Disclaimer: All recognizable characters are property of Stephenie Meyers. All story lines are property of me.


Setting:

Ireland, County Kerry, Cahirciveen

1846


Dawn broke slowly over the hills and slower in the valleys. Its rosy fingers reached out over the green expanse of Benetee Mountain. A singular mountain in the chain known as Migillacuddy's Reek, herdsmen and traveler alike had crossed its path many a time to reach the port city of Cahirciveen. Bella was no exception.

For the better part of an hour, she had walked a steady pace along the dusty road into town. Passed farmsteads and sheep grazing fields, Bella walked hoping to make it into the village before all the favorable stalls in the market had been taken for the day.

Tugging a loose coil of weathered rope, behind the girl sauntered a slight donkey and his haul of seventy-five pounds of potatoes and root vegetables. Under foot, a yippy fox terrier scooted around the duo of travelers.

Wiping the strands of chocolate brown hair out of her eyes, Bella leaned down to scold the puppy. "Tyler, if you are going to be a bother all the way into town, you can head back to Charlie right, now. I'm sure he can use your help getting the chickens out of the shed."

The slim girl placed the dog back on the ground. He sat back on his haunches, examining her as she continued her walk, not wanting the donkey to stop in his forward momentum. Once the donkey, affectionately known as Mike after one of her father's public house friends, stopped, it took an hour of prodding or the loss of a bushel of carrots to his stomach for him to begin again.

Bella turned to see if Tyler was going to follow her the remaining mile into town or if he had decided to head back to her father. The curly haired dog had not moved since she placed him in the center of the road. It was a ploy, she knew, to get her to feel bad about being cross with him, but Bella didn't care.

"Come, Tyler," she yelled back to him, slapping her hand against her dusty skirts. The terrier stood and trotted to meet her. Bella smiled and grabbed his little body, hoisting him into one of the baskets strategically placed on Mike the Donkey's back. Tyler loved to ride high up on the donkey and greet the land as they walked.

Through the rolling landscape the three walked. Bella loved these moments alone when her thoughts weren't governed by the worries of her father or the demands of a customer at the market.

Having turning sixteen at the end of the rainy winter season, Bella was now expected to be mistress of her homestead, which meant early morning walks into town to sell her family's goods.

Their minute caravan made it to town before the Angelus Bell rang. Bella found a stall close to the head of the market and began unloading her goods. The donkey, Mike, shifted nervously as horses began making their way through the cramped paths of the marketplace.

"Don't worry, boy," Bella soothed the beast, patting down the length of his gray body. "Once I have you unpacked, I'll see to it that Stable Master brushes you down, alright?"

The animal nickered nervously, but stopped moving long enough for the girl to fully unload. Taking him by the reigns, she quickly ran a street beyond the market to stable her brute for the day.

"Hay penny," the Stable Master demanded of her with an extended hand. Worn with years of hard work, the skin of his hand scratched Bella's as she placed the coin inside.

Muttering to herself about the rising cost of things, Bella made her way back to the market. As she weaved through the crowded stalls, she passed momentarily in front of a mirror to examine herself.

Her long mane of lush chocolate brown locks fell in messy rings around her face. Her velvet smooth brown eyes were prominent because of her naturally pale complexion. A slight freckling touched her cheeks. She took note of a smear of road dirt upon her chin and worked with her spit and the hem of her skirts to wipe it clean.

The reflection of the glass was tilted violently and Bella jumped to see the stall keeper crossly examining her. "Ms. Swan," he began. "Why do you vex me so? Do you not see that I am running a business here? I would think with your own stall creating such a line that you would hurry along for commerce's sake?"

Bella swung around to see a line of woman and children gathering around her stall. "Faith and bego…" she exclaimed only to be cut off by the loud whinnying of a horse.

Holding her skirts high enough to keep them keep off the refuse in the street, Bella ran to meet her customers. Working like a woman possessed, she was able to sell all but ten pounds of her family's root vegetables before the second mass of the morning had let out of the church.

Wiping her brow with the back of her hand and taking a small break during the lull of patrons, a tiny girl with dark black hair slid into her stall and threw her arms about Bella. "Alice," she proclaimed. "By Heavens, one of these days you'll startle me to death."

"Oh, Bella, how I've missed you," Alice declared, placing her hands in Bella's. "I knew this trip into Dublin would take weeks but I never could have thought it would take the entire winter season. Can you forgive me for leaving you alone for so long?"

"Of course, I will. For we all know that a girl may not subsist on her familial acquaintances alone," Bella cracked a smile. "We all need our silly childhood friends."

"You daft woman!"

"That I am, my dear, but you love me for it. Now come and sit," Bella asked pulling up a crate for the petite girl to set upon. "Tell me all about the city."

Alice recounted her tale, beginning the fall before when she and her parents began their journey for Dublin in an open wagon to pick up a load of goods that would have waited for February to be delivered had they not gone for them immediately. "Once we had the wagon packed, we were to turn for home," Alice said with a sigh. "That's when the snows began. We were able to travel as far as the Wicklow Mountains before we had to turn back. The snows made the roads impassible."

She paused to rearrange the silver comb holding back her short black hair. "We had to go back and stay on in Dublin. Every morning, Papa would go to the Patrol station and ask about the safety of traveling. We wanted to get out of the city if we could. A rash of infestation began," Alice explain, subconsciously touching her hair. When the girl had left with her family, three months ago her hair had been longer than Bella's and even more striking for its deep raven black color. "Fleas. The entire city was crawling with fleas. And of course, there were warnings that they carried plague."

Big, wet tears began to slide down the rosy cheeks of the small girl. "Bella, Momma made me cut my hair off. All of it. I'm disgraced. I've been wearing bonnets to cover it since we left the city. How can I continue?"

Bella raised her hand to run it through the straight black peaks of hair. Considering for a moment, she chose her words carefully. "How old are you Alice?"

"Fifteen," she answered.

"And, how long did it take you to get it as long as it was?"

"I can't remember ever cutting it," she confessed. "Papa liked my hair long. And the boys always told me that it was the almost the prettiest hair in five counties," she finished, referring to her two brothers.

"Almost?" Bella asked.

"They would tease me that I was friends with you just so I could steal your hair. Now, what would they think of me?"

"They will wonder how you got so beautiful. If anything, this new style you wear could be compared to those of the fashionable women of France. Don't tell anyone that you cut it because of the fleas, tell them that it is the latest fashion. We'll see how long until those copy cats are wearing it the same way."

"You are the height of genius, Bella. I pity your enemies, you know. Thank the Heavens above that you are too nice to make any," Alice sighed, relief flashing across her face.

"Finish your tale," Bella instructed.

"Yes, well. Momma insisted that we see Edward before leaving the city. He took the family to see the theatre, though Papa insisted it was base. We were taken to dinner later that night. We introduced to a good friend and fellow scholar of my brother's, a Mister Henry Grattan Guinness of the St. James' Gate Guinesses."

"You dined with a Guinness?" Bella asked increduous.

"I was as flabergasted as you, my dear," Alice insisted. "He was charming but distant."

"They say he is nothing like his grandfather, Sir Arthur Guinness."

"I would say not," she confirmed. "He's studying to become a priest at Trinity College with Edward. He must be a different man than his ancestor. Nevertheless, he was a good looking man."

Alice smiled. "Edward introduced us to many of his friends. There was many a fine gentleman in the group."

Bella laughed at her friend. She could always count on Alice to find a suitor amongst a group.

"We left the next morning, a week previous, and finished our journey unmolested. I do enjoy the countryside, but long for the comforts of home. We were sorely missed I hope," Alice pressed her body to Bella's.

Hugging back, Bella answered. "Never have I missed anyone like you, Alice. You are my sister, if not in blood, in faith."

"Bella," Alice sighed as she broke apart from their hug. Looking to the sun, she sighed again. "I've been sent on an errand for Papa. Emmett has been watching the store since we left. He needs helping moving stock from the backroom to the store front. I've been asked to find some able boys. Have you seen the any running around?"

"Tell Emmett that I'll be there to help after I bring Mike back to Charlie," Bella said gathering up the empty sacks about the stall.

Alice smiled. She knew what a strong girl Bella was. "He was expecting you'd be there," Alice said with a wink. "Be there by noon and he'll throw in lunch," she finished, speaking over her shoulder as she left the market stall.

Bella walked as quickly as possible back to the homestead and pushed Mike into the donkey shed behind the house. "Dad," Bella called out into the field, seeing her father cutting deep furrows into the ground. She ran to him taking the hoe from his hands. "Dad, I'll be in town for a while. Til after supper, I think. Can you make it on your own for the evening?"

"Am I not an adult?" he asked with a light chuckle in his voice. "Is the Masen family back?"

"They got in yesterday afternoon. Alice has already been to the market to see me. Her father sent her to get some town boys to help Emmett move boxes around the store."

"And of course, you'll be doin' that now, won't you?" Charlie eyed her suspiciously.

Bella grinned a polite smile to her father. "Dad, we all know I'm stronger than the any boy in the town, including Jacob Black."

"You'll never see a Black pushing boxes around the Masen's store. They're too …"

"Dad!"

"I know, I know, Bella. I shouldn't speak ill of the Blacks," Charlie said before taking a deep swig from a canteen of water.

"They've been more than honest with us," Bella admonished. The Blacks, a family of wealthy English landlords, owned the property which Bella and Charlie Swan rented. The vast majority of the crops they raised were handed over to the Blacks as payment for the land. Whatever was left was deemed the Swans to eat or sell as they saw fit. Through the years, the elder Black, William Black, had allowed Charlie to lessen his payment for the homestead as the price of the potato dropped.

"They are good to us," Charlie admitted. "Now, go earn some lunch helping Emmett. But stay out of the back room unless Mr. or Mrs. Masen is there."

"I will, Dad," Bella chuckled walking briskly for the road and town three miles below. Charlie had been worried about Emmett's intentions towards Bella since she was a girl of eight. The boy, a year older than herself, had taken to the friend Alice brought home from school like a bee to honey.

He was rugged and handsome but Bella had never felt anything more than sisterly love for the burly young man. Standing at the entrance to the Masen General Store, Bella looked in to find Emmett standing a head taller than she remembered him. His shirt sleeves rolled to his elbows he lifted a large wooden crate above his head and placed it on a shelf.

"Emmett," Bella called to the boy. His face broke into a grin as she approached him in the dimly lit store. "Alice said you needed help."

"Always," he admitted in his deepening teen voice. Before she could move, the strapping boy had closed his arms around her like a bear trap, squeezing the air out of her lungs.

"Can't … breathe …" she gasped and he released her. She righted her skirts and blouse as the raven haired young man reached around behind the counter and presented Bella with a stick of lemon honey candy.

"I'm sorry," he said handing her the candy. "I forget my own strenght some times."

"None of us do after hugs like that!"Bella admonished with a smile. "Conas tann tu? (see translation below)"

Knowing the girl spoke in jest, Emmett tosselled her hair and headed for the back of the shop. "I'm well. Come help, ok!"

"Is your mother here?" Bella asked looking around the front of the store for her. A wizened woman stood in the corner looking at a jar of soothing burn balm made from the flowers of a tree that grew in the fields nearby.

"No, Papa's in the back, taking inventory and unloading the stock from Dublin, but Momma's at home with Alice. Someone has to get a room ready for His Highness," Emmett finished with a grimace.

"His Highness?" Bella asked following Emmett to a stack of boxes, five crates high. Emmett began pulling the boxes from the top. Stacking two upon one another he lifted them and motioned for Bella to take the top one.

"Edward, the Great," Emmett joked. "He's returning for the summer."

"Why?" Bella burst out, not controlling the timbur of her voice which broke.

Emmett cocked his head looking her over before answering. "Our uncle, the one that pays for Edward's schooling at Trinity, he believes that Edward would do well with a summer at the shore. Since Edward is against heading to Bath, he has opted to come home for sometime before taking a job as his own."

Bella nodded. The Masen's had always spoken of their eldest son Edward, who was raised by his mother, Elizabeth's, widowed brother. Bella had never met the seventeen year old young man but felt the same familial love for him that she did for his siblings because of the way that they spoke of him.

She knew that in their mother's eyes, the prodigal Masen child would be returning home this summer. Life was about to become infinitesimally more difficult for Emmett and Alice, who both feared that they would be expected to wait on their eldest brother. Emmett was quiet that day. Speaking little and moving fast, the two teenagers were able to clear the last of the boxes from the store room.

"And, what of Edward? How are his studies progressing?" Bella asked Emmett as they moved goods from the boxes to the display shelves of the store. Tiny bottles of white powder and vials of clear, sweet smelling liquids were placed next to each other. The blue colbalt of the bottles sparkled in the fading light of late afternoon.

"He has finished his degree with honors, as expected. My parents expect him to take a parish in the surrounding country but I think he has his eyes set on America," Emmett admitted sitting down on the empty crates and Bella continued to empty hers. "I've always wanted to see America."

"Not I," Bella stated, steadfast. "There shall never be a land like my Eire. Nothing could lure me from her green fields.

"We'll see how you feel when we grow up and you marry some gent that wants to travel west," Emmett prodded.

"Never. For there is no love worth leaving Ireland for," she said placing the last blue bottle on the shelf overhead. "There. I'm finished. Well, I should be heading home. The Angelus will be ringing soon. Charlie would never say it but he is expecting dinner on the table."

"What would he do with out you, Bella?" Emmett asked putting a two wrapped packages in her hands.

"Probably starve. What are these?" she asked.

"Payment for your help today. Some soda bread that Momma made especially for Edward. I swiped a loaf for you. And a package of sugar," Emmett beamed with pride.

"Sugar? Emmett Masen! We haven't had sugar to spare in this quantity since I was nigh a girl." Bella tried to push the second package back into Emmett's hands. "The soda bread will surely get you into trouble, I don't need your mother hunting me down for her missing sugar."

"Take it, Bella. I bought it from the store myself. You earned it." Emmett gave her a stern look that told her to stop arguing if she valued their friendship.

"There. That's better," he said watching her slip it into a basket at her arm. "Will you be at the market tomorrow morning?"

"No, I've sold the produce for the week already. But, if you or Alice is looking for a diversion, I should be down at the Fertha or on the Strand fishing."

"Alright. I might take you up on that. Edward's due to reach us tomorrow. I don't want to be around for the homecoming celebration."

Bidding their farewells for the evening, Bella began her hour's walk back up the side of the Benetee Mountain to her family home. The roads twisted and turned, ground into the land when the meandering flocks of sheep were driven to market in Cahirciveen.

Trudging home after her exhausting day of work, strangers passed her walking in and out of town. New faces were not uncommon in the port town. Each new face, each new horse, each new wagon brought money to the town and its inhabitants.

Verdent and alive, Bella passed the tall saw grass growing wild amongst the untamed fields, barren of farmer or produce. The blight had come many years ago, spreading across the farmlands, a pox on the potato plants. The scarcity of food had been bad in the beginning as food rotted in the fields. What was edible was taken by the English landlords and sent overseas for sale. Many townspeople and the farmers from the surrounding county had banded together and begged the landlords to help their families. With a touch of humanity they acquiesced.

Passing one such vacant field, Bella spied a riderless horse grazing lazily about the undergrowth. It walked in wide circles about a flatten area of grass. She assumed the chestnut mare's owner must be resting unseen.

Not paying attention to the road, Bella stumbled and fell hard to the dusty ground. "Ouch!" she yelled and rolled into a low trench that followed the path up the mountain.

Pain radiated through her right arm. Blinding white spots blinked in front of her eyes before the world grew black.

Gentle pressure to her side woke the girl. "What's this then?" she muttered in a haze trying to move away from the feeling at her side. It followed her.

Beside her, the chestnut mare stood ten feet away, tethered to the rock way on the far side of the slight ravine. In the darkness, Bella was able to make out a man who sat nearby, his head resting on his arms crossed over his folded legs. His eyes popped open when her skirts rustled as she tried to move about.

"Miss," he spoke. "Miss, I would recommended holding fast and still if you would."

"What do you know of it?" Bella accused, still trying to stand. She couldn't make her right arm move the way she wanted.

"You've injured yourself ma'am," the stranger took a step towards her. "It would be for the best if you allowed me to help you home. I believe you've taken a nasty fall."

Closing the gap between the struggling girl and him, the stranger knelt down and offered his hand. Bella clasped it with her left as the man pulled her right. "There, I'm fine now, I just …" Bella gestured with her arms, shooting pain through them. "Aowwww!"

"Miss, if you'll listen to me?" Bella nodded her ascent to the man. "I would like to offer you a ride home. You've dislocated your shoulder. While you were unconscious I was able to mend your injury but you will be sore for sometime."

Bella inspected her arm. The pressure on her side had been a tightly wound bandage holding her appendage firmly to her body. Not caring for social graces, Bella's left hand wound its way to the top of her skirt, searching for her hidden coin purse. If this stranger could have popped her arm back into the socket of her shoulder while she lay unconscious, what would have stopped him from stealing her coin?

"I think you'll find it safe," he chuckled. His laugh reminded her of the spring song birds that would begin to wake her in a few weeks time. "Here, let me help you onto Ruby, my mare."

"Thank you, sir," Bella answered. The man held her firmly, helping her to place herself onto the horse before he joined behind her.

"You're light enough for me to ride behind, if you are alright with that?" he asked. She nodded. "Where do you live?"

"Almost a mile from here. Keep following this road, the Barr Na Sraide, until you reach the road for Canburrin. My father's land is a twenty minute walk from the road to the village," Bella answered, already feeling fatigued again.

"I'll have you home before the sun finishes setting," he said looking to the sky over the ocean. "Before the sun lights the water."

With an order for movement, Ruby took to the road, moving swiftly amongst the rocky debris and detritus about it. Bella felt herself falling asleep. Upon the horse, she knew the rider would not let her fall off. The rider sighed as the younger girl relaxed backward against him. Closing in on her homestead, he was reluctant to move the horse at such a quick pace, so as not to startle her father.

Dismounting, the young man reached up for the girl, pulling her down. With a swift rap of his boot to the door frame, the stranger alerted Charlie that he was entering the home. Bella in his arms, he was graciously accepted. He introduced himself and explained what had happened to the young woman. He ordered her to remain in bed for the day to follow and to not be allowed to complete difficult labor until her arm had strengthened itself.

Charlie was thanking him as Bella drowsily shook herself awake. The stranger, stopping at the door frame, locked eyes with her. His eyes, the same green as the emerald fields around her home, burned into her. "I hope your arm heals well, Miss Swan," he wished her before sweeping out the door.


Explanation of terms:

Angelus – Bells that are rung at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. reminding members of the Catholic faith to pray.

Haypenny - A slang term for the coin of Irish currency known as a halfpence. Halfpence would equivalent to a half penny in American dollars although the monetary equivalent is not accurate.

"Conas tann tu?" – translates to "how are you?"

"Faith and begora" – is a saying mean something akin to "Oh my God!"

Public House – the term "pub" is a slang word for a public house. It is a meeting and/or gathering place for all people and became a place to get food and beverage, including alcoholic libations.

Eire – Gaelic for Ireland

Gaelic – language of the Irish people which is making a resurgence in the country.

Places explanation:

Cahirciveen – a small port city which is considered the capital of the Iveragh Pennisula in County Kerry, Ireland.

Fertha – a river which runs to the north west of the city bisecting the main hub of the city and the Benetee Mountain from the fertile farmland and beach beyond.

Strand – Also known as the White Strand, it is a stretch of beach.

Benetee Mountain – a mountain that backs up to the city of Cahirciveen. Part of Macgillycuddy's Reeks.

Macgillycuddy's Reeks – mountains in the southwest point of Ireland (County Kerry) which contain the highest point in Ireland, Carrauntoohil.

Trinity College - (Coláiste na Tríonóide in Irish), corporately designated as the Provost, Fellows and Scholars of the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin, was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I[1 as the "mother of a university", and is the only constituent college of the University of Dublin. Trinity and the University of Dublin form Ireland's oldest university. Trinity is located in the centre of Dublin, Ireland, on College Green opposite the former Irish Houses of Parliament (now a branch of the Bank of Ireland). The campus occupies 47 acres (190,000 m²), with many buildings, both old and new, ranged around large courts (known as "squares") and two playing fields. (taken from for accuracy)

Bath – a seaside resort town in England renown for rejuvenating the spirits during the 1800s.