|Love Without Prejudice
Author: CherBella PM
During the summer of 1960 in South Carolina, Edward Cullen meets and falls in love with Leah Clearwater. He is white, she is Native American. Will they be able to let their love overcome society's views? An entry for the 2010 Age of Edward contestRated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Hurt/Comfort - Edward & Leah - Chapters: 2 - Words: 14,490 - Reviews: 26 - Favs: 28 - Follows: 9 - Updated: 11-01-10 - Published: 10-03-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6372352
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Age of Edward Contest
Your pen name: CherBella
Title: Love Without Prejudice
Type of Edward: 60's Edward
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All copyright and trademarked items mentioned herein belong to their respective owners. The remaining content is all mine. No copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without my express written authorization.
Also any offensive terms used are only used to be historically accurate to the time period.
This story takes place in 1960, in segregated South Carolina
It took me a few seconds to register what was happening. A minute ago, I thought she was going to walk away; I was sure she was mad at me. Instead her soft, delicate lips were suddenly pressed against mine, her warm body leaning into mine. Thank you God.
I quickly wrapped my arms around her waist before she changed her mind. Our mouths opened, letting each others' tongues taste and tease. I walked us back a few steps so that we were leaning against the brick building.
So many times I had imagined how her lips on mine would feel and I couldn't believe we were actually, finally kissing. It felt…so amazingly better than any fantasy; I couldn't even find words to describe.
Her hands slipped up to my shoulders, then my neck. Soon her fingers were running through my hair and I had to swallow back a moan. Her touch felt so good, so electrifying and yet comforting at the same time. I started stroking my hands lightly up and down her back before our bubble burst.
I heard voices—deep, male voices—approaching. She did, as well, and quickly pulled away with a gasp, ducking her head down and turning her body away from me so that I shielded her from the street and the view of the approaching men. Together, we stood still, trying to catch our breath from our previous activities but now also out of breath from fear. I wished she would look at me, but her face was turned downward and away from me.
The voices got louder and then thankfully receded as they continued on up the street. When they finally were gone we shifted from our frozen positions. Immediately I felt ashamed. Although, yes, she had instigated the kiss, I should not have let it continue. She deserved to be kissed in a more proper and appropriate setting, not in an alley, up against a building and hidden in the shadows. And not out in public, for all the narrow minds in this town to see. She turned back around to face me and leaned her shoulders back against the building, her feet stretched out slightly in front of her bracing her body. As her face tilted up toward me, her big brown eyes looked up at me from under those beautiful lashes . . . and she smiled. My heart did a permanent flip-flop from which I knew I would never recover.
"That kiss was amazing," she whispered.
My fingertips lightly grazed her cheek. I couldn't help myself, I needed to have contact with her. "Even with…" I gestured toward the street, referring to the men that almost discovered us.
She sighed and a tinge of defeat clouded her eyes. "I suppose we shouldn't be standing out here. God forbid anyone see us kiss!" Her voice was laced with bitterness, as she glanced down.
I started to step away. "Perhaps we should go inside." Inside the club no one would judge us. Actually, scratch that—they would judge us, but at least we were allowed to be together there.
"No, wait!" She grabbed my arm and looked up at me again. "Can't we go somewhere else, somewhere we can be alone, just the two of us, without having to deal with the rest of the world?" She paused. "What about your room?"
I frowned. "It wouldn't be appropriate for us to be alone there, it's nothing more than a bedroom. And besides I'm not allowed to have female visitors."
She sighed again. "Please, Edward…"
There was such a sad, weary look in her eyes; it broke my heart. I caved in a second. All I wanted to do was make it better and see her smile again.
"Okay," I said softly. I held my hand out to take hers, and she hesitated but finally placed her hand in mine.
"Did something happen tonight, in the club? Did someone bother you?" I was thrilled she wanted to spend time alone with me, but I was concerned as to why she seemed so insistent on it.
"No, I…I just thought you weren't coming tonight. I figured you…didn't want to see me anymore. I'd borrowed this dress…and well, my friends just kept looking at me with these pathetic looks of pity on their faces as I was sitting there, alone."
She kept her head down the entire time she was speaking. I stopped walking.
"Leah, baby, I'm so sorry. Mr. Banner wanted me to tag along with him to take this deposition downtown and it lasted so much longer than I expected. I swear I kept checking my watch every five minutes, all I could think about was you and every minute I was missing seeing you. When we were done I came straight here. I'm so sorry you had to sit there alone. "
Leah had turned to face me, and I reached out and tilted her face up so that I could see her eyes. "You look so beautiful tonight, Leah."
Her mouth finally turned upward in the start of a smile and she rolled her eyes. "You said that earlier."
Checking my peripheral vision quickly to confirm that the street was still deserted, I bent down, moving my face closer to hers. "And I will keep saying it because it is true. You're always beautiful to me." I brushed my lips against hers tenderly before she broke away and looked up at me, eyes now dancing and lively again, and the brightest smile across her face.
~~ L ~~ • ~~ E ~~
The first moment I set eyes on Leah was at New Moon a bar and dance club on the edge of town. On Thursday nights the club owner allowed coloreds in to mix with the normally all-white patrons who frequented his bar. The owner seemed to be a pretty easy-going fella, and I think he wouldn't mind having mixed crowds more than just one night a week, but he knew he would lose a lot of his regular white customers. Thursday was the slowest night of the week so he wasn't out anything if it didn't go well. It definitely became popular with the coloreds so he usually had a pretty good crowd on Thursdays. Although, if a stranger walked in and looked around he would just assume it was a segregated bar. The coloreds usually still congregated together at certain groups of tables, prompting the white patrons to take over the rest of the tables and sit together themselves. But it was a start, at least, to some sort of equality, even if only a baby step.
One of the other younger guys staying at the boarding house, Mike Newton, had invited me to come out for a drink and maybe shoot some pool. The New Moon was just a few blocks down the street, so that's how we ended up there. We played one game of pool and then he started flirting with this pretty girl and I was forgotten. So I returned to our table. More people had arrived since we'd been playing pool and as I sat down I looked up and my breath was taken away. Straight ahead, two tables over, there she was—short dark hair that came to about her jaw line, dark brown eyes and honey-colored skin. She also was sitting alone, sipping a Coke. I had better manners than to stare at people, but I could not tear my eyes away from her. I watched and drank in every movement she made, every eye roll, every smile or laugh with her friends. She very obviously wasn't a Negro but all her friends were. They spent most of the evening on the dance floor but she chose to sit at the table alone.
Eventually one of her friends pointed out my unabashed staring to her. She turned to look at me and I swear my heart may have stopped right there. I felt heat in my cheeks so I knew I must have been blushing at getting caught admiring her. I smiled, and her eyes grew wide and she whirled her head back around toward her friends. I frowned. She hadn't smiled or given off any kind of positive reception to the sight of me. Apparently she didn't like what she saw…or maybe she didn't like that I was white?
All that next week I couldn't get her out of my mind, her beauty was etched in my brain.
I had to see her again.
I decided to take a chance and go back the next Thursday. Sure enough she was there with her friends. I again watched her, entranced. So much so, that when she suddenly appeared in front of me I found myself shy and tongue-tied. But boy, she sure wasn't. Her voice had a defiant tone as she asked me what my problem was and if I was planning to stare at her all night again. I still don't remember all of my answer to her, I know I apologized and I believe I may have confessed that I thought she was the prettiest girl in the club. I also managed to invite her to sit with me and quite amazingly she said yes.
We sat and talked the rest of the evening. We talked about our lives and how we had ended up here in Greenwood, South Carolina. I was actually from Chicago and was only spending the summer in Greenwood, interning at a law office, a position I got from a friend of a friend of my father's. Leah was a Native American Indian, from the Quileute tribe in Washington State. She'd ended up here in South Carolina after her father died unexpectedly. There were limited opportunities on and around their reservation and so her mom had moved she and her brother here. An old friend of her mother's lived here and together they started a business cleaning houses. Leah was also very headstrong and stubborn and she hated living here. She was used to living on her reservation where everyone looked like her and where the surrounding white community was accustomed to having the Native Americans around. She'd never really encountered the level of racism that resided here in the south and she hated it. It didn't matter how light or how dark her skin was, for most folks, it all boiled down to the simple fact that she wasn't white. Period. She was treated just as much of a second-class citizen as the Negroes.
I found everything about her to be as captivating as her beauty. She was feisty and smart and funny, thought a bit too self-deprecating at times. She sometimes had trouble believing how special she was. The last relationship she had been in had really done a number on her—they went steady all through high school and then one day after graduation he just up and broke up with her and started dating her cousin. It was bad enough to deal with the fact that someone didn't want to be with you anymore but then to have him choose someone you were related to was like a knife in the back. Personally I couldn't help but think that anyone who would willingly give her up had to be both blind and an utter fool.
As we talked that first night, several times I wanted to reach out to her, to touch her cheek or hold her hand. When I finally got brave enough to take her hand in mind, she stiffened for a moment and looked down at our hands and then up at me, but she didn't pull away. A comforting, warm, glow spread from our fingertips up my arm and throughout my whole body.
The next week she was there again, and we again sat and talked and listened to the music played on the jukebox and watched the other patrons dance. When a slow song came on and I asked her to dance, she hesitated briefly but then she simply nodded her assent. Holding her whole body in my arms, having her so close, was simply heaven. She fit against me so perfectly. I knew we were getting stares from everyone in the club, but I didn't care, we were wrapped up in our own little world. I don't think we even went back to the table that night; we just stood, leaning on each other, her head on my shoulder, me breathing in every bit of her.
So, tonight when I got to the club late and saw her outside the club, her back to me, shoulders hunched as she was walking away, my heart nearly stopped. Oh please, God don't let her be leaving. I'd been counting down the days, the hours, the minutes all week until tonight, when I could see her again. When I caught up to her and saw the hurt in her eyes, I felt horrible, realizing that I had caused her pain; that she thought I wasn't coming. I vowed to make it up to her.
~~ L ~~ • ~~ E ~~
We crept quietly in the door of the boarding house I was staying in. Mrs. Cope was thankfully passed out asleep in the living room, in front of the TV. We made it down the hallway and to my room.
Once I'd shut the door behind us Leah gave the room a quick once over, not that there was much to see. There was a double bed, a nightstand, a lamp. On the opposite side of the room was a dresser and an overstuffed chair. She made a quick tour of the room, trailing her finger along the pieces of furniture, her hips swaying back and forth, her dress swishing back and forth right along with her.
When she got to the bed she waited for a second and I held my breath too, wondering what she was thinking. It was Mrs. Cope's rules that she did not want any of her male boarders to have female companions in their rooms and besides the fact that I was breaking that rule, I felt a bit uncomfortable as well. Although it had been Leah's request to come here, I did not want her to think I had any inappropriate expectations toward her.
Leah sat down, her skirt spread out around her, and patted the bedspread next to her. The look on her face was mischievous as she smiled over at me, standing by the door. As she crooked her finger at me repeatedly I walked over slowly and sat down next to her.
"Leah, I . . . ." Before I could finish my words her soft, pliable lips were on mine, moving insistently. We kissed and explored and tasted. She gently pushed me to sit on the bed and started to unbutton my shirt. Then she totally surprised me by pushing up my undershirt.
"Lift up your arms, baby," she murmured. I swallowed hard and did as she asked. As she leaned her body into mine, I wrapped my arms loosely around her. Hesitantly I unzipped the back of her dress, enough to pull the top of her dress down, revealing more skin. I kissed the top of her shoulder gently and continued up her delicate neck. Her tawny gold skin was as smooth as satin. She stretched her neck to give me more access and hummed in satisfaction. She put her arms around me and leaned her head on my shoulder. I could feel the soft cotton of her bra against my bare chest and my heart sped up even faster. Leaning back I took her bottom lip between my lips. She let out a soft sigh and opened her mouth, inviting more of me in. She tasted so good, so sweet, I was quickly devouring her.
Our kisses grew needy and hungry. Her fingers were rubbing through my hair frantically and my heart was hammering. She moaned and called out my name and leaned further into me, pushing me down flat on the mattress. I felt her soft, curvy body on top of me as my hands trailed down her back to her waist.
My whole body was burning for this woman and my sense of propriety was slipping away fast.
"Leah, stop baby…we can't…" I was breathing so heavily I could barely speak. I pushed her away gently enough that I could sit up again.
She sat back, her dress hanging off her shoulders and the large flared skirt covering both of our legs.
"Edward, what's wrong?" A look of hurt and confusion on her face accompanied her words.
"I just think…we're moving a little fast. I mean, we haven't really gone out on a real date yet and our first kiss was in an alley and now we're alone in my room, on my bed. That's not how I was taught to treat a woman."
She cocked her head and smirked at me. I could feel the heat in my face and was sure I was blushing. Any minute now she was going to burst out laughing at me.
Instead she reached out and lightly caressed my cheek with her palm. "You are too sweet, Edward Cullen, for a girl like me."
She still didn't want to go home yet though, so we compromised by buttoning our clothes back up and just lying in each others' arms on the bed. It was a little slice of heaven feeling her warmth next to me.
~~ L ~~ • ~~ E ~~
Leah may have thought I was being too proper, but my father had instilled in me from an early age to always show a woman proper respect, even more so if you were courting her.
So, two days later I drove over to Leah's house to take her out for our first real date. I walked up to her door with a bouquet of daisies in hand. When her mother answered the door I politely introduced myself and said that I was here to pick up her daughter.
"Pick her up for what?" Her mother's dark eyes looked me over in suspicion.
"I'm here to take Leah out, ma'am, on a date."
Her eyes flew open at the word "date," and when Leah appeared at her shoulder, her mother turned and pulled her back farther into the house. I could see them through the heavy screen door, but their voices were harder to hear. They both were gesturing wildly and I could tell their voices were raised in anger, though I couldn't pick out many specific words. One word that did carry quite clearly: white.
Their conversation didn't last long and soon Leah was storming out, practically running me over and slamming the screen door behind her.
There was fire and anger in her eyes and her teeth were clenched. "C'mon Edward, let's go."
I drove a couple of blocks and pulled over. She hadn't said a word to me since we got in the car, she just stared out the window.
"Leah, is everything okay? Were you and your mom fighting over me?"
She continued staring out the window and would not look at me. I let out a sigh. "Leah? Please tell me?"
Finally she turned to face me. "She was just surprised to see that you are white. When I asked her why that mattered, she said she didn't like to think of me dating someone outside of our tribe. Now just how the hell am I supposed to date someone from my tribe when we're here in this God-forsaken town and our tribe is clear on the other side of the country! She's crazy!"
My heart dropped and now I was the one who couldn't look at her. "So…I guess I should take you back home."
"What? Why?" There was anger in her voice.
I turned to her. "I don't want to cause problems for you, especially with your mother."
"But Edward! She's wrong! I don't care what she says and she can't make me not go out with you. I don't care if you're white or black or purple. And if there were a hundred guys from my tribe here right now, I would still choose you."
I would still choose you. I let out a breath and tried to contain my smile. I had one more question to ask first. "Are you sure?"
Her bronze hand reached out to take my pale one. "Absolutely."
I twined my fingers tightly with hers. I had no words.
"Now can we get on with this date, I'm starved!" She brought us crashing back to reality and I had to chuckle at her. Reluctantly I let go of her hand to start the car up.
I had reservations at one of the nicer restaurants in town but once they saw us they told us we would not be able to come in—they didn't have a separate section for coloreds. I was about to voice my own protest but Leah didn't give me a chance. She was already furious and giving them a piece of her mind. So I kept silent and instead concentrated on getting her out of the restaurant to avoid a bigger scene.
We had better success getting served at another popular, but much less pretentious restaurant in town—as long as we sat in the colored section. They would serve me, a white man sitting in the colored section; but they would not serve her, a person of color (in their eyes) sitting in the white section, even if she were sitting with me. We had the same experience at the movie theater. Leah scowled each time but didn't say anything more.
After the movie Leah didn't want to go home yet so I drove to the lake at the edge of town. It was a popular parking place for couples to come to, and there were some cars already there, but I found a quieter, more secluded spot apart from the rest. I had barely turned the car off before Leah was reaching for me. She started kissing me and before long she was lying back on the seat pulling me with her. She was all fire and heat and softness and satin and she drove me to the brink of my control. Her legs were wrapped around my hips and even though we were fully clothed I could feel her there, against me, and I nearly lost it.
I pulled away again, panting heavily, leaning my forehead against hers. "God Lee…" I groaned. I moved to sit up and start buttoning my shirt.
She pulled on my arm with her hand, "No, please Edward, don't stop."
As I looked down at her still lying there—hair mussed, lipstick smudged, her blouse still undone and her lace bra that barely contained her small but ample breasts—I very nearly threw all my morals out the window to take her, right then and there. She was so damn sexy and beautiful and I still couldn't believe she was here, with me, in my car.
I ran my hand lightly up and down her leg that was now laying across my lap. "We can't, baby…"
She sat up then. "It's not that we can't, Edward, it's that you won't." The expression on her face was both accusing and also sad. "Why don't you want to be with me?"
I leaned my head back, groaning in frustration, before turning back to face her. "Are you kidding me? I want you so bad, Lee, you have no idea the struggle it is to stop myself every time." I smiled wanly at her. "I was just raised to respect women, to not take advantage…" I gulped before continuing with the next part, "…to wait until the wedding night."
Her eyes widened momentarily before shaking her head. "I don't deserve you," she said softly. "Or maybe you deserve someone better than me." She sat up and started to button her blouse.
I reached out for her, tracing her cheek with the tips of my fingers. "Baby, don't ever say that. Why…"
She sighed but she looked into my eyes. "I don't…I'm just not used to all of this chivalry and romance. You're too good for me, you know that?" She smiled wryly.
The added smile eased my restless heart again.
"You know I'm not…I mean Sam and I…well we weren't so 'patient' if you know what I mean?"
Inwardly I winced a little. "I don't care, love, as long as you can still be patient with me. I do wish I could have been your first though."
She leaned up and kissed me tenderly. "Me too. I wish I knew you existed out there in the world…I would have waited for you."
We sat there for a while, her knees curled up on the seat, her whole body tucked into my side, my arm wrapped around her. We didn't talk much, just enjoyed the silence and each other.
When I finally drove her back home and walked her up to her front door, I hated to see the evening end. "I hope you had a good time, despite everything," I said.
She smiled up at me, "I had a wonderful time, Edward."
We kissed one last time and then I had to let her go. I felt the warmth of that kiss all the way home.
~~ L ~~ • ~~ E ~~
The next few weeks were amazing. We saw each other as much as we could—sometimes at the club, sometimes out to a movie. And, sometimes just the two of us hanging out, talking and kissing and more talking and more making out. Many times she would groan frustratingly when I would put a halt to things before we got too carried away and a few times she really seemed to get angry with me, but in the end she always respected my feelings on the subject.
More often than not we would end up parked at the lake with a picnic, if we just wanted to be alone. We were getting used to the stares and the looks we got from people and tried to ignore them, but sometimes we just didn't want to deal with other people's prejudice.
Midway through the summer my parents came down from Chicago for a visit. I was so excited for them to meet Leah. She was a little less enthused.
"You want me to meet your parents? Are you sure that's a good idea Edward?"
"Of course I want them to meet you. I met your mother."
"I know and look how well that went!" Leah's mother was still unhappy with our relationship. I went over to their house for dinner one night, in hopes she would like me better of she got to know me. To her credit, she was civil to me for Leah's sake, but it was a strained evening.
"My parents aren't quite so…"stringent" in their views on the world." I said, hoping that would ease her concern.
My parents were in town for three days. I showed them around Greenwood and the general area. I showed them the office I worked in.
On the second night I picked up Leah and brought her to their hotel to introduce her. She was fidgety and nervous the whole drive over and I tried everything I could think of to put her at ease.
"Relax, love, it will be fine. You look beautiful." And she did. Leah wore dresses as little as possible, usually preferring those short pants women wear now days—I think they called them "peddle pushers"— and a simple cotton blouse. I thought she looked beautiful in anything she wore, but if my telling her so made her more relaxed, then tell her I would. Tonight she was wearing a simple dress, pale blue with a collar that went straight across from shoulder to shoulder with no sleeves. The skirt was flared and "poufy," as many women wore them.
Leah was still fidgeting as I knocked on the door of my parents' room. Dad opened the door, and Mom was right behind him.
"Mom, Dad, this is the girl I've been telling you about; this is Leah Clearwater." I felt a goofy grin spread over my face that was impossible to stop. "Leah, these are my parents, Carlisle and Esme Cullen."
My parents hadn't said anything yet and their eyes betrayed their shock.
"Mr. and Mrs. Cullen, it's a pleasure to meet you." Leah kept her demeanor calm on the outside but the painful grip her fingers had on my arm spoke otherwise.
There was a very awkward pregnant pause until finally, thank God, my mother recovered her manners. She looked from Leah to me and then back at me, before she broke out into a gentle smile.
She immediately pulled Leah into the room and into a warm hug. "Come on in, you don't have to stand in the hall. It's so nice to finally meet you, Leah! Edward talks about you all the time!"
I could tell the gesture relaxed Leah a little as she glanced over and gave me a strained smile. While Mom was chatting with Leah I looked over at my Dad and his brows were furrowed with a concerned look as he focused directly on me. I could tell we were going to be discussing this in greater detail, later.
We finally all managed to leave the hotel and survive the short walk to the restaurant a couple blocks down the street. It was one Leah and I frequented quite often so of course we took a table on the colored side of the restaurant by force of habit. As I pulled the chair out for Leah, I glanced up to see my parents standing still a few feet away, hesitating and looking around carefully.
"We have to sit here because they won't serve Leah over there." I gestured toward the white section of the room.
Mom immediately walked over then to take the chair I offered her. Dad followed a bit slower, taking the final chair, next to Mom.
Once everyone was settled, Leah spoke up quietly, "I'm sorry."
"For what, dear?" Mom seemed honestly unsure of what Leah was apologizing for.
"That you have to sit over here."
Mom's eyes narrowed as she grasped Leah's arm and looked her in the eye. "My dear, don't you dare say that, you have absolutely nothing to apologize for! It's not your fault that so many people in this world have such ridiculously narrow-minded views that require people to be separated like cattle!"
Even I was a bit taken aback by mom's sudden outburst. I'd always considered my parents to be fairly tolerant in their views on people and society, but I'd never heard her speak out so adamantly. I smiled at the strong emotion from my mother and the look of relief on Leah's. My father, on the other hand, simply perused the menu quietly.
The rest of dinner passed peacefully. Dad was polite, Mom seemed to really like Leah and Leah also had relaxed somewhat, though I could tell she was still anxious. After I took her home, I headed back to my parents' hotel room, knowing there was more to discuss with my father.
"Come in, son." My father held the door open as I walked in and took a seat on the bed. He and mom were both seated on the small couch across from me. Dad leaned back against the couch, his tie loosened. his sleeves rolled up and a glass of scotch in his hand. He sighed loudly before beginning to speak.
"Son, why, in all the times you have talked our ear off the past day and a half about that girl, did you never mention that Leah was not white?"
"I don't see her color as important. And I really didn't think you would either." My voice was louder than I intended it to be, as I tried to keep myself from blowing up at my father's words.
"Well it was important enough to at least let us know, to not ambush us like that with such an unexpected surprise!"
"If you're trying to say you have a problem with Leah, or with me being with Leah then just come out and say it." I was losing the battle with my anger.
My father closed his eyes and rubbed his hands over his eyes. Finally he opened them and looked at me. "I…We don't have a problem with Leah or with the two of you together. But the rest of the world will, Edward, I'm sure you've already found that out. This relationship will not be easy, son.
"Be honest, Edward, do you really like her?" My father's voice grew quieter and more serious.
"I don't like her Dad, I love her. I love her more than anyone else I've ever met."
"And what happens when summer ends and it's time for you to leave and come back to Chicago?"
I swallowed hard. I had been thinking of that impending day for some time now. "I don't know yet…but I know I can't imagine my life without her in it."
The room was silent as we all sat with our thoughts for a moment. When I got up to leave, Dad did as well. "For the record, son, I do think she's a lovely girl. I think she's good for you. I'm not against this, I just want you to really think about what you're setting yourself up for…for you and for her." He gave me a quick hug and then a pat on the shoulder as I started to walk away.
Mom followed me to the door and out into the hallway, quietly closing the door behind her. "Edward."
I stopped and she placed her hand on my arm. "If your love for each other is strong enough, darling, you will be able to handle anything that comes along. All relationships have their struggles and obstacles. And yours and Leah's will definitely be a battle at times. But if you're there for each other, if you hold each other up–you can face anything.
Don't let anyone tell you what is or isn't right. Just listen to your heart. It will always guide you in the right direction." She leaned up and kissed me on the cheek and gave me a comforting hug. I gripped her tightly, in thanks for her words and to let her know I understood.
"Thank you, Mom," I whispered. "And thank you for being so nice to Leah. I love you."
"I love you too, baby."
When I got back to my room I collapsed heavily on the bed. I was emotionally and physically drained. Starting the evening with such excitement at my parents meeting Leah, to the strains of tension, to the lengthy talk with my parents—it had been a long night. My parents had given me much to think about, but the heaviest words had been my own—I know I can't imagine my life without her in it.
~~ L ~~ • ~~ E ~~
The rest of the summer passed too quickly. I swear after my parents left from their visit, I blinked and suddenly summer was ending and I had one week left before I had to go back to Chicago. Leah and I spent as much time together as possible during those last weeks. We spent most of our time at the lake, having picnics or parked in the car and talking or making out. I wanted her so desperately, I wanted to be able to show her how much I loved her. So many times I nearly gave in. But knowing—or actually not knowing—what I was going to be doing at the end of summer always made me stop. If our time together was limited I didn't want to do anything that would cause more hurt or pain—for either of us.
Several times Leah caught me with my mind a million miles away. When she would ask what was wrong, I would just say I was thinking about something from work. I could tell she didn't believe me, but she would let it drop. I couldn't tell her what I was really thinking, that I was trying to figure out what to do. I had enjoyed my job this summer but I was ready to go home. I still had my law degree to finish and I missed Chicago. I was tired of this town and the bigoted people in it. But, I also couldn't imagine leaving her.
We went back to New Moon one more time. We'd been spending so much time alone, she hadn't seen her friends in a while. They too had not been the most supportive of our relationship at first, but they just didn't understand. Eventually they realized that she loved me and they had come around to the idea of the two of us together.
Ironically it was here—where I first saw her, where we first talked and touched—that I figured out what I wanted, how we could solve our problem.
I watched her across the room, talking and laughing with her girlfriends. She looked so carefree and happy. I couldn't imagine not seeing that everyday of my life. I didn't want to imagine it.
Two days later we were having another picnic supper by the lake. The sun was setting and we were just relaxing on a blanket, my arms around her. My knee was twitching up and down without me even realizing it.
"Edward, stop it." She placed her hand on my knee. "What is wrong with you?"
I forced my knee to stop moving. "Nothing."
She sat up straighter, breaking free of my arms. "Yes, something is wrong. You're nervous. What are you so nervous about?" She was looking wary and scared herself.
Okay Edward, she's on to you. Pull yourself together.
"Well, I am a little nervous. We need to talk about something. You know I have to leave next week, to go back to Chicago."
Her face immediately fell and I could see her posture stiffen.
"Leah, it's been such an amazing summer…"
"Just say it Edward. I know you have to leave, I'm a big girl, you don't have to make some big speech to make me feel better. Just say it." Her jaw was set and her eyes were dark. The only sign of her real emotions was in the tremble of her lip.
"Okay, yes I have to leave. But, I want you to come with me." That surprised her. Her brows furrowed as she tried to figure out what I meant.
"I love you so much and I can't imagine a day without you in it, Leah…" I shifted so she could really see me, as I pulled the tiny velvet box out of my pocket.
"Will you marry me?"
Her mouth flew open. But no words came out. I started sweating a little.
"Leah, I promise you, Chicago is so different from Greenwood. I mean, I can't promise it will be completely easy for us, but there will be so much more freedom. Not so many narrow minds.
"Baby, say something." My heart was sinking fast. This was not going as I had hoped.
Her eyes were wet as she looked at me. "Edward…I…I don't know what to say. I love you, I do…I just wasn't thinking marriage, yet."
I put the ring box back in my pocket and swallowed around the lump in my throat.
"Leah, I have to go. I still have my degree to finish up in Chicago. And I want to be with you, but it's too hard to do it here, in this town."
And just like that, one of our last few afternoons turned from perfection to disaster. We both just sat staring at each other in sadness, neither one knowing what to say to the other.
~~ L ~~ • ~~ E ~~
Work the next day was impossible, all I kept thinking about was Leah. Once I'd made the decision to ask her to marry me, I had all these happy visions—of her saying yes, of our future together. Those were all dashed now.
Because I was so distracted all day, I ended up having to work over an hour later than I should have, to finish some filing up for Mr. Banner.
I was about half a block from the boarding house when I heard a loud voice. A familiar voice…
"Get your hands off me!"
Leah. I took off at a run. What I saw made my stomach turn and my blood boil. On the shady, tree-lined side of the boarding house, Mike had Leah pressed up against a tree. His hands were trying to force her arms above her head but she was kicking and squirming as hard as she could.
"Come on, you don't fool me, I've seen Cullen sneaking you into his room, you're his little squaw whore aren't you. You gonna spread your legs for me, hmm? Like you do for him!"
Newton was too busy spouting off his filth to hear me come up behind him. I grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him off Leah and threw him to the ground as hard as I could. Then I grabbed his shirt and pulled him up so that I was right in his face.
"Don't you ever lay your filthy hands on her again, you hear me?" I pulled back my fist but before I could get a good shot in, he swung one of his fists around and clocked me good on the jaw. I let go and staggered backward. He started coming after me again but this time I managed to get a good hit back at him.
"Edward! Stop it!" Leah was screaming at me, but I couldn't stop my rage. Not only was he trying to hurt my girl, he was doing it because of me, because she was with me.
Everything was a blur of fists after that. I heard more voices and then a siren. The cops came and pulled us apart and took us to jail. Not having any other options, I placed my one phone call to Mr. Banner. After several hours I was finally released, pending arraignment. It was close to three in the morning when I shuffled into the boarding house and to my room. I hoped I still had a room and that Mrs. Cope didn't throw my stuff out on the street after the fight.
As I opened my door, I heard the most beautiful sound.
It was Leah.
"Are you okay?" Her hands flew up to my face, where I had a black eye and several little scrapes and bruises.
I stopped her hand with mine. She looked tired and a little ragged. Even in the dim light I could tell how much she'd been crying.
"I'll be fine, it's just some scrapes and bruises. How are you? I can't believe that piece of trash touched you…."
"Edward I'm fine, really. You didn't need to come to my rescue, I had it under control."
"Under control! He had his hands all over you! He had your hands restrained!"
"And I was about ready to knee him in the groin right before you got there! That would teach him to mess with a 'squaw whore' again!"
While I still thought she was underestimating the situation, I couldn't help but chuckle a little at the image of her kneeing Newton in the nuts. She was a feisty fighter; that was one of the reasons I loved her after all.
My chuckle turned into a loud groan.
"You're not fine! I knew it! Where does it hurt?" She started looking me over.
"My ribs are just bruised a little, that's all. Nothing serious."
"Well, you should rest." She made me lie down on the bed, very carefully. Then I insisted she lie down with me. To erase this awful day, all I wanted was to feel her next to me.
"Not that I don't love having you here, but how did you get in my room?"
"Mrs. Cope told me I could stay here and wait for you. She saw the whole thing out her window. In fact, she's the one who called the cops. They were actually on their way before you even threw the first punch."
"Great, so you're saying I just spent six hours in jail for nothing?" I tried to joke.
"It's not funny," she said quietly. "Thank you, though. I love you for it."
The exhaustion was too much and I could barely keep my eyes open.
"Mmmhh. Anytime. I love you too."
~~ L ~~ • ~~ E ~~
The next thing I knew, the sun was streaming in the curtains. I looked up to see Leah standing and staring out the window, a sad, pensive look still on her face.
She heard me stirring and came over to sit on the bed. "How are you feeling this morning?"
"Not going to lie, I've been better." Every little ache I had yesterday now seemed magnified by ten.
She gave me some aspirin and water that Mrs. Cope had dropped off.
"Leah, what were you doing here yesterday?" I had been wondering this ever since everything happened but this was the first chance I'd had to ask her.
She looked down at her hands that were twisting in her lap, playing with the fabric of her skirt.
"I had come over…to talk to you. I was…going to tell you yes."
It took a second to register what she just said. Yes. A smile started to spread on my face and I leaned up to get closer to her, when she stopped me.
"No, Edward, not now. Yesterday just proved that I will only cause you trouble. You're three days away from going back home and now you've got an arrest record. Because of me." Tears were welling in her eyes.
"Leah, no, it's not like that. It won't be like that. You make my life better, it will be worse if you're not around…"
I was reaching out to her but she got up and started backing away toward the door. Her tears were now flowing down her face.
"No Edward, I can't…I…"
And then she was gone; the empty echo of the door shutting behind her lingering in the air.
The pain from my injuries would heal but the hole in my chest would be with me forever.
~~ L ~~ • ~~ E ~~
I didn't have to go to court, the charges against me were dropped, thanks to Mrs. Cope's eyewitness account. She told the police that I was only trying to keep Newton from harming Leah. And with both her story and Leah's account of what happened, Newton was the one now in jail facing charges of attempted rape. Leah, however, opted not to press charges and he ended up going Scot free. I understood why she did it—she didn't want to bring further attention to her and her family—but it was still wrong, in my opinion.
I snapped the last snap on one of my suitcases. Tomorrow was my last day of work for Mr. Banner and then after work I was leaving…for good.
Every time I thought those words couldn't make me feel any worse, they did. My chest ached so hard at times it felt like I couldn't breathe.
I hadn't seen Leah since the moment she walked out of my room. I wanted to see her one more time, so badly. Seeing as it was a Thursday and with nothing more to do, I decided to make one last trip to New Moon.
I'd gone over to her house once and her mom had answered the door, said Leah didn't want to see me. I hoped that was just her mom trying to keep us apart, but sadly I was afraid those were really Leah's own words.
Even though I feared this was a lost cause, as soon as I walked into the club, I saw her and my breath caught in my throat. She was sitting at a table by herself, looking so incredibly sad. I walked over to her table and stood quietly until she looked up. She immediately closed her eyes.
"Leah, just…let me speak, please. Hear me out and then…I'll go, and you never have to see me again. May I please sit down?"
My heart was pounding and it took me a minute to sort all the jumbled words in my head into coherent sentences. I felt like I was getting ready to give a closing argument for a client on death row—and that client was me.
"Leah, I have never met anyone like you in my life. You are beautiful and sexy and you take my breath away when you smile. You are also smart and strong and a fighter, Lee. And if you honestly don't want to be with me then tell me, and I will walk away right now. But if you're only doing this because you don't want to cause trouble, or because it's too hard, then you're not fighting Lee, you're giving in to them. You're letting them win. And if you think you are protecting me, you're not. I am willing to fight back against whatever anyone wants to throw at us—because I love you and I need you in my life. I don't care what anyone thinks."
Two tears were trickling down her face and she shook her head. "I don't…I can't…"
I reached over and wiped her tears away with my thumbs as I stroked her cheek. I didn't want to let go, because I feared this would be the last time I would ever touch her.
"Please Lee, just…think about it…please." My own voice was thick as I pleaded with her. "I'm leaving tomorrow, after work. If you change your mind, I'll be waiting here, in front of the club, until six o'clock." I got up then, and bent down for one last, quick kiss on her forehead, taking one last chance to breathe her in and hold her in my memory.
~~ L ~~ • ~~ E ~~
As I sat waiting in my car, I wavered back and forth over this decision. She seemed pretty determined, and there was no doubting how headstrong and stubborn she was. If her mind was made up there would be no changing it. I was a fool for sitting here, waiting. I just couldn't bring myself to give up. Yet, with every minute that ticked by, I knew I was going back to Chicago alone.
At ten 'til six I leaned my head against the open window frame, trying to will myself to turn the ignition and start the car, to accept that she wasn't coming. The street had been silent for an hour except for the occasional passing car.
Suddenly I began to hear…sound. Footsteps…quick footsteps, like someone was running. A "thump-thump-thump," like someone might be carrying a heavy suitcase. As the sounds got louder they were joined with one more sound of heavy-breathing. And then…
I was afraid I was hallucinating, but…there she was. Hair mussed from running, eyes desperate, she was peering into my passenger side window. I fumbled with my car door, flinging it open and I rushed around to where she was standing.
"Does this mean…" I was too afraid to even utter the words.
"Yes," she said breathlessly. "If I'm not too late?"
"God, no," I whispered as I wrapped her in my arms and just held her. I didn't even care who was around or who might see us.
Eventually I let her go long enough to put her suitcase in the trunk, so we could both get in the car.
Her breathing was finally quieting as we sat in the car and just stared at each other.
"Are you sure?" I had to know—just like the day of our first date—I had to be absolutely sure she wanted this. "And what changed your mind?"
She smiled and grasped my hand. "Actually…it was my mom who convinced me."
"But she's been so against me, against us?" I was confused.
"I know, and frankly this," she gestured between us, "is still not her first choice. But the incident with Mike really affected her. She feels it was partially her fault for moving us here, off the reservation. She had no idea the amount of hate there would be toward us down here. You earned big points in her eyes for 'rescuing me.'
I hadn't told her about your marriage proposal though. But last night when I came home I was so upset, I couldn't hide my grief anymore. The whole story poured out and after a few minutes for her to absorb the whole situation, her first words were, 'Go. You have to go.' She told me if I had the chance to go somewhere better than this town that I had to go. And she finally realized how much we love each other when she saw how…heartbroken I was. She still misses my dad every single day and she said she couldn't sit here and watch me go through that when I didn't have to. So, she gave me…us…her blessing.
"And, she reminded me that we Quileutes are strong and that I have never let anything or anyone stop me from doing what I want and that I shouldn't start now.
"So yes," she paused to squeeze my hand. "I am completely sure. I want to marry you, Edward Cullen."
I let out a huge breath. With shaky hands I pulled out the tiny box that was still in my pocket. Taking her left hand, I placed the very small diamond on her finger.
"I'm sorry it's so small, it's all I could afford right now."
She smiled through her tears. "I don't care, it's perfect."
Suddenly she sat up straight. "Oh! Can we get married now? Right now, before we leave! We could go to the Justice of the Peace, and then my mom and my brother could be there!"
I sighed. I wanted to give this girl the world for the rest of our lives and already with her first request I was going to break her heart.
"Baby, I'm sorry, but we can't get married here."
"Why not? It won't take long…" The disappointment in her face was killing me.
"It's against the law for whites and non-whites to marry in South Carolina. Even if we wanted to try, I guarantee we wouldn't find a minister or judge who would do it. They can get in trouble and we could be arrested."
Her mouth dropped open. "You're kidding me. They actually have the right to keep us from getting married?" Her eyes were full of fire. My girl was back.
She sighed and looked over at me. "Okay then, let's get out of here."
~~ L ~~ • ~~ E ~~
I made one stop on the way out of town, to make a couple of calls at a pay phone. Since I would be coming home with a wife, I needed to have a home for her, I couldn't bring her home to live with my parents. I called my best friend, Emmett, to see if had any places open. He was a manager/maintenance man to several apartment buildings in North Chicago. It wouldn't be much, since as a law student, I couldn't afford anything too palatial. But it would be a roof over our heads.
And I called my parents, mom specifically. Once I got her to calm down from the tears and the squeals of joy, she was thrilled to help me out with my request.
As we finally got on the road, we both were pretty quiet for the first couple of hours. We held hands and we would periodically look at each other with loving smiles. I think we were both just lost in our thoughts, happy and scared all at the same time, knowing we were on our way out of South Carolina and heading off to begin our new life together.
Unfortunately, reality soon reared its ugly head again. When night fell and I began to search for a hotel to stop at for the night, I began to realize that I should have planned better. Most hotels had specific rules about not allowing people of color and when I finally found one that didn't, they refused us because we weren't married. Even though we explained that we were engaged they didn't believe us.
Leah's solution was again to find a Justice of the Peace and get married. Even though it was so late, we asked around and found the town Judge. Tennessee, however, also had laws on the books prohibiting marriage between whites and non-whites. The Judge was very angry about being woken up in the middle of the night but the disgusted look he gave both of us right before telling us it was against the law, made my skin crawl. I made Leah get back in the car and we got out of that town fast. We tried again at the next town but got all of the same reactions, from the hotels and their Judge.
We ended up pulling into a rest stop and sleeping in the car for the night. I felt like a failure for not being able to provide my future wife with a proper bed and place to stay for the night. I offered to take the front seat and Leah could have the back seat but she wanted us together, so we managed to squeeze both of us into the back seat. It was a bit cramped but I have to admit it was heaven to hold her in my arms all night.
"Lee, I'm really sorry that we couldn't get a hotel. I hate that you're having to sleep in the car." I said as we were trying to fall asleep. "I promise I will try to take better care of you from now on."
She let out a snort and even though it was dark I could just imagine the eye roll she was giving me. "Edward, don't you dare apologize, it's not your fault. Besides just because we're getting married does not mean I need you to 'take care' of me, so you just get that out of your head right now. We take care of each other and we also deal with whatever comes along—together. You know, for better and for worse and all that stuff."
I smirked in the dark. "Yes, ma'am. Whatever you say, Dear…Oww!" That comment got me an elbow in the ribs.
A few minutes later her voice again came through the darkness but it sounded much less confident this time. "Edward? What happens if we get to Chicago and we aren't allowed to get married there either?"
"Marriage between a man and a woman of different colors is not illegal in Illinois. They did away with such laws many years ago."
"But…what if the judge refuses? What if he thinks we're…wrong?"
I tightened my hold on her. "Well legally he's not allowed to refuse us, but if he does we'll just find another judge. I promise you, baby, someone will marry us. You won't be able to get rid of me that easily."
That last comment had its desired effect. She giggled and I could feel her body relax in my arms.
~~ L ~~ • ~~ E ~~
I made sure we got an early start the next morning. I'd decided I was going to drive straight through the night with no stopping, so we could just get to Chicago without having to sleep another night in the car. We freshened up as best we could in the rest stop restrooms and then took off.
Leah napped off and on along the way. When she did it was hard for me to keep my eyes on the road. She was so peaceful and beautiful when she slept.
It was nearly dawn when we finally pulled into the city of Chicago, and not many places were open yet. I stopped at an all-night pawn shop and managed to get a couple of cheap wedding bands. I hated getting them at a pawn shop but I didn't have much cash on me. And even if we found a jewelry shop open, I wouldn't be able to afford anything. Leah, of course, didn't care, but I silently vowed that I would replace the rings with something better someday.
We parked ourselves in front of city hall and as soon as the doors opened, we were first in line at the Justice of the Peace's office. At nine a.m. we were ushered into the Judge's chambers. He did give us a curious look, but as I promised Leah, he performed the ceremony anyway and by nine-thirty we were officially and forever, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Cullen. It may have been quick and simple; and we may have looked very wrinkled and travel-weary, but I would never forget holding her trembling hands in mine while looking into her eyes and promising to love her forever.
Leaving there, I told her I had a surprise for her. I drove to the address Emmett had given me on the phone, to show my new bride our new home.
Emmett just happened to manage some apartments on the North side of Chicago, which was perfect for us. There was a growing Native American population settling into the North side of town—others like Leah and her mother, who were leaving the reservations and starting new lives in a new city. I hoped she would feel at home here.
As we pulled up to the apartment building, Leah still didn't know why we were stopping here. But when I pulled our suitcases out of the car, she understood.
"This is our new home, for now, anyway."
A smile broke out over her face. "But how did you manage to get an apartment already?"
"I have connections." I smiled broadly. "I have a friend that manages some apartment buildings. He had an empty one available."
We climbed up to our third-floor apartment. Emmett had left the key above the doorframe. As I opened the door, Leah started to push open the door as well and I had to stop her.
"Oh no you don't. You wait right here."
"In the hallway? Edward!" She had her hands on her hips in frustration as she sighed loudly.
I quickly shoved the suitcases through the doorway and off to the side. Then I came back to the hall and before she knew what I was doing, had swept her up into my arms.
"Edward Cullen what are you doing? Put me down!"
"No can do. I am carrying my wife, Mrs. Cullen, across the threshold!"
I slammed the door shut with a kick once we were inside the apartment.
"Welcome home, Mrs. Cullen." I bent down and kissed her beautiful, pouty lips, before setting her down on her feet.
She spun around looking at the place.
"I know it's not much, but I promise, someday…"
She whirled around and placed her finger over my lips to shut me up. "Would you stop with the promises, already. I love it." She leaned up and gave me a kiss. I reached out to pull her closer, but she got away, distracted by the kitchen counter.
It was a vase of flowers and a basket of food with a note from my mother. According to the note there was more food in the fridge and other instructions about where she'd stored other necessities like linens and soap and shampoo, etc. But the last line was the best:
Congratulations to you both! And Leah, welcome to the family! Love, Mom and Dad
"That was so nice of your mother!" There were tears in the corner of Leah's eyes.
"Well, I asked her to bring over some immediate things we would need, but knowing her, she probably went overboard."
When she was done perusing the basket, we just stood there for a few seconds looking at each other. It had been a whirlwind two days and I couldn't believe I was standing here right now in my apartment, with Leah…my wife.
Leah started smiling very coyly and slowly sashaying her way toward me. She pressed her whole body against mine, while trailing her hands up my shirt. She leaned up and whispered huskily in my ear, "I do hope this apartment came with a bedroom…."
Her warm breath shot currents through my whole body.
"Oh, believe me, that was my first request." I then proceeded to pick her up in my arms again, causing her to squeal in surprise.
In the bedroom I laid her down on the bed. As I hovered over her she leaned up to kiss me. Lips moved, mouths parted, tongues collided. She started unbuttoning my shirt and as I pulled it off me, I felt her cool fingers against my bare chest as she slid them under my undershirt.
I broke away to pull it off. She reached for the first button on her blouse and I stopped her with my hand. This time, however, I stopped her only because I want to do it myself. I very carefully removed every piece of clothing until she was lying completely naked below me and I paused to take in the vision that she was—smooth, warm, honey-colored skin on white cotton sheets, her dark hair splayed around her beautiful face.
She smiled up at me, her eyes dark with desire, and opened her arms to me. As she enveloped me with her arms and with her legs, I felt at ease, I felt at home. I kissed every part of her body in reverence, in gratitude—for her patience in waiting for this moment, for her courage in facing the world, but mostly for her love for me.
As our movements grew more frantic and our skin more heated, as I finally slipped inside her body, as she cried out my name and as we finally became one…I drowned in my love and lust and passion for this beautiful woman who was now my beautiful wife. It didn't matter what the rest of the world thought, it didn't matter what we might face in the future, all that was important, all that would ever be important was what was right her in this room—our love for each other.
~~ L ~~ • ~~ E ~~
A/N: Links below if anyone's interested in learning more on Racism Laws and Native Americans treatment in the 60's:
Segregation in the 60's in many states extended beyond separating whites from black. In many states there were laws and prejudices against ALL people of color, including Native Americans. In fact, before civil rights laws were enacted, some cities/states often had three sections of a movie theater or three separate drinking fountains – one for "whites," one for "coloreds," and one for "indians." —
And up until 1967 there really were Anti-Miscegenation laws that prohibited Whites and Non-Whites from marrying. Many northern states such as Illinois, repealed their laws in the 1880's, but the large majority of southern states kept theirs in place until it was federally repealed in 1967. And while some states' laws excluded only African Americans from marrying whites, a few states, like South Carolina, also excluded Native Americans.
During the 1950's and 60's, many Native Americans did move off the reservations and into urban areas, such as Chicago, in pursuit of jobs and better opportunities: