The offensive sheets of paper sat atop Edward's piano where he'd slapped them down in outrage. The arrogance! The gall! Why would he go out of his way to help a stranger? What did she know about talent?
Why should he waste his time?
If Alice had not send him the message encouraging him to open the door, he never would have. As he played, terse notes that flowed from his fingers with no rhyme or reason, aimless wanderings with no true tune to follow, he let his anger and frustration pour through the piano. He wished he had never opened the door. His damned meddling sister wouldn't see what was coming when he gave her a piece of his mind later; her visions could not give even a glimpse of the fury he would unleash on her.
Her and that woman both, who had forced her way into his solitude. That musical voice that had haunted him for a month, Bella singing to him in his reveries, was not his love at all but some…some…girlwho was fawning over him like so many high school girls past.
He let himself focus on this for as long as he could, trying unsuccessfully to lose himself in his anger and his music. His phone twittered a few times in his ear, and he ignored that as well, venting some of his rage toward the sister that was pestering him. She would show up eventually, he knew, and then he could give her a piece of his mind.
She had seen this.
She had encouraged it.
Slamming both hands down on the keys as hard as he dared, he rose to his feet and snatched the sheet music that had been taunting him. He might as well take a look, so that he could easily dismiss the piece and be rid of this infuriating woman who had appeared out of nowhere to taunt him.
Her and her arrogant, childish, infuriating, veiled mind.
If he was honest with himself – which he had no desire to be as he paced in his fury, holding but refusing to read the music in his hands – he was agitated. When the knock at the door had pulled him from Bella's bedroom in Forks and the glorious feel of her arms around him, he had expected one of his siblings come to fetch him as they usually did. When no thoughts followed the knock, he opened his senses, noticing the heartbeat and the subtle scent that accompanied his intruder, and automatically dismissed them. A quick glimpse at their mind would no doubt tell him everything he needed to know, and then he could ignore the intruder and go back to where he belonged.
It was that simple – until, of course, he realized he could pluck no thoughts from whomever stood mere feet away. She was not silent to him, but rather than thoughts and images he could glean only the vaguest of information. Apprehension. Hope. Confusion. If she had not been in such a state of anxiety, he would think her simple, but with that much so obviously whirling around in her mind he should have been able to hear something.
Even when she spoke to him, he had heard nothing from her but a vague sense of desperation and a hazy glimpse of something else that he could not quite identify.
It infuriated him. How dare she deny him? How dare she interrupt his most sacred time to request a favor of him, and yet refuse him at the same time?
How dare she, with her heart shaped face and wide eyes, with her frustratingly veiled mind and vaguely floral scent, compare herself to his Bella?
All of this ran through his mind in quick succession, even as the memory of Bella called to him from the corners of his mind. He felt the whispery call of it, longed to sink back into reverie; her memory had become an addiction – his own personal brand of heroin. The comparison was amusing, ironic. She had always held an unnatural power over him. She still did, even as she lay in rest in the Forks cemetery. Here Lies Isabella Marie Cullen, beloved wife and daughter, plots to her left and right reserved for her father and her husband, donated by the town to honor their Police Chief's only child.
No one would be surprised when young Edward Cullen, barely an adult at the time of his wife's death, did not return to the small town to be laid to rest.
He wished he could be.
That particular tangent of thought did much to quell the fury in him. Edward sank to the floor slowly, crossing his legs beneath him and sitting with the sheet music in his lap. Had he been able to cry, he would have. Instead, he stared sightlessly at the opposite wall until another soft knock pulled him back to reality once more. This time, he ignored it, and after a few seconds the door eased open and his meddling pixie of a sister slipped in, and entirely apologetic look on her face.
"I had no idea-"
"I know," Edward cut her off, seeing it clearly in her mind. She shut the door behind her and crossed to him, kneeling on the floor at his side. The images in her mind were of him, memory of a vision in which he went on a tirade twice as bad as the one he had. Her lips were tugged down in a frown, an expression seldom seen on Alice's face, and he shook his head at the sight. "Never mind it, Alice."
"But, what did she do?" Alice asked, pursing her lips in thought. "I didn't see her doing anything that wrong."
"It was nothing." Rising suddenly, Edward waved his empty hand to dismiss the subject. "She was just in the wrong place, at the wrong time." As she went over to the piano again, he considered dropping the sheet music into the trash, but instead shoved it into his tablet bag and zipped it back up.
Alice watched him curiously, coming up behind him and peering around his arm. "What did she want?"
"She is doing a recital," he told her as they left the room. "She wanted a pianist. I thought you would know that."
"I saw the two of you at the door talking," she said, shrugging. "I thought it would be … good for you to talk to someone."
And there it was again, the endless recital of information that told Edward that there was clearly something his sister was hiding from him. Try as he might, he couldn't get around the inundating stream of lectures she recited in her mind from the past week. He blocked her out, disgruntled. "I would rather not," he snapped at her.
"But you promised to try," Alice reminded him sternly. "So, try."
She made it sound so simple. They went to the nearest parking lot, meeting Jasper there; the two of them shared a brief kiss before getting into the car. Try to do what? Fill the hole Bella had left? With what, tedious class work and mundane human interaction? He hoped that, once he was into his residency, he would be able to fill his time saving lives and doing things worthwhile. With luck, that would give him some sense of worth that he was now lacking, though a part of him wondered if it could work that way.
He fingered the zipped of his bag, thinking of the papers within. If not for the woman's indecency, he might consider her request; music was certainly a worthy pursuit. As he called up the memory of her, however, his anger grew exponentially and he sneered.
"Edward?" Jasper asked, glancing back at him. "It's Emmett we're talking about here, he loves a good prank."
What? He scrambled for a moment, catching the line of the conversation Jasper and Alice had been having in the front seat: pranks to pull on Emmett for the holidays. Running a hand through his hair, Edward got a handle on his anger and sighed.
"Not that," he explained. "I was just thinking. I'm in, though, if you take the parts out of his Jeep and wrap them for him; the look on his face should be priceless."
"It will be!" Alice grinning, turning her attention back to the road in front of them and her husband at her side. "Of course, that will even be a real gift for Rose; she has been wanting to get under the hood of that Jeep since Emmett bought it…"
"Just under?" Jasper asked with a raised eyebrow as he took control of the car back. His wife giggled, and Edward suppressed a groan as they pulled into the garage. That pulled Edward up short for a moment; garage? They were supposed to be dropping him off at home.
He looked back to the couple in the front of the car, who were both beaming back at him. "Surprise!" Alice squealed, throwing her seatbelt off and leaping out of the car. She tugged Edward's door open and took his hand, trying to pull him from the car.
"Let me get the-" Alice gave another good pull, and a brief snap of metal was followed by Edward's seatbelt flying open, allowing him to step out of the car. "-Seatbelt." Jasper looked over the car at his wife and shook his head as he closed his door.
"Did you have to go and break the new car already, my dear?" he asked her with a smirk. She refused to look abashed, continuing to pull Edward along with more bounce in her step than usual. Edward's patience began to run thin, and a brief touch of calm soaked into him. It's worth it, brother, just play along, Jasper urged him. With a sigh, he followed her, allowing himself to be nearly dragged through the door that led from their three car garage to the kitchen, an open room with two large windows looking out the back and a breakfast bar between it and the living room. Four figures were seated at the breakfast bar, and the sight brought a true smile to Edward's face.
"Daddy!" Renesmee was the first to rise, launching herself off the stool and across the room; she was in her father's arms before Jasper had the door closed behind them. She wore a long woven skirt with a rainbow of colors in the design and a simple white blouse, and it seemed like she had gotten a bit of a tan over the last month. Giving her a squeeze, Edward soaked in her presence for a moment. He could feel his mood lighten, and too soon he pulled away from her, slipping his bag off his shoulder and setting it on the kitchen table to his left.
Carlisle and Esme were not far behind her, and they each drew him into a strong hug. Carlisle clapped in him on the shoulder with a nod of approval, and after her hug, Esme drew back to study him for a moment. You look…tired, she decided. Are you feeding well?
"Yes, Mom," Edward said with a roll of his eyes, and Jacob laughed heartily from behind her. "Shut up, mutt."
"Bite me, leech," Jacob fired back with a broad smile. He came up beside Esme and the two shook hands. "You've gotta admit, it was funny."
Edward gave him a shrug, looking him over. He was still mostly the same as he had been twenty years before, though like Renesmee, he had picked up even more color from their time in Florida. His short black hair was slightly longer, though still close cut, and under the collar of his navy tee Edward saw a faint hint of color. His eyebrows shot up, and he reached out to pull the collar back.
"A tattoo?" he asked incredulously, staring at the small, howling wolf that adorned Jacob's collar bone. Spinning to his daughter, he demanded, "You had better not… You…!"
This time, Renesmee laughed. "No, Dad, come on. Could I even get a tattoo? That was all Jake, and I told him it was silly, but he insisted."
"Don't let Emmett see," Jasper commented from where he hovered by the door. "He'll be jealous."
"Hell yeah! It's awesome, isn't it?" With a grin, Jacob turned to show it to Carlisle and Esme before letting his collar fall back into place. "I wanted to get it on my forearm, but Nessie said no." He gave a small pout at that, and Renesmess reached over to smack him on the arm.
"Like that would have stopped you, you big lug," she said with a smile. Jacob gave her an offended look, rubbing the spot she'd hit, and she just shook her head at him.
Carlisle slipped an arm around Esme and nodded toward the living room. "Why don't we go sit and catch up?" he suggested. Without waiting for a response, the pair left the kitchen, and everyone else followed behind them. Edward lingered, his daughter by his side; after glancing at the two of them, Jacob followed the rest and gave them a moment alone. There was no real privacy in the kitchen, not with their present company, but they tried to leave appearances sometimes.
Wordlessly, Edward pulled his daughter into another embrace. He pressed his nose into her hair, inhaling her scent and taking solace in it. Renesmee held him just as tightly for a moment, then lifted one hand to rest on his cheek. She shared with him an image of her time in Florida, laughing and relaxing on the beach. It's great, she told him, and he nodded.
"Good," he murmured, truly pleased. He saw in her a contentment that had been missing lately, and he was glad for it, even if the separation was pulling him apart. He decided in that moment that she would never see it, so she could leave after the holidays with no guilt or burden. Pasting a smile onto his lips, he said again, "Good."
With one last squeeze, he released her, and they flitted at vampire speed into the living room to join the others.