A/N: Welcome! This is a departure for me into the world of the sparkle vamps, and is a straight up Carlisle/Bella story. This started as a one-shot for the FicsForNashville compilation, which I was so proud to be a part of, and even prouder to be a part of such an amazing fandom. As soon as I started writing this, I knew that it was going to be more than a one-shot, though.
My first priority is going to be to my other work in progress, In the Shadow of Ursa Major, but I will try to update this as frequently as I can. I'm guessing that will be about every week or two until In the Shadow is finished. That being said, I have a couple chapters already written, and will put them up soon.
Thank you so much to my amazing beta and story guru, Bethaboo, for all that she does. She's fantastic.
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight. Stephanie Meyer does... I just plan on playing with the characters and even what we know of them.
It took Charlie threatening to send me to Jacksonville to finally make me realize that staring out my window was not going to make Edward Cullen magically jump through it. He had left me, and wasn't going to return. As much as I didn't want to admit it, I was going to have to find a way to continue my life without him.
Really, it wasn't just that I missed Edward. I mean, that was a large part of it, of course, but I missed all of them. I missed the way that I finally had felt like I was a part of something—that I was really cared for. I guess I had been completely mistaken though. If they had loved me, they wouldn't have left. One minute, they were killing James for trying to kill me, and the next, they had vanished in the night.
They were sort of like lightening bugs, really; the Cullens burst into my life in an explosion of light and love, but once their light went out, it was impossible to tell if they'd ever really been there.
There was a large part of me that felt their betrayal more than I did Edward's. Did it hurt that he'd been pretending to love me for months? Yes. Of course it hurt like hell. I mean, what was the point of doing all these ridiculous things like forcing me to go to prom, and throwing parties for my birthday that I clearly didn't want? Prom I could almost understand—a guy like him would be expected to make an appearance, but there was no expectation like that for my birthday. He said he was tired of pretending, but he always pretended more than I wanted him to. Part of me thought he might not have grown weary of the act if he had listened to me when I told him I didn't need it.
That's Edward, though. I think the rest of the Cullens failed me in two ways: they always pretended, and they let him make me believe he loved me, even knowing that he didn't. They moved from town to town for decades, pretending to be human. No matter where they moved to, even Edward was going to be forced into the endless charade. I just hoped they didn't find another girl to bring into their home and leave broken-hearted. Maybe they didn't know that Edward was just pretending. Maybe he fooled them, too. If that were the case, how could they just leave me behind, knowing that I had come to love them all as friends, brothers, and sisters? Hell, Esme was even like a mother to me.
Perhaps they had been pretending to care about me just for Edward's sake. Something told me that they weren't all faking it, though.
It had been months since he left me, and I was making honest efforts to be more social, for Charlie's sake. Well, perhaps that was a lie. I was also trying for myself. I didn't want to be the cliché of the needy girl who gets dumped and simply couldn't move on. I didn't want to feel worthless and expendable every day of my life. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to move on.
I could have accepted offers from Mike or Tyler for dates. I could have called Jacob back and hung out in La Push with him. But Jacob was far too young for me, and Tyler was too annoying, but part of me wished I could give Mike a chance. He was a sweet guy, and was actually really funny and considerate. He was actually pretty cute, too. I could do a lot worse for a boyfriend.
The trouble was, I had been completely spoiled. I had known what it was like to be with someone who had captivated and enchanted you from the moment you laid eyes on them, and I didn't think I could settle for anything less.
I'd been reading epic love stories for as long as I could remember—stories like Emma, and Sense and Sensibility. Even novels like Wuthering Heights spoke of love that could not be stopped, though I admit that I would rather a relationship not quite as dysfunctional as Cathy and Heathcliff's. If I was going to risk my heart again, I would make certain that the love was true and powerful. I would settle for nothing less.
Thinking of the pure love made me want to lose myself in Jane Austen's world. With nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon, I decided to curl up with my copy of Pride and Prejudice, and the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Like a fool, I found myself crying when I re-read the letter he had left her, defending the accusations she had leveled against him, and explaining his actions. I wiped a tear as it trailed down my cheek, and wondered why life couldn't be simpler. I wanted to live in a time when life didn't move at 50 miles per hour, and you had the time to pursue the things that interested you.
When I pulled my finger away, I noticed an eyelash that had come off of my cheek. As a little girl, Renee had convinced me that I could get a wish if I blew the lash from my finger. It was a habit I had never bothered to break. I closed my eyes, and wished that I could live in England during Jane Austen's time, and find the sort of love she wrote about for myself. I blew the eyelash from my finger, and opened my eyes.
Sighing, I put my head back against my pillow and continued to read until I felt my eyes grow heavy, and drifted off to sleep.
I began to wake up when I heard voices from the street invade my ears. There had never been that much traffic on my street, so I was understandably perplexed. When I went to swing my legs off my bed, I became cognizant of that fact that I was no longer in my bed. In fact, I wasn't even in my room. I was…somewhere else. Actually, I was propped up against a stone wall, sitting on a cobblestone street, with my legs stretched out in front of me.
Clearly, this is a dream, and I'm not actually napping outside somewhere. And where would I even be that still has cobblestone streets? Or, wait, were these sett streets? My old history teacher in Phoenix had mentioned something about a difference between the two. Sett streets were smooth, and cobblestone streets were bumpier. These must be cobblestone, because it felt like I was sitting on a bunch of bumpy rocks.
I was really focusing on the wrong details here.
Instead of considering what type of stone street I was sitting on, I should be focusing on why I was sitting on a street at all. Also, why was I wearing a dress? More importantly, why was I wearing a long brown dress that I didn't own? I looked at the simple cotton dress, and acknowledged that it was quite pretty in its simplicity. It was rather old-fashioned, but looked new.
As I looked at the style dress, I realized that it looked similar to the dresses I'd seen in the BBC miniseries of Jane Austen novels. It was with that thought that everything seemed to fall into place. I had fallen asleep reading Pride and Prejudice, and naturally I began to dream I was in the novel. It wouldn't be the first time this had happened, and I was certain it wouldn't be the last, but it was by far the most realistic dream I'd ever had.
I stood up, feeling slightly lightheaded from standing up too quickly, and marveled that physical responses like that were present even in dreams. Apparently, my mind was really detail-oriented.
I decided that I must be behind a building, as I could hear the bustle and commotion on the street, but there was thankfully no one around me. Though I was oddly eager to talk to someone and take advantage of the situation -even if it was in dream- I didn't want to seem like a lunatic who routinely took naps on the side of random buildings.
I brushed the dirt off my butt and straightened my dress, and took a few calming breaths. I briefly wondered if Mr. Darcy looked more like Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen, before I really didn't care because he was Mr. Darcy. Well, that, and he was a construct of my mind anyways and I'd find out soon enough. I wouldn't dream myself into a Jane Austen novel without giving myself some eye-candy to look at.
I walked around the building, and my breath caught in my throat at the scene before me. The town was much larger than I had expected it to be, and there were many people milling about the streets, weaving in and out of shops. There were some vendors that pedaled their wares right on the side of the street. It was so full of life and energy, and I found myself smiling from the excitement of the marketplace. Even if this was all in my head, it was incredible.
I stood and watched the people go about their day for a few minutes, amazed at how friendly everyone was with one another. Meryton must have been a rather small town for people to be so well acquainted with their neighbors. Though, I supposed, they did always have large public balls for the purpose of getting to know each other. Their society always seemed more social than those of today. Forks was so tiny that you couldn't help but know everyone else, but in Phoenix, I barely knew all the people who lived on my street.
I turned around to walk towards the butcher shop, and managed to collide with a lady around my age.
"I'm so terribly sorry, I wasn't looking where I was going," I said quickly. Even in my dreams, I was clumsy. If I were in England, my accent would stick out like a sore thumb, so I used the best English accent I could muster.
"It's no trouble. Miss Purcell and I were quite engaged in our conversation, and neglected to see you standing in front of us," the girl replied.
"Sorry, again," I mumbled, and began to walk away, but the girl began to speak before I had gotten very far.
"I haven't seen you in town before, miss. Are you newly arrived?"
"Actually, yes. I just got here a few minutes ago. It's a really cool market," I supplied lamely.
"I think it's quite warm today, actually," she said with her eyebrows slightly furrowed. "Welcome, though. I am Miss Anne Crowe, and this is Miss Jane Purcell. It's a pleasure to meet you…" Anne said, with a slight bow of her head.
I bowed my head as well, and smiled. "I'm Bella. Bella Swan. It's nice to meet you, too."
"Charmed, Miss Swan," Jane said.
"What brings you to our fair town?" Anne asked. "You have the most unusual accent. Where are you from?"
Apparently, my fake English accent was…well, really fake.
It was very strange needing to tell my life story in a dream. Generally, the people I met seemed to already know my life story, and not require even the exchange of names, so I was understandably confused at the sudden need to do so. If I was in the early 1800s, then neither Washington nor Arizona was even discovered yet, so I couldn't tell them where I was from. I also wasn't terribly sure what had been discovered yet, and couldn't tell you who was president when. Was my subconscious trying to tell me to go back and study U.S. history?
"I'm from the U.S. actually, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and I'm here looking for a friend of my father's."
"May we help you find him?" Jane asked, and I was immediately struck by how helpful and friendly these girls were.
"I don't want to trouble you. I'm sure I can find him on my own," I said quickly. My dream would lead me to Darcy soon enough all by itself. I didn't want to seem rude by not asking about them, though, so I asked a polite question of my own. "Where are you two off to?"
"We're buying ribbons for our dresses for tonight. There's a ball that the Thomases are holding, and Jane is trying to catch the eye of the elusive Mr. Cullen," Anne stated happily.
The name Cullen was a shock to me, and I was shocked that my subconscious would give me both Darcy and Edward at once. Really, I wasn't sure if there was anything better than Edward Cullen being inserted into Pride and Prejudice. Best. Dream. Ever. I realized that these girls were going to be my ticket to Darcy and Edward after all.
"Did you say Mr. Cullen?" I asked. When both Jane and Anne nodded, I smiled. "That's my father's friend. Do you know where I could find him?"
"Well, he'll be at the ball tonight, and you could find him then," Jane said encouragingly.
"I haven't been invited," I said.
"It's a public ball, and you can come with us," Anne declared with a smile. She reminded me slightly of a less demanding Alice. "Now, come. We need ribbons for tonight."
And with that, I shopped for ribbons with Anne and Jane. I didn't really know what I would do with ribbons, and had to inform them of my lack of money to purchase any with, but they were kind, and we were going to a ball, where I could avoid dancing like the plague.
It was three hours later when I realized that I was not actually dreaming. We'd shopped for hours, and then gone to Anne's home, where we had tea. I began to figure it out when I tripped, and scraped my hands slightly. The very real stinging sensation in my hands was very un-dreamlike. Later, when I sat down, I felt exhausted. I'd never been tired in a dream, nor had I been injured.
I also knew I wasn't dreaming when I sat for hours sipping tea, waiting for the ball to commence. When you dream, you sort of magically skip through the boring waiting around parts. There would have been a handy time gap between meeting Anne and Jane, and arriving at the ball. I also wouldn't have been hungry, and eaten a dinner of quail and peas.
The problem was, figuring out that I wasn't dreaming, and really was in England circa the early 1800s, didn't really help me. How the hell did I get here, and why was I here? I was a young girl with no family, no money, and I really didn't know anyone here. I was thoroughly and completely screwed. The only thing I had going for me was that I seemed to have made two fast friends in Anne and Jane, but they were expecting me to be looking for a man named Cullen—a man whose only tie to me was a coincidentally shared name with a man I loved.
I would go to the ball with Anne and Jane, but I had no idea what I was going to do when it was all over.
A/N: I'm probably going to post the first full chapter over the weekend. Hope you enjoyed the prologue!