AN: Hi evereyone. Welcome to my second multi-chapter fic and I'm rea;ly enjoying writing now, thanks to all those who read and reviewed Caribbean Dreams.
This story came to me when I hit a writer's block while writing Caribbean Dreams.
I wrote it in virtually one go and then spent weeks refining and changing it before I thought it was ready for pre-reading. My thanks to MeteorOnAMoonlessNight for her stellar attention to detail.
SarcasticBimbo agreed to beta for this one for me and I am grateful for her assistance in making sure it's grammar was acceptable.
It's much shorter than Caribbena Dreams and totally different.
It will post every Saturday at around lunchtime, UK time,
It definitely earns it's M rating in the first chapter!
Disclaimer: Ms Meyer owns the Twilight Universe, I mean no disrespect; just like putting her wonderful characters in different situations to see how they behave.
Hope you enjoy and will leave me some feedback
It doesn't matter when I live my life, as long as it's with you.
The attic of the old house I was renting contained so many fascinating items. I was considering buying it, but for the moment, I wanted to rent and see if I could be happy here.
The house was old, that much I knew, but the rooms were a good size with plenty of the features I had always liked in old houses; cornices, large picture windows and picture rails around the top of each room. I loved the free-standing bath, though the rest of the bathroom and the kitchen needed complete updating. It would cost a fair amount but the money my parents had left me upon their death was more than enough to both purchase and update as I wanted.
I stood on a stepstool close to the window and gazed at the extensive garden outside, which was a riot of color; full of flowers, and most probably, weeds. Another thing that would need a little money spent on it, but I liked gardening as much as my mother had. At least here, there were defined seasons, unlike Phoenix where I had grown up. I moved to Chicago a couple of years ago, and although the winters were brutal and the summers really hot and humid, I found that I loved it for exactly that reason.
The late afternoon sun showed the dust motes in the air, but the silence that pervaded the loft space was peaceful, rather than ominous, as I wandered around opening cupboards, trunks, and various boxes. The old lady renting out the house had said that I was welcome to look through and use anything I wanted in the house. I think she was angling for me to buy and hoping that giving me free access would help me to decide.
I opened box after box, examining the treasures I found; old books with dusty covers and sepia-toned pages. They looked well read, many of them with notes in the margins and passages underlined.
A large trunk, which produced copious amounts of dust when I opened it, proved to be full of beautiful dresses from a bygone era. Each one I drew from its interior was wrapped in paper, made of silk with beautiful embroidery or ribbons. These would not have been my favorite but I could see that they were clearly loved and had been worn. There were even some undergarments, which looked pretty uncomfortable. They smelled a little musty but were in pretty good condition and judging by the dated inscriptions in the books, looked as if they were from the same era.
I wandered through the attic, checking the drawers in the bedroom furniture, and eventually stood in front of a large armoire against one wall. Opening both of the doors, I found gentlemen's clothing. Opening the door of a large armoire against another wall, I found yet more boxes, this time containing shoes, none of which looked particularly comfortable. The only thing in their favor was the low heels. Each box contained a small treasure trove, though I had yet to find any children's toys or clothes. Digging through to the back of the closet, a small box called my attention to it, though I couldn't have said why.
Lifting the lid, I found a large photograph album at the top; it was old, that much I could tell, its pages sepia-toned and crinkled with age.
Fascinated by the prospect of a detailed look into the past, I pulled it from the shelf and turned to the window alcove, where I proceeded to throw a dust-covered cloth off what proved to be a loveseat. Sitting down and placing the box beside me, I opened it, excitement rippling through me as I removed the album from the top to find more photos and letters situated underneath.
I was surprised they were in as good condition as they appeared to be, considering how old they were. Their age, like that of the books, gave them a sepia tone and some of them were creased and worn as if they had been lovingly handled. There were a few in frames, which were in better condition, depicting an older couple, her seated in a large throne-like chair, him standing regally behind.
I wondered who they were and what their story was. Had they lived in this house? How old were they? Were they married? Were they happy? Judging by the expressions on their faces, they didn't seem happy, though looking closer there were laughter lines around their eyes. No airbrushing for them!
The album seemed to be sort of chronological, I thought, beginning with a few of the woman, her face much younger than in the framed photo. She was beautiful; with a heart-shaped face, and even though there were no color shifts, I could see that her hair was lighter than mine, but I was sure she was not blonde. Had to be auburn, which meant her eyes were probably either blue or green. Her dress was long and ornate with lace at the sleeves and throat. She was slim, though that was probably due to an uncomfortable corset. I had no idea how they breathed in those things. I only had a small part in a play while I was in college, but the corset I had to wear as part of the wardrobe was the most awkward thing I had ever worn.
He, the man in the next picture, had much lighter hair, so I would guess it was blond, with eyes that were probably blue or gray. He was a little older than she, standing straight and firm, very handsome, dressed in a suit with a waistcoat of a different color.
The next picture of them, at their wedding, showed how happy they were; somehow, I was glad for their happiness. It wasn't something I thought I would ever have, but if others found it, maybe it was out there for me, somewhere.
Four pages on, checking photographs that saw them a little older each time, I turned the page to find one with a baby in her arms. Her smile would have lit the heavens, I'm sure. They were seated together on the very loveseat where I was sitting. My eyes were drawn to the child, whose wide eyes stared directly at the camera; at me.
The visceral reaction I had brought a smile to my face as my fingers traced his features. I wondered what his life had in store for him. It was a silly thought, but I hoped he had been happy.
Shaking my head at the idiotic thoughts running through my mind over a simple picture, I flicked ahead through the images of him growing up, though I never saw one of him with a woman.
Before I knew it, the evening was drawing in, and I was losing the light. I decided to carry this one box downstairs to the lounge and take a longer look at the letters underneath the photos. I yearned to know more of what happened to the beautiful couple; somehow feeling linked to their lives.
After throwing some ready-made Mac 'n' Cheese in the microwave, I took my evening meal into the living room, settling on the sofa in front of the coffee table where the box sat. It had been calling to me the whole time I was in the kitchen, and I couldn't wait to dig deeper into its secrets.
Opening it again when I finished my meal, I drew out the photograph albums and placed them beside the box. Underneath them were three packs of letters, each tied with a red ribbon and all about the same size.
It became clear that they were love letters between Esme and Carlisle Cullen, or Viscount Cullen. His father was the Earl of Cambridge, in England, and it seemed that Carlisle had met Esme Platt while he was touring the United States. Their letters spanned their meeting and showed them falling in love. He courted her through his letters, visiting a number of times, all documented. I could feel their love and was as giddy with excitement as she appeared to be at his final decision to move to the States.
The letters were followed by a journal, where I avidly devoured the words telling of the flush of love and happiness she experienced. As the years flew past, some more detailed than others, I felt her despondence over her son and his unhappiness. As was usual for the time, an arranged marriage was confirmed, and he was committed to a lifetime with a person he did not know or love.
My heart was breaking for this man, someone I didn't know and never would. I could feel the tears welling in my eyes, even though my inner voice was telling me to stop being such an idiot. He was long gone, this Edward—that was his name—so any sorrow I felt was not only misplaced but utterly daft.
The final pages of the journal brought me to full tears, as Esme described how unhappy Edward was married to someone he did not love. He was distant with everyone and perpetually angry about everything. She mourned him as if he was gone from this earth, which in a way I suppose was true. The man he had been, the one who was full of life and mischief, was there one day and gone the next, as if he had never existed.
There were no pictures of his wedding, none of his bride, and no further glimpses into his future.
It was clear that Esme loved her son with everything she had, and she told of the same emotion from Carlisle. She was so concerned with his future that the last entry detailed her visit to a local white witch, where she begged for her intervention, a spell or something; anything that would save him from a lifetime of unhappiness.
Combing the years
And brushing through time
Her future is in the past
His mirrored in hers
To be irrevocable
Two souls need to be one
And destroy the path back
Once and for all
I fell asleep on the sofa that night, and dreamed of a green-eyed man, with hair the color of an old, well-worn penny. The unhappiness I expected to see on his face was absent, his eyes full of love and a smile as wide as the world.
And, it was me he was looking at.
The sun of the weekend was hiding behind dark grey clouds on Monday morning as I reluctantly woke in the same place I had fallen asleep. I was actually disappointed to wake, wanting to stay asleep and gaze at the face of Edward Cullen, the man who would only ever live in my dreams.
Whatever I wanted, it was time to return to work; a job I actually liked. I wasn't close to the people I worked with, but I had made tentative friendships in the six months after finishing college. For now, I was content, and although it felt as if I was dragging myself through my morning routine, by the time I reached the office in downtown Chicago, I had almost forgotten about my dream.
Each evening that week, I found myself settling on the sofa to look through the letters, reading parts of them until I felt I knew them all. I wished with all my heart that there was something I could do to change their future, but it was all pie in the sky; I didn't believe in magic, because there was no such thing.
Damnit, not only did I not want to be married, I didn't even know the girl. We had met once, when I was eighteen and she ten. How could we possibly get married? We knew absolutely nothing about each other. I wanted to marry for love, as had my parents, and I didn't see why it couldn't wait. Why had they agreed to this? Why would they do this to me?
These were questions I had asked of them more than once, and each time the answers were the same. I needed an heir if I was to successfully run the business in the future. We needed the money from Mary-Alice Isabella Brandon's family or we would be likely to go under.
I had argued until I was blue in the face. I could do this without her money; they just had to trust me. Oh, I know they loved me, but Carlisle was adamant that we use whatever we could to ensure the future.
I raged through the mansion, slamming doors and barking at the servants. It was a week until the ceremony and so far I had refused to meet with the girl, all the while knowing that there was no way out of this abominable situation. I left her mother and mine to make the arrangements, telling them to just tell me when and where and I would be in the spot on time.
I spent that final week out with Emmett and Garrett, visiting local bars, drinking until the early hours, arriving at home the worse for it. I continued spending long hours at the office trying to prove to my father that I could do this without her money, but held out no hope of his changing his mind at this late hour. Before I knew it, Friday was almost here and I had a mere twenty-four hours to find a way out of this farce of a wedding. Despite my education, I could come up with nothing more than what I had already spoken to my father about.
The day dawned grey and wet, looking as gloomy as I felt. I realized that I was being a little unfair to the girl, as she probably didn't want to get married either, but it was a done deal. I rose late, having spent the last hours of my freedom with my friends, and proceeded to avail myself of the assistance of my father's valet to dress in the morning suit selected by my mother. The wedding was to take place in the annex at mid-afternoon, and although I was definitely not looking forward to it, I had resigned myself to my fate.
At five minutes to the hour, I found myself standing at the altar with Emmett as my best man, waiting for my bride-to-be to arrive. The girl, or Mary-Alice, as I remembered her name to be, was fashionably late, and although I hoped that somehow she had changed her mind, freeing me from the obligation, I knew in my heart that would not be happening.
Through the sound of my heart beating in my ears, I heard the wedding march music play and the doors at the end of the small family chapel opened, allowing entrance of the bridesmaids, consisting of my cousins Elizabeth and Briana. They were followed by the girl, dressed from head to foot in white and covered by a veil. I did not complain; I did not want to look on her face through the ceremony, to see her disgust and fear at having to marry someone she didn't love.
In a daze throughout the ceremony, I repeated the words the cleric spoke without really knowing what I was doing and before I knew it, I was bound for the rest of my life to this woman.
"Now that Mary-Alice and Edward have given themselves to each other by solemn vows, with the joining of hands and the giving and receiving of a ring, I pronounce that they are husband and wife, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder."
At the pronouncement of those words, my body shuddered with the finality, and I could no longer stand to be in the same place with all those expectations swirling around me. Without warning, my legs carried me out of the church, and towards the study in the main house. I needed a drink, or more accurately, a whole bottle. No thought was in my head for the girl I left standing beside my parents; I just wanted to forget everything that happened today.