A/N: I have never owned and never will own anything mentioned in SM's Twilight saga. She is a God. I am a poor student. Enjoy.
Chapter One: Arrival on 41st Street
The Model T sputtered to a stop beside a gray curb. The bricked sidewalk was slimy from rain and runoff. I pulled my traveling coat tighter around me as wind rushed into the cabin. Father stepped out and offered Kate a hand in climbing out of the cabin.
It seemed even the city itself mourned our move. Surely the weather would be more welcoming otherwise.
But I suppose that I, Isabella Marie Swan - a normal girl from rural Tinly Park, Illinois - was just as much to blame for my situation as anyone else. While everyone discussed my future around me, I had quietly bitten my lip and packed for a cruel city devoid of any of the comforts of home. A mother, for instance.
Charlie, my father, was neither harsh nor unfeeling (as many government-employed fathers seem to be); however, he was no replacement for warm Renée. Social-climbing and silliness aside, my mother was a wonderful friend and a beautiful person. Irreplaceable. And it was for her happiness that I did the "ladylike" thing and accepted the choice deemed as the best for my future.
Of course, I knew I was not the only one who missed her. Charlie suffered the most. He worried endlessly about me, now. My coming-out, which terrified me at the best moments, horrified him like no other torture imaginable.
It is unusual for a girl of my station to have a coming-out into society. Charlie's post as a sheriff is commendable but hardly denotes the sort of position that would afford a girl belonging to the middle class a debut - not that I would mind. Rather, I would prefer a quiet sixteenth birthday luncheon followed by an afternoon of reading to the five hour long exhibition I would soon endure.
An exhibition that I personally believed should be restricted to the obscenely rich.
Renée would have none of that. She made sure that I would have a proper coming-out. A coming-out that could never be held in a town - a village, really - with less than four-hundred occupants.
Before her fever claimed her last winter, Renée convinced Charlie to make friends with Mayor William Hale Thompson of Chicago during his last run for office. And a year later, Charlie became the Chief of Police of the great city of Chicago.
"Bella, your room is upstairs. The people at the station were kind enough to have the house furnished ahead of our arrival. Kate, will you help her unpack?"
Charlie's voice pulled me out of my musings as Kate led me up the brick steps and over the threshold.
I could tell that being here without the move's orchestrator was hurting him. I squeezed his hand in silent reassurance as I passed him in the mahogany-furnished foyer.
"This is lovely, Miss Swan!"
Kate had already made it upstairs. She called from the room above down at me and did not notice when I walked in on her pulling sheets off the furniture and opening the deep velvet curtains covering the french window. It really was a pretty place, our new row house.
I preferred our colonial farmhouse, creaky floors and all.
"Won't this just be perfect for your drawing, Miss Swan? The sun should shine just wonderfully here!" she said encouragingly. From the ache beginning to build in my temple, I knew I must have frowned quite a bit today. And yesterday. And during the packing and moving. And being that I never was a good liar, she must have recognized my unhappiness easily.
The clouds, the Masenry, the brick combined with rain created a stench much like mildew. I missed our little piece of heaven. I missed the smell of wildflowers. I even missed Renée's insistence on driving into this stupid place every spring to buy the latest dress patterns and magazines.
My cold, chapped face felt wet, suddenly. I turned away from the window and wiped at the unbidden tears aggressively.
Kate looked worried. She loved me. I was being unfair to her… and to Charlie.
"Well, I suppose if we must endure so cool a March we should at least feel springtime inside. Let's light the stove, shall we?" I hitched what I believed to be a convincing smile on my face and hoped I sounded at least a little optimistic. Lying, even to myself, was not my forte but if I was to survive I would try.
It did not take long to get settled into the row house on 41st street. Charlie was called away fairly quickly for some matter down at the station. He mumbled a brief apology upon leaving along with an explanation: "Chicago is a lot bigger, Bella, darling."
With that in mind, I decided, as soon as I was unpacked, that I would find something positive and exciting about my new home. As big as it was, I thought Chicago must offer something in the way of comfort.
Kate agreed to accompany me through town. She forced me into a fur muff and made me change from my traveling suit to a "more appropriate" ensemble for the town. She saw it as an opportunity to place me unofficially in the Chicago bride market, I guess.
We walked up the street with our heads bent slightly against the wind. Shops lined either side. Men in hats tipped them as I walked by. Little boys in worn shoes shouted from corners and sold papers. I bought one despite Kate's protest as we passed.
The shoppes here were something to be marveled at. Instrument repair, cobblers, tailors, bakeries, French boutiques… I couldn't think of anything more ridiculous. We had gotten along just fine with home-made goods and elbow grease.
"Miss! Look there! Right on our street, even. 'Tis a library, is it not, Miss Swan?"
Kate's brogue broke through the howling wind and the bustling of carts and horses and people.
Pillars rose from a set of steps to a magnificent roof. Men in hats and girls in school uniforms loitered on the great steps and just inside the entrance. I could see shelf upon shelf through the arched windows.
Perhaps it wouldn't be too terribly awful.
Perhaps my husband would allow me to come here during long days of waiting with nothing to do.
My feet started carrying me before my mind reengaged.
"Miss Swan! Careful!"
I briefly registered a black Oldsmobile barreling toward me, its driver panicked, when two warm hands caught me about the waist and pulled me out of its path. The driver had swerved into the other side of the road in the meantime and brought the evening traffic of Tin Lizzies and much more expensive cars to a chaotic stop.
"Miss Swan! Miss Swan? Saints in heaven preserve us you gave me a fright!"
Kate crossed the street in the temporary pause in traffic, rushing to my side, tucking a stray hair back into place, smoothing my skirt. She turned to the owner of the warm hands behind me, curtseying.
"Thank you, thank you sir, for pulling my young Miss out of the way. Please forgive us for the trouble. Thank you, Sir!"
I turned slowly, heat rising in my chilled cheeks as I faced my rescuer. No doubt he - along with the rest of the small group of spectators that had formed on either side of 41st - would think me stupid at best and slow at least.
The long fingers slid from my waist and removed a smart hat. My blush grew as my eyes travelled from the smart coat and shirt to his face. His eyes were pure emerald! They dazzled me and held me captive. My mouth, which had fallen open in the surprise of being yanked from the street, fell wider.
"It was my pleasure saving your young Miss…?"
The velvet voice coming from the formed lips pulled me from the trance his emerald depths had caught me in.
"S-Swan, Sir," I mumbled through the daze. How could a human being look so impossibly perfect. Slightly flushed cheeks, mussed bronze hair, perfect straight nose and delicately curved lips.
"Please, my name is Edward Masen. I've never seen you before. Have you just moved to Chicago?"
His eyes smoldered beneath dark lashes. I felt my heart flutter beneath the constraint of corset and ribs and flesh.
"Yes, Mr. Masen… My father is Police Chief Charles Swan. We just arrived today, actually… I was so distracted by the library that I forgot myself. I suppose I am used to far less traffic…" I said, dropping my eyes in embarrassment.
"Well, in that case, if you and your chaperone are willing, would you accompany me the rest of the way to the library? I've run out of reading material myself."
"I'm not sure… I really should be going back home. Char- um - Father will be expecting me home."
It took effort to form a sentence when he looked at me. Edward Masen's eyes were hypnotic. Two gems caught in a perfect face. Kate pinched my hand lightly and trod on my heel as I turned to walk away.
"Miss Swan, 'tis nearing half past the hour now isn't it? It may behoove us to ask Mr. Masen's kindness in eskirting us back home, given all the excitement. Don't you Mr. Masen?"
I felt my face flush hotter and gave Kate an accusing glare. How could she want to embarrass me further in front of Mr. Edward Masen? A complete stranger, no matter how beautiful he was? On the way there alone I had tripped countless times, not to mention stumbling twice.
"In fact, I insist on walking you lovely ladies back to your abode. I could not call myself a gentleman, otherwise," said Mr. Masen.
His eyes lit up when he spoke and his smile spread crookedly across his lips. I found myself entranced for the fifth time in five minutes.
What in God's name was this man doing to me?
Before I could completely snap out of the beauty induced stupor, Mr. Masen flipped his hat back onto his perfect head and offered me his arm as he made to cross the treacherous street.
"I would like to offer my apologies for my earlier brazenness, Miss Swan," he said sincerely, blushing a little. "But I thought you might forgive my hands' trespass upon your person considering the circumstances. I hope you forgive me - no matter the circumstance it was still very inappropriate of me."
He looked at me through his lashes and I felt my insides melt to the consistency of jelly.
"No, no, It's my fault for walking into the street like that. I should be more aware of my surroundings. I should be thanking you for pulling me out of the way… You risked yourself too, after all. If anyone owes someone an apology, it is I…" my words decreased in volume and increased in tempo as I went from a light strawberry shade to beet red.
"Not at all, Miss Swan. If you had paid more attention then I would not have had the pleasure of rescuing a lovely lady in distress. And if I hadn't seized that opportunity I would have missed becoming acquainted with the loveliest lady I have ever seen in Chicago, let alone 41st street."
At this, whatever was left of my normal complexion disappeared completely, along with my coordination. I dragged my foot over an uneven paving stone and tumbled headlong towards the ground. Before I could feel my knees make impact, an arm caught and held me, then steadied me as I found my balance.
"I'm s-sorry I don't know what's wrong with me I-"
But his laughter cut me off before I could finish whatever garbled excuse I was about to spout. It was the most amazing sound I had ever heard come from a person's mouth. Rich and infectious and I found myself laughing along with him.
"I must say, Miss Swan that you are the first girl I have ever had the pleasure of saving twice in the same hour! If you keep this up I shall reach hero-dom by the time we reach our destination and I shall have to propose to you by sunrise in order to thank you for helping me realize every man's dream."
Walking somewhat gracefully once more, I pouted and decided that something other than my dubious balance would make for better conversation.
"Is that really what men want to be? Heroes?" I asked, honestly curious. Mr. Masen's features softened into thoughtfulness and his pace slowed slightly - whether it was due to his consideration of my shorter stride or his contemplation I could not be sure.
"Do you not think so? Every other man my age I've spoken to has wanted to achieve some sort of glory. An honorable life with achievements. To be a hero in someone's eyes, whether that be his family's view or that of the public." He paused and I thought of Charlie, always doing his best to provide for Renée and me.
"I am considering enlistment, actually, as a more productive and heroic alternative to law school. There's nothing wrong with law, of course, but I could help people right now if I were a soldier. I could defend what so many people hold dear."
"I see… so is that what your father does? Is he a lawyer?" I asked. I didn't like the sound of him going to war. War was frightening. The pictures in the newspapers and the announcements on the radio terrified me more than poofy dresses. The idea of bullets being shot at this perfect gentleman disturbed me to my core.
Mr. Masen's expression became one of bemusement.
"You could say that. He's been mostly a businessmen for some time now but he started as a lawyer…"
He paused suddenly, an innocent and open expression lighting up his features.
"Don't misunderstand me, I love and respect my father very much! It is just that our views of how to best benefit society are rather different."
"I see. I understand. My mother and I were best friends though we didn't see eye to eye when it came to a lot." I hated using the past tense. It didn't escape his notice, either.
"Were..? May I ask why, if it isn't terribly intrusive?"
The innocent look was colored with concern. Guiltily, I enjoyed the fact that he seemed worried about me. But maybe Kate's delusions were beginning to cloud my perceptions.
"My mother passed this winter. It was a terrible fever with chills and pains. I fell ill, too, but…"
"By God's grace you survived. My condolences for such a dear loss, Miss Swan… I am sure, that though you survived you have suffered much."
And his eyes were so sincere and his voice so heavy with concern that it was hard to feel the guilt I usually did at that particular memory.
He brushed my gloved hand with his fingertips once and I felt a shiver roll down my spine. Fire crept up my arm from the place he touched me.
"Are you too cold, Miss Swan? The wind can cut right through you at times." He began pulling off his coat and I blushed scarlet, putting a hand on his arm in protest.
"I'm just fine, thank you, Mr. Masen. Please don't go through any more over me… Besides, this is home." I gestured somewhat sadly at my new townhouse. I didn't want to let go of his coat sleeve.
"Believe me, Miss Swan, it was a pleasure to make your acquaintance…"
We were stopped beside the gas lamp in front of the row house. He lowered his arm and I let mine drop at my side, turning to face him. I wanted to say something, anything. I wanted to invite him in. I bit my lip, my knees shivering under my skirt and my heart stuttering in my chest as I fought to come up with something and came up blank.
With a growing sense of despair I answered his bow with a curtsey. My stomach clenched as he turned on his heel to walk away. Kate took my hand and led me up the short steps to the door. The cook had just pulled it open when his voice started my heart to flying again.
"If I may!"
I looked down at his perfect features and blushed scarlet as he took his hat off again and twirled it in his hands. He might as well have been holding my heart between his fingers.
" Well… Miss Swan, I would be most honored to have your and your father's permission to call upon you if I may… Of course I can arrange to be formally introduced first, but… Only if you wish it, Miss Swan. I have truly enjoyed our evening stroll together."
My mind ground to a halt as his sweet words washed through me and left me standing dazed, completely blissful, and dumb to the world with one foot across the threshold and the wind battering me to death.
Kate's insistent fingers pinched my arm hard and I yelped, flushing darker.
"I… I would like that very much, Mr. Masen. Thank you again for your assistance today," I managed. I wondered somewhere in the back of my mind whether he could hear the words over the pounding of my heart.
The most lovely smile broke over his angelic face and I felt the sun rise over the windy rainy city.
And before I could register anything more Kate had guided me into the parlor and had begun crowing.
For once, her energetic brogue even failed to pull me back to reality. I was floating on a cloud, reliving my walk on 41st street with Edward Masen.