I bit back a scream when Bethany applied an ointment to my back, tears falling in silent torrents down my cheeks. Honestly, I hadn't done anything wrong, nothing I could help anyway, I've talked in my sleep all my life. The sting of the whip still resonated through my body, I've been whipped twice every night one of the mistresses catches me talking in my sleep. This is the thirtieth day since the new spell of talking begun, I have been lashed 60 times, my back is completely raw.
Welcome to hell, oops – I mean Josephine's academy of lady-like finesse. (A/N Okay, I know it's a mouthful…). My father sent me here when mother died, so I could learn to be a good wife, then, her would sell me to a wealthy family, and I would be their gift to their son, a wife.
I groaned again when Bethany pressed too hard, "Bella," she whispered harshly, "Be quiet and still, you're meeting your new man tomorrow, try and sleep, and oh-" she gagged my mouth with a piece of cloth so no one would hear me speak, I nodded my thanks and closed my eyes.
Today was the day, there was one mistress doing my hair and nails while headmistress lectured me on the importance of manners. I was in emotional turmoil, excited, nervous, afraid, and anxious were just few, I also felt sick.
A sapphire blue ball gown with a navy bow and trim was pulled around me, heels were on my feet and a bracelet on my wrist. "How do you feel Isabella?" headmistress inquired.
"Excited, but calm." I half-lied.
"Good, it is time to meet sir Edward." (A/N AHH!!! EDWARD!!! Omg) she pulled a butler to me and I took his arm. He led me slowly down the marble staircase, careful of my famous clumsiness. Standing a few feet away from the bottom stair was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen, he had bronze hair and emerald eyes. He was tall and had nearly translucent skin.
I stood at the bottom stair in uncertainty, what if he didn't like me and left me here? What if he thought I was ugly? –And the most pronounced – What if he whipped me?
My thoughts and worries faded as he came forward and hugged me, kissing me lightly on the cheek, "Hello dearest Bella." He held my hands between us, "It is an honor."
My cheeks reddened at his forwardness and it took me a moment to relocate my train of thought, but, I curtsied, "The honor is mine, sir Edward."
I looked at him in hesitation and he smiled reassuringly, "Call me Edward, please." He turned to headmistress, "I assume you have everything ready for me to sign…?" he raised an eyebrow in question.
Headmistress blushed a bit, her mind coming back to itself from ogling Edward, "Yes, of course, if you'll just follow me." She stumbled a bit as she walked away, I was working to restrain a smile.
Edward was trying not to laugh as well, he put his hand lightly on my back and pushed me forward behind headmistress. I flinched and gasped softly, Edward took his hand from my back and gripped my own hand, "Are you well?" Great, just fantastic, now he must think me mental, of course headmistress told him I was in perfect health. I thought angrily to myself.
"Yes Edward." Tears formed in my eyes and I blinked hard, Edward was still watching me, but let it go.
"Okay," headmistress pulled papers out of a desk drawer, "Bella you may sit, this will take a few moments. Sign here, initial there…" she continued to direct Edward, who shot small smiles in my direction as he signed. I bit my tongue against the pain when Edward helped me stand, headmistress smiled maliciously, "We'll miss you Isabella."
Edward led me out into the school's lobby, a small cluster of girls circled us, my only friends. Angela hugged me as gently as she could and kissed my cheek, "I hope your back gets better before he sees it." Then louder, "We'll miss you Bella." She held me for another moment, then dropped her arms.
Trying my hardest to muster a small smile without crying, I hugged her back, "I'll miss you too. Good luck, and never, ever, talk in your sleep, it's not worth it." Angela giggled with the other girls at the private joke, and I turned shyly back to Edward.
"Are you ready to leave?" something unrecognizable flashed in his eyes, a frightening mixture of hurt and anger, I couldn't place why, and it scared me.
I sighed a bit, "Did someone get my things from my room?" I cocked my head in confusion.
He smiled gently, "You won't need them, my sister Alice loves shopping, she's already got you everything you need, and I'm sure will get you even more in just a matter of days."
"Oh…okay." I wanted to cry remembering the one thing I knew I didn't want to leave behind, a painting of my mother and father, the day they got married.
Edward read my expression, Is there something that you wanted to bring with you?"
"No, no, nevermind, it's silly. I don't need it." I looked down at the shiny floor just ahead of us, mentally kicking myself.
He put two fingers under my chin, making me look directly into his emerald eyes, "Whatever you want to take with you, you can. Name anything and I swear it's yours."
"Well…" I hesitated, not wanting to anger him, "There's a painting of my mother and father, it's small, and all I have left of them."
Edward laughed and kissed my forehead, "That's not silly at all, they were your parents, you loved them."
Unexpected tears stung my eyes, and I looked away from him, Edward led me to his carriage, pulled me in and wrapped his arms around me. The tears didn't spill over until he touched my raw back, "Could you tell me about them? What happened?" he rubbed my back in a way that I'm sure was supposed to be comforting, but it felt like being whipped all over again.
"Mother died when I was sixteen, then father sent me to Josephine's, and I haven't heard from him since but for once last year. To tell me my little sister passes away, Pip was five." (A/N Meix don't kill meeee!)
I resisted the urge to scream as he continued to rub my back, "I'm so sorry Bella, what was her name?"
A shuddering sigh escaped me despite myself as I answered, "Piper, we called her Pip, five years old, I should have been home, it should have been me at least. She was so little, she had her whole life ahead of her, father loved her, he probably wouldn't be able to bear sending her to Josephine's, which is probably why he sent me."
He kissed my forehead again whilst I tried not smirk, "Don't say that please, I for one am very, very glad that you," he poked my nose, "Bella Swan, are alive."
Needless to say, my smirk was not withheld, "Really? And why's that?"
"Yes really," his face held a smirk of it's own, only he managed to make it beautiful, "I got the most beautiful girl from Josephine's, she smart, a quick learner, and sensitive. She's endearingly clumsy, and apparently talks in her sleep, according to the sheet I signed her name is Isabella Swan." He smiled, and poked me teasingly.
I, however, was indignant, "It's not funny! They whipped me for that! And it's a rather unfair system don't you think? You may learn anything about me, but I know nothing about yourself! And we're supposed to get married? Just like that? It's insanity!" I ranted on, forgetting my manners, a second later realizing I would probably be punished.
Edward, on the other hand, looked furious, "They whipped you? For how long? How many times? Who did it? They'll regret this!" he was shouting, on instinct I shrank away, to the corner of the carriage, but still within reach. He immediately calmed down and softened, pulling me back to his side, then onto his lap, I fought to keep my breathing even, "Bella dearest, I'm sorry I lost my temper with you, you haven't done anything wrong, it's alright, just answer my questions please."
He stroked his thumb across my cheek reassuringly, making it difficult to deny him, "I…Can't."
Edward looked angry again, "Why ever not?"
"Because… The headmistress of Josephine's has her ways, she's had people killed before, she swore it I told she killed my father, then me. It's not me I'm worried about, it's father…I can't be responsible for his death, not after Pip."
"What if I promised not to tell anyone? Just between us, our little secret?" his eyes portrayed the feeling that he might not keep his promise.
Even still, I told him, "Two lashes every time one of the mistresses caught me talking in my sleep, which is every night for the past thirty days." I sighed, "It was headmistress' idea, she thought they might be able to beat it out of me, it was usually she who whipped me."
Immediately Edward held me more carefully, turning me in his lap so my head rested on his shoulder, "Bella that's sixty lashes, the original two probably haven't healed yet, your back must hurt so much…it probably looks a mess." He rubbed my shoulder, I was still amazed with the casual way he regarded me, as if we'd known each other for years instead of hours, well, I suppose he's known me longer.
As soon as he touched me, my body went lax, "You're correct, of course, but Bethany took great care of me, they aren't infected as of yet."
"I won't let you get sick, when we get back to the manor, I'll see to you immediately, sleep now my Bella, it's getting late." He cradled my head to his shoulder, and I slept more deeply than I had in a long time.
Edward's Pov - again meix, I know you hate the pov switch, sorry!-
Whipped. Sixty lashes. Sixty. Bella must be in much more pain than she's letting on, but, then again, that's what Josephine's taught, Husband and family before all else, including self. I really hated that, if Bella was hurt than she should be taken care of; resting, getting better, not taking care of me, I've fended for myself since I was twelve, now, at twenty one, I think I can handle it.
She's been asleep for an hour, maybe more, muttering incoherencies, thrashing a bit. Bella's still nervous, frightened so much she's probably talking more than is normal for her. When we were still a few minutes out I decided to wake her, "Bella dearest, it's time to wake up, we're almost home…" I kissed her forehead gently, her head shot off my shoulder. "Relax Bella, you're safe, everything's fine."
She sighed and fixed her hair, then started to slide off my lap, I tightened my grip and smiled, "No way, you mine."
Bella bit her lip and closed her eyes, "'Kay, but your arm…" she conspicuously touched her eye – catching a tear before it could fall-.
I looked down at my arms, realizing one was wrapped around her back, "I'm so sorry Bella!" I snapped my arms back to my sides.
"It's okay." She whispered, keeping her eyes closed.
"Do you forgive me?" I brushed her cheek once and kissed her forehead, "Are you going to be alright?"
She opened her eyes slowly, "Yes, of course I forgive you, I'll be okay."
We were both quiet for a moment, I was gathering my thoughts, trying to explain in my head how to apologize for my father, "My brothers and I…aren't like my father. Carlisle expects every female in his presence to act the was she was taught. You may speak your mind with me, just as you have been, and my siblings or my mother Esme, but you must always be on your best behavior with Carlisle. He'll make me punish you if you don't, and I really don't want to do that." I tightened my grip on her shoulders.
Fear touched her eyes, "Punishment…how?" Bella was taking slow deep breaths, trying to calm her self.
"If it's okay, I'd rather you didn't know, I just pray it never has to happen to you." I sighed a little bit at the blank terror in her eyes, "That's what I mean, when you greet Carlisle, and every time you speak with him, you must have your expression set in a polite mask. Never fear or nervousness, and certainly never rage."
Bella's face immediately smoothed and her beautiful brown eyes dulled, "Okay, I thought I was nervous before, apparently that was butterflies, now I feel sick." She rested her head on my shoulder.
I thought for a moment, "If you are ever seriously uncomfortable, squeeze my hand, I'll try to save you." She smiled gratefully. "We're home. Bella sat up and her face masked over again.
I stepped out of the carriage and reached for Bella's hand to help her out. Bella's eyes grew wide when she saw the manor, I laughed, "Just remember, don't speak out of turn unless it's obvious."
Bella winced when we started walking, I took her hand and rubbed soothing circles against her knuckles as I opened the door. Bella tried to keep her expression neutral as we entered, uttering a soft "Wow." When she saw the interior, courtesy of my amazing mother, Esme.
I smiled, "That's what most say, but to us, it's just you, you know?" she nodded a bit.
I led her through the front hallway, gently pulling her sweater from her shoulders, she gripped my hand tightly, "Sorry." I whispered.
Bella nodded in acknowledgement of my apology, and I led her through to the parlor where all of my family except for Carlisle was waiting, for which I was grateful. Esme gasped softly, "Edward, she's beautiful." My brothers, Jasper and Emmett, nodded in agreement. Rosalie looked sour and Alice downright hyperactively excited, clutching Jasper's hand.
"Yes she is Esme, very beautiful." I kissed her hand, "Bella, this is my family, Jasper, Emmett, Esme, Alice, and Rosalie." I pointed each one out.
"Hello everyone." Bella smiled politely, Alice released Jasper's hand and ran up to Bella, throwing her arms around her. Bella gasped and squeezed my hand, so hard that her knuckles where a pure white.
"Alice, let go of Bella, slowly please, little pixie." I smiled teasingly as I unhooked Alice's arms from around Bella's back. Bella's left hand was fisted, her composure crumpled, her face contorted in pain.
Esme looked concerned when I took Bella's hands and kissed her forehead, "is Bella well?"
My voice was quiet, but deadly, "They've whipped he sixty times in the past thirty days, just for talking in her sleep." Esme clutched her throat, Jasper and Emmett looked angry, Alice stunned, and of course Rosalie just looked bored.
Quickly Esme zoomed into action, "Edward carry her upstairs, boys, go find Jessica, have her bring an ointment for Bella's back. Alice, go help Edward get Bella situated."
Being careful not to touch her back, I clasped my hands under her backside and Bella wrapped her arms around my neck, I carried her upstairs to our bedroom with Esme and Alice in tow. "This is our room." I whispered in her ear. She lifted her head from my shoulder long enough to give me a withering look and let it fall back.
Bella smiled weakly with her eyes shut, "Not exactly prepared for a tour of the manor right now Edward, thank you anyway." Esme, Alice, and I laughed.
Jessica came into the room with a bowl of yellowish liquid and helped Alice untie Bella's dress and corset, revealing a lumpy, bloody mass where Bella's back should've been. "Bella…" I whispered, staring at her back.
"I'm sorry Edward." She whispered back with a catch in her voice, Bella was crying.
I crawled up next to her, stroking her hair and pressing my lips to her cheek I whispered back, "Bella, you've done nothing wrong, now all you have to do is rest and get better, okay?" she nodded, tears falling like silent rain down her cheeks as Jessica applied the liquid to her back.
"Jessica, you're pressing far too hard, let me do it, you may go." I took the bowl from her and turned to Bella, applying the ointment much more gently, I grabbed a shirt and a pair of trousers from my wardrobe, thinking she'd be more comfortable in loose clothes.
Esme and Alice dressed Bella, pulling the trousers up her legs and pulling the dress off, then putting the shirt on backwards , leaving the buttons undone so it wouldn't hurt her back and so it was bare.
"Esme, it's late, Bella is exhausted, I'm sure, as am I, do you mind if we retire?" immediately she stood.
"Of course not Edward, be gentle with her please, she'll be in pain for awhile." We each murmured our goodnights and Esme quietly left.
I took off my shirt and kicked my boots from my feet, then crawled back up the bed next to Bella. She went rigid, squeezing her eyes shut. I chuckled and stroked her cheek, "I'm not going to hurt you love, just go to sleep." I kissed her temple and whispered against it, "You're only job right now is to get better, don't worry about Carlisle, if he doesn't approve we can always move out early."
Confusion quickly crossed her face, "Why aren't you angry with me? Or punishing me? You should be both, now I can't properly meet your family, and I ruined meeting the part of your family that I actually met."
"Bella, what did they do to you, why would I punish you? It seems Josephine's had a bit too much fun with punishments, they took care of it. Unless you do something that Carlisle seems fit to punish I will never lay a harmful hand to you" I promised, "Now, please Bella, rest, will yourself to heal quickly." She closed her eyes.
In a matter of minutes she was asleep, muttering and thrashing a little, crying a lot. Bella called for her mother and father, as well as Piper, one bit of muttering that I did understand surprised me, she whispered, "Daddy please don't make me go, daddy please! Pip's sick, let me stay and take care of her. Amber doesn't know anything about medicine! I do too daddy and you know it, momma taught me everything she knew. How can you say that, she was smarter than that sorry excuse for a woman you married, she's a hag! At least momma loved you." Then she just started crying again.
AS carefully as I was capable of, I pulled Bella onto my chest and rubbed the back of her neck, "Bella it's okay, Everything's fine Bella." By now I was sure she was awake, she cried into my shoulder and clung to my chest.
"Uncle Edward?" Todd, Emmett and Rosalie's son padded to our bedside.
"Todd, what are you doing up? What is it?" Bella was taking deep breaths to steady herself and slow the tears, eventually succeeding.
He looked a little ashamed, "I had a bad dream, Momma and Daddy won't answer their door, can I sleep with you?"
Bella spoke up, "Of course sweetie, just crawl up here next to uncle Edward." Fear touched her eyes when she realized she'd spoken out of turn, she looked at me.
I patted the bed next to me and Todd scrambled up as I whispered, "It's okay as long as Carlisle isn't around. I like your maternal instinct, it suites you." Bella blushed and I kissed the tip of her nose.
Todd cuddled up against my side, "Uncle Edward?"
I wrapped my left arm around him, "Yes Todd?"
He pointed at Bella, "On your tummy, is that my auntie Bella?" he smiled sheepishly at her, she grinned back.
"Yes, she is."
My little nephew smiled evilly, "Do you like her?"
I glanced up at Bella, she was looking at the floor to our right, but still waiting and listening for my answer, "Yes Todd, I do, I like her like Daddy likes your mommy."
"Do you really really like her?" little imp.
I laughed, "Yes Todd, I really, really like Bella, okay?" he nodded, "Then go to sleep little monster!"
He snuggled closer, after a few minutes of staring into space, deep breathing was the only sound that graced the room. Bella and Todd were fast asleep, and soon, I was as well.