Romany

Thanks as always to my splendid beta's js18 & princess07890

Chapter 1

Bella lay motionless and silent in the dry grassy undergrowth, she could see the poacher's trap she'd set

from her hiding place, she didn't usually stay to watch, but, today, morbid curiosity got the better of her.

Autumn's musky fragrance wafted through the balmy air and blackberries hung in abundance around

her head, her mouth and lips were stained violet from gorging herself on the plump purple fruits. It was

a bountiful crop this year and she couldn't resist eating them, she decided she would gather more, later,

to take back home to the caravan, that would please her brother.

Emmett loved blackberries; grief suddenly overwhelmed her, lately the feeling had a habit of sneaking

up on her, leaving her breathless and hurting, her heart ached as she'd remembered her father.

"You make the sweetest desserts my little pudding," he said, smiling, and pinching her cheek gently; his

brown eyes would twinkle and crinkle around the edges, it didn't matter how much she had made, there

would never be any left over. Bella had taken it as a personal challenge to make more each time, to see

when her father and brother would reach their limit, now, she would never know.

Her mood was sombre and her heart felt weighty, her life was not a pleasant one, since the death of her

beloved father; he passed six months ago, she had never known her mother, who had died during

childbirth with her, leaving her father to care and raise two young children, while he nursed his broken

heart. A lesser man may have blamed the wretched child for causing the death of his wife, but not

Charlie Swan, he had been a good man and a kind and loving father. But, grief had weakened him,

eventually consuming his heart and soul gradually over the years, until one day he hadn't the will left to

breath, his heart ceased to beat and he was with his beloved Renee once more.

Bella and her brother were orphans; Emmett had promised to give them a better life as soon as he was

financially able, he needed to get them away from the vile man that cared for them, 'cared,' that word

was laughable. Marcus was their uncle, their mother's brother; he had been their only remaining kin, so

in the way of the Travellers and in the eyes of the law, he took over their care, also laying claim to all

their possessions. Their father's body was barely cold before Marcus began selling everything of value,

and using the money on whores and drink in the towns and villages that they passed through. Emmett

and Bella were left destitute.

"Don't worry sis, I'll find work and somewhere for us to live," he'd said it a thousand times, the words

were easy, but finding the work was harder. There were not many places that welcomed them, they

were always looked on as the scourge of society; Vagabonds, Gypsies, Romani/Roma, Travellers,

Tinkers, Troublemakers; they had a lot of names and not many friends.

They traded their wares in the market place; food, clothing, baskets, pots, they also sold and bought

livestock. Folks travelled from all over England to attend this annual market, and not just Travellers, but

land owners, estate managers, and farmers too. Until market day, they would lie low, undetected for a

while on the Cullen's vast property. Surviving on the bounty of the land, pilfering food from nearby

barns, the men folk would go to poach and trap at twilight and the break of dawn, there was a river

nearby that was brimming with fish; they would be safe here and their bellies would be filled.

Bella longed to submerge her body in the river and be clean; it had been many weeks since they'd had

passed a large expanse of water. She washed daily from a small bowl, but she had to be quick, ensuring

she wasn't seen by her Uncle Marcus. He had taken to walking in on her as she washed from a small

bowl in the caravan, making no attempt to avert his eyes or leaving her with the privacy she required.

Several times he would happen to be strolling by the river as Bella bathed naked; a look crossed his

face, a look that shouldn't be on the face of kin, making her feel uncomfortable and vulnerable; the

quicker they were away from him, the better she would feel. Now Bella would only wash in the river if

Emmett came with her, or if Marcus was in town for the evening, entertaining himself.

A rabbit hopped past, pausing to sniff the air, it sat upright, its nose twitching quickly, Bella was close

enough to see its whiskers vibrate, she held her breath and marvelled at its fur, it was made up of

varying shades intermingled, from the pales to darkest brown, all varying in hue and moving slightly in

the breeze, it looked so furry, her fingers itched to reach out and bury themselves in the deep, warm

softness. Its senses were warning it that something wasn't right, but it couldn't see any danger, so it

continued on its current path straight into the snare she'd expertly set. Bella watched unable to move,

the more it struggled to free itself, the tighter the wire pulled choking the life from it, it's once active

little body, it slowed and stilled until it was no more. It was necessary, she knew it, they would eat

hearty tonight, but there was still sadness at taking the life of one of God's creatures. There was

something more that tugged at her heart, she felt an affinity for the creature, realisation dawned, it was

her, she was like the rabbit and if she didn't change the course of her life she might meet the same end

with the life being choked from her.

Bella walked slowly back to camp carrying the carcass, some wild herbs she'd found in the hedges, and

her pockets were brimming with blackberries, without warning she stumbled over some gnarly tree

roots and fell painfully onto her knees. At the very moment she went down, there was a whizzing sound

through the air and an arrow pierced the tree next to her, Bella froze in terror.

"Oh my, Edward, I think you hit her," Alice called, her voice sounded full of panic, she knew full well he

had missed her, but she fancied worrying her brother for fun, he was absolutely sure of himself all the

time, she loved to rock his solid facade whenever she got the opportunity.

"She appeared from nowhere," he sounded breathless, and a little shaken as he ran to catch up with his

sister, he simply hadn't seen the girl, her dark clothes blended well into their surroundings and he really

hadn't expected to come across anyone, this was private land which belonged to Carlisle Cullen, his

father.

"Are you alright?" Alice knelt to enquire of the small, wild looking girl.

Bella cowered and stared wide eyed at the beautiful strangers, panic began rising in her chest for a

completely different reason, other than nearly being shot with an arrow, she had been caught poaching,

she had been discovered; her Uncle would be furious.

"Perhaps she doesn't understand English," Edward stated. Bella frowned at him and held her derivative

snort, back.

"I think she's scared, you did nearly kill her," Alice simply stated, looking at her brother.

"Nonsense," he retorted, he would not give her the pleasure of being right, she would harp on about it

for days.

"You should apologise Edward," Alice said in earnest with her hands on her hips, he barked out a short

laugh, Bella felt her face flush in anger stir at his reaction, did he think she was not good enough for an

apology?

Rather than stay and fight him, she felt sure she could get a few good punches in, she held her own

against Emmett and he was twice the size of this, Edward. Instead, she took the opportunity at their

bickering as a distraction to make a run for it.

Bella hadn't got far when she felt his strong arms grab her from behind and lift her clean into the air.

Edward was surprised at his actions, his body had reacted without his permission, he'd chased and

caught the feral little creature easily; he expected her to put up more of a fight. Why didn't I let her go?

She seemed to be fine and she was running and therefore, unhurt, he reasoned.

"What's the rush little rabbit?" he said smoothly and sat her firmly on a fallen tree. Bella swallowed

loudly at the close proximity to his taut, lean frame and his strong muscular arms were still wrapped

around her waist, his smell caressed her senses, she wasn't aware that a person, a boy, could smell so

good, so clean and fresh, like pine trees after the rain had fallen.

"Please, wait," Alice asked sweetly.

Bella dragged her eyes from his bewitching gaze, she'd forgotten for a moment they were not the only

ones there.

Alice continued, "Edward, please mind your manners."

"I'm sorry for nearly shooting you," he knelt closer to her and smiled genuinely, it was dazzling; he was

the most beautiful man she'd ever seen. She looked properly at his face, he had the chiselled angular

quality that one only sees in the finest museums and palaces, on the faces of statues of kings and gods,

his features were well defined, his lips were the palest pink, and never in her life had she desired to kiss,

as she wanted to kiss him at that moment, surprised at these new feelings which came upon her, Bella

blushed, spreading like a wildfire up her body and blazing its way across her cheeks. His green eyes

twinkled with the beauty of emeralds; they were framed with impossibly long eyelashes and his

unkempt auburn hair, glinted with copper, gold, and bronze tones in the late afternoon sun.

"Do you understand me?" He said slowly and deliberately as though talking to an imbecile, he had yet

to see any signs of understanding in the frightened, dirty little face that stared blankly back at him.

All thoughts of his beauty were vanquished from her mind, as she glared at him through a curtain of

chestnut brown hair; he was presuming she was stupid now.

"Alice, I think she must be damaged or not right in some way," he said sadly, looking at his sister.

Bella continued to scowl at him.

Alice laughed at her brother, for someone so intuitive, he could be so insensitive and stupid sometimes.

"I think it's you who is damaged Edward," she gave him a reproachful look, then turned to look at Bella,

"Please excuse my brother," she said crouching in front of her, "Are you hurt?"

Bella decided she liked Alice immediately, her presence was comforting and friendly, she had the same

startling emerald eyes as her brother but her hair was black like jet, and short, she'd never seen a girl

with hair so short before, it all added to her unique beauty.

Bella put a hand tentatively over her knee, she could feel the burn and sting of the hidden injury

beneath her skirt, she had suffered alot worse than a scraped knee in her sixteen years of life, but she

shook her head causing her wavy hair to swing across her face. Both Alice and Edward caught sight of

Bella's discreet hand movement.

"Please may I see?" Edward asked softly, gesturing towards her leg.

Bella recoiled slightly and shook her head.

"He won't hurt you," Alice promised, "Our father is a doctor, Edward goes with him sometimes, he will

make a fine doctor himself, someday," she beamed proudly at him.

Bella felt the love flow between the siblings, she found herself wishing Emmett were here, he would

look after her; he always did. She felt grieved for her big brother as she realised he'd barely had the

chance of being a child when their mother passed, always looking out for her and helping their father to

raise and care for them.

Edward rolled his eyes at his sister, and then looked back towards Bella awaiting permission, Alice gave

Bella a pleading look, he saw her shoulders relax and her glare softened, then, slowly; she nodded her

permission. After that, Bella wondered if Alice had magical power, once she had set her mind to do or

not do something, she normally couldn't be swayed; she was usually quite stubborn, but just one

pleading stare from Alice and she had given in, to her silent demands.

Edward lifted Bella's skirt slowly with trembling hands, and draped it over her knees, blood poured from

a small deep gash below one knee, she winced as he pressed his fingers gently around the edges of the

wound, assessing the damage.

"Alice, would you wet this in the stream please," he pulled a crisp white handkerchief from his pocket

and handed it to her without looking.

When Alice disappeared, Edward spoke quietly, "Look, I'm really sorry," his eyes showed the sorrow he

felt, "I didn't mean to startle you, I am really sorry I made you hurt your knee." He frowned causing his

forehead to wrinkle, Bella wanted to stroke the creases, make them go away.

Their eyes connected for a moment; Bella felt the words form in her throat; she wanted to tell him it

wasn't his fault, her own clumsiness was responsible for the wound she bore, and she was lucky to have

tripped at such an opportune time. The rustle of foliage alerted them both and Alice came running

gracefully through the trees with the soaked cloth, and the moment was lost forever.

They all watched in silence as he cleaned gently around the gash, taking great care not to disturb the

blood from clotting, then he removed the cotton scarf from around his neck and used it to bind her

knee, his hands moved quickly and efficiently, demonstrating that one day soon, he really would make a

fine doctor.

"I think it's time we went and left you to your business miss," Edward said politely, standing up, his eyes

had discreetly scanned the area, he'd noticed the dead rabbit, she would need a means of leaving

without embarrassment or fuss from Alice, in some small way of making his amends and assuaging his

guilt, he felt the need to give her a way out.

"But," Alice started.

"I'm sure she has somewhere to be Alice," Edward gave his sister a quick look, "and we must be on our

way, father does hate it if we are late for dinner," he spoke in a no nonsense voice effectively cutting

Alice off, she knew better than to question him. "Good day miss," he smiled and nodded curtly.

"Goodbye," Alice said cheerfully.

Grateful, Bella gave them a small tight lipped smile and watched until they were out of sight, then she

carefully made her way back to camp.

Marcus was still away in town and Emmett was off gathering wood and fishing, she hoped he wouldn't

get caught, although she hardly felt sad now, at being discovered by Edward and Alice. She wondered if

she would ever see them again, at the fair perhaps, then they would be moving on, Bella felt a wave of

unexplained sadness, 'it must be my mood today,' she thought.

x x x x x x x

Family groups worked around their small individual campfires, washing dishes, and playing with

their children; Bella gave them a friendly wave, alerting them to her return, some waved back, others

shouted a friendly greeting to her.

Emmett and Marcus would be returning soon, and they would both be hungry, so she set about

preparing their evening meal, she didn't want to be the reason Marcus was in a foul temper, he hated

waiting for his food. If they were lucky, his mood would be softened a little, by whisky and he would

have spent the afternoon in some whore's bed; with a hearty meal inside of him he would soon be

asleep.

"Bel-la," Emmett sang cheerfully as he returned, fish swinging from a hook on his belt and his arms

laden with kindling.

She jumped immediately to her feet and ran to greet him, her face filled with joy at his return, "What's

happened?" His voice was laced with concern, he reminded her so much of their father sometimes it

hurt, they had the same curly, dark brown hair and, where as their father had dark brown eyes, like

Bella's, Emmett's were blue, and twinkled with mischief as their father's had once done and they

crinkled at the edges when he smiled or laughed. Emmett was very observant as far as his sister was

concerned, he had to be; he'd noticed her slight hobble as she made towards him; she shook her head

and scowled, "Please Bella," he asked softly.

Bella let out an exaggerated sigh she wouldn't deny her brother anything, even if he was over

protective, she knew it was because he loved her, so she lifted her skirt at one side to show him her

knee.

"You've been your usual clumsy self?" He joked, but his face was soft and caring.

Bella smirked and playfully pushed him, which only resulted with her nearly toppling over; she would

have made more of an impression trying to move a mountain she thought.

Emmett frowned as he looked at her dressing, his fingers dragged across the crisp, clean, cotton scarf,

"This isn't yours is it?" His voice was hushed as he spoke; his eyes darted around the rest of the

caravans, making sure no one was listening into their conversation.

Bella cast her eyes down and away, biting nervously on her bottom lip, "Oh, Bella," he said, she may not

be able to speak, but Emmett knew his sister well, she had always had such an expressive face and

emotion was easy to read in her eyes. He would question her further later, in private; they were starting

to draw attention of their fellow Travellers.

A/N

No offence is intended to any Romany, Traveller or Gypsey, your heritage simply fascinates me, I am using artistic license along with fact, where ever possible I will point out some of the facts, I know some of you like a little education along with your fic's.

There has been an annual horse fair in Stow-on-the-Wold since the reign of Edward IV, orignally set up to put Stow on the map and it is still frequented by travellers and gypsies from around the world.

Hope you enjoyed the first chapter, I will try to post regularly to keep you happy.

Leave some love xx