Chapter 1 – Engaged
It was early evening and the sky was gray and thick with clouds. I was picking lilacs from my garden to put in the living room, when my mother came out onto the front porch.
"Bella, sweetie, Rosalie is coming." I looked up and saw my best friend coming down the street. "Hi, Rose," I called out. You're in time to help my pick roses." Rosalie Hale was the most beautiful girl in town and she knew it. Her golden hair was pinned up, which she hated. Rosalie preferred to have her hair down, so that passersby could admire her more.
"Bella, Aunt Renee, I have the most wonderful news." I walked up the gate with my basket of flowers, "What is it?" She was smiling brightly as she walked in the gate and showed her left hand. There was a large pear-cut diamond ring on her third finger. "Royce proposed. I'm getting married!" My mother jumped for joy and I pulled Rosalie in for a hug. "That's wonderful, dear. I am so happy for you." My mother admired the ring, "It'll be Bella's turn next." My fingers involuntarily dug into Rosalie's back and she cringed. My mother went into the house and took my flower basket. She smiled like a cheshire cat as she went inside.
Rosalie and I sat on the swing on the porch. Her hand was in mine as I appraised her ring, "It's beautiful, Rose. I'm so happy for you." The ring was flawless and beautiful. I didn't admit it, but this was the largest diamond I've ever seen. "I knew he would propose soon. Do your parents know?" She blushed a light pink, "Of course. Royce and I were walking home from the park."
I pulled my legs underneath my body to listen to her story. She imitated my action. It was something we did out of habit since we were children. "We sat on the swing seat and I could hear my mother in the living room." Her hand patted mine, "I knew she was listening. Anyway, Royce told me I was the loveliest thing in his life and he didn't want anyone else to have me." Her eyes turned down to her ring, "He said he cared about me deeply and then he asked me to marry him."
I knew Rosalie and that wasn't exactly the marriage proposal she's always wanted. But she was still very happy. The words weren't right, she was still getting married. "Oh, Rose. This is so wonderful. When's the wedding?" She beamed, "In a few weeks. It'll be at his parents' estate. Everyone important will be coming." Her smile grew wider, possibly at the thought of being the talk of the town.
"And, Bella," she took my hands in hers, "I have a favor to ask you?" "Yes?" We leaned closer to each other. Her smile softened, "We've talked about this ever since we were little and now it's finally come. Will you be my maid of honor?" My hand cupped over my mouth from her overwhelming request, "Yes, of course. Nothing would make me happier."
At that moment, memories of myself and Rosalie as little girls, playing in this very garden came to mind. We had picnics almost everyday in the spring and summer. It did seem like yesterday we were pretending it was Rosalie's or my wedding day. We used my lace shawl as the veil and wore our white Easter dresses as bridal gowns. Rosalie would be my maid of honor and I would be hers. Now, pretend has become reality.
We hugged each other tightly, then went into the house. My mother offered us iced tea and we sat in the living room. She told me about her thoughts for the wedding and I listened intently. "Rosalie, dear, would you like to stay for dinner?" my mother offered. "Thank you, Aunt Renee, but I can't tonight. My parents are having a small gathering to celebrate the engagement. And, this weekend, the Kings are having the engagement party. Bella is coming, because she's my maid of honor," her hand rested on mine. "You and Uncle Charlie must come, of course." My mother's eyes lit up, "Thank You, Rosalie."
My mother looked to me and smiled coyly. I knew what that smile meant. She hopes that I would attract one of the Kings' business partners or one of their sons. My mother wanted me to be married soon. Not for the same reasons Rosalie's family did. She wanted someone to care for me. I wanted the same thing, but I wanted to do it in my own time. Soon, Rosalie had to go. "Mother, may I walk Rosalie home? I'll be right back." She nodded, "Of course, dear, but hurry back. Your father will be home soon and dinner's almost ready."
Taking my beaded jacket, Rosalie and I walked down the street to her home. Rosalie's home was the grandest on our street. Her home was a large Tudor house. There was a round half tower on the left side, which Rosalie's bedroom window looked out to. That part of the house always reminded me a princess's tower. When she looked out the window, Rosalie reminded me of Rapunzel, with her long golden hair hanging down her face.
Her yard was large, wide and perfectly landscaped. Rosalie's younger brothers weren't allowed to play in the front yard. The house's public appearance was very important to the Hales. Rosalie and I walked through the front door, as her mother held it open for us. "Hello, Aunt Lillianna." "Bella darling, hello." Rosalie looked very much like her mother, but Rosalie was lovelier. They had the same blue eyes, but Rosalie's were brighter and her blond hair had a lighter color.
"I hear congratulations are in order for you and your family. I'm so happy for her." Rosalie's mother hugged her daughter's shoulders, "Thank you, dear. Please come in. Royce is here and he was asking about you, Rose." I smiled, "I'm not sure. My father will be home soon." Rosalie patted my arm, "Please, Bella. As the maid of honor, you must 'officially' meet the groom." Her mother and I laughed, "Well, now I must. As the maid of honor, I must do as the bride wishes."
Rosalie and I didn't call each other's parents by 'Mr. & Mrs.' We've been friends for so many years. Her parents were like an aunt and uncle to me and my parents were that way for her. Rosalie, however, was my sister. I was an only child and very happy to have such a close friend in my life.
The Hale's house was grand. They had the most fashionable furniture and a beautiful grand piano. Alexander Jr. and Michael, Rosalie's brothers, weren't allowed to touch the piano. It belonged to Rosalie. Her parents gave it to her on her 16th birthday. They felt it was proper for a young lady to have an appreciation for music. She taught me a bit on her piano, but I was more interested in the harp.
As we enter the living room, Alexander Hale Sr., but I called him Uncle Alex, Royce and a man, I assumed was Royce King Sr. were talking. There was another man there too, but I didn't know him.
Royce had lighter blond hair than Rosalie and lighter blue eyes too. His father had dark hair, with gray strands. He had the same eyes as his son. The other gentleman was tall, with dark hair and hazel eyes. "Who is this lovely young lady?" Mr. King Sr. asked, appraising me. "Ahh, Royce, this is Isabella Swan. She is Chief Swan's daughter. She is also my Rose's best friend," Uncle Alex introduced me and kissed my forehead. He treated me as his second daughter. Uncle Alex was glad Rosalie had such a close friend in her life.
"Not only that, Father. She's the maid of honor." She turned away from us, "Royce, you remember Bella?" Royce came over and kissed my hand, "Of course I do. How are you, dear?" Royce hadn't let go of my hand. It made me feel a little uncomfortable, but I didn't want to embarrass Rosalie. "I'm fine. Thank you, Mr. King. I'm so happy for the both of you." Royce released my hand and took Rosalie's. "Bella, you're like Rosalie's sister, so we're almost family. Please call me Royce."
I blushed and smiled, "I will, Royce." It felt funny, almost inappropriate to call him by his first name. Uncle Alex looked over to the gentleman I didn't know, "I'm sorry, Bella. I'm being rude," he gestured to the stranger, "this is Mr. Maxwell King. He is Royce's cousin from Albany." The tall gentleman came over to me and kissed my hand, "Hello. It's a pleasure to meet you." His hazel eyes were on my face, making me blush deeper, "The pleasure is mine." I smiled sheepishly at Royce's cousin.
Maxwell looked a little older than Royce did. Mr. King Sr. came and stood with his son, "You will stay for dinner, won't you dear?" I grimaced, "I'd love to, but my father is expecting me at home very soon." Uncle Alex hugged me, "Oh, of course. We should get you home." "I'll see her home," Maxwell spoke up. Aunt Lillianna smiled, "Thank you." "Thank you, Mr. King. That's very kind of you."
Rosalie walked with me to the front door. "I'll see you tomorrow. We can discuss what color dress you'll have for the wedding." "Blue, you know that's my favorite color. But, you're the bride, it's whatever you want." Rosalie smiled at me, looked back at Maxwell, then to me again, "Get home safely." There was a double meaning in her words and I nudged her as she walked away. She looked back at me and smiled, "Bye Bell."
Maxwell opened the gate for me and I walked out into the street. It was darker outside, but it was fine for me to walk home by myself. But Rosalie's parents wouldn't have allowed it, even if it was the middle of the day. "How long have you known Rosalie?" Maxwell asked as we walked. "Oh, since we were in school together. She and I were always in the same class." He nodded once, "Oh. She speaks highly of you. Truly, as if you were her sister." I smiled at that, "To me, she is my sister. I'm an only child. At least Rose has her brothers."
He laughed, "Yes. I understand the only child matter. Royce is like my brother. Since my father died, Uncle Royce has taken me under his wing. He helped to put me through college." Well, we had something in common. Sound the wedding bells, I thought sarcastically. "That was kind of him. Where did you attend school?" "Harvard," he answered quickly, "He wanted me to go to Princeton with Royce, but my father went to Harvard." Well, an ivy-league family, that was impressive. As we walked, Maxwell got closer to me.
This made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I've never been this close to a man, besides my father. Maybe he didn't notice our proximity. We finally reached my house, with great relief. He opened the gate for me and walked me to my porch. "This is a lovely garden." He looked over the small patch of earth that I tended to. "Thank you. My mother and I worked on it ourselves." Maxwell was gazing into the garden, "Which flower is your favorite?" My eyebrow arched, but he didn't see, "The lilies. I planted them myself"
The front door opened to my parents. "Mother, Father. I'm sorry I'm late." My father was appraising Maxwell. "Forgive me. This is Maxwell King," I gestured to him, "Royce King Sr.'s nephew. He kindly walked me home from the Hales." A smile came across my mother's face, but my father still scowled. Chief Swan was always specious of any young man near me.
I walked up the steps to the front door. My mother wrapped her arm around my shoulders. "Thank you for walking Bella home, Mr. King," My mother thanked him, still smiling. My father stood on the steps and held out his hand and Maxwell shook it. "Thank you," he said in his authoritative voice, "Hmm, good strong hand shake. I like that." "Thank you, Chief Swan," Maxwell smiled, "Have a good night. Mrs. Swan. Isabella." Maxwell walked out into the street and left.
My father came up the steps and my mother pulled me into the house. The door closed a little too hard. My father's eyes were on me, "Bella, just because Rosalie's about to get married, it doesn't mean…" My eyebrows pulled together, "Father, no. Uncle Alex didn't want me to walk home alone. Maxwell offered to see me home. I didn't want to embarrass you and Mother by refusing."
He raised an eyebrow at me, "Is that all?" He was speaking as the chief of police, in a skeptical tone. "Yes, if you'd like, you can ask Uncle Alex in the morning. You know, I wouldn't lie to you." My father sighed, letting his rigid stance fade, "You're right, Bells. I'm sorry for accusing you. It was kind of him to walk you home. Let's just have dinner." He took my hand and the three of us ate in the dining room.
We ate dinner and my mother talked about Rosalie's engagement. "Her wedding is going to be the talk of the town. I know Lilly already called a dressmaker for her." She was very happy for Rosalie. My mother and Aunt Lillianna were very close friends. Mother wants me to marry into a strong family like Rosalie. She's always encouraged me to be confident like Rosalie, but I couldn't be like that. I didn't compare to Rosalie. I was beautiful in my own way, but Rosalie surpassed me in every way.
She was taller, prettier, statuesque and articulate. Sometimes I thought she kept me as a friend, so that she would be prettier by comparison. But they were times, I truly felt close to Rosalie when she confided in me. Mostly when she shed her tears, which is something she rarely did. Behind her confident, unbreakable composure, Rosalie was as gentle as a rose.
After dinner, my parents sat in the living room. Father read his newspaper and Mother continued knitting a doily for the couch and played the radio. I continued to work on the afghan I was crocheting for my bed. Mother loved classical music. The music of Mozart filled the room. My parents chatted lightly and I focused on the music. It was relaxing and helped clear my mind. While pulling my needle through the material, I thought about Rosalie's excitement about her engagement.
She loved her ring and was very happy. This is all she ever wanted. I thought about Royce's words in his engagement. She loved what Royce told her, but I notice he didn't say he loved her. Royce referred to her as the 'loveliest thing in his life.' Not as a person, not a woman; a thing. Rosalie was a 'thing' to Royce? Maybe I was being too harsh. Royce didn't seem the type to properly express him emotions.
My mind drifted to my mother's reactions when she heard about Rosalie's engagement and when she saw me with Maxwell King. It was a bit much. She wants me to get married soon. I knew what I wanted for my life, but when the time came, I did want what Rosalie was getting.
I knew she'll be encouraging me to speak with Maxwell King more. That was going to be annoying. I had to admit, Maxwell was handsome, but the way he looked at me at the Hales home, it was a bit unsettling. Even when Royce held my hand, a bad feeling go through me. But he makes Rosalie happy. She's never been so happy and I didn't want to ruin that for her.
Rosalie and I are eighteen years old. She has always aspired to getting married young. I was different; I wanted to go to school and travel. There was a whole world that I wanted to see. From the Great Wall of China to the Rocky Mountains, I wanted to see them all. No man will want to marry me. But if I must get married, I should be in love with my fiancée and he should love me too. Royce didn't love Rosalie and she didn't love him. I wanted to be loved, was that so outrageous? I deserved that much. All this thinking was distracting me from my work.
"I think I'll go to bed. Good night." My parents said their 'good nights' and I went to my bedroom. In my room, I started my record player and Clair de Lune, my favorite, began to play. My shower was quick and soon, I dressed for bed. My mind was still on Rosalie and her wedding. Mother was right, it would be lavish and grand. I couldn't even imagine how Rosalie would look in her wedding gown.
There was a knock on my door, "Bella, are you decent?" It was my father, "One moment." I jumped from bed, put on my robe and turned down the music. "Come in." My father walked in, with a small tray that had two glasses of milk and a small plate of cookies. "Debussy again?" I laughed, "It's my favorite. You know that." He placed the tray on my bedside table, "I know, but still. I'm surprised the record lasted as long as it did. You've had it since you were 10." We laughed.
"Bella, I wanted to apologize again about earlier." I looked at him, "It's alright. You're the chief of police. Don't worry; no gentleman will come within twenty feet of me. They fear you too much." He laughed out loud, "They may fear me, but some will try." My head shook, "I don't think so." My father placed his finger underneath my chin, "Bella, still I want to apologize. It's just Rosalie's engagement made me realize some things." My head fell to the side, "Like what?"
He cleared his throat, "You and Rose are the same age. Now, she's getting married. I was concerned that marriage was on your mind too." My eyes looked down for a moment, "Father…" He held up one hand, "Let me finish. It's no surprise that your mother wants you to get married. She wants you to be provided for. I want the same thing, of course, but it all happened so fast." "What did?" He smiled embarrassed, "You." My eyebrows shot up, "Me?" What did he mean?
"You grew up so fast. It literally seems like yesterday when you would go to work with me and pretend to arrest my deputies." I smiled at the memory. "When we all went to Coney Island for your birthday and you squealed when the water touched your feet. Now, you're a beautiful young lady. I see young men cutting their eyes at you." I rolled my eyes, "None of them dared to approach you for permission to speak to me. Afraid that they may be arrested."
My father smiled, "A tempting idea. But I can't. I can't keep you from the world. I can't keep you from gentleman callers, because one day there's going to be one brave young man and he may sweep you off your feet." I shock my head, "Maybe, maybe not." He handed me a glass and put the plate of cookies on the bed. "We haven't done this in a long time."
My father and I used to have milk and cookies before I went to bed. It became infrequent as I got older. I told him about Rosalie asking me to be her maid of honor and he wasn't surprised. "You two have been joined at the hip since you were children." We ate the rest of the cookies and he said good night. Tonight, I dreamt of my own wedding. The face of the groom was unclear. I saw myself in a simple dress and smiling, while standing at the altar.
The dream progressed, but I still couldn't make out my groom's face. When I woke up, there was a slight euphoria over me. From the dream, I couldn't see the face of my betrothed, but I was happy and in love.