My submission for the Fandom4LLS
I just want to say, once again, that I was honored to be asked to do something for the Fandom4LLS. It's always, extremely heart warming to know someone thinks you can contribute to such a cause, and help in just a little way. Both diseases have played a part in my family, so I was more than happy to help in such a little way.
I spent my camping trip with my mama, aunt, niece, and nephew's writing this little gem. I know most of you are probably wondering where my lemony goodness went, but I just wanted to prove to myself for this outlet, that I could do more than just a good lemon. The plot had actually started out going in that direction, BUT my pencil and brain took me in another direction.
Without further ado, I present you with a piece of my actual upbringing, and family history. Most of the story is things that have actually happened in my family tree, just altered to the time period of today.. (: Enjoy!
Written By: StartTheFantasy a.k.a Leslie Justice
Beta work done by: Mezz MerizeMe on FB
Pre-readers: Nervie and Crissy, my RL hussies! The lovelies; Cullen Confection and Heartfelt-Pen and also, the secretly-a-woman-in-a-man's-body, Jeff!
Disclaimer: I do not own anything Twilight related. The woman you're in search of is Stephenie Meyer. The plot and storyline are mine. Some things are plucked from my family line and included in this story in some way or another. My heritage is my everything, as is my family.
Home. The Southern Coalfields of West Virginia.
Our small towns were hidden deep within the beautiful, lush mountains. The town folks that knew each other's every movement, and gossiped about their neighbors every waking moment.
The true, Southern, old-timers; a rarity nowadays. They were the true backbone of this country.
The men folk slaved away everyday of the week, deep below the surface, making sure the fancy people had electricity, produced by coal, to run their expensive dinner table chandeliers.
The women folk raised the babies, tended gardens, canned foods, killed the chickens for a feast of fried chicken, mended clothes that needed fixin', and made sure her husband, who came home late covered in coal and completely exhausted, was well taken care of.
Now days, the rules of the old-timers still apply. A man's job here is never finished. He is out the door and off to work before the chicken's crow.
My 4x4 truck carried me closer to the devil with each mile of dirt and pavement I cross. I said a prayer to the good Lord above that he would see me through the day and bring me safely home to my beautiful wife and children when the whistle blew at quitting time.
Leaving the devil a step behind me, I made my way home, where supper waited on the table, hot and ready for my entrance.
I'm greeted at the door by my excited eight-year old twins, Hannah and Eli. They wrap their skinny arms around both of my legs, enthusiastically tell me about their school day, before proudly standing taller, telling me about all they'd done to help make mama's day easier and better.
I gave them praises and patted them on their bronze-covered heads with a smile. My eyes then traveled to the kitchen doorway, where I knew the most beautiful woman in the entire world would be waiting with her heart-stopping smile. Propped up against the small, wooden frame, her delicate arms folded across her waist, she waits patiently for my coal-covered face to smile her favorite crooked smile and to give her that special wink she loved best. Her tiny frame clothed with that feminine, yellow flowered dress that brought out her chocolate orbs. That minx, she knew exactly what that dress did to me. That silly, pink ruffled apron that I playfully tease her about, adorned her curvy waist.
When I finally stood before her, I smiled again and dropped my head in ritual. She kissed my forehead softly, whispering a soft prayer to the Lord for my safe return, and then shooed me off to get cleaned up for supper. The twins laughed, as they always did, and I made my way to the bathroom to soap myself up good.
Once I was seated at the head of the table, I look around, smiling, thankful to be blessed with another dinner with my family, and another day of life.
As I called the family's attention, the children stared at me with wide-eyes, full of wonder and my lovely wife smiled warmly. I quickly began our dinner prayers, making sure to get to the point, so my wife's efforts to make sure dinner was hot when we ate, didn't go to waste.
"Dear Lord, thank you for the blessings we are about to receive. Thank you for blessing me with the amazing family seated before me tonight, and thank you for bringing me home to them safely. Also Lord, please bless those less fortunate than us tonight, Amen.."
"Amen," echoed off the tiny, mint-green walls of the dining room.
Always a loud and boisterous affair, dinner was one of my favorite times of day. Laughter always filled the tiny space, as the children continued with their earlier discussions of school and chores, with the added tales of playtime.
Eli's adventures of climbing trees and catching toads out by the pond in the backfield.
Hannah's re-telling of forcing Timmy, the seven year old, freckled face neighbor, into one of her princess dresses for a tea party with Pooh Bear and Sunshine, her favorite striped teddy bears handmade by her mama.
After dinner, the twins and I headed out to the garden. The sun was setting in the distance, so I prepared for the nightly watering. Sections of our backfield were covered with rows of potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, onions, corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, squash, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, carrots, and strawberries. Grape vines lined the right side of our property line, while apple and walnut trees lined the left side.
During the mornings, Bella takes care of her pride and joy, the garden. Later in the year, she plants the pumpkins that sweeten our stomachs and teeth with her made-from-scratch desserts.
As I watered the garden, the children raced through the rows in excitement, chasing one another until they had caught the other. Bella watched happily from the back porch swing, after having finished washing the dishes from supper.
Once the crops were tended, the twins and I headed back to the back porch. Upon hitting the bottom steps, the kids turned on their puppy-dog faces and begged their mama for a Mason jar, as it was edging closer to dark, and the lightening bugs were beginning their symphony of lights.
They quietly made their way towards each bug and trapped it in between their dirty hands before they shoved it inside the jar and ran for the next.
When darkness began to engulf us, Bella stepped inside to grab a quilt that she had handmade for nights just like tonight. It was a soft blue fabric, stitched to perfection along the outer edges, embroidered with a white moon and dozens of tiny stars.
She quietly eased her way back out the door, taking me by the hand, and leading me off the porch to the grass.
Unfolding the blanket and spreading it out across the green grass, I took my shoes off and joined her in the middle. She curled her tiny frame around my body as we lay back and watch the heavens come alive. Hundreds of twinkling stars lit up the darkness, coupled alongside the moon.
Before long, Hannah and Eli were wrapped around our sides as their mama and I pointed out the constellations for them.
We lay beneath the open sky as a solid family unit, each of our hearts filled with a magnitude of love for one another.
The world around us grew quiet; Bella's humming gently easing our children into soft snores, reminding us where we lay. Bella and I gently picked our bodies off the earth's floor and cradle the twins in our arms. They stirred, but just as quickly settle against our shoulders and drifted once again, into a deep slumber.
We deposited the twins softly into their beds for the night, tucking the covers around their tiny frames. Eli's wooden train lay just in reach of his tiny hands, as they liked to search for their nightly possession. Hannah's porcelain doll, Mary, was nestled against her cheek, as we headed for the door.
Turning around before leaving the room, we watched our children sleep comfortably in their beds, small sighs and peaceful faces, as their childlike minds dreamt of what kids dreamed. Bella nestled into my side, and rested her head against my chest before flipping off the lights and pulling me out of the room. I cracked the door as I went so a little light fills their room.
Standing there in the hallway, in front of our children's room, we embraced one another tightly. Silent whispers and gentle touches confirmed our growing love for the other once again.
We settled into our nightly spots for the evening; myself in the recliner, studying the good book, and Bella settled behind her sewing table with the sewing machine going at full speed. She was working on our neighbor, Betty Sue's baby quilt for the tiny bean of joy growing in her stomach.
Sunday morning found us seated in the third row pew of the little Baptist church down the holler.
The collection plate was being passed around to each row, as old preacher Tom asked for the Sunday morning offering. Once the collection was finished, the children were escorted to their Sunday school classrooms for lessons about the Lord, while the grown-ups learned from the preacher.
The morning started off with lessons on repentance and finished out with respecting our neighbors.
Amazing Grace echoed off the walls of our tiny church, as the choir sang off tune.
The women folk excused themselves to the kitchen, while us men folk set up the outside lawn with chairs and tables.
Before long, we were all seated and gathered around, listening to preacher Tom give blessing over our potluck lunch. The ladies traded recipes once he was finished, followed by canning and sewing tips. The children laughed and giggled, as making silly faces with their food, before running off to play chase. The men folk talked of the rumored lay-offs that were supposedly coming at the mines.
The following fall, little Edward Jr. joined us during the early hours of the morning. His shrill cries filled the room, tiny feet and hands searching wildly for his mother's womb, which had housed his tiny form for nine months.
Bella was laid back in the bed, panting to catch her breath after his birth. Sweat dripped from her forehead, as I ran the ice cube along her brow.
"You did it beautiful," I whispered against the shell of her ear, kissing down along her temple.
The nursed returned with little Jr. once they had gotten him cleaned up and his score taken care of. She gently placed him in his mama's arms and left the room just as quietly.
I watched my wife as the tears ran down her cheeks. She looked just as lovely as she did way back when she was missing her two front teeth, wearing her pigtails high above her head, with some ratty bibbed-overalls and bare feet, running through old man Dan's apple tree field.
She had been eight at the time, while I was ten. That had been the exact day that I had forgotten all about frogs, footballs, baseball, and all other things little boys dream about. In turn, I began to dream about stubborn brunettes that hung upside down in trees.
When I had asked her name, she busted me in the chest with a red apple, saying her name was Isabella Swan, in a sassy tone, but that everyone called her Bella instead. She proceeded to tell me we were in fact getting married.
Ten years later, I took her straight back to that very tree and told her we were getting married. She pelted me in the chest once again with an apple and told me she didn't have to do anything she didn't want to. Bella laughed at the face I had made, and told me it was a good thing she wanted the exact same thing.
A month later, we stood beneath the old apple tree and pledged to love one another in sickness and health, as old preacher Tom pronounced us husband and wife.
The twins followed nine months later and we had felt our family was complete, but now, seeing her daintily arms wrapped around our little son, now, our family was complete.
Our families soon descended upon our bubble of joy, 'oohin' and 'awin' at our seven pound son. He was passed around the room to each grandparent, as they sang praises of the miniature replica of his mother.
Nine year olds, Hannah and Eli wormed their small bodies up next to their mama's and drifted off to sleep along side of her.
This was my life and these were my people.
Three years later, chief electrician, Charlie Swan, was taken from the very land the Lord gave us to work, and was buried out in the backfield near the pond, by the old oak tree.
Charlie never got to enjoy his retired life, instead his very soul was owned by the coal industry. They sucked every ounce of life from his tired fingers and hands, before he lay in a pile of coal beneath the surface, clutching his chest.
At sixty, Charlie Swan still believed in a good day's work, one where he laid his life on the line to better his family's life.
Though it may not have been a happy time, it was a time that showed the strength of my family.
The white lace, that was tucked safely away, beneath the folded, handmade quilts in Hannah's hope chest, had been removed, pressed, and cleaned.
The lace hung delicately across Hannah's collarbone and draped off her shoulders. She was a vision, just as her mother was in that very dress years ago.
Tears streamed down both of our cheeks, as I vowed not to let her fall on her face on her way down the aisle to the now tall, freckled face Timmy.
Her mama sat in the front row pew, smiling softly, tears trailing down her rosy cheeks. Little Jr. held her fragile hand tightly in his, watching as his sister slowly made her way to the front of the church.
As I placed her hand in his, I made Timmy promise to take care of her and love her for the rest of his days, once again.
Eli stood as Timmy's best man, having always been thick as thieves growing up. The two had always been close, a brotherly bond of sorts, but nothing could surpass the relationship that Timmy and Hannah had had growing up. From an early age, anyone with eyes could see how much he loved her and she him. It only grew stronger with age.
Bella and I watched on, as our daughter pledged her undying love to Timmy, as he returned his. Tears continued to fall from our eyes, as we squeezed tightly to one another's hands. Even though there were tears involved, our smiles would have lit up the entire planet for years.
Timmy's parents had refused to sit on the other side of the church from the very beginning of the planning stages. We had always been a close knit bunch way back when Emmett and Rosalie had moved in next door to us, followed by the births of our children, so early on.
Rosalie clung to Bella's other hand as she sat opposite of me. Beside her sat Emmett, his arm dutifully wrapped around her tall frame. Behind the four of us sat the Whitlock's, Alice having been all the children's school teacher at one point in time. She loved all her students, but it seemed our tiny families had meant the most to her. Throughout the years, as the children all grew, she was known for her presence, along with her husband Jasper, to spend numerous hours at our house sipping tea on the back porch with the women folk.
Alice and Jasper had been trying for years to have a child of their own, but the doctors always insisted that she was unable to have them. They mourned for years, but continued to try, have faith, and pray.
Sitting behind us, Alice had both of her hands wrapped around Bella and Rosalie's shoulders, squeezing every few minutes, reminding them that she was there. Her belly round with twin boys, just another miracle from God. One learns quickly that you must rely on God daily, he will never steer you wrong. Sometimes tragic things happen in life, things that may waiver you from his guidance, but there is always a reason why such a thing happened to begin with, and his abundant love for you never falters.
Being here today, we stand as neighbors and friends that have just witnessed our children and youth of our tiny community come together in front of us and God with their unwavering love for the other. They kiss and pull back with tear streaked faces and blinding smiles.
After the ceremony and reception, we saw the two off by throwing rice, as they ran towards the awaiting vehicle. Timmy helped Hannah into the passengers side, and quickly hurried towards the driver's side, waving excitedly at the crowd. I sighed, knowing my princess was now her own woman, with a wonderful future ahead of her. She would continue on the traditions she had been brought up with, passing them along to my future grandchildren. It saddened me to an extent, but relieved me more, that she would be well taken care of and loved for the rest of her life.
Fifty years might seem like forever to some people, but to me, it seemed as if I had just blinked.
Our family and friends had gathered around in our yard, here to celebrate with us, the fifty years of wedded bliss that my wife and I have enjoyed in this lifetime. Of course, we weren't the same young folks that we use to be, which is why the bi-focal glasses were perched upon my nose. I walked around the yard with my cane to help me around, smiling, and politely greeting those who were mingling about.
Once everyone was properly greeted, I found my place next to my beautiful Bella on the front porch, where she sat in her favorite rocking chair with an afghan thrown over her legs. The chills set in quickly these days, in our old age.
Over the years we had aged - body, mind, and soul. There had been hurdles thrown at us when least expected, but we always found the strength to pull through and carry on without our faith in God ever wavering.
I looked to my wife; who was mostly just smiling to herself, lost somewhere in her own mind. She didn't remember who most people were these days, not even me, but I knew she loved me just as much as I loved her. We had promised ourselves to love one another in sickness and in health; I had never broken a promise in all my life, and wasn't about to start now.
I was thankful that she was lost in her mind to be honest, that way she never had to see my suffering. She had spent all her life taking care of others before herself, so it was nice to be able to take care of her for a change.
I have been a sufferer of black lung for the past few years, or should I say my whole adult life. You may not die within the mines tunnels, down next to the devil, but the mines always killed everyone who dared enter in some way or another. I was lucky to have all those years with my family, glad the devil didn't get me down below. I hated to see my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren have to watch us fade away from them though.
With their faith in God, their upbringing, courage, and strength, it allowed them to know within their hearts, that we would all be in a better place after our passing.
Hannah, Eli, and Jr. spent most of their time sitting with the two of us, making sure to tell us just how much they loved and adored us. The grandchildren all sat around in front of us on the floor with their little ones, telling stories of their childhoods. The great grandchildren sat in rapt attention, smiling brightly, as past stories were relayed to them.
Our guests laughed, ate, socialized, and eventually padded their way up the front steps, embracing each of my family members in tender hugs. They would squat before me, thanking me with gratitude for my presence, humbleness, kindness, friendship, and most importantly for the love I held for all.
Next, they would bend before Bella and wrap her in a gentle hug that always swallowed her fragile body. They would whisper soft words into her ear, hoping maybe something would trigger just one last moment of clarity. It never came.
I should have been giving my beautiful wife gold for our fifty years together. I would watch as her eyes would shine bright with love, before misting over and the tears would fall down her cheeks freely. But this wasn't to be the case. It saddened me a little, just wanting one last time to see those eyes alit with such emotions, but having her close to my side made up for that fact.
It wasn't that I couldn't afford to buy Bella the finest of gold's, it was just the fact that she couldn't comprehend the gift any longer; she always hated gifts any ways.
So instead, I bought each of our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren a gold chain necklace with our family crest etched into a golden pendant. I still sat beside Bella and called each one forward by their name.
Each one cried as I fastened the necklace around their necks. I made sure to kiss each one on the head, as I finished with the clasp.
I knew this moment was special for all involved. They each had a sparkle in their eyes, as I repeated the words that my father once said to me all those years ago.
"You are the glue that holds a part of this family together."
This was a time when all those surrounding me needed for remembrance of what they were all about, where they had come from, and the love that Bella and I had for them throughout this lifetime.
This was a time for each of them to learn our traditions, to embrace our heritage, and wrap themselves in all the love offered by each their own.
A moment of validation for the younger generations, for this was who they would become and this was a moment when they realized exactly what family was and is about.
All in all, the strength that this one family had gained over the years was beyond amazing. It left me feeling hope, that after our passing, this family would survive the blow.
With each step, the crunch of the freshly fallen snow sounded below my feet. My destination was in sight, coming closer the further I walked. I stopped and faced the reason I was here.
My eyelashes had long frozen before I found myself in this position. Even the harsh cold weather could not stop the tears that continued to flow freely down my wind-chaffed cheeks.
I quickly turned, wanting - no needing - to get through this visit before the weather got worse. I hurriedly dusted the mounting snow from the marble bench, and spread the old homemade quilt across it, blocking the wetness.
I settled in my seat, pulling the weary looking journal out, and opening to one of my favorite entries. My great, great grandfather's elegant words told the story of a young girl, beautiful in her own right, who was stubborn. How the young girl had pelted him with an apple, and caused his heart to realize what love really was.
Twice a month found my body perched on the slab of marble at my favorite spot, always enjoying the same tales over and over again.
The words were written for only a few to cherish, but they meant more to me than anything in this world. I had always had a fondness for history, but mostly the history of our heritage here in West Virginia.
As I continued to sit here and read, the wind whipped furiously and my chestnut hair blew in the wind. I knew my purpose for being here, still, so I guess I should do what I had come to do, before I came down with the flu, or even worse; pneumonia.
I stepped up from the marble bench, dragging my blanket along with me. I laid it gently amongst the snow-covered ground and bent to my knees in front of the beautiful marble, double-headed tombstones.
"Hello Grandmother, grandfather." I sighed, touching the top of the stone gently. I may have never met them in real life, but I knew them through my great, great grandfathers word's.
Often I came here to talk about my life with the two people who perhaps me knew me best, even if they were dead.
"I won't be here long, mind you, but I thought it was only fitting that I come today to talk with you both." These two individuals, whom created our family, raised those before me with undying love, gentle hands, wisdom, and loving hearts had to know just how thankful their family was today, still.
"I received the letter today, the deal I spoke of in the past. I wish you were both here, so that you could see the words. Perhaps for me to hear you say how proud you are of me. I can only hope I did you both justice." I swatted the tears from my cheeks, feeling as they stung my red wintered cheeks.
"Of course you're not here, but I could wish just once, right? It doesn't matter anyway, because I know you're both standing proud in the clouds, watching this dream come true. A small town girl from the hills of West Virginia making it big, who would have ever imagined." I laughed at myself, as I heard a faint giggle from behind me.
That was the only sign I needed to know they were both behind me at this point, Edward standing tall, with an arm wrapped around Bella, as she tucked her face into his chest.
I may not have known them in real life, but the love I had spent years reading about was radiant, and it leapt from the pages of Edward's journal.
Their ending was a tragedy, but all great things must come to an end.
Bella suffered through years lost in her own mind as Edward stood by her through it all, even in his long-suffering of black lung. He fought it, refusing to let his body defeat him, promising to all those around him that he wouldn't part from his beautiful Bella.
In the end, he kept his promise, just as he swore he would. Not once had he broken a promise in his life, and he made them all believe in the power of themselves.
The day of Bella's death, she woke to a new day, a day where she could remember everything. The twinkle in her eyes was ever present, and although Edward knew what was going to happen, he embraced the day with all that he had. Old and fragile would not keep them down, for they spent the entire day and night wrapped in one another's love, there on the back porch of their little white house, nestled up in the old double swing in the corner.
Their children learned of their mother's ability to know who they were once more, and rushed to both their parents side. The evening was spent catching up for Bella, for she had lost too many years.
The end came for Bella at half past eleven that night, with Edward wrapped tightly around her. He had felt the exact moment that she had passed on, and whispered his promise of following her quickly. Another promise Edward would keep, as his body succumbed to the darkness early on the next morning, as the sun began to rise.
All the neighbors and neighboring towns talked of how tragic these events must have been on our family, and still do to this day, actually. But our family looked at it as the most romantic thing ever; soul mates, refusing to be alone in this world without the other.
It had taken me years to find the strength and courage to write. My love of family history and writing had led me to the decision to work on writing Edward and Bella's story. Once I had finished and was completely satisfied with what I had written, I had sent the manuscript off to several publishers.
During my research and writing periods, I would always come to share my thoughts and dreams with the two of them; me seated on the old marble bench, just a few feet away. It was in moments that I was here, that I would hear a faint giggle when I would say something silly, and whispered good byes as I left. Perhaps it was really the wind, but I didn't believe that at all. As long as I knew what I had heard, that was the only thing that was important.
Now, thinking to the future, imagine my surprise when I was contacted first thing this morning about my book being published. I had an editor call to introduce himself, and then the big wigs were put on the phone, inviting me to New York, on them of course, to sign the deal.
I agreed, wholeheartedly, with promises of leaving on the next flight out, but first I knew I had to tell my exciting news to Edward and Bella, the two whose romance had made this happen.
That's what had me standing here, pouring out all the words of thanks. All the gratitude I felt for them, and most of all, the love.
As I said my goodbyes, I bent and kissed the headstone. Turning away, instead of faint giggles or goodbyes, I heard:
"Always keep your promises."
I stilled. Those were the last four words in my book.
They had known. They were here.
I smiled and continued on just like always.