A/N: Twilight is Meyer's. No copyright infringement intended.
Thanks for reading, and for reviewing.
Late March. Masen is 2 1/2 months, Lizzie is 2 years and 3 months.
"Purple is definitely a good color on you." Alice cocked her head at her phone as she typed notes to herself. "I'll have to keep that in mind. More purple."
I eased Masen's cap a little lower over his ears as a breeze swirled past us. He didn't stir; he was deeply asleep. "I prefer blue," I replied absently.
"Because Edward prefers you in blue." Alice dismissed that with a wave of her hand. "But his opinion doesn't matter, because he likes you in anything."
I grinned. That was true. And I liked him in anything, too. From the jeans and black button-up he was wearing now to the tux he would be wearing tonight, he always was handsome.
I watched him as he pushed Lizzie on a swing a few yards away from the bench where Alice and I sat with Masen. After Alice had dragged my son and me around all morning and part of the afternoon, we had met Edward, Lizzie, and Jasper for an early dinner, then we all had come to the park to spend some time before we had to get ready for Edward's first solo concert tonight. Alice and Jasper had driven in from New York to attend his premiere – and for Alice to work in a few more fittings for my matron of honor gown. The purple one. With the lower neckline than I would have liked.
With all the openings I'd had in different museums and galleries recently, I'd grown a little more used to dressing up and being the center of attention. I still didn't enjoy it, but it didn't traumatize me like it used to. Especially now that I had my own private designer, who usually was pretty good about designing things I would be comfortable wearing. Until it came to her wedding.
She knew that I wasn't thrilled with the cut of the dress. But she also knew that I'd wear it despite my reluctance, because I was doing it for her, on her special day. So she'd taken advantage.
Edward hadn't seen that dress yet. I could only imagine his reaction when he did.
He also hadn't seen the gown I'd be wearing tonight, I recalled. Most of the dresses I'd worn he'd been able to see beforehand, but this one had been dragged in by Alice late last night. I wasn't even really sure what it looked like.
Before I could bring that up, Alice remarked, "We'll pick out Lizzie's shoes when you finally get to New York."
I rolled my eyes. Alice had planned to hold Lizzie and me hostage for a month before her wedding so she could get all the details ironed out with us, her matron of honor and her flower girl, and so she could suck me into all her planning. But I'd had Masen less than three months ago, so her hostage plans had been foiled.
"We'll be there next Thursday, Alice," I reminded her. I wasn't excited about leaving Masen and Edward for any period of time, but I didn't want to abandon Alice totally. So upon Edward's urging, I'd agreed to take Lizzie to New York for one extended, four-day weekend. "Besides," I added. "You've been free to go to Forks as many times this month as you needed to without us being in the way."
Alice muttered a grudging agreement. She and Jasper wanted to wed where they'd met, so the ceremony was taking place in Forks. I'd felt less guilty about not going to New York since there was nothing dire to be set up in that location. And Alice truly had been to Washington several times in the past few weeks, so things had worked out well.
"A purple jacket," Alice suddenly decided, focusing on her phone again. She already seemed to have forgotten her disappointment over not being able to keep wedding plan prisoners.
As she made notes on her latest fashion plot, I went back to watching my husband and daughter at the swings. Lizzie's curls blew around her face when she swung backward, then whipped behind her when she swung forward. I could see her brilliant smile as Edward gently pushed her a little higher in response to her eager requests of "Higher, Daddy, higher!"
Jasper was standing beside Edward. He said something to Lizzie that made her giggle, and Edward's face, already lit with a fond smile, practically glowed.
A moment later, Edward grabbed Lizzie by the waist and dragged her backward off the swing. She squealed and ran to the sliding board when he set her on her feet. He trailed along behind her and said something to Jasper, who grinned good-naturedly and moved to the ladder with Lizzie. Edward took up his position at the bottom of the slide. When Jasper lifted Lizzie to the top and let her go, she slid down into Edward's waiting arms. He swung her up as she laughed.
And my heart melted a little.
Lizzie noticed me over Edward's shoulder and reached out, calling, "Momma!"
Edward glanced back. I waved, smiling. He smiled in return and walked up to me with Lizzie facing out on his hip, his arm loose around her waist as she leaned toward me. I tilted my face up so she could grab my cheeks in her small hands. She laughed and patted my face as I turned to kiss her palms. When her pats grew excited – and a little too rough – Edward twisted to pull her away from me. He leaned down with her dangling from his arm so he could kiss my cheeks himself in apology for our daughter's enthusiasm. Then his mouth covered mine briefly before he straightened and adjusted his grasp on the wriggling two-year-old.
I looked down as Masen, disturbed by his sister's noisy glee, gave a strong kick against my thigh. As I tugged his blanket back into place and he settled, I noticed Alice's stare. "What?" I demanded.
She glanced pointedly from Edward, who was taking Lizzie back to the slide, to me. "You two are disgusting," she informed me. Then she glanced pointedly at Masen – and my stomach. "And you better not get pregnant again before the wedding."
"Alice." I gave her a frustrated look. "Jesus."
Alice raised her brows. "What? You and Edward are so… ugh." She made a gesture to indicate that Edward and I were all over each other.
I rolled my eyes. "We are not 'ugh.' And even if I did, I wouldn't be showing two weeks from now."
"True," Alice allowed. "But you'd probably be throwing up—"
My sister-in-law just shrugged. I sighed in surrender and watched Edward and Jasper as they worked together to give Lizzie a few more runs down the slide. After her fifth time, Edward scooped her up and said something to Jasper. The three of them headed for the bench.
"We're going home," Edward told me when he reached us.
It was time for him to get ready, I realized. Jasper, Alice, and I had a little more time since Edward had to be at the concert hall early. But Mrs. Varner would be arriving at our house soon to babysit, so we probably needed to get going, too.
"We'll be there in a few minutes," I said. Edward nodded and nuzzled Lizzie's hair as he stepped around the bench. Jasper ran a hand over Alice's shoulder as he passed her. She didn't look up from her notes.
Jasper just smiled. He was used to her losing herself in her designs the same way Edward was used to my losing myself in my art. So he followed Edward and Lizzie without a word.
When they were gone, I leaned down to begin gathering my things. Alice finished working a minute later and bent to grab her purse and mine. I took the keys she handed me and picked up my diaper bag, then I stood and adjusted my hold on Masen. Alice peered down at him as his face screwed up and he started to whimper.
"He's not going to cry just because you stood up, is he?" she asked.
"He'll cry if he wants to," I answered with a shrug.
Alice looked mystified. Babies made no sense to her. She liked Masen and Lizzie, but she wasn't entirely sure how things worked with them. "Hey, little man," she told Masen, "Momma's allowed to stand up."
I snickered. As Masen's whines grew more pronounced, I shifted to kiss his forehead and hold him a little closer. "I think he needs changed," I remarked. "I'll do it when we get to the car."
"I'll wait outside."
I grinned. At the SUV, I quickly set up to change Masen's diaper. He did need changed. And Alice did stand outside and wait.
"You know," she said when we were on our way home with Masen gurgling and cooing contentedly to himself in the back seat, "I can't even keep a cactus alive."
"It finally died, huh?" I asked with a smile.
"Yeah." She paused, then looked over at me. "But you… You were born for this. For Edward, for these kids, for your art and his music… This is where you were destined to be. You found your place. It's really nice to see, after everything you went through with Victoria."
I glanced over at her, surprised. "Alice…"
"It took you forever to figure it out," she said suddenly. "I mean, you didn't even believe Edward liked you. Even when it was so obvious—"
"Alice," I said again, cutting her off this time.
"But really," she said seriously. "It makes me happy to see you this way, Bella."
I had to swallow hard before I could reply, "Thanks, Alice."
"Now if you'll just wear—"
She smiled. "I'm kidding. About the last part. The rest of it I meant." She paused. Her face twisted a little. "You and Edward are rubbing off on me. All this cute crap…"
"You and Jasper are cute, too," I informed her. In a different way, but they were cute together. "It makes me happy to see you with him."
"Yeah, yeah," Alice grumbled. But I could see her smile.
When we got home, I parked in front of the house. I could hear Lizzie's high, breathless laughter before I even reached the front door. Inside, I followed the sound to the living room.
Jasper was sitting on the piano bench. He was watching Edward, who was kneeling on the floor, tickling Lizzie mercilessly. I watched for a moment, smiling, before I intervened. "Edward," I chided. "Give her a chance to breathe."
My husband sat back to smile up at me, letting our daughter go. She giggled for a second before she struggled to her feet and darted over to me. "Momma!" she exclaimed, grabbing my jeans as she tried to catch her breath.
"Is your daddy picking on you?" I asked.
"Well, go tickle him back," I urged.
Lizzie immediately let go of my pants and ran toward Edward. He let her "tackle" him and laughed as she tried to tickle him. "Gotchu!" she yelled as she climbed on top of him. "Gotchu, Daddy!"
"You did!" he agreed. "You got me!"
"Okay, sweetie, let your daddy get up," I requested. "He has to go get ready."
Reluctantly, Lizzie slid to the floor. Edward kissed her forehead before he stood. He trailed his fingers down my cheek and kissed Masen's hair as he passed us, then he disappeared up the stairs. I turned to Jasper. "Edward let Forks outside?"
"Yeah, he's in the back yard somewhere."
"I need to feed Masen. Anyone want a drink or anything?"
"Juice!" Lizzie jumped in. "I want juice, Momma!"
"Please?" I reminded her.
I reached down for her hand. She slid it into mine and walked with me into the kitchen. Alice grabbed a plastic cup from the cupboard and poured a little juice for Lizzie as I got Masen's bottle ready. Then she snagged a glass and filled it with water for herself and Jasper. I grinned to myself over their own brand of cute when they stood close together at the work island and shared their drink.
When Masen was happily draining his bottle, I stepped to the back door and leaned out. "Forks?"
The husky mix appeared immediately and trotted right to me. He marched inside, and I shut the door after him with Masen in my arm and Lizzie holding on to the knee of my jeans. And I turned to find Alice giving me a look that clearly said, "Born for this."
I looked down at my son, my daughter, and my dog. And I just smiled.
An hour later, Edward was downstairs with Jasper while I was tucked away in our room with Alice. I had barely gotten to see him in his tux because Alice had whisked me away so quickly. I knew that he was about to leave, so I didn't know if I would get to see him again before the concert. I was glad I'd said a fast good-bye before Alice had hauled me into the bathroom.
Alice tucked one last strand of hair into place on my head. "There," she said, satisfied. "Take a look."
I looked into the mirror and blinked in surprise. "Wow. That's… Wow, Alice."
She had curled my hair loosely and tied it up into an elegant twist at the back of my head. It left my neck exposed and highlighted the single sapphire that hung from the necklace she'd brought for me. The stone matched the deep blue of the gown she'd designed. The material of the dress was so smooth it fell like water. And it was unexpectedly comfortable.
"Wait, hold on." She fussed with one of the curls. "Okay, now it's wow."
"It really is." I turned my head slightly, impressed by the hairstyle. "And I told you I preferred blue," I teased.
She rolled her eyes. I knew that she'd made the dress blue because it was Edward's night, and he liked me in blue. But I did like the color. "Thanks, Alice," I added, giving her a quick hug.
"You're welcome." She smoothed my dress and stepped back. "Now I need to borrow that bracelet I gave you last month…."
I trailed behind her as she wandered into the bedroom and started rummaging through my jewelry. My fingers drifted to the bracelet on my left wrist, the bracelet I never took off. I found the love knot charm there and rubbed it absently with my thumb.
I jumped, startled, as Edward's voice sounded on the other side of the bedroom door. My fingers tightened over the love knot he'd given me, and I smiled a little when I realized what I was holding. "Yeah?"
"Masen's asleep, and Mrs. Varner is downstairs with Lizzie."
"Is Alice in there?"
I looked toward the jewelry she'd been sorting through. "No, she's…" I glanced around, wondering where the ninja had gone. "Somewhere else."
The doorknob turned, and Edward slipped into the room, shutting the door carefully behind him. His head lifted and his eyes landed on me. And he froze.
I watched his eyes widen and his mouth fall open slightly as he stared at me. I glanced down at the dress, then up at him again. His green eyes were dark in his stunned face. I felt my lips start to curve.
I knew the feeling.
If I hadn't seen him in the tux before, I would have been frozen by the sight of him, too. As it was, it had been months since he'd modeled it for me at Christmas, and the memory didn't do it justice. I was thrown again by how devastatingly handsome he looked in it. But at least I had the buffer of having seen it before.
Edward didn't have that buffer. He was seeing me in this dress for the first time. And he definitely approved.
For a moment longer, he stared intently at me. Finally he blinked and shook himself. I smiled when he focused on my face. "Did you forget something?" I prompted gently.
He frowned slightly, seeming to try to remember why he'd come into the room in the first place. I knew that he should have left by now, so I glanced around, trying to figure out what he was missing. His wallet and keys weren't in their normal places, so I assumed that he had them already. There was nothing obvious that I could help him recall.
When my gaze returned to his face, I saw that his eyes had drifted to my hair and all its shiny, curly, tied-up fanciness. He was distracted again. So I tried once more. "Edward?"
He slowly lowered his eyes to my face. "I… have to go."
I smiled softly. "Yeah."
There was a pause as he gazed steadily into my eyes. At last he closed the distance between us and cupped his hand around the side of my neck, his thumb stroking along my jaw as he leaned down to kiss me. I immediately reached up to slide a hand over his shoulder and up into his hair to hold him close.
After a moment, he eased back to press his forehead to mine. "I didn't want to leave without getting a kiss from you," he murmured, his thumb still skimming back and forth along my jaw. "I didn't think you'd be changed already. I am going to have a very hard time concentrating, knowing you're out there looking like this."
I twisted a lock of his hair, then I carefully smoothed it back down to make sure he looked perfect again. "You've seen me dressed up before," I reminded him. Alice had had a field day designing gowns for all my various gallery openings. He'd loved every single one.
"I know." He straightened so he could run his gaze over my hair. He lightly touched one of my curls. "But I usually get to be with you during the evening. Tonight I won't get to see you again until the concert is over." His hand lowered so he could trail his fingertips down my cheek. "And you are so incredibly beautiful. I don't want to miss a minute of this."
His lips gradually curved as he caught my meaning. He always thought of me when he played his music. I knew that he would be seeing me in his mind tonight. And now, I had a feeling that this particular look would be the most prominent image of me he would see.
"I want you to come backstage during intermission," he said suddenly, firmly. "I want you there."
I nodded. "I'll find you."
He smiled and lowered his head for another quick kiss, then he pulled away and started for the door. When he opened it, I called after him, "Edward?"
He turned to look back. "Hm?"
"You look…" I fumbled, trying to find the right word. His eyes lit with affection as I searched. He knew how hard it was for me to find words to describe the things that affected me most. Finally I settled on, "Amazing. And you'll do great."
His smile was tender. "I love you."
"I love you."
Suddenly Alice's voice came from down the hall. "You better not have messed up her hair."
Edward chuckled. "Not yet." Warmth flooded through me as he glanced back at me, his eyes filled with promise. "But I intend to."
"Ugh. Leave." Alice gave him a light shove as she appeared in the doorway. "Before I get the hose."
Edward snickered. "I'm going." He looked at me and smiled. "Beautiful. My muse." Then he disappeared.
Alice shut the door behind him. "See? Ugh." She repeated the hand motion she'd made at the park. "You two are giving me cavities with all this sweet crap."
I grinned. "You have half an hour to get ready, Alice."
As she swore and headed for the bathroom, I sat on the edge of the bed. And basked in all the sweet crap.
When I walked into the concert hall with Jasper and Alice, I was stunned by how many people already were there. I knew that the concert was nearly sold out. Edward had gathered fans during his time with the orchestra, and the conductor, Maggie, had heavily promoted his solo career. But I hadn't expected so many people to be here so early, so eager to see the concert.
It made my eyes well up.
I sat next to Alice and locked my gaze on the program in my lap so she wouldn't see the tears in my eyes. But I didn't open the program. I wanted to be surprised by the order of the songs that I knew so well, to just take in the music – and Edward.
Before the show started, several of Edward's fellow musicians from the orchestra stopped to greet me. I was touched by their support of him. Maggie came by as well, and I gave her a hug and thanked her for her part in generating such a good turnout for Edward's opening night. She brushed that off, insisting that Edward had drawn the crowd on his own. With a final word of support, she left to find her own seat.
And a minute later, Edward was introduced.
Hearing his name announced brought the tears rushing back. When he stepped onto the stage, my vision was blurry. I saw him look toward where he knew I would be sitting, though I knew that he wouldn't be able to see me with the lighting. But he could sense me, and that was enough.
With a bright smile, Edward began to speak, his voice clear and strong, his presence flawlessly professional. He welcomed everyone to his first concert. He thanked the crowd for their support and offered them a night of original compositions that he hoped they would enjoy. Then, with his eyes on where he knew me to be, he added, "I'd like to dedicate this concert to my mother, who always encouraged my music; my father, who first introduced me to the piano; my children, who inspire me; and my wife, who is my heart, my soul… my muse."
He smiled toward me for a second longer before he bowed to the audience and took his seat at the piano. And began to play the first song of his first concert.
Our song. "Driftwood Dreamer."
There was no controlling my tears then. Alice glanced over at me and whispered in disbelief, "Are you crying already?"
I swatted her arm. She shook her head and left me alone. But after a moment, I felt her take my hand and squeeze my fingers. I squeezed gratefully back.
Edward's eyes closed as he played the song he'd composed for our first dance as husband and wife, the song that illustrated our almost mystical connection to one another, inspired the day before our wedding by my showing him the place where I'd dreamed of him before I'd even known that he existed. I knew that he was seeing me in his mind as he continued on to other songs he had composed over our years together, songs from birthdays and Christmases and anniversaries, from "just because" moments to "because of you" moments. The songs seemed to grow and build, the same way our love had.
And I cried a little harder when I realized that this concert was an homage to our love for one another… an homage to us.
I didn't need to look at the program to know that he planned to end the concert with the three lullabies. They were his favorite compositions. They were our family. The most important songs in the world to him.
And to me.
At intermission, the applause was unbelievable. It lasted longer and was much louder than I had anticipated. Jasper let out a shrill whistle, and I grinned over at him as a few more whistles erupted around us. Alice took a look at my tearstained face and just shook her head.
"You better go," she urged. "Before everyone heads out of here for the restrooms and you get blocked in."
"Right." I gave her hand a light squeeze as I got up. "I'll be right back."
She waved me on. I hurried down the back hall toward the backstage area. The security guards waved and called greetings as I passed them. A few offered praise of Edward's concert so far, and I smiled my thanks as I made my way to where I could feel my husband's electricity humming lowly in one of the back rooms.
He met me at the door and dragged me inside, closing the door behind me. His mouth immediately covered mine, and I grabbed his hair roughly, pulling him even closer. We hung on to each other until we had to break apart to gasp for air. Then we stared at one another, smiling like crazy people as we struggled to breathe.
My fingers twisted in the hair at the nape of his neck as his hands glided slowly up and down my back. "You're amazing," I whispered.
His hands flattened over my back to press me tightly against him. He shivered slightly as my arms lowered to slide around his waist. "I love you," he murmured. "My muse."
I closed my eyes as he kissed the top of my head. His arms constricted around me, crushing me against his chest. His heart slammed chaotically under my ear. I clung tightly to him. "My heart, my soul," I echoed his dedication to me.
His voice was low when he replied, "My everything."
After a moment, he slowly pulled back. His hand lifted to catch the latest of the tears that fell from the corner of my eye. "You've been crying for a while," he noted.
"Yeah," I admitted.
He leaned down to tenderly kiss each of my swollen eyes. When he straightened again, he pressed his palm to the center of my chest. "You have the most incredible heart," he said softly. He held still, feeling my rapid heartbeat and the buzz of our shared energy. "I wish you could be sitting right there next to me on that stage."
I reached up to press my own palm over his heart. "I am," I reminded him gently.
He smiled. "Always with me," he agreed. "But you know what I mean."
"Hm." I glanced around the room. There was a little couch along one wall. I looked up at him. "But I can sit right here next to you until you have to go back out there."
His smile widened. He led me to the sofa and sat. But instead of letting me sit beside him, he carefully tugged me down into his lap and cradled me against his chest. "I'd rather sit this way, if you don't mind," he murmured in my ear.
I rested my head on his shoulder. "Not at all."
We shared the rest of the intermission in silence. I planned new sketches of him: on the stage with his eyes closed at the piano; meeting me in this room with his face full of excitement and joy; sitting on this sofa quietly thinking and soaking everything in… So many versions of him to draw.
Tomorrow. Because tonight was his.
After a while, someone knocked on the door. "Three minutes!"
"Thanks!" Edward looked at me as I sat up. He smoothed my hair back into place and cupped my cheek in his hand. "Meet me here after the show," he requested.
I gave him an embarrassed look. "When I stop crying."
"No. As soon as you can get here." His other hand lifted, and he held my face lightly between his palms. "I want to see your face."
I met his intense gaze. "Okay."
"Alice and Jasper, too. We'll leave from here when everyone's gone." When I nodded, he smiled and took my hand. He helped me stand, then he got to his feet beside me. His head lowered to mine to give me one last, chaste kiss. Then he opened the door for me and squeezed my fingers. "As soon as you can," he reminded me.
I squeezed back as I promised, "I'll be here."
I slipped my hand from his and walked away to join Alice, Jasper, and the rest of the audience. To cry over the final half of my husband's premiere. His homage to his family. To me.