Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer & Little Brown Publishing own all rights
Camille Saint-Saëns was a simple adagio for the cello, technically speaking. It’s a slow 6/4 time and the legato articulation gave it an airy grace as the bow slurred one note into the next. Entrusted to the talented hands of a cellist like Rosalie Hale, it became fraught with elegant sadness and laced with romantic hope. Its complexity lay in the subtlety of its emotional depth, and Rosalie drew from her well of life experience: her losses, her joys, her defeats, and her triumphs. Echoes of those life experiences rang through every note, and each note burned through Edward’s soul. Even playing this simple piece, he was just as affected by her passion and connection to the music, affected by the feeling with which she played, as he would have been if she’d been playing Rachmaninoff with full orchestra, in front of a packed audience of music aficionados. It was her heart speaking through her cello, and Edward really wished that someday, they might be in a place where her heart could speak to him.
Edward played the piece’s rolled chords quietly, allowing the romance pouring out of Rose’s cello to be heard uninhibited. He looked at Rose; her eyes were closed as she concentrated and her forehead creased the tiniest bit. Her mouth slowly transformed into a small smile in certain parts, as she became one with the melody. Her vibrato was perfect, as if the tremulous intonation spoke for some hesitation of her own.
Breathtaking, he thought to himself.
The children complemented their music with their movements, fluidly spinning and floating the fabric scarves through the air. He watched the enraptured children allow the music to guide them, to inspire them. He could never remember feeling so free and uninhibited. The happiness they derived from the music inspired him. He didn’t know what to do with the emotions coursing through him, but he knew he couldn’t end the day without bringing things up a notch. The song concluded with Edward’s hands dramatically reaching for the last single note and he quickly sat up from the bench. Rosalie’s head snapped up at his sudden movement.
“I believe that I promised some professional-quality stick waving, didn’t I?” he asked playfully.
The class ended and the children all surrounded Edward, asking if he’d be back again and how soon. He looked at Rose and promised that he’d come back any time Rosalie asked him to. This, of course, produced an excited tumult of glee accompanied by clapping and squealing. Their acceptance of him surprised Edward and made him feel unexpectedly welcome. He didn’t realize how much fun he’d have with kids, and their exuberant, uninhibited happiness in the music was a joy to watch. The excitement from class slowly dwindled as the children shrugged into coats and pulled hats over their heads. Edward studied Rosalie intently, seeing parents approach and thank her for teaching the class. She smiled with a touch of embarrassment at their praise, as they expressed their own happiness at how much their children had enjoyed and learned from the experience.
Soon, the room was empty and suddenly very quiet, with just the two of them there. Edward stretched his fingers and cracked his knuckles nervously.
“Would you like to practice? Here, I mean?” she asked. “No one is using the room. We were last today,” she finished in a hopeful rush. Edward smiled, more than happy to spend more time with her. Then his face fell; it was Tuesday and he had to play at Archie’s. The next instant a brilliant smile Rose had never seen lit up his face.
Stunning, she thought as her heart thudded in her chest, a sudden increase of blood rushing through her body. Rosalie wasn’t sure what had caused the sudden change of emotions but she was eager to find out.
“I’m playing at Archie’s with Jasper’s band this evening. Actually…” He looked down at his watch, as he began to unroll his sleeves. “I should probably head over there soon. Would you care to join me?” He glanced out of the corner of his eye at her and saw her fumble at bit with the bin of scarves she was putting away, which caused his smile to widen just slightly.
“Sure. But on one condition,” she managed to say evenly. She moved to put her cello in its case, using it as an excuse to break eye contact with him. She’d learned pretty quickly that prolonged eye contact with Edward was dangerous.
“Still negotiating conditions?” He quirked an eyebrow as she spun around. Instead of meeting the warmth of his smile, she found his old, smirk firmly in place.
She went and plucked her coat off the hook near the door. “No playing Bei Mir Bis Du Schön during any point in the evening.”
Edward laughed and was beside her in an instant, taking her coat and holding it open for her. He brought his mouth close to her ear, his breath caressing her neck. “If you insist,” he acquiesced. She put her arms through the sleeves and wanted so badly to step back into him, wished that she would feel his arms envelop her. Prolonged eye contact wasn’t her only concern; she was quickly learning that proximity to Edward presented its own…challenges. She reluctantly stepped away and finished tidying up the room as Edward put his coat on. The cello was placed in the closet, she would come back tomorrow to pick it up so it wouldn’t be in the way over the winter hiatus.
They shared a cab to Archie’s, and the back seat felt so much smaller to each of them than they had ever noticed in any cab before. They searched for something to say that would stay clear of any potentially dangerous topics or accidental innuendos. The unacknowledged feelings loomed between them. Rosalie didn’t dare say a word, in fear that she’d overstep the carefully placed lines between them.
It would only take one spoken word, and their attraction to each other would be a problem to be dealt with instead of a happy dream he could dwell in. He didn’t want to lose his dream, and he sort of needed his job. Yet, Edward had decided that he couldn’t keep his distance from her. He might not be able to pursue a romance with her, but he would try to be her friend. He could settle for that. For as much alike as they were, they still had many things they could teach each other, and friendships like that don’t come along often. Edward didn’t squander any of the time he spent with Rose. He needed to know her better.
“You’re so good with the children, Rose.” His soft tone didn’t hide his admiration.
She fidgeted and smoothed her coat. “Thank you, Edward. I love teaching. I suppose we both do,” she said with a touch of hesitance that was very cute, but completely unlike her. Edward was puzzled.
Edward chuckled. “I did enjoy myself.”
“No, I mean, your job. You’ve taught me so much since we started working together. I know how much you love sharing your knowledge with us. With the orchestra, I mean. I know how important your position with the symphony is to you.” Her eyes were earnest and insistent.
Edward was silent, unsure of how to reply. Her last statement hung in the air, heavy with a meaning neither of them wanted to give power to by speaking it aloud. He examined the depths of her eyes, allowing himself to really search them and not be afraid of the power they might have over him. She was staring back at him with genuine understanding, first and foremost. Resignation was there too. He turned away and looked out the window not wiling to search any deeper for fear he’d want the things he might see.
Rose thought perhaps she wasn’t being clear and she cautiously slid her gloved hand over the worn upholstery of the seat and into Edward’s. Her fingers gave a gentle squeeze and he squeezed back. Hard.
“I have an ex-wife,” he announced, thinking suddenly that for some reason she had a right to know. Also, Alice would be at Archie’s and Bella’s name might come up tonight.
Rose kept her countenance; she knew Edward had been married at one time. “May I ask how long ago you divorced?”
“Just over a year. She and I grew apart.” He looked at Rose to gauge her reaction. She was smiling softly. Encouragingly. “We met and married young and we drifted, but we remain friends. Her name is Bella. She might come up in conversation tonight since she and Alice are friends, and I wanted to be the one to tell you,” he explained, clearly nervous and concerned this piece of information would upset Rosalie. It might have bothered a less rational and logical woman. Rosalie studied him and detected no anger or resentment, no unrequited love or regret in his voice or manner. Bella was his past.
“Thank you for telling me,” she whispered, impressed with the calm matter-of-fact manner in which he spoke of Bella. How refreshingly grown up. Her fingers tightened around Edward’s hand before she pulled it back to her lap. Her gaze traveled out the window and she couldn’t help but grin with a giddiness that betrayed her age. She knew he didn’t need to explain his romantic past to her, unless he felt he owed her an explanation. In which case, that meant it was possible he felt something for her, something more than respect for a colleague or a blossoming platonic friendship.
The cab pulled up to Archie’s. It was early and subsequently, empty; the only guys from the band that were there were Seth and Jasper which meant Edward had some time before the set started. Jasper was warming up with Seth on sax, but shot them a dimpled smile as they took a booth near the stage. A waitress came to take their drink orders, (a Hefeweizen with an orange slice for Rose, a black and tan for Edward) and they sat across from each other in the high back booth in awkward silence. It felt too much like a date and even though they both wished it was a date, it wasn’t. They reached for the menus the waitress had left and hid behind them, Edward mumbling something about how he should eat before the band played.
The room wasn’t hazy yet, the lights high and burning brightly. Seeing Archie’s in the afternoon was a completely different experience than in the evening; the patrons always made their way in a few hours from now and currently, the silence that surrounded the two was nearly tangible. Neither of them knew what to talk about; the conversation moved in fits and starts, about mundane things like what they’d tried off the menu before and what they planned to get now. Rosalie’s eyes looked to connect with his, attempting to get past the awkwardness but he stared at the menu’s maroon and black ink, covered in plastic. A high soprano voice wafted toward them.
“Rosalie! It’s so great to see you here. I heard that you’re working with-” Alice cut herself off when she got close enough to the table to see Edward sitting across from her. “Well, I guess the rumors are true. Edward! You old so-and-so, where the hell have you been hiding? It’s been nearly two weeks. I’m beginning to feel neglected.”
Edward stood to greet Alice, grateful for the diversion. More people equaled less date-like situation and the less potential to have anyone stumble on the two of them alone. Being alone with her was dangerous, particularly given the clientele of this particular establishment.
Rosalie’s eyes widened as she watched Edward wrap his arms around Alice’s tiny frame and began to squeeze. “No! Not ‘the crusher.’ Wipe that damn smirk off your face!” He only squeezed tighter, ignoring Alice’s shrieks. Jasper looked over for a moment, smiling at Edward and giving him a thumbs up, before looking back to Seth to work through the bridge they’d been practicing. It looked like he was about to release Alice and she began to ask, “Oh, you’re finally going to-” but he decided he wasn’t done with his fun yet so his arms tightened around her again.
Rosalie was mystified by his actions and was surprised by the slight tinge of jealousy that coursed through her body. She wasn’t jealous of Alice but of the emotions that Edward expressed toward her. Some part of her wanted to live in a world where she could be that way with him. Every touch they shared was calculated, but this seemed to come from a place of comfortable friendship. Finally, Edward’s arms retreated. Alice quickly slipped away, giving a quick hug to Rosalie before sliding into the side of the booth Edward had left empty when he rose to greet her. Shrugging, Edward slid in next to Rosalie, his side pressed against her for the briefest of moments while he slid her toward the wall. Looking first at the man next to her and then at the petite woman across the table, she sputtered, “What. Was. That?”
“That, my friend, was ‘the crusher.’ Something that Edward made up one night a few weeks ago after a late night jam session when I brought them snacks. Oh, I rue the day.” She playfully rubbed her triceps while glaring across the table at the man with the sparkle in his eyes. Alice hadn’t seen him ever look as energized as he did that night but she intuitively knew that it had to do with the woman he was sitting next to, desperately trying to steal glances of out of the corner of his eye. Jasper had told her about the Edward he knew in school and how he’d started seeing hints of his return. Alice was only used to seeing post-Bella Edward recently, and post-Bella Edward was not an overly happy man most of the time.
“Don’t complain, Alice,” Edward said, chuckling. “For the longest time, you whined that I didn’t hug you while saying hello. Now that I do, all I hear is complaints. I would think you’d be thrilled.” He turned to Rosalie and shrugged. “There’s just no pleasing this annoying sprite.” He teased Alice, “It’s not my fault that you can’t handle my supreme strength.”
“Oh buddy, you just keep telling yourself that. You guys eating? I’m starved. Hold on, let me go pull Jasper away to join us. He’d be all skin and bones if I didn’t remind him to eat, swear to God.” She shook her head as she walked toward the stage.
The arrival of Jasper rounded out the table. The group dynamic made it easier for Rosalie and Edward to relax. The carefully kept guard was slowly lowered and they both sunk down, allowing their backs to rest against the booth. Once their food came, conversation was in full swing and had turned to Edward’s visit to the music class earlier in the day.
Jasper’s curiosity was apparent. “Can’t really picture you with kids, Edward. Rosalie, was he a stick in the mud?”
“Well, I had my concerns but he was fantastic with them after things got rolling. Oh! Speaking of sticks though, Edward, tell them about your stick!” Rosalie took a healthy sip of her beer, hiding her smile behind her glass.
“Your stick?” Alice’s eyes were just as curious as Jasper’s. She’d been watching the couple across from her interact while they waited for their food and while they ate and could see that they were both fighting something that seemed to come very naturally to them. Alice knew that others in their position wouldn’t be nearly as disciplined, but others were not Edward Cullen and Rosalie Hale. She teased them both. “I thought this was a music appreciate class for children, not one that led to making children!”
“I’d promised the children that I would show them my baton the first time I stopped by.” Both sets of eyebrows raised across the table and Alice discretely pinched Jasper’s leg under the table at the mention he’d been to the class more than once. “So, I chose Ring Around the Rosie as my example piece. Very fitting, I thought.” He gestured to Rosalie in correlation to the song.
“Thank you so much for that. Isn’t it said to be about bubonic plaque?”
“Actually, I think that was found to be baseless.” The easy smirk wasn’t condescending but rather teasing, a slight hitch higher made the difference. “Anyway, I had the kids pretend that they were the instruments. They had to watch my baton so they knew when to spin and when to fall down and of course, Rosalie had to watch since I was ‘conducting’ her, as well.” Jasper got yet another pinch from Alice as they observed the easy back and forth of their storytelling. It reminded them of themselves.
Rosalie smiled as he continued to talk. She was shocked by the simple yet effective method he used to show the children how the baton worked. Rosalie had played the song on her cello while the children clasped hands and danced around her, following the direction of Edward’s baton that had cued them to move in a circular motion. Once they sang “…Ashes, ashes. We all fall…” Edward had made an exaggerated movement with his arm, raising the baton over his head. The children had watched his every moment, fixated, and Rosalie was once again startled by the commanding nature he had. No longer did the children cause him to be shy and awkward, instead she saw the man she was used to seeing in front of an orchestra comprised of a hundred adults.
His voice brought her back to the conversation, Archie’s was getting louder as the evening began to creep up and take over the afternoon. “And then I moved the baton down on the word ‘down’ and they all dropped to the ground. It was pretty amazing. Never thought I’d say it, but I was totally comfortable.”
Rosalie chimed in, “Yes, that’s because you were in your element. Bossing people around.”
“Well,” he said as he puffed out his chest, “I am a natural leader.”
Jasper snorted. “It’s time I lead you to the piano. And I think you should have to call me maestro, since you’re in my outfit now,” he puffed.
“Yeah, okay Satchmo,” Edward teased with a roll of his eyes as he scooted out of the booth. “I take requests, in case you’d like to make one of me,” he said to Rose and the moment the words left his lips, he wasn’t sure which way he intended her to take them. He meant it so many ways. Alice sat staring at him in stunned silence.
“We. We take requests. Come on, Aretha, let’s see if you can get yourself a little respect,” Jasper teased as they headed toward the stage.
Rosalie watched Edward walk away and was a little envious. The excitement of performing and pleasing the crowd burned in her veins as much as his. He took his seat at the piano, and it dawned on her how different he was than when they’d first met. He was so tense then, always hunched forward and turned in on himself. Trying to shut out the world and seemingly determined to live like a recluse. Now he moved with relaxed grace and had an easy and open manner that bespoke of a different Edward emerging.
“So what’s the problem?” Alice asked as she dipped her finger into the Burt’s Bees lip balm, smearing it generously over her lips before smacking them together.
“You…Edward…” Alice elaborated with a wave between Rose and the empty space Edward has just occupied. Rose’s heart skipped; she was at a loss, and frankly, unable to decipher the expression Alice wore. It was somewhere between curious and concerned.
Did Edward say something to her? How can I answer without implicating him? Rose quickly swiped her glass and drained the last of the warm beer at the bottom, trying to think of a way out of this conversation. A quick, awkward glance at Alice told her she wasn’t going to get out of it though, no matter what she said.
“It’s obvious Rose. Nothing you can say will convince me nothing is going on, so don’t bother trying.”
Rose decided defense was her best option. “Alice, nothing is going on. Besides, I’d thank you to not let your imagination run rampant. Edward and I are simply colleagues. Nothing more.” Alice heard the note of sad resignation in Rose’s voice, even though Rose had tried her best to smother the sentiment as she spoke.
“You’re a shitty liar, Rose.” She shrugged and moved on. “Maybe something isn’t going on yet, but something will happen eventually.”
Rose sighed. “Nothing will ever happen, Alice. He’s my superior, my boss. It’s a violation of Symphony policy. I looked it up,” she tacked on and instantly regretted it. Now Alice knew exactly how much thought she’d been putting into Edward Cullen. Crap. Alice’s scheming smile fell a little at Rose’s words. She knew Edward would never put himself or Rose in that situation. There had to be another solution.
“Do you want something to happen, Rose?” She didn’t really need to ask, the way Rosalie looked at Edward would make it obvious to anyone that she felt something for him. Still, she felt Rose needed to admit it out loud.
Rose didn’t want to reply. She felt backed into a corner and the lamp hanging over the booth suddenly felt like a spotlight. Yet, she needed to talk to someone about the situation, about the helplessness she was feeling.
“It doesn’t matter,” she finally answered in a mumble. “He just got divorced and I’m not sure it would be right, even with all the other obstacles out of our way.”
Alice didn’t fail to notice the “our way” that Rosalie had tacked on at the end of her statement. Interesting choice of words, Rosalie. “Look, it’s over between him and Bella. They’ll always be friends, you can’t grow up with someone the way they did together and not care about them at all. But that’s all it is at this point: friendship. It just took Edward a while to adjust to her not being around all the time, know what I mean?”
Rosalie nodded, even though she had no idea what Alice meant. Rose had never been married or anything close to it, never shared a deep commitment to someone like that.
“I’ve known Edward for a while now, and I’ve never seen him so content and relaxed. Just don’t give up yet. Things have a way of working themselves out,” Alice urged.
Rose turned over Alice’s advice. Maybe it could work out, somehow. She couldn’t see the solution, but she had absolutely no intention of going anywhere. The idea of not seeing Edward regularly made her heart clench. Their waitress came back and they ordered another round of drinks, including refills for the guys. Rose sipped her beer and daydreamed about solutions, searching for one that would let her have her stick and wave it, too. Alice sipped her cosmo and watched Rose’s shifting dreamy expressions like a scheming lady in waiting. They made small talk, Alice mentioning that they planned to head to Jasper’s parents’ house for Thanksgiving. Rosalie started to tell her that she didn’t have any plans for the upcoming holiday but Jasper’s voice over the microphone interrupted her.
“Hope you’re all have a good time tonight. Remember, we’re taking requests, throw them in the hat and we’ll see what you get with the next set. See you in about twenty.” The jukebox blared on, a jarring difference from the smooth sound of the live performers. The band members shuffled off the stage, scattering through the bar to meet up with friends and acquaintances. Edward and Jasper made their way back to the booth for a few minutes, Alice and Rosalie both slid further into the booth to once more make room.
“So ladies, what did we miss?”
Alice wasted no time. After all, she certainly couldn’t let the opportunity pass by. “Actually, we were just chatting about Thanksgiving plans. I told her we’ll be at your parent’s house. Are you spending Thanksgiving with your folks this year, Rosalie?”
Rose shook her head, quietly explaining the situation by summarizing the conversation she’d had with her parents over the weekend while she and Edward took a quick break from rehearsing. She sat on the tiled floor of the hallway, her back pressed against white painted cinder blocks. Her mom and dad both spoke, each on an extension. They were home but soon heading out for a tour in Europe, and Rosalie knew that it would be difficult for them to be together on Thanksgiving. When she was younger, they made sure they were together for the actual day to celebrate together but once she reached her twenties, they’d changed their tradition. They celebrated every moment they were together, treating each moment as a holiday within itself.
She explained it away quickly, as though it wasn’t a big deal that she would be alone for the holiday. Alice was not pleased with the answer and started searching her purse for her cell phone.
“Alice, what are you doing?” Rosalie asked, attempting to keep the panic from her voice. She could see the wheels turning in Alice’s head and she had a feeling she was trying to figure out what to do with her, like she was a child that needed taking care of.
“Calling Jasper’s parents. I’m sure they can make room for one more, you can ride there with us. You shouldn’t be alone on Thanksgiving!”
Edward spoke up (just as Alice had hoped), in an attempt to save Rosalie from her plans. “I’ll be alone, too. Mom’s in Seattle and I’m not making the trip this year. Nothing wrong with alone time. As musicians, we’re used to it. Often times, I think we thrive on it. Maybe that’s why we’re so socially awkward at times. Always in our own heads, always thinking about our music.”
Rosalie’s lowered head snapped up, grateful that Edward would throw himself under the bus in order to give her a reprieve. “Perhaps you could come over for dinner then? We could… practice?” She threw in the last sentiment to give a purpose to their meeting at her home. There was nothing wrong with hosting him for dinner, she rationalized, especially Thanksgiving. But she’d be careful not to mention it to anyone else, knowing that it was how rumors got started.
It took every effort on Edward’s part to hide his elation as he smiled at her warmly. “I’m already looking forward to it, Rose.”
Alice couldn’t hide her mischievous grin.