was inches between the fast moving vessel and his body. Riley screamed out, a shrill, resonating cry that made Bella gasp. And when the train was gone, Riley stepped away, a smile from ear to ear.

"You asshole!" Bella yelled at him and proceeded to slap his arm. "You scared the crap out of me."

He laughed at her, feebly attempting to avoid her smacks. "That Bella... was the ultimate rush. I swear to god the adrenaline is making me high."

Bella could already hear Edward's voice, his nagging talk of safety and promises.

"Come on," Riley urged, taking her hand and leading her to the platform. Hand in hand they stood and waited for the next train to pass them by. "Have you ever just screamed? Just let out all your pent up aggression?"

Bella shook her head no, even now, in her dangerous behavior, she was always quiet.

"You should try it, Bella. I'm telling you... The release is fucking liberating. It's like... finding surrender."

No, Bella. You don't have to do this.

The notion intrigued her, the sound of the on-coming train excited her.

Step back. Let go of his hand and do the right thing. Please!

Riley's hand tightened around hers. "Remember, don't lean forward. Stay right where you are and if it gets to be too much..." There was a twinkle in his eyes, a smirk upon his lips before he bellowed, "SCREEEAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMM!"

And the train passed in a blur. The sound was deafening, the air rushing over her body made her tingle and the fear... it turned into sheer unfettered exhilaration.

She screamed and the pure release was magical. Her limbs felt lighter, her chest suddenly heaving in laughter.

She screamed again and again and again and again.

Riley had been right, screaming gave her the chance to verbalize everything she had been keeping inside. She made a point to walk to the train with him after class often.

It was only a few weeks later that she accompanied him to a bar. It was karaoke night and she drank her fill while watching Riley as he would take the stage and sing completely free of fear. Bella was envious of him. She wanted it to be her up there. Singing was something she loved to do but was too self conscious to ever sing in front of anyone. It had been something she had kept a secret, even from Edward.

After she had lost count of drinks, Riley dragged her up on stage. She whined in protest but Riley's arms held tight around her waist.

"Come on Bella, listen to the crowd. They want to hear you sing!"

She snorted. "Pfft. No they don't, they want you."

He removed his arms from around her and gave a non-committal shrug. "Suit yourself but I'm going to let you in on a little secret." he said leaning toward her. "Singing? It's just like screaming into the trains. It's like... just letting go."

She stared into his eyes, blue and light and she saw nothing but sincerity there. Her body was warm from the drinks and her mind was fuzzy. Letting go... How she longed to let go of so many things.

Alcohol fueling her bravado, she sang, pretending there was no one else there. She didn't even notice that Riley wasn't singing with her. What she did notice was the thunderous applaud of the crowd when she was done.

It was the first time in so very long that she had done something that frightening her without hearing Edward's voice. It was the epitome of liberating and she thought that maybe...just maybe, she was really letting go.

With Riley's unwavering encouragement and never-ending supply of drinks, Bella sang as often as she could. Riley had been right. There was something so... thrilling about letting the world hear her voice and before long, karaoke became a thing of the past. Bella had moved on to open-mic nights and songs of her own making. She sang words that she would never be brave enough to actually say. She let go of secrets draped in metaphors, lyrics made up of real life heart break that resonated with listeners.

It was another night of songs. She sat at a table in the corner with Riley and Bree as they waited for the band to finish up. The club was crowded that night and Bella had felt more nervous than usual. After a few strong drinks and a Valium slipped into her hand courtesy of Bree... her fears were forgotten.

She walked on stage slowly, the combination of drugs and alcohol lent a detached lethargy that allowed her sing without reservations. For three songs she held the mike stand to steady her and let out so many of the words she wanted to say to Edward but never had the chance.

~O~

Edward Cullen had spent his days wandering. He too isolated himself, he couldn't bare being around his family in their mated pairs. He roamed the country on foot, hunting only when necessary, wallowing in regret and shame.

He never dreamed he would find himself in New York City. The place was literally crawling with people and minds that distracted him relentlessly. How he came to be walking down this street, he didn't know. He didn't know anything anymore. He felt lost and without purpose ever since the day he'd left Bella.

It was a stray thought that awoke him. A man, or what Edward would refer to as a boy. This boy was thinking about Bella.

Her big brown eyes, her quiet laugh and her voice... In his mind Edward heard a sound that was new.Haunted and deep, soulful and broken was what he heard. Bella's voice? He felt as though he should recognize the sound but he didn't.

Edward froze mid-step, there were several people thinking about Bella, all of them excited for she would be singing tonight. His eyes went wide and darted around, hoping against hope to just catch a glimpse of her. He looked to the boy who was now ushering a group of friends inside.

"Come on!" he shouted. "Bella's up!"

He couldn't resist this, couldn't resist seeing her. Slipping into the club he made his way to the back, hiding among the many humans you had gathered there.

The sight of her made his head spin. She made him dizzy and disoriented. The people around him cheered for her, the space filling with the sounds of their applauding hands and mouths but Bella did not smile. She stood there looking small on that stage and frail, dark hair framing her pale face and there was not a blush to be seen. She wasn't nervous but she wasn't excited either and she didn't say anything.

She just started singing.

Edward gasped at the raw sound of her voice and twisted words she sang. Tragic and sober were her lyrics and they were all about love, about the loss of it. It crippled him briefly, guilt making Edward yearn to flee, disgusted that he had caused such a bleak string of words so full of longing on her lips. She looked so sad, and too thin, wavering on her feet.

And of course he felt ripples of jealousy. What if she wasn't singing about him? He hadn't seen her in over a year, she could very well be singing of another. What right did he have to assume this was all about him?

Still he stayed and watched, feet rooted to the floor. He couldn't bring himself to move from that spot. For three songs he soaked up the sight of her, memorized each and every word to escape her lips.

But then she saw him. She somehow saw him, looked him right in the eyes.

Edward was nearly frantic. He was supposed to be watching from a distance, supposed to feast on the sight of her living and happy. He was supposed to melt into the crowd, be a single page in a pile of those who gathered to watch her sing.

But she had seen him.

She was looking at him still.

Her voice trembled. Her posture suddenly stiff.

But only for a moment.

For she started singing again maintaining her stare and sang with a power he hadn't known she possessed.

And God... the words...

When Bella saw him, she narrowed her gaze, fixating on him, sneering. How dare he? She wasn't being reckless. He shouldn't be here. He was never there when she sang. He was breaking the rules. Her fury was expelled through her voice, passionate and booming, she sang to let Edward know exactly what she felt and it didn't matter if he wasn't real.

The scars of your love remind me of us

They keep me thinking that we almost had it all

The scars of your love, they leave me breathless

I can't help feeling

She held up her bare wrist in a blatant show of the scar left from James' bite. It was a heart breaking revelation for Edward. He almost fell to his knees, seeing her marred flesh under the harsh lights made it all too real.

We could have had it all

Rolling in the deep

You had my heart inside your hand

And you played it to the beat

She wasn't singing anymore. She was screaming, the sound was jagged and piercing. She looked so...so angry, gritting through lyrics or mouth wide belting words that struck him harder than any object ever could.

Eyes wet, tears and mascara marking a road map down her cheeks.

The crowd... Edward had a sudden hatred for these people. The more she screamed, the more utter sorrow she unleashed, the more the crowd cheered. It was like they were mocking her pain. Some of those people in the front could see her scarred wrist, thinking she had tried to take her own life and they loved her for it.

She looked up and finally away from his gaze but after a deep breath she looked right at him again.

Throw your soul through every open door

Count your blessings to find what you look for

Turn my sorrow into treasured gold

You pay me back in kind and reap just what you sow

The mere mention of souls made Edward realize that she was singing about him. She had to be.

She saw him.

She was singing to him.

We could have had it all

Rolling in the deep

You had my heart inside your hand

And you played it to the beat

When she sang the word beat, her fist slammed against her chest in time with the drums, mimicking her heart beat.

They stared at each other, tears to dry eyes, both lost and broken like separated bookends.

She walked off stage without a word and the crowd went crazy. Edward's hands came over his ears, the shrill screams thunderous and penetrating, he moved toward the door and exited quickly. He walked only a few steps before ducking into an alleyway. With his back against the brick, he slid down and sat. His emotions in upheaval, he wanted to scream, to cry, so conflicted he couldn't move.

Until he smelled her.

Fire scorched his throat with a scent he thought he'd never smell again. There was no mistaking this and no mistaking the sound of her quiet sobs that followed. Looking deep into the alley he saw her, her stance matching his own. She was sitting on the ground with her back to the wall, her knees curled into her chest, hooded sweatshirt hiding her face.

Edward was paralyzed, every tear she shed burned him more than any venom ever had. It was torture watching her like this, seeing the pain in her face while she sang and swallowing every bitter word that he would remember forever.

When her crying subsided, she reached for the flask that was buried in her pocket and drank greedily with a callous hope for oblivion when she choked it down.

Flask capped, throat still burning from the harsh spirit, she felt nervous, like she was being watched. She took a look around and at first she didn't see him. If he hadn't moved, she probably would have never known he was there.

He thought he could move unseen to the shadows, escape her notice but he was wrong again. She was looking at him, staring into the shadowy corner. Caught and unsure of what else to do, he stepped into the light and acknowledged her.

She said nothing for a long while, they stared at each other in silence.

He couldn't read her mind, couldn't gauge anything from her expression. In desperation Edward walked to her but not all the way. He kept a careful distance, not wanting her to feel threatened. Still, her mute voice and reserved demeanor puzzled Edward. She was unaffected by his presence, her only actions being the flask in her hand being brought to her mouth and then she continued to look back at him, blank stare shifting to a show of annoyance and anger.

Edward was the first one to speak. "Please, say something."

She huffed out a laugh. "There is no point in saying anything. You're not real."

He had no idea how to respond. Not real? He was standing right next to her. How could she think he was not real? He wondered how much she'd had to drink and knew from her scent that there was a sedative running through her blood stream.

"Can we talk?" He asked quietly.

She looked up at him with her brow furrowed, she looked like she hadn't understood his question.

She didn't.

Talk? New tears pooled in her eyes and she stood on shaky legs, leaning against the wall of the building, her palms against the hard brick. She had squeezed her eyes shut and cursed herself, thinking she had had a little too much to drink or maybe is what was the Valium making her feel out of sorts. She grimaced and rubbed her hand on her face. What the fuck was she doing? Talking with a hallucination? Hanging out with Edward? She balked and prepared to walk away, wobbling on the first few steps but she managed to catch herself from falling just as Edward offered his hand.

"Bella..." he pleaded, his hand still outstretched.

She stepped away from him, once again her back up against the wall. Tears streaming down her face as she spoke, "No, don't ruin it with words. Just let me dream of you like this. Just once...just... please let me look at you."

His hand fell to his side. His eyes all over her, taking her in, smelling her.

For several minutes they stood out there, both of them looking each other over, Bella taking an occasionally sip from her flask.

"This is odd," she spoke with a trace of a slur. "You... you're so quiet this time. You're never this quiet."

Confusion was evident on his face. "This time?"

"Yeah, this time." She scoffed and shook her head then emptied the flask with one harsh gulp. "That settles it. I am officially losing my mind."

"Of maybe you're officially drunk," Edward snapped using a tone of voice that Bella was more than familiar with.

She smiled at him then. "Now there is the Edward I know so well." Then she spoke in a snotty tone, clearly mocking him, "Be safe! Stop being so reckless! You promised!"

Her smile disappeared but her words poured out with a viscous tongue. Spouting off his own words back at him in rapid succession.

"I promise, I swear not to hurt you."

"I couldn't live with myself if I ever hurt you."

"You are the most important thing to me now. The most important thing to me ever."

"I'm not going anywhere. I'll be right here as long as you need me."

"It will be as if I'd never existed."

She straightened up then, a fire raging in her eyes, a humorless bark of a laugh escaping her. "Fuck you. Fuck you and every single one of your lies. You want to know something? I can lie too and I have. I've never been more reckless and stupid in my life and I do it just to spite you, you lying bastard."

With that Bella decided that she had had enough. It was pathetic of her to be out here arguing with a figment of her fractured imagination. She snorted to herself, at herself, disgusted.

She proceeded to walk away, only to stumble over a crack in the pavement.

When Edward grabbed her to prevent a fall, Bella stiffening in his arms. She was frozen in place, her hands clenched, fingers holding tight onto the soft fabric of his jacket. She stared dumbly at her own hand, extremely confused about what was happening.

How was this possible? How could she be touching him if he wasn't real?

"Bella..." His voice shook, his arms locked in place around her. "I'm sorry. I am so so sorry."

He said it so soft and needy, a tone she had been familiar with, once upon a time but the apology was new. He never apologized before...

He never touched her like this before. She had tried to touch him a few times and his image would drift away into nothing but now...

A myriad of emotions stirred inside her. She wanted so badly for this to be real, wanted his arms on her like this but she was angry too, so angry she was shaking.

She withdrew, recoiled, looked at his black eyes and threw a wild punch at him.

He caught her fist before it could connect with his body. He held her while she kicked and screamed at him and while she cried afterward. Heart wrenching sobs wracked her body, a horrid mix of alcohol and bile came up from her throat yet Edward refused to let her go.

He held her as her body purged itself of the poison she had ingested.

He held on tighter as she screamed at him some more, calling him a liar and a coward.

He took every sharp word she spit at him because he knew he deserved it.

He broke down himself, weeping when her body stilled from exhaustion, her eyes glazing over before she passed out, her body almost lifeless in his arms.

For twelve hours she slept soundly, not a word uttered in her slumber and for twelve hours Edward sat in a chair across the room. He monitored her breathing and her heart, her scent not nearly as appealing as it should have been which to Edward was both a blessing and a curse.

When she roused, her eyes protested at the light that was coming through the window. She rolled over and took note of the pristine white of the bed linens. She sat up and looked around, disoriented until she saw Edward sitting across the room.

Everything that had happened the night before came rushing back. Slowly Bella laid back, more traitorous tears welling in her eyes.

Angrily wiping them away, she spoke. "Where are we?"

"At a hotel near the club. I wanted to bring you home but I don't know where you live. You didn't have any identification on you so... I brought you here. I hope that's okay?"

She nodded and squeezed her eyes shut, her head pounded, her stomach roiling with nausea.

Edward walked to the bed holding a glass of water. She took it without complaint and without looking at him.

"Are you hungry? I can order you something to eat, if you like."

"No," she replied stubbornly. She was still angry at him. Without another word, she rose from the bed and walked to the bathroom where she showered and tried to make sense of everything.

Edward was here.

He was in the other room. So close... She didn't know how to feel, didn't know what to do. A part of her wanted to run back out there and jump into his arms, to kiss him, to beg him to stay with her. The other part of her wanted to run from him, her bitterness so stark and prevalent. She wanted to leave him, to let him know what it felt like to be left behind.

Then again, she had no idea what he was doing here. His intentions were a mystery and their conversation last night was fuzzy in her memory. She had been drunk and furious, that much she remembered and she was fairly certain that she had thrown up on him. She smiled at the thought.

She took a deep breath before emerging from the bathroom. He was still sitting in the chair, his hair unruly, his clothes rumpled and dirty. Padding over to the bed, she sat on the corner and nervously wrung her hands together.

Without looking up at him, she asked, "What are you doing here? Did you know that I was in New York?"

He ran his hands through his hair brusquely. "I didn't know you were here. I... I was walking when I heard someone thinking about you."

Bella narrowed her eyes at him. "Thinking about me?"

The smallest smile sprouted at the corners of his lips. "Yes, they were thinking about you singing."

"Oh," she replied shyly, feeling the heat of a flush on her cheeks. She remembered singing the night before, the first three songs she sang as she always had but the last song... She had never performed with that much emotion. At the time, she had seen him in the crowd but she didn't think he was real.

Edward leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "I had no idea you could sing, Bella. You were phenomenal."

She shrugged, dismissing his compliment.

"I mean it," he said with a little more force. "I may be bias but all of those other people aren't. They loved you, Bella."

She winced at his words. She didn't feel loved, especially not by Edward and he was the only person she ever wanted love from. His was the only love that ever mattered.

"So, you just happen to be in New York? Are you living here?"

"I haven't really been living anywhere in particular."

"Why not? Where's the rest of your family?"

He hesitated before answering. "I needed some space, some time alone."

She pursed her lips then asked, "So you came to New York for some peace and quiet?" She tapped her temple. "You once told me you hate this city, because of your telepathy."

"I do. I hate it here." He gave her a sad smile. He was touched that she remembered so much. Last night she had ranted off a litany of things that he had said to her over the course of their relationship. She had repeated his every word verbatim. It stirred up so many of his memories of his time with Bella. There was no question that he regretted leaving her. He had missed her desperately, almost come back to her on several occasions and now... he had found her by chance, was guided by her song.

Through the night he had thought long and hard about what brought him to be here. He kept coming back to the notion that they were meant to be together, that this was fate. They were not meant to be apart.

He still loved her, wanted to be in her life. He had made the gravest of mistakes by leaving. Seeing her here, now... He couldn't do it anymore. He wasn't strong enough to stay away.

"Why would you come here if you hate it so much?" She asked.

He shook his head. "I'm not sure there is a reason. I just...ended up here."

"What?" She snapped. "What is that supposed to mean? Where are you living? Where are you going to school?"

"I wasn't going to school. I wasn't really living." He stood slowly from the chair and walked slowly to the bed where he sat down gingerly across from Bella. He wanted to be closer but give her space, so he kept his hands in his lap. "In my mind I was saving you by leaving, sparing you an existence shrouded in death. You are a beautiful person in body and soul. I thought you deserved something better than me, better than a never-ending half-life drenched in blood. I thought I was doing the right thing, but you were right, I am a coward and a liar too. But... I want to be clear about something. The only lie I ever told was when I said that I didn't want you."

"Bullshit!" Bella shouted back. "You promised me that you wouldn't leave! And you had the balls to promise that my life would go on as if you never existed!" She paused only to shake her head at his ridiculous notions then scooted back, away from him. After closing her eyes taking a breath, she noticed the alarm clock and grimaced due to the fact that she had missed her classes. "I need to go. I have to be at work in an hour."

They both rose to their feet, an awkward silence stretching in the space between them. Bella grabbed her jacket from the chair and shrugged into it. When she turned, Edward was right in front of her.

"Can I see you? After work?" he asked. He wanted to touch her, to talk with her, to keep her here. It was struggle for him to keep his hands away from her, harder to resist than any blood-lust.

Bella stared up at him and she was lost. A hint of caramel hidden in the dark of his eyes. He was hungry, his hands shaking as he waited for her to speak.

"No, not tonight." She replied softly. This was all too heavy, to new and raw. She didn't know up from down. She didn't know what to do. Edward's lips trembled at her answer, he feared that he had hurt her too badly, that she would reject him for his blasphemous lie.

"Please Bella, I..." He took a chance and grabbed her hand, reveling in her warmth. "I just want to talk, to see you, please."

"Edward..." She paused, relishing the feel of his name on her lips. It had been so long since she had said it out loud. She squeezed his hand and released it. "I haven't seen or heard from you in a year and now you're here and I-" Another tear fell down her cheek. She wondered if she would ever stop crying, if she would ever stop feeling this way. She wiped the wetness from her cheek and squared her shoulders. "I have to go."

He nodded, fighting the urge to throw himself at her feet and beg her for forgiveness. Instead, he moved to the side, clearing the path to the door. "I'll be staying here. You can find me here when, or if you want to talk. I'll be here."

Bella walked several miles to her apartment, thinking over this morning and the night before. She didn't go to work, claimed she was sick and she spent the rest of the night curled up in bed, her mind waring between the aching hurt Edward brought whenever she thought of him and the edge of hope brought on by his return to her life.

For days, she went about a routine of school, work and sleep. Any free time she had was spent thinking, trying to sort out her feelings, trying to make a decision.

Her trepidation came from Edward's actions. He had left her, told her didn't want her and now... Here he was and Bella... She was torn between her need for him and the bitter sting of betrayal that still lingered.

She cringed at the sound of a knock on her door. Holding the blankets tighter to the chest, she debated whether or not to answer or ignore it. When she heard Riley's voice, she breathed easy and rose from the bed.

She was graced with his smile and concerned eyes. "Hey Bella, I wanted to stop by and make sure you're okay. Bree said that you were sick."

She motioned for him to come in. "Yeah, I wasn't feeling well. Come on in."

They sat on the couch and shared a bottle of wine, while Riley launched into a litany of praise of Bella last performance. "Seriously Bella, where did that come from? That was... just powerful. The emotion was just pouring off of you."

She took a sip from her wine, trying to fight off a new round of tears.

Riley noticed and took her hand. "Hey... What's wrong?"

Whether it was the wine lending her courage or just her insane need to talk with someone, Bella decided that perhaps Riley could offer a fresh perspective on the situation. She told him of Edward, her first and only love, the inspiration for all her songs. She told him of how he left her and how broken she was without him. She was careful with her words, painting him a human being.

Riley sat back and sighed. "So... He's here and he wants to see you?"

"Yeah" she whispered, wringing her hands together.

He put down his glass and leaned forward. "Do you still love him?"

"I never stopped," she said with no hesitation.

"Do you want to be with him? I mean... That's why he's here, right? To try and get back with you?"

She gave a humorless laugh. "See, that's just it. He didn't really come back for me. He was here in New York and just happened to be walking by the club when he heard someone say my name. He was there... I saw him in the crowd and he obviously saw me."

Riley smiled then. "Ah...That's where all that anger came from. Your performance that night was... wow, there was so much passion in you, so much emotion." He shook his head and said, "Okay, so he's in New York and he wants to talk, and you've been holed up in your apartment? Why don't you go and talk to him?"

She grimaced and took another big gulp of wine.

"Bella," he said softly. "You're scared and confused, I get that but you can't hide out here and hope things will work themselves out. If you're asking for my advice, I say go and talk with him. You're so conflicted because you don't know what he wants or what his intentions are."

She nodded, it was something that she had been pondering over and over. What did Edward want? What did she want? She needed to talk with him. After Riley left that night, she finished the bottle of wine and called Edward's hotel. She decided that it would be a bit easier on the phone, and although see saw it as kind of cowardly, she wanted to ease herself into this, she wanted to be careful.

"Bella, how are you?" His voice smooth as always, with an edge of concern.

"I'm okay. I'm sorry I haven't come by, I just...I needed some time."

"No apologies necessary, take all the time you need. I told you, I'll be here."

Taking hold of her resolve, she wouldn't stand for small talk. She had so many questions, so many things to say.

"I need something from you Edward. I need your complete honesty. If you can't give that to me than let's say goodbye right now and bury this."

"Of course," he replied quickly. "If there is one thing I have learned, it's that nothing good can come from me lying to you. That will never happen again."

She asked him why he left, where he went, what did he do in his time away from her? He answered truthfully and Bella was stunned at his words. He spoke of depression, isolating himself from his family, not hunting. He was depriving himself, punishing himself. Bella imagined him that way and it was like looking in the mirror.

She took comfort in his suffering, it made her ache subside a little.

When he asked her questions, Bella was silent for a moment, tears falling, heart pounding, Should she tell him? The drinking? The drugs? The purposeful dangerous actions she partook in because of her hallucinations? She feared his response and yet...she wanted him to know what his leaving had done to her and what she would never go through again.

She told him everything.

Words spilled from her lips quickly. She spoke without interruptions for almost thirty minutes, crying through her confessions. She had asked him to be honest and the least she could do was give that to him in return. Saying these things out loud was embarrassing and it hurt, reliving these painful moments.

"I need to know..." She sniffled and wiped her nose. "What do you want Edward?"

"You," was his reply, spoken with conviction.

"I have a life here in New York, one that I'm not prepared to give up. You hate it here."

"I'll endure it, for you. Where we are means nothing to me. I just want to be in your life."

"In what capacity? Do you want date? Be my boyfriend?"

Edward sighed, "I want everything but I'll take whatever you give me. I miss you Bella, so much."

She was laying in bed now, phone to her ear, allowing herself to feel good about his words. They both had been laid bare, no secrets, no more lies.

"I miss you too," she whispered, more rogue tears falling. "It's late and I need to catch some sleep. Can I call you tomorrow?"

"I'd like that. Good night Bella."

They talked on the phone every night for three weeks. They spoke of inconsequential things sometimes and other times... difficult and painful topics were discussed, but they needed to be. They had agreed to take things slow and Bella was resistant to see him again. She wanted to talk more with him and she discovered that talking with Edward was the high-light of her day. The anticipation of hearing his voice kept her on the edge of giddy.

Their conversations for the past few nights had been hard, talking about their relationship. They wanted to be with each other, being apart had caused them both utter misery.

Bella had changed since her time in Forks, she liked living in the city, liked her freedom, had conceded that she wanted to live and experience things. Not that she had given up on wanting to be immortal. She just didn't want that now.

And Edward... He was learning to accept Bella's choices, even when she made the wrong ones. He acknowledged that he needed to do this her way and he prayed that giving her this time and space would allow them both to grow.

On a Saturday evening Bella paced inside her apartment, equal parts nervous and excited for she would be singing tonight. She was debating on whether or not to invite Edward. She wanted to see him, all these talks they had had been good, painful at first but lately she and Edward had joked and laughed, real happiness flickering in her chest. She was breathing easier, sleeping without nightmares, she felt lighter and open and she couldn't deny that Edward was the reason.

It was there and then that she decided that she wanted him. Needed to see him in person, touch him, anything...

An idea struck her.

She texted him with the address of a club, the time she would perform.

He was there when she took the stage and this time his chest swelled with pride. There was no large hoodie hiding her body, her hair pulled back from her face. She looked nervous this time, biting her lower lip, eyes searching the crowd for him.

When she saw him, her eyes lit up, a true, beautiful smile wide on her lips. She took the microphone in hand and was still smiling radiantly as she waited for the cheers to die down.

"Any piano players in the house?" she asked playfully, laughing at all of the hands that flew up, the voices that begged her to let them play.

She raised her hand and pointed at Edward, then curling her finger up, beckoned him.

He was smiling from ear to ear as he walked to the stage. She held out her hand for him as he hopped up and he took it gratefully, kissing her knuckles.

Hand in hand, she led him to the piano where he sat and looked up at her with a stare that was filled with adoration, surprise, and happiness.

Bella ran her finger over the sheet music that Riley had prepared. He had been instrumental in helping Bella come to terms with her feelings for Edward. He jumped at the chance to help Bella reunite with him, telling her that he wanted to see his friend happy.

Edward scanned the music before him and then looked up at Bella.

"Is this okay?" She asked nervously, wanting to touch him again.

"This is more than okay. This is... wonderful. Thank you."

People in the crowd were yelling, impatient and waiting.

Bella stepped away and walked around the piano so that she could look at him while she sang. It was a new song, one that she wrote recently and it was for Edward.

With a nod from Bella, Edward started to play and after a few bars, she sang.

I let it fall, my heart,

And as it fell you rose to claim it

It was dark and I was over

Until you kissed my lips and you saved me

My hands, they're strong

But my knees were far too weak

To stand in your arms

Without falling to your feet

But there's a side to you

That I never knew, never knew.

All the things you'd say

They were never true, never true,

And the games you play

You would always win, always win.

But I set fire to the rain,

Watched it pour as I touched your face,

Well, it burned while I cried

'Cause I heard it screaming out your name, your name!

When I lay with you

I could stay there

Close my eyes

Feel you here forever

You and me together

Nothing is better

'Cause there's a side to you

That I never knew, never knew,

All the things you'd say,

They were never true, never true,

And the games you play

You would always win, always win.

But I set fire to the rain,

Watched it pour as I touched your face,

Well, it burned while I cried

'Cause I heard it screaming out your name, your name!

Sometimes I wake up by the door,

That heart you caught must be waiting for you

Even now when we're already over

I can't help myself from looking for you.

I set fire to the rain,

And I threw us into the flames

Where it felt something die

'Cause I knew that that was the last time, the last time, oh, ohhhh!

Oh noooo

Let it burn

Oh oh ohhhh

Let it burn

Oh oh ohhhh

Let it burn

Oh oh ohhhh

She sang with a profound love, trying to use her voice and her song to let Edward know how she felt. Her words came out soft in verses and louder, impassioned during the chorus. During the course of the song, she found herself moving closer to him, singing with a conviction that only he could invoke in her.

When the song was done, the crowd raged. Edward stood and applauded her as well. She reached out and touched his face, his eyes closing at the contact. Her hands drifted down his arms and she stilled, willing him to open his eyes.

When he did, she threw her arms around him, embracing him as hard as she could. With the cheers from the crowd growing louder, they stayed on stage, holding on to each other for dear life. She was kissing his neck, his face, in between telling him that she loved him.

When it was time to leave the stage, they did so together, holding hands, ready to start again.