Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered
There are many things to say and people to thank in regard to this story, so I will begin at the beginning and hope not to miss anyone. I apologize in advance for the length of this note.
First and foremost, to Jen aka Javamomma0921, who bought this one shot during the Fandom Gives Back auction and gave me one directive…write a period piece. It took an hour to decide that this was the story I wanted to tell and she not only embraced it, but fell in love with it and gave him the name Puritanward. The research gave me an immense amount of knowledge on the time and it is one of my favorite things about writing, you always learn something new in the process.
Secondly, to the amazing women I WC with nearly every night. You keep me writing and give rise to a faith in myself that I have never known before. Specifically, these are the ladies who have helped me with this piece, it's a long list, but each one deserves the mention, and I'm sorry if you were with us and I do not know your penname to add it here: wytchwmn75, Iwant2sparkle, Amelie Gray, blindedbythesun134, Maddux, ohpenelope5446, ginginlee, Nitareality, Sweetvenom69, Messybar, belli486, Aylah50, Javamomma0921, A Cullen Wannabe, Mizzdee, saltire884, Rosalynn, KristenLynn, autumn dreamer, yellowglue, burntcore, bookjunkie1975, swimom7, TeamTwilight26, loulabelle, bonnysammy & cullenbanger9.
Third, to my amazing beta, bestie and protector of my sanity, A Cullen Wannabe. There aren't words to thank you for what you have done. Also to the beta for my other fics, Mizzdee, for jumping on the crazy train with us!
To everyone on twitter who loves me and chats with me about the important and the trivial. More writing has happened because you are there to help. If you don't follow me and would like to, find me at agoodwitchff.
To my faithful readers, who have been so supportive during a hard summer and a long dry spell. The stories are coming along and I'm pushing to finish them up so the new plot bunnies can be let out of the cage. Thank you for the love, and to my readers on ffn, you may notice in the next few weeks an explosion of chapters, I will be reposting what I removed…if they come after me then it will happen, but after everything else that's happened in my life, I am through hiding. Thanks for the support and you can still find me on both sites, if the worst should ever happen.
Lastly, this chapter is dedicated to anyone who has ever been bullied, persecuted, or put down for being different. Whether it is a matter of appearance, race, religion (like myself), sexual orientation, social standing, or simply being ahead of your time. It is your strength that will bring about a better and brighter future. The people of Salem were innocent of the crimes laid against them, and over 300 years later, their names and words are etched in the memorial in Salem, MA, and their story is still known. Their deaths will be remembered and it is the memory that keeps it from being repeated…may it never come to that again.
As our coach approached the small village of Carlisle, MA, the sky was tinged a blood red, adding to the foreboding feeling shared by all in our party, except for Judge Caius, who seemed to revel in the sight and Judge Aro, who kept his usual calm demeanor tightly in place.
In the wake of the trials in Salem, a more critical eye was used when examining claims of witchcraft, which explained the now expanded traveling parties that were being dispatched. Judge Caius and Aro had previously worked separately, but were now sharing the responsibility of leading the charge to root out all evil in the colony. Word of Salem had spread far and wide and people were using witchcraft as a way to rid rivals and explain deviant behavior, so each claim was being examined more thoroughly, and new magistrates were brought into the proceedings. That was how I found myself on my way to this small town.
My father, Edward Masen Sr., had pushed hard for me to follow in his footsteps, so when Judge Aro chose me to join him along with two others who would make up the court in Carlisle, my father had been thrilled.
The square came into view and the coach stopped, each of us exiting and looking around as a man in his forties approached his hair a startling light blonde color, and his skin a pale tone that proved he wasn't out planting crops or laboring during the day. His hand reached out and Judge Aro took it, shaking it firmly.
"Thank you all for coming out here to straighten this out. My name is Carlisle Cullen, and I'm the local physician."
"Carlisle?" Felix, one of the other members of our group asked.
"Yes, my grandfather was the man living on the small piece of land that sat between Acton, Billerica, Chelmsford, and Concord, and as they each parceled out a small part of their land to make up the new village, he became the founding resident. Let me show you to the Inn, it is where you will be staying for your time here."
We followed Dr. Cullen as he led to one of the larger buildings in the square while the coachmen brought down our luggage and followed us to the Inn. The young man behind the desk stood as he saw our entry and quickly fetched the keys he would need. "Sirs, let me show you to your accommodations. My name is Michael Newton, and if there is anything you need, please let me know."
Judge Caius leveled a stern look, and he ran for the stairs, leading us to the rooms on the upper level of the building. Newton showed Judge Caius and Aro to the two largest rooms first, then brought Felix, Demetri, and I to the three smaller rooms at the back half of the building. He unlocked the rooms before going to get our bags from the coachman and deliver them to us.
As I settled into the room, I approached the basin and poured some water to wash the grime from the trip off before changing into something for bed. Tucking into the blankets, sleep found me quickly after the uncomfortable time spent in the carriage.
The silence of the morning was shattered by the high-pitched keening that came with the dawn. My head shot off the pillow and I looked around to see the sun breaking through the trees. When the screaming didn't subside, I threw the blankets off of me and got dressed, walking out of my room. Felix and Demetri met me in the hallway and we are headed down to the main room of the Inn where Judge Aro sat sipping a cup of tea as Caius poured over the papers before him. The innkeeper, Newton, hurried to make three more cups of tea as we dug into the rolls sitting on the table.
As our tea was sat down on the table, Caius looked up from the town's records of the events and spoke at the frightened young man standing beside me. "Mr. Newton, tell me, have you lived here your entire life?"
Michael nodded and Aro smiled. "And you're around the same age of one of the accused?"
"T…two, Judge. Alice Whitlock and Rosalie Hale are both the same 21 years on this earth as I am. The youngest is not much younger than I though, Isabella Swan is 17."
"Swan…Swan, why does that name strike me?" Caius asked himself but Newton answered for him.
"Her father was the constable here in Carlisle, that is, until he died."
"When did he pass?" Felix asked, seeing the possibility for the truth of the hysteria was close at hand.
"10 weeks past. His death was the beginning of all of this." Newton looked down.
"Tell us what you know that you think would be helpful." Aro urged and Newton began, wringing his hands as he spoke.
"Alice Brandon, as she was known then, was always…odd, but we hadn't thought much of it. She'd tell you something and you wouldn't think about it for a while, but then what she told you would come to pass as she 'saw' it. Others took her words more seriously and claimed it was her warning that steered them from disaster. Well, a few months ago, Alice Brandon married Jasper Whitlock and we all thought it would calm down, but Isabella Swan, started going to the Whitlock house more often and that didn't sit well with Mr. Swan. He told her to stay away from her friend and she obeyed. Three days later, Goody Whitlock was outside the Swan house screaming bloody murder, telling the Constable that he was selling his daughter to the Devil." Newton stopped for a moment to take a sip of his drink before he continued. "Mr. Swan had just betrothed Isabella to Jacob Black; his father was Mr. Swan's closest friend. She threatened him, saying he'd drop in the midday sun if he didn't free his daughter in three days. Mr. Swan threw her in jail overnight and then sent her home. At noon on the fourth day after her threat, Mr. Swan was walking from his house back to the jail after having lunch and he dropped dead. Dr. Cullen found nothing untoward so the village turned on Goody Whitlock as the culprit."
"What happened after she was suspected?" My curiosity was piqued by this as it was the truest thing to witchcraft floating around the county.
"She was put on trial and convicted of witchcraft. The day she was sentenced to death her house burst into flames, killing her husband. The other girls who declared that she was innocent were discovered to be witches themselves as their specters retaliated against the town. Now we're hoping you can help us finish ridding the town of this evil so we can go back to our humble lives. The toll this has taken on my Jessica is too much for me to withstand."
Felix looked between Demetri and I and then back to the innkeeper. "Your wife is one of the afflicted women?"
"Yes, normally she'd be helping with the running of the inn, but she's been so put out by all of this. She's borne the brunt of it as she's known the girls the longest so she is the most aware of the change in them."
Caius turned to Aro for the briefest of moments and then stood up abruptly. "Thank you for your assistance, but I think it best if we visit the accused so we can begin our investigation. Which way is it to the jail where they are being held?"
Mr. Newton went to the window and gestured to the other end of the town square. "The Constable's office is the building to the left of the church, the jail itself is down the short path just behind it."
Aro rose from the table as well and we followed suit, knowing that our day was about to begin. "Thank you, Mr. Newton, you've been very helpful."
Exiting the Inn, we walked across the small square to the constable's office. Judge Caius paused before entering the office, as opposed to heading down to the jail first. I was surprised when upon entering the office; we were met by a young man with dark hair and skin that showed he spent a great deal of time in the sun. "May I help you, gentlemen?"
"Yes, we're the magistrates sent here by Governor Phips to investigate the claims of witchcraft here in Carlisle. Who are you, sir?" Judge Caius sneered at the boy who was clearly out of place here.
The young man stood upon hearing who we were, and came around to formally meet us. "My name is Jacob Black. I'm the constable here since the murder of my former boss, Mr. Swan."
Felix eyed the constable and then spoke to the obvious exclusion in his introduction. "You're betrothed to one of the accused, are you not?"
Mr. Black shook his head vehemently as he spoke. "Not any longer. There's no way I could associate myself with the likes of that damned creature and maintain my position as constable."
"Your former fiancée hasn't even been put through the witch tests yet, and you so easily throw her over." I couldn't bite my tongue at his blatant bias in regards to the accused, one of whom, until recently, was to be his wife.
"Miss Swan has made her bed and now she must lie in it, and I must do the same. I gather that you have stopped by here to see the prisoners?"
"We have, but first we must make one thing perfectly clear," Judge Aro chose to make this point known as he is the more diplomatic of our two senior magistrates. "We will not move to overturn the conviction on Goody Whitlock, but for the remainder of the trials, we will rule over all the cases and our verdict is final. If any of the women are found innocent then they are to be left alone if they choose to remain here, is that understood?"
"Yes, sir. Would you like to visit the jail now?" Constable Black seemed content for the proceedings to begin, so we agreed and followed him to the jail. It was at the urging of Aro that Mr. Black returned to his office, leaving us the keys as we entered the room that housed Goody Whitlock.
Walking into the cell, I had expected it to be a mess, for all the repeated claims of insanity, but she sat calmly in the corner. "Good Morning, gentlemen."
"Good Morning, Goody Whitlock. You seem to be in good spirits this morn." Caius asked as he edged closer to her.
"I'm not sure that I would call it 'good spirits,' more that I am resigned to my fate. I will be reunited with my husband, and I fully intend to use my opportunity to let our Lord know exactly what has happened here. It is too late for me, but your arrival may be the saving grace for my dear friends; that is enough for me."
I was struck by her countenance while speaking of her impending execution, not to mention her implication that she was going to heaven, but I didn't know enough of the situation to be able to judge it.
"Goody Whitlock, would you mind speaking to us about the events that have led to your conviction?" Caius sat down on her bed and she looked at him incredulously.
"If you're asking me to speak out against my friends, then I'm afraid that I cannot be of service of you." Mrs. Whitlock stood and walked to the window.
"We want your side of the story, ma'am, we are taking these claims very seriously." Demetri smiled and she seemed to trust him, because she began to speak with us.
For the next half hour she told us her version of the events of the past several weeks. The differences were startling. When she was done, the silence that followed was eerie. It took a moment to notice that her eyes lost their focus as she sat perfectly still. Concerned that something had happened, as the rest of the men went to move to the next cell, I approached her. "Goody Whitlock, are you all right?"
As I leaned a little closer, she snatched my collar and drew me in close to her. "Keep her safe, she'll trust you. You're the only one who will be able to save her."
I pulled back to see the same glassy look in her eyes and realized this must be what Newton had been speaking of, but for some reason, I wasn't put off by her. I had a special sense when it came to people too, and it told me to believe this condemned woman. "Who?"
"Bella Swan." As soon as the words were spoken, she blinked a few times and her eyes focused on me. "Good Morning, Mr. Masen."
I stood up and turned only to freeze. We had addressed her by name, but had never spoken our names…so how did she know mine? A chill ran up my spine as I locked her cell and then met the confused eyes of the other members of my group. "Did she have something else to say?" Caius asked as I stood in front of the next cell.
"She asked if I knew the date of her execution and I told her that I didn't." I shrugged and we moved on to the middle of the three Denali sisters, Irina.
Her story was similar to Goody Whitlock, nothing to suggest it was rehearsed, but simply a similar view to things. When we had finished with the second of the prisoners, I moved onto the next cell only to be stopped. "Let us save Miss Swan till the end. I suspect she will be the key to this."
With Judge Aro's opinion in mind, we moved onto the eldest of the Denali sisters, Tanya. Her interview was similar to the first two and was starting to plant tiny seeds of doubt in my mind, but two of the next three to be interviewed would be the most important, as they were the first to be named. One of those two was Rosalie Hale.
Upon entering her jail cell, I encountered the scene I had expected from Goody Whitlock's cell this morning. Her bed was on its side in the center of the room, the small table and chair was strewn about and her chamber pot was upside down beside the door. We entered cautiously and stood against the wall, Caius none too amused by the theatrics.
"Miss Hale, we're here to ask you some things. Would you please be seated?"
"No! You're here to find a reason to murder me, just like they did my fiancé and Jasper, and just like they plan to do to Alice! Well, if speaking gets me killed soon and my silence gets me killed even faster, than I choose silence because you can't convict me if I don't make it to my trial."
No sooner had the words left her mouth than one of her shoes flew past Demetri's head and we rushed out into the hall. "Well, I guess we know the owner of the screams we heard at dawn." Demetri rubbed his neck as we collected ourselves before entering the next room.
"What was that about her fiancé? The only male I've heard mentioned prior to that was Jasper Whitlock, was he mentioned in the report?"
Aro nodded. "McCathy was his name, I believe, but according to the record they sent, his only connection was his fiancée, Miss Rosalie Hale, being one of the accused. I assumed him to be alive as there was no note of his death in anything they have given us."
"Unless it was recent." Felix added as we entered the cell of Kate Denali. The young girl, only 18, was curled up on the bed. She flinched at the sound of Judge Aro's voice and didn't speak a word, never even lifted her head as we tried to get her to talk in her own defense.
After seeing that nothing would be gained from continuing with her at this point, we moved to the final cell, that of Miss Swan.
She stood by the window as we approached, not even turning to see who had come in. "Good Morning, sirs." She spoke softly as she turned to face us at last. The long curtain of brown hair gave way to a pale face with eyes of a warm mahogany, and lips the color of rose petals. I was disarmed by her ethereal beauty and the sincerity of her statement.
"We are well, Miss Swan, but the more important question is how are you?" Aro laid it on thick, and she smiled in return, gesturing for us to sit.
"Excuse my frankness, but there's no need for pretense here. My father was the constable. I'm well aware of the reason for this visit, but since you asked, I'm holding myself together, and I'm a little better now that you've arrived."
Caius shifted from his spot on her bed as she continued to stand by the window in the center of the cell. "You seem relieved that we have arrived?"
"You're objective. That's better than I could hope for from most of the people in this town. Especially given the past few days."
"Would you mind telling us your version of what happened?" I asked, hoping she would trust me.
"My father had never been very fond of Alice Brandon, and the feeling was entirely mutual. When my father had told me one morning that I was betrothed to Jacob Black without ever asking how I felt about it, I was upset, although I did not mention it to my father as it wouldn't have made a difference. Instead, I ran to my friends to console me. When he came home that evening, I was told that I could no longer see Goody Whitlock, and I did as my father asked of me. A few days later, they got in an argument when she had one of her episodes and warned that he'd drop dead from the guilt of forcing me to marry someone I didn't love. He left the morning he died complaining of a headache, but came home for lunch and didn't mention anything else about it. A few moments later, I heard the screaming and came out to find Jacob Black standing over my father. He threw Goody Brandon in the jail within the hour and charged her with witchcraft and my father's murder. I was locked up in our house above the constable's office for two days until the night Rosalie Hale and her cousin, Jasper Whitlock, came to confront Jacob. The next morning, Goody Newton accused Rosalie of sending her specter after her and she was placed in the jail. Jacob came up to ask me if I had anything to do with my father's death. When I told him that I loved my father and only took issue with our engagement, he said that my specter had been seen across town, and then claimed it attacked him in the office that morning. I was in jail that afternoon."
"Were there any further accusations against you?" Felix pressed and she nodded.
"Goody Newton claimed we attacked her on several occasions as did Lauren Malloy. Young Kate Crowley and Goody Crowley both said we tried to get them to sign the Devil's book. Then both the Clearwater's as well as Goody Emily Uley claimed we attacked them. After that, we were chained like this to keep our specters from going out into the town." She raised her hands to show the heavy-looking shackles she wore and then kept on with her account. "Two days after I was thrown in jail, the Denali sisters were overheard saying that the only darkness working was in the town. They now occupy the last three cells in this jail. It was a fortnight after I was told of my engagement that the fire happened." Miss Swan closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
"Jasper returned home that night and around midnight, the house caught on fire. Alice was beside herself as everyone on this side of the jail was able to see the house burn in the distance. We heard his screams. The next morning, Jacob came in at dawn and told her that she was charged with sending her specter to set the fire and kill her husband, but if our hands were chained like this to restrain our spirits, how could it have been her? In the weeks that followed, she was tried, and convicted first of the witchcraft, and then of the murders once the witchcraft was proven. Next, they began the witch tests for the Denali sisters. Goody Cullen, the midwife here and Dr. Cullen's wife, found black marks on each of the girls, but she also claimed that they were there the day the girls were born. She asked Constable Black if they were to have been born evil, and he said it didn't matter when they appeared, all it did was prove their guilt. Their trial was to start three days ago, but was halted when they knew you were arriving this week. So they moved on to Rosalie Hale's witch tests. When she was found to be without any black marks, they put her in the tank in a full dress. She wasn't bound as she ought to have been, so her skirts caught some air and she floated. Her fiancé, Emmett McCathy `, was there and pointed out the flaw in their execution of the test. They drew him into the office while they brought us back to the jail. Later that evening, they brought us out back, in full view of the tree we will be hanged from, and there we saw Emmett McCathy with three slabs on his chest. He spent twenty minutes with us chained to the back of the jail as we watched them try to get him to bear false witness against the woman he loved, but the only words he spoke the entire time was 'more weight.' They added another slab, and he was crushed beneath the weight. Rosalie has been screaming and throwing things as much as her chains allow for the last day and a half. Dr. Cullen has come to check on her and said he fears the stress of it all will kill her before she ever stands trial. They are still waiting to begin my tests. I will be made to stand trial, and if those people have their way, I will be hanging from that tree before the first of the wild flowers bloom."
She finished her account and straightened her shoulders. "I am not guilty of the things I have been accused of, and if you truly look, you will see just how innocent my friends are as well. Look at the families making the accusations and then at whom they've come after. If you don't mind, I'd like to get some sleep before Rosalie finds the strength to start her wailing again."
We left the jail and set out to speak to the Crowley's and Miss Malloy before heading back to the Inn for dinner and to speak to Goody Newton.
It wasn't surprising that their stories were so similar, but specific details that were emphasized and others that were omitted left me thinking on the things Miss Swan…Bella, had said. I did not voice those thoughts however, deciding to instead wait and see where the others stood on the issue.
Yet as I went to bed that night, Bella was with me. Not her specter, although I am not sure I would have rejected it if it had come into my room, but rather it was the memory of her soft hair and dynamic eyes that left me bewitched, bothered, and bewildered that anyone could wish to harm that girl, or that she could do harm to anyone.
I woke up the next morning and dressed for the day, meeting the others in the dining area for breakfast before we continued to talk to other townspeople. Aro wanted to wait before we went to Constable Black again. I suspected that he saw the same things I did as he often praised me for my reasoning and the similarity of our views on matters, which was largely why I had been selected to be one of the junior magistrates on this trip. He wanted a team that wouldn't fall prey to the hysteria as had happened in Salem. He knew the Judges that had come from Salem, too proud to admit they were taken in by the girls and the panic they instituted over the town. Aro vowed he would only execute those who were truly guilty and I knew he was my greatest ally in my desire to save Bella if she was innocent.
For the next two days, we worked tirelessly to speak to all in the village, in preparation for the trial. Each night, I dreamt of Bella, imagining her as most young girls were seen, hoping I'd see the day her shackles were removed.
On the dawn of our fourth day in Carlisle, we readied ourselves for the start of the trial against the Denali sisters. For the first time, we would see the village as a group.
We walked into the church, which was where the trials were held, and saw the townspeople already gathering. A table was placed along the pulpit for us to sit at as Judge Aro would take the pulpit as the head of the proceedings. The prisoners were led in and sat in the first pew, all of them given a wide birth. With the constable in place near them, Aro took his place and opened the trial.
"People of Carlisle, we are here today to determine whether or not the Denali sisters are guilty of the crime of witchcraft. When you are called up, you will not speak out of turn, only answering the questions asked of you. Now, how do you women plead?"
"Not guilty." The three voices rang out to the murmurs of the town.
With a slam of his gavel, Aro silenced them and began by calling Lauren Malloy to the front of the church. "Miss Malloy, what evidence do you have of the wickedness of these women?"
Miss Malloy stood tall and looked directly at Aro. "They came at me in shifts, your honor. For three days, one of the accused or their conspirators was with me, pinching, hitting, biting. Telling me to sign the devil's book and be like them. I fought it as well as I was able, there are many witnesses to the fits that struggle caused me, as well as my friends. This town has been under the pall they have hefted over us for too long. They are not of Carlisle, and this was not something that occurred before them."
Aro nodded as he motioned for her to return to her seat. "Thank you, Miss Malloy. Goody Uley, please come forward and speak of your trials."
It went on for half the day in just such a fashion, when during Goody Newton's testimony, it all began to unravel. The shrieking startled the crowd as young Kate Crowley and Leah Clearwater both dropped like stones, writhing on the ground, crying for the pain to end. The fear on the sisters' faces was evident at the lengths that would be gone through to see them all convicted. I knew the other magistrates were still unsure, but this seemed a little too on the nose for my liking.
As the room quickly cleared with the loud banging of the gavel, the girls were lifted from the floor and led out. When everything was set, the prisoners were led out to the jail and we began our discussion.
"This is madness!" Demetri hissed, surprising me and the others with his intensity. "They take the very details that allowed for the unfair treatment of the girls thus far and go against them."
"How so?" Judge Caius asked, whether in question, or to hear the thought completed, I wasn't sure.
"They claim that the specters of these girls attacked them, so they chained their hands together to keep the specters at bay, but these women sat here chained at the hands and feet, so by their own logic, they couldn't break free."
"Are you saying that a creature that is crafty enough to separate themselves from their body isn't crafty enough to find a way around the chains?"
"I'm saying it is all suspect." I spoke up so it wouldn't solely be Demetri with his neck out there. "They called us out here and then rushed through witch tests for many of the women, convicted the worst offender, and killed another man under little suspicion. This town is after something more than saving souls. and they're using these women to get it."
"These women, they seem to trust you two. Why don't you go to the jail and see if there is any information you can gather from them?" Aro dismissed us as we went to the jail. It was there that we split up, Demetri going to speak to the Denali sisters, hoping to get more from them than we had gathered at first glance, while I went to speak to Bella.
When I unlocked her cell, she was pacing like a caged animal, her calm demeanor all gone. "There is no use in it…we'll hang by that tree and they'll get what it is that they're after."
I closed the cell and crossed to her, taking her by the biceps to stop her movement. "What are you talking about?"
"This damn town, it's so stupid." She was shaking and I began to fear for her health as I guided her to the cot.
"Bella, you can trust me. Now what is it?"
"They want the town the way it was before. When Carlisle was still part of the other towns, the main families had larger properties, but as they were parceled off to make Carlisle, those families decided to follow with it for the most part, but to create the town center, they each offered something up along with the property owned by Dr. Cullen's family. Ever since then, they were upset that other people were living on their land."
"The Whitlock's?" I asked, seeing it all start to form.
"And the McCathy's and the Denali's. Mr. Denali, may he rest in peace, bought his property when he was a young man from the Crowley's when they weren't able to care for it all. Mr. Whitlock bought up his house and the small property over time. The Newton's had intended for their son, Michael, to inherit that land, never thinking that Jasper would be able to make the payments, but he did and owned it outright, causing the Newton's to have to live above the inn instead of just owning it. The inn belonged to the Stanley's; that was Goody Newton's maiden name. Then Emmett's father was there for ages, but he was a lesser landowner. They couldn't do anything to legally get the men off the land, but the women were easier. Trump up a charge, and go after the land through us because we were defenseless, and since no one can inherit our land, it will go up for auction."
"But why you? There's no land feud with you." I asked trying to understand.
"I defended my friends and refused Jacob Black. The Constable was saving face, I was married to the devil, that's why I refused him."
I balled my hands into fists at the actions these women were subjected to. They were alone in this world, and they were attacked because of it. "You will not hang for this. I promise you. Now please, I need something, some proof to go to the head Magistrates with. Anything you can think of."
Bella sat there for a few moments, silent as she pondered it, finally popping off the bed. "The fire."
"What? You mean the one at the Whitlock house?"
Bella nodded rapidly. I took her hands in mine to attempt to reassure her and bring her some much needed solace. "That night, we heard him scream. He wouldn't have stayed in the house unless there was no way out. They had to have done something to keep him from leaving."
"Bella, he could have woken up and it was too bad to escape, it doesn't mean…" I couldn't complete the sentence and dash her hopes when I had just asked her for a clue. "We will look into it."
She nodded dumbly and I took the chance, taking her face in my hands, I kissed her softly, reassuring her the only other way I knew that had a chance of working. She crumbled into my chest, and I caught her, sitting her once more on the tiny cot. "I know you to be innocent, and I will prove it. Just keep your faith in me."
"My faith is all I have left, and I willingly offer it to you with all that I have, for my life now lies in your hands." The look in her eyes as she spoke those words sealed our fates together. If she died here, I would follow, but if she lived, we would never be parted again.
Leaving her for the evening, with another kiss and the promise that we would find something, I went and found Demetri, who was still talking to the middle Denali sister, Irina. I told him where to meet me and then ran to the inn, fetching Felix and having him join me at what was left of the Whitlock home. By lantern light, we sifted through the rubble, searching for the proof we needed. It was almost an hour later when Demetri joined us, going to the East side of the house while I continued to dig, finally finding what had been the front door. My hand froze mid-air as I reconciled what lay before me with logic. As I began to shout out, there was a call from Demetri and both Felix and I ran to meet him.
"The shutters were nailed shut from the outside. You can see it in what's left of this frame." The disdain in his voice was obvious, in his heritage; members of his family were persecuted as gypsies, so these types of tactics were not foreign to him.
"The front door was chained and locked. He was never meant to survive this fire. Demetri, go and find Judge Aro, bring him here. Felix, we must find the back door, it is what is needed to prove beyond doubt that Jasper Whitlock died at the hands of his neighbors and not his wife. It is the one bit of comfort we can bring Goody Whitlock now, more than God will know her innocence before this night is out."
Demetri flew down the hill as Felix and I searched for the back door, finding it just as the Magistrates arrived. "What have you found, young Mr. Masen."
"It wasn't Goody Whitlock that brought her husband to his end. He was locked in this house as it was set ablaze, the windows nailed shut. It was a murder done here, but not at her hands."
"How do you know this to be true?" Caius sneered. It took great strength not to throttle the man.
"What specters have you heard of that locked up doors and sealed windows with hammer and nails? Specters cause physical pain and can do many unnatural things, even effect the weather, but not this. This is the work of flesh and blood men, and many of them to do it before he was alerted to what was happening."
"That's good, Judge Masen. You proved your case well, which in instances such as this; we must be both investigator and judge. You may be partial to one side-"
"I am partial only to innocence. Those girls are innocent." I fumed and he raised his hands in surrender.
"That may very well be true, and we will try to prove it to be so, but there is nothing to be done for Goody Whitlock. We cannot overturn the previous ruling, no matter how biased it was. We can only save those who are still before us, and if they be innocent, then freedom will be theirs. As for Goodwife Whitlock…God will know her part in this, and only he can truly judge us all."
"Very well done, my young squires, now off to bed for you. We must test the others tomorrow, and maybe then, some can be set free."
The idea of Bella coming up for her test tomorrow was sickening, but I knew with the execution the following day, they were hoping to get some of the girls out of harm's way before resuming the trial. I walked back to the inn, knowing that we were in for some day tomorrow, only hoping that I could hold in what I now knew until these women were safely away.
The following morning came with a slight chill, enough that a heavy coat would do its purpose. Dressing for the day, we ate our breakfast and then proceeded to the jail where the prisoners were already waiting outside. "What is the meaning of this, Constable?"
"The prisoners are here for the tests." He spoke through a smirk, making me want to forcibly remove it.
"We only need the prisoners who will be tested, unless you mean to let us test them all, in which case any found innocent that were once found guilty by these tests would be set free." Aro had him caught. He could no longer terrorize the girls with the fates of the others. "And clear the townsfolk. This isn't a fair, it is a law proceeding, and as High Magistrate, I decide who will witness such events."
Black bemoaned as he ordered the town back to the square as he brought in the four girls who would not be tested this morning. First came Rosalie, who seemed far better this morning than she had that first day we met her. She stepped forward and Caius stood before her, promising to have it over with shortly. "Miss Hale, we know you went through a suspect test last time, so we will go with a far more straightforward one, you are to recite The Lord's Prayer in its entirety without pause or difficulty. If you are able to complete it, then you will be declared innocent. Do you understand?"
"I do." I looked to Bella as Rosalie answered and saw her smile. This was evidently the real Rosalie Hale, someone who no one had seen since the trials began.
"Then please, begin your recitation."
Rosalie cleared her throat and then promptly began. "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen."
The prayer was finished quickly and without any hesitation, freeing Rosalie from the fate that had looked before her. Now I hoped Bella would make it through it just as easily. Aro approached her and unshackled her hands as Constable Black came back out of the jail.
"What are you doing? She still owes us for the cost of holding her in jail."
Rosalie turned to us and spoke quickly. "If you can get Leah Clearwater down here, then I can pay my debt."
"Felix, go fetch the girl." Caius requested and Felix took off, arriving a moment later with the young woman.
"Leah, I need the money you borrowed from me." Rosalie asked, but Miss Clearwater just shrugged and sneered at her.
"I don't have to do anything."
Miss Hale turned to the main Magistrates with pleading eyes. "The debt owed to me is more than my own to the Constable. I would like to transfer the debt so that I may go free."
"Can she do that?" Constable Black asked, obviously not as trained in his job as he should be.
"That she can. Miss Clearwater, Miss Hale's debt to the Constable for her jailing is now yours, can you pay the debt?"
Miss Clearwater smirked as she looked at Rosalie Hale. "I refuse to pay the debt. She can rot in that cell for all I care."
It was Miss Hale's turn to smirk as Judge Aro set the record straight. "It isn't Miss Hale's freedom you would be securing, it is your own. Your debt to her is erased and replaced by her debt to the jail, if it cannot be paid, then you will be under arrest until such a time as the debt can be taken care of."
Leah Clearwater blanched as she dug through her purse, producing the money that would buy her freedom as Rosalie hugged Bella and went with Felix to collect her belongings and say her good-byes.
Within two hours, Rosalie was on her way to New York, where she had some distant relatives, not even seeing fit to wait for a possible escort. Meanwhile, Bella was now waiting as it had taken that long to get enough water to fill the large tub. Rocks were tied to her feet as she was bound into a position that made breathing difficult. I stood back by the head magistrates as Felix and Demetri lifted her into the water.
Seeing her sink beneath the surface was so hard to bear, but Aro's hand was clutching my wrist. The bubbles floated up as I watched the signs of her life slip away and as the seconds ticked by I turned to Aro.
"She's going to die if we don't do something."
"If we stop the test then she will have to face the trial." I looked at him and he whispered. "She has a mark on her."
"I'd rather take my chances with the trial. This town is corrupt and when we prove that, we can show the sham that this is."
Aro flicked his first two fingers forward as his only gesture of approval as I ran to the tank and jumped in, pulling Bella out as she lay still in my arms. "Please, stay with me."
I struggled with the ropes until Demetri handed me a knife, allowing me to cut her bindings as a gasp escaped her. Freeing her from the weights and the remaining ropes, I wrapped her in my coat and carried her to the prison. Upon hearing the commotion, Dr. and Goody Cullen came to the jail where I held a shivering Bella to my chest.
I was asked to leave as she was checked out and changed into dry clothes. When they exited the room, Dr. Cullen stopped before me. "Every male in her life had done her ill. If you are another to add to the list, then-"
"I assure you, sir, I mean her no harm. I will see the day that she is as free as her friend."
"When will her trial begin?"
"Next week, tomorrow is the execution, and then the Denali trial will be concluded. The verdict for all four of them will be announced at the same time."
The Cullen's nodded and exited the jail as I returned to find Bella curled up on her cot. "Are you all right?"
"I'm so cold. You should have let the test run its course."
I knelt beside her and brushed her damp hair from her face. "Never say that. Do you remember yesterday when you told me of your faith in me? Do not let it waver now. We found your evidence, so unless there is solid proof that hasn't been shared, you will be free. Spectral evidence is rarely taken on its own. Salem was corrupt and the judges were carried away with the claims, but we will not see an innocent hang if it is in our power. Please believe me."
"I do." A labored breath escaped her lips and then she settled further into the bed. "Kiss me."
I smiled at her request, aware of just how wrong this was in the eyes of God, but this woman was my intended, even if I hadn't made her aware of it. In my mind I was simply borrowing against the future that I was fighting to see come to fruition.
The morning light broke through my window as the wind rattled the pane, hinting to the bitter day that was dawning. I honestly wished there was something I could do for Goody Whitlock, knowing what I did now, but her fate had been sealed before our arrival and there was no overturning it.
I dressed for the chill that was upon us, wishing I could bring something to Bella, and walked down to meet the other magistrates. We walked over to the jailhouse and steeled ourselves for the senseless death that was about to occur. When we arrived, the other prisoners were already chained to the back wall of the jail, forced to watch the fate they were facing if they too were found guilty in the upcoming weeks. As we approached Constable Black, he smiled and welcomed us warmly, enjoying his triumph at seeing Goody Whitlock's sentence being carried out.
"I will stay with the prisoners if you'd like to oversee the execution from a better vantage." I hoped he would take me up on my offer and was rewarded with his enthusiastic response.
"That's good of you, sir. I really would prefer to see that the proceedings are handled properly."
With that, Black bounded over to the cart that was residing under the tree and took up the rope, making sure it was secured before going to fetch Goody Whitlock. I leaned in as the other magistrates moved closer, taking Bella's hand and squeezing it in the only show of support I could afford her. A few moments later the young woman was led out, still bound, now with thick ropes, and hoisted up onto the horse drawn platform. Two villagers secured the horse while the noose was placed around Alice Whitlock's neck. When it was done, Constable Black climbed down and took his spot in front of the crowd.
"Goody Whitlock, you have been convicted of the crime of witchcraft, as well as the murder of Charles Swan and Jasper Whitlock, and have been sentenced to hang by the neck. Is there anything you wish to say before your sentence is complete?"
"Yes, there is. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…"
All in the crowd murmured loudly as she neared the end of the Lord's Prayer with absolutely no issue. As she was about to speak the words, "For thine is the kingdom" a rock flew from the crowd, striking the horse on his hind end and spooking it into a swift getaway as Bella turned into me, hiding her eyes as the sobs cascaded down the row. Alice Whitlock was gone from this earth.
I whispered to Bella, "She was going to complete it. Alice Whitlock was no more guilty of witchcraft than any of them, and they knew it."
After the events of the last few days, the girls were returned to their cells and the magistrates returned to the Constable's office, knowing that Black wouldn't be there since we'd been given the use of it. It was there that we spoke of the details that had been discovered recently.
"So many of the charges against Goody Whitlock seem to be false, and Miss Hale proved her innocence yesterday, but what of the others?" Aro mused and I began with my knowledge.
"These women, they were strategic targets, they were in control of land that formerly belonged to their accusers' families. They knew that if they were convicted, all their possessions would be auctioned off. It was a ploy enacted after the mania at Salem. They have not a scrap of solid evidence, and spectral evidence shouldn't be taken into account as the sole proof of guilt."
"The evidence is nearly complete in the Denali case, and as it stands, we cannot sentence them to death. Bella is much the same, but we must go through the motions because of the interruption of her test and the mark she has on her." Caius completed the overview of everything we knew.
"But the mark itself does not condemn her." I spoke and they all agreed that it wasn't an automatic death sentence.
"There is great evil in this town, and it is our job to bring it to light. Though for some of it, we may need to seek outside assistance."
There was the general agreement in the room that we may need the Head Magistrate to come here and remove Constable Black if it can be proven that he was a party to this ruse and the murder of Mr. Whitlock. We could convict him of making false statements, but it was so much more than that now, two people had died as a result of his lies, and maybe even by his hands.
That night, we set to bed after dinner, knowing that we would conclude the Denali trial tomorrow, and by week's end, there would be a verdict in this case. There was no doubt in my mind that we'd be leaving with an extra person, possibly four if they wanted to travel, but it was too premature to mention that. Aro saw it if the others did not, thankfully I had been able to keep it hidden from the town.
The screams cut through the night like Hell itself had opened up. I flew from my bed to the window to see the bright orange glow from below the hill that the Constable's office sat on. The smoke billowed, thick and black into the sky and it hit me what was burning.
"Oh God, Bella."
Grabbing my robe and slipping on my boots, only lacing then enough so they wouldn't fall off, I raced down the stairs screaming the entire way. "The jail's on fire!"
I heard the doors fly open as I made it out the front door and sprinted across the square and down the hill behind the Constable's office. The roof was completely engulfed in flames and I didn't hesitate as I ran into the jail. The doors to the cells were still locked as I knelt low to the ground and tried to knock loose the wooden door that stood between me and Bella. I covered my mouth as I called out to her, trying not to breathe in the smoke.
"Bella, are you alright?"
"Edward? Edward! Please, help me! I can't move, the hay's on fire! I'm trapped, please!"
Her cries and pleas tore through me as I rolled on my back and kicked at the bottom of the door, hoping to do some damage when Demetri and Felix ran in, an extra shovel in hand for me.
We used the crude instruments to attack the doors until finally we were able to get the first one open. Demetri ran out with little Kate Denali in his arms, putting her down with Judge Caius before running back in. Felix and I ducked out quickly for fresh air before running back in.
The structure began to make the telltale sounds of its eminent collapse, the cells they used to house Miss Hale and Goody Whitlock already overtaken by the fire as the structure bowed a little in the wind.
I continued to work at the door when I heard Bella's weak voice on the other side of the door. "Edward, forget it. You tried, but I don't want you to die in this."
"Bella, if one of us dies, then so will the other. I won't leave you in here alone!"
Finally, the lock gave way, and the door swung open, revealing Bella curled up on her cot to keep her safe from the flames that were burning a pattern into the hay that covered the dirt floor.
"Bella, jump and I'll catch you!"
She was sitting up, a torn piece of fabric around her face as she shook her head rapidly. "I won't make it!"
"Bella, neither of us will make it if you don't! I will catch you, now hurry!"
With a determined look, she stood up and leapt towards me. I stepped into the flames and caught her, pulling her to my chest. I ran from the building to see Felix with Tanya Denali and Demetri following me for a fresh breath or two before he ran in for the final sister.
As he was about to run in, the building buckled and collapsed as the scream from inside went silent. There was never a chance of putting it out, but I knew the reason for that.
Dr. and Goody Cullen ran down the hill to where we all stood watching the fire. The remaining Denali sisters clung to each other, crying over the loss of their sister. I heard Dr. Cullen ask after Irina. Judge Caius' only reaction was to nod towards the jail as it sat in shambles.
The low wail from Goody Cullen broke my intense stare on the fire as Dr. Cullen told us all to go to his house where we could be examined. It struck me that Judge Aro was nowhere to be found.
The entire group went to the Cullen home where the girls were checked out first, then Felix, Demetri, and me. Our largest problems were smoke in our lungs and the burns on my left arm from where Bella's hair, which I hadn't felt burning me at the time, caused some damage, as well as my lower legs from stepping into the fire to catch her. Felix had burnt his hand, and Demetri had hurt his knee running out the last time.
Meanwhile, the girls were found to have much worse smoke damage, but thankfully, Bella had called out to them to cover their mouths so there was little soot, which made the doctor happier about it. Bella had singed her hair pretty badly. It had burned her neck, which like my arm and legs, required a salve, but it could have been so much worse.
There was still no sign of Aro, so we left the girls with Dr. Cullen as we set out to handle the aftermath of the fire. No alarm had gone off. Even with the screaming, no aid had come to the jail, and that was very telling.
Arriving at the Constable's office after a stop at the inn to get dressed, I found Aro scribbling in his elegant script as a young man waited. He finally sealed the letter and gestured to the boy, who quickly stepped to the table. "This is official business, so you must make haste. Ride to Boston and straight to the Head Magistrate, and tell him that it is urgent news from the Magistrates at Carlisle. Take this as payment for your swift travel."
With the letter in hand, the boy moved to catch the pouch of coins that Aro threw to him and then bolted from the door. "What was that about?"
Aro looked up and motioned for me to sit. "I needed that letter to leave Carlisle before the town woke up and could hear about it. I'm calling the Head Magistrate down here himself to oversee the appointment of a new Constable in Carlisle after charges are leveled against the current one. I spoke to the Constable in Concord through correspondence the last few days using that young man who normally rides with the coaches, and he told me that his jail was available if we may need it. I didn't want to take the chance of jailing Black in his own jail, and now it's impossible. I've begun writing out a detailed account of all the evidence we have uncovered and we will turn it over to the Head Magistrate when he arrives. Though I have a feeling that you will be on your way by the time of his arrival."
"Sir?" I had no idea why he would assume that I would leave before the job was done, but he simply smiled and shook his head, the hair he hadn't had the time to tie up, fell into his eyes.
"You love the Swan girl, and her testimony won't be necessary. I already have her statement, and with the remaining evidence, I believe we will be able to convince the good Constable to confess to it."
"You think he will confess?" I knew Aro was a skilled reader of people, but the Constable seemed far too proud to give himself up.
"Within the hour, now, go fetch him." I walked past Aro on my way to the door when he caught my arm. "But bring him back alive, we have to save him for a possible date with the gallows."
I nodded and ran off to the Constable's house. When I arrived, his father, a sickly man, let me in as I quickly pushed past him to his son's room. Tearing the blankets off of him, I grabbed the collar of his nightshirt and the robe off of the hook by the door as I dragged him out barefoot to the office.
By the time I arrived, the other magistrates were there and Black was in a mood. "What is the meaning of this?" He shouted, and I lunged forward, clasping my hands on his wrists, pressing them against the arms of his chair.
"Your jail burned down last night. Where were you when it happened?"
"Sleeping." He looked smug despite his sleepy state.
"Are you sure?" Caius sneered from behind me and he smirked.
"I don't know why you care so much; it would have saved you the trouble and gotten you back to Boston quicker."
"We were here searching for the truth. It was for us to decide, not you."
"Was? You mean I did it? I killed them!"
"One, you killed one of them, and that is your confession to the crime." Demetri spoke low, his anger nearing its boiling point as well.
"I honestly don't know why it upsets you. It was God's work."
"It isn't God's work killing innocents. We know it was you who murdered Jasper Whitlock with the help of those who are still unnamed, and then you framed his wife for it, and orchestrated her murder. Then you tried to do away with the rest of these women when you realized all that work might have been for naught. Well Irina may be dead, but the other three will go free." I finished my rant as Aro stepped forward to corner Black as he stood.
"What are you saying?"
"We have seen sufficient evidence of the misuse of the claim of witchcraft and the wasting of our time. That, along with these murder charges, will see you in jail by the time breakfast is served in the jail in Concord." It was Aro's turn to smirk as Black blanched as much as his tan skin would allow.
"Deadly." At that exact moment, there was a knock at the door. Aro straightened up as the Constable of Concord arrived. He was instructed to arrest the prisoner and treat him as they would the most base of men.
Once Black was gone, Caius turned to Felix, Demetri, and me with a grave expression. "I'm afraid that the removal of Black from the town won't save these girls. If anything, it will make those who want them punished brasher because they know there is little time left and that the pendulum has swung in the other direction. I have spoken to Dr. Cullen, and he will allow you to stay in his father's home with the two Denali girls. Meanwhile, Mr. Masen will be staying with the Swan girl in her home. I want someone near this office at all times, so if you are upstairs, it will make it easier. The three of you are to go to the inn, pack your belongings, and then collect your charges. You are not to let these girls out of your sights. Am I clear?"
"Yes, sir." We spoke in unison and then left together to pack our belongings. The three of us walked to the top of the square. I parted from them to drop off my things in the office, and then went to speak to the doctor.
"I don't want either of you to overdo it. Use the salve and eat heartily. I know she hasn't had a decent meal for a while. I misjudged you, Mr. Masen; that was a brave act you did last night."
I sighed and met the doctor's eyes, my mind wandering to places it ought not to go. "If she had perished in that fire, a part of me would have gone with her."
His eyes took on a knowing quality and he nodded, handing me the salve and tonics, before leading me to where Goody Cullen sat with Bella. She saw me in the doorway and quickly stood, moving towards me.
"Mr. Masen, I would have died this morning if you had not come to my rescue, and prior to that, you've always shown me kindness during the investigation. What can I ever do to repay you?"
I smiled at her formality and then took her hand. "You cannot fight what I'm about to tell you. We are worried about your safety. Constable Black was arrested for the fire at the jail, among other things, and we do not want to leave you unprotected. The Denali sisters will be watched by my associates, but I have been charged to keep you safe. We will be staying in your home above the Constable's office until everything is settled. What do you say to that?"
She blushed and then looked at the ground before answering. "I thank you for the trouble; it will be nice to sleep in a real bed again."
I knew it was wholly wrong, but the idea of her in bed stirred things in me that had me mentally scolding myself. She was not my wife, she was my charge at the moment and I had to remember that.
Escorting her to the Constable's home, her home, I collected my things from the office and walked up the stairs with her to the apartment. As soon as we settled in, she began fluttering around and checking the goods she had left. I sat my items down and she turned to face me. "You can take my father's room, it's through that door."
"I won't be sleeping in one of the rooms; I need to be out here in case someone tries something."
She froze, sitting down and taking her head in her hands, the bonnet slipping back slightly. "You're risking so much for me. There has never been a more selfish creature than I."
I rushed to her side and knelt beside her. "It is I who is selfish. Bella, you have had a hold on my heart since I've met you. I wish to spend the rest of my life risking myself for you, if you'd let me."
"Is that an offer?" I looked up to see the sheen of unshed tears.
"It is. Would you consent to it?" My heart beat rapidly. Could I really be getting what I had wanted for so long?
"I would. Your kindness and devotion to me proves that you are a good man, and the only one I would wish to be married to."
"Let me see if Aro is downstairs. We can make arrangements as soon as you would like."
Bella's face lit up and she took my hand. "The sooner the better. I do not wish to linger in this town for any longer than is needed."
I nodded and ran down the stairs to see Aro sitting where he had for most of the morning, working on the official report. "Why such haste, Mr. Masen?"
He was still focused on his papers, but I couldn't contain myself. "I would like for you to marry Miss Swan and I."
His head shot up and he smirked at me. "She is agreeable to the union?"
I told him that she was indeed and he laughed. "Very well, it will make traveling with her all the easier. It will take me a day or two to complete these reports, the afternoon after it is done I will draw up the papers and you shall be married. Would you like a small ceremony afterwards?"
"I would have to ask Bella, but I do not know how willing she will be to celebrate here."
Aro nodded and then looked back at his papers before adding. "You did excellent work in this matter, Mr. Masen. When you leave here, what are your plans?"
I looked at him confused, there was always working with my father, but I had a feeling what he was offering was better. "I had not thought much on it yet."
"My brother, Marcus, is a magistrate in Virginia. It would be wise to go far enough from this place that the tarnish of the accusations do not follow the pair of you. If you would like, I will send you on your way with a letter. My brother will find a position for you with the recommendation I will give."
I was shocked that he was willing to play such an active role in our future. "Thank you, Judge Aro. I cannot repay such kindness."
"If you continue to be the man I have seen these past days, it will be payment enough. Now, go discuss the details with your betrothed."
I smiled at that, my betrothed. Going back up to Bella, she was looking at the food she had in the kitchen and frowning. "There's no real food here. We have no flour or cornmeal, there's little sugar and most of the other items needed to be discarded as they were spoiled. How can I make us dinner if I have no food to prepare?" She began to speak rapidly as I crossed to her, taking her into my arms.
"I will take you to the Cullen's, where they're watching the Denali's, and then I'll ride to Concord and pick up whatever you think we need. Make a list, and I will get you anything you want. Think about what you may need for when we leave as well, because I'd prefer to get on our way as soon as we are able, if you're all right with that."
"Where do you live?" Bella relaxed a little against me and I sighed at her reaction.
"I lived in Boston, but I was thinking, Judge Aro has a brother in Virginia, he told me that he would give me a letter of recommendation so that I can find work with him. Are you okay with us going so far from here?"
"I have no attachment to this place, so if it is better for you that we move away, then I will follow you wherever I need to."
I pulled back from her and lifted her chin. "You are not simply going to follow me there, Bella. This is our life together and I won't have you acting like a second class citizen in this relationship. We can move anywhere, do anything. If you prefer, I can have him not address the letter to his brother. We can find a place that suits us, and I will find work there."
"No. If you have an offer in Virginia, then that will be fine. I simply need you to be happy."
I leaned down and kissed her before we parted to allow her to write her list and me to settle in. An hour later, we walked to the house behind the main Cullen property, and I left her with Felix and Demetri with the express instructions to protect her. My fellow magistrates smiled at the brief exchange between the two of us as I set out.
Going to the town stable, I found the coachman who rode between the local towns and made my arrangements. Taking the short ride into Concord, I went to the general store and placed my order, which I would pick up that evening when I returned from Boston. It was almost noon when we set out for Boston to see my parents. The three hour ride went without issue and soon I was walking into my father's office.
"Edward, son, I didn't know you were arriving home so soon. Your mother will be delighted to have you back with us." I felt a twinge of guilt about what I was about to do, but there was no other way.
"Father, I am not returned. I simply came to handle some business before heading back to Carlisle. I will not be coming home after this job is concluded. Aro has seen to it that I find work with his brother in Virginia after the trial is done."
"So you cannot postpone it?"
"No, the work would begin as soon as I could arrive there. I was hoping that I could speak to you about the money I have set aside."
My father nodded and stood from his ornate wooden desk. "I will go and make the arrangements, but it will be a few days. Would you be able to come back when you are finished with the trial to collect it?"
I nodded. "Yes, father. I need to pick up my things from the house as well. I will have to speak to mother about that. You should be seeing me at the beginning of next week at the latest."
My father stood and shook my hand, "Son, I am proud of you for sound work you have done thus far. It is an honor to have a man like Aro speak to your ability. Everything will be ready for your departure. Including a coach to take you as far as New York, but you will have to arrive early as it is a nine hour trip if you make it in one day."
"Father, if you don't mind, I'd prefer to make the arrangements myself. I can arrange it before I leave today. I will see you on Monday."
"You will not spend the night?" He looked genuinely upset by the news.
"No father, court resumes tomorrow morning and I must be there for it."
He shook my hand again and led me out to the street. Leaving his office, I went to make the arrangements for a private carriage to take us as far as New York. From there I would need to hire another carriage for our passage to Maryland and then the final leg of the trip to Virginia and our new home. We were from money. I had a tidy little inheritance from my grandfather, not too much, but enough to get us to Virginia and then set up so I could begin work.
I knew that I would adjust better as my family was not as strict in our religious beliefs in private, but I didn't know how Bella would react to being around such different belief systems. Time would tell in that instance.
Having secured our transport, I went to my parents' home. The moment I entered, my mother was in the foyer embracing me. "Edward, sweetheart, you're home!"
"Hello, I'm home, but only for a short amount of time. I must make arrangements for my travel and I need you to help me with some of that."
"Travel?" She pulled back and eyed me warily.
"I've been offered a position in Virginia, mother. I will leave as soon as the proceedings in Carlisle are done."
"Virginia? But I will never see you again." I hated seeing my mother so upset by all of this, but there was no way we could stay in Boston. The sully on Bella's name from these ridiculous charges was still too close here and it would haunt us.
"Mother, please don't cry."
"I'm sorry, what did you need for me to do?" She wiped at her tears and straightened her shoulders as she craned her neck to look up at me.
"I won't have time to pack for myself. If I showed you what I would like to take with me, could you see to the packing?"
"I will. Let us go to your room." I told my mother to pack my clothing and then picked out specific books and items that I would desire with me. We had two chests that would hold all that I would need, but there was a smaller one that sat empty in a closet that piqued my mother's interest.
"Edward, if all your items will be contained in these two chests, why would you require that third one?"
"There are some additional things I will need for the trip and I will require a chest to hold them."
My mother turned to eye me carefully. "There is no fooling a mother, Edward. What is her name and why are you working so hard to keep her hidden from us?"
I was taken aback by her forthrightness, but even as a boy, there was no lying to my mother.
"She's one of the women I have met in Carlisle."
"Is she strict in her Puritan ways? Do you believe the two of us will clash with her?" I shook my head and she continued to watch me until I heard her gasp, a hand flying to cover her mouth. "Edward Anthony Masen."
I could tell from the look in her eye that she knew what was so important that I needed to keep it hidden from everyone. "Mother, please, we have proven that there was no witchcraft in the town. It was a series of disputes that escalated into these claims of supposed witchcraft. My fiancée is the best person I have ever known. She's strong and smart and beautiful, mother. If you could meet her, you would love her too."
"What's her name?" There was a softness in her expression that let me know my mother was as trusting of me as I had always been of her.
"Edward, you have to bring the carriage here so that it can be loaded with your belongings. Why not come by here on your way to visit your father so I may have a little time with your Bella."
"Oh mother, you have no idea how happy I am to see that you are being accepting of her."
"She makes you happier than I have ever seen you, that is all a mother ever wants for their child. When will you marry?"
"Aro will draw up the papers before we leave Carlisle. We should be here next Monday to depart for New York. We will have to leave by nine in the morning, so do you think that will give you enough time?"
"Your father leaves just after seven, so if you arrive with her to visit him before chambers begin at nine, then I will keep her company until you return."
"Thank you, so much for everything. I love you, mom."
I stooped a little to hug my mother before returning to my carriage so that we could make the stop in Concord before returning to Carlisle.
It was nearly 9 in the evening when I arrived with our packages and went to collect Bella. She had begun worrying that it had taken so long, so when we made it back to her home she refused to let me go. I was able to help her put away the food and various other items I bought, as well as showing her the chest I had brought for her belongings. Bella fed me some leftover stew from what she and Miss Tanya Denali had made for dinner that evening and then we sat in the common room of the apartment. There was something reserved about her this evening and I was worried about the change in her disposition.
Finally, she turned to face me, her eyes focused on our joined hands. "Edward, Felix said that you were not a stern in your Puritan beliefs as the people in the towns of Carlisle and Salem are; that those dwelling in the cities tended to live in a more unreserved manner."
I was not liking where this line of questioning was leading. Had the afternoon apart caused her to truly look at the match and realize that it wasn't what she once saw in it? "Bella, it is true, that we are not as stringent. My father has seen both sides of opulence, and at times, it isn't bad to live with more. You must balance it, though, with what you do for others, and also, how you conduct yourself. What has brought this on?"
Her cheeks colored straight down to where her neck vanished under her collar and up to where her bonnet covered her hair. "When I was betrothed to Jacob Black, it was so short-lived that we never spent time together after the agreement had been reached. I know that some people look down on the notion, but then I thought who would know? You are here for reasons other than our engagement, and it is not unheard of to-"
I couldn't take her circular speech so I interjected. "Bella, please just say it."
"I wish to lay with you as a man and wife would. I do not mean, 'lay with you,' but I simply want to have you beside me and know that I am safe with you."
My heart swelled at her request, as it was something I would never ask of her, but desperately wanted. A smile breaking out across my face, I nodded and then found my voice. "Bella, I would be honored to share your bed."
With that settled, we got up to get changed for the night. When we both dressed in our night clothes, I entered her bedroom and settled in next to her. I wasn't sure how we should do this, but I was going to follow her lead when it came to this. After we were settled in, she rolled over slightly and curled into my side, her hand resting on my chest as her head sat squarely above my heart. My arms encircled her and I drifted off into what would be the best night of sleep I had ever had.
The next two days were very different. Aro and Caius spent time in Concord attempting to get Black to tell them who had helped him, but he simply signed his confession, as it was merely a formality after his announcement the other day and kept his mouth closed.
All the while, Bella packed her belongings in between working on our meals and using the fabric I had bought to make us each some new clothes. She had been highly excited by the blue fabric I bought, as it would help us to fit in down in Virginia where there weren't as many Puritans and our attire would look a little odd. I wasn't upset at all to be shrugging off this part of my former self, and it seems with all the hell Bella had experienced from her supposedly God-fearing neighbors that she would not be upset to venture outside those beliefs.
Wednesday evening, Aro came to our door. After letting him in, we settled in for a meal while he gave us the most up to date information on all that had happened. "The Head Magistrate will arrive on Saturday. From there, he will take over the trial against Black, as well as the appointment of his replacement. He will be brought up on charges relating to Jasper's murder and the fabricated charges, but with the Denali girls staying, he said that they were enough as Demetri and Felix will be here until they are able to leave. You may travel with Bella as soon as her testimony is signed."
"Can I do that tomorrow?" Isabella asked timidly. I took her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze.
"That you may. I will be finishing up the paperwork tomorrow so we can get you ready to leave, and then on Friday I can marry you both. If that is amenable to you both, of course?"
"That will be fine."
Soon, Aro went back down to continue his paperwork while Bella cleaned up from dinner. "Bella, would you join me over here for a moment?"
She sat down the last of the cleaned dishes and joined me on the settee. "What is it, Edward?"
I sighed, hating to see the apprehension on her face, clouding her eyes and marring her forehead. "When I went to town on Monday, I spoke to my parents. Now my father is handling the financial matters so that we can leave, and my mother is handling the personal. When I was talking to her, she was able to guess that there was someone special in my life. She has asked to meet you while I go to visit with my father before we leave. I wanted to ask if you were okay with that."
She looked down and spoke in a quiet voice. "Edward, what will she think when you bring home your new bride, just off a suspected witchcraft trial. I am sure she will not approve of the match, or the idea of us moving to another colony together."
"My mother is excited. She saw how happy I was and doesn't care about what has been claimed. She trusts my judgment, and has asked to meet her new daughter before we leave." A piece of hair fell from behind her bonnet, and I tilted her chin up so that I was looking her in the eye for this next request. "May I?"
I gestured towards her bonnet and she nodded slightly. Reaching up with my other hand, I pulled the ribbon that tied the scrap of fabric to her head and pulled it off, tossing it onto the trunk that sat in front of the sitting area. Feeling along the back of her head, I found the ribbon that held her hair in the bun that had kept it hidden from me and gently removed it, allowing her hair to cascade over my hand and down her back. I was breathless at how beautiful she looked with her hair down. I couldn't stop myself from leaning in and kissing her, my passion taking over as I tasted her for the first time, my tongue brushing across her lips and then dipping inside her mouth to mingle with hers. I could feel the stirring, but I fought against it as I held her close, my fingers tangled in her long locks of chestnut hair.
When we broke from the most intimate interaction we had shared solely to take a breath, my Bella yawned, and I realized that it was late. "I'm going to get ready for bed. I will see you in a little bit."
I nodded and sat there as I tried to calm my hormonal impulses.
It was the smell of baking bread that woke me from my slumber. I smiled inwardly until I moved and felt the twinge in my back. Opening my eyes, I saw a very stiff looking Bella from where I lay on the couch. There was a blanket draped over me, so I knew that Bella had come out and discovered me here at some point, but I had no idea why she hadn't woken me up.
Getting up to stretch, I saw the candle sitting by the chair in the corner where one of my shirts sat nearly completed. She had barely begun it yesterday. I stepped up behind her and rested my hands on her hips, feeling her freeze beneath my touch.
"Breakfast will be done in a moment." Her tone was cold and her voice quiet, something was not right.
I spun her to face me and saw the paths of her long-since dried tears and felt my heart clench in my chest. "Bella, are you okay? What happened?"
"It's nothing, Edward. We have to speak with Aro this morning so you may want to change so we can go down to speak to him after we finish eating."
I was off put by her distance, but knew that we needed to finish all the documents with Aro so that he could complete the report and then write up our marriage contract. Dressing for the day, I met Bella in the kitchen where she had laid out breakfast, sitting down at the seat across from her.
We normally sat side by side at the small table, so this was all evidence that her words and actions were not matching up. I ate in silence and then we went to meet Aro. We both read over our testimonies and signed them. When it was completed, we returned upstairs and it was then that Bella continued her chores, finally making me crack.
"Isabella Swan, you are not fine. I want to know what has you so upset."
I saw the slight tremble in her body and I instantly felt like a cad for raising my voice. "I'm sorry that I am not what you wanted in a wife. I don't remember my mother much to draw from her example and I have never had a beau, so last night was a first for me. When you didn't come to bed with me last night, I woke up a few hours later to see you asleep on the couch. I promise to try better, but please, Edward, don't pull away from me."
She cried as I pulled her into my chest and rocked her as we stood by the basin. "Bella, I stayed out here for a short time to calm myself because I had too strong of a reaction to you, then I fell asleep before I could go to your room. It had nothing to do with me wanting more from you. Last night was everything." Bella smiled as a yawn took over, and I remembered the shirt from this morning. "Bella, what did you do after you woke up and found me sleeping out here?"
She took a shaky breath and then raised her eyes to meet mine. "I began the dough for the biscuits and muffins, knowing they would need time to rise. Then I lit a candle and worked on one of your new shirts."
"How long were you up?"
"I woke about 1 in the morning." She looked down, and I quickly fixed that, lifting her cheek so I could kiss her.
"Well then, change into your night clothes. We have some sleep to catch up on."
She blushed and pulled away slightly. "Edward!"
"Let us just take a cat nap, and then we can finish our packing, that way the weekend can be spent with the more important preparations for our journey."
Her eyes flashed to mine as she took my left hand. "I think a nap is just what we need."
Friday morning, Bella was running around cleaning the house for Aro's arrival. She was in her robe and night clothes as she wanted her best dress to be perfect for when we signed the papers. As neither of us were particularly fond of the townspeople, we would not be selecting scripture to be read in honor of our wedding, so we were only having the magistrates and the Denali girls over for lunch after the contracts were signed, and the marriage was official.
Soon, I was sending her to our room, as she had declared it after our nap the previous afternoon, so she could make herself decent for our guests. Bella had just reemerged when Aro arrived and laid out the different copies of the marriage contract. I had written many of these in my short career, as it was the type of thing that lesser magistrates were asked to do while more powerful men oversaw cases.
Once we had signed the various copies, Aro put the other copies away in his case while I put our copy with our important papers for safe keeping. It wasn't long before the other magistrates arrived with Kate and Tanya Denali. The lunch was lovely and the girls spoke quietly in the kitchen while the men retired to the sitting area. Aro and Caius, both being married themselves, saw fit to impart some wisdom on me while Felix and Demetri attempted to hold in their laughter.
When the afternoon turned to evening, Bella and I bid goodbye to our guests and cleaned up the kitchen. She asked for a few moments before I joined her. Obliging, I waited until I heard the movement in the bedroom cease. Knocking on the door, she told me that I could enter and was blown away. The room was bathed in the warm glow of a few jar candles and my wife. She lay before me in the bed, her nightgown contrasting with the warm color of her long hair, which cascaded over her shoulders and down her chest.
I closed the door and stalked towards her, pulling off my belt and then taking off my shoes. My stockings required that I sit down, and soon I was taking my collar and coat off before shedding my shirt. Bella's eyes were trained on me as I slipped off my pants and then crossed to the bed in nothing but my britches. "You're stunning. I am a lucky man."
Bella blushed as I traced my hand down her face where her hair rested against her porcelain skin. "Thank you, husband, you are quite handsome yourself."
"Bella, you know that nothing needs to happen tonight if you don't want it to. We can continue to move slowly."
Bella's hand came up to my face as she urged me down to hers. She placed a sweet kiss on my lips and then spoke again, her breath fanning my skin. "I am ready. You have delivered me from this hell and will give me a life I never knew to hope for. My heart is yours, as is my life; the only part that is left is my body, which I willingly offer up to you."
I kissed her with a controlled fervor as my hands cupped her face and slid back into her hair. "I know you wore the bonnet before because of your father's rules, but now that we are man and wife, no one else can see your hair down. You need not wear a bonnet, but it is a thing of beauty and I wish to be the only one to truly know its wonder."
She blushed a darker shade, and leaned back so that her hair fanned out more. I pulled back the sheets and settled in beside her again. Reaching up for the string that tied the front of her nightgown, I slowly pulled it loose from the bow, and then slipped my second finger between the laces and gently pulled them free, the top of Bella's chest brushing my fingertip as her breathing picked up and her bosom rose to meet me.
When those few rows were done away with, I turned my hand over and rested the back of my hand along her neck, gliding down until I reached what was hidden by the fabric. My hand slid over to her right breast and I gently caressed it, astonished by her reaction to the simple touch as gooseflesh covered her all the way to her hairline and the peak hardened in my hand as it pushed against my palm with each pant she released.
I leaned down to kiss my Bella as her fingers brushed my chest, giving me a chill as our hands became more bold. It was exhilarating to be with her this way and as my member grew more anxious to meet his bride as well, I found my concentration harder to hold on to.
Pulling back, I pushed the fabric off of Bella's shoulder and helped as she slid out of it, leaving us in nothing but our unmentionables. The more of her I witnessed, the more bewitched I was by her beauty. If you could ever call my love a witch, her only spell was to possess me from the first moment I saw her in the jail.
The last vestiges of our clothing were finally discarded, and I saw Bella react to the sight of me. "Do not fear, my love. I will try to make this as easy as possible."
I saw her eyes meet mine and she smiled again, her legs falling open to allow me a place to rest more comfortably. Continuing to kiss her as our bodies gently rocked together, Bella made the most sinfully delicious noises at the pressure and friction between our two bodies. I slid a little lower, drawing her body closer to me on the bed. Looking for her consent, which she willingly offered, I positioned myself at her womanhood and slowly began to push forward.
The first sound was soft, but the second was more pronounced, and it hurt me to see her in pain. "I'm sorry," I whispered and she only patted my forearm and kissed me again. When I moved again, it was her inner barrier that paused my movement. I held her eyes with mine and kissed her with all the passion I had for her as I continued until we were fully joined, the soft cry of my wife quieted by our union.
With a few moments rest, allowing Bella to adjust to the feeling she was experiencing, I slowly started to move within her, our bodies working together in a way only instinct could control. The next few moments were filled with the slow build up of movements and sensations, as our breathing became ragged, and our noises grew louder.
"Edward, my husband, faster please…that feels so good." Her breathy request was all I needed as I moved faster within my love, my stomach tightening as her hands clasped onto my back.
I felt the first tremor as my body jerked rather sporadically, Bella's head lolling to the side as her back rose from the bed and a sound that will be with me all the rest of our days, escaped her mouth.
When my body stilled, I rolled so that Bella was still connected to me as we lay peacefully to collect our breaths.
As our faculties returned to us, we stood to clean ourselves, and then I led Bella back to bed, holding her naked form against my chest as she curled along the side of my body.
The morning dawned on me alone, but it did not take long to hear my wife's movements in the main room. Peeking out to see her in a fresh dress and apron, I went back to change, leaving my coat and collar off as much of the work today was around the house, preparing for the Head Magistrate's arrival tomorrow.
Re-entering, I saw more of her than I had the first time and was pleased to see her hair down and on display. She was kneading dough, which she had done much of this week, which brought a certain level of confusion to me. After our breakfast, I posed the question that had been tickling my mind until that point.
"Bella, didn't you bake enough bread these past days?"
"I am baking as much as possible, because I do not know what we will encounter on our trip and I want us to at least have enough bread and wine to sustain us. You said the journey should take a week?"
I nodded. "Yes, we will need to lodge in New York and Maryland as I will need time to hire a coach, but with that exception we shall spend much of our honeymoon in a tiny box. You look beautiful this morning, my love. I cannot help but mention it."
"It is due to the heavenly evening I had. Will you need to return to Concord today to fetch the wine for our journey?"
"I will. It shouldn't take me that long. I'm borrowing a horse and riding alone, was there anything else you may need?"
"No, hurry back, my husband."
I kissed her again and then went down to inform Aro about my departure. He told me that he would be there and so she would be safe.
Making the trip as quickly as possible, it was Aro's worried face that halted me in my movements. "What is it? Is my Bella okay?"
Aro raised his hands in an attempt to calm me. "Goody Masen is well, but I just got word from the Head Magistrate. Because of how everything occurred, as the ranking Magistrate, he would require a prolonged investigation unless the proceedings are thoroughly closed and handled. I have all prepared for when he arrives, and I know you had planned on leaving early Monday morn, but I feel it would be better if you were out of Carlisle before they arrive this evening, as they pushed their visit up. The Denali sisters will not be able to pay their jailing fee for a few more weeks, so they will be here as a representative of the women that were wronged. I fear that if you are here when they arrive, you will be asked to stay. I do not trust these people to not make another attempt on her. I want you to be gone before he has left Boston."
I nodded and shook his hand. "Thank you, we will be gone from here, though I do not know where we could go that would hide us and keep us safe."
We parted and I went upstairs to tell Bella of the change, we would need to be gone before the afternoon.
"Bella, how close are you to being ready to leave?"
Her face was concerned as it studied mine. "I have the remainder of our clothes out on the line, some of the bread is still baking and the things I've been using these past days. Why? When are we to go?"
"As soon as we are able. I will go to the stables and arrange for a carriage; my father will spend the day away as it is one of his monthly meetings, so we will be able to sneak in to see my mother undetected. I do not know where we will stay, but it must be stealthy if we are going to be safe. I want your location to be something that only Aro and my mother know. I do not trust others with the info when the animosity is so high."
Bella nodded nervously and opened her trunk, putting as much of the kitchen as she could into the trunk, layering it with blankets and other objects of import as I packed all of my belongings. Within an hour, Bella was folding the items that had been on the line and then moved to her clothing from the bedroom. It was three when she was packing the basket of food and wine for inside the carriage, which was pulled in front of the Constable's office. We had her trunk loaded and with one last look around, we handed our baggage up to the coachman, and then I helped her into the carriage. It was the call of Felix that stopped me as he and Demetri ran up with the Denali's and Cullen's.
"You did not think you would disappear without a good-bye, did you?" Helping Bella down, we said farewell to all that had ever shown her kindness and then departed.
It was just after six o'clock when the carriage stopped before my parents' house. I quickly unloaded my wife and brought her inside, asking the coachman to wait for me. When I walked in, my mother came down the stairs, her expression lighting at our presence.
"You're early! Does this mean you will be leaving soon? I have your things ready."
"Mother, I must see what I can do about changing my carriage, and then we will need to find lodging for the night."
"Edward, your father will not be home until after 8pm, and then we have church service in the morning so he will retire soon after he arrives. Stay here; your room will not be a thought in his mind. It isn't even on our floor. You go take care of your transport and speak to him about the money, Isabella and I will chat while you are gone."
I looked to Bella and she smiled, so I kissed both their foreheads and told the coachman to bring in the baggage. When it was all settled in my room on the third floor loft, we set out to change my carriage, which luckily was possible because of the light travel on a Sunday, and then I was dropped at home as the coachman returned to Carlisle.
Climbing the stairs to the loft, I found Bella and my mother laughing, a sound I hadn't heard from her enough.
My mother kissed us goodnight and good-bye before retiring to the parlor to wait for my father's arrival. I made a quick appearance to receive the package from my father and then tell him good-bye as he would be headed to church before I awoke. Bella and I settled in ourselves, the day's activities catching up to us as we drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, I woke to the loud slam of the front door. Going to the window, I saw my parents walking in their Sunday clothes, the slam being my mother's cue that we ought to wake up.
Beginning to carry our baggage down, as the trunks I had requested needed to make the trip down the stairs eventually as well, I did a large part of the lifting on my own. Bella woke and offered me a cold platter that my mother had left in the kitchen for us. We ate and then dressed properly, bringing down the trunks just as our carriage arrived. The coachmen, as I required two for the longer journey, made quick work of our various bags and trunks, and then aided our settling into the coach.
We rode out of Boston on the road that led south. As I passed the landmarks of my past, I felt only a slight sadness, for my present and future sat beside me, her hand fitting perfectly in mine.