The Brandons: Prologue

A companion fic to 'I Hunger for Your Touch'. Rated M for mature subject matter.

The back story for this fic can be found in 'I Hunger for Your Touch', Chapters 1 and 22.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. Music belongs to its rightful owners. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is unintentional.

If you know any wonderful country tunes: traditional, family-oriented, or especially pertaining to Biloxi, please suggest them to me.

Go to my new channel, youtubedotcom/jmollytwilight2, and pick the playlist called 'The Brandons' to hear great music that I guarantee will enhance your reading. Please use the new channel to subscribe or contact me. And please do subscribe and contact me. I love hearing from you. This chappie's vids start at #1:

'Shower the People You Love with Love', by James Taylor

'New Moon: Score #3, Romeo and Juliet', by Alexandre Desplat

August 14th, 2005, 2am:

Seattle, Washington, Sea-Tac Airport

"Oh!" the bird-like old lady said, surprised. "Oh, do excuse me. I don't mean to pry." She had a bit of a Southern drawl. "In my day, it was usual to get married at your age, but it seems such a rarity now," she smiled engagingly at Bella and Edward through her very thick glasses.

"Well, Edward is very old-fashioned," Bella smiled, looking at her new husband with glowing eyes despite her tiredness.

"Then you were wise to marry him. Old-fashioned fellows are the best kind. Are you going on your honeymoon, then?"

"Yes, ma'am." Edward looked smug.

"Where to?"

"Secret," he snickered.

"Oh, how you do remind me of my Bertram," she laughed, patting Edward's hand affectionately. "I hope you won't mind an old lady talking to you, but when I heard your nickname for your young lady, it caught my attention. Bertram used to say I was his Minx, you see."

"You don't say," Edward said, winking at Bella. "Where are you from, ma'am?"

"Biloxi. I'm headed home now. Came to see my son and his family."

"Well, well! It's a small world. My adopted sister was born in Biloxi. She has a cousin there somewhere, I believe."

"Might I know this person, son? I know a lot of families. By what name is this cousin known?"

"Uh, I'm not sure. The mother's name was Cynthia. Cynthia Brandon."

The old lady looked a little taken aback. "Sonny, are you joshing me?"

"No, ma'am."

"Sonny, my maiden name was Brandon. I am Cynthia Brandon Richards. But my Mary is 67 now. And she wasn't born a Brandon. She was a Richards. Just how old is your sister?"

"She's twenty, ma'am."

"Well, it must be a coincidence, surely. I'm 97 years old, and I don't know any Brandons anymore. I was the only child, after my sister Mary died. There were no boys to carry on the family name."

"I'm sorry to hear about your sister, ma'am."

"Thank you. It's a long time, but I remember her with love. She was a good big sister, always playing with me, but always nervous for some reason. They tell me she had fits, and one carried her away. Mama never really got over losing her."

"Rum break. And you have a son?" Edward asked casually.

"I have two sons, Albert and Daniel. And Mary Alice. And ten grandchildren, and fourteen great-grandchildren," she beamed proudly. "What's your sister's name, sugar?"

"As it happens, her name is Alice. She's married, too, to a very nice young guy named Jasper Whitlock Hale. He's from Texas."

"My, my. That's a fine romantic name for a Southern gentleman. And her name is Alice. Isn't that something. There must be a family connection somewhere. And what might your names be, pretty girl?"

"Cullen. Bella and Edward," she stammered.

The elderly lady clasped her tiny, arthritic hands to theirs, showing surprising strength for someone her age. "Edward ... and Bella ... Cullen. Well, it's been lovely to meet you, children."

"Lovely to meet you, too, ma'am. We'll have to tell Alice about you. I'm sure she'll find this coincidence highly interesting." Edward looked down at Bella through his lashes.

"Kismet, I'm sure. I'll tell you what, dearie, I'm going to give you my phone number. Perhaps your sister can find her cousin, if she is so inclined. I would be happy to ask my family what they know."

"I'm sure my sister would be most grateful, Mrs Richards."

The sprightly nonagenarian borrowed Edward's pen, and carefully wrote her phone number on the back of her son's business card. She presented it to Edward, who pocketed it, and his pen, with thanks.

"I wish you a long and joyful life together, Bella and Edward Cullen. God bless you both." They thanked the old lady, and she marched energetically up to the airport counter to be served.

Bella turned to Edward and looked at him, wide-eyed. He shrugged and smiled crookedly at her. They took their turn at the counter, checking their boarding passes for Rio.

o~o~0~o~o

Sunday, August 20th, 2005:

Esme's Island, off the coast of Rio di Janiero, Brazil

"Alice? I have something for you." Edward reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet.

"What is it?" I wondered, nonplussed.

"You haven't Seen?" he asked hesitantly. A very old, very tiny old lady,grinning and refusing to let go of my hand. Sticking out her other hand for Jazz to kiss.

I shook my head, confused, and waited for my brother to enlighten me. "Who is she?"

"Cynthia," he informed me kindly. I shot to my feet, anxiety and something suspiciously like anger engulfed me. Both Edward and Jasper recoiled.

"It can't be. It can't be! I saw the gravestone. She's been dead since 1945, Edward. I looked for her. She was the only Brandon I found in the records."

"It's her. She was thinking about your mother and wishing that her family's birth and death notices were available. They're planning a reunion. I guess there was a fire at the church and a lot of history was lost. That's how I caught on. Your father had a sister named Cynthia, too. It was her grave you found. Her gravestone only lists the date of her death, because the records were lost and your parents had already passed on. Only your sister remained, and she didn't know the date of birth, only death."

I stood stiffly, trembling, and my breath huffed out in a whimper. "My sister's not dead," I said numbly.

"She's not dead, and she wants to meet you."

My eyes flew to Edward's face. "How?"

"She said she was from Biloxi. I said that you -my adopted sister- were from Biloxi and were searching for your birth family. When I said your name, she revealed hers. I told her that you must be a lost relation. She was ever so pleased to hear you'd married a fine Southern gentleman. She wants you, Alice. I'm sure you and Jazz can invent a cover story." Cynthia, lying in her sickbed, holding hands with me and Jazz. "I'm glad you came back, Mary Alice. I've missed you so..."

o~o~0~o~o

Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, Mississippi

Holding our bags, we made our way casually to the reception area.

We had waited, interminably, on the plane until the last passengers had cleared the loading bridge, and moved at a speed virtually undetectable to the human eye into the area past the gate, picked up our bags, and jumped into the ceiling panels when my vision told me it was safe. After a short walk, we had descended into a deserted area above a maintenance hallway. Thus, we had evaded Customs.

I knew who I was looking for. Cynthia had said on the phone that her daughter, Mary Alice, was 63, and had a generous figure, and was tall like a Richards, with waving, short, light brown hair. It was faded, unlike her spirit. Of course, I knew that. I had already Seen her.

But my namesake seemed very little like me. Not in appearance, or in personality. She was neither exuberant nor birdlike in my visions. Must be like her father, rather than my sister. She was, however, highly dedicated to her family, and she seemed happy. Contented. Fulfilled.

Jazz kissed my hand as he held it, and a wave of contentment washed over me, that did not quite quash my anxiety. I realized that I had been worrying, fretful about this meeting. I looked up at my mate apologetically, and he smiled gently. I smiled back, and felt my worries slip away.

I don't know what I ever did to deserve Jasper Whitlock Hale, but he is the perfect balance to my personality.

If Mary Alice had found it odd, when I told her that Jazz and I suffered from a skin condition that made us intolerant of the sun, she did not question it. She had promised to park her car in the underground parking garage. We were, therefore, meeting her in a spot not too distant from it.

A line of people stood by a waiting area, every seat being taken. I scanned the crowd, the crease reappearing between my eyes.

Our eyes met, and to my delight, she smiled, her whole face lighting up and showing her for the girl she must have been. My still heart ached. Hurriedly, she stuffed her paperback into her tote bag, and jumped to her feet. In seconds, I was enfolded in a warm, slightly damp, very tight embrace. A faint scent of lilac teased my nostrils.

My niece stepped back to look at me. Her eyes were tearful, and she took my own trembling face between hands that were both soft and strong. "Well, well, well. Mary Alice? I am Mary Alice, too. And it is completely obvious to me that you are a Brandon."

"I-I am?" I blinked mendaciously.

Mary Alice's voice was low and musical. "It is clear as the nose on your face. Not only do you greatly resemble my mother, but I swear you are a dead-ringer for my mother's sister, God rest her soul, who passed away at the age of nineteen, in 1921."

"I have an old letter," I lied, "that my birth mother sent to me. Her name ... her name was Mary Alice, too. And her mother's name was Mary Alice Carter Jackson. I tried to trace them, but they all appear to have passed on."

Bella had painstakingly copied out the words I dictated to her. Then, I had crumpled the letter, folded and unfolded it repeatedly until the creases began to crack, dripped tea on it, and scraped it through the hot sand of Esme's Island until it looked like it had been carried in a billfold for twenty years.

"There must be a tragedy in there somewhere, my dear. Perhaps more than one. But there is no doubt in my mind that you are part of the family." My niece pulled me into her arms, resting her cheek on the top of my head. "Welcome home."

I curled my fingers into the back of her light sweater, hiding eyes that should be, but could not be, wet, against the comfort of her chest. The lump in my throat felt like to choke me, were that possible. After a few moments, I pulled back, wiping at my eyes and nose with a sniff and gesturing at my tall mate, who was leaning with his weight on one foot, waiting patiently to be introduced.

"Um," I said quickly, "this is my husband, Jasper Hale."

Mary Alice held out her hand, waiting expectantly for Jazz to kiss it. Yeah, I love the South. Ladies are treated as such. Jasper bowed gallantly over it, smiling secretively, and patted her hand with his other one as he stood up.

"A true pleasure, Miss Mary," he drawled, releasing her.

"My, my. Aren't you a long drink of water. And a good Southern gentleman, too, as I live and breathe." She examined him unabashedly, frowning, and decided that she approved very much.

Jasper smiled shyly, looking down. His long dark lashes lay soft upon his cheek. His sun-kissed yellow hair contrasted sharply with his pressed, blue cotton shirt, tucked neatly into his midnight blue button-downs.

"Well, let's get you home to Mother. She has been in a positive tizzy, waiting for you to arrive. We have all been conscripted to prepare a place for you and make her house nice. I do hope you have not made hotel reservations."

"No, Ma'am," Jasper replied. "It was too difficult to arrange from South America. We thought we would find one once we had arrived here. We should not wish to impose."

"It is no trouble whatever. At Mother's age, new people to talk to are such a blessing. She is pretty independent, but she relies upon the children and grandchildren to help her keep her home. Sometimes they grow weary of her stories. The young do not always give the proper degree of reverence to the old."

"I would be happy to look after Cynthia's needs for the next couple of days," I said with alacrity. "It will be nice for me. There's really nobody older in my family to talk to, and I like old people's stories."

"I am sure you and my Mother will get on like a house on fire. I shall tell the family that you will be taking on the responsibility for a couple of days. They will enjoy the time off. Not that they do not adore Granny, mind. But they are young and busy."

I looked down, wondering why the young do not have time for the old. They have so much to offer. And hearing stories from time gone by is so interesting. I loved to hear it, when my parents spoke of the world of their youth, and various places they had been and things they had done. "Thank you. For making us welcome. I am so excited to meet Miss Cynthia. My brother and his wife spoke so highly of her."

"Then it is a mutual admiration society, for she has not stopped speaking of them. Well, my dears, I think we should go. The evening traffic has been fierce."

"Yes, Ma'am," I said. Jasper offered an arm to each of us, and Mary Alice gestured with her car keys toward the parking garage.

"My, it must have been chilly on your plane. You are both positively frozen," Mary Alice remarked as she strode toward the elevator.

Jasper chuckled. "Yes, Ma'am."