1900, by Camilla10
Age of Edward Contest 2012
Type of Edward: Anarchward
A/N. The characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. The plot is mine.
My deepest thanks go to my pre readers Raum and Meilleur Café-Serendipitous, to my husband for the historical tutoring and to Stefanie the HobbitIvy for the editing.
Most of the story is written in the past tense, the epilogue is in the present tense, however. I hope it makes sense to you as it makes sense to me.
An isolated shack on the Hudson Palisades - April 2nd,1899
The girl was writhing in pain, the unrelenting fire consuming her, eating her from inside.
"Nonono, make it stop, make it stop… Papa, Papa, where are you? What's happening, what's happening, help me, help me, help me…"
Her words became slurred, dissolved into cries, and her flushed face was awash in tears.
Beside her, the vampire who had caused this pain watched her; impotent, anguished, wondering what he could do to ease her suffering, but knowing that nothing would work until the change was complete. He had seen this done many times in Italy, but it was the first time he had done it himself, and now self-doubt and shame consumed him.
Why had he felt compelled to do it? The sweet taste of her blood had almost overpowered him, but somehow he had been able to stop and seal the wound with his venom inside. He knew the girl, to be sure. As a physician he had taken care of her after a minor accident – a wrist that had seemed broken but was only sprained - and had liked her, appreciating that she was brave and that her main concern had been to spare her worried father's feelings.
Patients often died, however, and he was saddened, but took it in his stride. When he had heard the gunshots during his pre-shift walk and ran to the place where the sound was coming from, he had recognized them immediately. She was bleeding and unconscious, while her father was fading fast but still alert. Then the man had asked, or rather, commanded, to leave him be since he knew he was dying, but to do something for his daughter.
"Save her, doctor, save her in any way you can." The dying man obviously could not know his nature, and yet that cry from a father's heart had pierced his unbeating one. After a hurried preliminary examination, he had soon realized that there was not any way he could save the girl. His expert senses had told him that no medical help would work, for both of them. So, not wholly aware of what he was doing, he had taken up the daughter's limp body and had ran as far as he could, at vampire speed when he was sure he wouldn't be seen, until he reached the dilapidated shack up on the Palisades. He had discovered it while huntingnear one of the abandoned quarries, and it seemed the right place to do what he had recklessly decided to do, with that decision effectively puttingan end to his present hospital employment.
And now he had to invent his life again, taking care of a newborn vampire, trying to steer her in the right direction.
If he was successful, what would she be for him? A friend, a… mate? No, he didn't think so, because he was sure he would have known that immediately, in such a case. A little sister or a daughter, maybe.
"But I wouldn't be alone anymore," he told himself, acknowledging the deep, selfish reason that had moved him.
After a period of relative silence, where she had just whimpered, the girl abruptly cried out a name. It was a man's name, an Italian name.
Part I - Italy
Milan, July 30th, 1900. 5 am
"Edoardo, Edoardo!" A voice penetrated my slumber. Somebody was knocking on the glass pane. Groaning, I reached the window of my ground floor room. There was Mario outside.
"What the hell, what do you want?" I asked, not pleased at all, "do you know what time is it?"
"Shhh, don't yell," he hissed. "I come from the newspaper. They have printed an early edition. The King… the King has been murdered… shot. In Monza, yesterday evening."
"The bastard had it coming to him," I said, immediately regretting my words. Indeed, despite the massacres Umberto had ordered, despite the hungry people gunned by his High Commissioner Bava Beccaris only two years previous, this was the reason I had stopped frequenting the anarchist circles. I could not condone murders, they were wrong politically, let alone ethically.
"Shhh," Mario cautioned me again, "you're in danger. The killer has been apprehended... Edoardo, it was Gaetano Bresci who did it. And now they are rounding up his relatives and friends…"
Shit… Gaetano. Was I one of his friends? We surely had been friends once - despite our difference in age - when I had frequented the anarchist community in Paterson. He had taken an interest in me, a rich boy looking for justice, and had been my mentor for a while.
But then I had left the States and returned to Italy with my father. In the last three years I had been busy with university – a somewhat older student - and I had severed every tie with my past. Politically I was now much nearer to Filippo Turati and the socialists. However, when Gaetano had come back to Italy only a few months ago, he had looked for me in Milan. And I had helped him to find lodging in Via San Pietro all'Orto, dammit. The landlady knew me… Shit indeed. I had to disappear, and fast.
Milan, July 30th, 1900. 5:45 am
I left the guesthouse silently, carrying just a small travel bag and all my money. Everybody was still sleeping, fortunately. I had arranged my room in such a way that it would not be evident that I had left for good. Hopefully the police would wait for my return. It was a miracle that I still had all the cash with me. Saturday, I had completed the sale of my father's house and farmland North East from the center of Milan, an area that was destined to be built, as the city was growing fast. Today I had been planning to deposit the balance as soon as my bank opened. Now, of course, I couldn't be seen near it, but because yesterday it was Sunday and the bank was closed, luckily I was not destitute.
Now, where should I go? Unfinished plans twirled in my head. In any case, I should not be loitering on the streets, particularly near my guesthouse. I was walking at a brisk pace, trying to get far from the neighborhood, when a bell chime attracted my attention. A small church had just opened for first Mass. A perfect place to be, unnoticed, until I could decide what to do. I went inside, scoffing at the irony of it. Sanctuary, indeed, for the unbeliever.
I tried to plan ahead, while sitting in the church's darkest corner - but kneeling when appropriate so as not to stand out. The Latin words the priest was murmuring turned to a drone in my mind while I thought. I should try to go abroad. Unfortunately, I had no passport, no visa, nothing.
From Mario I couldn't expect any help. We were just comrades, not close friends, and he had gone out of his way just to alert me. Plus, all people known for their radical beliefs would be under observation, who knew for how long. I reviewed the people I knew at the Regio Istituto Tecnico Superiore, the university where I was following a course on Industrial Economy. Even there I had no close friends, unfortunately. For many reasons, not the least of which was that I was older than many classmates… and then the need to care for my father had sucked up all my free time.
Suddenly I saw a possible, if not perfect, solution: Corrado Sergi. Maybe I could propose something to him, so attractive that he could not refuse and would not even betray me.
Milan, July 30th, 1900, 11 am
I could only hope that nobody at the station was looking for me yet. I found that a train to Genoa was about to depart,so I got my ticket and boarded. When we left the station, I could finally relax and try to think. By some stroke of luck I was alone in my compartment.
Had I been too hasty? Maybe it all would come to nothing, I would only be interrogated and then released. It would not be the first time I was questioned by the authorities about Gaetano. It had happened already in Paterson, only it had not been the police, it had been a Pinkerton agent. The Agency was used by industrialists to get information about anarchists and labor organizers and defend their interest; violently sometimes. I was young and of a good family, and the agent thought he could intimidate me. I played stupid and did not tell him anything about what little I knew of Gatano's political activities. The matter had ended there.
However, this time they would be investigating the murder of a king, and probably trying to demonstrate the existence of a conspiracy. No, I could not afford to be taken. People could disappear in a prison, it had happened before. Before my father's death, I was just waiting to take my degree and leave again, but now my inheritance had freed me, or so I thought. In the past months I was already thinking of going back to the US and the hell with university.
It had been more than one year now that I had no news from Bella, but I was sure she had not forgotten me… as I had not forgotten her... No letters were coming in answer to mine now, and yet my mail had not been returned. Leah, her friend whom we used as a mailbox, should have told me if my letters weren't welcome anymore… I could not fathom what had happened. Had her father discovered our secret correspondence and found a way to intercept my messages and hers? A cop was probably powerful enough to arrange this. He hated me, as he hated all radicals and he had tried his utmost to prevent our meetings. What a bigot he was… Watchdog for the powerful, and yet he loved his daughter. But Bella loved me enough to disobey him… and she had found a way to say goodbye. The bittersweet memory of our last meeting, her reckless, wonderful abandon … how could I forget?
On the Train Milan-Genoa, July 30th ,Time unspecified
I awoke with a jolt. It was night. Oh come on, it wasn't possible. We were under a tunnel, I realized. Yes, the Giovi Tunnel. The train was going very slowly, and I was still alone in my compartment. I had a moment of panic, because what if somebody had robbed me? But no, I had everything: what was left of my money, a passport in the name of Corrado Sergi, a visa for the United States, and the ticket that would allow me to embark on the Regina Margherita. A widowed Queen mother, as of yesterday. It was said that in the future this kind of documents would carry photos, but for the moment it was not the case, so I could well pass for him and none the wiser.
Corrado was failing at the University,and his uncle had offered him a job in America if he would come. He had accepted gratefully and, as we knew each other and he did not know a word of English, I had spent some time giving him lessons. He was a nice guy, if not studious. Only, he had used all his mother's savings for the ticket – he wouldn't go Third Class - so he would arrive penniless.
So I went to look for him. Since his family knew me, I could not go to his house and I had to wait nervously for him until he finally appeared. Walking in the park with him I advanced my proposal, namely that he sold me, for a generous amount of money, his documents and his ticket. To his family he would tell some creative story that justified the delay of his trip. Then, but only after the date the ship arrived in New York, he would go to the Questura to denounce the loss of his passport and visa and apply for new ones, there and to the American Consulate. Once he had his papers again, he would seek passage on the transatlantic of a different shipping company. And he would land in New York with money in his pockets.
Genoa – Central Post Office. August 2nd, 1900. Mid morning
It was almost time to board the ship. I had already my boarding pass and had left my luggage with the cabin crew. Everything had gone smoothly, my documents had not been questioned at all. But I had to go out again, I had to send the telegram, giving my fake name and Italian address as the sender. Carefully worded and just signed E. and addressed to Leah in Paterson, it was destined to Bella, who had moved to Newark with her father a short time before our communications stopped. Maybe Charlie Swann would not be able to control telegrams, even if he controlled the mail, and Leah would find a way to let her know that I was coming. I had to hope that all was well with my love, that she was still waiting for me like I was waiting for her. I had not even glanced to another girl in the two years we had been apart. I forbade myself to despair while I retraced my steps to the ship.
Part 2 - Navigation
On the route Genoa-New York - August 8th 1900. Nighttime
Darkness, the horrible stink of mildew and my own excrement… I was buried alive, buried in a cell under water, I was suffocating… I couldn't even scream…
I jolted awake. I was not under water, but on the water, safely bedded in my second-class cabin on the Regina Margherita steamer. It was difficult to get rid of my nightmare, though. In it I had been Giovanni Passannante, the anarchist who had also tried to kill King Umberto I twenty-two years before Bresci. He had gone at it with a penknife, and produced only a small graze.
As he could not be condemned to death, he was imprisoned for life on Elba island. His cell was below the sea level, the ceiling much lower than a man's height, with no latrine and no light. A heavy metal chain impeded his movements. After a few years of this regime, he had gone completely insane and had been eventually transferred in a mental institution where he still lived, reduced to a vegetable.
If this had been the fate of a man who had inflicted just a tiny wound to the sovereign, what would they do to the man who had actually killed him? And to people accused, falsely or not, to have been his accomplices? No, my flight was more than justified, I thought.
Since there was no way I could fall asleep again, I decided to get out on the bridges and have a smoke. In fact, I only allowed myself to go outside when it was dark, and the other passengers were at meals or in the salon. With the luck I had, there could be some other person going to the States who knew me. I had looked at the second-class passengers' list - that was allowed - and I didn't recognize any names. The third-class passengers were totally segregated, even if on this ship their travelling conditions were much better than the usual, but… better safe than sorry.
So I spent much of daytime in my cabin, with short trips to the ship library, and very happy about its existence, as I had not brought any book with me when I embarked. Apart from sending the telegram, I had had just the time to buy a suit and some other necessities, because to start such a long journey with practically no luggage would have looked suspicious. Upon getting on board I had explained to the cabin assistant that I was always terribly seasick, therefore I would not be going to the dining room. Then I had tipped him heavily in order to have very simple meals taken to my cabin, asking only for tea and dry biscuits, pasta, rice, cheese and bread, plus some lemons to smell against the nausea. In this way I hoped to ensure that I would not be noticed by other passengers.
All in all, the Regina Margherita was a modern and fast ship, completely electrified, the second class cabins were well furnished and comfortable and even the immigrant populated third-class was not the crowded hell hole of other ships. Corrado had chosen very well for himself.
On the route Genoa-New York - August 8th 1900. Sometime later
With my red cigarette tip as the only light, I felt the darkness press on my eyes. I was very much alone, without even my own name to claim. In the States I would have to choose a new one – not very difficult, a much easier thing to do than in Italy. Edoardo or, perhaps, Edward Masi would resurface only if and when I could be sure that I was not wanted for a crime I had nothing to do with. But, in any case, I had no living relatives, no friends and no comrades. Did I still have Bella? In the last desperate days we spent together, I had tried to explain to her the reasons for my political commitment and withdrawal.
"Yes, Bella, Antonio Meucci or, to be exact, Alexander Graham Bell, is the reason I became an anarchist, and Henry Clay Frick is the reason I don't think I am anymore, despite what your father thinks…"
Bella had just told me that Charlie Swan had learned that we were seeing each other - always in public and with complete propriety to be sure, apart from too few stolen kisses - and had me investigated. When he discovered that, despite being the son of the respected manager of a locomotive company, I was frequenting the Italian anarchist community, he had gone ballistic. He had forbidden her to see me anymore. She was supposed to tell me just that, as she had obtained permission for one last meeting; instead she said that we had to be super cautious from now on and my heart soared. Before this catastrophe I had been ready to seek her father and ask his permission to court Bella officially.
We had never discussed my political beliefs in depth, because at that time I was unclear in my own mind about them, but she had the right to know what was reducing us to clandestine meetings.
"It might surprise you, but it was Meucci, not Bell, who really invented the telephone," I explained. "He was a friend of my family. It happened that, despite the financial help my father and other friends gave to him, he was never able to give his invention a foolproof patenting. He also made the mistake of approaching an affiliate of Western Union, in order to test his designs on their lines. After two years, all Meucci had to show for this effort were delays, excuses and the eventual disappearance of his materials. Rumors said that Bell had gotten them under the table. Meucci was left without the necessary funds to renew even his weak caveat. When Alexander Graham Bell finally filed his patent in 1876, Meucci's patent caveat had expired, making his battle for recognition even more difficult.
When it came to a lawsuit, it was also said that the judge of the case was a shareholder in Bell's company and in fact he delayed the outcome year after year until Meucci's death in 1889. He was a ruined and broken man, by then.
"It is a sad story, but how has it affected you?" asked Bella, confused.
"No, personally it didn't. But it showed me how things really go, in this country, and elsewhere too. Everything is on sale, big fishes eat small fishes, workers and poor people have no rights, and powerful industrialists and bankers can manipulate the law as they wish. I was in my early teens at the time, but I followed the case through my father's rants, and I saw the true face of capitalism."
I went on explaining how I had hoped that there was a way to fight against the blatant injustices I had now started to see everywhere. For a while I had thought that the Anarchist movement had the answers I was seeking. There were, among the anarchists, silk weavers and apprentices much younger than me, a pampered student, and I was ashamed. Then I met dedicated people whom I admired, read books and publications that were full of meaning and hope, went to meetings and offered my humble services when needed, particularly my knowledge of English, that most of the Italian workers' community lacked. Hell, bad English had been a problem also for Meucci during the lawsuit.
"But now you don't believe that anymore?" Bella prodded me gently.
"It was a meeting I attended about Aleksandr Berkman, a comrade who tried to assassinate the Chairman of Carnegie Steelworks, Henry Frick. He is still in prison for it.
"Anyway," I continued, "Frick had used Pinkerton guards to break the Union picket lines during a strike. There was a battle that lasted for hours and nine Union men died. You see, Berkman believed the assassination would arouse the masses and make them unite and revolt against the capitalist system.
"But Frick was saved from his would be murderer by his own workers. It was so clear to me that political murder will not work, ever, even if it were morally acceptable. It has not worked in Europe, it will not work here. People are simply appalled by it. Public opinion from all classes is opposed to the act and pities the victim. But the majority of my comrades here in Paterson still consider it a viable political option, at least in theory. That discussion opened my eyes and I distanced myself from them."
On the route Genoa- New York, August 19th. Evening
Piano music was floating toward me from the open second-class salon's door. I liked it and as a child I had even taken lessons. Apparently, I was good. But then my old teacher retired and, after my mother's death, father had not bothered to find another for me. Then politics had taken up all the free time I had from school.
When I saw Bella for the first time I was thinking just of that. The severed connection with my comrades had been painful and my life felt empty and useless. I knew I had already lost too much time and I needed to resume my studies. I was not interested in following in my father footsteps, though: I wanted to study economics. Yes, a know thine enemy of a sort, because, even if I could not call myself an anarchist anymore, I still thought that the capitalist system was flawed and, to do something about it someday, I needed to understand better how the market and the economy worked. The redemption of the working classes would not come through murderous short cuts. It had to be built brick after brick, with organization and political ability…
My bruised spirit needed some gratification, however, so I was also wondering if I could resume playing the piano, take some lessons, maybe. It was too late to think it could become anything more than a hobby, but still it could be a consolation…
I was taking a solitary stroll on the trail that allowed a majestic view of the Passaic River's Great Falls when I noticed two girls walking ahead. One was tall and athletic, while the other was petite, slender and wasp-waisted, a nice sight from behind. The day was clear and windy: when a strong gust swept the path, her simple straw hat was blown from her head. As she tried to catch it, the book she was carrying tumbled from her grasp. I moved quickly to retrieve it and looked her full in the face, noticing red flashes in her chestnut hair where the sunlight hit them.
She was very, very pretty and she was looking at me with the same intensity as I was looking at her. After a short exchange of courtesies, however, I could do nothing but let her continue walking with her friend. I did not even know her name, but there was something I had learned. Her book had a lending library tag, and that library became my new abode in the coming days until, finally, she came in to change her book.
Seeing each other again was all that we needed: she was drawn to me as I was drawn to her. We exchanged names, we went on a stroll. I asked If I could see her again the following afternoon… proper introductions and family consent be damned.
The rest was history. We saw each other regularly for longer and longer walks, and, when the weather turned foul, I found a small tearoom that seemed created for us, far from the places we normally frequented. In a short while I had declared my love and I was overjoyed to learn that it was reciprocated. We started speaking of our future. Bella had finished high school and was studying to become an elementary school teacher and I still had college in front of me, but my mother had left me some money - not much, but maybe enough for a very modest life together while we completed our studies. I had nothing against Bella working, if she wanted to. This at least I retained from my political experience: women were equal to men. I didn't think my father would oppose my wish to marry, on the contrary he would probably see it as proof that I was settling down.
Then Charlie Swan's wrath descended on us. We were able to meet in secret with the help of Bella's friend, Leah. She went to visit her in the afternoons when she could… and left from a back door, as she was afraid some of her father 's mates could have been asked to keep an eye on her. Then she came to my own house. In the backyard there was a tool shed, a place where my father had liked to tinker and test some little "inventions" of his… nothing on the scale of Meucci's, but a pleasant pastime. Now, however, the demands of his job were heavy and the shed was abandoned. Spotlessly clean, it had running water and even an old sofa for his impromptu naps. A wood stove provided warmth and small alcohol burner allowed us to make some tea. As the shed had a separate entrance on a back alley, it was perfect for our secret meetings. We went on seeing each other, albeit less frequently, and planning our future – we knew that now we had to wait until Bella became of age, and were prepared to do it – till the day my father announced that he and I were going back to Italy.
On the route Genoa- New York, August 26th. Dawn
Another almost sleepless night. Pacing the bridge and remembering… remembering, till I was shivering with desire and longing. The afternoon we had to say goodbye I was pacing too, before Bella arrived…
Had I not been so wrapped up in myself, I could have realized before that my father wanted out. The locomotive company he was working for was not doing well. There were rumors of an acquisition and, if that happened, he could be laid off. Better to leave early, on his conditions. Plus, he had become less and less enthusiastic about America. He had no sentimental or familial ties with the country and what had happened to Antonio Meucci had destroyed his illusions and disgusted him so much that he longed for home. He had enough to retire and become a gentleman farmer on his parents' land near Milan.
"It is just as good that you didn't enroll in any college, Edoardo. So you can start directly in Italy and know your country, at last. You were only a few months old when we left."
How should I have answered him?
"No, papà, I can't leave because there is a girl here I want to marry…" I was not of age yet, albeit not for much longer, but Bella was younger. No way we could marry, with Charlie Swan dead set against me. Run away? Yes, with a cop's daughter. We would be found.
I told Bella that I would try to convince my father to let me stay and go to a college in America – but I did not dare to tell him the true reason and I was destined to fail, obviously. He had been worried by the friends I had in town and, while relieved that I seemed to have stopped seeing them, he felt he could not leave a young man not yet 21 alone on the other side of the Ocean.
One day the tickets for our passages were purchased, and there was no more time.
When she arrived that last afternoon, at first we just held each other and cried. Bella promised that she would wait for me for as long as it took. I promised that I would study seriously and work on my father. I would make him understand. As soon as I could, however, with or without his consent, I would come for her and we would marry. She said that she trusted me completely.
Later, when words were not enough anymore, our bodies found a different way to speak to each other… Since we had started meeting in the tool shed - where nobody could see us - we had, inevitably, become more physical. When I embraced her on the old sofa my lips had learned a downward path. It allowed for opening her shirt a little, no more than two or three buttons, kissing her throat, her neck, exploring her collarbones and letting me taste the sweetness of her skin. My shirt often came completely undone, and her warm hands caressed me everywhere above the waist. No more than that, however. There were boundaries that a gentleman shouldn't cross with the woman he loved, respected, and wanted to marry.
Thus I was always careful – well, at least I tried - not to embarrass her with the evidence of my desire, avoiding contact between the lower halves of our bodies. When she had to leave, that painful state persisted and yet I was loath to relieve myself. If I succumbed to the need, I felt guilty afterwards, not due any absurd idea of sin, but because it seemed to me that I should have pleasure only with Bella, or not at all, as my body belonged to her now.
But on our last day these carefully set boundaries counted for nothing. Almost unconsciously I unbuttoned her shirt completely and Bella let me do it. Pushed up by the corset and barely covered by her camisole, her breasts took my breath away. They were lovely and I delighted in them and in her soft moans as I became bolder and bolder. Lowering the rim of her underwear I unveiled the coral peaks completely and let my mouth have its way with them. She was stretched on the sofa and I was pressing my arousal on her with no shame, when a little sanity returned.
"I… we… we should stop," I groaned.
"No," Bella insisted, and drew my face to her mouth, finding my lips.
Off went the skirt and the petticoat then, and - pale blue corset apart, something I had no idea how to remove - only her frilly knickers remained. So pretty… obviously new and costly, as far as my inexperience could tell. Did Bella always wear such refined lingerie? Or… was it meant for me to see? What this naughty thought did to my body was impossible to describe. Was she really going to give herself to me? Because that was surely going to happen, if things continued.
"May I… see you?" I whispered.
She nodded, her blush now extending from her face to her neck and beyond. And the frilly knickers went, along with the stockings.
So this was the way women were made. Awed, I contemplated her beauty. When my father - too embarrassed to deal with the issue himself - had passed to our family doctor the task of enlightening me, the good man had explained things and even showed me a book, but the clinical sketches I had seen had nothing to do with the overwhelming reality. Mesmerized by the dark curls veiling her womanhood, I had to touch them, and I felt her tremble.
"Bella, tell me to stop," I implored, wondering if I still could.
Not answering, she touched me… there. A timid caress over my covered length was enough. I could wait no more.
I did not want to go all the way with her, I really didn't, so, finally uncovered, I limited myself to press and slide rhythmically on the apex of her slender thighs, hoping that the friction would bring me release without compromising her virginity. But her legs opened, and I was lost.
I took her. Trying not to be too rough, but with little hesitation, I went past her barrier and she was mine. Bella had winced, so I forced myself to wait and give her time to adjust. A little nod was all I needed to start moving again.
Oh, the bliss… I could not have imagined it in a hundred years, nothing had prepared me for it, certainly not the rare moments of self-pleasure I had experienced... Her wet warmth seemed to welcome my thrusts more and more, when I realized she was not in pain. Was it possible that Bella liked it? An astonishing concept I could not even process, because there was a small movement inside her, she called my name… and I came, hard and gloriously.
Silent and entwined we didn't say anything, for a while. I knew I should not have allowed myself to spill my seed inside her, but I had been powerless to stop. And now I could have ruined her… if there was a baby. I had been inconsiderate and it was necessary I said something to reassure her, as far as that was possible.
"Bella, forgive me, I have been reckless…" I began, but she stopped me.
"No, Edoardo, I was the reckless one. But I couldn't let you go without giving you all I could… I wonder what you will think of me now."
"I think that you are my wife, in all that counts. Look Bella, I must leave but, if there are consequences, write to me immediately. I'll take a ship and come to marry you. My father will not deny my wish to do the right thing, and I believe your father too will change his mind, in the circumstances."
There were no consequences, however. In a letter I received two months after I had left America, Bella wrote that I didn't need to rush back and save her honor. I did not welcome the good news and wished that it had happened, instead, because the separation was slowly killing me.
Sleepless on the first morning light I asked a God I didn't much believe in to let me find her again, because life without her would make no sense.
Part 3 - Arrival
New York - The Hudson Pier, September 3rd 1900. 10 am
Carlisle Cullen was waiting for the passengers to descend from the ship. The morning was overcast, which was a blessing. In late August the weather had turned to frequent showers, but he and Bella were prepared. He wore a wide brimmed hat and gloves, and Bella, standing at his side, had even a heavy veil under her hat, just in case. She was also using her talent, so it probably looked like he was standing alone on the pier.
Bella … his rash decision had turned out well enough, after all. Once she had come out from her metamorphosis, she had accepted his diet with no great difficulty, the idea of draining humans completely repulsive to her. Even after only six months, with still reddish eyes, she had been able to be near people without assaulting them. Now her eyes were golden like his, and very sad.
She had been waiting for the man she loved to come from Italy and marry her, and the fact that this was not possible anymore, that she had lost him forever, had made her inconsolable. She had not blamed Carlisle for turning her in a vampire, though, particularly when she learned of her father's desperate plea, and to avenge him and herself had become her reason for existing.
Bella had recognized one of the men who had shot her and her father: he was another policeman. Together she and Carlisle had tried to make a sense of the murder, helped by an altercation she had overheard one night, when raised voices woke her. Her father was arguing with two of his colleagues, she had heard him yelling "corrupted bastards," before throwing them out.
Corruption in the police's ranks was nothing new, and evidently Charlie Swan had been expected to acquiesce and get his share of the money, but he had been an honest cop. Being perceived as a threat, fearing that he would expose them, had evidently been the reason behind his murder, his daughter's death being collateral damage. Only, of course, her body had never been found and the killers must have been terrified that there was a witness still living.
That witness was now immortal and furious. Beside the normal vampire characteristics Bella has shown signs of a powerful talent. Carlisle had not been able to assess her properly, but he thought she was a shield. In fact she could shield herself and disappear from view, not exactly invisible, but… unnoticed. At the beginning it had happened involuntarily, surprising him, but later on they worked together so that she could learn to control her gift. Being attuned to her, he could still sense Bella's presence, but humans couldn't, for longer and longer stretches of time. One of the benefits was that she could even be outside in the sun, when she was shielding herself.
Newborn rage had made Bella wish to find and obliterate her father's killers, starting with the one she had recognized. Carlisle remembered their tense discussions with dread. It had been touch and go for a while. Slowly, however, he had been able to convince her of a better plan, namely to destroy the corruption ring. He promised to help her in every possible way that did not include murder. He felt he owed it to her.
Thus a very unlikely couple of investigators was born. Together, they restored and enlarged the dilapidated quarry shack where her change had happened. It was located on the Palisades' rocky cliffs, and it was quite difficult to reach for a non vampire, but near enough to Newark for it to be their operational base, and a home of sort.
Watching unseen, listening to whispered conversations and secret meetings, and then putting together a complex mosaic had absorbed them for over a year, but at the end they were able to compile a report listing names, dates, accomplices and activities. Apart from turning a blind eye to brothels and clandestine gaming dens, corrupted policemen were paid to cover up extortion and loan sharking. If a harassed shopkeeper looked for police protection and made the mistake of telling to the wrong cop he was a victim of extortion, the gangs were alerted and, more likely than not, his shop was torched. A very harsh lesson for other shopkeepers, who had to stay silent and submit.
Once they had completed their work, the two vampires sent the report anonymously to James M. Seymour, Mayor of Newark and to Samuel H Grey, Attorney General for the State of New Jersey. A copy was sent also to the State's largest newspaper, the Newark Evening News, just to be safe.
The information was too big to be lidded, and the scandal exploded. While an official inquiry was still pending, another cop was shot – he was scared and was going to try and save himself by telling on his colleagues. But the murder was a botched affair, and backfired. Other policemen decided to speak up and the ring was destroyed, with many going to prison.
So, Bella had achieved her goal. Deflated, she had sunk into melancholy again. The affection and friendship she shared with her sire was not, could not, be enough, evidently.
She did not resent him, but the regret over her lost human life and the man she was not meant to see again never ceased. Often she sobbed that she would have been better dead and Carlisle was unable to find words that could lighten her spirit.
"Why did you change me, Carlisle?" Every time she posed the question he could not find an answer convincing enough, but he was surprised by the strength of his feelings for Bella. There was nothing remotely romantic or sexual about them, and yet he loved her fiercely now. He wondered if this was what a human father felt for his daughter: the need to protect and the wish that she could find her own path in the existence he had forced upon her.
She insisted that Carlisle should go back to his profession, and he longed for it, but before that, he wanted her to discover something that interested her, breaking her despondency. There was nothing, apparently.
Then the telegram arrived and she became frenzied.
New York, The Hudson Pier, September 3rd 1900. 11 am
The Regina Margherita had anchored and we had reached New York, after a journey which had taken the expected month, after all. Trenta giorni di nave a vapore (Thirty days by steamship) went the anonymous immigrants' song, and it was right.
For us privileged passengers of first and second class, everything was made easy by the Custom and Immigration officials coming to our cabins and clearing us for landing. The idea was that if one had money enough for a first or second class ticket, he was not going to be a burden to the US. Once we left the ship, the third class passengers would also descend, but only to be herded to the ferries that would take them to Ellis Island and the ordeal that waited for them there, before being admitted to the "land of opportunity". I too had been cleared with no troubles. Corrado Sergi had a visa and was going to join his uncle, the prosperous owner of two restaurants. I snorted and prepared myself to leave the steamer. I would need to find the fastest way to go to Newark and look for Bella. Beyond that, I had no plans.
New York - The Hudson Pier, September 3rd 1900. 11:15 am
"Are you sure it's a good idea, Bella?" Carlisle had asked when, shortly after her change, she had implored him to rent a post office mailbox in his name.
"I will not answer his letters, I promise, I will not, but I need to know what he is doing, what he thinks… at least for as long as Edoardo continues writing to me. He will tire, eventually." She had concluded bitterly.
Since her sire still hesitated, thinking that complying he would only prolong the agony over her lost lover, Bella had not insisted, but had fallen on the floor, racked by tearless sobs, until he had relented.
Then Bella had written to her friend Leah, telling her that she had escaped her father's murderers but she had to stay concealed for the moment, as she thought she was still in danger. The letter asked that all mail Leah received that was intended for Bella be re-sent to a mailbox registered to the name of a friend she could trust.
And letters had continued to come. Evidently her Edoardo was in love as she still was, despite her change, and continued to write stubbornly, undaunted by the fact that he was not getting any answer. Once, after the usual night of deep sorrow Bella experienced on receiving mail, she had told Carlisle that Edward wrote that, even if something was preventing her to answer, he was sure she had not forgotten him and would wait for him, as he only lived to come back to her.
The most recent letter had been short. With it Edward told Bella that his father had died and he was exhausted but, as soon as he recovered his spirit a little, he was going to make important decisions…
The telegram, that Leah had dutifully put inside an envelope and directed to the mailbox, was weird. Apparently, it had been sent by one Corrado Sergi, but it was signed E. and simply said that he would be arriving in New York in the first days of September aboard an Italian ship called Regina Margherita.
Now, standing on the pier and looking at Bella's slim figure, so tense and still that it could raise suspicions among the other bystanders, were anybody noticing her, Carlisle realized that things could go from bad to worse, from now on.
"I only need to see him again, he will not recognize me, I'll shield myself," she had promised, but she was deceiving herself, surely. Once she saw him again… Unable to convince Bella to renounce the idea of waiting for the ship, Carlisle had decided to go with her. What was going to happen he had no idea, but he was full of foreboding. If she showed herself to her lover, if he recognized her, if they – God forbid – tried to resume what was surely an impossible relationship, what was going to happen? And yet… did he really wish her to remain forever unmated as he was? But there was another vampire in existence who shared their peculiar eating habits? The only ones he knew were female… However, they consorted with human males, so, maybe…
His musings were interrupted when the first passengers started descending the gangplank. The little crowd of bystanders surged forward and Carlisle noticed that there were two policemen and a plain-clothes man carefully scrutinizing the travelers…
New York - The Hudson Pier, September 3rd 1900 11:15 am
There was a well-dressed group of people waiting for us. Among them I noticed a very tall man with a wide brimmed hat, towering over the others. For a moment I thought that there was a heavily veiled little woman at his side, but in a blink she had disappeared. Strange… but no concern of mine.
Among the little crowd, however, three people stood out like sore thumbs. Two policeman and a guy in plain clothes. I was immediately fearful, while telling myself that this was a normal procedure, probably.
Suddenly I recognized one of the men and gasped, trying to avert my eyes. He was the Pinkerton agent who had interrogated me in Paterson years back. It made an awful sense. The King of Italy had been shot by an anarchist who had come from the States. If he had accomplices, somebody undiscovered could be coming back to Paterson. And a Pinkerton agent who knew well the Italian workers' community could recognize somebody…
Shit. I damned myself for not having a hat on. My hair was a very outstanding color - not exactly red, not blond, nor chestnut, but something in between – and I was lucky that on Corrado's passport his was described as castani, which was acceptable, considering the lack of language skills of the Questura's officials. But the man's gaze was now fixed on me. I tried to remain impassive until he bellowed:
"Masi, Edoardo Masi, come here," and I knew that all was lost. I advanced slowly toward him but, as soon as other people moving forward covered me a little, I sprang.
I was running, but not fast enough. One month of staying in my cabin with no exercise had taken some toll and I was not fast as I should have been. My pursuers were gaining on me. Various obstacles – trunks, hand carts, containers and people standing in between - were forcing me toward the pier's brink. There was no escape. Once I had reached there I would be taken. One of the policemen had a revolver and fired a warning shot on the air.
I plunged into the river.
I had planned to swim underwater and resurface a little farther along, hoping the protruding stones kept me from being seen, than inhale and go under again until I had covered enough distance. However, I became caught up in a current as I emerged the second time, and it was so strong that I could not fight it. I was thrown against something very hard and felt a sharp pain on my back. Then my head also was bumped and I lost all control. The water closed in over me and I knew I was going to die…
… Somewhere… Sometime…
No… I am not dead… But I am still in the river… my head and shoulders hurt… not my back, though. It feels numb… Somebody is carrying me and swimming… Who? I try to open my eyes but I can't… There is another swimmer too… keeping my head out of the water so that I can breathe… Now I am out of the water… cold and wet…shivering… I am being carried in somebody's arm like a baby… So tired… darkness.
An isolated shack on the Hudson Palisades - September 3rd,1900. Afternoon
Somebody is speaking nearby, but it is so low and fast that I can't figure out what is being said. I have a splitting headache. A cool hand touches my brow and I hear a woman's voice, soft and musical. This time I understand.
"He is burning, Carlisle." That voice, similar, different… Can't be…I open my eyes… Bella.
Or am I dead and she is an angel? Do angels exist? More beautiful that I remember her, but pale, so pale… like a marble angel indeed.
"Am I dead?" I croak, and the angel laughs. A waterfall of musical notes.
"No, you are not dead, Edoardo."
The angel is not alone. Another angel is with her, a male one. Do angels have a gender and do they dress in everyday clothes? Blond, pale and handsome, the man-angel speaks.
"Hello, Edoardo. My name is Carlisle Cullen. I am a doctor and a friend of Bella."
A doctor? Where am I? This is not a hospital, I am laying on a couch and we are inside some rustic cabin. I am wearing loose garments that are not mine and a roaring fire is blazing in the fireplace. But the doctor continues speaking:
"Bella got your telegram and I accompanied her to the pier to wait for your arrival. We followed you after you jumped, fished you from the Hudson and brought you here. You should be in a hospital, but we realize that the police are after you, so that is not an option."
This is not making any sense. How were they able to save me? Crossing the Hudson? Are they Olympic swimmers? And why have not I been apprehended by the police? How did we escape? I try to get up, but I realize I can't move. My shoulders and head hurt, while my lower body is still numb. I can't feel my legs. I panic.
"Edoardo," says the Bella-Angel, "don't try to move. You are very ill." Her hand takes mine and its skin is smooth as silk, but very cold. She is my Bella, though: she is looking at me with such love… however, something must have happened to her. It is not only her complexion that has changed; her irises are different, not the chocolate brown of before, but a lighter color, like liquid honey. Oh, I have so many questions that I don't know where to start. But there is something I need to know, immediately.
"What happened to my legs? I… I can't move them." I manage to ask, already dreading the answer.
The doctor, whose eyes are identical to Bella's, says something I can't hear. She nods and looks very sad. Then he answers me.
"Your lower back sustained a severe injury. I believe your spinal cord has been severed. I feared it was the case and now you confirm that you can't feel your legs. I am very sorry: even in a hospital there is little that can be done."
I know what it means.
"I won't walk again, right?"
And now it is the doctor who nods, his strange eyes full of compassion.
I close my lids. I don't want to see my love or I'll start crying. I have found her, or, better, she has found me and it is useless, useless. I don't see the point of asking anything anymore.
"You should have let me drown," I murmur.
Bella embraces me. The cheek leaning on mine is also very cool, but she has a wonderful scent, amber and jasmine and…
"Edoardo, look at me," she pleads. "Please, don't despair. I'll keep you safe, I'll take care of you..."
She has not even asked why the police are after me. So I have her trust, and the trust of her friend, evidently. Fat lot of good. I don't want her to take care of me. God forbid.
"Do you think I would saddle you with a cripple?" I cry. "Forget it. You deserve better and I'm better dead. I'll find a way."
Bella rises abruptly. Nothing is moving, there is silence, or so it seems, so eerie that I do open my eyes and look. She is facing the doctor and both are still as statues. But no, they are not silent, again I perceive the unintelligible buzz and in fact their lips are moving, if barely. After a while, even that small movement stops. They don't seem to be breathing… then Carlisle Cullen exhales and finally speaks aloud.
"For you I will do it. But only if he understands and agrees."
He kneels on the floor near my couch, and looks at me intently, before he starts speaking…
An isolated shack on the Hudson Palisades – September 3rd,1900. Later
It is evening now. Again with closed eyes I try to process all that he has told me. It is unbelievable, and yet I believe him. Because it makes sense, and explains everything.
My beautiful Bella, who thought she had lost me and stopped writing, to set me free, to help me forget her. Bella, who should have died before she was 20, but survived, somehow, due to the extraordinary powers of this supernatural doctor. He saved her, so that I could see her again, and now he has offered to save me for her. A salvation that comes with a price: my humanity. He didn't conceal the truth. I'll have to fight every single day of eternity with monstrous instincts but... he has prevailed over them and Bella has too.
I have not a lot of time for deciding; I am burning with fever and will probably develop pneumonia, the doctor – Carlisle – said, due to my long permanence in the water and my weakened state. And he has not the means to treat me properly here. Perhaps I don't need to live in a wheelchair, I could well die and it would be over.
Bella cold hand takes mine again.
"Oh please, Edward, please, stay with me," she whispers, "stay with me forever. I can't lose you again, not now, not ever."
And it suddenly dawns on me. I should be on the river's bottom by now. Dead and gone, fishes' food. But Bella took me out and my life is hers. In fact, it was hers even before. No, there is nothing to decide.
My eyes look for Carlisle, who waits in the shadows.
"Do it," I say.
So, what do you think?
This story has a beautiful banner. Go to my profile and click 1900.
I realize that if I added all the needed notes – since I address events that many non-Italian readers might not be aware of – they would be longer that the story itself. So I suggest that you just google the relevant names, starting with Gaetano Bresci, if you need more info. I will, of course, answer any question you might have.
The Regina Margherita was a real steamer, quite modern, which sailed from Genoa and did the Atlantic crossing at that time. However, it normally went to South America. I have taken some liberty with her routes.
In fact it was only in 2002 that the US Congress passed Resolution 269, finally recognizing Antonio Meucci as the true inventor of the telephone.
The love scene in Part 2: here I tried to write a "Victorian lemon" if you allow me the definition. It was a challenge, but I hope I delivered.
I am very grateful to Aylag, a camper in A Different Forest. She is a doctor and helped me to figure out Edoardo's injury. It had to be serious and incurable, but I needed for him to be conscious. A severed spinal cord fits the bill.
Olympic swimmers: it is not an anachronism. At the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens four swimming contests were held and news about the Games were widely reported by newspapers.