Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Massage Therapy, Chapter 18 - Countdown, Day 3

Edward Cullen's Little Black Notebook
Wednesday, September 1

“Give me your lighter.”

Alice’s impatience had her picking my pockets before I could even reach into them.

“Settle down, groupie.” I laughed, swatting her hands away. “How do you know I even have one on me?”

“Because you’re smoking again. I can smell it,” she sniffed.

“Christ almighty,” I grumbled as I dug a Bic out of my left jeans pocket. “Here you go, Columbo.”

“Woo hooo!” she hollered as she flicked the lighter on and held the flame high above her head. She swayed back and forth to a slow, bluesy number by The Grade as they rehearsed downstairs from my loft again. Jasper’s band had chosen an official name, and they were sounding tighter than ever, despite Rosalie’s misgivings.

I had kept those to myself, of course. The band, and my baby sister, were none the wiser. I had reminded Emmett to keep his mouth shut on that score as well. As the resident Secret Monger of the Cullen clan, I felt it was my dirty job to keep the peace on all fronts for as long as possible.

At the end of the song, Alice and I clapped, whistled and cheered wildly. The trio of musicians were appreciative of their small but rowdy audience, taking deep bows of gratitude.

They took a breather after that. I broke out the six-pack that I’d brought downstairs in the cooler, and we all relaxed with a beer for a few minutes.

“I’m surprised you haven’t heard anything from Rosalie,” Alice said to Jasper, Stew and Hank with a pout. “Surely she could hear how much potential you guys have. And I’m sure Bella has gone to bat for you, too.”

“She has,” I assured them all. “But I think Rose is waiting until you get a few gigs under your belt.”

Jasper’s grin was wry. “We definitely need some seasoning. I don’t think we’re ready for the next step quite yet.”

His apprehension was reflected in the eyes of his band mates, who nodded in agreement. They began to discuss doing a few more open mic nights, and checking back with a local promoter who sounded like he was willing to give them a shot and schedule some small paying gigs for them.

“Sounds promising,” I encouraged. “If you get going on one of the bar circuits, you’ll have Rosalie sniffing around for fresh blood before you know it.” I secretly enjoyed comparing her to a dog, or maybe a vampire or leech. I was glad Emmett wasn’t here to see my smirk.

“I can’t wait to hear you when I come back to visit,” Alice said, her tone excited but laced with melancholy.

“We’ll probably be sounding a hell of a lot better when you’re not around to distract me from practicing,” Jasper joked half-heartedly.

“Stop,” she pouted, giving his shoulder a shove. “I’ll be your muse from afar. You can Skype me during rehearsals so I can hear how you’re improving.” Her face brightened at the prospect.

“Like you’ll have time for that between studying and interning,” Jasper replied, sounding pretty melancholy himself. I could tell he worried about their relationship withstanding the separation.

“I’ll make time,” Alice said softly, leaning in and giving him a kiss on the cheek.

I wondered what would happen to Bella and me if we were faced with something like that. I couldn’t even let my mind go there. I missed her if we went more than a day or two without seeing each other. Texting, and even Skyping, just wouldn’t cut it. I wouldn’t be able to touch her, smell her, feel her breath when she lay sleeping in my arms.

I missed her tonight. I wished she were here with us, even though I’m the one who encouraged her to take Angela to her favorite open mic night. I didn’t want to be one of those demanding boyfriends who would make her change her routine for me, or put me ahead of her work.

When rehearsal was through, I stole my lighter back from Alice and went outside for a smoke while the band loaded their gear back into Stew’s van.

“Why have you taken up that filthy habit again?” I heard my sisters’ whine behind me. She’d followed us out the side door, then leaned against the brick wall upwind from me while I blew smoke in the other direction.

I made a lame defense. “It relaxes me.”

“Which begs the question, why are you tense? You aren’t nervous about the party at Mom and Dad’s, are you?” She stared up at me through narrowed, intuitive eyes.

I let out a rueful chuckle. “Can’t get anything past you, can I?” I muttered, taking another drag. “I just don’t want them giving Bella the third degree like they do all of their children’s prospective spouses.”

“Ha! You might as well accept the inevitable. But you don’t have to worry - they like Bella.” She put the emphasis on Bella’s name, to make sure I’d get her implication that they didn’t like my previous girlfriend.

“I know.” I exhaled away from her, then took a deep breath of fresh air before continuing. “And speaking of girlfriends they didn’t approve of, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t bring up Tanya.”

Your name wasn’t any easier for me to utter today than it was yesterday.

Alice’s face twisted in distaste. “Why would I bring her up? Religion or politics would be much more pleasant topics of conversation.”

“I agree,” I said, inhaling another puff. “I’m glad we’re on the same page.”

Alice let out a derisive snort. “If you’re telling me you haven’t revealed one thing about your past to Bella, then I am definitely not on the same page as you. We’re not even reading the same book.”

I glanced at her disgusted face before turning away and exhaling.

“Edward, this is ridiculous. You shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around Bella, or make us walk on them with you. If you can’t tell her the truth, then you’d better ask yourself why.”

I shook my head and stared into the night sky. “I already know why,” I answered softly.

I felt her hand on my arm, willing me to look in her direction. Her doe eyes were still severe she gazed up at me.

“If you don’t think she’s strong enough to stand by you no matter what, then you don’t know her at all.”

I nodded rather than argue with her. I was finished with the discussion, and Alice knew it.

Of course, I know Bella’s strong enough to stand by me.

I just don’t know if she’ll want to.

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