Summary: During a short stay with his aunt and uncle he saw her, standing amongst the fields of fire.
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight. The area this is based in is a small town in Maine, Fort Kent. The house used as Esme and Carlisle's belongs to my Ma Tante Mona.
Translation: Ma Tante – My aunt.
Dirt rose up in beastly clouds, thick and twisting. The clinking of the rocks against the undercarriage swelled around my ears like chirping birds with little bell songs. The low rumble of the engine and the twang of some old country song made for a perfect drive.
Wide fields of lazy grass stretched beyond either side of me. Tall pine trees rose up far beyond the grass. The sky was the deepest blue I had ever seen, vast and dotted with perfect clouds.
Finally, my destination came into view, a two story farmhouse that had certainly seen better days. The rickety deck was covered in chipped and peeling blue paint, sun-bleached with time. I could see the potato cellar not too far down the road. I parked my truck in the short stretch that served as a driveway. As I pulled my duffle from the back I heard the screen door creak open.
"Edward." The voice, rough with age and full of love, called out to me.
"Ma Tante." The steps groaned and shifted from the strain of my weight and, when I reached the top, she swathed me in thick adoring arms and her rose water scent.
"How have you been? Did you find the place okay? I know it's been quite some time since you came up here for a visit."
"I'm fine, Esme. The drive was nothing, just long." I absently massaged my lower back through the thin material of my shirt.
"Oh you poor dear, you must be exhausted and here you are humoring an old woman." Her hands fluttered in a nervous fashion, much like a bird trying to take flight.
She ushered me through the same sliding screen door I had kicked a soccer ball through when I was five. I had gotten in so much trouble for that. A wealth of memories assaulted my senses and I felt a twinge of nostalgia deep within my chest.
The thick rich scent of strawberry-rhubarb swirled around my head and I inhaled deeply. This was my favorite part about visiting aunt Esme. I tossed the heavy canvas duffle on the daybed in the sunroom. Esme tittered from the kitchen ahead of me
I had to chuckle at the familiarity that overwhelmed me as I hopped over the threshold. Carlisle greeted me over the corner of his newspaper. His pipe bobbed with the motion of his grinding teeth.
The entire house was an ode to the 70's, everything from the shag carpet in the living room to the wood paneling in the bathroom. The kitchen was especially awful but I loved every inch of the place.
Esme plunked a tattered blue box on the kitchen table and pointed to a chair. The next thing I knew there was a half-eaten piece of pie sitting neglected beside my hand and the three of us were knee-deep in a rather intense game of Scrabble.
Jogging down the steps, I whistled a tune in anticipation of the spread I could smell awaiting me.
"What do you have planned for today?" Esme greeted me, a kiss to the cheek and a haystack of hair. Her yellow housecoat swished around her aged body.
"I need to put gas in the truck and I think I might stop at the book store." Esme turned back to the crackling pan.
"Could you stop by the grocery store? We need more eggs."
"Can do." I hovered over her shoulder while she dished me up a plate of blueberry pancakes smothered in whipped butter and maple syrup with a side of scrambled eggs and bacon.
I pulled out a chair next to Carlisle, his pipe dangling, unlit, from his lips. He handed me the funnies section, automatically resuming a routine from years ago. The only sounds in the kitchen were the scraping of utensils and the static crackle of C'est si bon crooning from the ragged radio.
The dust swirled up around me for the second time in as many days. My fingers drummed against the steering wheel and I whistled along with the radio. The grocery bags crinkled in the back, a result of the sweet wind coming through the open windows.
I pulled onto the road that led to Esme and Carlisle's house. The long waving grass greeted me and I couldn't hold back the lazy smile at the sight. I couldn't have been more than a half mile from the house when I saw her, all long brown curls and creamy flushed skin. I pulled the truck to the curb and let it idle.
She was standing in the middle of the field, a large red watering can tilted over the immense stalks of yellowed grass. From where I was I could see the tiny glittering drops of the water as they dripped from the spout.
I pulled the handle and pushed the cab door open; the truck was still idling. My feet hit the dirt with a thud and a puff of dust. I didn't even bother to close the door, just started walking towards her as if in a trance. And she certainly was…enchanting.
She was laughing, the sound like shallow water over smooth pebbles, like the brook that ran behind my house down south. The long white skirt of her dress played peek-a-boo with the yellow bunches and the water from her can created a halo of prisms as she twirled.
I approached her and she stopped, her head bowed, her hair created a wall between us. The dead air seemed deafening. I came closer to her, the blades of grass snapped at my fingers like little angry mouths. I cleared my throat and the last few paces as the same time. I was close enough to touch her and I could hear her breathing.
"Are you okay? You, uh, you need some help?" My throat felt like it was full of blisters and my voice was made of razors. My heart hammered against the suddenly oppressive bars of my ribcage.
She shook her head, the gentle slope of her shoulders screaming 'go away.' I never was able to listen to reason.
"Are you sure?" She hummed and turned away to water a new section of the field. The water hit the ground in heavy splats. I followed after her.
"Why are you doing that? Watering the grass, I mean." My hands found their way into the back pockets of my jeans and my shoulders hunched themselves up around my ears.
"Someone has to." She said it so quietly it sounded like butterfly wings; wispy and gentle here but somewhere on the other side of the world it made some huge impact. I was so surprised by her answer I had to laugh a little.
I stumbled back as she whipped around. Her hair a flaming halo to her fury. Her eyes were quick and sharp and unseeing of everything but me. Her teeth were fangs and her tongue razor sharp.
"What is so funny you cackling swine? This is not a laughing matter. It'll be consumed, like you, by righteous fires."
My jaw hung slack in disbelief, not at what she had said, because had it come from someone else I would have called the nearest psychiatric facility. No, it was the conviction, the all-consuming pain in the way she said it, like she was burning with her own righteous fires.
As quickly as her anger had come, it vanished. Her fiery halo evaporated to a soft fly-away mess. Her harping tongue disappeared behind her supple cupid's bow and her eyes became ember-filled and dark chocolate. She spun, returning to her watering. The rustle of the grass, the shimmering of the water and my ragged breathing were the only sounds between us.
Seconds turned to minutes and she didn't speak. I could have just left, gone back to my still-idling truck and forgot this whole thing ever happened. But I didn't leave. I didn't go back. I didn't want to. And I didn't know why.
"Can I help you?" She finally turned to look me in the eye again. I met her gaze cautiously.
"What's your name?" She cocked her head to the side.
"Isabella. Bella." She corrected herself. The soft rush of her voice soothed the fire on my ears. My Irish blood was betraying me; I could already feel the hurt I would be in later from the developing sunburn.
"I'm Edward, Edward Cullen." I shoved my sweaty palm between us. Bella looked between my outstretched hand and my nervous face before responding primly.
"I know." She grasped the silver handle of her red tin watering can with both hands and started heading for the tree line. I scrambled to follow her, tripping over the laces of my sneakers.
"Wait," I huffed, out of breath. "How would you know that?" She tapped her temple with a single finger, watching me out of the corner of her eye. The nails of her delicate hands were darkened with dirt.
"I just do." A smug secretive smile spread the pink freckled skin of her cheeks.
The earth crunched beneath our feet, crisp and sun-dried. I stared at my shoes; I'd need to get some duct tape soon. The hole in the canvas that covered my right foot was big enough that I could almost fit my entire toe through it. I noticed for the first time that her feet were bare. I caught glimpses of Bella's tiny toes every time her skirt swished.
Everything about Bella was dainty, fragile; everything down to the webbing of the synapses in her brain.
We reached the tree line and she stopped, knocking the can against her knees and I could hear the shallow water swishing inside.
"This is where I leave you, Edward Cullen." I was graced with her demure, flitting smile.
"Are you sure you're okay?"
"Yes." And then I watched as she dissipated between the dark musty slats of the pine trees.
The next day started much as the one before. I whistled on my way down to breakfast, waffles with strawberries, Carlisle handed me the funnies section, etc., etc. Except today, I couldn't stop thinking about Bella. She was…oddly attractive in her psychosis.
"What are you doing today, sweetie?" Esme snapped me out of my quiet reverie.
"I think I'll head down to the river today." I nodded with determination, desperation to convince myself that going back to that field was not the best idea no matter how much I wanted to.
"That's nice. Isn't that nice dear?" I heard Esme kick Carlisle under the table and his restrained grunt as a result. He flicked the newspaper in half and removed his pipe.
"Yes, very nice." His voice was like leather, worn smooth with age. Carlisle flipped the newspaper back up and hid behind it. Esme's dry gaze was his punishment.
When she noticed me watching in amusement she switched gears, warm, gentle and loving all over again.
I could only chuckle.
Sunlight dappled the fallen logs and orange pine needles of the forest floor. I balanced nimbly, jumping from boulder to log, avoiding the designated dirt path entirely. The sounds of rushing water cluttered my ears and only served to further my anticipation of the cool river.
The break in the trees ahead was brilliantly illuminated and as I crashed through the underbrush I was blinded violently by the sun. My hand flew up of its own accord to shield my eyes and, panting heavily, I surveyed the area.
Dark green foliage created an earthy backdrop for the clear swirling water. Sharp rocks erupted from between the sparkling depths. I dropped my backpack and stripped myself of my shirt and shoes. I plopped down on a smooth rock that lined the river's edge and delved my feet beneath the shimmering surface.
I stretched my feet enough to meet the algae-lined rocks at the bottom and then let them relax so that they swayed gently in the current. Sweet laughter filtered through the overhead branches. I whipped around to face the sound. Standing just beyond the first line of knotted brown trunks was the same face I had been thinking about all morning.
"Bella." I hopped up, surprised at her appearance. She walked on her tip toes, her arms spread wide, kicking little pebbles. "What are you doing here?"
"I followed you." Bella's voice was swimming in innocent naiveté.
"Okay." My head bobbed, quick and jerky, like it was normal for pretty girls to follow me. "Do you want to...join me?" My voice reached a high pitched squeak at the end and I suddenly felt like I was thirteen again and going through puberty.
Bella continued to teeter on her toes, a tiny hand hiding her humor at my awkwardness. She swished the eyelet skirt of her yellow dress in time with the tide of the river behind me. Her hair was tied back and I could see the tiniest sliver of a yellow ribbon peeking over her crown.
She giggled and passed by me to sit where I had previously been. After recovering from my shock I joined her on the rock. Bella kicked her feet, splashing one of the smaller rocks further in. I watched the gritty dirt drift away from my own toes. From my peripheral I watched Bella bask in the sinfully warm rays.
We sat for exactly two hours and twenty-seven minutes just kicking our feet in the ebb and flow.
Bella and I continued to meet like that in obscure places, sitting in silence for hours. By the fifth day I cracked. We were back in the field, sitting amongst the tall grass. I absently pulled at some of the underbrush. We were currently engaged in either a battle of wills or a very intense staring contest; I hadn't quite figured it out yet.
Thunder echoed from somewhere deep within the mass of cumulus hanging forlorn and dark above us. I flinched at the rumbling sound, breaking our eye contact.
"Bella…" I was startled into silence. It was the first time she touched me, a single finger resting against my lips. Her soft breath pushed past her teeth in a tender 'shush.' She watched the roiling clouds above us, a fond look resting over her features like a wedding veil.
"It's going to rain." She whispered after a long moment, finally removing her petal-soft finger from my mouth. I compulsively licked my lips, catching the slightest nectar-taste upon my tongue. She leaned in close as the rain started to fall; her eyes alight with some internal super nova.
She smelled like ash and sulfur, a blown out matchstick.
That night at dinner Esme asked the question I had been hoping to avoid. We had been discussing Ma Tante Bernadette's amazing ability to accomplish more things than people half her age. Esme tittered and Carlisle hummed in response. I was amazed at his ability to tune her out and suddenly wished for nothing more than to change places with him. Esme charged forward like a bull in a china shop.
"You know, when I was talking to Ma Tante earlier she mentioned you, Edward." She trailed off and my hands started shaking. Some part of me, a huge part, was scared to share Bella. It was irrational, I knew, this was Esme and Carlisle, my aunt and uncle; the two of them had practically raised me. And yet, there was an inkling in the back of my mind that told me this was a very bad idea.
"She said you were out in the Bouchard's corn field." She watched me with a critical eye. Of course I would be caught in one of the most embarrassing places, creeping around a corn field.
"I was…reading." I pushed my mashed potatoes around my plate, mixing it with the gravy.
"Uh-huh." She continued to eye my skeptically, waiting for me to break and tell her the truth. She was the only person I knew who could manipulate her face in a way that manipulated her opponent.
"She's onto you, boy. For your own safety, you better come out with it." Carlisle continued to pick the flesh of the trout from its bones, never even sparing me a saving glance. Esme kicked him under the table. I didn't laugh this time. My fork clanged against the plate.
"Her name is Bella." I cringed at the sound of my own voice, resigned and hollow. Esme tilted her head to the side and resumed chewing.
"I don't recognize the name. Who's her family?" I could tell she was trying to restrain herself. Her excitement was palpable and simmered under her skin.
"I don't know, I never got her last name." I shrugged nonchalant, my eyes still downcast.
"In a town this small everybody knows everybody else. Like I said, I don't recognize her name, she could just be visiting." It was Esme's not so subtle way of letting me know I needed to invite Bella to dinner. What she didn't know, or would ever understand, is that I didn't know what our relationship was, or if it was even anything that could be considered a relationship.
Bella and I barely spoke, we'd only made physical contact once, and still there was an unexplainable…atmosphere that surrounded her and I was caught deep within its crazy clutches. I was drawn to the girl who spoke in metaphors and handled herself like a china doll. I was drawn to the girl who watered fields of fire.
The next day, standing on the steps of St. Matthews, I saw her across the street. Her pink flowy dress swirled around her knees. She was so pale I imaged I could see through her.
I pulled at the lapel of my suit jacket and waved, her slender fingers returned the gesture. Her eyes were sad. I noticed she was still barefoot.
"Edward! Edward, come here, there's someone I want you to meet." Esme waved me over from the church doors.
"Just a minute," I urged. When I turned back Bella was gone.
"Where do you go? When you leave, I mean. Where do you live?" Bella danced precariously along a fallen log, jumping over knots and holes in its disintegrating surface.
"Everywhere." I watched her from my peripheral as I trudged along beside her. The earth had turned to muck, a product of the heavy rains we'd been experiencing.
"Where is…everywhere?" The words felt weird on my tongue, like I was speaking her language. It was awkward when she talked in riddles.
"I live in the winds that ruffle your copper hair, and the river you love so much. The bark of this tree," she tapped the roots with her foot, "is my roof and the leaves make blankets for me. And every night, the stars sing me lullabies until I fall asleep." At this, her eyes twinkled, a manic light in the dregs of burning embers.
"Where's your family?"
"I'm a swan, we are swans. Like the bird." She giggled like it was some inside joke. I cleared my throat and shoved my hands into my pockets.
When she left me again I headed straight to the library. Esme knew everyone in this claustrophobic town and she didn't know of anyone with the name Bella. Now that I had what I thought was a last name, I could look for her in the town records.
I sped down Main Street, blazing by the grocer's and the one gas station, past the church and the coffee shop that doubled as the book store. In a more wooded area of town, just over the bridge, sat the library; a small castle-like building. I parked crooked in my haste.
Bursting through the door, I startled the clerk behind the desk.
"Town records?" My voice was breathless and I'm sure I looked harried.
The fatty skin of her neck jiggled and made her look more like a turkey than a woman. She fluffed herself with indignation, furthering her image of a flustered bird.
Through the stacks of nonfiction, and past the periodicals, was a door to the right of the restroom marked 'Town Records.' I hesitated with my hand on the knob. I knew opening this door would be like opening Pandora's Box; I would never be able to take it back. I exhaled once, harshly, through my nose and turned the handle.
It was small to say the least. The far wall was made up entirely of one large bookcase packed with yearbooks and obscure leather-bound volumes. To my right was a long table, six chairs, and the machine used to read the microfilm. To the left there filing cabinets, each drawer marked with different years. There were no windows.
Removing my rain jacket, I decided to start with the yearbooks. I pulled everything for the last ten years. I scanned each face, each candid, and each name. There was nothing. I moved to homeowner records, deeds and trusts, searching for anything with the name swan. Again, I emerged from the stack defeated. I was beginning to think I was wrong.
I went to the bathroom, left the door open, splashed water on my face, and stared at my weary dripping face in the mirror. A pimply faced kid passed me pushing a cart stacked with periodicals. He stopped just outside the door.
"You need something mister?" He eyed me through the wire-frame of his glasses. I vigorously rubbed my eyes. My last option was the microfilm.
Two hours staring at slide after slide of microfilm was murder on the delicate nerves of my eyes. I slipped the last film in, a scroll of news clippings from the 1950's. There was no point but I wanted to make sure I covered all my bases.
I wasn't paying much attention, I almost missed her; a photo, a beacon of light in a sea of glowing ink. Bella's face was centered under a horrifying headline.
'Fire Rages Small Town, One Dead'
I told myself repeatedly that it wasn't possible. I devoured the ruthless words anyway, drowning in this glowing sea.
When I left the library, my chest was tight. My limbs felt leaden but my veins were filled with helium. A slow-moving fog swirled around me, an oppressive weight on my chest. My hands stayed warm in the pockets of my jacket as I sat in the cab of my truck. Rain thundered down all around me, it sounded like rocks hitting my windshield.
It had been the hottest summer on record; it wasn't abnormal to have electrical storms. The lighting had struck somewhere in the forest, that's where the fire had started. The field was being used to harvest wheat at the time. They said she must have gotten lost amongst the tall stalks of grain. The fire had ravaged the fields and consumed her body. I flashed back to that first day in the field and how Bella had looked celestial in her anger.
With shaking hands, I put the keys in the ignition. If the jingling seemed loud, the rumble of the engine was deafening. It was nothing compared to the noise in my head. I drove much slower this time. I felt as though I was mourning a loss.
As I pulled in to the cemetery, the gates swathed in hanging ivy and flanked by massive oak trees. I felt a chill. It was the chill I should have felt when I first saw Bella, not that strong enchanting heat.
I wandered the graveyard, checking every headstone. I was soaked to the bone, my hands shaking as hard as my knees. Near the back, beneath a draping of mesmerizing moss, and the cloud of tree limbs and leaves, I found her.
Isabella Marie Swan
September 13 1929 – August 22 1954
I could feel her behind me. Neither of us spoke, the rain pounded the ground around us.
"Hi." I turned to look at her. She seemed so tiny, fragile enough to be crushed by the falling rain.
"Hi." I responded, my teeth chattering.
"Edward." It was just a breath, I couldn't even be sure it had been my name. The pounding of my heart resounded in my head like the toll of church bells.
"You knew." It wasn't a question. She nodded her head. The embers in her eyes had been snuffed out and she looked so old, so careworn and sad. The weight of her gaze felt like a straightjacket. "Why?"
"I was lonely." And I believed her.
"You touched me, I felt it." Remembering the day the sky watered the yellow fields and we sat like sponges absorbing it all.
"You thought you felt it, you wanted to believe it was real. But you knew Edward, didn't you?" Her gaze was accusing. I pulled roughly at the thick mane of penny-copper hair atop my head, a physical manifestation of my agitation.
"Yes." My eyelids fluttered shut; I felt every agonizingly cold drop of water as it made contact with various parts of my body. Every nerve-ending firing with every drop. I finally felt relief. When I opened my eyes she was gone. I turned back to her gravestone. On bended knee, I reverently touched the worn indentations of her name.
"Goodbye." I whispered and felt the gentle caress, as soft as butterfly wings, of the breeze against my cheek. And I knew she had heard me.
I returned home a few days later. I kept the oddly wonderful experience pushed to the back of my mind except for on those few days where the rain thundered and I felt the butterfly wings against my cheek.
End Author's Note: There it is. Short. Sweet. To the point. What did you guys think?