Improvisation No. 29 (The Swan)

Vasily Kandinsky

I ran from the train station to my house, as if somehow rushing would make his phone call come sooner. As soon as I had my front door closed behind me, I reached for my phone. No calls, no texts. I made sure the ringer was turned on and poured myself a glass of wine before heading upstairs, wine in one hand and iPhone in the other. I washed my make-up off my face and changed into flannel pajama pants and a tank top. I wondered why he hadn’t called. My mind raced through several scenarios before I realized I that my OCD was starting to rival that of Alice.

I flung myself onto my bed and settled myself in for the night. I was about to turn off the lamp beside my bed when my phone produced a single beep–a text message from Edward.

Are you still awake?

I decided to have a little fun with him.

Are you?

No more than ten seconds after I pressed send, my phone rang.

I answered on the first ring. “Hello?”

“Is this your usual Friday night routine? Art Museum in the afternoon, home before midnight?” Though his voice was as beautiful as ever, there was no denying he was nervous.

“I think it’s safe to say that nothing about today has been usual. Though, I am curious. How did you know it was me?”

“I called you, Ms. Swan.”

“No, I mean earlier when I sent you a text. I didn’t sign it. You didn’t have my number. How did you know it was me?”

He paused just long enough for me to know he thought before he spoke. “You have a Philadelphia area code.”

“So do two million other people. Besides, I live in Jersey now.”

“Fine, then. No one else besides my parents has my number.” He paused. “Even so, I knew this time you’d contact me. I just wasn’t sure when. Actually, I thought it would take you much longer. I was prepared for you to make me wait.” He let out a small, nervous laugh.

I couldn’t help but ask. “And would you have?”

“I would wait for you.” All traces of humor were¬† gone from his voice. “I would wait forever.”


Why did I think a phone call would be more appropriate than piano lessons? It removed the possibility of physical misconduct, yes, but now there were no false pretenses. At least piano lessons permitted the music ruse. There was no way I could delude myself into believing this phone call was anything other than exactly what it was.

He had feelings for me.

Though everything about him–his age, his complete lack of experience, his social awkwardness with his peers–would point to it being nothing more than a teenage crush on the first member of the opposite sex to show him the slightest bit of kindness, I somehow knew better and I didn’t want to trivialize him. He was young, yes, but something told me he had a more realistic sense of self, a better handle on who he was and what he wanted than most men twice his age. He desired me but did not wish to pressure me. It would be wrong, immoral even, to encourage him, yet that was exactly what I found myself wanting to do.

I was terrified.

“I’ve made you uncomfortable again.”

“No, you haven’t,” I lied.

“Don’t patronize me with dishonesty.”

He was right. He deserved better than that from me.

I sighed. “Yes, I am a bit uncomfortable with this.”

“Then may I ask you one question before saying goodnight?” He took my silence as assent. “I have a feeling that that first night at the Art Museum, under any other circumstances…if I were anyone else… our evening would have ended much differently. Am I correct?”

Though I could not have found my voice at that moment if I’d wanted to, I was fairly certain it would be best not to speak.

“It’s okay, Ms. Swan. You don’t have to answer. I think I already know, and I shouldn’t keep you any longer. Good night.”

I sat there unmoving with my phone in my hand for several minutes before placing it on my night stand and shutting off my lamp. I was in more trouble than I would have thought possible–this thing between Edward and me was mutual.

The rest of the weekend went by without incident, as did the several that followed. Saturdays were always filled with errands and obligations, and on Sundays I was Bridezilla’s bitch. As obnoxious as she was being, I found myself feeling somewhat grateful that Alice’s wedding planning was taking up so much of my time. By the time I fell into my bed each night, I was emotionally and physically spent. And though every spare moment I had was filled with thoughts of Edward, thankfully I did not have many of them.

April and May flew by, a whirlwind of dress fittings, food tastings, and work obligations. I bought an old, art deco dining room set off Craigslist. I loved cooking way too much not to have a place to sit down and eat properly. I furnished one of the spare bedrooms with a flat-screen television on the wall, a pull-out couch, and my books. My living room remained empty, except for the piano. For some bizarre reason, I found myself enamored of the idea that the first floor of my home was completely void of any modern furnishings. I offered my guests food, wine, and conversation. When my friends came over, we concentrated on each other’s company rather than a movie or a television show.

I also found myself growing closer to Emmett’s girlfriend, Rose. Since Emmett was slated to be Jasper’s best man, Alice had asked Rose if she would be a bridesmaid. Rose agreed, but made it clear that she was not signing up to be part of Alice’s wedding planning entourage. Despite her reticence to “encourage the insanity”, as she put it, she always made herself available to me for bridezilla-free bonding.

One night, Rose and I found ourselves at a Cuban BYOB a few blocks away from my house. Rose and Emmett also lived in South Jersey, renting the guest cottage of an enormous Victorian home located in the town in which I taught. We poured ourselves some sangria and snacked on some plantain frites while we waited for our entrees. The better I got to know Rose, the more I liked her. Besides looking remarkably like the gorgeous blonde on Gossip Girl, she was funny as hell, incredibly smart, and fiercely independent.

I fumbled with the stem of my wine glass. “So, tell me about you and the big guy.”

“Emmett?” she asked. “Well, we’ve been together for about a year now. It’s good. What about you? Alice made it sound like you swap out men the way she swaps out lip gloss.”

“That’s kind of an exaggeration.”

“Maybe,” she said. “The way she talks, though, your conquests are legendary. Meanwhile, I haven’t seen you so much as look at a guy in the four months I’ve known you.”

“I’ve been busy, you know. Settling into a new routine, setting up my house, being Alice’s bitch.”

She laughed.

“Seriously,¬† she takes up so much of my time with wedding crap, I haven’t three hours in a row to spare to find a guy and fuck him.”

“Three hours, huh?”

“Well, I need half an hour to meet a guy and invite him home with me. Even I don’t work faster than that.” I winked suggestively.

“That’s all it is, huh? Cockblocked by Bridezilla?”

“What else would it be?” I’d been careful not to mention Edward to any of my friends since the night I met him.

“Well, we all grow up sooner or later. Priorities change.” She shrugged. “Believe me, I would know.”

“Would you now?”

Now this was fun. Alice was my polar opposite when it came to men. She’d had exactly one sexual partner, and she was about to marry him. I’d never had a girlfriend with whom I could dish about sex and dating.

“Let me preface this by saying that since meeting Emmett, I’ve only wanted him,” she clarified.

“Of course.”

“Before that, I so had you beat,” she boasted. “I could scope out a guy, make my move, and be headed off somewhere to get busy in fifteen minutes.”

I laughed so hard sangria came out of my nose.

“Seriously, do you know what law school is like? It’s not like you have any free time,” she justified.

“Did meeting Emmett change that?”

“Kind of. I’d been thinking for a while that I was ready to have more than flings. And then when I met Emmett, five minutes into flirting shamelessly I realized I didn’t just want him for the evening. I wanted him for good. I still brought him home with me that night. I just didn’t kick him out an hour and a half later. It was tricky, at first. I’d had no experience doing the relationship thing. He is still in school, and I am very focused on my career. I’m older than he is, and we’re in different places. It’s a balancing act, but it’s been worth it.”

“Do you work very long hours?” I asked.

“You have no idea. I never expected it would be like this. I thought when I finished school at the top of my class, I’d be home free. I didn’t realize I’d still need to constantly prove myself.”

“And now you have Alice to deal with on top of everything else.” I was only partially kidding.

“Shit, Bella.” She downed another gulp of sangria. “That chick will be the death of me. Maybe I lack the girl gene or something, I don’t know. But I’m having a hard time relating to this whole wedding-of-the-decade thing. Last week she called me and I was in a meeting. She told my assistant it was an emergency. Alice sounded frantic so she put her through. Want to know what the emergency was? Slip-covers. The slip-covers she ordered for the reception were a slightly different fabric content than the table cloths. She wanted to know if I thought anyone would notice.”

“That’s Alice.”

“That’s psychotic.”

“I know. I just remind myself she’d do it for me, and that this whole thing will be over in a few months and we’ll be back to normal. Or, normal for Alice, anyway.”

“She wants me to come to the menu tasting Monday. Not going to happen. I have a deposition.”

“She’ll be pissed,” I warned.

“Oh, just wait.” Rose smiled devilishly, and I knew she was up to no good.

The following Monday, Alice paced the floor at the caterer’s.

“Where the hell is she? She knows how important this is.” Alice huffed as the caterer placed a plate of hors d’oeuvres in front of her. Alice tasted one and was immediately distracted. “Bella, you should try one of these. My mother says these mushroom are a very big deal.”

The door opened and in breezed a very pretty black-haired woman who appeared to be a few years older than we were. She was wearing a gray suit and seemed as if she was on a mission.

“Sorry I’m late.” She sat down and threw a mushroom into her mouth. “No. This is all wrong. Excuse me!” She snapped her fingers and gestured the caterer over. “I’m not sure what kind of operation you are running here, but I believe Alice here requested matsutake mushrooms. You can’t coat any old fungus in sauce and pretend it doesn’t make a difference. Don’t even think of pulling this at the wedding.”

Alice and I looked at each other in shock.

“And you are?” I asked the stranger in front of us.

“Leah, Rose’s assistant. She couldn’t make it today and sent me in her place.” Leah picked at the appetizer tray, trying one of each. “The rest of these are fine. Personally, I think the bruschetta is too salty, but you may disagree.”

“Wait, let me get this straight,” Alice wailed. “Rose sent her secretary? That’s it. Her new bridesmaid dress will be Pepto Bismol pink. I’m putting a bow on her ass and keying her BMW. I can’t believe she would just blow me off like this.”

“She didn’t blow you off.” I was trying hard not to laugh. “She delegated. By the looks of it, she did a damn good job. Leah, how do you know so much about food?”

“I went to culinary school,” she informed us. “Still pissed, Alice? Because I can leave.”

“No!” Alice insisted. “Stay. Besides, I think I’m starting like you more than I like Rose anyway. Have any plans for the last weekend in September? I may be down a bridesmaid.”

Leah laughed, gave Alice several bits of useful information, and offered to accompany her on any additional food related missions. It turned out Rose was even smarter than I’d thought she was.

I found myself thinking a bit more about what Rose had said regarding changing priorities. I realized I hadn’t had sex since right before I met Edward. That had to be just a coincidence. Besides, I hadn’t been entertaining fantasies about having a relationship him. He was a kid, despite the fact that when I was with him, it was very easy to forget that.

I hadn’t heard from Edward since that night he called me in March. Once in a while I would catch a glimpse of him in a corridor at school, lost in the sea of students. He was just as striking as ever, but looking less boyish each time I saw him. It came as a complete surprise when he sent me a text message one afternoon in early June. I had just arrived home from teaching, after being caught in a thunderstorm. The sun broke through the clouds, but only after I had been thoroughly soaked from the rain.

Are you home?

Strange question, after all this time, but I decided to humor him. I immediately responded that I was.

Go outside and look toward the city.

Still dripping wet, I went back outside and walked out to the sidewalk. I faced west and looked toward the sky. It was breathtaking. There was a rainbow over the roofs of the homes across the street from me. Wondering if there was more to see, I walked to end of my block from where I could see the Philadelphia skyline. There I saw it–a complete, perfect arch. I watched transfixed until it faded from view, still dripping wet from the downpour. I slowly returned home to find another message waiting for me.

Brilliant, isn’t it? I thought of you when I saw it.

I responded, knowing that although I would regret what I was about to say to Edward, I would regret not saying it far more.

I miss you.

Five minutes later I received a reply:

I miss you, too.

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7 Responses

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  1. on 28 Sep 2010 at 8:39 pmlisa89

    Seriously. Your Edward owns my heart. “I would wait forever for you?” brb dying.


  2. on 24 Oct 2010 at 10:44 amWendy Ross

    Hello Sleepy V!
    This fic is so sumptuous and is one of the best written fics I have read. I got to fan fic so late comparatively- my dad had cancer in a Seattle hospital and I found these four black books that were the ultimate distraction. After my dad died, I went inside- I was searching for something- more. And then I found fan fic. Some are so badly written. I have been listening to back episodes of fic podcasts and listened to your interview on Twigasm. I knew I had to find you and AA5! Now I have to continue reading… I am loving this distraction from RL- please keep it up for the next couple of weeks till I finish it!!
    MWAH- W.


  3. on 11 Nov 2010 at 8:33 amKeeWit

    I LOVE the Kandinsky painting! Normally, I’m not a fan.


  4. on 25 Nov 2010 at 12:41 pmBooksgalore/Bookishqua

    I LOVE Leah. Hilarious.


  5. on 28 Dec 2010 at 1:23 pmFancastride

    Did Rose say she is older then Emmett?


  6. on 03 Jan 2011 at 8:33 pmSea4Me

    So nicely done…can’t stay away!


  7. on 23 Feb 2011 at 5:41 pmsnowish

    Oh my.

    I can’t believe I haven’t read this before now. I will not be able to rest until I have consumed it whole. The writing is lush, the characters breathe, and I am hooked.

    I wish I could write like this. I’ve tried my hand at fanfic, but it never comes off so effortlessly.