Author Note: This is my attempt at Twilight historical fan fiction. I wrote this over the past two or three week ends during my off-days from writing "In the Grip of Twilight"—and since I get the blues when I near the end of a story, I thought starting another might help. It's loosely based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, hence the title. I have no idea if anyone will like this sort of thing—I know it's not original. But instead of becoming laptop fodder, I decided to post the first couple of chapters here at ffnet. If it gets a good response, I'll continue to post the story, updating only once or twice a week until I finish "In the Grip".
*All places are fictitiously set in Great Britain.
The Big Tease:
My cheeks burned. Edward Cullen was not the plump, white-wigged aristocrat I'd envisioned. The long, expertly-cut coat couldn't disguise the warrior's body underneath as he strode into the room as if he owned it. But it was his face that made me gasp—I'd seen his face before in an old painting at my grandparents' home when I was small. I'd studied that face thinking that it belonged to an angel, for no human could be so perfect. Surely it was just a coincidence…perhaps a long-dead relative had sat for the painting.
He turned in my direction and I swept my gaze to the floor—I'd be mortified if caught me staring.
When I finally looked up, I was instantly struck by the intensity of his eyes. They were the most blazing color of topaz I'd ever seen—and they were looking straight at me.
(Upcoming in Chapter Two)
Summer Daze, Austen Nights
Olivia Tannis Moore
Hertford, England, 1802
"Miss Swan! Oh, Miss Swan…wait up!"
I turned reluctantly at the sound of that high, nasal voice. Mrs. Ashby's long skirts were kicking up dust in her hurry to catch up to me. I groaned inwardly as I watched Margaret Ashby's flushed face and heaving chest. The slightest thing could cause such frenzied excitement with the woman—I wondered what it would be today. Her cat, Jezabel, had another litter of kittens? Or perhaps she had the latest bit of gossip, of which I had no interest in whatsoever.
"Mrs. Ashby," I greeted her with a slight curtsy.
She was out of breath, as if she'd just ran the entire length of so and so county, instead of the short distance from the church steps to my side.
"Your stride is so long, Isabella," she huffed. "Why in the world…(huff-huff)… you would want to walk like a man…(huff-huff) is beyond my understanding." She paused before adding, under her breath—but nevertheless for my ears, "Must be a product of your motherless upbringing."
My eyebrows pinched together, but I managed to hold my tongue. After running the distance, her face was the very picture of a ripe, red grape about to burst, and yet she admonished me for walking fast.
I had no intention of waiting around as she floundered. I stood straight and proper and said, "Come on, Mrs. Ashby. Let's walk while you catch your breath. I have to get home in time to help Lucie get dinner on the table for Father."
"That no-good servant should have everything ready for the two of you when you arrive," Mrs. Ashby grumbled. I opened my mouth to defend Lucie, the closest soul I had to a mother, but Mrs. Ashby suddenly launched into the topic that she'd pursued me for.
"Have you heard the news?" She didn't give me the chance to reply, but went on in a mad rush. "The Cullens of Derbyshire are coming here to our little village for a two week stay. I've heard that Pembrook manor is practically a palace—and they have a summer home in Kent. All that wealth, why, they're nearly royalty…and they're coming here to Hertford. Can you believe it?"
"No," I said, feigning surprise. "I cannot believe it." I had no idea who these people were, nor did I care. The pomp and powered-wig upper class didn't concern me.
"They say he's very handsome —quite a catch for the right girl."
"Hmmm," I murmured. I knew an insult when I heard one. For all her harping on the manners of polite society, she lacked those manners the most.
"Anyway…I was hoping that my Josie might get a fair introduction to their eldest son, Edward—before anyone else."
I stopped in my tracks. So, that was what this was all about. I laughed softly, which made Mrs. Ashby blink nervously and fidget with the lace collar about her throat.
"Let me assure you, Mrs. Ashby, that I have no such aspirations with Mr. Cullen." I suddenly had the image of a pudgy little man with his white wig askew on his head, sipping tea from a teacup much too small for his swollen fingers to hold.
Mrs. Ashby smiled broadly with relief. "Well, then, Miss Swan, in that case, I'd like to invite you and your father to the Spring Ball we're giving for the Cullens. I'll send the personal invitation out to your home this afternoon."
Sugar melted off my tongue, "Why, thank you, Mrs. Ashby. I'll be sure to tell my father to expect it."
She clasped her hands together and held them to her large bosom. "Remember, Isabella, we want to make a good impression on the Cullens, so wear your finest."
"Good day, Mrs. Ashby. I have to hurry home now," I said, picking up my skirts and walking backwards. I waved my gloved hand in an exaggerated manner, nearly sending my hymn book flying off into the tall grass by the roadside.
Mrs. Ashby shook her head disapprovingly. "Miss Swan…please…have some grace about yourself."
I smiled politely. Then, I turned and gave in to the mad rush of giggles bubbling up from my throat, as I left the dusty road in favor of the shortcut through the fields.
By the evening of the Spring Ball, I was nervous.
It galled me to no end that I was letting a social event tie me up in knots, but this was my first big event and it hadn't helped matters that everyone had talked about nothing else for the last three weeks.
I sat at my vanity table while Lucie pulled the long flowing dress from the wardrobe. It had taken her the entire three weeks and countless fittings to sew the periwinkle-colored dress, but Lucie's talent as a seamstress was undeniable. In fact, I was certain that if it wasn't for Lucie, I'd be clothed in the second-hand rags of distant cousins, for my father never gave much thought to my wardrobe. Though, to be fair, it was mostly a matter of money. It took all his income to keep a roof over our heads and dole out the meager income to keep Lucie with us.
Lucie held the dress up and inspected her work. She had enlisted a friend to send her a fashion pamphlet from Paris—and then she had set out to create her own version of the perfect ball dress. The empire waist had a single silver braid underneath my breasts; the thin straps had long trains that flowed down the deep cut of the back. It was unmistakably Grecian in style and simplicity.
I liked the dress as much as I could like something that would inevitably entangle around my ankles and constantly worry me. It was certainly different. At a ball where there would be an abundance of elaborate, ruffled dresses, it would be like sticking my thumb in the air and tweaking their snobby noses.
"Oh, Lucie, you've outdone yourself this time," I said, as Lucie pulled the dress over my head and made last minute adjustments with the slender silver braid.
Lucie smiled and led me to the small vanity table. I sat down and gazed at my reflection in the oval mirror.
"I have a certain hairstyle in mind," she told me. "In keeping with the style of the dress."
"Of course," I agreed. "What do I know of such—I wear it down or in a single braid."
She took a piece of the silver ribbon left over from the dress, and gathered a portion of my hair at my temples, braiding the portions into the same width of the braid in the gown. Then she threaded the ribbon through the braid, and swept the rest of my hair over my right shoulder.
Lucie smiled at me as she took a silver clasp from her pocket and secured my hair so that it would stay there cascading down over my shoulder. "It's your mother's, so watch over it." She stepped back to get a better look at me. "And speaking of your mother…you look more like her every passing day," she said softly. "She was so beautiful." She shifted her gaze from me to my reflection in the mirror. "Charles won't know what to think when he sees you—he'll think you're an illusion."
"Father wouldn't be far wrong…I feel like an illusion." I turned around in the chair and faced Lucie. "Now if only I had the poise to pull it off."
She sighed. "Do we need to practice the dances again?"
My shoulders slumped and I looked down at my hands. "You know it's not the dancing, strangely enough. It's simply walking around—everything jumps in my path."
She nodded. "Keep away from chairs," she said jokingly. But I knew she was thinking of all the times I'd found myself sprawled out on the kitchen floor—a victim of some hapless chair that some hapless person (usually me) had left pushed away from the table.
Lucie kissed the top of my head. "Just be aware of your surroundings, but try not to obsess over it. The chairs are not out to get you."
I rolled my eyes. "Hmph, that's what you think."
"Give me your self-confidence posture," Lucie directed.
I sat up straight and squared my shoulders, chest out.
"That's better," she smiled. "Now I've got to see to your father. Lord knows what he's picked out to wear…"
(Thanks for reading. OTM)