Title: Manifesting Destiny

Summary: When Bella travels West to find her father she instead finds herself befriending a man who falls in love with someone else's mail-order bride. A romantic at heart, Bella offers to help the couple and speak to the intended husband. If only he would listen.

Disclaimer: Twilight is owned by Stephanie Meyer.

Author's Note: I'm working on a longer version of this plotline, but while I wrestle with the plot on that one I wanted to post the original short. It's written in its entirety, and I plan to release one chapter a day until it's all out. Expect the longer version to be out eventually, once I beat its climax into shape. Also, I've only been able to find historical references to 'dime novels,' but I clearly remember reading what my grandfather called 'penny westerns' when I was younger, so I'm sticking to that phrase.


Chapter One: Penny Western


For as long as she could remember she'd been fascinated by stories of people going west. They came in monthly installments at the general store, a penny a piece, and though they ranged wildly from tales of gold and fertile lands to warring Indians and gun fights, the one thing they always had was excitement. Whatever was happening out there was always vivid and colorful, full of action and devoid of the monotonous, grey haze that seemed so present when she turned her eyes from the printed word.

She longed to go there. No specific place, really, just somewhere west of where she was.

Well, maybe that wasn't true exactly. There was one place that stood a slight bit above the others when she considered all the places she'd heard about out there, some real, most probably not.

The West was in her blood in a way. She'd been born out there, lived there until she was just old enough to have formed some memories of the bigness of it all, the overwhelming greenness. But then her mother had gotten sick, something about the wet air, and had moved them back East for her health. Just the two of them.

Maybe that was the reason she'd taken those stories so far to heart anyway, because in the prose she could hear the call of something familiar, something of hers calling her back to it. When she read about the conflicts between the cowboys and the Indians, she could picture them in ways that didn't always line up with the descriptions she read. She felt that maybe these images in her mind were more memories, that she was remembering real people acting out the penny dramas. There was a richness to the way she read the stories that she'd never really been able to express to her few acquaintances here.

Not that she'd tried too hard.

She loved her mother, and she appreciated her life here. They owned a fairly successful restaurant, and Bella, now that her schooling was done, spent most of her time working in it. But no matter the joy she found doing her part day in and day out, she always found herself, every month, waking early and hurrying to the general store on delivery day to see what new stories might have arrived. She'd be lost in daydreams the whole following week if there was a good one.

It was on one of these anticipated days, one which happily coincided with her sixteenth birthday, that Renee, her mother, sat her down unexpectedly for a long talk.

Though she'd long acted like one, today was the day her mother decided that she was an adult. As such, there were things she needed to know, information she'd been too young for previously.

She learned about the father they had left behind. Charlie Swan. He had taken the family West for work and fortune, and had stayed when they returned. She knew the vague facts of this, but Renee expanded on her knowledge, filling in blanks she'd learned about only second hand. Most shockingly, she learned that her parents had divorced years earlier. It had been kept quiet to avoid the stigma, and most people just assumed she was a widow.

But Renee had met someone. She was going to remarry, and soon. They planned to move South. There were already plans to sell the restaurant, and the small house.

Later that night as Bella sat quietly in her small room mulling over the events of the day, she happened to look at the penny western she'd bought this morning and had yet to read. This one had a small illustration, a real treat with roughly drawn men before a backdrop of giant trees. Loggers, perhaps. Though the ink was mere black on yellowish paper, to her eyes the trees were vibrant in their dark greens, heavy with rain.

Three weeks later found her tensely perched in a railcar chair, her earthly possessions settled on the rack above her head.