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Love in Affliction
Chapter Sixteen: The Beginning
June 19, 1896
Elise stared upon her family's land of West Essex. The sun illuminated the vast expansion of hills, hit the waters of the lake, and brought upon a pleasant mood for the day. A gentle breeze caught the air, entrapping a few escaped curls from her chiffon within the battle. She sighed happily, allowing the ray to warm her skin.
"Mother would have a fit if she could see you now," Hannah said in a disapproving tone.
Nicholas laughed, grinned at his wife, and walked back into the manor. "Come now, Mrs. Dublin. Let her have some fun."
"But she well spot!" she protested angrily. "Who will have her then? Such blemishes are quite unattractive."
"Sister," Elise chimed, a smile still on her lips. "Have you forgotten what day it is?"
"What is the date?"
"The nineteenth of June. Are you referring to Mr. Edward Cullen's day of birth tomorrow?"
"My goodness, Hannah. Are you daft?" Elise growled. "Tomorrow is the day in which Edward and I are officially betrothed!"
The words felt especially vindictive on her lips. She did not have to worry about blemishes, nor the disapproval for her behavior. As far as she was concerned, marriage was a mere declaration and nothing more. Edward would not want much to do with her after the ceremony; she would be a free woman. The world was hers for the taking. It was amusing how things ended just as they once began.
It was written in the books for her. In their earlier years, Edward had been smitten with her. He doted on her every look and action. He would praise her intelligence and artistic skills. She returned the compliments like a proper young lady would. Her mind told her that she was in love with Edward, when in all truth; she was in love with what Edward could give her.
She was always taught to be nonattached. Affections and compassion were for the plebeians and commoners. Her mother, Lorraine Dervish, was a strict teacher when it came to the fine Machiavellian arts. She spoke to her daughters of deception and cunning. The past of Lorraine Dervish had been questionable. From the scandals in the court of France, to the gossips in London, the Countess had been known for her poison words. Bitter retribution ran deep within the veins of the women in her family. Long forgotten history would never be diminished.
And so the curse of wickedness followed. It would seem unfathomable how a single person could truly be heinous. The venom in her heart only seemed to fuel the maddening power. Elise snorted at the thought of her dense and passionate sister. In her opinion, she was an utter fool. She would amount to no more than a child bearer.
Control would be hers. Power would be undeniable. Elise drowned happily on the thought of being a Viscountess. Money. Supremacy. Nobility. Satisfaction oozed from her presence at the thought of her happy ending. After all, that was all that mattered. She took enjoyment out of Edward's misery. The villain had triumphed once more.
It was as if she were playing a strategic round of chess; the sport of a man. Of course it was only fit that she played the king to her opponent. One by one she manipulated the pieces, or in her case—people—to her advantage. Slowly, the weakest links had fallen victim like a sacrificial lamb. The guards—the Cullen and McCarty family—were caught in their mystification. They too had been subjected to her maniacal web of lies. Finally, the queen—Edward's Bella—was taken away. Everyone closest to the king of the opposing side—Edward—had vanished.
He was all alone.
"Game over," she whispered.
"I swear!" Hannah said shrilly, glaring at her sister. "Do you ignore me on purpose?!"
"It is not that hard to drone out the voice of a banshee."
"I suppose you do not want your letter the."
Elise turned sharply to her sister. "Who is it from?"
"The Cullen family."
"Ah. I assume it is a letter to congratulate and invite. Lady Cullen will want to start the wedding preparations soon." Though as she read the letter, her voice faded into an incoherent mumble. The letter's words suddenly dawned on her face in horror as truth washed over Elise. Her lips quivered with anger as livid tears streamed down her face.
"What is the matter?"
"No!" she exclaimed in a vicious murmur. Her eyes glazed over with lifelessness, and her body began to sway with shock.
"Elise!" Hannah cried, holding on to her sister. "Tell me at once!"
She turned to her sister, the hollowness still in her eyes. It seemed as though there had been one last medaling pawn in the game. The queen had returned to her king, and in one simple move, Elise had been beaten. It was over. She had no where to go—no where to move.
"I swear, if you do not speak, I will fetch for the salts!"
Elise shook her head. Her dreams had blurred before her eyes, and suddenly it was as if she had gone blind. "Check mate," she choked out, falling to the floor in defeat
Edward stepped out of the carriage, holding his hand out to help Bella. He smiled as her hair swung freely down her back, slightly tousled by the wind. After months of concealment and traveling, they were finally in their homeland. England seemed to have suffocated the two of them, so the two decided on short visits to Italy, Spain, and even America. Bella was especially awed at the freedom New York held.
"Are you tired, love?" he asked, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.
She stared warmly into his eyes. "Just a bit, but I am actually glad to be here. I did miss Alice very much. I hope she is not angry with me."
"Oh, knowing her, she will throw a fit. Do not worry. You will not have to suffer on your own." He ran a hand through his hair, chuckling. "I will have to endure the wrath of aunt Esme, Rosalie, and Alice."
"Perhaps you should have left a more thorough note."
"Perhaps you should have left a note."
"Alice knew that I was to go to America directly after the wedding." She bit her lip gently as they strolled down the path to the manor. "I hope she is not too angry. Are you sure that they are in?"
"Jasper does not have any business to attend until the autumn. I know that he enjoys summer air in the country." Edward appraised the manor and landscape with approval. As they reached the entrance, a servant gave a short bow in acknowledgment.
"Good day, Lord Cullen. It has been a long time."
"Indeed it has. Is my cousin in at the moment?"
"They have arrived only hours ago. Should I announce that you and Miss…"
"…Swan," Edward said, amused at the words he had spoken. "And, no. I would like to give my cousin a nice surprise."
"Very well. Good day, Lord Cullen. Miss Swan."
Bella followed Edward as he walked into the manor. She gasped at the beauty, and the finery of the lavish home. Portraits and sculptures graced the home, giving a certain warmth to the air.
"Look at you. You are like a child entering a sweet shop," Edward teased with a grin on his face.
Ignoring his words, Bella continued to stare in awe. "It is so beautiful."
He sniffed, feigning jealousy. "I am hurt."
"Good. Your ego was much too large for my fancy."
"Ouch." He chuckled, but put a finger to his lips as they approached a parlor. He lightly pressed his ear to the door.
"Today is the day," Jasper said, disdain apparent in his voice. "I cannot believe he gave up. How very disappointing."
"Happy birthday, Edward." Alice murmured sadly, nodding in agreement.
Unable to take the melancholy aroma, Edward pushed the door open, pulling Bella beside him to follow. "Actually, my birthday is not until tomorrow, but I thank you."
The look on Alice and Jasper's faces were unforgettable. Their eyes widened with sheer and utter shock, while their mouths slightly parted.
"Speak of the devil, and the devil shall appear," Bella taunted, smiling at her friends.
In a minute's time, after recovering from shock, Jasper held Edward in a fierce grip. "Explain, cousin."
"What is there to explain?"
"Hm. Let us see. You leave for five months without any contact to your family or friends, and today you appear with Miss Swan—by the way, good day to you—and you do not deem that a good enough reason to explain"
Edward bore an impish grin. "Well, I suppose I do have some explaining."
Alice pursed her lips, attempting to stop the tears stinging in her eyes. She glared at Edward, and in a sudden impulse, she smacked him over the head. "You, idiot!" she cried. "Now, you decide to pursue Bella? Now, when the betrothal is to be activated! How could you be so thoughtless! You are a bleeding fool—"
"Dear, you must calm down. Think of the baby," Jasper said, wrapping an arm around her waist.
Edward and Bella stared at Alice's stomach, staring at the bump for the first time. "You are with child?"
"Yes," she snapped, still unforgiving. "That is beside the point. How dare you—"
Noticing the look Edward gave him, Jasper spoke up. "I have some business to discuss with you."
Alice growled. "I am not finished!" But they ignored the pregnant woman, leaving her alone with Bella. She huffed irritably, turning her fury to her friend. "You will leave me as well?"
"No," she replied quietly.
"It would not surprise me. You ran off after my wedding without a goodbye; without any letters." Alice's face contorted with pain, her face crumpling. "Does our friendship mean nothing?"
"Oh, Alice." Bella walked to her friend's side, hugging her closely. "Our friendship means the world to me. You are my dearest friend. I am deeply sorry that I left without notice."
"I still do not forgive you," she muttered, wiping the tears away. "So, how did Edward find you? I am sure that your reunion in America was not a simple twist of fate."
"You are right. It was not a coincidence."
"Well, the two of us promised to not tell a soul." She stared at the sour expression upon Alice's face and sighed. "Oh…Edward will be cross with me for telling you without him. He is probably telling Jasper as we speak—I would not put it past him."
"Quit your prattling, Bella!" Alice furrowed her eyebrows, placing her hands upon her hips. "Do you know what I have endured? Morning ailment. Aches. Pain. Moodiness. Fatigue!"
She put a hand to her mouth to abstain the laughter that tickled her throat. "I know of such maladies."
"No more games. Please."
"If you must know, Edward and I reconciled the day of your wedding."
"Oh really?" Alice muttered sarcastically. "I am not thick, Bella."
"My, my. When have you become condescending?"
"I have the right to be. You see, my supposed friend left me behind."
Bella sighed helplessly, crossing her arms. "I apologize for leaving. I apologize for not being here to celebrate your pregnancy—" and then her eyes brightened with excitement as something dawned on her. "Oh! I know what I can do."
"No, really! I have not told a soul. Not even Edward knows. You will be the first!"
After a moment of speculation, Alice sniffed. "Out with it, then."
"This may seem a bit shocking, but when I told you that I know of the sickness you have been enduring, it was not a lie."
"I am not positively sure about it, but—" she bit her lip gently, hesitant, and blurted out, "I think I am pregnant!"
Alice stared blankly at her friend, unfazed. "That is a pitiful jest. Not only is that not funny, but it is a poor attempt of seeking forgiveness."
"I do not jest."
She looked at Bella closely, but found only sincerity. "You are serious?"
"Bella! How could you do that to yourself? Oh, I will murder Edward. How dare he! And you! Pregnancy before marriage—think of the scandal. Miss Dervish will certainly cause more mayhem. That bleeding cow!"
"Alice—" she laughed.
"This is not funny!" Her eyes widened with horror. "You are the other woman—a mistress—and all is too late…"
"Alice! Breathe." Bella continued in her fit of giggles, amused by her friend's hysterics. "I am nothing of the sort."
"You are with child out of wedlock!"
"No, I am not."
A half a second passed before Bella's words seeped into Alice's mind. She gasped, her face turning grim. "No…"
"Forgive me?" she winced, awaiting the inevitable tirade.
"Isabella Marie Swan! Or should I say—Cullen—I cannot believe this! You leave without notice for five months, you are away for the announcement of my pregnancy, and you go and do this to me?!"
"It is nothing. Really."
"You eloped!" she yelled, a pout forming on her lips. "That hurts, Bella."
"In my defense, it was Edward's idea. We had a deadline. I'm sure you understand, Alice."
"I do not care." She paced around the room, formulating a plan in her head. With a smile, she advanced towards the door. "You do know what this means."
"What?" Bella asked, wearily.
"You are going to be married the following week, and I will make sure it is done properly. I do not want any complaints either."
"And here I thought you did not think much of scandal and etiquette." Bella sighed, walking after the brunette. "Where are you going?"
"We are going to London. There is shopping to be done. Weddings. Children. Splendid!"
"Hell hath no fury than an Alice's scorn."
Alice laughed, marching down the halls of her manor. "Jasper!"
Both Edward and Jasper appeared around the corner, finishing their conversation. Jasper shot Bella a brief smile. "I suppose congratulations are in order."
She narrowed her eyes towards Edward.
"No lectures. I know you told Lady Alice Cullen, too."
"More than you know," Alice teased, her mood increasing by the minute. She then turned to Jasper and beamed. "Call for the carriage. We are to go to the city."
Jasper shrugged in compliance. "Will you join us as well?" he asked, staring at his cousin.
"We shall meet the two of you Uncle Carlisle's manor." Edward escorted his wife from the home, holding her close.
"That was a short visit."
"I rather enjoy spending time with you. I learn something new each minute I spend in your presence. Today I have learned that Edward Cullen is a gossip."
Her smirked, wrapped an arm around her waist, and chuckled. "Now, now, my blasphemous wife. Think of what society would say—calling your husband by his first name!"
"I learned such brazenness from Alice." She pursed her lips. "And it can get quite confusing. I suppose we are all Cullens now."
"And it was not easy," he muttered under his breath.
"The greatest accomplishments in life are never easy."
"How very true."
Bella entered their carriage, and turned to Edward, a blithe smile upon her lips. "I am happy to be home. I missed England."
"And I, too." He tilted his head, observing Bella. "Are you at ease to travel?"
"I am a bit puckish. Why do you ask?"
"You have been ill every morning since we returned."
"Perhaps London will do me well." She stared out of the window, rubbing her stomach absentmindedly.
Edward bore an amused expression. "So, why the sudden impulse to leave the country?" he asked.
"Alice has decided that we need a proper wedding. With a wedding comes shopping. I swear—her gluttony is her deepest of sins."
"It is in vain to be severe with Lady Alice Cullen." His eyes danced with mirth as he continued the conversation. "I suppose you shall shop for the baby as well."
"I am sure Alice has purchased the necessities for her child."
"Bella," Edward said, shaking his head. "Are you so fatigued as to forget our child?"
"What?!" She exclaimed, astonished. "How did you—"
"Honestly, dear, you are an open-book." He pressed his lips against hers, smiling. His hand entwined with hers as the other caressed her stomach. "She will be beautiful like her mother."
"She? How do you know that it is not a boy?"
"Believe me when I say this: the world is not ready for our son, especially when I am the father. The little monster will be an arrogant thing. Handsome, of course. Charming…the epitome of what I am."
"Not if I can help it," she laughed, dwelling in her thoughts. "This feeling…it is strange. Having a child…"
"Are you afraid, love?"
"No. I am anything but frightened. I have you." Bella stared out of the window, pondering. "I have matured, and yet I feel like a child. This feeling…emotion…it is the opposite of what my mother has told me."
"And what is that?"
"She told me the moment she was married and had children, her life had ended."
"Absurd," Edward scoffed. His emerald eyes softened into a liquid green, smoldering with love. He took her other hand within his as if to never let go. "It is only the beginning, Bella.
Authoress Note: That is the end of my tale. I wanted to thank each and every one of you for reading and reviewing! I appreciate your wonderful comments. I have gained inspiration and motivation through each and every one of you. Your reviews made it possible for me to review (even you lurkers! You know who you are.) I have a few things to address:
This story is not based on Pride and Prejudice. I think there is a misconception. Pride and Prejudice was written by a wonderfully talented young woman. To compare my story to Miss Austen's is unforgivable. I could possess even an inch of her talent, I would be thrilled.
On the previous note, I have good news. Some of you may know that Love in Affliction is actually a novel I wrote a while back. Well, after getting the inspiration to add a few chapters and such, I spoke with some publishers. Love in Affliction may actually be a novel. Of course my characters are different, and some of the scenes are more detailed and edited. So far, things are looking good.
On a final note, I have outtakes and lost chapters for Love in Affliction. I was thinking about doing a separate story posting the lost chapters and such. If you are interested, I should come out with a few outtakes soon. Also, if you have any requests (things you wanted to see but weren't in Love in Affliction) let me know. I may just write the scene especially for you.
Thank you for the support. Much love.