Birds of a Feather
For so long I had wanted to hear those words. They'd meant that all the pain, frustration and heartache would be behind us and it was okay to move on. Yet, for some reason, they fell heavy and only left me feeling empty.
When we completed our album, Edward and I would be done. Over. Fin.
Maybe it was because I had been holding on to my anger for so long that I didn't know how to be without it. Maybe the closing of that door was a slam that I hadn't been expecting and my ears were still ringing.
I said nothing and neither did he. We stared at each other, for once without the snide comments and prideful words we'd used like sword and shield for the past year.
Something inside me melted, my entire defense mechanism of keeping him at bay seemed as outdated as medieval weapons. He was finally attempting to meet me in the middle, and getting through this unscathed would require letting go of my hostility.
"Let's go back in there and get things wrapped up," he said quietly, turning to go without a backward glance.
To gain back some semblance of stability, I stayed in the bathroom for a few more minutes to splash some cold water on my face and take a few deep breaths . . . and then I walked into the meeting with my head held high. There wasn't another round of World War Cullen, and Charlotte, the lawyer whose name I had missed earlier, went over some of the finer details.
Her recommendation that we find legal representation for our own comfort was a good one, and Rose took down the names of firms not affiliated with their own. She was professional, kind, and I felt silly for getting worked up over her touching Edward earlier. It wasn't my business.
Her and Peter seemed to work well together, at least, one picking up where the other left off in legalese.
I didn't look at Edward when we left and I wasted no time in exiting the building. The girls did, however, and I stood by the car alone, body turned away from the building and the bright red door.
I'd showed my ass enough today. I was glad Daddy wasn't here to witness that one—he'd tan my hide and put me in time out.
"Well, after that craziness, I could eat a whole cow." Alice bumped my hip, pulling me out of my own head. "Let's go to that Mexican place you like so much."
"Okay. I think I'll make mine a margarita dinner."
Rose clucked her tongue. "This is how it starts. One day you're drinking your dinner, the next day you're trashing hotel rooms and getting us kicked out of venues."
That one made me laugh. I shut the passenger door and put on my seatbelt. "No way. If I'm going full tilt, I wanna get on stage at the Grammy's and tell everyone what I think of them. Better to be remembered that way than for ripping sheets and tossing televisions."
"Well, that's really something to aspire to. Aim high, Bella."
"I always do, Rose."
The rest of the car ride was calm; the girls kept the conversation cheerful and upbeat, and I said nothing about what had gone down in the bathroom. I'd tell them in my own time after I'd figured out what it was that I was feeling.
"Oh, guess what?" Alice piped up from the backseat. "Peter and Charlotte are married; they just don't have the same last name. Told you there was something going on there."
Rose looked in her side mirror to move over. "How'd you find that out?"
"I asked Bree. His hand was on her back when we were leaving, so I had to find out."
"Leave it to you to get the goods."
Now I not only felt silly, but I also felt guilty. My traumas were making me crazy in the literal sense, apparently. Awesome. I checked out of the conversation then, turning my head to the window to watch the cars we passed. Normal people could live their lives without so much drama, so why was it that I couldn't?
The answer to that one wasn't easy to face, though. It required some soul searching and hard questions I wasn't ready for yet, and probably some answers that would put me into a shame spiral that wouldn't be conducive to being a participating member of society.
Feeling a hand on my leg, I looked to see Rose leaning over and smiling at me.
"Thank you," she said.
"For doing this. We'll make you proud. I promise."
I turned from the passenger seat to address them both. "You guys, I have absolutely no doubt in this world that we'll make a fantastic record. Most of what you saw in there was my own doing—my own issues and I see that now. It's time to move on and I'm doing my best for you, that I can promise. And I am always proud of you."
Alice reached through the seat to lay her hand on ours and I laid another on top. This was a fresh beginning for all of us.
Over the next couple of weeks it became easier to get myself in the right mindset. The schedule was set up with Jasper outlining the prep work that we needed to start; the girls allowed me free reign to coordinate everything although I always made sure to check in for their approval.
The girls and I made a night of it one Friday evening. Bottles of wine were cracked, takeout was ordered, and we went over every song we had, trying to put together something cohesive and true to our style.
The next Monday, I met with Jasper over at the studio to go over song choices and music arrangements. Pulling in to the parking lot, I looked for the now familiar black SUV and breathed a sigh of relief when it was nowhere to be found.
My dealings with Edward after the meeting were true to what we'd agreed upon. He was there at the office sometimes, but he only came around when he absolutely had to. There were no more blowups, no more digs, and nary a word about our shattered marriage.
Bree was at the front when I arrived.
"Hi, Bella. It's nice to see you again."
"Hello. Just in for a meeting with Jasper before we start recording."
"I'm excited to hear what you all come up with. The guys said you're a fantastic band, and I know they're looking forward to getting your stuff on the radio. Jasper cleared his schedule for you today, so you can go right on back."
"Oh, thanks," I said, taken aback by her enthusiasm.
. . . and also by her casual use of 'the guys'. I wondered if she was just buttering me up.
"Well, I'll see you later. Don't work too hard, now."
She laughed. "Yeah, I wish I could say I won't, but that's a damn lie."
I left her to it and headed for Jasper's office. He was on the phone when I came in, and I hovered in the door until he waved me in. While he finished up his call, I dug around in my bag for the list of songs and a pack of gum.
"Sorry, couldn't put that one off."
I waved my hand. "No worries. Got our list here."
He held out his hand and I gave him the paper. We'd made a rough demo ages ago that he had, so he knew some of them, but the others he wanted to hear first to see what session musicians would be needed, or what would fit best.
"I want it to be organic, very true to your sound, but still clean. This is a great jumping off point though," he said, waving the list. "Do you have others as well?"
I panicked. "Why? Won't this be enough?"
"It's kind of the bare minimum. We'd like you to have a few extra in case something doesn't fit with the rest of the songs."
"Oh, well," I said, rummaging through my purse. "I have a few things that are unfinished, kinda raw really. I could work on those and you can see what you think."
"That would be great." He made a note and moved a few papers around. "So, how come Rose and Alice didn't show up with you today?"
I smiled. Someone was fishin' for some info. "Well, they trust me with this stuff and we've talked about it. They made the list with me on Friday. Plus, Rose is still trying to work as much as she can before she finally quits. Those kids mean a lot to her."
He nodded his head, but I knew who he was really askin' about.
"And Alice isn't goin' to just show up all willy-nilly to make cow eyes at you, you know. She'll be here for the sessions."
His eyes got wide. A sure telltale sign.
"We all know you've been keen on her forever, and I also know she ain't fixing to bite until there's a thread of seriousness there. She ain't that type."
"So, if I don't profess my love, I'm shit outta luck?"
"Not what I'm sayin', now is it? Give it some time and thought, and you'll understand. You're not an idiot."
He stared me down. "You give good advice."
I shrugged. "Too bad I can't follow it myself."
"Speaking of . . . How are you doing with all of this? It can't be easy, but you've been pretty mellow lately."
"It's not easy, but this isn't just about me, either. Edward and I . . . well, we've called a truce, for now. We'll deal with our issues later."
"I'm gonna give you my word again that we'll treat you right and give ya the best we've got. I want you to trust us."
"I know that, really, I do. I've got faith that everything will be handled as it should be."
He smiled and picked up another piece of paper. "Tell me about this one, I haven't heard it yet."
Our first day of studio work was exciting; I showed up more bright eyed and bushytailed than ever, an excess of coffee not even needed. I wasn't new to studio work, I had sat in with the guys' sessions in the early days and knew what to expect: an initial period of letting us play our songs live, with some long waiting periods while rough cuts were reviewed and details discussed. Then we'd do it all over again with the edits in place and the mixing people at the boards.
During one such long stretch, Alice got down on the Persian rug in between songs and performed a few yoga moves to stretch herself out. Downward dog was clearly Jasper's favorite because he flat couldn't take his eyes off of her rump. I snickered to myself and thought he better cut that shit out—Edward was here today, quiet and observing and trying to stay out of the way, but she was still his sister.
I fell onto the couch with my acoustic to work on my latest song.
"Ooh, I like that," said Rose. "Got any lyrics yet?"
"I did, but I don't want to use them."
"Eh, personal stuff. Sometimes I just throw that in while I'm writing the tune. Kinda therapeutic."
"I'd love to hear it."
My eyes went to the light that indicated whether or not the mic was live, and I saw that it, thankfully, wasn't. Still, though . . . "Not right now."
Rose turned around to look. "Ah. Well, play it for me and I'll see what I can add."
I proceeded to play the song for her and we found our rhythm and melody together. Alice tapped her foot as she lay on the ground listening, her hand wrapped around a music stand and fingering a non-existent fiddle. I looked up again and the guys in the booth had turned their attention on us as well.
The light was back on, too.
Rolling my shoulders, I tuned them out and focused on the girls and my guitar. When I didn't think about who was out there, I was okay, and we jammed for a few and made up things as we went. By the time I hit the last chord we were smiling at each other, humming along . . . and the booth started clappin'.
Edward was leaning against the door still, arms folded across his chest and a smug look on his face.
For that briefest of moments, everything felt normal. I could hear him in my head telling everyone that his girl had a voice prettier than river water, that she could make them wish they had half of what she did.
I heard him telling me he'd sign the papers, too. Heard a door closing, and looked up to see that he'd left the room.
Jasper whooped and shouted as he approached the window, leaned into the mic on his side. "That's what I'm talkin' about."
"We can keep working on it," I called, shaking off my melancholy, "make it one of the go-to songs if necessary."
"Perfect. Let's get back to the first set and go from there."
The next day we were booked for studio time, Jasper had lined up a few musicians to help us round out our sound for three of our songs. I was sitting in the booth when in walked Paul, the drummer of their band.
"Hey, you!" I said getting up to give him a big hug. "It's been so long!"
"Hi Darlin', you look good," he said when he pulled back.
"You down here to slum with us?"
"I wouldn't call it slummin'. Jasper here played me a demo of your stuff. I'd be honored to play on your record. Heck, I miss playing the small gigs anymore."
"Well, we're glad to have ya."
There was a loud voice out in the hallway and I no sooner recognized it when the owner of it appeared in the doorway.
"What's he doing here?"
"Aww, Bella, you want to greet an old friend like that?" Jake said, zeroing in on me.
"I'd prefer not to greet you at all."
"I'm sorry to hear that. I came all this way to see what my boys were up to and here I find you. Imagine that, right in the center of it."
Jake was the epitome of herpes: something that would never go away. Not wanting to deal with his shit, I turned to look for an escape and caught Jasper's eye. He knew firsthand what a pain in the ass Jake could be. Jerk needed his own full time wrangler to keep him out of trouble.
Things between Edward and me were bad, sure, but at least we'd gotten along once and were trying to stay out of each other's way now. Jake and I, however, had never seen eye to eye and we mixed about as well as oil and water did. Maybe even worse. The sooner he was away from me the better; my blood pressure was making my ears hotter than blue blazes.
Jasper came to my rescue.
"Dude, enough. We've got work to do."
"I won't be in the way, I swear." He gave me his best Cheshire cat smile.
Jasper replied by telling all of the observers, "Closed session, people. Musicians only. I'll catch up with you when we're done."
"Well, fuck, guess I'll call Ed and see if he wants to go hit the town." He winked at me and made his exit out the door.
The fucker took every chance he got to dig and irritate me. One of my huge issues when Edward and I were together was Jake. Always wanting to party always and on the make. Edward, I had trusted. Jake, on the other hand, I did not.
"Want a few minutes?" asked Rose.
"No, I'm fine."
"Your face is red."
"I have an allergy," I said, coughing. "To Jake."
She busted up laughing "I'm not sure if I can help you with that one."
"I don't think anyone can."
She moved next to me to pick up her instrument. "Trust me, I can't stand that asshole either. Something about him just makes my skin crawl."
"Yeah, it's probably the sleazeball vibe he puts off. Ugh. I just know he didn't come down here for a visit. Always a motive with that one, and it's probably not a good one, either."
"Why do you say that?"
I scoffed. "He never shows up unless he wants something. When Edward and I lived in New York he was always freeloading off of us, always needed a hand. For a while I thought I was married to both of them."
"Oh, shut up. I didn't mean it like that, just that wherever we went, there he was. I never understood why Edward always felt so obligated to him."
"He's part of the band, dude. They always seem to treat each other like family. Bros before hoes and all that."
"I can't believe you just said that," I said, smacking her arm. "I'd be the hoe in that situation, and my daddy raised me better. Anyway, I don't know, he's really possessive of Edward's time. It's something we fought about a lot."
"I didn't know that."
I sighed. "I don't go broadcastin' my business. Just know that there were a lot of things that added up to make things so fragile at the end."
She slung her arm over my shoulder, nodded at Alice, who was out in the booth reading Jasper the riot act. "I'm sorry I pushed you."
"You were just trying to help. I don't think anyone understood how badly I was hurting, and it's the past, now. Things are looking up, and I'm tryin' to not focus on the bad. Making this record feels so good to me, like it's nourishing my soul. Does that make sense?"
After that, we worked well into the night.
Jake never reappeared nor did Edward and I found myself wondering why.
The next day in the studio, there were a few tracks that Jasper wanted to re-do lead vocals on. Because everyone else had been working so hard, and my parts were the only ones that were pertinent, the girls took a day off.
In between takes, I sat on one of the couches and worked on one of the extra songs. I might have balked the other night about singing it in front of everyone, but with such a skeleton crew, I felt comfortable letting some of my words out.
Sweet like a kiss, sharp like a razor blade
I liked the sound of the melody as it wafted through the empty studio. The lyrics flowed as I played out my in song, I let it fly while Jasper and the sound guy argued over a take we'd just finished. I closed my eyes and let my voice do what it wanted to.
A tap on the window that separated the sound board from the room I sat in made me look up, and I looked straight into Edward's face.
In the same doorway he'd hovered around the last time I'd seen him, he stood with his hands in his pockets and a thoughtful expression on his face. Jasper, who'd been the one to knock on the window in the first place, said something to him and turned back to me.
"We're going to be a bit longer. I was going to let you know you could go get something to eat if you wanted."
I shook my head. "I'm not hungry. I'll just hang out in here if that's okay?"
He hesitated, looking back at Edward. "If you're sure . . ."
"It's fine," I said.
He nodded and I noticed that the light went off over the mic, so I looked back down at my guitar and began picking out the melody I'd just been playing.
The lyrics I'd been singing were a direct reflection of my feelings for Edward, and it made me embarrassed to know he'd heard even a little bit of them.
The door opened and I looked up, froze.
"I really like that one. Nice arrangement."
"Thanks. Just trying to put a few extras together just in case."
"Well, that one should definitely be in the mix."
I sat my guitar on my knees. "You think?"
He approached me cautiously, as if I were a bird about to fly away. "Mind if I sit?"
I tried to look around him. "Jake with you?"
"No. Contrary to popular belief, he doesn't go everywhere I do."
"Oh. Sure seems like it." I waved a hand for him to sit down.
Truthfully, I had no say in what he did with his life anymore, but I couldn't help it. We were still connected by feelings, words and a marriage license.
He crossed his arms on his knees. "What else are you working on?"
I still felt self-conscious about my music around him, so I hedged my words. "Something that I need to re-do."
"Let me look at what you have."
Nervous, I looked down and ruffled the papers my lyrics were scrawled on. Some of the edges were ragged from use and age, bent and ripped, taped back together.
It was an apt description of their owner, too.
The lyrics on all three songs I had written down were exclusively about us, and I wasn't sure I was ready for him to hear them. I set the papers down on the side furthest away from him.
"This isn't what I wanted, which is why I'm sitting down to rework it," I said, sounding shorter than I'd intended.
He sighed, and I could see him trying to be patient. "If not that one, then show me another one."
I closed my eyes, told myself to stop being so snippy. He wasn't picking at my open wounds, and it would be ridiculous to refuse his help; the talent in his own work spoke volumes. Shuffling a few of my notes, I handed the papers to him, repositioned my guitar, and strummed the first few chords of the intro.
"This the first line?"
Still reluctant about sharing, but knowing I was going to anyway, I frowned at him but sang him the few words I had.
He's the one I see right through
"Play me a few bars until you reach the chorus."
I started from the beginning, not looking at him even after the final note had faded into nothing.
He got up and walked over to pick one of the acoustics up that was leaning against the wall. And thenrepeated exactly what I had played. If there was one thing about Edward that even my negative outlook couldn't deny, it was that he was truly gifted as a musician and a songwriter. He picked up things easily, and knew where they should go next.
He stopped, hummed a few bars, and then started again.
Where she walks, no flowers bloom
He nodded at me to continue.
I sang the words I had given to him only moments before as he played this time. It wasn't long before I knew where he was headed with this—and it was fucking brilliant.
She's the absinthe on my lips
I smiled and shook my head. My body started to hum in a way I hadn't felt in so long.
A splinter in my fingertip
And now we stared at each other, challenging one another over the best line.
When we reached the point of the chorus, he asked me to play that for him without the original lyrics. He listened intently, then played it for me singing softly back while looking at the neck of his guitar.
But who could do without you?
The weight of his words pierced right through my heart, and it was so, so obvious to me that he knew that, too. He knew what he was doing.
It was a hard thing to accomplish, but I kept my face straight, professional. Cold.
Inside, though, I was absolutely giddy. I didn't realize what a high it would be to write alongside him, and the next two hours passed with us perfecting lyrics and music, and not saying a single mean thing to each other.
I'd sung around Edward before; he'd sung in front of me many, many times. It wasn't a new thing for me to see him put together a song from next to nothing. What was new, though, was the fact that our voices played off each other extremely well, because we'd never taken the time to write music together as a team.
Part of me wondered how we had wasted that time together, something so crucial that could have made our bond stronger. But I guessed none of that could happen when you spent most of your time apart.
I took a deep breath. "So," I said hesitating a little. "This is really, really good, I think. I could probably use a duet partner for this."
He leaned back on the couch, putting the guitar down next to him. "Well, I can get Marcus or Dmitri to back you up. They're both great and I think they're available. Marcus isn't touring right now and Dmitri is in between projects."
Looking down at my hands, I picked at a scratch I'd gotten the night before while playing tug-of-war with Sam. It hurt to know we were so far gone that, even though we'd seemed to at least be tolerating each other, he could so easily toss me to a new partner on a song he'd helped build up.
Maybe I couldn't really blame him—I hadn't exactly been a peach to him, and more time together would probably just end badly, anyway.
I looked back to see him getting up to leave.
"You're taking off?"
"Yeah, I've got a few things I need to do. But I really enjoyed that just now."
"Thank you," I said. "Your input was brilliant."
"Have a good session." He smiled, but it was forced, and left the room.
Love your comments – yes, every single one. xo
Songs – Bring me Down – Miranda lambert
Birds of a Feather – Civil Wars
Busy week. Nicnicd gets all the kudos in the world for betaing two pieces for me: This chapter and a Part of Me prequel for the Fandom4LLS compilation to come out soon. Please go and donate. There are a lot of amazing authors from several different fandoms participating.