Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns the major characters. There will be bits of history throughout the story. To that I thank innumerable websites. No disrespect intended if I tweaked things just a bit.
I have been inspired to create this story by so many fantastic writers found here in fandom. Some published and so many more who should be. Thank you!
To Siobhan Masen who has graciously given her time and knowledge for all things regarding writing and posting. Oh, and a wonderful pre-reader of this chapter. Thank You! Waaa Laaa!
To books-are-better, beta extraordinaire, who has shown me the value of tense, past, present and future. Thank You!
I need to clear my head. So many thoughts are swirling about, trying to pull me under; not to mention the pain which has taken possession of my heart.
I decide to take a long walk into the fallow fields which used to produce some of the finest cotton ever grown. These fields were the main stay for our existence for so long, and now they're all gone as well. I look to the far side of the field with its hilly slopes. My eyes wander to the spot where we grew peanuts once upon a time. It too is barren and my heart is once again seized by an overwhelming ache.
So much emptiness now surrounds me; I feel the emptiness in the thousand plus acres of my family's plot. Emptiness from inside the great house. And most certainly I feel the emptiness for the people I loved and those who live here still, when this Plantation was the hub of our universe.
This emptiness is felt the deepest in my heart and head. Everything I know and love about this land is now gone; it is almost too much to comprehend. I just block out the unpleasant parts and keep going. I think this is why I am able to forge ahead.
It's spring time, a time for tilling the soil and planting. It's a time for life to begin anew; to flourish as it has for my family for two hundred years. And yet nothing is planted and nothing will be. As I continue my walk through the grasses and weeds trying to take over this untilled space, I notice a seedling attempting to grow.
A little cotton seedling, barely obtaining its true leaves, is trying to make its way through the life cycle to become a full fledge plant. It's an optimist in this barren landscape. My face curls into a grimace as I try to glean some reasoning behind the plant's stupidity. I reach down to pluck the insolent little seedling out of the soil, angry that it would taunt me. To remind me again of the happier times—the days when my family was whole and complete; when life was easy. I still my movements and scream at the seedling from inside my head: How dare you?!
I feel like Atlas struggling with the weight of the world, as if it resides on my shoulders. And in many ways it does here in my little corner of existence.
People are depending on me.
People are expecting me to make the right decisions.
It's too much!
I'm only eighteen; but age doesn't seem to matter to the land of the living. In fact, I'm learning time has a way of changing ones' life quickly.
Because suddenly, I feel so much older than the calendar says I am.
As I reach back to pluck the brazen little invader and toss it to the hard ground, my hand is stilled again. The similarity between me and this stubborn little plant strikes me as plain as day. I realize it's just trying to survive on its own, just like I'm trying to do. I stand back up again and gaze around as far as the eye can see. I gaze on the land which has been in my family for generations. My mind reels; how can I resent a seedling?
Barely surviving but surviving nonetheless. I should take a page from the seedling's book and fight. This is what I should do.
This is what I must do!
The wind picks up and my skirt flies over the little plant—bending it. Grabbing the material of my skirt and pushing it between my knees, I bend down once more. This time, I add extra dirt around the base to secure and strengthen it. I smile to myself for my juxtaposing ways. One minute I'm angry at the seedling and the next trying to help it grow. My life has become its own dichotomy.
I'm so confused, resentful, hurt, sad—the list is endless; such a myriad of emotions take over my mind.
As I stand back up, my thoughts drifts and I look to my home in the distance. I fool myself into believing I can actually hear my dad's voice. I remember him telling me these exact words time and time again from the front of the veranda or here in the fields, with a smile on his face: remember Bella, if you treat the land with respect—work the soil, plant the seed and care for it—it will pay you back tenfold in return. He would grab my shoulder, with a gentle squeeze, as he spoke those words to me. It was his litany. The gospel according to Charlie Swan—handed down to him from generations past.
Looking around at the now vastness of nothingness surrounding me, I hear those words and try to hold back the tears.
"It is not my fault, this is not my fault!" I yell to no one and no one answers. I feel the crushing weigh of pain on my heart and sink to the ground, grabbing handfuls of dirt and weeds. "This is not my fault," I repeat, whispering to myself.
I look to the sky. "Dad, tell me what to do? Please, just tell me what to do." But again, my words are met with silence. I let my head fall down to stare at the earth, my tears landing on the seedling and sinking into the dry earth.
After a time of letting the anguish win its war on my emotions, I'm left empty of tears. I wipe my hands of soil on my dirty skirt, and remove the remaining tears from my face with my fingers, dropping one last tear on the seedling. It was probably my imagination—I'm sure of it—but I swear that seedling stood a little taller. I see my dad's smile in my mind's eye and feel his touch on my shoulder in comfort.
Straightening once again, I look around the barren fields, and then to my home again. I still have Alice; she needs to listen to me and help me make a plan. Then there's Emmett, who has stayed on with us so far, trying to help us survive. Sweet Rosalie, who wants a life just as the rest of us. Dear Mrs. Cope—she too has remained with us. Seth and Leah have been a blessing in disguise; parentless one month earlier then Alice and I. They continue to endeavor and show a great sense of character to help as well. All of us orphaned in one way or another but together we are surviving. We are a motley group.
With a new resolve and purpose in my step, I start for home. I will do my father and mother proud, along with the ones before us and the rest who still reside here, I think to myself. "No, we will make them proud. All of us will. Nothing is going keep us down again," I say aloud to no one. But somehow, I feel like this time I'm heard, as a wave of wellbeing for the first time, in a long time, fills my soul.
It's time to start respecting my forefathers, my home, and the land.