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A Short Story
Chapter 1: Alone
A small city outside of Paris, France 1852
My life was a whirlwind. My days all ran together. I went through the daily routine of life without really living it. I dressed myself, fed myself, and completed any chores that needed to be done, but I took no pleasure from my life anymore. I was merely existing. So many things, seasons, friends, and even family, would come and go as they pleased, but even when times were hard I kept my chin up.
My parents loved each other more than any one I had ever seen or heard about. My father, Carlisle was English, but he spent his school years in the mountains of Italy. He fell in love with the people, the culture, and most of all, the language.
My father was a natural student, hence his reason for leaving England when he was only 16. He decided to continue his study of Italian among native speakers. It didn't take him long before he was fluent. At 20, he became restless once again, and he left his beloved Italy for a new adventure. He found himself here, in Paris, the city of love.
He had a horrible time at first. It was a dark time in France, and people were not as trusting at they are now. He found it to be difficult to learn the language if no one would speak to him. But, fate smiled on my father the day he met my mother. She was a simple woman. She made ends meet by working in her aunt's bakery. Father just happened to be walking by right around supper time. He didn't have much money, spending everything he had on tuition and rent, but he found enough coins to buy a small roll to munch on for supper. He tried to order one from my great aunt, but he couldn't find the right word to express what he wanted. Then, my mother, my dear, sweet mother, Esme helped him. I'll never forget the story of their meeting as long as I live.
"Petit pain," she asked him after watching him stumble around the shop pointing and saying some very strange words in a funny accent.
"Huh," he asked.
"Petit pain," she said again holding up a roll for my father to see.
He smiled at her. "Oui, mademoiselle."
She came around the counter and gave him the roll and a kiss on the cheek.
They were together from that moment on.
My father was proud of me. He had taught me well, and he would often tell me that he did right by naming me what he did. Mother was wary, giving me an Italian name when they knew I would grow up with all French children. That didn't deter him. The moment he saw me, his daughter, he could think of nothing else to call me.
Isabella. Bella. Beauty.
My parents' friends would often tell me stories about how they cared for me as a child, taking me for walks, buying me treats, and just… being happy. My father got a wonderful job as a professor so our lives went from slightly difficult to downright luxurious. We moved into a grand old house near the main square that I still live in to this day.
Luckily, Father taught me that books were more important than dresses, and that a good head on my shoulders would get me further than participation in society ever would. He taught me all the subjects, but my favorite was always language, just like my papa. He tutored me in English, French and Italian; I grew rather fond of English, so my father and I took to speaking that around the house. Even my mother was able to carry on conversations with us after a few years of study.
Father always was willing to help both of us whenever he could. I would sometimes find the two of them in our library sitting next to the fire, on our big, green couch, reading to one another.
I had often wondered if I would ever find a love like that. It seemed unlikely with all of these toads hopping from party to party trying to work their way up the social ladder. It made me sick to watch.
It wasn't that my parents pushed me to find someone to marry; they would have never forced me into something that I didn't want to do, but they did push for my happiness.
"Bella mio," my father would say, "you seek your happiness. Had I not, I would have never found your mother, and I never would have known you. So no matter how small, always do what your heart tells you."
He, of course, was speaking of his love of language. Had he not given up everything to go to Italy as a young man to pursue his passion, he never would have had the life that he did.
My father died 2 years ago of typhoid fever.
My mother tried, she really did. But, she was never the same after he passed. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. She was still my mother. She cared for me, and she loved me deeply, I knew that. But some unknown part of her, a part I couldn't see, was gone. We spent the next year and a half living quietly. It was a struggle for my mother to get through the day. She grew weaker and weaker. I thought perhaps that she was just coming down with something, but she never recovered.
I watched my mother slowly slip from me until she too passed into the next life.
Her funeral was difficult to bear. It felt like I was saying goodbye to her as well as my father all over again. For she carried a piece of him with her always; now that was gone too. The only solace was the fact that I could still keep our house. They would always be alive there, I told myself.
After a time, my life became somewhat normal again. I was able to see people and run errands. I must admit, for a woman of my age it is somewhat exciting, if not unconventional, to be living on my own. I was proving to myself that I could make it without my parents, no matter how difficult that was. I was strong enough to be without them.
Even in death, they were still taking care of me. My father had left everything to my mother for my care, and then my mother had left everything to me. It was a modest sum, certainly enough to keep me going for a year or so. I knew then, sooner or later, I would have to get a steady source of income.
And here I am, six months after my mother's passing, ready and able to work. I had been to every business within walking distance of my home. I don't own a horse, and so any work that I do come by I must be able to get to on foot. But, as the weeks passed, I was not able to find work. Surely I could work as a seamstress or maybe even in a factory, but that would not earn enough for me to keep my parents' home. It required quite a bit of upkeep, and I was not able to do all of it on my own. I did as much as I could to save my money. I didn't even employ a maid. Normally a house of this size would have a one, but I couldn't throw away money like that, especially since I could do all the cooking, cleaning, and errands by myself.
Above all else, I must keep this house. It is the absolute last thing I have of theirs. I could take their possessions if ever I had to leave, but it would not be the same. I can still feel them in the air here. I can hear my mother laughing or see my father reading. It would be too much to leave this behind.
I sat in my kitchen after just having finished my breakfast and heard a knock on the door.
I rose quickly, not wanting to be rude, and hurried to the door.
I fumbled with the lock, just one more thing to add to the list of things that needed to be fixed around here. I was proud of my education, but sometimes I cursed myself for never learning how to solve simple problems like that.
I opened the door to find the local gendarme standing in my doorway. He was an older gentleman, with very kind brown eyes. He always made a point to stop by and visit me whenever he could. I think he was worried about me living all alone like I did.
"Mademoiselle Swan," he said brightly.
"Good morning, gendarme. Won't you come in?"
"I cannot stay. I just wanted to stop by and see how you were doing."
Despite myself, I laughed, "I assure you, gendarme; I am very well. Times are not so troubled that you need to worry yourself about me."
It wasn't entirely a lie. I just couldn't bear the thought of him fretting over my well being. He had his own family to tend too.
"Yes, I know that," he said a bit abrasively. He always got that way when I tutted him like an old woman.
"Then why are you darkening my doorstep this fine morning," I teased.
"Bella," he said slowly, "there have been some reports of attacks around the area. Attacks… on women. I just want you to be careful."
"Charlie," I said lovingly, "I have lived here my whole life. I grew up playing in this very street. I cannot even imagine something sinister coming anywhere near here."
"I know it seems that way, but I just want you to be careful. Don't go anywhere alone at night. Please, put an old man's mind at ease."
I smiled, it was comforting knowing that there was still someone out there who cared for me. "Thank you, truly. I know the horrors you must see in your line of work. And I promise to heed your warning."
I said all of that without really thinking on it. I knew the streets around my house almost better than I knew myself. Plus, there hadn't been as much a robbery around here in at least 10 years. I just really didn't want Charlie to worry.
"Alright, well, I must be off. Are you headed into town today," he asked, his voice dripping with concern.
"Yes, I need to pick up a few things…" I registered the look on his face. You could find it on almost any father in the world when his daughter was about to do something foolish. "Don't worry, I'm leaving now, and I should be back before midday," I said light-heartedly, trying desperately to assure him that I would at least attempt to be careful.
"Yes, yes. Well, good day Mademoiselle Swan," he said as he turned away.
"Good day, gendarme," I called after him.
I shut the door and prepared for my quick visit into town.
My shopping complete, I wandered slowly back through the streets, taking my time and enjoying the May sunshine.
I found myself in the town square. I liked it here; it was usually full of happy people, going about their business. Sometimes I would find a bench to sit on and watch the people as they came and went.
Today was not one of those happy days.
There was a large crowd, and they were all standing still. I walked over to try and get a better look, and I regretted doing so.
The gallows were out. Today was an execution day.
From the angle I had entered the square, I was fairly close to the wooden structure. I could see the line of men standing there in shackles, waiting to die. I shuddered as I saw a struggling man fall through the trap door and dangle from his noose. Tears pricked at my eyes, and I averted my gaze. I just couldn't fathom this type of punishment. I knew that perhaps some of them deserved it. But, to stand here and watch; well, I simply couldn't do it. I was just passing by. This had nothing to do with me.
As I turned to leave I heard the supervisor call out the next name.
"The courts have found Edward Cullen guilty of theft and murder and such has sentenced him to hang."
Cullen, I thought, that certainly wasn't a French name. It was English as far as I could tell. They wouldn't be executing a British man here, would they?
I couldn't tell you what made me turn, but I did.
Even from a distance, I became lost in the swirling green of this man's eyes. His jaw was square and masculine. His brow strong and smooth, and his bronze hair was shaggy and unkempt.
My eyes scanned the rest of his body, and I felt my breathing increase. He was tall and lean. His arms were flexed, and they looked like they would provide a comfortable embrace…
What are you thinking! He's a murderer!
I couldn't make sense of anything.
My mind was going a mile a minute; my heartbeat had burst into a sprint. Even with the knowledge that he was a murderer, I felt an overwhelming wave of sadness, more so than I had before. This man… how could someone like him be doomed to die? He seemed so gentle and sincere. I mean, he wasn't fighting like the other man I saw. I continued to stare at his face, and it was all I could do to choke back the sobs as I finally registered the look I found there.
He looked completely content. Like he was alright with the fact that he was about to die. Here I was falling apart at the seams over a man I didn't even know, and he was almost smiling.
I had to do something… anything. I couldn't stand by and watch this happen.
Then… suddenly, like lightning, my father's words flew back to my mind.
So no matter how small, always do what your heart tells you.
This was most definitely not small.
There was only one thing I could do.
I pushed my way through the crowd, and, just as the executioner was putting the noose around his neck, I found my voice and screamed, "Wait!"
My newest story. It's a period piece and I know those aren't' for everyone, but you can give it a chance anyhow!
Well? Any opinions? Good bad? Hated the mini-cliffie? lol.
This will be a short story so don't expect super long chapters. I hope to update once a week. And please let me know what you think!
Thanks, as always to my amazing beta, Val. She's pretty awesome. ;)
Thank you so much for reading!
If I get anything mixed up... please let me know!
Petit pain- A bread roll
Mademoiselle- Miss, an unmarried woman
gendarme- Policeman, sheriff