Summary: Dissonance: A chord that sounds incomplete until it resolves itself on a harmonious chord. Will calculating conductor Edward Cullen and spirited cellist Rosalie Hale write an adagio for love or a requiem for love lost?
Edward POV Written by J.L. Perez under the pen name LoreliD. Co-written with LightStarDusting
Category: Books » Twilight
Chapters: 9, Words: 41,542
Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer & Little Brown Publishing own all rights
Rosalie Hale wasn’t used to hearing the word no.
Yet, there it was.
The word slammed into her, full force. It was an ugly word coming from a pretty mouth with a harsh smirk. Two little letters.
Her fiery contempt collided with his icy indifference as she stood. She remembered herself and the fire was muted for a moment as she gave a curt nod at the other judges, thanking them for their time.
Her eyes slid down the line of faces once more to the only one that mattered, the one who denied her. She didn’t need him, he needed her, she thought haughtily.
She drew little satisfaction from the thought that it was his loss as he continued to smirk at her angry glare. She knew she had to leave the room. She was the one who would have to break the stare and it only made her blood boil more.
Rosalie picked up her instrument, which felt much heavier than when she’d walked in the room. And finally… finally, when there was nothing left for her to do, she looked away, and left.
Mornings leading up to an audition were always the same.
Her pupils dilated, adjusting to the darkness. She stared at the ceiling fan above her bed before pulling her comforter up and over, flipping to her side and flopping on her pillow. It was too early.
She listened to the muted hum of the fan. The short metal chain clicked in time against the plastic. She ran it even in the winter months, to keep the air circulating.
Rosalie sat up in her bed. It was useless. She was up for the day and she had to prepare.
Sitting on her bed, prior to touching her feet to the floor, she pulled her favorite instrument into her lap. Her fingers traced the outline of its hourglass curves, visiting the worn and familiar areas where the wood had nearly taken shape to her. Of course, it had not, but in her mind, she could see where her leg rubbed against its body and where her fingers pressed against the board and strings. She and her cello were one and the same. An extension of her, an outlet for her emotions to be expressed.
Swinging her bare feet to the hardwood below her, she quickly picked up her bow with her right hand and put it to work. Hair strands against nylon. She owned another cello strung with gut, but she preferred this one for auditions. This cello was her comfort and the tonal sounds were more her than the gut or the steel. Closing her eyes, she played a classical favorite, Bach’s Suite No. 1. The notes so familiar to her, she did not need to look at pages of sheet music; this song was a cellist’s calling card. She played it for more weddings than she could count and it was the one that people would hum, even if they didn’t know its given name. Rosalie would watch from her position at the front of the church, the garden, or where ever she’d been placed, as the friends and family would filter in for the ceremony. It wasn’t the music, the one that bridesmaids or the bride herself would walk down the aisle to, but it was the prelude, the song that signified gearing up for the big event.
This was her prelude.
With her eyes closed, she envisioned a flag dancing in the breeze, her mom standing behind her while she sat on the porch steps of yet another summer rental house. Never one they owned because they traveled too much to plant roots. She ran in a field of wild flowers with their Shepard mix by her side. The light cotton dress twirled out around her as she spun and through the notes of her song, she heard her childhood laughter, mixed with her father’s playing of his own instrument. The sun beating on her hair, white light dances in between strands, the same color as the strands of her bow.
She held out the last note, her fingers trembling, creating the sweet vibrato of the strings. Pausing for a moment, the childhood memory faded from her vision before she switched to a more contemporary melody. The words to the Radiohead song were hummed absentmindedly as she leaned into her cello, her entire body playing the instrument. The pictures that flashed before her weren’t memories but snapshots of her current life and the sadness of the song did not escape her. Such a pretty house. Such a pretty garden.
She opened her eyes to find two emerald green eyes staring beyond her soul.
“Mr. Holland,” she sighed as the cat jumped up onto the bed next to her, the silky body sliding up and down the arm holding the bow. Dropping the bow to the other side of the bed where it would not be trampled, she brought her free hand close to the cat’s head, waiting for the satisfied purr that always accompanied a good ear-scratch. “You’re my favorite audience. I wish I could bring you to the audition.” The cat meowed sympathetically before nudging Rosalie’s arm once more, almost as if prompting Rosalie to complete her pre-audition rituals.
Rosalie cleaned the cello before reverently placing it in its case. Methodically, she went about her morning routine with Mr. Holland following behind her, watching her every move to make sure she left nothing out. The audition was at half past eleven, which meant that she would have to leave her apartment no later than ten thirty. It would assure her plenty of time to mentally prepare. She was certain the audition was not a cattle call; she knew that the Philharmonic wouldn’t waste their time on people who weren’t dedicated to their craft. The competition would be fierce, regardless.
She had dedicated her life to music. It was her definition, what she lived and breathed. Everything else came after it. Everything.
She hadn’t had an audition of this caliber in quite some time. Rosalie knew she needed to make a change in her life the day she almost died.
The statement was a bit melodramatic but Rosalie was nothing if not a bit melodramatic. She had been crossing the street when a city bus came out of nowhere, nearly clipping her head with its side view mirror. It was then and there that she realized she’d gotten complacent in her new life, in her new city. She needed to reach for something challenging, and when whispers of seats opening in the Philharmonic reached her musically inclined ears, she knew she needed to schedule an audition. Somewhere along the way, when she wasn’t paying attention, she had lost her control, lost her drive. She needed to get it back and she knew this was a step toward that. It would be something, and right now, she needed something. Something more.
Before leaving her apartment, she stopped at the low table where her things sat, lined up and not touching. First the knit scarf was looped around her neck. Placing the pad of the ring finger of her left hand to her lips, she pressed a kiss to it before touching it to a picture of her mother, then repeated the motion and touched the smiling face of her father in the same picture. Reaching down, she stroked Mr. Holland’s flank, completing her ritualistic goodbyes. Picking up her satchel, she slung it over her shoulder before hooking her hand through the handle of her cello’s case.
Earlier, on the other side of town in a drafty remodeled warehouse loft, Edward’s alarm buzzed at the unheard of hour of 4:30 AM. Rather than pressing the snooze button like any other normal, sleep-loving person would have, he sat straight up and disabled the shrieking alarm without a second thought. It was cold in his bedroom, owing to the usual frigidity of a mid-November morning and the fact that he slept better when the air was cool and a warm layer of the finest goose down protected him from the world. In spite of the chill, he had no trouble resisting the temptation to nestle back under the down comforter and stay warm and cozy in bed, curled up with his dog, Jack. Instead, he threw back the blankets and let the cold air assault him while he slid his feet into the sheepskin slippers his mother had sent him from Washington. Jack watched with disinterest as Edward plucked the fleece robe from the foot of his bed and threw it on over his tee shirt and pajama pants; Jack had no desire to budge from his warm, snuggly spot on the bed. Edward eyed him with envy for a moment, then shuffled toward the thermostat, wishing for the hundredth time that he was handy enough to install a digital one so he wouldn’t have to freeze his ass off for half an hour every morning, but the fact was, he simply didn’t get along well with tools.
He moved groggily in the direction of the kitchen and coffee maker while his mind started its routine. A pattern that was as automatic as the buzzer of his alarm clock, run through the day’s itinerary; filter, catalog and prioritize. His thoughts ran together as he put a filter in the coffee maker and got the grounds from the freezer. More auditions today…hope we can get something accomplished, get one chair filled. Yesterday only three decent auditions out of thirty seven. Once Mr. Coffee began to gurgle, his feet carried him back to the bedroom and then the closet, where he changed into sweats and tennis shoes, then grabbed Jack’s leash. Jack was off the bed and standing by the front door, tail wagging and tongue lolling in excitement, knowing his moment had finally arrived.
“You won’t be so happy once you realize it’s cold enough that your piss freezes before it hits the sidewalk, champ,” Edward said to him, as he did every winter morning. He pulled on his overcoat and donned the knitted scarf and hat his mom had made for him. Jack just boo-woo’ed in response, his tail wagging a little faster. Before leaving, Edward poured a cup of coffee in his travel mug, pulled the ever present tub of Cool Whip from the fridge, spooned out a generous plop, and dropped it into his coffee. He found it made the perfect sweetener and creamer all in one. With a mug of coffee in hand, he clipped the leash onto the dog’s collar and Edward the conductor and Jack, his Shepherd-Chow mix, began their day together.
They followed their usual route down the street, around the corner and two blocks over to the middle school and its big, empty football field. As Edward and Jack walked their routine two laps around, Jack kept his nose to the ground, occasionally scampering off to investigate a particularly interesting scent, and Edward let his feet guide him on their familiar daily walk. His mind fell back to preparing for the day ahead. He still needed to find an oboe, French horn and a cello. He knew if he found one adequate musician today, he’d count it a day’s work well done. Regardless, he just wanted to be finished with auditions so he could get to the much more important task of rehearsal. The time it took to unify an orchestra around new pieces, especially one with new members, was crucial and time was the one thing music director Edward Cullen didn’t have.
They walked home, and after thirty minutes on his treadmill, he made himself breakfast. One egg white, scrambled. One half a bagel with cream cheese, (sometimes lox on special days such as openings, because he was rather superstitious), and a banana. After eating, he fed Jack, then laid out his clothes on the bed, showered, brushed his teeth, dressed. He refilled his coffee and he and Jack walked the short distance from his loft to the concert hall. This is what Edward did the morning of Rosalie’s audition. This is what Edward did every morning.
The same routine, in the same order. No deviation.
Not since the divorce and Bella’s departure.
Not since he’d become independent for the first time.
He was finally beginning to like it this way.
After arriving at the hall and alerting them to her arrival, Rosalie made her way to the green room. The hum of instruments was dampened by the closed door. A violinist swung the door open just as she reached for the handle, a cacophony of sounds welcoming her into the room. She nodded hellos to familiar faces; though she was new to the area, theirs was a small community and concert musicians often ran in the same circles.
The instruments might have sounded like just noise to anyone else, but Rosalie’s trained ear was able to pick out Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, a flutist and clarinetist practicing Flight of the Bumblebee together, as well as a variety of other odds and ends. Rosalie located an unoccupied spot near the windows, and she sat on the radiator, her legs stretched the length of the metal vent. She did not play, and other musicians looked at her curiously as she quietly sat, her instrument resting on her legs. The scroll balanced on her feet, the end pin extended and tucked under her arm. The cello sat upside down so that she wouldn’t give into the temptation, she knew her fingers would never stop fiddling otherwise. She never played while in the green room. She freed her instrument, gave it time to adjust to temperature, humidity, even mood. Together, they waited, saving their song for those who were there to hear her perform. The winter sun shone through the window, warming her. It wouldn’t erase the cold outside but inside, it lit her and comforted her.
It had been years since she’d pursued an opportunity like this, and years since this process had been more than a formality. Of course, she often went on “auditions” for weddings and other events, but those were in the bag. The untrained ear just wanted something resembling pretty and Rosalie was both talented and beautiful, making her the ideal accompaniment for any prestigious occasion.
She had done her homework and knew the people for whom she’d be auditioning. The panel consisted of four board members for the Philharmonic, and of course, the conductor, Edward Cullen. She had not yet met him but she knew of his reputation. Young for a conductor, recently divorced, a bit broody, but a brilliant composer. Though Rosalie wasn’t one for gossip, she couldn’t miss the whispers traveling through the musical community. That was because they weren’t quiet, they were loud. That’s how things were in their world. Even still, she looked forward to working with him.
People came and exited the room; she heard groans and cheers around her but kept her eyes closed and never paid much attention to the rest of the room. Flipping her cello upright, she idly began fingering and bowing, tuning the instrument using just her ear. She knew it was almost her time, and they were ready. Her cello was an extension of her, and this close to performance time, they truly became one. She had a nervous energy coursing through her body, although an onlooker would never know it. To those surrounding her, she was the picture of confidence, cool and collected.
When Edward got to work, he went to his office and started the coffee machine atop the mini-fridge, an exact match to the Mr. Coffee he had in his kitchen. He removed his coat and emptied his pockets on his desk, lining up each item in a neat row. Jack curled up on the dog bed under the window and quickly dozed off. After another refill of his travel mug and another dollop of Cool Whip, Edward relaxed into his cushioned leather desk chair to thumb through the files of the day’s audition candidates.
A few looked promising, including an oboe and a cello, two of the five chairs he needed to fill. The cellist in particular was very promising. Her name was Rosalie Hale, and he very much looked forward to hearing her play. Her reputation preceded her; he’d been told she was quite talented, and a dedicated cellist, if still a little green. He reviewed her application and credentials again. No doubt she was qualified, but would she have the passion and rigor he required of his musicians? He certainly hoped so, because he wanted auditions to be over. However, he said no much more often than he said yes and as music director and conductor, he had the final say in who was awarded a coveted second audition.
Auditions began at half past eight and Edward found himself seated beside his counterparts on the board in the vast, and otherwise, empty, symphony hall, listening to musician after musician. The morning passed slowly, while Edward sat and sipped his coffee, hoping someone would come on that stage and make his heart weep from the music’s beauty.
In the green room, a voice broke Rose’s quiet introspection and mindless tuning, informing her that she was up next to audition. Quietly, she nodded and acknowledged the woman who stood next to her, clipboard in hand. Making her way to the wing of the stage, she stood with her cello, waiting for the oboist to finish. She’d tried to play the double reed instrument while at the music conservatory but never quite got used to the hum between her lips. No, she much preferred the strings, the opportunity to speak if needed while she played.
Edward thoughtfully pressed his fingers against his lips, happy to finally hear something promising offered by the prospect for the oboe chair. She played with precise, swift fingertips and beautifully modulated tone. Her vibrato was sublime, her glissando flawless. She finished her piece and looked up hopefully at the panel. The four board members brought their heads together, quietly conferring with one another on the group consensus. The board members had known each other for quite some time, running in the same circles as Rosalie and her peers had done only a few decades before. They heard of up-and-comers through the grapevine and knew who to keep a strictly trained ear on. The conductor sat a noticeable chair-length apart from the rest of the panel, letting them have their conversation. He humored them as they nattered and mused, knowing he had the final say in who wound up in his orchestra. The other members were ancillary at best. It made them feel wanted and important to participate, so he waited, hoping he would not have to override their ultimate decision.
“Good,” Edward said to her. “Can you stay for a second audition?” She nodded excitedly. “If you’ll wait in the green room,” he instructed, and looked down at the notes in front of him, pretending to look for her name. He knew her name, but he didn’t believe in puffing up egos. “Thank you, Jessica,” he said and directed her to exit stage right, to await her call.
Next was Rosalie Hale. He was impressed with her resume and background in music, not only her own, but her upbringing by parents who were accomplished musicians themselves. He was certain that she would be the best he’d heard over the week. Yes, he was very eager to hear her play.
Rosalie watched with mild amusement the exchange between the oboist and the conductor from the wings. As Jessica walked in the other direction, she lifted her cello and briskly, confidently, walking to the chair that sat in the center of the stage. Her performance face firmly in place, she introduced herself, making deliberate but warm eye contact with the panel members with whom she was acquainted. Announcing her choice in audition piece, she heard a murmur of approval and smiled inwardly at their reaction. Paganini’s Caprice No. 24 was usually heard on the violin and extremely hard to master, but Rosalie was confident in her abilities and knew that not many cellists even attempted a piece like this for an audition. They would stick with something safe.
Rosalie was done with playing it safe.
Edward watched her as she walked toward the lonely seat in the center of the darkened stage. She was a little too calm and self-possessed in his opinion, considering the situation. Her confidence in her ability was obvious. Maybe a little too obvious. He watched her nod to each of the members of the panel, except for Edward. When she announced her music selection, his immediate reaction was: careless. She doesn’t need to risk blowing this, she should play it safe. I was right, she’s overconfident. Confidence was something you absolutely want in every musician in your orchestra, but overconfidence can cause problems. The conductor’s job was to unify the orchestra, to make them one cohesive organic being, in a way. He preferred working with people who he knew would take direction, and take it easily and without argument. He welcomed the sharing of ideas, but when he tapped his baton on the podium, he was in charge. What he said was final.
None of these thoughts showed in his face; his expression while working was a mask of polite indifference. She sat down, and her cello found its home, resting once more against her leg and wrapped by her body. Closing her eyes, she tapped the pad of her ring finger twice to her cello, sending silent kisses to her parents and putting her heart into her music. Edward watched her fingers fly gracefully along the smooth black neck of the cello’s fingerboard and its thick strings, he couldn’t deny her passion for playing. Clearly, the music transported her to another place, which was a rare and treasured gift from a professional musician. With this piece, however, there was a fine line between sloppy and finessed. Unfortunately for Rosalie, she was so absorbed, she ended up (in his opinion) on the hazy grey side of sloppy, possibly only noticeable to the notoriously picky conductor. It was obvious to Edward that she had potential, she just needed to learn how to keep one ear in magic music land and one ear on the real live conductor and the orchestra to which she belonged. She was too self-absorbed, too used to playing alone and in small ensembles. Edward didn’t think he had the time to reel her in and teach her how to be the organelle he needed in his cellular symphony. She wasn’t auditioning for first chair after all.
The room around her melted away to nothing as her mind transformed into a virtual kaleidoscope, colors dancing in time with the pace of her bow. No longer were there thoughts of the five people that were judging her, of the footsteps of the next musician, of the woman with the clipboard. None of that registered. She played with her whole being, considered no one else but herself and her music.
Until a voice interrupted her.
“Thank you, that will be all.”
Startled, her arm stilled, the bow still resting on the strings. Her eyes flew open and she knew the owner of the gruff voice, without having seen the words spoken. Blue found what she could only perceive as arrogant green. He took a sip from his mug before nodding with his chin toward the door, dismissing her.
“I’m sorry?” she replied, her brow creased with genuine confusion. He had a sneaking suspicion she’d never been interrupted before. He smirked.
She was not sorry. She was furious at his interruption. At his dismissal. The panel looked from her to him, fascinated and mystified by the confrontation unfolding before them.
“Your shift was sloppy during the third scale progression. There’s a reason people choose not to play this piece for an audition. You haven’t mastered it,” he said, answering her unspoken question.
Her voice was abnormally high in her indignation. “I beg your pardon. My shift was not sloppy and I mastered this piece years-” she protested.
Just as he’d suspected, she was resistant to direction. And even more beautiful when angry, he noticed, annoyed. Edward pretended he didn’t enjoy telling performers they weren’t good enough for his orchestra. He did take pride, however, in setting a consistent standard of excellence, and he would never shy away from explaining to someone why they failed to meet it. Saying no was an essential part of his job as conductor, and he didn’t take it lightly. He’d already said no more times than he could count that day, and despite the obvious annoyance displayed by the other panel members that this was taking entirely too long, he would continue to say it.
“We are at an impasse. Unfortunately for you, we aren’t bargaining here. Even still, I’d be interested to hear what my counterparts thought.”
Bite your tongue, Rosalie. Do not burn bridges.
The four bowed their heads together, no longer fascinated but nervous about the task set upon them by the conductor. They all knew what his response would be. Did they dare say otherwise?
They did not.
He shrugged apologetically, but in her opinion not really, and once more repeated the word. “No.” He watched her jaw tense, her lips twitch; her face was so easy to read. She was livid… and absolutely stunning. He suddenly regretted not having the chance to get to know her. It was too late that for that, though. He knew he’d just made an enemy. She rose and gave a short nod to the rest of the panel before letting her scorching, angry blue eyes fall on Edward’s cool, calm green ones. He didn’t back down from her. He kept his smirk firmly in place; she needed to remember it was she who had auditioned, asking to be judged. Finally, she collected her cello, finally breaking the stare as she exited stage left.
The rest of the day passed in an uneventful blur of mediocre performances and the alpine scent of rosin. The oboist, Jessica, was the only musical pleasure the afternoon afforded and at the end of her second audition she was offered a place in the orchestra. Her eager smile and obvious willingness to please was a sharp contrast to Rosalie Hale, whom Edward couldn’t get out of his head. Imagine. Her flowing blonde hair, wrathful blue eyes full of insulted anger and heartfelt passion for music had made an impression. He tried to push her from his mind the entire day, but finally gave up after he caught himself whistling Paganini’s Caprice No. 24 on his walk home with Jack. He hoped playing at the jazz club later with Jasper, his usual Tuesday night routine, would help take his mind off things. He feared, however, that the sultry sounds of an alto sax and blues guitar would do little to make him forget Rosalie’s full round lips and fiery disposition.