Chapter 8

Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer & Little Brown Publishing own all rights

Thanksgiving with Rose haunted Edward. She was a nightly apparition that stalked his dreams with the scent of apple pie and the sound of their cello duet played sadly on her solitary instrument. He was surprised to realize that it had been the most erotic experience of his life, despite the fact that nothing sexual at all had taken place. The brief touches, although laced with lust and longing, were really rather innocuous. Still, the depth and intensity he felt took him by surprise. His feelings evolved and grew without conscious thought or control on his part, and he found himself physically craving her presence. He began to understand how very different were the feelings he had for Rose in comparison to what he’d felt for Bella. He’d thought himself in love with Bella for most of his life. Now, he understood that he’d loved Bella in the way that teenagers let lustful infatuation become their idea of what love is, but Rosalie inspired feelings whose strength he’d never imagined could exist. There simply was no comparison.

For Edward, the holidays passed in a morose blur. After Thanksgiving he and Rosalie no longer had private practices. The holiday concerts were fast approaching, and Edward had to direct his attention to the needs of the entire orchestra. Instead of practicing for a few hours they played all day, and Edward tried not to take out his frustration over his love life by being overly critical of the performance of his orchestra. He was sullen and irritable and most of all, annoyed that all he could do was covertly watch Rose from a distance. His head would automatically snap in her direction at the sound of her laughter and his chest would ache when he watched her leave for the day alone. It always broke his heart, watching her brave the windy, barren sidewalks home to her lonely apartment before opening the doors himself, to do the same. Edward suffered in a perpetual state of helpless longing, and it wasn’t long before he truly began to understand what he felt for her. Being near her in the private world of their practice room those few hours a day had been just enough to make the forced distance between them bearable.

He missed her so much he bought a cello and played it nightly in a vain attempt to feel closer to her. It seemed to work on a superficial level; the pine forest smell of rosin and the cello’s deep seductive tones helped re-create the memory of her in his mind, but they didn’t capture her. His playing wasn’t able to conjure up her warmth and curiosity, and her passion was unmistakably absent. No matter how reverently he cradled the varnished cherry wood between his thighs and how gently his fingers stroked the strings, he couldn’t feel close enough. He wondered if she were right there exactly what would satisfy him. Every night that Edward spent playing it became clear, this wasn’t ever going to be any kind of substitute for her, and his resolve that something must be done became more firm. He only saw one viable option, and as he lay in bed each night he marveled at the duality of emotions he felt. For how could one person’s heart break and rejoice in love at the same time?

Rosalie remained the metronome for his soul; with each tick and tock, each swing of the pendulum rod back and forth, he fell more deeply in love with her. It didn’t seem fair to him that two people who had so much potential happiness within their reach should let it pass them by, unexplored. Edward’s willingness to adhere to rigid rules began to waver. His beloved routine virtually vanished. Edward felt confined enough by the rules that kept him sequestered from Rose he had little interest in following his self imposed restrictions. He and Jack went on their morning walks, but aside from that and his coffee, he didn’t have the concentration for much else. He went to work early and stayed late. He slept little, instead focusing on the cello and when the hour grew too late for him to play, he turned his restless attention to composition. Sitting at his dining table, a composition book on his left and pencil nearby, he’d quietly pluck out the notes the notes that mirrored the conflict and desire in his heart. His new piece masterfully blended a sad amoroso followed by a frenzied agitato and the ending always hung uncertainly in the air, much like his future. He felt as though if he could complete the bridge, if he resolve that last note, it would lead him to the solution he sought with Rose.

Days passed and Edward still only saw one solution. He agonized over it, doubted it, and wracked his brain for another choice, any other choice. He wavered between what he thought he wanted all of his life and what he now knew he couldn’t live without. If he was honest with himself, he knew it was a sacrifice he would only be willing to make for Rosalie. He decided there were lots of ways a man could make music in the world, but there was only one Rosalie Hale. One bitterly cold January morning with Jack trotting obediently beside him, he went to work ready to take action.

A brief visit to Mrs. Cope’s office was all that was required to set in motion the wheels that would bring them together. Not wanting to stay and discuss the matter further, he nodded to her wordlessly as she asked her questions and then departed down the hall, as quickly and silently as he’d approached.

Edward retreated to the only place he knew would soothe the dull ache in his chest; their little practice room. Its padded burgundy walls whispered her presence and the resonating echo of her cello seemed just out of earshot. He sat down before the piano he’d come to think of as theirs and lifted the lid, remembering the first time he and Rose had played together in the soundproof little room and she had completely altered his existence. For so long they had danced around each other and carefully walked the tightrope of workplace propriety. Not for much longer. Soon, if she’d have him, he’d be free to court her like any other man in love would pursue the object of his affection.

That was when Edward faltered. What if she wouldn’t have him? What if his rash passion had led him to the wrong decision? Perhaps he should’ve discussed his plan with her, given her the opportunity to voice her concerns. Of course he should have done that, Rose deserved to have a say in this, it wasn’t fair for him to assume she’d want him this way. He grumbled in annoyance at his naiveté while he pounded out Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto number one. He had to remember he had very little dating experience. None, actually. His tendency to act on his passions unchecked was one of the things that became a wedge between him and Bella. The difference here was Rose was the object of Edward’s passion, where as Bella had never been.

The nervous ball he’d hoped would dissipate now that he’d made his choice only tightened in his stomach. More than anything, he wanted to do this the right way. He wanted to take the time to get to know her all over again from a completely different (and, he hoped, decidedly more intimate) perspective. He pushed on through the piece, taking his out frustrated worry on the piano’s ivory keys and worrying about how to tell Rose what he’d done.

{*~*~*~}

Frigid January air pushed Rosalie along, the wind at her back, grey clouds sheeting the sky. December had gone by in a flash, a whirling dervish of rehearsals and performances, not to mention the holidays. As always seemed to be the case during the last few months of the year, time significantly sped up from October until after the New Year before screeching to an unceremonious halt come January 2nd. In addition to the extra time with the philharmonic, she had her private lessons with high school students auditioning for the all-state orchestra. Despite the bustle of the season, it had not done anything to distract her from thinking of Edward. Even when he wasn’t there physically, she was reminded of him and how much she longed for him. All together, the twelfth month of the year was downright exhausting. Thankfully, the concerts had gone swimmingly, her time spent with Edward preparing her amply for the Dvořák solo.

The coldness from the outside against the glass doors created a vacuum, and when Rosalie attempted to open the front entrance, she needed to use her entire body to pull against the handle. Her hair got sucked into the warmth first, followed quickly by her body, and she was propelled forward. The air knew her purpose and that this would be difficult for her, so it did its job, pushing her along. A few musicians loitered in the lobby, glancing up in surprise as Rosalie made her entrance. The door slammed shut behind her; a loud entrance for a usually quiet woman. Never unassuming, but always quiet. She was greeted with warm smiles. Over the weeks, she had begun to consider them all her family, this being her home away from home. She realized, almost in surprise, that she’d changed her outlook on where she fit in the music world. Tangible connections had been made.

She’d be breaking the catalyst of those connections now. She could only hope that while she did, they would still look at her as one of their own and embrace her as they had over the past few months. Her satchel was not weighed down with sheet music but rather with the idea of goodbye, a single sheet of watermarked cotton bond paper, sparsely inked but enough to get the message across. The thought of writing it had danced through her mind for weeks; with Mr. Holland curled next to her, she’d written and printed it, signing her name with a quick flourish. The words on paper, she already felt lighter. She and her cello had sung of how all one needed is love, love is all you need.

Entering the theater’s front office, she was greeted by the secretary, a woman who had been a child when the theater was built.

“Mrs. Cope, I believe I’m to give this to you.”

The letter was placed on the low desk and Shelly Cope pressed her hand to her puffy red hair, in search of the glasses she needed to read. Not finding them there, she absentmindedly searched around her desk that was covered with papers until Rosalie gently pointed to the glasses that hung from the beaded lanyard around her neck. “If it were a snake, it would have bit me,” she muttered, placing the glasses on her nose. Finally she was able to see what Rosalie Hale had presented her with, skimming the words before her eyes flew upward to Rosalie’s expectant face.

A resignation letter.

“But why?” Mrs. Cope sputtered out. “Were you unhappy with your experience, Miss Hale?”

“Oh, no, just the opposite.”

Her mind visited the reasons why: the time she and Edward had spent together in the last month, being in one another’s orbit but hardly in each other’s company.

The second week of December, immediately prior to the opening of the holiday concert series, they began dress rehearsals, spending time on the lit stage and getting ready for the imminent performances. During a break, she’d seen Edward having a conversation with the stage manager, a frown darkening his face. The bull-headed man she’d come to know was going toe-to-toe with the diminutive woman. Rosalie watched as he shook his head and she almost felt bad for the stage manager, knowing whatever the woman was selling, Edward wasn’t buying. The woman stormed off, brushing past Rosalie as she had made her way to Edward with a gentle questioning expression.

“Confetti cannons, Rose. The last thing this orchestra needs is cheap gimmicks and to have that sparkling crap all over everything. People come to us for the music. Why muddle it with nonsense?”

She had smiled and shrugged, explaining that sometimes even adults need visuals to better connect with the music, reminding him of the scarves that she used with her preschoolers. Mostly she’d been interested in seeing this side of Edward: the flustered side. She’d never seen him let down his defenses before and even though it was over something as silly as confetti cannons (which, she agreed, should be ridiculous and unnecessary), she liked seeing it. After a quiet look and a gentle touch to his arm, he calmed considerably, murmuring that he should probably find the stage manager and apologize. It wasn’t everything that she could have said or done, but it was all that could be offered in this group practice setting, and it was enough to make him realize his reaction had been a bit harsh.

Dress rehearsals went as expected. Lights beat down on them, gels were shifted into place, and Edward cursed under his breath more times than Rosalie could keep track of. Their inexplicable pull only intensified throughout the last month, two magnets that were drawn to each other. Neither could forget their rocky start and each wondered what or who had changed polarity. She was finely tuned to him, even while sitting in the cello section. His every movement, every action was connected to her. Edward’s eyes kept wandering back to where she sat, watching as she laughed at something the second chair, Kate, said, while they waited for the tech crew to focus a light. The notes of her laughter danced over to where he stood at the podium and yearned to be the one making her laugh, to have the opportunity to bend his head close to hers and whisper in her ear.

Together yet apart, they longed for the quiet of the practice rooms. There was no opportunity in the group setting for conversation, other than that required by perfunctory courtesy. Yet they found little ways to work the other into their routines, to remind one another of each other. Her morning coffee, his tap of the ring finger; while they could not show these publicly, their lives intertwined when they could not. Jack would greet her as she walked into the theater, lavishing her with the attention that his owner could not. During her spot in the soloist chair, opening night, he noticed that she had added a tap to her cello, three instead of the standard two.

He could only hope he knew the reason why. He had every intention of asking her once the run was over, but what then?

Near the end of the run of the concert series, just prior to the evening performance, she started making her way to the stage but paused when she saw Angela Weber standing with a few of the other musicians. They knew one another only tangentially, moving in the same circles but never overlapping. However, Rosalie knew it was her seat that she’d taken and she’d heard of her mother’s recent passing, so she detoured toward the bespectacled woman.

“Angela Weber? I’m Rosalie Hale.” Angela’s face relayed that she knew who Rosalie was and she smiled softly at her, encouraging her to continue. “I just wanted to give my condolences on your loss.” She kept it simple, not wanting to give false niceties or offers that might seem disingenuous to someone she didn’t know.

“Thank you, Rosalie. It happened quicker than we expected but… well, I’m just glad that she’s no longer in pain,” Angela spoke quietly. “I’m here early to talk to a few people, see if they have some leads about gigs. Mrs. Cope gave me a list of people I can speak to in the area, too. My family is here so I’d rather not move if possible. It’s been hard to process mom’s passing but I’ve always found that throwing myself into my music helps me clear my head, and it’s what she’d expect of me-” Angela cut herself off, looking embarrassed. “I’m sorry, I’m rambling, and we barely know one another. I know we aren’t acquainted well, but if you hear of anything…”

“I’ll certainly let you know, Angela.”

Their conversation tumbled around in Rosalie’s head, replaying over and over while she performed, while she traveled to see her parents, while she told them first of Edward and second of the performances. They smiled knowingly, their love for their music and each other always so intertwined to Rosalie that she was grateful for them that they’d never been forced to choose. She loved and enjoyed playing with the orchestra but keeping her feelings for Edward at bay was beginning to exhaust her. Rosalie didn’t even know if they would be compatible, but she believed that they deserved a chance to try.

Which is why Mrs. Cope was now holding her letter of resignation. She would do this so that they could try. People are more important than music; it was something she’d come to realize more clearly over the past few months. Music was her life’s ambition but Edward was her heart’s. The motions of life were only as good as the person living it, and she wanted more.

“What a shame. Two of you in one day.” Mrs. Cope’s voice broke her from her thoughts.

“I’m sorry? Is someone else leaving?”

“Why, yes. Mr. Cullen handed in his letter just moments before you came in.” Rosalie’s look of surprise caused her to backpedal. “Oh dear, I probably shouldn’t have told you that. If you see anyone, please don’t share that information. I keep hoping that he’ll reconsider. I’m not passing along the letter until the end of the day, in case he changes his mind. I’ll hang on to yours, as well.”

Rosalie was walking out the door before Mrs. Cope finished her sentence, giving a quick nod of assurance to the woman that she wouldn’t say a word to anyone. And she wouldn’t… except to the one who mattered the most.

She headed toward his office but somehow it felt wrong, and she realized that he wouldn’t be there. Jack’s head peeked around the corner, as though he’d been waiting for her to arrive, and he joined her in the search for his master. Together, they made a sharp left, her feet carrying her faster as he heeled at her side. From a fast walk to a near run, they made their way through the winding halls, only stopping when they’d finally arrived at the door of the practice room. The pads of her fingertips pressed against the door, knowing that he was on the other side, able to feel his presence as one might feel a fire. Her hand shook a bit as she reached for the doorknob, but only excited energy pulsed through her body.

Jack nudged her encouragingly, his nose behind her knee, herding her along into the room. She held the door open to let him pass through to join them in their sanctuary, but instead he sat, swishing his tail along the tiled floor, nodding his muzzle toward the room. He knew the importance of this moment. The time had come for them to finally be alone, unobserved and behind closed doors.

Edward felt her there, too, and as soon as she had slipped through the door he abruptly stopped playing. His eyes flew to hers, sensing that something was amiss. Her face was flushed, her bottom lip quivering as important words waited to break forth. Her eyes were anxious with a touch of worry, but oddly happy too, as if she had just learned some great secret. Edward’s heart skipped. By her expression, he suspected she knew what the secret was. It was hard to believe that they were finally alone and she was right there. A few short strides and he could wrap his arms around her and kiss her if he dared. He rose from the piano and faced her and there were no more consequences between them.

She hadn’t budged from the closed door, her back resting against it as she watched him. Her feet wanted to move, to unite her with him. Before she could force a single bold step, Edward came to her. He stopped when his face was mere inches from hers. His green eyes were ablaze with an intensity she had never seen before, and something in Rosalie’s head told her to brace herself. His hands came to her face, his fingertips brushing ever so softly against her chin. She felt an unmistakable passion churning just below the surface of his touch. He brought his mouth to hers; his hot breath and the lingering scent of cologne made her forget momentarily what she wanted to say.

“Rose,” he whispered against her lips with the reverence of church bells. That was all it took. She let herself do what she’d wanted to for months: she gave herself over to him. Her mouth parted and she let her eyes flutter shut in delicious sensation she’d imagined for what seemed like a lifetime.

Finally, finally, he was kissing her and again his existence was forever altered. It felt so natural, so right, he wondered how he’d survived without her searing kisses thus far. His earlier nervousness was momentarily forgotten in his moment of abandon. He kept the pace slow and tender and firm, and her lips were soft and sweet and willing; it was only seconds before trepidation gave way to growing frenzy. Her hands traveled over his chest and shoulders, curling around his neck and running through his hair. Edward forced one hand to break contact with her and it slid palm down to the door beside her head. The other wandered to her hip and grasped hard as he reluctantly pulled his mouth away from hers, inwardly cursing the need to breathe.

“Rose,” he said again; he loved saying her name. “Come to dinner with me tonight?” He was eager to begin the future it had taken them far too long to make possible.

She smiled, a bit shaky from the power of his kiss and the way it made her insides tingle with anticipation of the promise it held. “I’ll come to dinner with you tonight, and every night…” She trailed off, moving her face back so that her eyes could focus on his. “If you withdraw your resignation.”

“But why? I’ve considered this from all angles and this is the only way…” his voice faded in a heartbroken whisper as his hand waved suggestively between them.

“You leaving this orchestra would be a huge loss to the community.” His heart sank as she continued. “I respect you too much to allow you to make such a selfish decision.”

“It’s pointless,” he countered as he took her hand and kissed it. “I can’t be near you but not with you. I can’t ignore us anymore. I’m no longer willing to make that sacrifice. Are you, Rose? Can you ignore us?” he paused for a moment, giving her a chance to reply, which she didn’t. “The orchestra will find a replacement,” he continued. “And I can find another-”

She silenced him with a quiet plea.

“Edward, this is who you are meant to be,” she whispered. “What you are supposed to be doing with your life. You cannot deny that truth. I couldn’t live with myself if I knew I had come between you and all of this. You’re the heart and soul of this orchestra, and they need you. That’s why you must remain conductor. I’ve spoken to Angela. She’s ready to resume her former position as first chair and I’ll go back to teaching full time.”

“What exactly are you saying, Rose?”

She set her jaw before she answered him because she anticipated his reaction. “I turned in my resignation a few minutes ago.”

He tensed as she’d expected, his brow furrowing with disapproval. “It’s unfair for you to give up your future here on my account. I won’t stand between you and your dream.”

She placed a calm hand on each of his cheeks, and rested her forehead against his. “Then don’t. Let us be together, and let me be the one to leave. This is the right choice. I’ll go back to doing what I was doing before and I’ll be okay.” He began to shake his head in protest. His intense green eyes searched hers for the honesty of her statement. She kept her expression as serene as the love in her heart. She saw recognition of the truth of her words; he believed her, but still didn’t agree.

Tilting her chin down, their foreheads lightly rested together. “When I came to audition for the symphony, I came because I knew there was something I was missing in my life. I was searching for it, but I wasn’t sure what it was. Now I know. It was you. The best things in life come at a price and I’m ready to pay mine.”

“The price is too steep. I can’t let you do it.”

“Yet, I should let you? Why is it fair for you and not me? Your leaving would have a major impact on the city’s music community. We can’t be selfish. We must consider what is best for everyone and look at the whole picture. You taught me that,” she argued. He tried to protest, but she wouldn’t let him. “Shhh, Edward. Trust me. I know who I am and I’m certain I won’t be okay if I don’t have you in my life,” she finished with conviction. “Besides, I love teaching. I honestly feel like that’s where I can do the most good, where I’m most needed.”

“You’re wrong,” he whispered in her ear. “You’re most needed right here, by my side.” His fingers tilted her chin up to him and he kissed her against the heavy, cold, sound-proof door of their private little practice room. His mind was filled with a kaleidoscope of sapphire blue and golden wheat, of the sounds of Dvořák and the smell of rosin. He let himself fill with her as he tried to make her understand what she meant to him. He drew from the vast well of love and passion she inspired in his heart and hoped she felt them in each caress of his firm, yielding lips.

She did feel it, every ounce of it and it left her breathlessly awestruck. His intensity made her feel as though she was about to go skydiving. They’d be one hell of an adventure, if they were brave enough to jump out of the plane.

“Please, go rescind your resignation,” she urged, ready to take the step into their future. He gave in to her…for the moment. He’d retract his letter but the matter wasn’t closed in his mind. They’d discuss it later, but right then, Edward decided it was better to shut the hell up and savor the nearly perfect moment.

“Dinner every night. Starting tonight. I’ll pick you up at seven.” He stated the terms as fact and contentedly pulled her to him.

“Conditions, eh?” she countered with a wry smile.

“Non-negotiable,” he whispered against her lips.