Bella Swan sat at a small table at the Starbucks in the mall of Port Angeles texting her best friend and former roommate Alice Brandon.
When's the wedding?
Bella rolled her eyes and texted back.
Three weeks until I am bound for life.
Alice responded quickly.
Remind me again why you don't just run away from home.
Bella responded to with a sigh.
I love my parents.
She snapped the phone shut and slipped it in her pocket, taking her coffee and getting up to go get what she came to Port Angeles for.
She sipped her coffee as she wandered around the department stores looking for some appropriate clothes to meet her future husband's parents in. Her mother had insisted that she buy something new instead of that "horrible and sinful" clothing she brought back from Oxford.
Bella was fixed to be married. Fixed as in arranged to be married to a man whom she would never even see the face of until after she said her vows, as was the way of the religion to which she had been raised to abide by. She had known from the time she was old enough to walk that her parents would fix her up with a good husband. She knew she would never be given a choice.
Her parents had wanted her to have the best education, make sure she was the best prospective wife out there so she would have a good husband. She had gone to the most prestigious all girl boarding schools since sixth grade. Before that she had been taught to cook, clean, play both the piano and the violin, she could dance, both ballroom and ballet. When she was eighteen she was accepted to Oxford, but her parents were hesitant when she thought of going there. Six thousand miles away from home and exposed to all kinds of new ideas. And, more importantly, boys. She had never interacted much with the opposite sex, but when she got to Oxford, her college roommate had, in her mother's eyes, corrupted her and exposed her to all kinds of sin. Bella had come back with new clothes and a new doubt for her parents' religion. But, being the people pleaser she was, she had consented to go through with the arranged marriage, even though she thought it archaic. Her parents had raised her and she felt she owed it to them.
Alice still insisted that Bella should be able to choose her husband. Of course, Alice was in a happy relationship with her boyfriend of four years, Jasper Whitlock, who had asked her to marry him about two weeks ago. Alice was ecstatic, but as Bella's mother had taught her: spouses that chose each other rarely worked out.
Alice had tried to get Bella to date during college. She took her to parties and tried to set her up with blind dates, but Bella never seemed to like any of the boys she met. Plus, as her religion taught her, she had to stay pure for whoever her future husband would be. If she didn't, her mother made it very clear that no man would want her.
Bella was concentrating on a rack of simple, quarter-sleeved dress shirts, holding her coffee to her chest when she took a step and ran into something solid.
Her head whipped around to see what she had run into and saw to her horror that it was a man.
"Oh, my God!" she exclaimed. "I am so sorry." She automatically dabbed at the stranger's coffee-drenched shirt with the napkins she had picked up from Starbucks.
"It's okay," a musical voice said, and she couldn't help looking up to see who's shirt she was cleaning.
The most beautiful man she had ever seen was standing before her. His hair was bronze and beautifully disheveled, his skin was pale white, and his eyes were the most gorgeous forest green in the world. He looked like a fallen angel, and Bella found herself staring before the musical voice brought her back to reality.
"It's a good thing I just bought another shirt," he said, indicating the bag he was holding.
"I'm so sorry, she repeated. "I'll pay for your shirt . . . I-"
"It's okay," he said again. "Like I said I just bought another one." He pulled a forest green button down shirt out of the bag, and removed the coffee-stained one. Bella turned her head away as he pulled off the shirt. She was told she should never look at a naked man unless he was her husband. Once he had replaced his shirt with a clean one, she looked back at him, trying to forget what the man looked like half-naked.
He dumped the ruined shirt into the shopping bag and smiled at her. "Well, since my shirt stole your coffee, can I buy you another?" he asked.
"No," she said, shaking her head. "I-I mean, I ruined your shirt."
"No, it's my fault, I ran into you. Please, just let me buy you a cup of coffee."
After he had bought her another coffee and a pastry, they sat at the same little table at Starbucks where she had been texting Alice.
"So, now that I've paid you back for stealing your coffee with my shirt, would you be adverse to telling me your name?"
She smiled softly. "I'm Bella Swan, and you are?"
"I'm Edward Masen." He paused gazing at her with an expression she couldn't understand. "So, what do you do for a living, Bella Swan?" he asked.
She had to admit that she was starting to really love the sound of his voice, especially when he said her name. "I don't have a job. I'm to be married in three weeks."
"And how does being married prevent you from working?" he asked.
"According to my religion, women don't work. They stay home and cook and clean and raise children."
"And you want to perform these tasks for your husband."
She looked down at the coffee clutched in her hands. "You want the truth? No, I don't. If I could, I'd become a teacher. I'm not against marriage or anything, but I've been dependent on my parents since I was born, and now I'll be dependent on my husband, I don't want that. I want to know that I'm responsible for doing something other than cleaning. I want to do something that someone who's been educated as much as me should do. Anyone can cook and clean. I want to do some good in the world."
He followed every word she said as though each syllable fascinated him. "Won't your husband let you do those things?"
"Probably not. My husband has most likely been raised with the same ideals I have. He's been taught that women stay home and perform domestic tasks much like his mother probably did."
Edward looked at the woman across from him. "What if your husband let you work?"
"He wouldn't do that."
"Why are you so sure?" His gaze seemed to see right into her soul.
"I'm not. I don't even see him until after I've vowed to stay with him forever."
"What do you get to know about him?"
"His name, occupation, my parents' opinion of him, his parents' opinion of him, salary, where we'll live . . . if I'm completely opposed to something, I don't have to marry him. But more than likely, my parents will pick a rich, high-class man for me to marry. I'll be on his arm at social functions and he'll get me credit cards to spend on clothes that I'll never wear. I'll do the housework and cook his meals; he'll come home, we'll eat dinner, and I'll be whatever he wants me to be."
"That hardly seems fair," Edward said.
"Hasn't anyone ever told you? Life isn't fair."
AN: Hope you like it. Reviews are great.