Disclaimer- Stephenie still owns the usual suspects.
I own my original characters and original story.
*Note the time jump. This FT takes place seven years after part 2.
The Future – Part 3
November to December 1889
Correspondence sent to-
Mister Jacob Black
Springfield, Robertson County
San Angelo, Texas
November 1, 1889
I hope this letter finds you and yours in good health.
The purpose of my letter is firstly to impart a bit of news. Word reached us over a month ago that my father's only sister, my Aunt Amelia Jennings, had died of the influenza at her home in Virginia. Seeing that Aunt Amelia's husband and only daughter had preceded her in death by many years, she had long ago made arrangements that Emmett and I would be her inheritors.
Aunt Amelia's solicitor has made arrangements for Emmett and me, along with our families to travel by railway to Virginia, in order to settle the estate. Emmett and I have discussed it, and neither of us, in good conscience, could return to Texas without stopping for a time in Tennessee.
I will wire you as soon as our business in Virginia is concluded, with the date and hour of our expected arrival.
Until that time I remain your friend,
When we stepped from the train in Nashville, the sight of my old friend, Jacob Black standin' there to greet us, liked to bring a tear to my eye.
We'd corresponded regularly durin' the more'n twenty years since I'd gone away, but never once in all that time had me or Izzy returned to Tennessee, 'til now.
"Well if ya ain't a sight for sore eyes, Jacob Black!" Izzy exclaimed as she ran to hug him, beatin' me to it. I shifted my son, Charlie to my other hip, so's I could shake hands.
"Izzy, if'n I didn't know for certain that more'n twenty years had passed, I'd swear today was your weddin' day. Ya ain't changed a bit."
"Aw Jake, ya have a talent for tellin' a lie with a straight face," she giggled, "but I thank ya for it."
"Ain't a lie, little lady," he looked over at me, his smile full of mischief, "On the other hand, this sorry so and so looks like he was rode hard and put up wet." He laughed, and I warn't a bit surprised when my brother joined in.
"Thank ya kindly," I answered with a smirk.
"Jacob Black, aside from greyin' at the temples, my husband's no different than he was the day I met him," Izzy turned toward me with a gentle smile, "no that's not right; I reckon he's even more handsome now."
The sincerity in Izzy's eyes left no doubt that she believed the words. I knowed that her perception was obscured by her love for me, but was thankful that she still seen somethin' of the young impetuous feller she married when she cast her eyes in my direction.
As I looked at her beautiful face and contemplated what a fortunate man I truly was, for a moment I allowed my thoughts to travel down a path of wishin' I had Izzy alone so's I could give her a proper kiss.
She musta caught the gleam in my eye 'cause all of a sudden her cheeks turned fiery red. I chuckled as I pulled her against me. "Thank ya, darlin'," I answered, afore kissin' her softly right there in full view of me and Emmett's families and anyone else who cared to watch. It warn't the kiss I wanted to give, but it would have to do for now.
I heared the young'uns let out a collective groan.
Jacob laughed again, "Well, in one thing you two ain't changed a bit."
"And you are the spittin' image of your Pa," I telled him while turnin' back to face him with a smile.
"So I've been told." His expression turned a might somber then.
"How's your Ma?" I asked.
Jacob sighed, "She's gettin' along."
When I got word last winter that Jake's Pa had died, I knowed he took it hard. He'd been as close to his Pa as I'd been to mine.
I nodded my head, knowin' I needed to change the subject. I placed my hand on Jake's shoulder. "I know I telled ya that we could make our own way from Nashville to Springfield, not wantin' to put ya out, but I'm right glad ya didn't listen to me."
His smile returned. "It's good to see ya again, Ed. I was beginnin' to think it warn't never gonna happen."
After Emmett introduced him to Rosa and all the young'uns, his and mine, we loaded the womenfolk, and the younger children into a hired wagon which would take them to the hotel. The distance warn't far, so us menfolk, along with our boys, decided to walk it.
I was right tired of sittin' on that train all day.
"So none of the family come with ya, Jake?" Emmett asked.
"Renie and my boys are runnin' the store. We'll see them tomorrow. My wife's countin' on cookin' for everyone."
"Aw, hell," Emmett blurted out, "Don't she realize we've brung half a General Lee's army with us?" He laughed afore touslin' Peter's hair, "with twice the appetite. These boys could eat ya outta house and home in one sittin'."
They all laughed at that, and I seen Jake marvel at the fact that Peter laughed as well. He give me a questionin' look, "Does Peter know what Emmett was sayin'?"
I smiled and nodded. "He's right good at readin' lips, so long as the person don't speak too quickly. He also knows how to make words with his hands, we all do. Izzy was right insistent 'bout us learnin' that."
The next mornin' dawned clear and cold. Jake had arranged the hirin' of two wagons for me and Emmett to use durin' the next few days afore returnin' to Nashville and boardin' the train for home.
I swear it took pert near an hour to wrestle the trunks, two wives and thirteen children into place, but once we finally managed it, we got on our way; Emmett's family in one wagon, and mine in the other.
Izzy and me sat up front with our boy Charlie between us. The others; four boys and two gals, were seated in the back. Jake rode alongside on his horse.
We hadn't gone far when my wife turned to face the back, feelin' the need to say somethin' to our older sons. "You boys best better had listened to me and used that privy afore we started, cause your Pa ain't stoppin' in an hour just so's y'all can take a piss," Izzy telled them in a scoldin' tone.
I bit my lip so's not to laugh, but didn't miss the sound of Jacob, Edward and Frederick snickerin'.
"Yes, Mam." They all three answered as one.
I couldn't resist the urge to tease her. "Darlin', now that you're an heiress, mayhap ya shouldn't be sayin' words like 'piss' no more."
Izzy blew out a breath. "I ain't no heiress, Ed. You and Emmett was the ones to inherit that money."
"It's yours too, Izzy. On the day we wed, I made a promise."
"Didn't have nothin' to do with your Aunt Amelia's money," she argued.
"It has to do with everythin' that I have darlin'. Face it, ya own me, body, soul and all my earthly possessions."
She raised one eyebrow and got a wicked gleam in her eye as she leaned in to whisper in my ear. "God's truth, as long as I get say over your body, I reckon I don't care 'bout the earthly possessions."
"Ya would say somethin' like that here, when there ain't nothin' to be done 'bout it," I whispered back and shook my head, "It ain't like I can take ya into the back of the wagon and have my way like I used to."
"I reckon that's 'cause the results of ya, havin' your way, has done filled up the back of the wagon, leavin' little room for anythin' else." She cackled loudly and I give her an amused smile afore leanin' in close to kiss her lips.
The boys must not have been payin' attention, but our little Ruby warn't one to ever miss a trick. "They's at it again, Molly," I heared her say through her giggles, causin' me and her Mam to laugh as well.
It was almost sundown when we reached the Springfield city limits. Izzy picked up Charlie, settin' him on her lap afore scootin' closer and restin' her head on my shoulder. "Oh Ed, I believe I'm gonna cry. All them memories…"
I nodded afore reachin' my arm 'round her shoulders. "I know, darlin'."
"Last time I was here, I was scared to death and runnin' for my life." She spoke in a quiet voice, and I understood why. Charlie, bein' only three warn't a concern, but Izzy had never telled the children 'bout the ordeal she'd lived through on account of James Forrest and it warn't the time to do so now. "I don't regret how poorly I was treated though, 'cause it led me to you."
I felt my throat tighten, but didn't have the words to answer, so I just wrapped my arm tighter 'round her shoulders.
Jake come up alongside on his horse then and started pointin' out the changes since we'd left. "There's the new courthouse I was tellin' ya 'bout."
"I never imagined anythin' so big in Springfield," Izzy marveled.
The town had grown, that was for sure, but not near as much as San Angelo had in the twenty years since we'd been there, and Jasper was a very wealthy man on account of it.
"I see the tavern's still here," Izzy said with a scowl as we passed the red brick buildin' on the corner.
As I pulled the wagon in front of Jake's store, which was a good sight larger than it had been twenty years afore, I was suddenly overwhelmed with memories from the day I left.
"This is where it all started," Izzy whisered. "Ya had the wagon hitched in this very spot when I climbed up in it to hide."
I give her a smile. "Luckiest day of my life, darlin'."
She returned the smile afore we were distracted by Renie and all Jake's young'uns pourin' forth from the store to greet us.
There was a William and a Jake just 'bout the ages of mine and Emmett's older boys, and Jake's Eddie was a year older than Peter. Jake and Renie's daughter, Ginnie was the same age as my Ruby.
The noise from all the chatterin' between the womenfolk and the young'uns lasted right straight through the evenin' meal.
"What y'all got planned for tomorrow?" Jake asked afore takin' a long draught of his beer.
Once supper was over and we'd gotten our families settled into rooms at the inn, Jake talked me and Emmett into havin' a drink at the tavern. Afore I could say yay or nay, all our sons who was over the age of sixteen was followin' us up the street.
"After church, Izzy wants to take the young'uns to see where she growed up." I answered.
"Rosa wants to take our brood to visit her Uncle. Then I reckon we'll go by our old home," he hesitated and give me a mournful look, "and the cemetery."
It would be the first time visitin' Pa's grave for him, and I reckoned it would feel like a fresh wound.
"We gotta start for home day after tomorrow, our girl Sophie's expectin' and her Ma like to skin me alive if we ain't back home in time for the birth." Emmett give a nervous chuckle. I knowed he was worried 'bout his daughter, even though she was a grown up married woman.
Sophie was the only one of the young'uns not able to make the trip with us.
"The feller she married to a good sort?" Jake asked.
"He'd best be, or he'd most likely have a bullet hole or several in him by now." Emmett answered with narrowed eyes.
I laughed. "John's a good man. Emmett's his boss over at Whitlock's farm. And ya know that boy must love Sophie to suffer what her Pa, brother, cousins and favorite uncle," I flashed Jake a smile while the boys laughed, "put him through when he come courtin'."
Emmett took another drink as he seemed to be ponderin' somethin'. "I been thinkin' 'bout usin' part of that inheritance to purchase John and Sophie some land of their own. He's a hard worker, deserves a hand up."
I nodded. "We's both gonna owe him after this trip." I turned back toward Jake, "He's been seein' to our livestock while we been away."
"Ed and Emmett Cullen as I live and breathe, and lookin' as handsome as ever," sounded a familiar feminine voice from behind me. I turned to find Miss Sally standin' there smilin' like she'd been handed a precious gift. I stood to greet her and removed my hat, she was a lady after all, and I considered myself to be a gentleman, most of the time at least. All the others followed my lead.
"Please, have a seat, I didn't mean to disturb y'all."
Miss Sally looked a might older, but not quite twenty years' worth. She had to be sixty if'n she was a day, but was what my Pa woulda referred to as 'well preserved'. Even so, I couldn't imagine that she was still entertainin' gentlemen callers.
I frowned at Jake. He coulda at least warned me that Miss Sally was still in town.
"Howdy do, Miss Sally." I said afore takin' my seat again.
"I do right well for myself. I guess Jake didn't tell ya that I'm Missus Wise now. Been married these last fifteen years." Her gaze strayed from me and went to rest on my two eldest boys, makin' me feel right uncomfortable. "These two must be yours, Ed, they look just like ya."
"Yes, Mam. This here's my oldest, Jacob and my second son, Edward." My boys made me proud by bowin' their heads politely. "And this one here's my third boy, Frederick."
Frederick favored his Mam, so's Miss Sally wouldn't a known he was mine without the tellin'.
Her eyes opened wide. "How many children do ya have, Ed?"
"Izzy and me have been blessed with seven young'uns, I'm pleased to say."
"So the rumor was true?" She asked, her smile fallin' a little.
"What rumor would that be Mam?"
"The talk that ya married that little slip of a girl, Izzy Swan, who stowed away in your wagon. Lila, who used to work for me was engaged to that little gal's uncle. I heard he lost his niece in a poker game and she got revenge by gettin' him killed…."
That was the moment I realized I needed to stop Miss Sally's, er Missus Wise's idle chatter. By the looks on my boys' faces, I already had a lot of explainin' to do. I held up my hand. "Mam, as much as it goes against my nature to speak ill of the dead, my Izzy's uncle was 'bout to sell her in marriage to the lowest, meanest and vilest creature that I ever come across afore or since. Them fellers followed us, and aimed to force Izzy to return with them. In the end, her uncle done the right thing and helped her escape, payin' for it with his life. I'd appreciate it if'n ya didn't say no more in front of my children 'bout a time their Mam would sooner forget."
I watched as Miss Sally's face grew a might red from embarrassment. "I beg pardon, Ed. I didn't mean any harm."
I nodded once.
"Well, I'll let you fellers get back to enjoyin' your evenin'."
As soon as Miss Sally was gone from sight, the questions began. So, for the next little while, I imparted to my sons and everyone else at the table, the story of me and Izzy's journey from Tennessee, endin' it at the moment James Forrest lay dead on the floor of that freight car.
It was the first time I'd given the full account since tellin' the sheriff in Shreveport all them years ago.
When I was through, I ordered a round of beers, and waited for some kind of reaction from my boys.
"I reckon we won't let onto Mam that we know 'bout all this." Edward was the first one to speak.
"That would be for the best. She never wanted her children to be troubled by it." I answered.
"I'm glad ya killed him and saved our Mam," Frederick said, his voice barely above a whisper. "Ya always telled us it warn't right to kill, but I'm glad ya done it Pap."
Everyone at the table nodded in silent agreement.
"This is the last I'll speak on it, but I want y'all to know that I regard the killin' of that varmint as the single most important thing I ever done in my life. For in killin' him, I saved your Mam and myself, without which none of you children would be here. I cain't never regret it, even if I was so inclined."
We lingered in Tennessee two days longer than Emmett's family. We spent that time visitin' places Izzy and me remembered from our childhood, includin' the homes where we was born and raised.
"The house looked smaller than I remembered, but that warn't the part that pulled on my heartstrings." Izzy said as we packed for our return journey. "Despite the fact that I spent sixteen years of my life on that farm, there ain't a piece of me that was left behind. I miss my parents, always will, but the life I had with them will live on in memory only. Everythin' that means the most to me belongs in Texas, and that's as it should be."
"I couldn't a said it better myself, darlin'." I telled her afore pullin' her into my arms.
I touched my hand to the stone marker, much as I'd done all them years afore. "Never thought I'd come back here again." The words come out in a whisper. "Wonder what Ma and Pa would make of me, if they could see me now?"
"Oh, Ed." Izzy spoke from beside me. "They'd be mighty proud, just the same as we are of our children. You and Emmett are fine men, devoted husbands, and I don't think any child could ask for more lovin' fathers."
"Pap, what's them words?" Ruby pointed her little finger at the writin' on the stone.
"That's my Pa's name, Alexander Carlisle Cullen, and below that is written my Ma's, Esmeralda."
Ruby smiled with delight, "Them's the names of our cousins!"
"They surely are little darlin'." I reached down to pick her up. 'Course Charlie got a might jealous then and started pullin' on the leg of my trousers wantin' to be held as well. He was content once he was settled on his Mam's hip.
I looked across the cemetery to where the sun had warmed the ground enough to melt the frost. "I reckon we'd best be goin'. It's a long trek to Nashville." I set Ruby down so's she could follow the others to the wagon, and turned back toward the grave one last time. "Ya take care of one another, and don't worry yourselves 'bout me. As ya can see, I been blessed far more than I deserve."
I felt Izzy close beside me, and turned to find her lookin' at me with watery eyes. I give her a sad smile and reached for Charlie, "Ya ready to go home Missus Cullen?"
"I am, Mister Cullen." She whispered.
Hand in hand, we walked away, my heart heavy with the memory of losin' my folks. When I reached the wagon, I couldn't help but smile at the expectant faces of my young'uns.
It was then I knowed that my parents would always be with me. My Pa was there every day in Jacob's smile and Edward's laugh; in the look on Peter's face when he was concentratin' hard on somethin'. My Ma was there in Ruby's piercin' green eyes. Not to mention the fact that three of my young'uns had been blessed with a mop of unruly reddish brown hair that my Ma had happily passed on to me.
I was certain that Ma and Pa was lookin' down on my family from heaven, and the Lord had sent these reminders to keep them alive in my memory. The thought of it brought a smile to my face as I helped Izzy and Charlie into the wagon.
For the second time in my life, I was leavin' Robertson County behind, with no plans of returnin'. This time it warn't loneliness or desperation drivin' me on, it was the love of my family and the home I'd built with Izzy callin' to me, the pull so strong I doubt I'd have the strength to fight it, even if I'd wanted to….
Izzy, her voice soundin' as lovely as ever, sang us outta Robertson County.
How dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood
When fond recollection presents them to view
The orchard, the meadow, the deep tangled wildwood,
And ev'ry loved spot which my infancy knew
The wide spreading pond, and the mill that stood by it,
The bridge and the rock where the cataract fell;
The cot of my father, the dairy house nigh it,
And e'en the rude bucket that hung in the well.
The old oaken bucket, the iron bound bucket,
The moss covered bucket that hung in the well…
***** The End *****
A/N I hate to say goodbye to Izzy and Ed, however we'll see them again in the sequel, "Into My Arms". Be sure to put me on 'alert' so you won't miss when it begins to post. It will be some time because I want to finish writing a couple other stories before starting a new one.
I purposely left out any discussion of 'sweethearts' for the older boys because that, for the most part, will be the subject matter of the sequel.
"The Old Oaken Bucket" was originally a poem which was set to music in the early 1800s. In the song a 'cataract' is another term for a waterfall.
Thank you all so much for taking this journey with me, there were a few scary moments along the way, but I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed telling this story.
Until next time, take care. We'll meet again soon, God willin' and the creek don't rise.
As always, I love to hear your thoughts... Anne
**Because I know some of you are more than curious, here's a list of all the young'uns (and their ages) as of December 1889 (in future take part 2, all 3 women were expecting at the same time. Rosa gave birth to twins, Anna and Emmett; Izzy had Ruby; and Alice had little Andrew):
Jasper & Alice: Isabella Rose (13) and Andrew Brandon (7)
Emmett & Rosa: Sophie Marie (21), Alexander Carlisle (19), Elena Margarita (16), Esmeralda Rose (14), Joseph (died in 1881), twins Anna and Emmett (7), Robert (4).
Ed & Izzy: Jacob Carlisle (21), Edward Anthony (19), Frederick Henry (17), Peter Theodore (14), Molly Belle (11), Ruby Lee (7), Charles Alfred (3)…still to come Nell Swan Cullen (born before the beginning of the sequel).