Disclaimer: SM owns all things Twilight. Thanks to my amazing beta DiamondHeart78, who's agreed to go on this journey again with me. Much love, chica.

A Quiet Fire~Prologue

September 7, 2010

Hurrying down 58th street, I catch and ignore strange looks from passers by—there's only one thing on my mind—late. I'm late. Again I curse my stupidity for not double-checking that the alarm clock was set for a.m., not p.m., the night before. The move had taken it out of me . . . I hadn't slept well, and I'm a bundle of nerves, a reality made worse by the fact that I am LATE for my first graduate class at the University of Chicago.

What a way to make a first impression.

As I skid to a halt in the front of the Humanities Building, I hope against hope that Professor Riordan will understand. She is the reason I'm here, a specialist at the top of her field and mine, and if I screw this up, I'll have no one to blame but myself.

Panting and sweating from the unseasonably warm September heat, I finally locate the classroom where my Early Romantic Poets class is being held, stopping for a minute before making my entrance. Since I'm already late, there's no use sense barging in before composing myself. My breathing calmed to a normal rate, I pat my hands over my hair to tame any flyaways before pushing open the door.

About a dozen students are seated around a large round table, and Professor Riordan stands by the dry erase board, marker in hand. She turns when the door opens, her eyes flicking over me to take in my appearance. I'm wearing a long grey skirt that probably makes me look like a country bumpkin, out of place in the city. Professor Riordan seems quite casual and cool in ripped jeans and a tank top—a far cry from the professors I'd encountered at Washington State.

"You must be Isabella Black," she says, finally smiling as I nod dumbly. "Please take a seat."

I hate that I can't find my voice in moments like these.

I do as she asks, relieved she doesn't appear angry at my tardiness. I find the closest available seat near the door and slouch into my chair, gathering my skirt to cover any skin that might have become exposed with the movement. My shyness inhibits me from checking out the other students, some of who I can see glancing at me curiously in my peripheral vision.

"To return to the question at hand. Does anyone know why William Blake is considered a Romantic? He is, after all, quite different from those he is now grouped with . . . Wordsworth, Coleridge . . . " Professor Riordan trails off, looking to us for a response. I feel the telltale familiar thumping in my chest, a flutter in my stomach—symptoms of the nervous energy produced whenever I get ready to speak in front of people. I know the answer to this question, and I know it well. William Blake is the reason I'm here.

Before I can work up the courage to reply, someone beats me to it—it's a blonde girl, breathtakingly gorgeous, seated right across from me.

"Ms. Hale?" Professor Riordan responds.

The blonde girl clears her throat. "Well, Blake represents a new era of humanistic inquiry—a break from the obsessive rationality and reason of the 18th Century. He was greatly influenced by the French Revolution, although he was older than many of his Romantic contemporaries."

"Excellent, Ms. Hale," the professor commends. "And of course our classifications of literary time periods are relatively arbitrary—there's always cross-pollination between generations of writers."

"Precisely." Ms. Hale says, smiling and looking pleased with herself.

I'm impressed with the exchange and more than a little annoyed with myself for not speaking sooner. The blonde certainly knows her stuff, but I would have added that Blake is bound to the younger poets by the shared belief in the supremacy of the human imagination, a celebration of the body, too—which made him much more like Byron and Shelley than the more conservatively-minded Wordsworth.

Of course, all of this sounds so much more articulate in my head.

Still, I make a promise to myself that the next time an opportunity like that arises, I won't miss it.

Just then, the door opens again. Professor Riordan now looks more than a little miffed as I, along with the rest of the class, turn to inspect the latest arrival.

A shock of coppery hair pokes in through the door. It's a guy. I hear one of the girls to the left of me whisper something to her neighbor but I can't make out what she's saying. His face turns to the front of the room and a deep velvety voice quietly asks permission to enter. The voice stills my heart.

No.

It can't be.

He enters and turns, his gaze sweeping around the room to find a seat. His eyes alight on mine almost instantly and I am frozen, frozen in time . . .

The green eyes, those eyes have traveled with me. And the face, so much beloved . . . older now, but unmistakable. A slight dimple in his chin, a jaw stronger and more defined, the stubble a telltale sign of several days without a shave.

The fingers on my right hand instantly worry the ring on my left as the face morphs before me into the boy I knew.

Ten years disappear and I am lost.

"Edward?" The word leaves my lips before I can stop it . . . a ghost . . . a whisper. His face pales as he steps closer, his expression a shock of disbelief.

And suddenly we are no longer in a classroom full of strangers. We are in his living room after school and he is teasing me, prodding me. My mom is in the hospital again and I'm staying with the Cullens, but no one's home now except for me and Edward.

"Have you ever been kissed, Bella?"

I am shaking my head, blushing. He makes me nervous now in a way he never has before. He's only 15—soon to be 16—but he seems like so much more of a man to me, the two-year age gap between us expansive. I bite my lip and realize I'm still shaking my head.

He chuckles. "Would you like to be?"

I almost gasp . . . is Edward asking me . . . if he can kiss me? My throat is dry as I nod, the word struggling to make its way from my brain to my mouth. Yes. YES.

And when his lips meet mine it's nothing like how I thought it would be. His mouth is soft and gentle; he brings his hand to my face and cups my cheek softly. It is brief but when he pulls away I am left with a strange sensation, a longing that I've never felt before. Almost without volition, I touch my finger to his lips. Mine tingle.

"I wanted to be your first," he says, smiling as he kisses the tip of my finger.

"Me too." The words finally come and I know they're true.

Now, with his too-pale face only feet from me, it's too much . . . the years of missing him . . . too much.

I hear a roaring surge in my ears and then see only blackness.


A/N: Just a couple of things—this story will deal with difficult subject matter at times, including mental illness. There will be references to underage drug use and smoking. There will also be a certain level of angst, but I'll ask you to trust me!

The first 6 or so chapters, after the prologue, will be told from 11-13 year old BPOV. This is necessary to set up the story. From then on we'll be dealing with adult BPOV. At this point I don't have plans for EPOV, but that might change.

You can expect chapter one in a couple of days, depending on response. So let me know what you think! xox