No One Seems to Understand
The song was in his head constantly, taunting him and soothing him at the same time. It was infuriating in a way, following him around in everything he did. After his brothers had asked him what he was humming Monday night, he'd been avoiding them – not that that was unusual, but it irked him that he was avoiding them because of some external force rather than his own disinterest in their company.
It amazed him that a human, someone so young, could have the depth of feeling the song conveyed. Of course, that was just another for the list of similarities between this woman and his Bella that was so frustrating. At times, he found himself wondering what had happened to her before quickly reminding himself that he should not care, did not care, and had no right to care.
He retreated to the music building after his midday lecture, settling onto the piano bench. Instead of playing, however, he stared at the door, a strange twinge of anxiety nibbling at him. I should just leave, he told himself, though he did not rise. It was the truth, though: he was out of his mind to have any sort of interaction with humans. Just look at how it had worked out the last time!
He still wanted to know why her mind was veiled like it was. Over an hour they had been in this room, just the two of them, and the most he had heard from her was a whisper of jumbled words he could not understand.
Growling, he ran a hand through his hair and began to play without thought. After a moment, he recognized that he was playing a lullaby. No, not a lullaby, the lullaby - the only one in his world. Closing his eyes, he allowed himself to remember all of the nights he had laid in Bella's bed humming this song, his arms around her while she curled into him and slept. Such perfect times could never have lasted, and he should have known that. On some level, he had.
The hinges of a door creaked open, but he ignored them and continued to play, revisiting every strand of Bella's hair as it spread out on her pillow, the peaceful and gentle look on her face, her lips parted slightly. Their daughter looked so much like her mother when she slept, and a part of him wished he had not lost the chance to see them in bed together, Bella – still beautifully human – with her infant daughter cradled in her arms, the two of them resting peacefully.
Of course, that had been impossible. Even if Bella had survived, she would have survived as a vampire. If only he were human, and Bella had been able to carry his child as any mother might…
The song came to an end, and he allowed the last notes to hover in the air with his eyes still closed, unwilling to leave behind the vision in his mind.
"That's so beautiful," Willa murmured once the last notes had faded. He nodded in agreement, though they spoke of different things. "Is it yours?" she asked him.
"Yes," he told her, taking a moment to gather himself. He opened his eyes, pulling himself back to reality. "I wrote it a few years ago." His voice was rich with emotion, and he cleared his throat. Reminding himself to keep this woman at arm's length, he let his voice harden. "I see you got the music I left for you."
She sighed, nodding. "I did, thank you. I went over the comments you left and made a few changes I'd like you to look over." She handed her folder to him, and he took it without a word. Flipping it open, he saw that she had erased some of his notations and finalized others on the front sheet, as well as making some changes of her own. The end result was strong, and though he refused to let her know it, he realized she had a knack for composition.
"A few things I couldn't bring myself to change," she commented. "But I did like some of the suggestions you made for the second verse, varying it. I think it better conveyed the changes."
He nodded absently, setting the music on the stand and flipping a sheet over. He read over the notes, then laid his fingers on the piano keys, playing through a change she'd made on the second page. Remembering his company, he made himself blink, and Bella's eyes watched him in the darkness behind his eyelids. She would have loved this song.
She would never have needed to hear it.
"His name is Andrew," Willa said softly, drawing his attention back to her. He looked up and raised an eyebrow, his fingers still running through the song's chorus. "The song," she explained. "He inspired it. I was hoping to dedicate the performance to him…"
So there it was, he realized. She wrote with such poignancy because she had lost a love as well. It made sense, and he had suspected as much, but hearing it aloud was odd. It was a simple confirmation of what he'd already deduced, and yet it struck another chord within him. Here was one who might understand, at last, what he had lost…
He shed the thought as Willa continued, "He died in May, a construction accident. He went out to pick up some milk – I'd forgotten to grab it on my way home – and they were working on the building. A support snapped above him." She trailed off, and Edward turned back to the music without comment, but not before seeing the guilt that flashed in her eyes.
And here he was being so rude to her. He knew it was best for both of them, but something twisted in his stomach at the thought of being so callous to one so young who suffered so much. He saw echoes of Bella in her, the Bella he had seen in Italy, drawn and wasting away after losing the other half of herself. Edward had to fight back a grimace at the memory; he had caused that pain, had caused his love to become a mere shadow of who she truly was. Edward had noticed it the first time he'd met Willa - the way she didn't quite seem to weigh enough for her frame, the way she always seemed to collapse into herself when she spoke - but hadn't thought much of it.
She pushed away from the piano and crossed the room, dragging a plastic chair back to sit beside the piano bench. When she perched on its edge, he tried to slip into her mind and was once again turned away. Without a word, Willa pointed to a section near the middle of the song, and Edward jumped to that spot in the music. They ran through the bridge and on to the end of the song, trying out some of the things she had adapted from his suggestions. Reaching into her bag set on the floor beside her, she withdrew a pencil and scribbled a quick change onto the music. Edward nodded his approval.
They worked for over an hour. They would run through a section, one of them marking a slight change onto the score then gesturing to a different section. After working each part like that, they ran through the song twice. Wil reached up to her headset the second time through, tapping the button and whispering, "Record." Giving him a nod, he started from the top of the piece, and Wil closed her eyes as she sang. Once the last notes had faded from the piano, she touched the button again, ending the recording.
"What's your number?" she asked, and he looked up at her sharply. What did she want that for? Was she seriously trying to ask him out again? He thought he'd rebuffed that well enough the last time. "Don't give me that look, it's just so I can send you the recording. I figure it will help us get a more objective idea of how things are shaping up, maybe give us a few more ideas of what might work or not."
"EC – 0273 – WA," he told her after a moment's consideration. It was a fair request. She tapped her headset, storing the number into memory, and a curious look crossed her face. She found something curious about his number; probably just taking in the fact that it was from the other side of the country. The Washington-based cell phone numbers were a conversion from years back, using their old property to give them a home address in the US while they still resided overseas.
"I'll download it tonight and send it to you," she promised. He shrugged, gathering up his music and reaching for his black folder.
"Whatever time works best," he told her, closing his folder. "I will have copies of our changes for you like the last time."
"No rush." She picked up her own sheets, stuffing them into her folder haphazardly and sliding it into her tablet bag. Edward gave her an absent nod, pretending to be oblivious to her as he packed up his bag and got his coat on.
"Listen," Willa said suddenly, her voice soft. "Thanks again." Her voice wavered as she said it, and as Edward watched her from the corner of his eye, he saw another glimpse of the pain she was hiding. She was not quite as good as he was, but she had found some way to push it aside as they were working. It was as though she wore a mask of normalcy, and it reminded him much of his own. He slung his bag over his shoulder and started for the door before some foreign urge made him hesitate.
"My angel's name is Bella." The words came out in a quiet rush, surprising him. He did not turn to face her as he continued, "She died…a lifetime ago. No one seems to understand that it never gets better, just easier to hide. This helps."
What was he doing?
He strode quickly out of the building, retreating to the parking lot. He remembered, belatedly, that he should have reacted to the cold as he stepped out into it, but it was too late for that and there were few people around to notice. Only one of the students that were passing through this part of the campus even took note of him, but he blocked out her perverted mind without dwelling on her thoughts – this he was used to. This was his comfort zone, ignoring and blocking out the world around him.
He'd made a mistake allowing someone in, and now he felt the stirrings of something he'd pushed off for years: companionship. Even with his family, he had been careful to maintain a certain distance. He had to; his pain hurt them, and he was tired of causing others to hurt. He knew just how much losing Bella had affected all of his siblings, Alice in particular, and was shamed by it.
Never mind the pain he'd caused Renesmee by failing to save her mother.
He got into his car and started toward his apartment, briefly considering that he might go join his siblings for the evening. He decided against it almost immediately, preferring the solitude of his chair and his thoughts. He'd call Renesmee tonight though; it would be good to hear her voice. It would anchor him, and perhaps remind him why he kept a distance from everyone…especially humans.
God was taunting him with Willa, with someone so like but unlike Bella, someone who knew loss. This was his latest punishment.
Or your salvation.
The voice was Bella's, and he sat up when he heard it in his mind. This had happened from time to time, often when he had not hunted for a while… The delusions were almost comical. A crazy vampire – who would imagine it? She had confided in him, however, that she had heard his voice when he was away, and he was never surprised that he now heard her counsel. She was, after all, the better part of him.
As much as he wanted to embrace her words, to embrace anything Bella, he brushed away the thought. He chuckled when the Bella in his mind gave a frustrated huff, and he could almost see her stomping her foot at him.
He agreed wholeheartedly with her assessment as he arrived at his apartment. From the car to his chair, he moved at a painfully slow, human pace, settling into its soft embrace as though it were his love's. The voice silenced as he sank into memories once more.
In his mind, they lay on the beach of Isle Esme, entwined in each other's arms. The sun beat down on them, warming Edward's skin to a comfortable temperature for her, so he didn't worry that she might be cold clad in only the absolutely gorgeous swimsuit that Alice had packed for her. It was a deep blue that stirred so many feelings in him, ones he finally no longer had to quell. A smile playing on his lips, he kissed her thoroughly, then pulled away to stare back up at the sky. White, perfect clouds floated overhead, and they had been – of all things – pointing out the shapes they saw.
One shadowed the sun for a moment, and Bella's mood seemed to shift with it.
"You have to change me soon," she said, bringing up a familiar conversation once again. There was a slight hesitation in her voice, however, as though she might be struggling with the idea. It had been this way since they began their honeymoon.
"Only if you want me to, love," he assured her. She pushed up onto her elbows, turning to look at him.
"I do," she told him firmly. "I worry… I worry about getting sick, or getting into an accident, or – I don't know, getting struck by lightning."
He chuckled, reaching out to brush her check with his hand. "Only you would worry about being struck by lightning on a clear day." Her lips twitched.
"Danger magnet," they said at the same time, and she laughed. The sound was magic to him. "Really, though, Edward – what would you do if you lost me?"
She worried about him, not herself. Of course she did; that was typical Bella. He pulled her on top of him, marveling in the feel of her body against his. "You know what I would do."
"Yes. And I don't like it." She laid her head on his chest and he stroked her hair absently. "I would tell you not to if I thought you would listen. I would want you to try to live, maybe even…move on…"
"Impossible!" The word ripped out of him immediately.
"I know," she agreed. "I couldn't either, remember? But I wouldn't want you to die."
He hated the direction the conversation was taking, so he started to roll, flipping her over so that she was captured beneath him. Lowering his lips to her neck, he murmured, "It is a good thing neither of us will have to." He nipped at her neck, no teeth of course, but she got the idea. Running his lips up to her jaw, then to her ear, he-
The phone rang, tearing him from his memories. He suppressed a growl and heaved a put out sigh. Patiently, he let the call roll to his voicemail, letting the lingering feelings of his reverie settle until a tone in his ear told him the caller had left a message. He tapped the headset.
"Edward, it's Wil," the message began. "Don't worry about the copy tonight; no one will be home this evening. Hold onto it until I see you Friday, unless you want to swing by and drop it off at Molly's. I'll be going over the recording there for a while. If I don't see you, I'll send it to you later, but…" She stopped suddenly, and her voice was shaky when she began to speak again. "Anyway, I'll see you around. Bye."
"Delete message," he said quietly, running a hand through his hair. What should he make of that? Did she want to get her music – or see him? Should he go?
No. He should not go.
Taking the headset from his ear, he set it down on the table and let his mind wander again.