Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight, but I'm grateful to Stephenie Meyer for her dream/vision.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. ~ Jeremiah 29:11
I sighed and leaned back against the seat I'd been in on this long train journey and stared unseeingly out the window at the passing landscape. It was certainly better than taking a covered wagon or a stagecoach the entire distance. This was the modern way to travel in 1870 since the transcontinental railroad had been completed the year before. I couldn't say it was cleaner than a covered wagon or a stagecoach as I felt just as dusty and dirty as someone out on the trail would be with open train windows at intervals to let in fresh air.
I liked to be called Bella by family and friends even though at birth I was christened Isabella Marie, and I took stock of my life thus far as the train swayed onward toward my destination. I had completed my regular schooling and then obtained my teaching certificate just this past year in Chicago, Illinois. I had applied at several schools in the Chicago area, but none of them held any openings for a newly-minted teacher for the next school year. I knew I had to broaden my horizons, so I'd scanned advertisements in other area newspapers at the public library on an almost-daily basis.
One advertisement in particular caught my eye – a teaching position at a school in Virginia City, Nevada. Most teacher advertisements were similar in that they requested unmarried women of upstanding moral fiber for a one-year term. Additional terms could be added after the first assignment had been served if the town found you satisfactory as a teacher and the area agreed with you. I had heard about Virginia City – there was an impressive silver mine there called the Comstock Lode. Other than that, I didn't really know much about the city, other than there were most likely children who needed love and learning in their lives and I was just the woman for that. I'd always loved children and teaching them things – seeing how their young minds worked and delighted in seeing their expressions when they grasped new concepts.
I had replied with my credentials to the advertisement immediately, never expecting a reply. I did receive a reply approximately one month later, from Mayor Isaac Hale of Virginia City, asking when I could report as their new teacher. He had met with the regional school board and they determined I would be an excellent candidate. I replied that I could begin with the new school term in the fall of 1870. Then all I had left to do was inform my parents.
My parents, Charles and Renee Swan, were well-respected Chicago society members with my father a justice of the peace and my mother a perfect society wife, and they had certain expectations of their only child. When they discovered I would be departing – on my own – for the West, they were beside themselves. At first, they forbid me to go. I reminded them I was soon to turn 20 years of age – I could make my own decisions about my life and continued packing.
The deciding factor was actually my grandmother Marie Swan, my father's mother. I affectionately called her Gran. It wasn't that I didn't love my parents – I did – adored them, in fact. I just longed for some type of adventure in my life. I felt stagnant by my present life and Gran knew that. She wasn't able to get out and live any more of her big dreams like she wanted to, so she encouraged me to live mine.
The Swan family was, to a large degree, well-to-do in Chicago. We employed a total of three household staff – a housekeeper/laundress, a butler/gardener, and a cook. My mother entertained as often as my father would allow her. These soirees usually left me bored as they were filled with pompous people who loved to talk about themselves. Once I knew I was leaving for the West, I took it upon myself to learn as much as I could from the housekeeper about keeping a home and the cook about preparing food. I didn't know if or how much I'd have to fend for myself in the future. I had secured a room at a boarding house in Virginia City for the time being.
My parents had wanted me to marry a nice, handsome boy they had chosen for me in Chicago – Riley Biers. He wrote articles for the local newspaper. We had been on a couple of chaperoned walks. We had also been dinner guests at each other's homes a number of times. I had never felt that certain spark with him, the one you were supposed to feel if a relationship was going to lead toward marriage someday. In the end, I did not even meet with Riley to tell him goodbye. I left him a short note which was delivered by post that basically said I was leaving town and I did not know of my expected return date. I also wrote I hoped he could find happiness with another as I was fond of him and truly did not wish to hurt his feelings.
I tucked my reticule as close as I could beside me as I drifted off to sleep. The rocking of the train lulled me right to sleep. My dreams consisted of faraway places and classrooms full of students, eager to learn.
I awoke with a start, unsure what had disturbed my slumber. I put a delicate white gloved hand to my mouth and covered a yawn. I looked at the small watch that was pinned to the front of my dress. It was nearing time for dinner. If I hurried through the bathing car, I would make it in enough time to the dining car to have dinner with a friend I'd made on the train and her twin boys. They were truly a delight and made me laugh.
By the time the train stopped at every podunk station between hither and yon, I was beyond weary. When the conductor finally announced Reno, Nevada, was the next stop, my gratitude knew no bounds. I would be so glad to be free of this chugging train. I knew I'd have another journey ahead of me in a stagecoach, but it would give me time to survey my new surroundings at a slower pace.
When I disembarked from the train, the summer heat blasted my body like the warmth from an oven. So this was the "dry heat" I'd heard some of the passengers on the train talking about. I knew my sapphire blue dress with the high lace collar wasn't going to be the most comfortable attire, but I couldn't go through my trunks right here on the train platform to find something cooler. I would be grateful to have a bath when I reached my final destination.
My trunks were moved from the train to the stagecoach by some men who worked for the Wells Fargo line. While that was being taken care of, I sent a quick telegram to Mrs. Rachel Cope, who owned the boarding house, to let her know I'd arrived in Reno and the stagecoach would be leaving within two hour's time. I was able to have lunch in a hotel dining room near the train station after brushing most of the dust and dirt from my dress in the women's lounge of the train station.
Once I was firmly installed on the stagecoach traveling to Virginia City, I looked out at the wild beauty of high desert Nevada. The hills were mostly brown; there was sagebrush, tumbleweeds and outcroppings of trees gathered here and there. The two gentlemen traveling with me were busy reading their newspapers. The journey would take us approximately four hours and soon, the swaying of the stagecoach lulled me to sleep once again and I drifted off peacefully.
All too soon, the driver announced Virginia City was coming up shortly. I craned my neck out the window of the stagecoach, as much like a lady as possible. I wanted to see – in advance – as much of this new town I'd soon be a part of as I could before I actually arrived.
As we drove further down the main street, the saloons along the board sidewalks were glittering in the afternoon sun with their gaudy bars and fancy glasses and many colored liquors. Thirsty men were swilling burning poison; organ grinders were grinding their organs; and saloon girls were singing songs of drunken revelry in drunken dens. All seemed to be life, excitement, avarice, lust, devilry, and enterprise. I wondered what I had gotten myself into coming to this pit of iniquity.
I yawned and stretched my arms behind my head. Today had been a long day for me, the 25-year-old sheriff of Virginia City, Nevada. I had no one in my jail at the moment – for that I was grateful. I dragged my fingers through my bronze hair in frustration and thought about the events of the day. It had started off so well.
My beautiful mother, Esme, had prepared a hearty breakfast for our family and we all sat down to enjoy it. The Cullen family included my father, Carlisle, a doctor, and my younger sister, Alice, who was 12 and helping out around the house until the new school teacher came to town and started the school year. We had lived here for the past five years, coming from Arizona for Dad's job. A little over one year ago, I had been appointed as sheriff.
Mom looked the most like me – with long caramel-colored bronze hair she kept in long waves my dad preferred. She normally kept it up in the summer due to the heat. Dad was tall like me, although he had blonde hair. Alice was the shortest in the family with the same hair color as Mom.
Breakfast had gone well until I mentioned I'd seen a house down one of the residential streets that had a "for sale" sign in the yard. I felt being 25 – and the town sheriff – I shouldn't live at home with my parents any longer. I had some money saved up from my salary I could use for a down payment and then pay off the note monthly to the bank with my current salary. Mom immediately left the table in tears. I wanted to comfort her, but Dad told me he would handle it.
After the ruined breakfast, I had gone to the jail to begin my workday and relieve my deputy, Mike Newton. I couldn't do something that made Mom so unhappy. I would apologize to her later.
My small police department was comprised of my deputy, Mike, and one other officer, Tyler Crowley. We took turns working around the clock. With the influx of miners and the proliferation of drinking and gambling establishments in this town, it was necessary to have a legal presence to maintain a sense of order. Most people living here were very peaceable, but there was an occasional rowdy drunk, a street fight, or a drunken brawl at one of the saloons. Additionally, silver and money ran through this town like water and we assured those transactions were kept honest.
Then Irina Gonzales had shown up at the jail to see me. She was a petite Spanish beauty who worked as a pianist with the show which had been playing at the opera house for the past month. Rumor in the city was the show was considering pulling out in another month's time. Irina was relentless in her pursuit of me – she was pressing me for a commitment. I had been so excited about the house purchase; I had told her about it. She thought it meant I was getting closer to committing to her.
It was true – I had taken Irina to a restaurant in town for dinner a couple of times. She had also been to my family's home as a dinner guest a time or two as well. We also had taken some strolls down the very public main street of the city. There was just something in my heart holding me back from making a commitment to her. I liked her well enough – I just didn't know if I loved her enough to marry her.
I took my pocket watch out of the small pocket of my brown vest. It was time to place my white Stetson back on my head and go out to meet the stagecoach from Reno. I had received a telegram earlier there was cash onboard, so I would need to make sure it got to the bank safely. Tyler had taken over my post at the jail for the late afternoon and evening shift. I would complete this task and then make my way home and apologize to my mother.
I could see the stagecoach barreling down the main street, growing ever closer. I glanced at the people milling around. There didn't appear to be any threat, but I was ever-vigilant anyway. I was a good sheriff and determined to make Virginia City as safe as it could be.
The stagecoach ground to a halt in front of the general store, with the horses heaving great breaths. They would be glad to get to the stalls this evening for a rest, hay and water. The trail from Reno wasn't an easy one as it was basically cut out of the side of a mountain for the majority of it and horses were worked to their fullest to make it up the embankment.
The passenger door of the stagecoach opened and a small white gloved hand reached out to steady itself on the now-swinging door. I watched as a female figure in a sapphire blue dress emerged – at once captivated by her beauty – her dark brown hair was swept up under a sensible hat, the full lips seem to suit her pale heart-shaped face, and beautiful dark lashes framed her eyes. Then I noticed with horror that her foot was not going to make contact with the step outside the stagecoach door.
I was over to her in an instant, catching her just before she tumbled to the ground. "Oh!" she cried, looking shyly up at me with expressive chocolate brown eyes, her hands firmly planted on my strong biceps, her mouth shaped in a perfect "o."
My mind was racing. Who was this beautiful woman? Why would she come to Virginia City, of all places? She appeared to have come from some wealth, based on her current attire. Did she know unsavory characters sometimes prowled the streets of this city at night? I hoped she was a church-going woman, as she'd need all the help she could get, supernatural and practical, in this town – being as beautiful as she was. And right then, I knew why I could never commit to Irina – my heart did a strange little flip-flop in my chest. Of course, in that moment, I didn't know if she was promised to anyone, but I was going to make it my business to find out.
"Are you just going to stand there, catching flies with your mouth hanging open, Edward – or are you going to unhand our new schoolmarm?" Eli Cope's voice shook me out of my daydream. I flushed a bit as I did just that – gently unhanded the beautiful lady who was now blushing scarlet on every inch of exposed skin on her face and neck. There was general tittering throughout the gathered small crowd. This beautiful woman was the new school teacher? I was expecting someone much older – maybe a grandmother type – not this girl who barely looked out of school herself. I think I unconsciously let out a sigh of relief – at least she couldn't be promised to anyone. School teachers were to arrive unattached.
"Thank you for your kindness," the new school teacher whispered, barely loud enough for me to hear.
"You're welcome," I replied, just as low so as not to embarrass her any further.
I made sure the money from the stagecoach was on its way to the bank with the bank president along with one of the stagecoach scouts. Eli Cope's voice was directed my way again over the dispersing crowd, "Hey, sheriff, help me with the lady's trunks, would you?" I had no plan to refuse that offer.
I don't know what she had packed in those trunks, but they were heavy. I hoped she had packed some lighter dresses than the one she was currently wearing or she was going to melt in northern Nevada. Eli and I had them installed on his wagon soon enough. Eli settled the school teacher on the driver's seat next to him and I rode on the back of the wagon since I could offer my assistance unloading these trunks. Never mind the fact he had people at the boarding house to do that. I wanted to spend more time in the presence of this beautiful girl who had fell into my life and I had not been properly introduced to yet.
Cope's Boarding House was located one block south off the main street. It was a stately-looking two-story structure painted white with dark green trim. As soon as we pulled up, Rachel Cope was out the front door of the boarding house, with the screen door banging shut behind her.
Rachel Cope was a stout older woman. Her gray hair was pinned up into a bun and she was wearing a faded yellow skirt and a white blouse with small flowers embroidered on the collar. Just because she was an older woman didn't mean she had lost any energy along the way.
Rachel was over to the school teacher's side of the wagon in a moment. It was a good thing I had jumped out the back of the wagon before it stopped rolling to help the new school teacher down. The older woman enveloped the school teacher in a hug into her generous bosom and started talking to her a mile a minute, as she was prone to do, firing rapid questions one after another, "Well, Isabella Swan, as I live and breathe! How was your trip? Did you get enough to eat on the train? Did you meet anyone interesting on your long journey? What do you think of Virginia City so far? Did you meet our sheriff? He's quite a looker. If I wasn't married, I would've scooped him up for myself by now!"
I watched the new teacher's face during this entire exchange which went from a smile of amusement to blushing slightly at the end. With a smile, I took the hat off my head, stuck my hand out in greeting and said, "The name is Edward Cullen, ma'am."
The teacher placed her hand in mine, looked up at me, and replied with a shy smile, "I'm Bella. Bella Swan."
Rachel put her arm around Bella's shoulders then, chattering to her about getting settled along with some ice tea and sweeping her up the wide front porch into the house. Eli and I just grinned at each other about Rachel's over-zealous ways and got to work on Bella's trunks.
Not that I had any say in the matter, but I was glad to see Rachel had given Bella her best room, overlooking some of the nicest scenery in the area with the greatest number of trees. I had no reason to linger in Bella's room after her trunks were safely in her room, but she was still in the kitchen with Rachel and Eli had already made his way back down the stairs. I saw some of Rachel's late-blooming lilacs climbing up the wall outside the open window and cut a bloom off with the pocketknife I had with me. I impulsively took a sheet of writing paper from the stack on the desk, dipped the provided pen in the inkwell, and hastily wrote, "To Bella. Edward Cullen." I then laid both the note and the lilac bloom on her pillow and left the room.
It was time to go home and apologize to Mom.
Author's Note: As always, I like to hear your thoughts. Thanks for taking the time to read. Please review, if you'd like.