Sunday, March 1, 2015 | By: Drotuno

Man Behind the Mask Chapter 3 & Pics

Chapter 3 – Gilded Cage
Living on a lighted stage
Approaches the unreal
For those who think and feel
In touch with some reality
Beyond the gilded cage

Cast in this unlikely role
Ill-equipped to act
With insufficient tact
One must put up barriers
To keep oneself intact
“Limelight” - Rush
Charlie’s Pub looked completely different by the light of day. I pulled my car up to the curb and turned off the engine. My eyes took in the neon signs, the darkened windows, and finally the steps in the alleyway that led up to Bella’s place.
Suddenly, I realized that she may not even rent to me. Truly, I came with a lot of baggage. It was quite possible that Bella’s quiet life was about to be invaded by my crazy one. Frowning down at my hands, I wasn’t sure that was fair of me to do to her.
However, it was the selfish side of me that had me stepping out onto the sidewalk, setting my car alarm. The cold wind of fall that was turning into winter hit my face hard, so I pulled my wool cap tighter down onto my head before reaching for the door of the bar.
Warmth and music rushed out at me, but the smell inside was the same as the night before – beer, wood, and some sort of cleaner.
“Hoshit,” a girl with bright-red hair breathed, dropping the mop in her hand to the floor. “You’re…You… Do you know who you are?!” she squeaked, her finger pointing my way as her mouth hung open.
“Sometimes,” I said with a chuckle.
“You’re Masen! Oh my damn… I love you… I mean your shit… I mean…music.
Finally, I laughed out loud. “Um…thanks?”
“Can I? I mean, may I?” she asked, holding up her phone.
I was used to it, and I had to admit her flustered rambling was amusing. “Yeah, sure.”
She set her phone to the camera, lining us up in the screen. She wasn’t all that short, but her hands were shaking all to hell.
“Here, let me,” I told her, taking it from her and clicking the picture.
“Thank you,” she whispered, eyeing the picture. “Um, I’m Tori. And I’ve completely forgotten that I work here. What can I get you?”
Grinning, I was just about to ask for Bella when another voice hissed a curse, only this time, it was a younger boy. He had to be in his late teens, with product-filled hair and a Radiant Eclipse T-shirt on above his jeans.
“Fuck me runnin’,” he muttered, and I shook my head. “Masen…”
I shot him a wave, pointing to his shirt. “Nice shirt…”
“Dude, you’re…the fucking shit!” he gushed, walking to me.
“Michael Newton, you’ll stop right there,” I heard from behind the bar, and I grinned at the voice that had invaded my dreams the night before.
“Yeah, but…B!” he argued, pointing my way before rounding on Bella. “It’s Masen! You know, from Radiant Eclipse.”
“Yes, but he doesn’t need you all up in his face. And you have homework, mister,” she said, raising an eyebrow. “Go, scoot! Mom will be here soon to pick you up.”
“But Tori got a selfie!”
Chuckling at Bella’s eye roll and glare to her server, I waved it away and asked for Michael’s phone. “Bella, it’s fine.”
She snorted but waited until the boy snapped the picture before pushing him toward the back. “And Masen doesn’t need to suddenly be surrounded by fans and press, so keep that phone in your pocket, both of you.” She gave them each a pointed look as Michael nodded and gave me one last look before he disappeared into the back.
“Wait, you know him?” Tori asked, gaping at her boss.
“I was in last night,” I explained. “Bella was nice enough to stay open for me.”
“And you didn’t say anything? What good are you!?”
“Good enough to leave the ice bucket by the machine. Get to scooping, sunshine,” Bella countered without batting an eye.
“Oh, we are so gonna talk about this,” Tori muttered, pushing her way into the kitchen.
Bella snorted but looked to me with a curious expression on her pretty face. “I didn’t expect you back so soon. You have more woeful tales for me? Should I pour the beer?”
Grinning, I shook my head. “Not today. I’ll take a soda, though.”
“Fair enough, Masen.” Her voice was calm and soothing, just as I’d remembered it, as she filled a glass for me, and I took my same stool from the previous night.
“Please call me Edward…”
Her cheeks tinged a little pink, but she nodded. “Edward it is. Now what brings you in here…not even twenty-four hours later? Are there photographers outside again?” she asked, narrowing her eyes at me.
“No,” I said with a laugh, looking down at my drink before meeting those dark-brown eyes. “I need…” I glanced over at the sign that was still up in the window and pointed to it. “Is that apartment still available?”
Her eyebrows shot up, but she nodded slowly. “Yeah…” She dragged the word out but looked confused. “Why?”
“I need a place of my own. I just…this is kinda close to most everything I need…”
Bella laughed, shaking her head. “This is for you?” she asked.
“Yes?” I answered warily.
“Oh, hmm,” she hummed, her brow wrinkling a little. “Edward, you know it’s just a basic loft-style apartment. Nothing fancy or…”
“Do I look fancy?” I interrupted, tugging off my wool cap and raking a hand through the mess of my hair. I then gestured to my faded hoodie, wrinkled T-shirt, and worn-out jeans. The most expensive thing on me was my boots, but Docs were worth the money. Her giggle made me smile. “Can I at least look at it?” When she hesitated, I fidgeted. “Unless…you don’t… Look, the paps the other night. It won’t always be that way…just until the shit settles down from…”
Her warm hand settled over mine, which made me stop talking. “C’mon, Edward. I’ll show you the place…” She waited patiently as I drained the last of the soda she’d poured for me and then led me through the back again. “We’ll have to stop at my place for the key.”
We turned to the left out the back door of the bar, taking the steps up two flights. Stopping in front of the door she’d gone in last night, she looked back at me before opening it. The apartment was an open plan but definitely decorated by a woman, with soft colors, even softer materials, and areas defined by bookcases and low walls.
Michael gaped from the kitchen table. “B?”
“Homework, Mike. Not kidding,” she reiterated. “And when Mom gets here, let me know. I’ll be upstairs in the empty apartment.”
He looked like he had a million questions on his tongue, though a deviant smile crossed his face, which made Bella roll her eyes. She walked to an office set up in the far corner of the apartment, pulling open a drawer with a manila envelope.
When she led me back out the door, Mike called out, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”
I grinned but glanced over at Bella, whose eyes narrowed dangerously again, but her snark back was hilarious. “That doesn’t leave much, Virgin Mary.”
“Oh, not cool, B. Not cool at all!”
She smirked my way when I laughed. “Little brother?” I asked, remembering the ways I’d tortured Emmett our whole lives as the obnoxious younger sibling.
“Yeah,” she sighed, but she was still wearing a small smile. “Well, half-brother. My mother was young when she had me, and she’ll tell you dumb, too, just simply because she got wrapped up in my dad’s world. He loved her, but that wasn’t enough for her. She got married not long after they broke up for the millionth time. Mike’s dad was the polar opposite of my dad – banker, boring, stable – which is what she wanted, I guess. Mike came along when I was seven. He’s a good kid, smart, and he got wrapped up in the divorce when his dad went through a mid-life crisis. However, Mike’s dad got really sick and passed away before the divorce was final. By then, I’d moved out of my mother’s home and started college, and Mike stayed with me a lot. He was about eleven when it all went down.
“My mother remarried again, and this time, it was a younger guy. Phil treats her really well, but he and Mike are like oil and water. So he comes here after school.” She sighed, shaking her head as we reached the door of the top apartment. “He listens to me, and I can get him to focus on school, rather than fighting my mother over his extracurricular activities.” She grinned up at me. “My dad loved Mike. Occasionally he’d come with me on visits, even though he wasn’t blood related. And Mike…well, he fell in love with music. Drums, specifically. And my mother hates it. Personally, I think he’s good, so I let him practice down in the bar before we open.”
“What’s he play?”
“Your stuff, mainly, though he likes just about anything rock or metal. I pay for his lessons, just to piss my mother off.”
I laughed, shaking my head. “Your mom sounds like my parents. They didn’t want me to pursue music – well, not my kind, anyway. They’d have been happy if I was playing piano in a monkey-suit in front of a bunch of stuffy people.”
Bella simply shook her head with a smile and opened the door. “This is it.” Her voice was soft, but she flipped on a light switch, only to step fully into the place. “The electric is included in the rent, along with water and trash. It’s partially furnished, but I could take out whatever you don’t want.” She snorted, shrugging a shoulder. “Really, I just store some things in here ’cause it’s easier than moving them down three flights of stairs.”
Nodding, I walked around the place. It was just like she’d said – an open loft, almost industrial. There was a wall of brick on the right side, the kitchen was open and simple, and there was a bathroom in the far corner. Partially furnished meant a table and chairs in the kitchen, a couple of sofas in the middle, and an old upright piano tucked away in the corner by the brick wall.
The far side of the room was all windows, letting in natural light – as much light as a cold, overcast day in Seattle would allow in. The view was of the street, and I could see my car down below.
“I can take the piano out if you want,” she muttered, pointing to it. “Honestly, I don’t know how my dad got it up here.”
Chuckling, I shook my head. “Wait, this was your dad’s place?”
“Yeah,” she sighed, smiling warmly as she nodded a little. “I grew up here, but when I was accepted into college, he gave me the floor below to get away from Mom in order to have privacy to study. When he died, the whole place became mine.” She wrinkled her nose, looking around. “I told you it wasn’t much…”
Frowning, I shook my head at her. “It’s kinda fucking perfect,” I said softly, but her facial expression seemed to scream that she was uncomfortable. “Do I make you nervous asking about this, Bella?”
She shook her head. “No, I just… M-Mase… Edward, you could live anywhere… Why here?”
I gestured toward the kitchen table, and we sat down. I wasn’t sure I could explain this in a way that didn’t make me sound like a loser or an asshole. Shoving my sleeves up, I rested my elbows in front of me.
“I, um…I’m living in a hotel, Bella. I was born and raised in Seattle, but I’m staying at the hotel right around the corner. That’s not for…any reason other than I lost my place to live when I went to rehab. If I left it up to my manager, who also happens to be my sister-in-law, she’d have me living with her and my brother…or somewhere expensive, where my neighbors would eyeball me like a fucking criminal, despite my career and bank account. I can’t live with my parents; that’ll never fucking happen again.” I sighed, yanking off my wool cap and gripping my hair. “I need a place of my own. Radiant Eclipse is about to start recording a new album, and the studio is only a few blocks over. I hate people – the media and the fans – knowing where I am, simply because…I have to act a certain way in front of them. I need a place that’s private, that’s hidden away, a place I can write music and decompress. I need a place I can be me.”
“And it’ll be just you on the lease?”
My brow wrinkled at that question, and for a moment, I wondered if that was her subtle way of asking me if I was single. Again, I couldn’t blame her for being nervous, because what people knew about me was pretty much all lies.
“Just me. Promise.” I sighed wearily, rubbing my face. “Bella, I’m…not what you see on TV. Masen is kind of an asshole, but it works on the stage. It keeps things…interesting, and it keeps the record label happy. Edward, on the other hand, is fucking boring.”
That made her smile a little. “I doubt that, Edward.”
“I’m not kidding. I don’t throw parties, I don’t have friends over at all hours, and if I do, it’s because we’re writing…and usually, that’s just me and Jasper. Personally, the only thing I’m doing late at night is eating a bowl of cereal and watching reruns on TV.” I shook my head at how sad that sounded. “I really like this place, Bella. It’s open and off the beaten path. I’m close to my new favorite bartender.”
She snorted, rolling her eyes, but her cheeks blushed a little at my silly smile. She toyed with the manila envelope on the table, and I covered her hand with mine.
“Bella, ask me anything, and I’ll answer as best I can. I want you okay with this, and if by the time I answer your questions, you’re still not okay…then I’ll move on to someplace else.”
She took a deep breath. “Okay, then…rehab. Did you really go?”
“I did. I was in for a month,” I told her honestly, though there was way more to the story than that.
“And you lost your place because of it?”
Chuckling humorlessly, I nodded. “It’s not a secret that I was dating Heidi Summers and we’d been together for a year. We met on the set of one of our videos, which she was in, and we started dating. She’s an actress and model, and she liked being seen when we were out. But I toured…a lot. And so we got a place together, and even though I was gone for quite a bit, at least I had a place to come home to.” I shook my head slowly. “There was a car accident,” I continued, wishing I could elaborate. “I was taken in on a DUI, and when the judge ordered rehab, Heidi was…embarrassed, telling my manager, Rose, that she needed to get my shit out of her place. That I was going to ruin her career.”
“Wait… She didn’t even break up to your face?!”
Laughing, I said, “No.”
“That must’ve hurt.”
“Not as much as you’d think. Though, I had suspicions that she was cheating with her co-star…the one she’s with now.”
“Did you?”
“Cheat!?” I gasped, and she nodded. “God, no. I was too damn busy, and I thought we were cool, but apparently…no.”
Bella frowned at that, muttering something about stupid women, which made me chuckle.
“Heidi’s all about Heidi, Bella. That’s on her. And honestly, she was a bear to live with – moody and shallow and whiny. Feel free to tell everyone that about her…”
I smiled at Bella’s giggle, and I suddenly had the urge to tell her that Heidi didn’t have anything on Bella. Surgery and makeup only went so far, but Bella was gorgeous, and it was natural and perfect. I shook my head at that train of thought, simply because the poor thing was still nervous and I didn’t want to make it worse by flirting, though I was sad to say the flirty shit we’d been doing the night before was gone since I’d asked about the apartment.
“And the DUI?”
“What about it?”
“Are you… Is it a problem?” she asked, tilting that gorgeous head at me. “I know addicts, Edward, and you don’t seem…”
“It’s a long story, one not many people know. Well, they don’t know the whole thing, anyway. There was a car accident, and alcohol was involved, not to mention a kid ended up in the hospital.” I sighed, wishing like hell I could tell her the whole thing, but it wasn’t all about me, unfortunately. There were people I had to protect. “I was lucky to have the means to hire a decent attorney – or the record company did, really. They were able to take care of the kid’s hospital bills, and my…celebrity status bought me leniency. If I went away to rehab, I was able to keep my driver’s license, and the only stipulation was that I attend AA meetings a few times a month for six months and pay all the costs of the hospital, courts, and insurance deductibles.”
“And the child?”
“Fine. Perfect, actually. Bree is ten, and she had a concussion, a broken arm, and some scratches from the glass. And she’s a huge fan of Radiant Eclipse.” I grinned at Bella’s chuckle. “She is. She’s got a big crush on Jasper and me. We brought her to the show last night…and I’ll probably do it again when we have another one here.”
“Your shows aren’t exactly…for ten-year-olds.”
Chuckling, I shrugged. “That’s true, but we kept it down a bit last night…until she left. She didn’t stay for the whole thing. You’ve been?”
Bella smiled and nodded, but she hesitated again. “I took Mike to a few shows. You’re very…animated.”
“But I’m not an addict, Bella,” I reiterated. “You’re right about that, and I wish I could tell you the whole thing, but it’s not just about me. If you need references, I’ll hand you my phone. I’ll pay first, last, and every month’s rent in between for that whole year’s lease, but I’m tired of that hotel. Yes, I could let people do this shit for me, and I’d end up in some snobby place, but I don’t like it when Rose does this stuff for me; I’m not a child, even though she means well. She’d tell you it’s her job, but still…” Sighing deeply, I shrugged a shoulder. “You don’t really know me, so if the answer’s no, I understand. Just tell me I can still come grab a beer every once in a while.”
She smiled, opening the envelope, but glanced up when there was a knock on the door. We both turned to see Mike there, backpack on his shoulder, but there was a woman behind him that had to have been Bella’s mother. They shared some of the same features, except the eyes. Bella had her father’s eyes. Her mother, however, looked cold, a little standoffish.
“B, I’m out. I’ll see you tomorrow,” Mike said, but he walked to me. “It was badass meeting you, Masen.”
Smiling, I giving him a fist bump. “You, too.”
“Masen, this is our mom, Renee Dwyer,” he introduced me to the woman that was eyeing my ink-covered arms and hands with disdain. “Mom, this is the lead singer from Radiant Eclipse.”
“Nice to meet you,” I greeted, and her handshake was limp and cold, which made me smile.
“I’ve seen you on TV.” She sniffed, waving a hand. “How do you know Isabella and Michael?” she asked, but before I could answer, Bella piped up, her voice much more stern than I expected.
“He’s just about to lease this apartment, Mom, and I need to get the paperwork done.”
Renee’s eyes landed back on me. “Things not going so well with your…job?”
“I… Well, no…things are fine. This place is perfect.”
“Actually, Mom, that’s a rude question,” Bella stated, not bothering to look up from the paperwork on the table. “His financial status is none of your concern.”
“Well, I’m simply looking out for you, dear. Don’t want you to rent to someone who can’t pay you in a month or two. You know how musicians are.”
Mike laughed, like doubled over and red-faced. “Mom, Masen could buy this whole building like forty times over…and that’s just from the last album. I’m thinking paying Bella’s rent isn’t a problem.”
Smirking, I shook my head but turned to Bella, who was watching her mother carefully. She looked pissed, but she looked embarrassed, too. In fact, she met my gaze, mouthing, “Sorry.”
Grinning, I shrugged, shooting her a wink and turning back to Renee. “I assure you I can pay the rent. Plus, it’s actually an honor to be living in Chainsaw Charlie’s place. I’m a huge fan of his work. Maybe it’ll help with our new album.”
Bella let out a small giggle behind me, but Renee’s face was priceless – sour and bitter.
“Hmm, indeed,” she mumbled, turning to Mike, who was eating this shit up. “Come along, Michael. We need to get home. Isabella, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Bella replied softly, looking up to her brother when he approached the table. “Not a word, Mike. Respect his privacy,” she said softly to him. “And tell Tori on your way out.”
“Yeah, yeah…got it.” Mike quickly kissed his sister’s cheek, whispering in her ear before giving me another fist bump on the way by. “Welcome to the neighborhood. See ya ’round, Masen.”
“Later, Mike.”
The door closed behind them, and I again faced Bella, who had stood up from the table.
“You just assured yourself a spot on her shit list.”
Grinning, I shrugged. “Her shit list I can handle. I’m used to reactions like hers. Your shit list, though… Different story.”
She laughed, tapping the table top. “Sit down and sign this lease, Edward.”
I gaped at her. “Seriously?”
She nodded with a smile, and I yanked her into a hug, which caused her to squeak in surprise.
“Thank you! Oh, sorry,” I mumbled, stepping back.
I swore I heard her say, “I’m not.” But she sat down, pushing the papers my way, and her face was pink again.
“Your blush is beautiful,” I whispered without thinking, shaking my head.
“Stop pouring it on, Edward,” she teased, waving me away and tapping the papers. “The place is yours.”
“That’s not…pouring it on, Bella. It’s the truth.”
She fought her smile but mumbled a thank you. My phone vibrated across the table, and I saw it was Rose, so I grabbed it quickly.
“Hey, Rose,” I sighed into the phone, signing all the places Bella had marked.
“Just reminding you of that appointment, Edward.”
“I know, I know,” I said, looking at my watch before going back to my checkbook. “I’m about to head that way, but I’m signing a lease for an apartment.”
“Really? Where?”
“It’s right around the corner from the hotel. Right above Charlie’s Pub,” I told her. “Did you know that was Chainsaw Charlie’s place?” I asked her, smiling at Bella’s soft laugh.
“Who? Oh! The guitarist! I’ve heard you and Jasper talk about him. Well, give me your new address, and I’ll have your things moved over. Tony needs the work until the tour. When can you move in?”
“I guess I can move in anytime,” I said, looking to Bella, who was nodding as she handed me a set of keys. “I can’t get you the keys until after my appointment, Rose, so tomorrow?”
“She can come see me at the bar,” Bella offered. “I’ll hold a set if that’s what you want.”
“I heard her. Is this the bartender who saved you from the paps?” Rose asked with a laugh.
“Yes, and leave it alone, Rosalie. Her name is Bella, and she’ll have the keys for you at the bar. Tell Tony to just dump my shit in here anywhere. It’s a loft, so I’ll deal with it later, okay?”
“Fair enough. You must really like this place…or is it the girl?”
“Both.” I snorted, running a hand through my hair nervously.
“She pretty?”
“More than I can explain.”
Rose paused for a moment. “Okay, sweetie. Just leave the moving to me, including your things at the hotel, but you gotta go or you’ll be late.”
“Yes, Rose,” I groaned, ending the call and dropping my phone to the table. I met Bella’s gaze. “I can’t thank you enough, Bella. You sure you don’t mind holding a key for her?”
“No, not at all.”
“Don’t let them overwhelm you,” I sighed, shaking my head. “My brother will probably be with her. He’s head of my security, but he’s a huge, hyper teddy bear. Rose is very no-nonsense, but she’s only looking out for me – for the whole band, actually. And Tony…he’s our driver. He’s big and serious but harmless. I don’t have much, so they won’t bug you long.” I grimaced, picking up the keys she left for me. “I wish I could be here to cushion it, but…I can’t miss this meeting.”
Bella smiled, patting my shoulder. “It’s okay. I’ll handle it.”
“You’re a fucking angel for doing this.” I laughed at her snort and handed her the check I’d written.
“I’m no angel, for sure.”
Chuckling a little, I said, “Well, that’s certainly interesting to know…”
She rolled her eyes but said nothing to my tease. She then opened the check, her eyes widening. “Edward, I thought you were fucking kidding about paying for the whole year.”
“No, I wasn’t,” I stated with a shake of my head. When she tried to hand it back, I wouldn’t take it. “Look, Bella… You’re doing me a huge favor when you don’t know me, so let that be the first step to easing some of your worry, okay? Second, I’m going to be busy the next several weeks with recording, so I’ll be in and out. After that, we’ll start touring. I don’t want to worry about it. I don’t want you to worry about it, and I want the security of having a home to come back to.”
She frowned at that. “I wouldn’t do that…just kick you out.”
“Well, I hope if it comes to that, you allow me to apologize for whatever I’ve done.”
She smiled and nodded, and we left the apartment. She followed me down the steps.
“Good luck at your meeting,” she said, reaching for the back door of the bar.
“Thanks. I’ll need it,” I grumbled but then smirked. “Don’t let them drive you crazy, angel. My cell is on the lease, so call me if Emmett or Rose get outta hand.”
She giggled. “Okay.”
I waited until she went in before walking to my car and getting in. I was going to have to hurry to make it on time. Traffic wasn’t too bad on me, and I wound my way across town, pulling into a parking lot.
Sighing, I adjusted my wool cap, yanking the hood up on my sweatshirt, just to keep my face covered on my way to the door of the building. Once inside, I took off the hood and the cap. The one thing about AA meetings was the anonymity. My face may have been recognizable, but no one could say anything. The usual table of coffee and donuts stood in the back of the large reception room of the church. I grabbed a donut and a cup, stepping into the doorway. My eyes narrowed on the people milling about and then to the ones seated. I found who I was looking for, and he was sitting toward the back of the room.
I took a seat next to him. “Nice of you to make it this week…Dad.”
I gazed over at him, trying to read his mood. We couldn’t be more opposite. Dr. Carlisle Cullen had blond hair and blue eyes, whereas I got most of my features from my mother, Esme. Dad and I were both tall, though, with broad shoulders and long legs. At that moment, he seemed stoic, but I could see a touch of contrite guilt there, too.
“It’s only fair, son.”
“Fair…and I believe the stipulation I gave you.”
“That, too.” He sighed, sitting forward with a styrofoam cup in his hands, but he looked over at me. “I owe you this, Edward. I owe it to you, my wife, and Bree. I could’ve lost my medical license that night.”
“You could’ve killed that little girl that night, Dad,” I growled out through gritted teeth as I kept our conversation quiet. “You… You’re fucking lucky that my reputation covered for your ass.”
“I was lucky that you were close by.”
“Hmm,” I hummed, shaking my head. “Don’t make me regret it.”
He shook his head fervently. “You have my word, son.”
We turned our attention to the front of the room when the head of the AA meeting took the podium. I sat back in my chair to listen, but it wasn’t me who truly needed it. Instead, I thought about the man sitting next to me. Dad and I needed to talk, because we hadn’t since I’d returned from rehab. I just didn’t know if I was ready.


aelita48 said...

I like this fiction.
Thank you.
Congratulations for your first two places : the First One for the 2014 and 1st year for January 2015 ! I voted for you every day.

Eward said...

Very good

nkubie said...

I meant to say in my ffn review that I knew that Edward was covering for someone, but I didn't imagine it was his father. Edward is a good man and I have a feeling that Carlisle is too, he just made some really shitty choices. But he's incredibly lucky that he has a son that's willing to take the hit for him. Not many would, even for their own family.

Irish Charm said...

It was obvious that he was covering for someone. But I never would of guessed Carlisle. I thought maybe it was Jake and it covered for him so he could continue cairn for his dad.

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