Title: Anatomy of a Human
Author: Amethyst Jackson
Summary: Companion to Only Human. Edward's young life is irreversibly altered when a mysterious girl in strange clothing stumbles into his world.
Disclaimer: Twilight and its characters belongs to a whole lot of people, namely Stephenie Meyer and whomever she chooses to share the rights with, but I'm not one of those people. I wish I was, because I could use the cash, but I am making no money off this story or any other derivative work, so there's nothing to sue me for.
June 18, 1918
Getting on the train from Philadelphia to Chicago was always a relief, like I could already feel the air becoming purer as it floated in the open window of the car. I hoisted my travel trunk onto the shelf overhead with difficulty and settled into my seat for the long journey home.
For four years now, I'd completed the same routine. In August, pile onto the train to Philadelphia, take the long drive from the city to the boarding school I attended in the country, return home for winter holidays, return to school, return home again in June.
My father had insisted upon private school for my secondary education, though my primary education had been in public schools, with the addition of my mother's tutelage. Boarding school, preferably in the east, was the only acceptable route to a prestigious university, which was in turn the only acceptable route to the best law schools.
My father had a detailed plan for me. From birth.
The prospect of becoming a lawyer didn't thrill me – actually, I dreaded spending my days hunched over a pile of paperwork – but I had plenty of time to find something else to do with my life and convince my father of its worthiness as a profession. If luck was on my side, the war might last until I turned eighteen, and then I could enlist. My parents would be displeased, but I felt certain they would approve once they realized how I was serving our country.
What I did hate, loathe, and despise was boarding school. The place, the people, my studies…all horrifyingly pompous and dull. My roommate for the past four years, Norman – assigned together because we came from the same city – was the worst of them all. Self-important and with a sense of entitlement a mile wide, Norman schemed and manipulated and took wherever he could. An upper-class pirate. He wasn't an anomaly, either – the school was full of snakes just like him: charming, selfish, and deadly.
The whole atmosphere was entirely different from what I'd grown up with in Chicago. Out in the Midwest, even in the city, everything felt wide open, so free. Going east made me feel close to claustrophobic. It wasn't merely a matter of geography, either; the attitude was different. In Chicago, I'd played baseball in the street with other boys in the neighborhood. At school, they actually made us play croquet. Of all the cruel and unusual punishments….
A few minutes before the train was due to depart, three businessmen piled into my car. I pressed close to the window, trying to keep breathing fresh air for as long as possible, and pulled a book out of my bag to pass the time and discourage conversation. I didn't want to hear about these men and their profits and their stocks and bonds, and I definitely didn't want them asking me about my "future." I got enough of that from people I actually knew.
Several hours later, the train pulled into the station. I waited for the other men to shuffle out before dragging down my trunk and hauling it off the train. My mother waited on the platform, all smiles. She'd never liked having me away from home for so many months of the year, but she'd always acceded to the wisdom and practicality of my father's plans for me. Now she would gladly continue shipping me off to boarding school to keep me out of the war.
"Hello, Mother," I greeted her, letting my trunk drag along the ground behind me.
"Edward, dearest," she sighed, enveloping me into a tight hug. I blushed, catching a few stares in our direction. She pulled away, patting my cheek. "You look thin, sweetheart. Aren't they feeding you well at that school?"
She asked the same question every time I got home, always before anything else. "You know they serve ridiculous food at that school. You can fatten me up while I'm home."
"I most certainly will," she fussed, smoothing down my hair. "Come along, dear. Your father is waiting in the car, and I know he's anxious to hear about your school term."
"Anxious to hear about my marks, you mean," I grumbled, trailing after her.
"Be patient with your father," Mother sighed. "He's doing what he thinks is best."
"Is it what you think is best?" I wondered aloud as we weaved through the travellers scurrying toward trains.
We stopped just in front of the doors leading outside. "You know I wish I could have you at home, but yes, I do think it's best you go to that school. There are things about the world that you just can't learn at home. Sometimes you have to go out into the great wilderness."
"Wilderness," I snorted. "I don't think the landscaped grounds qualify as wilderness."
"It was a metaphor, dear," Mother said patiently before pushing her way out the door. I followed after, shaking my head. I should have known my mother would be on my father's side. Getting between those two would require a crowbar.
We found the car parked outside. My father climbed out to help my mother in before coming around to help me load my trunk onto the back.
"Hello, son," he greeted me with a pat on the back. "Good term?"
"Nothing unusual," I replied, shrugging. My father sighed and said no more; my lack of enthusiasm was a constant tension between us. He climbed into the car without another word, next to my mother up front, and I slid into the backseat, feeling like a child. I would be seventeen years old in two days, and here I was, sitting behind my parents like a good little boy. I sighed out the open window.
"Edward, have you given any thought to what you'd like for your birthday dinner?" my mother asked abruptly, hopefully, turning in her seat to look at me.
I grinned. "You know I want your chicken and dumplings, Ma."
My father's lips twitched. We both knew Mother was tickled pink whenever I called her 'Ma,' and even more than that, she loved cooking. My mother wasn't typical of an upper-class wife; her father had been a successful farmer, and she'd grown up in the country. Though she'd received the kind of education typical of society women, she'd never given up her love of cooking and outdoor pursuits. She was constantly stepping on our poor cook's toes, literally and figuratively.
"That's my boy," she said approvingly. "Is there anyone you'd like me to invite?"
"No, Mother." She was forever hoping I'd "come out of my shell" and "make friends," but I'd never had much talent in that regard. Maybe it was a personal failing – I found it all too easy to be distracted by the flaws of others, enough so that I often struggled to see their positive characteristics. I didn't like being that way, but I didn't know how to change myself, either.
"You should invite some of your schoolmates in the area, Son," Father chimed in. "The right connections are essential. You don't want to alienate these young men; one of them might employ you one day."
"I certainly hope not," I muttered under my breath.
"I heard that. Just consider it, will you?"
"I'll consider it," I agreed, lying through my teeth. "But I do see these people for the majority of the year. It would be nice if I didn't have to see them on my birthday as well."
"You needn't invite anyone you don't want to," Mother said, looking sharply at Father. "It's your day, after all."
The car stopped in front of our home, and I clambered out after my parents. We had no male servants, so it was up to me to lug my trunk inside and up the staircase. Admittedly, I was spoiled at school. The amount of servants we had there was bordering on ridiculous.
I opened the door to my bedroom, which was kept shut up while I was in school. Now the windows were thrown open to let in fresh air, and the furniture was uncovered, dust free. I sank onto my inviting bed, enjoying being back in my own room. My baseball and glove still rested on my bookshelf next to the thick Webster's Dictionary, which I admittedly had not bothered to open in years. I peeked into my nightstand drawer and smiled when I saw my childhood blanket still hidden there; I couldn't bear to part with it.
A warm breeze flowed into the room, and I found myself lazily closing my eyes, ready to doze until dinnertime.
Summer went as summer usually did. While my father hurried off to work every day, I slept late. I helped my mother with the occasional chore, but for the most part, I passed my days reading – comic books and adventure novels, nothing remotely educational – playing piano, and lazing about in the sunshine.
My mother tolerated my behavior until mid-July.
"Edward, I think it's high time you leave the house for a bit. Come, you can accompany me to the market in Mary's place. She does enough work."
"Yes, Mother," I agreed reluctantly, dragging myself off my bed. "Give me a moment to make myself presentable."
"Ten minutes," Mother replied, shutting my bedroom door behind her. I shuffled into some unwrinkled clothes – trousers, white shirt, waistcoat, jacket. I hated leaving the house during summer. I much preferred being in shirtsleeves with such oppressive heat.
I washed my face quickly and made a half-hearted attempt to tame my hair before I met my mother in the foyer.
"Gracious, Edward," Mother sighed, flattening her palm against my hairline and sweeping back. "Your hair…"
"It's always been this way, you know that," I grumbled. "What do you expect me to do about it?"
"A bit of pomade might help, dear," Mother said, letting her hand fall in defeat. "Come along now. I want to get to the market before all the decent turnips have gone."
"Turnips. Right," I muttered, pacing after her out the door and to the street. Like the proper gentlemen I was supposed to be, I offered my arm to my mother to 'escort' her to the market. As if my mother needed any assistance…she was tough as nails.
The market teemed with men and women in various states. There were those like my mother and I, browsing the wares. There were the farmers peddling their harvest with vigor and the less enthusiastic farmers waiting for the customers to come to them. Artisans attempted to drown the food-sellers out, eager to attract new business, and beggars lurked between displays, ready to pounce on anyone who showed the slightest weakness.
"Aha!" Mother cried, spotting the all-important turnips. I waited, looking around for something to amuse me, while she selected her produce. Our outing didn't end with the turnips, unfortunately. Next was the bookseller's, where my mother ordered several obscure titles, and then we were on to the shoemaker's, where my mother left a pair of cold-weather boots to be repaired while she wasn't using them. I waited outside while she dealt with the shoemaker; the bookshop had been unbearably warm, and I opted to stay outside where at least there was a breeze this time.
I was watching the people drifting down the street at different speeds – some in a rush, some on a leisurely stroll – when a flash of color caught my eye. I jerked my head to see a young woman standing in the middle of the street, as if she'd appeared out of nowhere.
At first, I found myself staring quite impolitely at her clothing. How could I help it? The bright blue color of her blouse would have been enough to draw anyone's attention amongst the conservative colors which were currently in fashion, but everything she wore was rather…scandalous. The blouse left her arms bare, which could be tolerated at home, but certainly not in public. And she wore trousers – not only trousers, but trousers made of denim, as if she were a mine-worker! Clearly, they were not men's trousers, either; they were tailored to hug her body, showing the curve of her hips and the shape of her thighs.
I had to turn my thoughts quickly to French conjugations and shift my eyes to her face. Her delicately pale skin was at odds with her clothes. Were she the sort of woman who routinely wore trousers, she would certainly not have such a well-maintained complexion. Only fine ladies could so well avoid the sun. What a lovely face she had, too – sweetly heart-shaped, with a gentle mouth and wide doe-eyes.
A doe, indeed. She held herself as stiffly as a deer left exposed, fearing the hunter's bullet. I moved toward her instinctively, curious and captivated. Who was this strange woman, and why did she look so lost? So scared?
I ventured closer, wary of taking too bold a step, as if she would flee like a frightened animal if I moved too quickly.
"Excuse me, miss?"
Her eyes flashed to mine, wide and bright and shocked, and I was stunned senseless.
To Be Continued