So there I was, working diligently on "A Horse of A Different Color," when CHOMP!-I was attacked by a rabid plot bunny. It was weird.
I'm just about finished this "one-shot," but decided to go ahead and post the story in little chunks, hopefully daily, because my brain hurts. That's what rabies can do.
I'm marking this M, but if anything, it'll probably end up being a soft-core M, whatever that means.
Chapter 1 - Isabella's Mother and Father
Other than home, Isabella Swan rarely went anywhere except work and the grocery store. Yet she knew more about the residents in her small town than Harry Clearwater did, and he ran the local pub.
As the owner of the only florist shop in town, Isabella played a role in almost every birth, graduation, wedding, and funeral that occurred. She provided tokens of affection for budding romances, helped groveling husbands work their way back into good favor, and suggested beautiful yet economical bouquets for cash-strapped teens on Mother's Day.
The last task was a bittersweet one for Isabella. She wished with all her heart that she could give gifts to her own mother on those Sundays in May. However, she also took comfort in the knowledge that Renee Swan's long-fought battle with cancer was finally over.
Renee informed her husband about her breast cancer when Isabella was eight. After a double mastectomy, she felt the gravity of morality weighing down her soul. Would it be possible to escape its deadly pull if only she could run fast enough? She had to try. So, Renee fled her old life, her responsibilities, and her family in the middle of a frosty January night.
She never looked back. Postcards from around would appear in the Swan mailbox, and Isabella always got some sort of odd trinket for her birthday. Not once, however, did Renee actually speak to the man she'd married or the child she'd borne.
Charlie was shocked when he picked up the phone one evening and was greeted by the voice of his estranged wife. He loved her still and held onto the hope of her return. Then she told him that the cancer was back, had metastasized to her bones and liver. He fell to the floor and wept for hours. After pulling himself together, he drove all night to the college where Isabella was a freshman.
He broke the news to her on a blustery, overcast fall morning. She insisted on leaving with him, and so Isabella gave up her dream of college to assist in caring for her mother. Two months into their stay, however, Charlie wasn't able to bear it any further. He was ashamed of his weakness but just couldn't handle watching his wife depart again. Not like that—slowly, painfully, permanently. He returned to his house and his job and his life, but Isabella stayed.
And when her mother died two years later, she continued to stay. College no longer held any interest to her. She couldn't imagine returning to classes alongside students younger than her, teens who saw the world so differently than she did now. Once, she had been interested in studying business in school, but during the last six months of Renee's life, Isabella ran the shop completely on her own. Although on a smaller scale than previously desired, the 20-year-old woman was already a part of the business world.
Renee Swan had always been larger than life, and despite the passage of time, her presence persisted in the flower shop she left to her young daughter. The walls remained a bright sunflower yellow, still adorned with whimsical photographs of baby animals stuck in unfortunate situations. The same four mismatched chairs sat around a table holding the same electric tea kettle that Renee kept plugged in whenever the shop was open. And, as they had done every weekday during Renee's two years as owner, retired widows Judy Greene and Pearl Ridenour continued to come in at one o'clock, have their tea with lemon scones, and fill each other in on the latest gossip while classical music played softly in the background.
Isabella had tried numerous tools, lubricants, and degreasers to change the dial on the beat-up radio connected to the aged store's built-in speakers, but she couldn't get the thing to budge. Rather than shell out money from her meager savings account to have the system replaced, she left it tuned to the station featuring the classical music her mother had loved so much. There were times she felt a pang of grief when one of Renee's favorite pieces played, but for the most part, the background music served as a source of comfort.
Her father still kept in touch through phone calls, but his attempts at communication were few and far between. At times, Isabella wondered why she wasn't more dismayed about the emotional distance that now separated her and her father. After all, the man had raised her single-handedly for the majority of her life. Perhaps it was because father and daughter were both rather introverted souls who rarely let others inside their protective shells. Or maybe the spectacular way Charles Swan failed her mother had something to do with Isabella's alienation from him. Whatever the reason, he no longer played an active role in her life.