Twilight belongs to SMeyer
Thank you to Spanglemaker9 and Cher for helping me make this story breathe. They give me so much and my gratitude to them is immense.
To the Readers: thank you so much.
The word ran through my mind as I hurried back to the house to get Father.
But I hugged Father; how was he not affected by my touch? Was he immune?
I ran up the steps and burst through the front doors, startling the maid.
"Child!" she scolded me.
I didn't stop but went straight for Father's study door and knocked rapidly before opening it. He looked at me in surprise from where he sat reading at his desk.
"Isabella? What's wrong?"
"Father! Michael is going after Edward! I hurt him!" I gasped.
He stood and walked over to me. "What is this about Michael going after Edward?"
"Michael stopped me on the street. He was coming to call, but I burned him. I burned him like Edward!"
He shook his head in confusion. "Isabella, you're not making sense. Slow down and tell me what happened."
I took a breath and tried my best to explain the meeting on the road with Michael.
"I'll see if I can round up a few people to help. You stay here-"
"No, you stay here," he said firmly, placing his hands on my shoulders. "Michael is too much of a hot-head, and I don't want you anywhere near him, understood?"
He moved to grab his coat from the peg by the door, but another thought came to mind and I stopped him.
"Father, how come you were not burned when I hugged you?"
He turned to me and looked at my hand grasping his sleeve. Determination filled his features as he gently placed it over mine, skin on skin. He jerked it back with a wince and glanced at the redness that had formed on his palm.
"I'm sorry," I whispered in horror.
"Stay here; I'll take care of Michael," Father whispered with concern in his eyes.
I wrapped my arms around myself as through the windows I watched Father striding towards town. I felt anxious and scared that he wouldn't be fast enough to gather help to stop Michael.
I paced a few steps before I made up my mind that I had to warn Edward and his family. Time was too precious to wait for Father.
Reaching for the door, I heard a strangled noise to my side and turned to see the maid pressed against the doorframe that led into Mother's sitting room. Her face was white with fear and revulsion. It made me a little ill to think this is what I would have to face with my new condition, but Edward had to live much longer like this than I did. He had very few people that did not flinch away from him and see him for the man that he was.
I would be brave for him.
"I'm going," I told her simply.
I hiked up my skirts and ran to the back road, uncaring of anyone who saw me.
As I came to the wall of the Cullen estate, I had to stop. I was winded from the exercise. I gulped in the air as much as I could, feeling the limitations from my corset. I walked around to the edge and saw Michael ahead with three other men, all with various weapons of shovels, axes, and guns.
"Michael!" I shouted with the last of my breath."No! Stop!"
I ran after them, using everything within me to reach them. I couldn't let them hurt Edward. It was my fault for being too curious, my fault for leading Michael into a lie, and my fault that I fell for Edward.
"Michael, stop!" I yelled as I followed. They were almost to the side door in the wall, their shouts turning antagonistic in nature, calling for Edward to come out and fight them.
I felt sick. So, so sick.
They continued along the wall towards the side gate, swinging their make-shift weapons in wide arcs, showing how they intended to use them.
"Come out, Edward! We have something for you!" Michael called. His friends snickered, thinking this was one big joke.
Anger boiled within me. Edward's life wasn't a joke by any means. It was a miracle. His father had saved him, giving him a chance to live a full life rather than one spent bed-ridden. The side effects of his cure meant little with all that he was able to achieve and could achieve if he continued down the path he had laid out for himself. I wanted that for him and would give anything to see it manifest.
"Please!" I shouted just as I saw Michael stop in front of the wooden gate that was situated in the center of the wall. He motioned to two of the bigger men to break it open with force. With a few shoves, the gate opened with the sound of splintering wood.
Michael took one last look at me, his face full of determined rage, and then walked through the opening with the others following.
I tried to move faster, terrified that I couldn't see Michael, couldn't see what he was doing, couldn't have the ability to stop him. When I reached the broken gate, I stopped as everything went quiet except for the laboring sound of my breathing. Michael and his group were nowhere in sight.
Where were they? Everything was too quiet.
It was then that I heard a feminine scream coming from the direction of the house.
I ran down the stone pathway, hearing the screams continue. As I reached the back patio, I saw that the backdoor leading into the kitchen was wide open. Sounds of breaking glasses and china were intermixed with screaming.
"Michael, stop!" I called as stepped inside the doorway. The place was an absolute mess; one of the men continued to add more to the destruction while the cook lay unconscious on the floor.
"What are you doing?" I yelled.
The man who turned to me was Tyler, my old school mate who had graduated with Michael the year before. His blue eyes were filled with a manic glee rivaling that of Michael's. Some sense returned to him as he noticed it was me.
"Bella? You need to go home. We're taking care of things here," he said with a hint of pride in his voice that only made me want to be sick.
"Please, Tyler. Please help stop this. This isn't right," I pleaded as I walked carefully through the broken plates towards him. "The Cullens have done nothing wrong. What happened with Michael was an accident."
He looked uncertain for a second, but then I saw the darkness return to his eyes. He shook his head at me. "Bella, you need to leave. Like I said, we'll take care of this," he said then took me by the arm and pushed me out the door, locking it.
I pounded my fists on the wooden frame, alternatively shouting for Tyler to let me back inside and to stop what he was doing. He paid me no mind as I watched him through the window; he walked out of the kitchen, through the butler's pantry, and into the dining room. When I saw that he wasn't going to listen, I looked for another way to get into the house. Next to the bench that rested under the main kitchen window was a metal water pail meant for the garden. I picked it up and swung it against the glass. It broke with ease, and I reached my hand through the empty wooden pane to unlock the door.
As soon as I was through, I hurried over to the cook. She was bleeding at her temple, but otherwise breathing steadily. Relief was brief as I heard more yelling and screaming, followed by the sound of something heavy falling.
I pushed through the pantry and into the dining room to see more of the destruction Michael left in his wake, creating a trail of priceless pieces of art ripped apart. I followed the trail like breadcrumbs into the front parlor where I saw Edward standing with his mother before the tall marble fireplace as Michael and his three men blocked their way from escape.
"You think you can get away with hurting people, disfiguring them, without paying the piper?" Michael asked, his back facing me as he took another step closer to Edward and his mother, both of their faces a mix of fear and anger.
"Leave my house at once!" Mrs. Cullen demanded, boldness momentarily outshining her trepidation before one of the men swung his shovel near her head. She cringed closer to Edward in response.
"Please, Michael, stop what you're doing. This isn't right," I said, approaching him like I would a wild animal.
"Bella, leave-" Edward said, putting his mother behind him, his green eyes wide in alarm.
"Bella, leave. No, Bella, stay! See what I'm about to do to those who need to be punished," Michael mocked Edward's voice and then turned to me, yelling.
The look on his face scared me. There was nothing there of the boy I grew up with these past sixteen years. His eyes held no mercy or forgiveness. Before me stood a stranger, a stranger that had the very worst of intentions, intentions that would lead to someone's death.
"Think, Michael. Please think about what you are doing. You could go to jail for this," I took a step closer, trembling.
Unfortunately it was the wrong thing to say. His eyes hardened, cold with hatred, and he raised his pistol, aiming in the direction of Edward.
"I'll be doing the world a service," he said with icy venom and fire dripping off his tongue before he pulled the trigger.
"NO!" I screamed pushing through the men to get to Edward. They gave no resistance as I stumbled through their bulking presence to kneel beside the now prone bodies of Edward and his mother.
"Mother," Edward said brokenly as he cradled the slight form of his mother's body to him, placing his hand over the spreading patch of wet crimson on her side. She was unconscious but still alive. I ripped off a piece of my petticoat at Edward's request and handed it to him to place on the wound, applying pressure.
"You got the woman!" I heard one of the men say, unease trickling into his voice.
"She birthed the bastard. I'd say good riddance," said another.
"Bella, get out of the way." Michael said, aiming his pistol once again, this time directly at me as I blocked Edward with my body.
"Bella, run. Go get help for my mother," Edward whispered, turning his sad eyes to focus on mine.
"I'm not leaving you," I told him, raising a hand to touch his cheek.
"I don't want you here when-"
I shook my head at him, refusing to move.
With a violent tug to my hair, I was thrown back, and I hit my head on the hardwood floor. I lay stunned as pain radiated through me. My vision doubled, and the sound of yelling echoed like sharp knives stabbing inside my head. When my sight cleared I saw two of the men trying to grab a struggling Edward. As one of his bare hands touched Edward's skin, he screamed in pain.
"Don't touch his skin!" Michael yelled. "Put your gloves on!"
Feeling dizzy, I tried to sit up but only managed to turn over and prop myself up on my hand. Everything was in a whirl, colors moving fast, my ears ringing with chaotic sounds of fighting.
Then I heard it: the cocking of a pistol.
My heart froze, and ice stiffened my veins.
Edward was pressed up against the bookshelf on the side of the fireplace. The two men now had a firm hold on him. The larger one had his roughened gloved hand around Edward's throat as the smaller one, who had been burned, was pushing against his chest and legs. Edward stared at Michael with no fear for what was about to transpire; in fact, he seemed completely calm as the weapon was raised and pointed at his head.
Crawling towards Michael, who stood a few feet away with his back to me, I reached out and grabbed his leg just as he fired another round. His arm jerked, and the bullet hit the shorter man in the side of his face.
"God dammit!" Michael screamed as the shorter man released Edward and clutched at his bleeding wound. Tyler was stunned that his friend was the one that was shot and absently loosened his grip on Edward.
The next few moments seemed to move at a snail's pace from my position on the floor.
Edward was able to throw Tyler off-balance, sending him towards Michael, causing them to lose their balance and fall to the floor next to me. I rolled away before one of their larger bodies could crush mine.
"Bella!" Edward whispered urgently into my ear. I looked up and saw him reaching for me. I grasped his hand and let him pull me to a standing position. His hands turned me to the front door with my back pressed to his chest. "Please, go get help," he said, walking us quickly to the exit.
He pulled open the door just as the bang of the gun echoed through the room. I screamed in fright.
"Get back here!" Michael roared.
I turned in Edward's arms, to see that Michael was standing in the middle of the room, gun cocked and pointed at us. Edward tried to push me behind him, but I held firm, hoping that I could shield him in some way.
"SHUT YOUR MOUTH! You've made your choice. You die with him," Michael sneered, tightening his arm in preparation.
"Your argument is with me. Let her go, and I will give you what you want," Edward said calmly.
"She had her chance."
Then a gun fired.
I screamed, pulling Edward closer, waiting for the painful impact of the bullet, but it never came. Frantically, I glanced up at Edward, sickened at the thought of what I would find, but he was looking at Michael in shock.
I turned my head and saw the smoking, black hole in the center of his forehead. His stance was the same, with raised arm and gun ready, except his eyes were wide and staring into nothingness. Michael fell to his knees and then face forward, dropping the gun that spun across the floor.
"Wha-what?" I asked, starting to shake.
Edward answered the rest of my unspoken question. "Dad?"
I whipped my head in the other direction and saw Dr. Cullen standing in the foyer with a revolver aimed at one of the men.
"Edward…your mother?" the doctor asked, his handsome features ashen.
"She's alive, but hurt."
His shoulders relaxed, but he didn't take his eyes off the other men. "Please carry her to my office. Bella's father is not far behind," his voice rivaled Edward's in its calming tone.
I moved to help Edward with his mother, opening doors as he directed me through the house to a back room filled with books and medical supplies. He laid her on a long wooden table on one side of the room and immediately went to work on trying to remove the clothing from her limp frame with shaking hands.
"Edward, I'll do that," I said quietly, placing my hand on top of his.
He nodded once and moved away. My heart was hurting for him, knowing that he had to see his mother this way. I quickly went to work on removing her blouse, corset, and skirt leaving her shift in place to give her some modesty. The sight of her blood spreading on the white cotton made the bile rise in my throat. I was distracted by the sound of approaching feet and turned to see Doctor Cullen, being followed by Doc Black, who was carrying his medical bag, rush into the room.
I instinctively backed away from the table to allow them to take care of Mrs. Cullen. I glanced around the room, looking for Edward, who was approaching with a basin of water and clean towels.
"Thank you, Edward," was Doctor Cullen's only reply as he began to remove his coat and roll up his sleeves. His face set in purpose.
Edward brought another bowl of water for Doc Black and then motioned for me to follow him out the door. Back in the hallway, Edward grabbed my hand and led us out into the private garden, into the sunshine that beamed down its warm rays of light onto the blooming flowers that surrounded us with their vibrant colors and perfumes. Everything seemed so simple here, but inside I felt so unsure. Accepting this new part of me meant that I would have to give up everything else in my life.
Looking up into Edward's wondering green eyes at our ability to touch without gloves, I knew that the choice was already made.
I lay curled next to Edward on the couch as he softly read to me from Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" in the diminishing light in the small conservatory. His voice wove the tale around me as it had for the last few nights after tea when we had time to be alone without the presence of a chaperone, namely Mrs. Cullen, who kept an eye on our conduct as much as she could at the insistence of my father.
In the garden, after we had left Dr. Cullen, his wife, and Doc Black in the study, he had held me in his arms, relishing the ability to touch me without worry of injury to my person. We comforted each other until Father came to find us.
Father, instead of shunning me with my condition, spent hours learning from Dr. Cullen what he could of the limitations and the advantages I now possessed.
Mrs. Cullen recovered from her gunshot wound, which thankfully wasn't as bad as it had appeared that day a few weeks earlier. She had hit her head on the hard wood floor after she had been shot, adding to the severity of her appearance.
Still, she was recovering, seeming to gain strength every day, enough so that her first priority was to help me adjust to my new life.
The combined efforts of the Cullens and my Father made it possible for me to move to the Cullen Estate, as it was the safest place for me to live. Mother had balked at the plan, choosing to ignore that I had changed, saying that it would be scandalous for me to stay with them as they were not my family by blood. Father had eased her worries and let it be known that all their intentions were honorable and that I would wed Edward.
Mother refused to acknowledge me after that last bit of news. I had never been able to be the perfect young lady as she had tried to teach me to be over the years. A part of me grieved for the loss of contact, but I was rewarded with a freedom to be myself with people who accepted me…especially Edward.
He made me feel like I could do anything and would be by my side, supporting me, loving me through it all. My studies were expanded to include sciences that were considered college level and only for men. It was overwhelming at times, but Edward aided me patiently, along with his parents.
Edward's hand moved from my waist to turn the page and continue with our story, and I felt an odd bereavement from his lack of touch. Then it was back, resting against me and comforting me with gentle rubbing motions. I snuggled myself into his side, enjoying the feel of the vibrations of his voice as he continued reading. It was a bit of heaven during our busy days, one that I hoped we would continue going forward and well into our future.
The inspiration for this story was somewhat based on Nathanial Hawthorne's Rappaccini's Daughter, but the main drive came from a dream I had of a lonely boy standing by a wall, longing for a girl that was passing him on a dirt road, wearing an old-fashioned dress. From there, my imagination took off and The Back Road was born.
I am once again, grateful to you for your time.
P.S. The title of each chapter comes from Peter Gabriel's album Passion: The Last Temptation of Christ.