A/N: Hi, there! Long time no see, right? Tried to get this at least looked over by someone else, but still have to work that out. So, this will once again have grammer and punctuation errors. (I do my best, but I kinda suck at it) You will also notice that this chapter is, again, a continuation of Izzy's trip to Boston. All Bostonians should note that I have been to Boston only once when I was twelve and all I remember is how my dad kept complaining that everyone there drives like a maniac. So, if something I mention is incorrect-blame the internet. Also, I want to thank everyone who reviews-I don't always have time to respond (RL has been hard lately), but I do read and appreciate them. Thank you.
Disclaimer: Twilight stuff is not mine.
Chapter Sixteen: …Shopping Malls…
"Ah. There you are," Uncle Laurie greets us as we exit our coaches at the front entrance of the Old North Church. "I was beginning to think you weren't going to make it."
"It's hard to get one lady anywhere on time, let alone four," Mr. Cullen comments light-heartedly, then winks at us ladies. Mrs. Cullen gently swats his arm and rolls her eyes.
"Yes, but it was worth the wait," Uncle Laurie replies, appraising us. "You have the prettiest assemblage of ladies in all of Boston." Alice and I smile at his compliment and even Rosalie blushes a little. My uncle can be quite charming. "Perhaps you would be willing to share? I would feel jealous sitting alone in my pew while you and Edward have such delightful company."
"My pleasure," Mr. Cullen replies. "I don't think we'll all fit in the Cullen pew, anyway. Victoria sent word that she and Aro will be joining us today."
"I'm sure the unseasonably warm weather we've been having has played a part in that. He doesn't get around like he used to," Uncle Laurie comments, as someone behind me draws Mr. Cullen's attention and we all turn to follow his gaze.
A tall, pretty, cultured looking young lady, a few years older than myself and with bright red hair, walks slowly up the walkway supporting an elderly gentleman by the arm. The Cullen's and Uncle Laurie greet the odd couple as if they are old friends, with smiles, hand shakes and embraces. Mrs. Cullen quickly introduces Rosalie and me to the young lady, Victoria, and her grandfather, Aro Volturi, as she claims the old man's other arm affectionately. "Let's get inside," she says, as she begins to lead Mr. Volturi away from Victoria and into the church. "We are going to be late."
Edward steps forward to offer Victoria his arm, his warm expression leads me to believe they are old friends and are fond of one another. She flutters her eyelashes and smiles at him all sticky sweet. The smile on my face falls, as does my heart. Mr. Cullen, Alice and Rosalie follow behind the two couples. I swallow my distress, try to put a smile back on my face, take the arm my uncle offers and let him escort me inside.
My breath catches as I enter the building and absorb my beautiful surroundings. I am enthralled as I crane my neck trying to take in every detail and to see where the strange, wonderful music is coming from. Uncle Laurie chuckles at me while discreetly pointing to the massive pipe organ on the balcony to the rear of the church. I quickly settle my eyes back in front of me, realizing how simple I must appear. Uncle Laurie pats my hand reassuringly and begins to explain how the Old North Church is a strange combination of ostentation and practicality. The sheer size of the two story interior with it's bright white paint, massive pipe organ and large arched windows are meant to inspire awe, but for practical reasons, the pews on the main floor are square with high walls. This design holds in the heat that radiates from the metal coal boxes on the floor of each and gives its occupants a setting in which to display their position in society. The square pews on the main floor are purchased and each family's station is distinguished by how close to the front and center their pew is located.
As my uncle guides me to his pew, I look up at him while he is explaining about social hierarchy and I suddenly feel sad for him. My Uncle sits alone in his private pew every Sunday so that he can maintain the appearance of a respected and wealthy man, but even I can see that he has been lonely. Right now, I am his only family and the smile on his face and the way he stands tall and proud with me on his arm say more to me than words. Having me here on his arm makes him happier than any display of prosperity. I wrap my hands around his forearm affectionately and step a little closer to him. If my company can be a solace to a fine man like my uncle, then I resolve to give it to him joyfully.
When we reach his pew, Uncle Laurie holds open the door for Rosalie, Alice and me. Unfortunately, his pew is directly behind the Cullen's and I am afforded the unsettling view of Edward and his…friend. Victoria sits next to Edward and I am forced to watch throughout the service as they exchange smiles and discreet whispers while she occasionally glances over her shoulder and gives me a condescending glance, furthering my self doubt.
As we are exiting our pews, Victoria clings to Edward's arm and he seems happy to have her there, not even sparing a glance at me. It hurts to see him be familiar with another girl, not knowing their history and wondering how he feels about her. Especially with the feel of his arms around me last night in the hallway still fresh in my memory. To keep myself together, I have to force my attention elsewhere by taking my uncle's arm and listening to Alice talk excitedly about the church social in the fellowship hall.
"The socials aren't every Sunday after service, but the women's group at the church has them at least once a month and I'm so glad there is one today because it's a good way to get to know people, seeing as we'll be attending many of their parties during our stay," she explains.
"And I have many friends and associates that I want to show you off to, Izzy," my uncle adds.
I do not hold myself in such esteem that I am comfortable being shown off, but the sentiment behind my uncle's words does make me feel strangely satisfied. He does not think I am beneath him. He thinks I am worthy of being seen on his arm. Unlike some people.
We enter the fellowship hall and Alice and Rosalie follow Mrs. Cullen across the hall to speak with friends, while Uncle Laurie leads me in a different direction. I spare a glance to watch as Edward and Victoria step away to a private corner to talk. I try to ignore the knot in my stomach, push aside my hurt, and focus my attention on my uncle. He leads me about the room and introduces me to so many people that I will never be able to remember any of their names. They are all polite and courteous, but none of them stands out as genuine or affable to me until we are approached by a older gentleman with three younger men in tow.
"Good day, Laurent," the older man greets my uncle.
"Good day, Peter," Uncle Laurie responds, looking over the three young men standing behind the elder. "I swear your boys gets taller every time I see them."
"That they do. They'll eat me out of house and home if they keep it up." The man smiles proudly and turns his eyes to me. "Who is your charming companion, Laurent? My sons have been eager to make her acquaintance."
Uncle Laurie beams as he introduces me.
"This is my niece, Isabella. She will be in town through the holidays and so there will be ample time for your sons to become acquainted. In fact, I have a few things I would like to discuss with you. Perhaps, your boys wouldn't mind entertaining Izzy for a few minutes while we talk privately," Uncle Laurie suggests.
The young men smile readily at the suggestion and in a matter of moments Uncle Laurie has vanished and I am left surrounded by three very tall, handsome young men. I fidget with the sleeves of my dress, feeling small and shy, surrounded by their appraising eyes.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Isabella," the oldest young man begins, "I'm Samuel Montgomery and these are my brothers, Garrett and Paul."
All three of their faces are smiling and friendly. They remind me of Emmett with his carefree disposition and I immediately become more at ease. Soon, they have me giggling with their charm and brotherly banter. They are sweet and attentive, guiding me to a chair and offering to fetch me refreshments. It is just what I needed to take my mind off of Edward and lose my cares. I am enjoying myself wholeheartedly until the hall begins to clear and Alice and Rosalie come to retrieve me. I say goodbye to the brothers and notice how they are reluctant to leave my company, glancing over their shoulders at me as they walk away. I think I may have made some new friends.
We exit the fellowship hall and I look about for my uncle, not wanting to leave with out saying goodbye. I find him talking with Mr. Cullen outside by the coaches. He smiles at me as we approach, making me feel welcome.
"Did you enjoy yourself?" he asks.
"Yes," I admit. "There are so many nice people here to meet."
"You won't find better than Mr. Montgomery and his boys. Their good people." He smiles warmly, then changes the subject. "What are your plans for tomorrow? This fine weather may not hold out long and I would like to show you around Boston. Are you up for it?" he asks.
I smile and nod eagerly.
"Tomorrow after breakfast then," he assures, as he helps me up into the coach.
"Tomorrow," I agree.
The coach pulls away with Alice, Rosalie and myself inside. Before we even lose site of the church, Alice is chatting excitedly.
"You certainly were a hit today. Wasn't she Rosalie? Everyone was talking about you, wondering who you were and where you came from, especially the young men. You know, I think you could have your pick of suitors."
"I highly doubt that," I scoff, a little taken back by Alice's remark.
"The Montgomery brother's looked like they were about to wrestle for your attention back there," Alice turns to Rosalie for confirmation, "and all the other young men were glancing her way, weren't they?"
Rosalie shrugs her shoulders at Alice. I am sure she is as reluctant as I am to discuss the attention I may garner from the male population of Boston, but then she surprises me by agreeing with Alice. "It's true. You're pretty enough and with the connections your uncle has, I'm sure there will be many young men vying for your attention."
Rosalie is making a genuine effort to be gracious. It takes a moment to recover from her unexpected compliment before I can respond.
"Well, I didn't come to Boston to be courted," I snip, then look out the window trying to deter any further conversation about my love-life.
Alice will have none of that. My discomfort with this topic seems only to incite her desire to continue with it.
"I bet if Edward were to offer, you'd have no objections to being courted," she teases, then looks at Rosalie and they both smirk knowingly.
I am turning bright red, I am sure of it. I didn't realize I had been so transparent in my infatuation for Edward and I certainly do not want to discuss it with anyone. It is too embarrassing…and depressing.
"Even if I do, it doesn't matter" I retort, then add despondently looking down at my lap. "He doesn't want me in that way." My eyes start to well up and I angrily brush away the traitorous tears.
Alice raises her brows in concern as she realizes her teasing has upset me. Little did she know that her innocent taunt would cut me so deep. "Edward doesn't know what he wants," she reasons, then gives my hand an encouraging squeeze. "Everyone can plainly see that there is something between the two of you." Alice turns to Rosalie with a beseeching look, asking for help to console me.
Rosalie sighs and then acts as though she is stating the obvious when she says, "Alice is right. Edward's head is so full of revolutionary ideas that he can't see what's right in front of him. There is no need for tears when this is so easily fixed. If you want Edward's attentions, then you need to make him see that he has something to lose with his inaction."
I stare at her, uncomprehending, but Alice's expression brightens hopefully.
"Yes, Izzy," Alice agrees, her eyes twinkling with enthusiasm. "I love Edward, but even I think he could use a little …nudge."
I am wary of the look on Alice's face. Alice is happiest when there is some sort of mischief going on around her. I suspect she wants to involve me in tricking Edward in some way. I do not want his attention if it is not freely given and what could I do to make Edward care for me that I have not tried? I don't understand what they expect me to do. My confusion and doubt must be evident because Rosalie gives Alice a stern look before reaching across the cab to lay her hand on mine.
"Listen, Izzy," Rosalie says reassuringly, "we're not suggesting anything untoward. We just think that someone like Edward needs to see you are not going to wait around for him forever…that you have other options. I saw his reaction to you talking to the Montgomery brothers. It's the same as when the Captain comes anywhere near you…"
"If you're referring to the way he scowls and gives me dirty looks," I interject, "I don't think that is an indication of affection for me. I think it's quite the opposite."
"Uh!" Rosalie exclaims and throws up her hands in frustration. "Of course it's an indication he cares for you. He's jealous. It's obvious. He scowls because he doesn't want other men near you," she explains. "Haven't you noticed how he's always hovering about you? I swear he never let's you out of his sight."
"I don't know," I say, doubtfully. " If he is interested in me then why doesn't he talk to me? He seems to have no trouble talking to that Victoria girl."
Rosalie bites her lip and taps her chin thoughtfully. "She's a trouble maker, that one," she says.
"Rosalie, her family has been friendly with ours for a long time," Alice says. "I'm sure you're mistaken."
"If there is anything my upbringing has taught me, it's how to recognize a fraud," Rosalie assures. "She has designs on Edward, you can bet on it."
Alice appears unsure, her mind reviewing what she knows of Victoria and trying to reconcile it with what Rosalie has said. "I never met her until a couple of years ago when she came to live with and care for her grandfather," she says circumspectly. "I don't know her well. She has always seemed more keen to befriend Edward than me. I suppose Rosalie could be right."
"I know what I see," Rosalie says to me. "The longer you wait, the more opportunity she has to cajole him into some sort of proposal."
"Well, what do you suggest I do?" I ask, frustrated. "How can I compete against someone as refined as Victoria?"
"Lucky for you, I happen to know all the things a lady should know, including a few tricks to attract a man," Rosalie says with a twinkle in her eye. "Let me give you some pointers and we'll beat Victoria at her own game."
Alice smiles at me, her mind awhirl with the possibilities. "What do you say, Izzy?" she asks, excitedly. "It'll be just like our lessons at home, only fun." Rosalie frowns at her inadvertent insult. "Please," she starts to whine. "We could do it together. I'll help you get Edward and you can help me get Jasper." She clutches her hands together and pouts, silently begging as she waits for my answer.
No one speaks as I ponder my situation. I am hopelessly in love with a man that I know feels something for me, but judging by his actions, he cannot seem to decide what exactly that something is. Maybe it is only brotherly affection or, maybe, simple curiosity because I am so different from the other girls he knows. All I know is while I patiently wait for him to realize we are meant to be together forever, Victoria may steal him right out from under my nose. It seems I have little choice but to submit myself, once again, to Rosalie's tutelage.
"Alright, I'll do it," I relent.
Alice bounces in her seat and claps her hands in delight. Rosalie, on the other hand, gives me a contentedly wicked smile and says, "Edward and Jasper aren't going to know what hit 'em."
The sun is shining and the air is unseasonably warm as Uncle Laurie helps me up into his open carriage for a day of seeing all that Boston has to offer. He sits next to me and lays a blanket across our laps before instructing the driver to make a slow tour of the streets of Boston.
"I thought we could start our day with a leisurely drive to get a good overview of Boston and then, perhaps, a picnic lunch. What do you say?" Uncle Laurie asks.
"A picnic? This time of year?" I ask, then start to giggle. I am beginning to see that my uncle does not always follow the rules. "That would be fine," I answer, stifling my giggles as he pretends to be hurt by my lack of confidence in him. I do not care what we do as long as I get to spend some uninterrupted time getting to know him.
The carriage meanders through the busy streets of Boston as Uncle Laurie points to all the buildings and places of interest. It seems hard to believe that just a few weeks ago I could not have imagined so many people and buildings, both small and grand, existing at all, let alone in one place. It is both overwhelming and wonderful at the same time. I think that as much as I love my home on the farm, I can see why someone would choose to live in a city like this. The air itself seems to crackle with energy and Uncle Laurie makes it seem even more alive as he tells me small details of how each place has played a part in his life and my mother's. Our morning tour is not just to show me a city, but how this city is a part of my uncle, my mother and myself.
Around noon, our carriage pulls into an open space in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of Boston. The space is clustered with leafless trees between which are walking paths and grassy areas and I can imagine that in the summer it is green and fresh with flowers. Even today, with winter's bite in the air, the warm sun has brought out the children to run and play on the crunchy grass as other carriages and pedestrians take advantage of the weather.
"This is Boston Common, my Dear," Uncle Laurie says, as our carriage comes to a stop. A waiting footman opens the door and helps me down. I am still confused as to how we will picnic this time of year, but when Uncle Laurie climbs down after me around a cluster of evergreens, it all becomes clear.
"Uncle, what have you done?" I exclaim.
He has arranged a lunch fit for a princess, that's what. There are servants standing at the entry of a canvas pavilion in which they have set up a small square table with two chairs. The table is covered with a blue cloth and little blue flowers adorn the edges of the fine china set upon it. Pink flowers fill a small vase in the center of the table and where he got them this time of year, I do not know.
Uncle Laurie smiles at my delight. "Come. Sit." he instructs, gesturing towards a cushioned chair as his man servant pulls it back for me. I sit as instructed, then run my fingers softly along the edge of the table. All this for me?
"Yes, because you are a special girl who I fully intend to spoil unmercifully," he replies to the question I did not realize I had spoken aloud.
While the servants make quick work of serving our food, I notice the warmth coming from the four cast iron fire baskets staked in the ground around us. Uncle Laurie sits across from me and watches me intently. From the warm food and drink to the soft cushion on which I sit, he has thought of every detail to make me feel comfortable.
"I mean it when I say you are a special girl, Izzy, I see your mother in you," he says. I lower my eyes bashfully as he continues. "Beautiful inside and out, just like the 'bella' in your name implies."
'Bella'? That's what Edward calls me when no one else is around. "What do you mean 'just like your name implies'?" I ask, tilting my head quizzically.
"Your name…" he explains, as if I should know, "it's just that 'bella' or 'belle' means beautiful in other languages. It suits you."
Uncle Laurie turns his attention to the meal being placed in front of him while his words echo in my head. "It suits you." Edward said them to me once when I asked him why he called me Bella. My heart swells. I sit a little taller and I am sure my smile reaches my ears. Edward thinks I am beautiful.
After lunch, Uncle Laurie takes me to the harbor to show me where he works. His office is in a grey, shingle-sided building near the docks. It has several desks that are occupied by his employees and another situated near the large window for himself.
"If the harbor were open, we would be able to see the ships come and go," he laments, "but now all the view affords is a few ships that are stuck at dock or the British war ships that stand guard floating in the distance."
"Uh-huh," I reply, not really listening to what he is saying. All I care about since looking out his window is the great blue-grey expanse before me. I have never seen the ocean before.
Uncle Laurie chuckles at my amazed expression, realizing that although this view has become commonplace to him, to me it is fresh and wondrous. He suggests that I get a better look by letting him escort me down the wharf to the market.
I hang on his arm as we walk along enjoying the salt air, the ocean breeze, and watching the gulls. Uncle Laurie asks me about my home and Pa and Emmett. I tell him about my adventures with Jacob and how the Cullen's have become so prominent in my life. Talking about the Cullen's brings Edward to the forefront of my mind again. The time I have spent with my uncle today has made me at ease with him, so I dare to ask a question hoping to find out more details of Edward's and Victoria's relationship.
"Uncle?" I ask, "The man yesterday at church, Mr. Volturi, who is he?"
My uncle answers readily, not thinking me more than idly curious. "He was a friend to my parents, a fellow business man," he explains. "Esme's parents, as well as mine, were friendly with him and his late wife. He is a good man. It's a shame the state he finds himself in now."
"Is he ill?" I inquire.
My uncle nods. "His health was good until a few years ago when he made some bad investments and lost almost all his assets. It broke his spirit. He hasn't been well since. I'm glad that he has his granddaughter to care for him."
"Victoria came to live with him when he became ill?" I ask.
"Yes. It was providence, really. She was in need of a home and he a companion, so it has worked out well for them both."
"Why did she need a home?" I ask, hoping to not appear too eager for information. "What happened to her parents?"
"The details of her parents situation were never made clear. She simply showed up one day unannounced. I grew up with her father and have often wondered about him, but Aero won't speak of him. I think they had a parting of ways." .
"If his son won't care for him," I press, "what will happen to Mr. Volturi when Victoria gets married?"
"She is a pretty girl, but her prospects of a good match are slim. Her grandfather's financial situation is a deterrent to any suitor a girl of her upbringing should consider, although she may eventually be forced to settle. If not for the support of the friends Aero has made, like the Cullen's and myself, they would likely be begging in the streets. I doubt any respectable man would be eager to take her." He pauses, then adds casually, "That is unless Edward decides to make her an offer. He has money to spare and the added burden of Aero is of little importance. He is already like a grandfather to him."
I look down at my strolling feet, trying to hide the sting to my heart his comment inflicts, but my curiosity cannot be contained. I have to know what I am up against. "They seem to get along well, don't they?"
"Yes. They are close friends. Although, I don't think they are romantic. But," he pauses to reflect, "I think many successful marriages start out as friendship."
He may be right, but my heart wants to disagree. It does not get the chance because Uncle Laurie cuts off any further conversation on the matter by pointing to a large brick building across from the harbor, indicating we have arrived at the marketplace.
Faneuil Hall market is alive with activity. The ground floor of the three story building has many open archways through which an abundance of people are coming and going. We enter to find merchants of all types selling their wears; blacksmiths, tinsmiths, even livestock. We walk from vendor to vendor and everyone has a smile for Uncle Laurie. He seems to know everyone. Eventually, we are stopped by an especially eager merchant who embroils him in a heated discussion about how his costs are continuing to rise and if there will ever be an end to the sanctions. I take the opportunity to step away and look for possible Christmas gifts.
I purchase a hunting knife with a decorative handle to take home for Emmett and a new pipe for Pa. I am casually inspecting a brass candleholder when I see a flash of red hair out of the corner of my eye. Instinctively, I glance to my left and am surprised to see none other than Victoria herself.
My eyes follow her as she weaves through the market. She stops at a booth and looks at something disinterestedly then moves on, glancing around as if looking for someone. Her actions are not unusual, yet something is suspicious about her, like she is trying not to be noticed. She exit's the market through an archway and I am about to dismiss the event as nothing but a strange coincidence when a man carrying himself with the same odd unobtrusive posture crosses my vision and heads towards the archway Victoria disappeared through moments before. He slows and as he turns his head to see if he is being followed, I see his face. I would not have known him by his attire. He is not wearing his uniform or anything else with any color to draw attention, but I would know his face anywhere.
Captain James Biers.
I turn away quickly, not wanting him to notice me. My thoughts are whirling. Why is he sneaking about? Is he following Victoria? What business could he have with her? This is too strange to be only a coincidence. I discreetly turn my head to look over my shoulder and watch him as he goes through the archway after Victoria. I glance to check that Uncle Laurie is still occupied, then cross the distance to the archway and carefully peek out to see the Captain turn the corner at the back of the building. I debate whether to continue following, but there is no option really. I must know what the Captain is up to. I near the secluded alley that the Captain disappeared into and stop at the familiar sound of his voice.
"You said you had things under control," he is scolding someone.
"I'm working on it," a female voice responds, defensively. "I'm doing my best."
"Listen, Vicky," his voice drops low and soothing, "I know your trying, Darling, but you have to get him to marry you so we can live like we always talked about. Right?" He sounds like he is talking to a child he is trying to manipulate, saying what he needs to, to get what he wants. "It's only temporary until we can get rid of him. Accidents happen all the time. Then you'll be rich and we'll be free to live as we choose."
"But, I don't want to wait. I want to marry you now," she pleads, "let's run away and be together, just you and me."
He huffs in frustration, about to lose his patience.
"You know I can't leave my brother and we can still be together here, just like we have been," he reminds her.
"I don't want to have to sneak around anymore," she admits, then her sadness turns to anger. "I hate that stupid old man for putting us in this position. If he had half a brain, he wouldn't of lost his fortune and I would be living in the luxury I deserve with you as my husband, not having to sell myself to survive."
"Stop worrying about the old man and focus on your task." he chastises her. "We have to figure out how to get this done fast. That little brunette has him all out of sorts. If she gets her claws into him, you won't stand a chance."
"I thought you said you'd take care of her," she replies.
"As soon as I can get her alone, I will. She's skittish is all. I came on too strong at first, but with a little finesse I will have no trouble convincing her to share my bed," he assures her. "And when I do, Edward won't want anything to do with her."
"I don't want to hear about that," she replies, sounding hurt by his talk of bedding another.
"I don't like it anymore than you like the necessity of being intimate with Edward," he comforts her. "Look at it this way, if you can't sway Edward, then Isabella may become a useful tool to get to her uncle. What do you think he would give to save her good reputation? And if I were fortunate enough to get her with child…"
"Enough!" she hisses. " I can't talk about this any more. I have to go."
I hear movement and start to back away from my hiding spot around the corner, pressed against the brick wall, but pause when I hear the Captains voice once more.
"You still with me, Darling?" he asks, using the same seductive voice he used previously to calm Victoria.
A long silent moment passes.
"Yes," she answers, resolutely. "I'm sorry. I want the same things you do." Then her voice turns spiteful and she begins to pout, "I can't stand living in squalor any longer. I deserve everything money can buy, but I don't like hearing about you with another. You're mine."
"That's right, Daring. I'm yours," he placates her. "Now be a good girl and go get him."
I hurry to the archway before I can be discovered and go back into the market. My heart is racing, my hands trembling. I'm barely able to hold on to my purchases. How do I make sense of what I just overheard. What do I do? Who do I tell?
"Izzy," my uncle calls. I look for him in the throng of people. I spot him waving at me as he politely dodges the other shoppers. I hurry to meet him. "I thought I lost you."
"No, Uncle," I say, out of breath. " I'm sorry I wandered off."
"Are you alright?" he asks, a concerned look on his face. "You look a little pale."
I don't know what or if I should say anything about seeing the Captain. I need time to think. I knew the Captain was someone to avoid, but I fear he is more than just a nuisance. He is a very dangerous man.
"I'm fine," I reply, touching my cheek and then looking around nervously. "I think, maybe, I've done too much today is all."
"Yes, of course,' he says, apologetic. "Let's get you home."