Author's Chapter Notes:
I own two copies of Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn, and I am dieing for the BD trailer in a couple weeks. Other than that, I don't own anything, it's not mine other my own crazy mind.
Thanks agian to my awesome reviewers! I wouldn't ahve gotten this far with you. Also thanks to my beta State of Delusion, for fixing my errors. My thanks also goes out to HEAR and AnthroBug for their help as well. Okay, enough of me talking, go read.
You're beautiful, it's true.
I saw your face in a crowded place,
And I don't know what to do,
‘Cause I'll never be with you.
I sighed and pulled the brush though my hair one zaidi time before scowling at the mirror. I could tame almost any instrument beneath my fingers, bringing grown men to their knees in tears because my kinanda moved them so, but I could not get my unruly, bronze hair to lay flat. At first, I had to use so much gel that it looked like a shiny, hard cap, herufi kubwa on my head. I had washed that out and tried to use just water instead, but it had sprung back up within minutes. I groaned and gave up. At least kitanda hair was in style at the moment, and that was a point in my favor. I would just have to hope I wasn't committing a fashion faux pas.
Leaving the bathroom, I walked out into the bedroom I had spent one night in. The fluffy kitanda had indeed been comfortable after I had forced myself away from the kinanda around midnight. I had managed to get a couple hours of sleep before it was morning again. Emmett and I had been shown around the Palace this morning. I was most interested in the promised muziki room and the many libraries. The muziki room was a large, circular room with a dais in the middle. Every instrument I could think of was there, from classical to rock. The lights were bright on the white floor and walls. There wasn't enough time for me to stop and play anything, but I vowed to come back as soon as I could. I also planned to visit the maktaba we were shown. It had floor to ceiling bookshelves, with rows and rows of books. I saw historical books, romances, science fiction, and ndoto in just the short glance I got.
Emmett enjoyed the workout rooms and the weight lifting equipment. I was sure he already had a tarehe with the treadmill. I, for one, would stay as far away from those rooms as possible, at least until Emmett dragged me in there.
Now, we had to get ready for a ball. While we were out this morning, someone had dropped off two black suits in the sitting room. Thanks to the measurements we had aliyopewa in Paris, the tuxedos were a perfect fit. If I could just get my hair to lie flat, I would be happier. I glanced at the clock on the mantle to hakikisha how much time I had left. I was still fine. I pulled on the crisp white shati I had slung over the chair.
Tuxes were nothing new to me. wewe were expected to wear nice black suits to recitals, and when I entered Juilliard, I had to wear a tuxedo. I personally didn't understand why. Tuxes were uncomfortable, and even the best-fitting one restricted arm movement, making it harder to play. Maybe that was the point, to challenge you. It wouldn't surprise me.
The girls at school had told me that I was pretty hot in a tux. They had been trying to flirt with me; I knew that. I just wasn't interested. They were pretty enough I guess, but nothing that really caught my eye. Not that I didn't understand the relationship between men and women, but mine were nothing serious, purely casual. Well, perhaps all but one.
Esme, my sweet mother, was worried about me. She thought I was too quiet and intuitive, and too in upendo with my piano. Not that she had told me any of this; I just knew because she told Carlisle and Emmett, and they told me. I could read her face, too. She hadn't been happy when I had left New York. But I had to leave at some point. I would just have to make sure I called her often to keep her from worrying herself to death.
Shaking off my troubles, I tucked my shati in and reached for my bowtie. When I looked around for a mirror, I couldn't find one. I didn't want to go to the humid bathroom. I remembered seeing one in the sitting room. Shrugging, I grabbed the tux koti, jacket and headed out to find the mirror.
Sure enough, on the dark green ukuta inayofuata to the door to Emmett's room was a mirror. I laid my koti, jacket on the kinanda and loped across the room. I had learned to tie my own ties years ago, so I had no problem twisting the thin black silk around my neck into a neat bow. Emmett's skills, on the other hand, were a different matter.
Without any warning, the door to his room flew open and he came out yelling, "Edward!"
"Jesus, Emmett." I jumped back out of shock when his door banged open. He was, quite literally a ng'ombe in a china shop. He would end up breaking something one of these days. "Could wewe please try to be gentle with the things around here?"
Emmett merely grinned and shrugged. "I was trying to tie this bowtie and couldn't do it. Help me out?" He held up his tie and pointed to his neck. I shrugged and rolled my eyes as I took the tie from his fingers.
"You know," I said, as I pulled his collar, alama up. "Queen Renee told me yesterday that wewe should watch out for the fathers around here."
Emmett grinned unabashedly, and his blue eyes twinkled with promised mischief. "Really? I will try to take her advice then. Stay away from the daddies. That must mean their daughters are hot, huh?"
"Emmett." I groaned as I finished his bowtie. He really was far too incorrigible. I should have just kept my mouth shut. Instead, he was going to take it as a challenge. He would be trying to charm as many girls tonight as possible, right under their father's noses. "Just take it easy, okay. We just got here; let's not ruffle too many feathers."
He shrugged and laughed, brushing off my advice without a sekunde thought. He disappeared back into his room, leaving his door open. I could see him wander back into the bathroom that was connected to his bedroom. Lucky bastard, he could control his hair.
I wandered back over to the piano. I knew better than to sit down and play, but I couldn't resist. I moved the koti, jacket to the kitanda and sat down on the bench. I didn't play anything specific, mostly just bila mpangilio notes and melodies. My mind was chaotic and scrambled, running a hundred miles an minute. That left little room for grand, spur of the moment compositions.
Tonight was going to be important. It would be our first appearance with the rest of the Court. Emmett would be fine; he was a natural in large groups. His effusive personality drew everyone in. A joke here, a little flirting there, and he would have them eating out of his hands. Just so long as he didn't say anything out of turn, he would be fine. It was myself I was worried about. I was the exact opposite. I floundered in large groups. I became self-conscious and fidgety. I didn't know what to say au how to say it. I was zaidi comfortable kwa myself au with a small group of friends. It was zaidi than likely a product of being an only child.
Many people had told me that I could be very charming and outgoing if I would just ease up and let go occasionally. Basically, all I had to do was copy Emmett. Great, that was a recipe for disaster. No, I had to be myself, which was easier alisema than done.
To distract myself from my brooding, I started paying attention to the muziki my fingers were creating. I was unsurprised to find I had been playing snatches of muziki that haunted my every waking saa since I was the age of ten. Usually the short moments of sweet symphony were enough to calm my nerves and stop my head from spinning. But these haunting melodies drove me nuts. Their incomplete breaks and gasps were glaring. No matter how hard I tried to fill them, they couldn't be filled. Maybe Emmett was right; maybe I really did need a muse. Well, she better hurry up and make an appearance, because this piece was driving me up the wall.
This misbegotten piece had done its job. It had managed to calm me down a little. I was no longer worrying about tonight's ball. I would do my best not to let my nerves get to me. I could do it. I had done it before, and I could do it again. Honestly, my greatest worry should be Emmett. He would zaidi than likely get himself into serious trouble if I didn't keep an eye on him. It looked like I had my work cut out for me tonight.
Emmett reappeared at that moment, fully dressed. The black koti, jacket had tails, which I hadn't noticed before. I had to assume that mine did as well. His curly brown hair was puffy as well, almost forming an afro. I pressed my lips together tightly and tried to control my shaking caused kwa my compressed laughter. Emmett's confused "What?" at my odd expression did me in.
I laughed so hard there were tears rolling down my cheeks. The image before me of a towering, hulking Emmett in a tux with tails and a ridiculous afro, the likes of which he hadn't had since middle school, sent me into a round of hysteria. It was just odd. Of course, the shifting emotions on his face didn't help either. First he was confused, and then he went to shock, worry, until finally his baby blue eyes flashed with irritation. "What's so funny, Eddie?"
"Tux, afro." I managed to gasp out before I doubled over laughing. Even his use of my hated nickname wasn't enough to shake me out of it.
Emmett suddenly switched to looking smug. "Yeah, I wasn't sure it would still go up, but I still got it."
I snorted as I struggled to get my breathing back under control. I could always trust Emmett to do something ridiculous to snap me out of my brooding, even if he didn't know it himself. Emmett saw the world though rose colored glasses. Nothing got under his thick skin. It simply rolled off. I envied him that. Everything seemed to get to me no matter how hard I tried to keep it all at bay.
"Keep that going, Eddie." Emmett grinned. "And wewe should have a pretty good night."
"Don't call me, Eddie," I told him, for what must have been the billionth time. "And, keep what going?"
"That." He waved his hand over at me as he slouched down into the couch. "The laughing at nothing thing. It's been awhile since you've done that. At least since wewe broke up with..."
"Don't say her name!" I glared at him, furious he would even think to bring her up. Thinking about Victoria in my own head was one thing, Emmett saying her name and bringing her up was completely another.
He seemed to heed my warning and back tracked. "I was just saying it's been awhile. I'm glad to see wewe happy for a change."
I shrugged and tried to smile. It was nice to know he was worried, and I hadn't meant to snap at him. The subject of my past relationship was touchy at best. I wasn't over her; I knew that, even though she did break my heart. I was starting to recover, though. That was one of the reasons I wanted to come here, to get away from New York and the ghosts of my past. I still didn't think I could handle hearing her name, though.
"Thanks, Emmett," I muttered. "I'm sorry for snapping at you. It's just..." I trailed off, unwilling au unable to say more.
He nodded and grinned, understanding my silence. "Hey, she was a bitch. wewe were the one who liked her. The rest of us thought she was a bitch. I don't know what wewe saw in her, wewe silly romantic. If there's one of us who should be worried about women around here, it's you, not me."
I suppressed a laugh. He was right; I would end up falling for the most unattainable girl here, pining after her for months, and uandishi the greatest pieces of my young life. That was how these kinds of things happened, right? Emmett seemed to be giggling at the same thing. I grinned at the direction our conversion had taken, from afro to women, how typical.
A sharp knock on the door interrupted us. I got up from the kinanda and went to open the door. A blond man stood there in a simple white uniform with a high collar. "Mr. Cullen?" he asked, his accent so thick I had trouble understanding him.
"I'm here to onyesha wewe and Mr. McCarty to the ballroom. Are wewe ready?"
"Give us just one minute." I went back and shrugged into my jacket. Of course, it had tails. "Come on, Emmett. Let's go." He lumbered off the kitanda and we followed the blond man out to the hall.
He guided us silently through the castle. The closer we got to the outer parts of the palace, the zaidi people we saw. Mostly, it was just other white-clothed servants, scurrying about, doing their particular duties. Soon, others began appearing, heading the same direction we were. The men all wore dark suits like Emmett and me, but I also saw several in uniforms of dark green, white, au black. The woman all wore various styles of evening dresses. They were long and short, and every array of color imaginable. They reminded me of peacocks. They were primped and primed, strutting around like God's gifts to the world.
I could see the hallway curve ahead. Just as it curved, there were two wide wooden doors propped all the way open. Inside I could see a large, brightly lit room. The blond man stopped in front of the doors and turned to face us. "I hope wewe have a good night, sirs."
"Thanks," we told him. He turned and walked back the way we had come without another word. Emmett shrugged and squared his shoulders. "Ready, Eddie?" he asked.
I nodded. "Emmett, if wewe call me ‘Eddie' in there, I will play the kinanda as loud as I like, for as many nights as I like, till wewe have to leave the apartment in order to get any sleep," I threatened. He made a onyesha of swallowing a lump in his throat before winking at me.
"Damn it," I muttered as we walked through the doors.
Just as I had thought from down the hall the room was indeed large. It stretched mbele for what had to be at least seventy au eighty feet to a glass ukuta that I could dimly see opened up to the gardens. The room extended out to the sides as well, forming a large square. In the middle of the high ceiling hung an elegant, crystal chandler that shed light throughout the rest of the room. Ornate sconces set in the sidewalls shed even zaidi light, filling the ballroom with a soft, even glow. The tiled floor was polished like a mirror, so that it cast reflections of the ceiling and the guests walking on it. There wasn't much furniture in the room, just some chairs along the side, and a bar in the back.
There were already at least two hundred people in the ballroom, but it didn't feel crowded. There was a band set up on a dais on the right. They weren't playing yet, so the crowd of finely dressed men and women wandered around the room talking in small groups.
"Come on." Emmett slapped my back with one of his meaty hands, making me stumble a couple of steps. "I need a drink."
We made our way back to the right corner kwa the ukuta where the bar was set up. The black marble countertop gleamed much like the floor beneath our feet. Emmett and I squeezed into an open space between two men and their female companions. Emmett caught the bartender's attention. "Whiskey on the rocks," he ordered. It seemed wewe couldn't take the backwoods of Tennessee out of the boy. "You?" he asked.
"Just a bourbon, please," I said. A tall man standing inayofuata to Emmett turned to us after the bartender left to work on our drinks. His hair was a dark, inky black, while his eyes were a startling, crystal clear blue. They reminded me of Emmett's, only they were zaidi studious and lacked that mischievous spark that so often lit Emmett's eyes. The man's face was sharp and angular and his eyes were deep set. He studied Emmett and I with obvious suspicion. I guess, maybe as newcomers, Emmett and I stuck out like a sore thumb.
"May I ask who wewe are?" he asked, his voice deep and smooth.
I reached around Emmett and offered my hand. "I'm Edward Cullen, and this is my friend, Emmett McCarty." The dark haired man's eyes lightened, the suspicion leaving, but he still looked a little weary.
"Mr. Cullen." He took my hand in a firm grip. "I heard wewe had arrived yesterday. We've heard a lot about you. I am Lord Frank Brandon and this is my wife, Lady Abigail." He gestured to the tiny woman standing behind him. She was so small I hadn't seen her there till he pointed her out. Short and thin in the extreme, she looked like any strong wind would blow her away. Her delicate features made her look fragile, but something about the fierce glint in her eyes told me she was much stronger than she looked. Her hazel eyes and thin lips were turned up in a smile as her husband introduced her.
"Mr. Cullen." She grinned as she offered me her hand. "Queen Renee was telling me about your performance yesterday. I really hope to be able to hear wewe play soon."
"Thank you." I ducked my head and tried not to blush. I was so easily embarrassed when I was complimented. Lady Abigail laughed, her voice like wind chimes. "I'm sorry, I did not mean to embarrass you. Frank, I'm going to go find Cynthia. Take it easy on these two, will you."
"Yes, my dear." Lord Brandon smirked as his petite wife moved away from us through the growing crowd. "Cynthia is our youngest daughter. This is her first ball where she will be escorted kwa a man, rather than kwa her parents. He's a bit of an idiot, but I could not say no to her. Tell me, Edward, Emmett, do wewe have any family?"
We had turned back to the bar as he spoke. Emmett pushed my bourbon into my hands. "I'm an only child, so it's just me and my parents. Emmett has a large family, though."
While Emmett and Lord Brandon talked about Emmett's large and rambunctious family, I studied our surroundings while sipping my bourbon. A festive, lively atmosphere was permeating the room. Everyone that I saw walking kwa was laughing and talking freely. The women were on the men's arms, and the men were proudly inaonyesha them off. Of course, not all the ladies and gentlemen were attached. Singles moved amongst the confirmed couples with an easy grace. It was my guess that most everyone here had either grown up within these marble walls, au had been here before, as everyone seemed to know everyone else. There still wasn't any muziki playing, but I got the feeling we were all waiting on something.
"Tell me, Edward." Lord Brandon's deep voice startled me out of my people watching. "What does your father do?"
I guess it was my turn to be grilled about my family. I couldn't really say I was surprised. I was the newcomer in a strictly regimented society. I could handle it. "He's a surgeon and he helps train new doctors as well, since he works at a teaching hospital."
"That's very noble. Your mother runs several charities, does she not?"
The last maoni let me know that I had been looked into before I had even come. It wasn't a threat au a warning - it was just letting me know that fact. I nodded a yes to his swali and left everything else unsaid. I didn't feel comfortable disclosing my parents' secrets to a virtual stranger. Lord Brandon seemed to understand and let it go. "I truly didn't mean to be nosey, that's zaidi my daughter, Alice's, job. It is my job to protect the Queen, which is why I asked wewe the maswali I did. I like wewe both. I will make sure to get wewe introduced to the important people. Life around here will be much easier for wewe if I do."
Emmett and I both expressed our thanks. In truth, I had been worried about that. It was nice to have support from someone in the government who was willing to work with us.
A young man in a sharp suit came over to Lord Brandon and whispered in his ear for a moment. Afterward, he disappeared back into the crowd. Lord Brandon turned to us. "Come with me," he said, draining his glass. He guided us toward the door leading back to the hallway. Everyone seemed to be gathering in the middle of the room, facing those doors. I didn't know why we were doing this, but I decided I would just follow what everyone else was doing. Lord Brandon walked over to stand inayofuata to his wife. On her other side was a taller woman with the same honey brown-hair and delicate features. I assumed that she was one of their daughters. Lord Brandon motioned us over to stand with him.
"Cynthia, this is Edward Cullen and Emmett McCarty. Gentlemen, this is my younger daughter, Cynthia, and inayofuata to her is Michael Newton." His voice soured as he mentioned his daughter's escort. Michael was of normal height, with a baby face, and blond hair that was arranged into tidy spikes. He was wearing a simple black suit without any ornamentation.
"It's a pleasure to meet you," Cynthia told us, shaking both of our hands. "I've heard a lot about you. Princess Bella was most interested in your arrival."
"Cynthia," her father told her sharply. A teasing spark had entered her voice with her last comment, and I had no doubt that he didn't appreciate it. Cynthia winked at him and grinned unabashedly. "Sorry, Papa," she told him, sounding anything but. I laughed shakily.
"Just ignore him," Emmett whispered conspiratorially, sensing a kindred spirit no doubt. "My Marafiki a wet noodle." She grinned at him excitedly, and I suppressed a groan. It looked like Emmett had made a friend.
Michael leaned over and held out his hand to me. "It's nice to meet you, Edward. I'm Mike. wewe and I are both artists wewe know."
I smiled and shook his hand. I knew there were several different artistic types staying at the Palace, but I didn't know who they were au what they did. Mike struck me as a bit obnoxious at first glance. There didn't seem to be anything special about him, and yet he carried himself like he was an equal to most everyone in the room when I knew for a fact that he was just like me. We were artists surrounded kwa people who claimed the title of lord. I thought that required an amount of humility. Apparently, Mike did not.
Before I could say anything, a man walked through the wide doorway and clapped his hands to get the room's attention. "Lords and Ladies," he called in a loud, clear voice so that everyone in the room could hear him. "May I present to wewe Their Royal Majesties, Queen Renee, King Phillip, and Princess Isabella." The royal family walked through the doors to applause from the audience. I recognized Queen Renee immediately. Her light brown hair was curled and piled on juu of her head, so that it cascaded down in rivulets. She was wearing a deep green dress.There was a large silver and diamond tiara hidden in her curls as well. Her blue eyes were sparkling and bright, and she was obviously in her element. King Phillip stood inayofuata to her wearing a dark suit. His dark eyes studied the gathered crowd speculatively. He was smiling an ambivalent smile, but his eyes told a different story. He reminded me of a vulture, waiting to see which cow from the herd would go down first. To anyone less studied in kusoma people, he would look like a normal ambivalent king. To me, it was quite clear he was a schemer.
However, my attention was focused on the woman to Queen Renee's right. She was shorter than the Queen. Her skin was pale white - like fine china au porcelain. It was luminous and bright. Her thick mahogany curls were pulled out of her face kwa small silver clips. Her deep blue dress was sleeveless and fell to a full skirt. The skirt, upindo was shot through with silver veins. It was her eyes, though, that caught my attention. They were brown and deep enough to drown in, even from a distance. They spoke of secrets that even I couldn't decipher. A light red stain colored her checks as she stood awkwardly inayofuata to her mother. She clearly didn't like being the center of attention, that much I could tell. I could also tell that she was completely beautiful. The blue of her dress set off her pale skin, and her dark hair was like a halo around her face. I was unable to take my eyes off of her.
Cynthia must have noticed my gaze, because she leaned over to me and whispered, "The woman in the blue dress, that's Princess Bella." I could have guessed as much. Really, someone that beautiful had to be a princess, if not an angel.
I was vaguely aware of King Phillip calling for muziki and sweeping Queen Renee into a waltz. At the same moment, a tall, handsome man in a red uniform stepped up to the princess's side. I had seen him and quite a few others walk in behind the royal family. He spoke to her quietly for a moment before guiding her to the middle of the dance floor and sweeping her into his arms.
I shivered uncontrollably, not because I was cold. I felt uncomfortably hot in this suit. I shivered because I was jealous. I was furious at that little spec of a man who was dancing with the women how had completely captured my attention. I wanted to do that. I should be doing that. Whoa, were had that come from? I thought, shocking myself out of my daze.
I needed a drink. Tearing my eyes away from the dancing couple, I saw that most of the crowd had broken up. Those with partners had been pulled onto the dance floor, and everyone else was mingling around the edges in groups. Leaving Emmett to his own devices, I headed to the black glass ukuta and back to the bar. Ordering another bourbon, I leaned against the counter and tried to catch my suddenly uneven breath. I couldn't believe I had let one beautiful woman get to me like that. I didn't even know her, and she was so far out of my league that I shouldn't even be able to see her. Something about those deep, chocolate-brown eyes had captured my attention. They seemed to hold secrets unnumbered, even I couldn't read them. I couldn't think about anything else, but the dark-haired angel.
Sipping my bourbon, I tried to clear my mind. I did better than I thought I would; I managed to banish Princess Bella, who didn't even know I existed, kwa focusing on my surroundings and my surroundings only. I noted the dark amber color of my drink, the cream tiles of the floor, and the colorful paintings on the ceiling. When I was sure I had regained my self-control, I finished my glass of liquid courage and headed back out into the crowd, aiming to find Emmett. It would seem fate was out to get me as the person who was calling my name was not Emmett.
"Edward!" King Phillip called when he saw me trying to squeeze past. Of course, I had no choice but to acknowledge his call. He was a king after all. "Edward, I trust you're enjoying yourself?" he asked as I approached.
"Greatly, sir," I said, though I was anything but enjoying myself. It was actually turning out to be worse than I had ever thought it would be.
"Good, good." He laughed. "Come, there is someone I want wewe to meet."
He led me through the throng to one of the sidewalls, and right into the last place I wanted to be. "Isabella, this is Edward Cullen, the pianist wewe were asking about. Edward, I'd like wewe to meet my step-daughter, Isabella."
Her eyes were even zaidi hypnotic up close. They swam with such deep emotion, the chanzo of which I did not know. They were so deep that I knew the chanzo of all the emotion had to be in there somewhere. "Call me, Bella, please." Her voice was light and strong and sent shivers up my spine. I also saw her eyes flash up at King Phillip's for a moment and she didn't look happy. I wondered why.
"It's a pleasure to meet you," I said, trying not to get Lost in her eyes. She blushed for some reason and ducked her head, the rose tint staining her checks. I rather liked it.
"I was sorry to hear that I missed your performance yesterday." She still wouldn't raise her head. "I do upendo the piano, though."
"Do wewe play?"
"Oh, no." She looked up at me finally and laughed. "I tried once. I just couldn't grasp it."
Her laugh had made me want to jump out of my skin. It was like sleigh bells au wind chimes. It was beautiful, just like everything else about her. I hadn't noticed that the king had left, au that we were surrounded kwa hundreds of people, au that we were unconsciously leaning toward each other. My world had narrowed down to only the woman in front of me. "Well, maybe wewe just need a better teacher," I said, thoughtfully.
"Are wewe a good teacher?" she asked, her gaze never leaving my eyes. I swallowed a lump in my throat.
"I can be," I stuttered.
"Bella!" The sharp female voice cut through the fog, and Princess Bella and I jumped apart. She stumbled, but managed to stay upright kwa some miracle. I had to lock my limbs in place to keep from reaching out and grabbing her. "What, Rose?" she asked the blonde who had called her.
"Can I talk to wewe for a moment?" Rose, asked, her voice still sharp. She looked a little harried.
"Um, sure," Bella told her before turning back to me. "Save a dance for me later?"
"Of course, My Lady," I told her, glad to have an excuse to see her again. She smiled and disappeared with her friend, leaving me staggering under the weight of what had just happened.
I had a sinking feeling, as I made my way back to the bar. The prediction I had made earlier, about falling for someone I could never have, was coming true right before my eyes. I was unconditionally and irrevocably screwed, because it would seem I was falling rather quickly for the Princess.
Chapter End Notes:
YAY, they've met! At least for a moment. What did ya think? Drop me a line and let me a line and let me know. wewe could also go over to @EveryDayBella89 on Twitter talk to me their to.
Next, I think we need to see what Bella thinks about all of this. BYE!