Edward & Andrew
By the time winter break was over, Wil was glad to leave Washington behind. As much snow as they got at Dartmouth, it was nothing compared to the northwest, and the latter half of the visit had been simply draining. She left both Andrew's family and her own with an updated vid-chat number and a promise to talk soon, and spent the whole flight back to New Hampshire asleep. As soon as she stepped off the plane, she popped her ear phone on and refused to take it off outside of classes, hoping for a call from her pianist that never came. By Friday, she was a wreck, and she paced outside the performance hall looking at her watch every other minute.
"Calm down, girl," Rhonda told her, leaning against the wall and watching her pace. "You'll be fine!"
"What if he doesn't show!" she cried, throwing her hands up and turning to her roommate. "I'll have no accompaniment!"
"You can play it," she said simply, giving a one shouldered shrug. "Not as well, maybe, but just fine to get by. Tell them your pianist is sick, and find someone in the morning."
Wil had given Rhonda the short story of her drama with the pianist: she'd heard him rehearsing every time she came through after composition class, and had asked him to play for her after hearing how skilled he was. The fact that his music had often moved her to tears she left out, along with his strange anger at being asked to play. Either would have required too many explanations that Wil wasn't willing to give.
Unimpressed with Rhonda's infallible logic, she snorted, going back to pacing. She wore a pair of black slacks and a bright red blouse; casual enough to look easygoing while dressy enough to impress anyone that might need impressing. It seemed to fit in well with the others who had filtered by her into the hall, each of them dressed in business casual, going by twos and threes in deep discussion over their pieces. Many brought their own instruments, and a cacophony of sound came from the hall as they warmed up.
Wil should be warming up as well, but she couldn't get her breathing right, and she knew it was pointless.
Rhonda stepped away from the wall, stepping behind Wil and rubbing her shoulders. "Relax, girl." Wil closed her eyes and took a deep breath, nodding.
"You're right," she admitted. "There's nothing I can do now."
"Damn straight," Rhonda agreed. The door to the hall opened, and a young asian man leaned out.
"We're starting," he told them, and Wil nodded, turning to Rhonda. She reached up to touch the necklace she wore, tracing the three diamonds on it that sat side by side.
"Go knock 'em dead," Rhonda said as she returned to her spot against the wall. "I'll see you at home later, and I want a full report!"
Wil smirked, waving the woman off. "Yeah, yeah, yeah."
The recital hall was basic, wood panels on the wall below white drywall, a wooden stage. The small group of musicians sat in the front rows, and a piano and drum set were perched on the stage. Dr. Jackson stood at the front of the stage with an elderly woman at his side, her white hair pinned up in a bun on her head and glasses perched on the end of her nose. Wil hurried down the aisle, taking a seat at the end of the second row, and Dr. Jackson cleared his throat.
"Welcome to you all," he said with a congenial smile. "Congratulations again on being chosen to have your pieces performed at our winter recital. I look forward to seeing them in concert!
"For those who don't know me, I am Dr. Jackson, and this is my colleague Dr. Reinholdt. We both teach a handful of composition classes, and we are very excited to see some of our up and coming stars here with us. Tonight is a preliminary rehearsal to ensure you are all on track for the performance; we will call each of you on stage, and you will run through your piece once. We ask the composers to join their musicians on stage. Depending on the caliber of the performance, we may need to ask someone to forfeit their place in the recital; do not take this as a reflection on the quality of the piece or the performance, but we understand that not much time was given to rehearse and, with the holidays, you may not have been able to get up to speed so quickly."
He paused, looking to Dr. Reinholdt, who nodded and clapped her hands.
"We'll begin with the Sonata in D by Cherie Roberts," she said, starting toward the edge of the stage. "Cherie?"
A stout woman with red flyaway hair stood, as well as a string quartet. The five of them made their way up the stairs and to center stage, where four chairs had been arranged in a semi-circle. The musicians settled, placing music in stands in front of them, and one of them tapped a beat on the stand with their bow. The cello came in first, and as the rest joined them, Wil glanced toward the back of the hall and bit her lip.
Whether by chance or because they noticed the fact that she was alone, the professors called the other 5 composers first. One by one they went through their pieces, and she catalogued them as she went. Two were classical, the string quartet and a piano piece with two players side by side. One was almost jazz, with a saxophone player and piano competing with a vocal piece that had no lyrics. Another was much more current, an upbeat tune with two singers and synthetic accompaniment, and the fifth a country soloist with guitar and drums. It truly was a diverse group, especially with Wil's song factored in.
Not that she believed she would make it further than this rehearsal, with her attempting to play the piano while she sang.
"Brilliant, it's coming along splendidly," Dr. Jackson said from his spot at the edge of the stage as the country trio finished. "Thank you, Mark! Now, our final piece… Willa Monroe?"
Wil stood slowly, casting one last glance to the back of the hall before starting up to the stage. She heard a few voices whispering as she passed, no doubt wondering at the fact that she was alone. Stalling, she climbed the stairs slowly and crossed to the piano, setting the sheet music down and stepping forward.
"Unfortunately, my pianist-"
A door banged open at the back of the hall, cutting off her explanation, and her knees went weak with relief when her pianist strode in. He gave a curt nod to the professors as he climbed the stairs two at a time, nearly gliding across the stage to settle onto the piano bench. He reached up, rearranging the sheet music to his liking, and then looked expectantly at Wil. His eyes seemed darker than they had before the break, and his face seemed drawn, but as she stared at him he flashed a crooked grin.
"Shall we?" he asked in a velvet voice that barely carried past the edge of the stage. Wil nodded once, turning back to the group.
"The piece we will be performing is entitled, No One Knows," she told them, then took a few steps back to be in line with the piano. Without any further introduction, the first notes of her song began, and she noticed that he was being delicate with them, almost caressing the keys as he played.
can almost feel you smiling
From beyond those silver skies
As you watch me finding my way
Here without you in my life
one knows but you
How I feel inside
No one knows
No one knows but you
come so close to believing
All the echoes in the wind
Brushing my hair off my shoulders
I feel you there once again
one knows but you
How I feel inside
No one knows
No one knows but you
if there is some magic
Some way around these stars
Some road that I can travel
To get to where you are
I'll cry this empty canyon
An ocean full of tears
I won't stop believing
That your love is always near
one knows but you
How I feel inside
No one knows … but you
The last notes faded, and for a moment there was a quiet hush before polite applause broke out from the other musicians. Her pianist had passed any of her expectations; there had been a few rough points where they both tried to take liberties that didn't quite go together, but considering they had not spoken since she'd given him the music, she was pleased. So too were the professors, who applauded as they strode out to center stage in front of the piano.
"I think," Dr. Reinholdt said, "that we are looking forward to a banner recital. Please, everyone, refine your pieces; we will meet at the Hopkins Center three weeks from now for another run through and to go over all the details for the performance. Use your time well!"
Everyone rose at her dismissal, gathering instruments and chattering as they made their way to the door. Her pianist started off stage at a quick pace, and Wil jogged over to him, catching him by the arm as he started down the stairs. She hesitated for a moment, noticing how cold his arm was through his shirt, but brushed it off as the weather.
"We should rehearse together," she told him, and he turned to give her an expectant look. He wasn't much for words, she figured; maybe he was some sort of prodigy, or maybe he was too full of himself. She refused to guess which. "Can I meet you, say, tomorrow at noon?"
"Fine," he agreed, pulling his arm out of her grasp. Again, he started toward the door, and she followed him, falling into step at his side. She rubbed her hands together as they went; his arm had been cold, even through his white dress shirt. Of course, the performance hall was kept at a lower temperature to compensate for a full house, and he must have just come in when he rushed onto the stage.
"I'm Wil," she offered. "Willa Monroe. Thank you for coming today, I really appreciate it."
They reached the doors out of the hall and he pushed through one, surprising her when he kept hold of it and waited for her to exit. "Edward Cullen," he said simply, letting the door close behind her. "I'll see you tomorrow then. It's…a good song."
He brushed past her on his way down the hall, leaving her frozen in his wake. The admission had almost seemed to pain him, and yet the idea that he thought her song was good meant strangely much to her. She didn't know who he was to truly be a judge, but she smiled all the same, happy such a musician would appreciate her creation. It wasn't until she heard the door bang behind her, signaling his exit, that she started to move again, making her own way slowly to the door.
When Wil got home, she was met at the door by all three of her roommates, all bundled in their coats and grabbing at her. Hands – she couldn't even tell whose – found her shoulders and arms, and she was turned around and pushed out the door.
"We're going out!" Kate exclaimed as the door bumped closed behind them.
"No buts!" Rhonda said firmly, stepping ahead to push open the door to the stairs. "It's been weeks since we went out together, we're going and that's final!"
Wil sighed, reaching up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. A moment later it had fallen loose again, and she left it fluttering in front of her eyes as she was rushed down the stairs and out of the building. The sun had set a couple hours ago, and the night was cold and clear with little wind. Though there was no snow, small patches of ice were scattered along the path to the parking lot. With her dress shoes – black with buckles and a wide one-inch heal – she was careful to avoid them.
"Fine," she relented. "Where?"
"Molly's, of course!" Kate made it sound like it was a given, and really, it probably should have been. Most weekends, the girls found themselves in Molly's at least one night until close. They piled into the suburban Kate and Eve shared and hit the road.
"So, how'd it go?" Rhonda asked, craning around from the front seat to face Wil. She wore a bright red hat and gloves, and she pulled the latter off, stuffing them into her pockets.
Wil smiled. "Actually, it went well," she admitted, earning a scoff from beside her.
"Of course! You are my fabulous friend, it would go no other way." Kate struck a pose, and they all laughed.
"I couldn't have done it alone though," she told them. "The pianist I have working with me showed up late, and wow, he is amazing."
"Oooooo," Eve crooned from the driver's seat. "Has our perpetually single roommate finally found something that piques her interest?"
"Not that like!" Wil cried, a blush creeping into her cheeks. "He's an amazing musician. Seriously, does it have to be all about men with you guys?" The three of them nodded their agreement, and she gave a heavy sigh. "In that case – you've seen Jeremy, what, four times this week Rhonda?"
Everyone's attention was suitably redirected away from Wil, and she turned to stare out the window. Street lights and brown yards sped past, a few people still showing off their Christmas lights, and her mind wandered as the others discussed Rhonda's growing seriousness with her boyfriend. Her mind went back, for a moment, to similar conversations with high school friends, though for the first time there was no sting with the memory. Instead, she remembered it fondly, and a smile crept onto her lips.
"Earth to Willa!" Rhonda called, bringing her back into the conversation. She looked back to them, seeing three expectant faces staring at her. "Seriously, one of these days you've got to tell us where you go when you do that."
"Or take us with you," Kate added.
"Is it about a certain guy?" Rhonda raised an eyebrow, a playful grin on her lips. "That looked like a pretty good guy smile."
Wil decided to play along this time, folding her hands in her lap and putting on a perfectly innocent expression. "A certain guy, yes."
Kate clapped. "Is it that one you have a picture of in your room?"
The car fell silent, and Wil stared at the woman beside her in shock. Rhonda's eyebrows raised, and Eve reached over after a moment, turning the cruise control off and taking manual control of the car. They continued toward Molly's, Eve's eyes firmly on the road, and Rhonda turned to follow her gaze.
It took a few moments for the impact of what Kate had said to fully sink in, and when it did, she felt her anger flare. She narrowed her eyes at the other woman, who looked back at her with a confused expression.
"You were in my room?" Wil asked slowly, her voice low and dangerous. Kate blinked, startled. "What the hell were you doing in my room? You know I don't like people in there! For God's sake, Kate!"
"I left my headset charger at home over holidays. I just wanted to borrow yours," she shot back, her own eyes flashing. "What's the big deal?"
"What's the big deal? You were in my fucking room! That's mine! That's private!" Her voice rose as she continued, and she practically screeched the last words."
"Come off it!" Kate screamed at her, throwing her hands up in the air. "We live together for fuck's sake! You're always keeping secrets and pushing us away when we share everything – every god damn thing – with you. I needed a charging pad, I didn't find it, I left. It's not like I trashed the place!"
Wil snorted in disgust. "You went through my stuff! You didn't need to trash it, you had no right to go in there without asking me first!"
"Is this about your boy toy? You're trying to hide him from us?" Kate folded her arms in front of her. "I don't know what you hang up is with guys - I'd swear you're a lesbian or something. I bet he's your brother!"
"God!" Wil cursed, fuming. "He's my fucking fiancé, OK? I don't have a goddamn brother. Get off the lesbian kick!"
"Oh! So now you're engaged and you didn't even tell us? Where's the ring? Just tell us the truth already!" The car turned into the parking lot, but neither Kate nor Wil noticed it as they rolled to a stop. Rhonda had turned back to watch now, and putting the car into park, Eve did the same. All eyes were on Wil, and a lump rose in her throat.
"He's dead, Kate," she said, choking on the words. Her voice lowered from a scream to a harsh whisper as she said, "I keep the ring in my jewelry box; I stopped wearing it because I got sick of the pity looks people gave me when they knew." Tears spilled onto her cheeks, and she glanced around the car at everyone's stricken expressions. She couldn't help chuckling. "Yeah, those ones. That's why I didn't tell you, all right? I just wanted somewhere to be where no one was walking on eggshells, and now – because you couldn't keep out of my goddamn room – I can kiss that goodbye."
Reaching for her seatbelt, she unclipped it and thrust the door open, slipping out before anyone could say a word. She slammed the door behind her and sprinted across the parking lot, her breath hitching and tears still steaming. She wiped them away on her coat sleeve. Behind, she heard the others getting out of the car, and she started to run down the street looking for escape.
"Wil! Wait!" Rhonda called, and she refused to turn, pressing forward. Whether she had better endurance than they did, or they didn't chase, Wil couldn't tell; she couldn't hear them behind her, but she didn't want to stop. The running was cathartic, giving her something to do besides cry or rage. She felt as though she should have resented the mask she put on, but instead she had embraced it, and now that it had been pulled back, she had no idea what to do but run. They would be upset. They would be angry. She didn't feel like dealing with their anger and accusations and pity.
She'd spent the past 6 months running from it and now was forced to do it again.
A hand grabbed her arm, wrenching her backward. A car sped past, the horn blaring, and Wil staggered to regain her balance. She bent over, hands on her knees, and took a deep breath.
"Are you all right?" the same voice asked, and a perky face appeared in front of her. She wore subtle make up, a light dusting of rouge on pale skin and rich red lipstick, and had a petite build. Her hair was short, black and spiky, and Wil had a strange feeling she recognized her from somewhere.
Shaking her head, Wil stood up, scrubbing her face with her hands. She realized her own makeup must have been a disaster and reached automatically for her purse, finding it missing; she must have left it in the car. "Yeah, fine," she muttered, running a hand through her hair and shaking it out. The woman held a tissue out to her, and she took it gratefully, dabbing at her cheeks.
"You sure look fine," she chided, lips turning up in a smile. "You weren't trying to get hit by a car, were you? Because I'm not apologizing."
"What?" Wil glanced behind her at the street, noticing for the first time that they were standing on the corner of an intersection. The light across from her turned green, chirping once, and traffic carried on. "No, no, I was just… I wasn't watching were I was going I guess. Thanks." She turned back, wadding up the tissue and sticking it into her pocket, eyes downcast. A deep chuckle brought her gaze up, and she discovered Hotness standing at the woman's side.
"You really should start paying for attention," he commented, slipping an arm around the woman's waist. Seeing the two of them together, she remembered where she'd seen the woman before; she'd been with him at the bar before Christmas. Her cheeks flushed.
"Do you need a ride somewhere?" his girlfriend asked, and Wil started to shake her head before catching herself. Looking around, she realized she wasn't quite sure where she was or how far she'd run. "Come on, we'll get you where you need to be. I'm Alice, this is Jasper, and I promise we aren't psychos or anything."
Wil chuckled weakly. "I've seen you around a couple times," she mentioned, looking over at Hotness…Jasper, rather. "I'm Wil. I think you're in one of my roommate's classes. I guess I could use a ride to the nearest bus station."
"Bus? Not a chance. I'm not dropping you off at some disgusting bus station in the dark." Alice turned, then slipped out of Jasper's grasp and took his hand. With her free hand, she reached up, tapping the headpiece in her ear. "Message Rose: Won't make it, call you later." She tapped it again and led the way down the street.
"You're sure?" Wil asked.
"I would never leave a woman alone at this time of night," Jasper assured her. "Too many questionables out here." Alice nodded her agreement. They came to a stop, the lights flashing on a sleek black Porsche. Wil's eyebrows raised as she eyed the car; it was ridiculous expensive, the new year's most sought after sports model. Jasper reached out, pulling open a door for her and gesturing her inside.
"Nice car," she said quietly, slipping into the back seat. Alice joined her.
"Isn't it? I would have preferred it in yellow, or maybe orange, but Jazz said no." Alice pouted as Jasper got into the driver's seat, starting it up with a quiet purr. Wil brushed the leather interior appreciatively before putting her seatbelt on.
"Sweetheart, we don't all have your love of the flamboyant," Jasper said, smirking over his shoulder. "Where to?"
"I live on campus," Wil told him. "Do you know where the Ledyard Apartments are?"
"Nice place," he nodded, turning back and entering the destination into the navigator. The car started forward, and they fell into silence, Wil wrapping her arms around herself as she stared out the window. She hoped Rhonda and the girls had gone on to Molly's without her, looking forward to having their apartment to herself for a while. She needed to figure out how to deal with their reaction…and more importantly, she needed some sleep before she had to face them again.