Edward loves three things in life: His wife, his family, and his music. When the last of the three is in question, Bella cannot imagine a more superior being to exist. But when the master among pianists appears at their doorstep, Bella can only observe in awe as Edward is tutored by this grandiose, though slightly eccentric vampire. Music has never seemed so complicated before. Yet: Are musical notes really all this man weaves together, or is there something more involved? Something... Romanian?
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2. The Sayings
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"Don't forget the pace, Edward! The pace!"
The strangest piano piece I'd ever heard echoed through the almost vacant house.
"No, Edward! The tempo! You're too slow!"
Edward increased his pace by a notch, the change hardly audible.
"Not too hasty, Edward. Slow down."
Nessie and I exchanged a frustrated glance. By the look in her eyes I could tell we were both moments away from bursting into the living room to save Edward from the awful torture the professor was putting him through. They had been practicing the song for hours – and in the pianist's opinion, my husband still wasn't any closer to mastering the first twenty bars of it.
"I never said Ligeti would be easy to learn, Edward. Accelerando!"
György Ligeti's "Musica Ricercata" was certainly different from everything else Edward had ever played. Instead of the sweet, harmonious melody we usually heard from him, this piece sounded more like an earthquake rumbling in our very own living room.
The continuous tune was almost as horrible as Vladislav Gerasymenko's comments.
"No, no, no! You must work on your rhythm skills, Edward. When I return tomorrow, I expect a tremendous improvement. Please don't make me waste my time."
The music – or earthquake, actually – finally ended, and my daughter and I heard both Edward and his teacher jump to their feet.
"Naturally. I will practice, Sir."
I, too, leapt to my feet and bounded downstairs. All my instincts were pushing me forwards to protect my husband from the stranger in our hall; I almost sighed in relief when the two men came into view.
The look on Edward's face made me want to tear the professor apart right there and then. He was biting his lip down unconsciously, looking troubled and thoroughly humiliated. When I finally reached his side, I wrapped my arms around his waist and gave him a short peck on the cheek.
He needed the encouragement.
"Ah, good morning, Mrs. Cullen. I hope you can excuse my snatching your husband for these few hours."
I looked up at the despicable vampire and gave him the most polite smile I could muster, fighting the urge to growl at him instead.
"Not at all, Professor Gerasymenko. I can only be grateful for the chance you are giving my husband. It truly means a lot to him."
The sarcasm in my voice was intended. Edward shot me a warning look while I heard Nessie hold back a giggle in the bedroom upstairs.
"Indeed," the pianist answered, looking at me in a most peculiar way. When our eyes met, the smile on his face grew more pronounced.
"I'm sure it does. Good day, Mrs. Cullen. Remember to practice, Edward."
Vladislav Gerasymenko left the house without a further word, and glided gracefully over our spotless lawn to his waiting car.
I shuddered - the smile on his face was almost disturbing.
As soon as he was out of hearing range, Edward turned to me and gave me one of his annoyed looks.
"Please, Bella. That man is a genius. You need to show some more respect."
I let go of his waist and huffed. "Sure. A genius. What happened to 'Mr. Cullen', by the way?"
Edward didn’t seem to notice that my question was mostly rhetorical.
"I'm his pupil. He has no reason to call me by my surname. Besides, there are too many Mr. Cullens in this household. Calling us all the same would be confusing."
Nessie appeared on the upper staircase as he talked, and rolled her eyes at his feeble excuse. "He still found the need to call Mom 'Mrs. Cullen'. Now that wouldn't be confusing at all."
"He was just being respectful."
"And he couldn't respect you?" I fell back onto the white sofa beside the grand piano, relishing the silence that had finally replaced the awful music piece.
"He treated you like some dim-witted schoolboy."
The disheartened look reappeared on Edward’s face as he sat down opposite me. He crossed his arms in defeat.
"For him, I probably am just a dim-witted schoolboy."
Nessie groaned at his self-pity, but my heart was shattered by his dismayed spirits. I had never seen him so unsure of himself and his skills, especially when it came to music. So I crept to his side and placed my head to his chest, consoling him the best way I could.
"You were great. He really had no reason to insult you like that. Vladislav Gerasymenko is just an arrogant, malicious man who has nothing better to do in life than to bring down talented pianists."
Edward accepted my touch, but didn't agree to my words.
"Professor Gerasymenko is a little eccentric, I admit. But that's precisely why he's the best. I know his methods of teaching are… a little unusual, but that's only because he’s so passionate about what he does. All he has is his music."
I lifted my chin to look Edward straight in the eye.
"Well, you have more than just your music, don't you? You don't have to be a bitter, old man to be the best."
Nessie looked away, embarrassed by the way her father was stroking her mother's face. She knew they loved each other, but did they really need to be so obvious about it in front of their daughter?
Picking up the magazine she was reading, Nessie ran back upstairs to continue waiting for Jacob to return from his hunting trip with the rest of the Cullens. Then she could make out with him just as passionately as she knew her parents were doing downstairs at the very moment.
No, she had to think of something else before she puked.
Like Vladislav Gerasymenko – what a strange man he was. There was something about the dull gleam in his eyes that made her extremely nervous, especially when he was around her mother.
"Mrs. Cullen," she murmured, "Hmph!"
The flawless, melodramatic melody was rudely interrupted by the ringing of his phone.
Letting out a frustrated sigh, Vladislav Gerasymenko rose grudgingly from his seat in front of his pitch black piano and slithered to pick up the cell that was vibrating on his ancient coffee table.
"Vladimir, you are an expert in calling at the wrong time."
"I wonder why that is?" the low voice hissed back from the other end of the line, his Romanian accent clearly detectable, "Perhaps because the great pianist failed to contact us though he'd promised to?"
The professor laughed gravely and sat himself back on the seat in front of his cherished piano.
"Ah, my friend, there is a saying in my home country: 'Ask a lot, but take what is offered.'"
"That is most interesting," the low voice contradicted, "But I know a saying from your home country, too. 'An enemy will agree, but a friend will argue', no?"
Gerasymenko raised his voice to make it audible over the notes he was playing with his free hand. "Very good, Vladimir, very good. Do you have an answer to this one? 'A guest has not to thank the host, but the host the guest.'"
"Enough with these games, Vladislav! Stefan and I have been waiting for your report."
"There is nothing to report," the pianist answered, aggravated, to say the least. Romanians were always in a great hurry – and hurry was something Gerasymenko could not abide.
"Nothing to report? You are forgetting your duty, Vladislav. You have lost yourself in your music."
"No, Vladimir, not at all. I am lost in my music just as much as is healthy for us. But observation is a delicate affair, and delicate affairs demand time. I will report to you when I have something to report."
"You must have something."
A deafening chord made the vampire on the other end of the line jerk.
"Something is not material, Vladimir. Something is not perfection. I will not give you something in your desperation."
No answer came.
"But since you are so thirsty for something, I shall give it to you. Isabella was there, but I did not get the chance of observing her any more than the day before. Alice was gone with the rest of the family. Only the daughter was there."
His associate finally found the voice to speak and murmured something into the receiver.
The pianist smiled.
"Yes, Vladimir, the plan is flawless.
"It will be most easy to take hold of her."
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