Disclaimer: All you recognize from the original work belong to J.K. Rowling and her respective distributors, producers, and publishers. I play in the universe to stretch my writing muscles and to entertain my readers and myself. I do not profit from this work.
Chapter One: Arrival on 41st Street
The Model T sputtered to a stop beside a gray curb whose sidewalk glistened with rain and muck. I pulled my traveling coat tighter around me as wind rushed into the comparatively warm cabin, while Father stepped out and offered Kate a hand in climbing out of the car.
It seemed even the city itself mourned our move; surely, the weather would have been more accommodating otherwise.
I had no one to blame for my situation, however. While everyone discussed my future around me, I had bitten my lip and obediently packed up tokens of our quiet life in rural, sleepy Tinley Park as if such things could make a cold environment feel more familiar. At the time, I thought I could simply transpose the comforts of my home onto our new Chicago row-house, but that now seemed impossible without my mother's presence.
Charlie, my father, was neither harsh nor unfeeling- Quite the opposite, really; however, he could never fill the absence left by warm Renée. Social-climbing tendencies and silliness aside, my mother had been a wonderful friend and a beautiful person: irreplaceable. Originally, it had been for her happiness I accepted the choice she deemed best for my future.
I missed her terribly, but Charlie's suffering spanned leagues. He worried endlessly about me without her at his side. My coming-out, which terrified me at the best moments, horrified him like no other torture imaginable.
It was unusual for a girl to have a coming-out into society anymore, let alone one of my upbringing. Perhaps the practice persisted in the South, but there in the northern Midwest, young men and women went about the business of marriage in subtler, less formal ways. In any case, Charlie's post as a police chief, while commendable, was not the sort to denote the prestige or yield enough income to afford a traditional debut under normal circumstances- Something I had hoped would spare me from Renée's vision. I would have preferred a quiet birthday luncheon followed by an afternoon of reading.
My mother, however, stubbornly refused my suggestion. She did everything in her power to ensure I would have a proper debut, just as her parents provided for their daughter. Such an event could never have been held in a town - a village, really - with less than four-hundred occupants, and so Renée convinced Charlie to make friends with Mayor William Hale Thompson of Chicago during his last run for office. A year later, my father became the Commissioner of Police for the great city of Chicago, a position complete with a new house, in addition to a tailored uniform and sizable income.
"Bella, our rooms are upstairs," Charlie's voice cut across my morose loitering, and I quickly stepped out of the car. "Mr Thompson was kind enough to have the house furnished ahead of our arrival. Kate, would you please help her get settled in?"
Our housekeeper, an Irishwoman only ten years my senior, bustled over and ushered me across the threshold. I squeezed Charlie's hand in silent reassurance as I passed him in the mahogany-furnished foyer. Being there without the move's orchestrator hurt him as much as it did me, perhaps more so. The home we left behind had been handed down by his grandfather, but he had willingly taken on tenants and uprooted his life to make my mother happy.
"Oh, but this is lovely, Miss Swan!" Kate called from upstairs.
I found my way up the wide stairwell and walked in on her pulling protective sheets off the delicate vanity and standing mirror in my new bedroom. A canopied fourposter stood against the wall, opposite which a wide French window bordered by heavy velvet drapes looked out onto the carefully groomed neighborhood. I supposed it was a pretty enough place, but I still preferred our colonial farmhouse, creaky floors and all.
"Won't this just be perfect for your drawing, Miss Swan? You'll have such wonderful light here!" Kate cheerfully suggested as she arranged several fat cushions on the bench seat before the casement.
An ache began to build in my temples - a symptom of persistent frowning. I'd made few other expressions that day, the one previous, or during the packing and moving.
The chill, masenry, brick and rain created a stench much like mildew. I missed our little piece of heaven. I missed the smell of wildflowers. Most of all, I missed my mother- Even her insistence we drive into town every spring to purchase those silly magazines and dress patterns.
I turned away from the window and wiped at the unbidden tears stinging my chapped cheeks.
I drew in a steadying breath. It wouldn't do to continue on, thus. I had accepted this move, and though I still mourned sweet, flighty Renee, it was high time I adapted. Kate and Charlie loved me, and wallowing would do nothing to benefit any of us.
Turning, I slipped off my coat, gloves and muff, forcing a smile.
"Let's light the boiler, shall we?" I suggested while tying back my long, loose curls. "There's no reason we shouldn't feel springtime indoors if we must endure such a cold March."
With Kate at my side, I threw myself into making a home of the 41st street row house.
Hired hands delivered the last of our goods from Tinley park, and once the large items lay arranged to my satisfaction, we got to work on the details. I carefully unwrapped and returned my mother's favorite china set to its home inside the glass-fronted cabinet in the too-large dining room, while Kate cleaned the curved panes with a meticulous hand. We unpacked our respective wardrobes, ironing where necessary, and stocked the cedar armoires and chests-of-drawers. Kate organized the kitchen to her taste, while I relocated my small personal library to Charlie's handsome new study.
Between the two of us, we managed to bring a little warmth to the imposing abode. Charlie was frequently called away fairly often for some matter or another. I tried to let him know in what ways I could that I understood his absence. Chicago dwarfed Tinley Park by two million inhabitants, after all.
We officially finished moving in almost a week after our arrival, and after kissing Charlie's cheek goodbye, I decided I would go out and find something positive and exciting about our new city. Chicago had to possess something to interest and comfort me, and I was loath to spend my day sitting in the window practicing my cross stitch.
After only a little cajoling, Kate agreed to accompany me through town. She forced me into a fur muff and made me change into a new walking dress, but at the prospect of exploring, I suppressed the protest caught on the tip of my tongue. I really did not understand why I could not go out in my gingham skirt and simple white blouse. Then again, the woman had always fully supported my mother's mission to make me into a perfect lady.
We walked up the street with our heads bent slightly against the wind, passing gaily conceived displays fronting every shoppe and business. Men tipped hats to me as I walked by, and little boys in worn shoes shouted from corners, competing to sell slightly dampened newspapers.
The stores here were a marvel, on their own: instrument repair, cobblers, tailors, bakeries, French boutiques- I could not help but think it all very impressive despite my disdain for the superfluous. I still believed the monies invested in such unnecessary splendor ought to have gone to people who truly needed it. After all, Tinley Park had gotten along just fine with homemade goods and elbow grease. Still, if nothing else, the architecture made a beautiful study in Man's capacity for art.
"Miss," Kate caught my elbow with a gentle hand, and I stopped my idle admiration to meet her gaze. "They've a library, just there."
I looked across the bustling of cars, carts, horses and people and gaped at the towering edifice opposite. Pillars rose from wide marble steps to a classically conceived roof. Its grand, arched windows framed and slightly blurred the view of its patrons: uniform-clad school children and older students I imagined belonged to the university. Beyond them, the unmistakable silhouette of innumerable bookshelves called to me.
Idly, I thought perhaps my life here might have its own unique benefits impossible in my previous town. Perhaps my future husband might allow me to come here during long days of waiting around with nothing to do.
My feet started carrying me before my mind reengaged.
"Miss Swan! Careful!"
I barely registered a black Oldsmobile barreling toward me, its driver's face panicked, when two warm hands caught me about the waist and pulled me from its path. The driver swerved into oncoming traffic, bringing the growling cars and the occasional horse cart to a screeching stop on the slick cobblestones.
"Miss Swan! Oh, Miss-" Kate, who had followed my thoughtless path almost immediately, pressed her hands to my face, inspecting me for damage. "Saints in Heaven preserve us, but you gave me a fright!"
Her relieved expression slid into one of reprimand as she tucked a stray hair back into place and smoothed my skirt.
"You really ought to be more careful, Miss," she chided. "What would your poor father do if his only babe lost her life to one of those metal death machines?"
Once assured of my complete safety, she turned and executed a curtsy toward my rescuer.
"Thank you," she said emphatically. "And bless you, sir, for saving Miss Swan. I hope you'll forgive us the trouble."
Heat rising in my chilled cheeks, I looked up to add my own words of gratitude. No doubt he, along with the spectators that had formed on either side of 41st, thought me some country bumpkin.
My blush grew as my eyes traveled from the well-shined shoes and perfectly tailored suit to the man's face, and my thanks died on my lips as I met his gaze.
His eyes were pure emerald!
I felt my heart stutter with something completely unrelated to my brush with near disaster.
"No trouble at all. It was my pleasure to assist, Miss..?"
It took me a moment to discern the meaning imparted by the velvet voice emitted by his perfectly formed mouth.
"S-Swan," I finally managed through the daze. "Bella Swan. Thank you ever so for your assistance. Please accept my apologies. You might have been hurt. "
The idea of anything marring this man- barely a man, really - made me shudder.
"It would have been worth it to make your acquaintance, Miss Swan," he insisted with a crooked smile before bending to brush a kiss against my hastily offered hand. "My name is Edward Masen. I cannot say I've seen you around here, before. Are you a new arrival to Chicago?"
His eyes smoldered at me through his long, dark lashes. My corset began to feel incredibly restrictive against the rapid tattoo tapping my ribs.
"Yes, I am," I readily admitted with the hopes it would be enough of an excuse to dismiss my earlier thoughtlessness. "My father was appointed commissioner a short while ago. I'm not used to such busy streets."
I bit my lower lip out of nervous habit.
"I'm afraid I allowed myself to be distracted by the sight of the library. I haven't had the occasion to visit one in quite a long while."
"Well, in that case, may I accompany you the rest of the way to the library? I've run out of reading material myself," he suggested, gallantly offering his arm. "I would be honored to escort you."
"I-" I breathed, wishing the heat suffusing my face would fade a little faster. "I would love to accept, Mr. Masen, but I'd hate to be a bother."
It took an unreasonable amount of effort to form a sentence when focused the full power of his hypnotic gaze on me. Whatever was the matter with me?
"Miss Swan, 'tis half past the hour, already," Kate cut in, a sly smile curling her lips. "It may behoove us to ask Mr. Masen's kindness in escorting us back home, instead given all your excitement, if it wouldn't be too hard a burden."
I shot the woman a pleading look. I really would rather not risk further embarrassment in front of this strange, beautiful gentleman.
"What sort of man would I be if I allowed anything else?" he grinned, and I reluctantly tucked my gloved hand into his elbow. "I'd never dream of letting you lovely ladies make such a trip unaccompanied."
His eyes lit up when he spoke, and his arm felt like fire through my glove.
What in God's name was this man doing to me?
Before I could completely regain my faculties, Mr. Masen flipped his hat back onto his head and began walking us back the way we came.
"I would like to offer my apologies for my earlier brazenness, Miss Swan," he said after a while, his tone sincere and a little hesitant. "I hope you will forgive my hands' trespass upon your person, considering the circumstances."
He looked at me through his lashes again, and I felt like I might spontaneously combust if I did not melt into jelly, first.
"It is my own fault for walking into the street like that. I should be more aware of my surroundings," my voice left me diminished from its usual volume. "Please accept my gratitude."
"Not at all, Miss Swan. If you had paid more attention, I would not have had the pleasure of rescuing a lovely lady in distress," he countered playfully, the mirth returned to his face. "Actually, you've bestowed a great gift on me. It isn't every day one meets so beautiful a woman."
At this, whatever remained of my normal ivory complexion disappeared completely, along with my coordination. The toe of my boot dragged over an uneven paving stone, and I pitched forward. Before I could feel my knees make impact, an arm caught and held me, then steadied me as I found my balance. His strength and warmth tantalized my skin through my clothes.
"I- I'm so sorry," I babbled, feeling a little lightheaded. "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. The sound wrapped around me, its carefree timbre the most wonderful thing I had ever heard come from a person's mouth- Rich and infectious. I found myself laughing along with him.
"I must say, you are the first lady I have ever had the pleasure of saving twice in the same hour," he teased. "If you keep this up I shall reach herodom by the time we reach our destination, and I shall have to propose to you by sunrise just 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 what men dream of becoming? 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 of my acquaintance strives to achieve some sort of glory. To be a hero in someone's eyes, whether to his family's view or that of the public."
He paused, and I thought of Charlie, always working so hard, sacrificing his own comfort to provide for our small family.
"I am considering enlistment, actually, as a more productive alternative to law. There's nothing wrong with the practice, of course, but I could be of much better use as a soldier, perhaps an officer, in a while. I could defend what so many people hold dear."
The idea of him going to war felt like ice down my spine. War was frightening. The pictures in the newspapers, though grainy, showed naught but destruction. The idea of bullets being shot at this perfect gentleman disturbed me to my core, and I found myself most unwilling to hear his melodic voice contemplate such a thing.
"Is your father a lawyer?"
The question left me at a higher pitch than normal. Blasted nerves. Mr. Masen's featured, however, settled into bemusement.
"State prosecutor," he admitted. "I've been apprenticing at his practice since I left university. I hope you don't misinterpret me, though, in regards to my aspirations. I love and respect my father very much. It is just that our views of how to best benefit society tend to differ."
"I think I understand. My mother and I are- We were best friends although we did not always see eye to eye."
I hated using the past tense. It didn't escape his notice, either.
"Please don't frown," he said gently, his gaze colored with concern. "I did not mean to bring up a painful memory."
"It's quite all right, Mr. Masen," I said with a wistful smile. "She passed this winter. It was a terrible fever with chills and pains. I fell ill, too, but Mother..."
"My condolences for such a dear loss, Miss Swan. I am sure you have suffered much. I could never imagine such a thing, for myself."
His eyes held such sincerity and his voice sounded so heavy with care, the guilt I usually felt at that particular memory remained at bay. Edward brushed my gloved hand with his fingertips, and I shivered.
"Are you cold, Miss Swan? The chill can cut right through you at times."
He moved as if to pull off his coat, and I tightened my grip on his arm in protest.
"I am perfectly fine, thank you, Mr. Masen," I assured him, smiling at his chivalry.
As luck would have it, his offer was rendered moot a moment later. I looked up to find ourselves stopped beneath the lamp in front of our row-house. Slowly, he caught my gloved hand and kissed my fingertips with a feather-light brush of his lips before releasing me. The loss made me ache.
"Won't you come in for a moment?"
The invitation left me in a breathy rush. He seemed to consider it, but ultimately gave a regretful smile.
"Any other time, I would be more than delighted to accept your hospitality; however, I'm afraid my family will be expecting me for dinner, soon."
With a growing sense of despair, I lifted my hand. He bowed over it to press brief kiss to my knuckles and turned on his heel to walk away. Kate led me up the short steps to the door. The housekeeper had just pulled it open when his voice started my heart to flying again.
"If I may!"
I looked down to find him before our stoop, again, twirling his hat in his hands. He might as well have been holding my heart between his fingers.
"Miss Swan, I would be most honored to walk with you, again, if my company would not be an imposition and we come across each other. Or, if you prefer, I could arrange for a formal introduction. Er-"
My brows rose at the faint flush dusting his cheeks and nose.
"Only if you wish it, Miss Swan. I have truly enjoyed our evening stroll together."
His sweet words wrapped me in inexplicable elation. Kate's insistent fingers pinched my arm hard, and with embarrassment, I realized he still waited on my reply.
"I would like that very much, Mr. Masen. Thank you again for your assistance today," I managed. Part of my mind hoped he couldn't hear the words over my pounding heart.
The loveliest smile curled his full lips, and I felt the warmth of summer in that expression. Before I could register anything more, Kate guided me into the parlor and took my coat, hat, and gloves with a knowing smile. Belatedly, I wondered how he had known where to take me. I couldn't recall giving him my address, but the spark of curiosity could not sustain itself long enough to beat back the blissful haze into which I had fallen. For the rest of the evening I floated on a cloud, reliving my walk on 41st street with Edward Masen.
It's really strange to look back at something I wrote six years ago and see how much I've grown as a writer. A few more recent reviews spurred me to take another look at this, and I'm glad I did. The grammatical inconsistencies alone were enough to warrant a dedicated edit, and my portrayal of Bella struck me as a caricature compared to Meyer's original.
Those of you who've read this already, I won't be changing the plot, but I may add in details I feel it needs to smooth out some of the ride between here and our eventual vampirically-ever-after. Thank you so much for reading and reviewing.