Title of Story: Wisteria
Word Count: 11,941
Type of Edward: Prohibitionward
Category (Literotica or Young Adult) Literotica
Story Summary: She was a brokenhearted girl, pining after a life she'd never have. He was a man on the run. What they found in each other, some might call it solace, but others might call it love.
Standard Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.
Forks Prairie, Washington 1926
As she shuffled through the desolate house, the wooden floors were cold under her feet, penetrating through her shoes like the winter frost that freezes everything in place. Wisteria vines grew up the windows—an entrapment of memories.
A mound of blankets, shoved in a corner, was the only reminder within the house that he was ever there.
Hysteria clouded her reality. She fell to her knees on the heap of cloth, lifted it to her nose, breathed it in, but she didn't find the scent she sought. A jagged fingernail snagged on the linen as she bunched the fabric in her hands. While she sat there taking it all in, her eyes fell closed at the same speed as the setting sun. Sobs shook through her from a building pressure that could find no relief.
His words replayed—none of them goodbye, but all of them meaning it.
Drying her eyes, she stood on shaky legs.
A lone spider, perched on its web in a high corner, witnessed every feeling that passed between the two lovers. His many eyes caught every emotion; the curiosity, the joy, and the most powerful emotion of all, pain.
She left then, leaving her heartache in the empty house where the strength of its fury could have set the place to flame. With her shoulders back, without an ounce of regret, she made her way back to the only life she that had ever been certain.
The moon shone brighter that night, as if it knew she'd need the extra light. Her soul dimmed as the only love she'd ever dreamed of told her goodbye.
Isabella pressed her back against the wood siding of her home. Her heart pounded a rhythm faster than any it had ever played before. Jacob stood before her, knowing her feelings for him and knowing she'd give anything to go with him. She belonged by his side. He was the sole reason she stayed content on her father's farm. Other girls were finding work, going off to college, or getting dolled up and spending their evenings in speakeasies, but not Isabella. She made her father proud by being up early every morning and setting about her chores. She was always there to help serve the morning and evening meals. He didn't know how many hours during the day she'd spend on her sketches and that she'd sneak out of his house every night. He'd be fast asleep when she tiptoed outside to see if Jacob would ride by.
For decades, the Swans welcomed the Quileutes on their land. They would stay for weeks, sometimes months at a time, but they always left when called. It was a whisper in the wind, a calling from nature only their ears could comprehend. Through the years, Isabella became accustomed to their comings and goings, but this time was different. This time, she was in love. Jacob had captured her soul and intertwined it with his. She could feel their unity in the depths of her bones.
"I should be riding on your horse behind you. You know that." Her tears were threatening, but letting them out would disqualify her points. Looking in his dark eyes, she felt an ache in her belly in the same place he used to set a flutter.
"You don't belong behind anyone." His deep voice showed wisdom far beyond his young years.
"If you leave me here, you take my whole heart with you." For the first time, she voiced her love.
The steadiness in his disposition faltered just long enough for her to see the effect of her words. Jacob put a hand to his neck. Taking his twine necklace in his fist, he pulled until it broke.
His stallion waited behind him, snorting and lifting his hooves as if he was raring to go just as steadfast as his owner.
Taking her hand in his firm grasp, Jacob doubled the twine around her wrist and knotted it. "When the time comes, I will be back, and by then, you will know where you belong."
He didn't give her time to question his words. Pressing his lips against hers, for the only time another mouth had met hers, he made her lose all her thoughts. The warm pressure forced her eyes closed. By the time she had composed herself, he was gone, departing as silently as the night itself.
Looking to the stars, she promised that she would never love another. As sure as the sun would block the stars from her vision, her heart had already found its home.
Days turned into weeks, as they always do, but even as months passed, Isabella still pined. She kept her feelings to herself, wearing a mask of happiness, proving that she could fool anyone. When she was alone in her bed, her pillow muffled her sobs long into sleepless nights. Come morning, she'd rush through her chores before going as far as her legs could carry her.
She'd been out in that empty field for hours. Smearing charcoal on paper, she tried to get the shape of Jacob's eyes just right. Brokenhearted tears filled her vision, making drawing near impossible, but she kept at it. Like the love that was now out of reach, she gave more of herself than seemed conceivable. Watermarks filled the pages. Many more tears went in rather than out, filling the cracks in her heart with saltwater.
An old, vacant house stood off in the distance. White paint covered the outside, but large chips revealed the gray wood it covered. Sitting on the other side of her family's property line, the structure had always held a mystery. Isabella stumbled upon the house as a child, but in all the years she'd spent curious, not once did she venture past the edge of her property. The invisible boundary held her back, but as she wept, she wondered if she had become that house—left behind, withered, and empty.
A loud crack of thunder pulled her from her art. Lost in her sorrow, she hadn't noticed the clouds as they moved in above her. She gathered her belongings in a hurry. As she ran for home, her eyes were drawn back to the empty house. What she saw in the window caused her throat to close in. A man stood behind the glass. When she blinked, he was gone.
Her feet carried her faster, fear driving her forward.
Chuckling to herself, she slowed her steps. Her logic had kicked in, and she knew her wary mind had played a trick on her, but she did not look back toward the house.
She had hoped to make it home before her father, but when she saw that the barn doors were closed, she knew she was the only one the storm had snuck up on.
Her sight drifted past the farm. On a hilltop in the distance, Eupherium stood—his long, graying hair blowing in the wind. He raised his hand to Isabella in a gesture she knew to mean he was wishing her safe passage. In turn, she raised her own hand to him as the storm continued to darken the sky.
The stubborn man, too old to travel with the rest of his tribe, turned his back to her as if he hadn't seen her at all.
Her father opened the door as she approached. "Hurry in, girl." He shut the door just as the rain began pelting down. "Old Billy isn't out in this, is he?"
"I just saw him. Told him to go inside." She smiled as she glanced over her shoulder. "His name is Eupherium, by the way."
Charles Swan chuckled at that. "He never gets my name right, either. He'll always be Old Billy to me. Go get cleaned up. Ms. Alice fixed a roast."
Standing on her toes, she kissed her father's whiskered cheek.
Isabella snorted as she made her way to her bedroom. She did not risk telling her father that the translation for what Eupherium called him was Warrior Pig Hunter. The smile on her face had come on so easy. She lived in a blissful moment before the memory's force hit her. When Jacob had told Isabella the translation for the nickname, humor sparkled had in his eyes. In that carefree moment, she had fallen in love.
Doubled over on her bed, Isabella gasped. As much as she didn't want to understand the words he'd uttered when he left, she knew. He wasn't hers, and though the kiss that followed may have misled her for a while, the truth was in what he'd said.
Composing herself, she acted her way through their evening meal, laughing and appreciating the company of her family. Her life was with them, and though she loved them, she wasn't happy.
In the quiet of the night, her mind veered from Jacob to another man, the apparition in the window of the house that was just as hollow as she was. Heartache was making her delusional.
In the early hours of the morning, before Isabella set about her chores, she approached Ms. Alice, her late mother's cousin who had been living with the Swans since Renee's passing a decade before.
As Isabella faced her own lonely demons, she was concerned for the single woman who had raised her. "Are you happy? Are we holding you back? How do you live without love?"
As Ms. Alice smiled, the corners of her eyes crinkled. "Always so brash. Who's to say I don't have love? I love you plenty. You're as good as my own."
She'd always said that, and Isabella was grateful. "I know you have me, but don't you need a man? Don't you regret not getting married?"
Ms. Alice gave Isabella a gentle pat on her cheek. "No, my life suits me just fine. Mind you, you don't know what I get up to when you're running around all day. Seems to me you think I spend all day in this house, but that's not the case." She winked and turned back to her cooking.
Isabella took a seat and hoped she was in for a story.
After adding more wood to the stove, Ms. Alice untied her apron and hung it up on the wall before setting bread and jam on the table. "As wonderful as love with someone else is, it's a far better feeling to love yourself. Loving yourself makes your spine straighter. It makes you more capable. Loving yourself means knowing how to love someone else."
As easy it was to claim that she loved Jacob, Isabella couldn't say that she loved herself. She felt like a child as Ms. Alice spread jam on her bread, and not because of the help. She felt like a lovesick fool that let an attraction go to her head. It was no wonder that Jacob had left her behind.
As she set off to tend the chickens, she walked past Colonel Whitlock. She had no doubt he was picking up the lunch buckets from Ms. Alice. After serving on France's frontline, Colonel Whitlock was trying to find his way in the world. He'd found himself on the Quileute reservation in La Push, where he quickly made friends with the tribe. Whitlock eventually yearned to get back to the farm life he had been raised, and came upon the Swans shortly thereafter."
He tipped his hat to Isabella. "Good morning, Miss."
"Good morning, Colonel." Understanding had passed between the two, for Jasper Whitlock had witnessed on many occasions Isabella's late night wanderings. He was a man who would keep her secrets, and for that, she was forever thankful.
When she set out for the fields, Isabella didn't bring anything with her but a lunch. She had something else on her mind that didn't involve sketching. The old house had been beckoning her since the night before, causing her to toss and turn in her sleep.
Her shoes sunk half an inch into the ground as she walked through the mud created from the storm. She made her way through fields and trees that she knew well, but it as if she was seeing them for the first time. Her heart threatened to break through her ribs as she crossed the property line. She took step after step as though her shoes were made of lead, but not once did she consider turning around.
The closer she got, the smaller the house appeared. The allure of mystery dwindled as soon as she was within reach. Cupping her hand above her brow, she peered through the green buildup that covered the windows from years of neglect. Vines had grown so high in some places that they reached the second story.
The house was not only vacant, but looked as untouched on the inside as it did the out. There were a few furnishings draped with white sheets. Still intrigued, she made her way around the house, through overgrown grass and weeds, until she had peeked in every window within reach. Her fingers twitched as she longed for her art supplies. It was the first time in months she had considered sketching something that wasn't eyes.
After a full walk around the house, Isabella made her way to the front door, figuring there was no harm in seeing if it would open. She steadied herself as she wrapped her hand around the tarnished brass knob, unsure if she would be disappointed or relieved if it didn't turn.
"Excuse me," a man said from behind her.
Isabella spun around, clutching her chest and stumbling as she regained her balance.
The man, who was standing at least a dozen feet away, took a step toward her. "Can I help you?"
"Who are you?" She squinted against the blinding light of the sun, knowing she had never seen him before, but feeling as if she had.
"Edward…Edward Masen." He clutched a fedora in his hands as he closed the distance between them. His once white dress shirt was bunched up above his elbows, and his trousers had seen better days.
Isabella stared into the emeralds that were his eyes as she thought of what to make of the man in front of her. He appeared older than her, but perhaps if he shaved the ragged, overgrown beard covering the lower half of his face, he wouldn't look much older at all. Even with the beard, she could tell he was handsome. His eyes were kind.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Masen. I'm Isabella Swan." She tilted her head. "You're not from around here, are you?"
"No, ma'am." He leaned back on his heels. "This is my house, though…my property. I don't want you to think I'm trespassing." His fingers fidgeted over the material of his hat.
She hadn't considered that. She was the one trespassing, but if that were his house, she would have known. She could not recall the name of the former occupants, but she would have if she heard the name. The name Masen didn't spark so much as a glimmer of recognition. However, if this man was making a home of a vacant house, she had no business telling him he couldn't.
"Even if you are, I don't mind. It doesn't look to me like you're hurting anything. Where are you from? If you don't mind me asking." Her eyes drifted down to the scuffed Oxfords on his feet. As run down as he appeared, there was something about the way he carried himself and the confidence in his voice that suggested he hadn't been this way for long. What was clear was that this man was not a farmer.
By the state of him, she wondered if he had eaten in days. She pulled her quarter-loaf of bread out of her satchel, broke it in half, and split it with the man.
His posture softened as he took the bread from her. "Thank you, ma'am." He took a bite, slowly chewing, savoring the taste. "I was born and raised in Chicago. I don't mind talking about it. I could use a friend out here." He grinned at her before taking another bite, larger this time, and then another, showing his hunger as he devoured her offering.
"Why would you ever want to come here? You must miss the city. We go to the city sometimes, but city folk never come here." Isabella's eyes beamed at the prospect of a new friend. Her days had been lonely for too long, and never before had she had such a fierce interest in city life.
Her hands roamed over the contents inside her satchel. She had an apricot and a molasses cookie she had been looking forward to eating. Had she known she'd be sharing her lunch, she would have snuck two cookies. She pulled out her apricot and handed it to the man. It was almost like a trade for the information he was giving her.
He took the apricot with a grateful smile. "Just between the two of us?" he asked before pulling his fedora over his scalp.
Isabella nodded. "If anyone around here can keep a secret, it's me."
Palm flat against the house and his arm outstretched, he crossed his ankles as he leaned. "I'm just lying low for a while. I'm not wanting anyone to know that I'm here just yet. I was always supposed to make my life out in this here house." He patted the wood that was holding him up. "Might as well start now." He bit into the apricot.
Her hand stayed tucked in her bag. No longer looking forward to her cookie, she was instead looking forward to handing it over.
Edward said, "If you're interested, I could give you a tour sometime. The house may be an eyesore now, but I think I can fix her up."
When he smiled at her, flashing his teeth, her heart skipped a beat. Isabella's face grew warmer, her blush felt as if it would reach clear to her toes. "I'd like that."
"How about you? Did you have business at the house? Did I disturb you?"
She looked away. "No, no. I thought I had caught sight of someone in the window just yesterday. Convinced myself it was a ghost for a moment before I figured I was mistaken, but then again, here you are."
"You came exploring by yourself, thinking you saw a ghost." He shook his head, grinned, and took another bite of the apricot. Foamy juice settled on the corners of his mouth before he licked it up.
"You must think I'm a bird." Her cheeks flushed deeper as she looked down.
"No, I didn't think that at all."
Their eyes met, and Isabella's breath caught as a question played in her mind. What did he think of her? "I should be on my way. It was nice to meet you, Edward Masen."
"You too, Isabella. Feel free to come back anytime you like." He tilted his head toward the field behind her. "And bring your drawings next time."
"Thank you, I will." She turned and walked away, almost stumbling a few times, and when she knew she was out of sight, she ran, her smile taking over her whole face. How many times had he seen her drawing in the fields? She had let out so many emotions in the recent months, thinking she was alone. Isabella felt exposed to Edward in a way she had never felt before, but she'd also never found a man to be so easy to talk to. His disposition, the way he spoke to her as an equal, and his cheery smile, all warmed her to him. She couldn't help the pull to go back and get to know Edward, her new neighbor, her new friend as he had said. If he wasn't ready for others to know he was there, she would keep his confidence.
All of the mystery the house held was transposed into a man from the city. She regretted not paying more attention during her visits with her friend Rosie. Rosie was in college, and therefore her knowledge of the world was broader than Isabella's, and that's not speaking about books or history. Rosie knew the best places for necking and where one could obtain a bottle of whiskey. Never before did Isabella need such information. Though her interest with getting to know Edward didn't involve necking or whiskey, it would have been helpful to know more about city life, lest she come across as a bluenose.
As she neared her home, she caught sight of Colonel Whitlock leaving the house. She ducked behind a tree to avoid being seen. The front door opened again, and Ms. Alice headed out in the same direction Colonel Whitlock had gone. Isabella tucked what she saw away. Their business was their own, and the same could be said for hers.
She went into her room, shutting the door behind her. There was still a cookie in her bag. She was aware of that, but it no longer felt like hers.
The next morning while Ms. Alice was outside, Isabella gathered a lunch for two and stored it in her room, so its bulk would not be questioned. After finishing her morning chores, keeping a straight face while wishing Ms. Alice a good day was impossible.
Ms. Alice laughed as Isabella kissed her cheek. "What's got your spirits up so high?"
"I'm just thinking about what you'll be up to while I'm out sketching the innocence of squirrels."
Ms. Alice swatted a towel at her, but giggled as Isabella ran away.
She grabbed her bag and jogged until she was in sight of the old house. Only then did she slow down to catch her breath. She didn't want to appear too eager.
When she knocked on the door, no one answered. She made her way around the house in case Edward was in the back. Her hurried steps and surveillance of her surroundings did nothing to cover up her eagerness. He would surely see that she had nothing better to do with her time than to hang around him.
Every minute that past found Isabella more disappointed. Perhaps she had come back too soon. Perhaps he was no longer in the area. Her footsteps began to drag as she considered herself to be an arid farm girl who wouldn't hold the interest of a man from the city. After another walk around the house and a third knock on the door, she gave up.
She walked back to her property, back to her field, but far enough away from the house that she wouldn't stare at it all afternoon. She sat on the ground and pulled her drawing book from her bag, ignoring the food she'd packed to share. The wetness of the earth seeped through her dress, but it didn't matter to her.
She pulled out a pencil, almost swept it on the paper, but she had nothing to draw. Eyes no longer interested her, and the house was now just a house. She couldn't find anything in her heart that held meaning.
Closing her eyes, she focused on her breathing in an attempt to clear her mind. Her spirit reached deep and pushed her desires through her until they reached her fingers. Pencil on paper, her eyes wide open, she drew.
Many lines later, a young girl began to form. The girl sat alone in a field, not caring what creatures were under her or climbing on her.
She plucked a seeded dandelion, not minding that the stem was coating her fingers in its pungent, bitter scent. Anything as familiar as that scent brought comfort.
Closing her eyes and pursing her lips together, the girl blew the dandelion with all her might, wishing that someday her life would bring her anywhere but where she was. She watched the seeds float off in the breeze, but after a while, it was obvious that those seeds weren't making it any farther than the field, settled they were, as she should be.
Isabella stopped the movements of her pencil and set it down. Throwing her hands in the air she said, "To hell with it." If all those seeds she'd drawn were not making it past the fields, then neither would she. She threw herself back, crying out as a twig poked her shoulder. Tears began to flow, not from the pain, but from the emptiness in her heart.
Minutes went by, her cries settled, and she began to doze, all the while hoping the grass would grow fast, weave around her, and swallow her whole.
"Isabella." She heard in the distance and again, repeated louder with a nudge to her shoe. "Isabella."
She mumbled incoherent words. Her face felt strained and her body ached.
"Isabella, you can't sleep out here. The sun will burn your skin."
She came to and tried to sit up. A firm hand grasped above her elbow, helping to right her. She looked up to find Edward above her, his hair wet and dripping down his face.
She squeezed her eyes shut and then blinked a few times. "Hi."
"Hello. Do you often nap out here?" A droplet of water fell from his hair to her hand.
"No. Do you often only wear a vest?" She noticed his arms were bare, and only a black vest covered his torso.
"I'm sorry, I'm not presentable." He pinched the material. "I was washing myself in the creek. Figured my shirt needed a cleaning, too. Would you believe the house doesn't have plumbing? I figured there'd be no electricity, but plumbing?" He waved his hands and smiled through his frustration. "I'm expected to pump water and carry buckets."
Isabella giggled at that. Of course the house didn't have plumbing or electricity. "They have both in town. The Newtons got plumbing on their farm just last year. Maybe someday we will, too."
His head perked upward. "Do they take boarders? I'm not sure how long I can live in these conditions."
"I'm sure they'd take you in, but I'd steer clear of them if you're lying low. Mrs. Newtown enjoys getting into other people's business."
His smile faltered. "Then I best learn to make do."
Isabella pulled a boiled egg from her bag. "I brought lunch."
Edward's fingers brushed against hers as he took it. As her hand tingled from his touch, she looked down, busying herself with the contents of her bag.
"What do you say we take a walk? Find somewhere shady to sit. I think you've had enough sun for one day." Taking her hand, he helped her stand, and then he began to walk.
Isabella stood in the same spot until he noticed she was not joining him. "Do you need to get dressed first?"
"Oh." He looked down at his attire. "My shirt…I left it hanging by the creek. I'll get it once it's dry."
Isabella wondered why he didn't have another, but she didn't ask.
They found a grassy spot beneath the trees. Isabella split up the lunch and gave him the few extra apricots she'd picked. She didn't know if he had food stored or if he spent his days hiding out with nothing. It pleased Isabella to see the pleasure he took in the food she brought him and the tenderness in his eyes when he thanked her.
She stole glances at him as they ate. His dark hair showed hints of red as it dried. She had to take care not to stare at the flex of his muscles whenever Edward moved his arms.
Isabella pulled two cookies from her bag and handed one to Edward. "Is your family still in Chicago?"
He stared at the cookie as he traced the cracks in its surface. "Yes. My parents are. I've got a brother too. Emmett, he's older, pretty set in the family business. They're not likely to come here." His gaze drifted off in the distance.
"Do you think you'll ever go back?"
He shrugged. "If I do, it's either the big house or the big sleep for me."
Isabella knew about the unfairness of the law. Her father had complained about it often.
Pulling on a blade of grass, she asked, "What did you do?"
"Not a thing." The volume of his voice fell lower. "It'll all come to pass someday, and no one will care about me."
I will, she thought.
She broke her cookie in half. The crumbs that didn't cling to her fingers fell to her lap. "I don't have any siblings. It's just my father and my mother's cousin at home. There's Colonel Whitlock and the Quileutes, of course. They're as good as family."
"What happened to your mother?"
There was not more than a few sparse clouds in the sky, and the trees were stalk still, nevertheless, a chill went through her. "She choked."
"On what?" He sat straighter. His eyebrows crinkled.
Her throat began to burn. "A revolver."
She looked at Edward, showing an old pain that would never leave her. His mouth slowly parted, and he nodded his understanding.
They both went on with eating.
Isabella kept on with the mechanics of chewing and swallowing, but her food lost its flavor. Isabella absorbed what Edward had shared of his story and what she had of hers. It appeared as if Edward was doing the same.
There was more to him than the information he had offered. There were questions she chose not to ask. But with him, she opened herself like a blossom under the warmth of the sun.
Day after day, Isabella met with Edward for lunch. Each time, she brought him something extra. Their chatter ranged from current events to local vegetation. They shared details of themselves: all their favorite things and memories. If the topic veered into a territory of secrets or pain, they cut it off, moved on, and many times, chose that moment to say goodbye.
They were walking along the creek when Isabella found the nerve to pull what she had brought with her from her bag.
She had snuck one of her father's old shirts from the ever-growing mending pile. She'd stayed up late into the evening in her room the night before, and by the light of her oil lamp, she did her best stitching on the tear in the sleeve. She was never good at sewing, but this time, she was proud of her work.
"I thought you could use an extra," she said as she held it toward him. "It was in the scrap pile, so I fixed it up for you."
"You did? You didn't have to, but thank you." He took the shirt and held it close to his chest. "You know, where I come from, people aren't this kind. I've never known anyone like you, Isabella."
Whenever he looked at her, Isabella felt as if her chest was full enough to burst. "I've never known anyone like you, either."
They smiled at each other, their words hanging in the air between them. He took her hand and helped her walk on large, slippery rocks to the other side of the creek. He was soaked to the knee, but he ensured that Isabella stayed dry.
"Such a gentleman," she said when they reached the other side.
"For you, I try."
"Is that right?" She spun around to face him, her skirt twirling around her legs. "Does that mean I don't know the real you? You're always a gentleman with me."
He tucked his hands in his pockets. "I think maybe I didn't know who the real me was until now."
"Hmm…a farm boy trapped in the city. Lucky for me you escaped."
He grinned wide. "Lucky for you?"
She gasped and covered her mouth. "I just meant…" She didn't know how to say what she meant without professing feelings she wasn't sure he'd be ready to hear. She hadn't fully admitted them to herself.
"It's all right." He looked up toward the tops of the tall trees surrounding them. "I like it out here, but the confinement drives me mad at times."
Isabella picked a buttercup and twirled it between her fingers. "We're going into town on Sunday for church. You're welcome to come."
He pushed a rock with his shoe. "I don't think that's a good idea. Maybe another time."
"Oh, right," she said, remembering his situation. He wasn't just a new neighbor; he was in some sort of trouble.
"Perhaps you could pick up a few things for me if it's not asking too much. I'll give you money, of course."
"Sure." She shrugged. "That wouldn't be a problem."
"How do you get into town? Horses, or do you have a car?"
"Horses, but the Newtons have a car. The Newton boy gives my friend, Rosie, and me rides sometimes."
"The Newton boy, is it?" His stare caught near her midriff. "Is that from the Newton boy, then?"
Isabella followed his gaze straight to the twine around her wrist. "No, this isn't from Michael." She tugged her bracelet with the opposite hand, hooking her finger under it. "It was Jacob's."
The skin of his forehead creased. "Is he another local?"
"I guess so. He's Quileute." She looked down at her feet as they began to walk. "They left, but they'll be back. You'll probably see them around."
"I'm sure I will." He walked a few paces ahead of her.
"Where are we headed?" she asked, quickening her steps.
"I'm going to catch you a fish."
"With your bare hands?"
"No, silly girl." He glanced back with an easy smile on his face. "I have a net."
She plopped herself on the ground when they reached their destination. She held in her laughter as he spent a good hour attempting to catch a fish, and then let it out during all the excitement when he finally did.
Isabella fisted her hands as she sat in a chair in the old house, watching Edward scrape a razor blade under his chin. She was used to his facial hair. She liked it even. With it gone, she didn't know if she would recognize him. When he asked her to buy the shaving supplies, she had wished she had let the request slip from her mind.
As he wiped off his face, she looked away.
"Hmm?" she responded, closing her eyes.
"Are you hiding from me?"
She laughed. "Don't call me that."
"No? Izzy, Izzy Bella. Can I call you Bella?" His footsteps thumped on the floor.
She could feel his nearness. "I don't know."
"I think I will. Open your eyes, Bella. You don't need to be afraid of me."
She opened her eyes, but did not lift her head. Her vision drifted from their shoes, mere inches apart on the hardwood floor, up his slacks, and to the buttons on his shirt. Tilting her face up, she saw the strong lines of his jaw for the first time, the curve of his lips no longer masked, and the sheer beauty of the man she knew to look just as lovely on the inside.
"There you are." She held out her hand. "I'm Bella."
He took her fingers in his and lifted them toward his mouth. "I'm still just Edward." He kissed her knuckles. The back of her fingers touched his smooth chin.
The wooden legs of a chair screeched as Edward pulled it from the table. He sat beside Isabella and asked, "Do you love him?"
"Who?" The only man on her mind was him.
He pointed to her wrist.
She looked down at her bracelet. "Oh, Jacob. Would you understand if I said yes, but no?"
"Well, I don't think I loved him in the way I thought I did. Infatuation makes your brain fuzzy, and you don't know what's real."
He perched his elbows on his knees and rested his face in his hands. "How do you know when it's real love?"
She was envious of his hands as they rested on his cheeks. "I think it's more about wanting to share your life with someone than them being your life."
He opened his mouth then paused. "Do you think he'll be sad that your brain's no longer fuzzy for him?"
The way he held her stare caused her to shift in her seat. "No, I think he always knew. That's why he left me here. It was better for me to figure it out on my own, or I might not have ever believed it."
Edward rose from his chair. "How about that tour?" He held out his arm to her. "You haven't seen the whole house."
She linked her arm through his, and together, they walked through the house and removed the covers off all the furnishings. Every inch of the house was filled with possibility.
The summer brought with it a flurry of activity. Isabella still made time to see Edward most afternoons, but her home was always filled with neighboring farmers, helping them thresh the fields and to can the overabundance of vegetables from the garden. She had to make several trips into town as well as visits with Rosie, who was out of school for the summer.
Edward absorbed any information Isabella could give him. He was determined to turn his land into a profitable farm. The more information Isabella gave him, the more interest she began to take in her work. Gone were the days she longed for a break. She took on more chores in order to learn.
She began to borrow her father's fishing pole and attempted to catch more than Edward could in his net. When she shared her catch with her family, no one complained that she was away for a few hours every afternoon, and she felt as if, in some way, she was sharing her time with Edward with them.
Isabella was filling can after can with green beans at the Hales' home—a home she had spent a great deal of time in during her youth. Rosalie Hale had always been her opposite. Isabella's long hair was twisted in a bun at the nap of her neck, and her cream-colored dress covered her calves. Rosie's haircut left her with bangs straight across her eyebrows and length that barely reached her chin. Her red lipstick was as bright as her dress that only reached to just below her knees.
Isabella rubbed her lips together as she admired both Rosie's lipstick and her confidence.
"Ma, we need to take a break." Rosie grabbed Isabella by the arm and pulled her from the table, despite Mrs. Hale's complaints.
Once in the bedroom, Rosie closed the door. "I've got a few things for you."
"Well, hurry up. You're going to get us in trouble."
"Oh, come on. Live a little." She handed Isabella a canvas bag. "Take the whole thing."
Isabella peered inside, finding a compact mirror and lipstick among other things. She pulled out a tin box. "What's this?" She read the writing on the top. "Sheik: three latex prophylactics. Rosie?" She opened the tin, but didn't understand what she found inside.
Rosie giggled as she opened her own compact and applied more lipstick. "Rubbers. You know, in case you and the Newton boy decide to get a little closer." She shimmied her hips.
"I won't need these, but I thank you for the thought." She had never considered pre-marital sex an option before, but she dropped the box back in the bag.
"You never know. Times are changing. A girl has got to be prepared." She winked. "Come on. Let's go waste our day away filling jars."
Leaves drifted to the ground as Isabella sat on a bench, looking out Edward's window. He was working out the details of supplies he'd need to get through the winter and well ahead to the spring, when he planned to bring his land to life. She had grown to be more comfortable in his home than she was in her own. There was something freeing about being with Edward. No matter what she did or said, he never judged her.
The leaves themselves marked the passage of time. Edward was still hiding away on his property. Isabella knew that none of his dreams would come to fruition if he couldn't show his face in town. She was only able to procure so much for him, and farming took equipment she wouldn't be able to sneak.
She looked over at him as he hunched over his paper. "Will you be free to be seen by the spring?"
He looked up, realization erupting in his eyes. "I guess I'll just have to take my chances."
"I can't imagine that you've done anything so bad that you would need to hide your face for this long."
"It's not what I did. It's what I know." He sat on the bench beside her. "Have you heard of the Volturi?"
Her jaw dropped. "You're part of a mob family?"
"No, I'm just married into one."
Isabella leaned away as if burned. "You're married."
"No, not me," he said, taking her hand. "My aunt, but we're all family now. You have to believe me that I don't want any part of it. Any involvement I've had was for the sake of my brother. I did a few deliveries, but that was just bootleg liquor. I've never hurt anyone, but people have been hurt, and I know more than I should."
"And if they find you?"
He released her hand. "The Volturi don't have a problem with me if I stay away from the police. I don't want any part of either side."
"Will you be hiding forever, then?"
"I hope not." He squeezed her shoulder. "If helping me ever gets to be too much, you don't have to. I won't be hopeless." He walked back to where he'd left his plans.
"I want to help you." She moved to stand behind him.
He peered up at her through his thick lashes. "I don't know what I'd do without you. You're the best friend I've ever had."
Isabella smiled, but she had a pang in her side that wouldn't ease.
When she left late into the afternoon, she didn't go home. Her belly was twisted up in sickness, and only one person could ease her ailments, one person who she wouldn't have to tell her secrets to because somehow, he would already know.
Just a hint of the small hut Eupherium called home could be seen through the surrounding trees. The door did not have a lock, but even knowing that he wouldn't answer, Isabella knocked. When enough time passed to be deemed respectable notice, Isabella opened the door.
The aging man motioned toward the cot against the back wall.
Isabella lied down with a huff. "I'm a fool. Do you have a cure for that?"
Eupherium set about blending an herbal tea. He hummed as he worked, and though Isabella's muscles were wound tight, the sound began to put her at ease.
Somewhere between when they first met and the moment Edward claimed her as his best friend, Isabella had fallen in love. It wasn't a dizzy infatuation. It was the kind of love that futures are born from. Every plan he made, she saw herself in. She was love's fool. Such a tricky thing was love, and she feared she'd never get it right. For all she knew, Edward considered her a sister. Even if he didn't, being a best friend almost sounded worse.
"Gentle Raven," Eupherium said. One of the few words he spoke in her tongue was his name for her. He held a steaming cup toward her.
She sat up and took it. As the cloud of steam filled her nose, she smelled lemon and lavender.
Eupherium went outside and returned with a stick charred on the end. He began drawing right on the wall. He drew a bird and an arrow pointing to a bear standing tall.
The cup warmed her hands. "How can I be brave when he doesn't feel the same?"
He brought the stick to the wall and circled his drawings.
"You're right. I'm brave." She set her cup on the table.
He tapped her wrist with the stick, leaving black soot on the skin just above her bracelet. He shook his head and scrunched his nose as he eyed the jewelry.
"Well, you could have told me sooner."
The old man laughed as she walked out the door.
One afternoon, Isabella went to the fields instead of Edward's home. She sat on the grass and began to draw.
Although she was not facing the house, she knew its shape by heart. Every window began to take form on her parchment. The house was dark, but in one window, a figure stood surrounded by an aura that illuminated the darkness.
She heard Edward sit beside her, but he stayed silent. When she finished, he caressed the edges of the figure. "Is this me?"
"Yes." She turned to look at him and found him closer than she realized he'd be.
His gaze shifted from the picture to her eyes. She could see his pupils constrict and feel his breath on her face.
Like a feather floating in the wind, her hand came up. Her fingers brushed under his chin. They neared each other until the slightest whisper would've caused them to touch.
Isabella's vision blurred from missed blinks as Edward's eyes closed. She pursed her lips against his and let her breath out in a shudder. He cupped his hand behind her ear and returned her kiss.
He pulled back and said, "I could love a dame like you."
"You could?" she asked, not sure if it was a compliment or something more.
His tongue peeked out, wetting his lips. "Or I do."
She lifted her shoulders. "You could, or you do?" She laughed, but it wasn't funny. She was unsure how to feel.
The pigments in his cheeks brightened. "I do. I love you."
Her smile stretched until her face hurt. "I love you too."
Edward reclined on the ground and pulled Isabella to rest her head on his shoulder. They played with each other's fingers as they watched the clouds move across the sky.
Isabella rushed through her chores, spilling chicken feed in her haste, and effectively wasting time.
She was a mess when she went inside.
Ms. Alice looked over her shoulder as she kneaded a mound of dough. "Well, aren't you a sight? Go get cleaned up."
Isabella plopped down on a chair instead. "What would you think if I wore lipstick? Times are changing. I may want to cut my hair, too."
"Why ever for?" Ms. Alice waved her hand. "Never mind, I need to stick to the only truth I know when I cover for you."
Isabella sat up straighter. "What do you mean?"
"All the fishing you're doing. One day, Charles wanted to join you. I told him your time is spent with your drawings, and you like privacy for that." Ms. Alice pushed a stray hair off her forehead with the heel of her hand. "Now he's curious about your artwork. I hope you have something to show him."
"Sure, I do. I'll show him this evening." She exhaled out her worry over the possibility of being caught with Edward.
Ms. Alice sighed. "Well, start out subtle with the changes. Your father will accept whatever you choose, but you don't go giving him a heart attack."
She agreed, and when she changed her dress, she added a subtle spritz of perfume Rosie had given her on her last birthday.
When she knocked on Edward's door, he did not answer. She let herself in, but he wasn't there. As she walked through the house, she called out to him.
Her shoulders tensed as she walked back down the stairs.
As she headed for the door, she caught sight of him at the table, going over his plans. "Hello. Where were you?"
He looked up, startled at first, but then lighting up with a smile. "I was checking my woodpile."
"No matter how much you have, you'll need more." She walked over and sat on his lap.
He placed his hands on her waist and skimmed his fingers up her sides. "You smell different."
"Do you like it?" She traced her thumb along his jaw, feeling the scruff growing in.
"It's nice." Tilting his head to the side, he closed his eyes.
Not missing his cue, she leaned forward and kissed him. When his lips parted and his tongue peeked out, she gasped at the feeling, but it didn't deter her. She held him closer and mimicked his movements. Her hands tangled in the back of his hair, and her chest pressed against his.
Caught up in the new sensations, she didn't realize she was rubbing her breasts on him until he pulled away.
His breath was heavy. "You've done this before?"
Of course, she had kissed him before, but she knew he meant with another.
She bit her lower lip. It still tingled from Edward's kiss. "Yes, but only once."
"Yes." She paused to swallow a lump that was blocking her airway. "Does that bother you?"
He touched the arch of her brow. "No, that's over now."
She leaned into his touch. "I want to share my life with you."
Her love for him didn't cause her to lose herself. He helped her see herself for the responsible person she was.
The Swan house was quiet late at night, but not everyone was asleep. Isabella sat on her bed, watching the faint light beneath her door. Months had passed since the last time she worried what time her family went to sleep. It had taken a month, but she convinced Edward to meet her at night.
She slipped into her sleep dress to conceal the fact that she planned to leave. She found her father in the parlor, sitting in his rocking chair and reading his withered copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
He looked up and pulled off his spectacles. "I must have lost track of time. Is it morning already?"
"Not yet, but if you plan to finish the book, it will be." She sat on the sofa and let her head fall to her shoulder as if she were exhausted.
"Is something troubling you?" He set his book down.
"No, I just couldn't sleep."
"You must be lonely without Rosie. I think the Newtons' boy is interested in you, so you needn't worry long." He laughed at his own joke.
Isabella grumbled at her father's attempt at humor.
He stood up. "Maybe you should go into town and get that haircut I hear you've been wanting. That would be a sight to see."
She narrowed her eyes at him. "I just might."
Leaning down, he kissed her forehead. "Go get some sleep."
He held his lamp toward her bedroom, so she wouldn't have to walk in the dark. An hour passed before she risked getting dressed and sneaking out the front door.
With her new flashlight in hand and a bag over her shoulder, she made her way toward where Edward planned to meet her. Shivering, she felt guilty that she'd left him waiting in the cold.
Halfway there, she heard Edward call her name. She turned in a circle, but didn't see him until he stepped out from the covering of the trees.
He held up his hands to block the light shining in his eyes. It took Isabella a moment to realize that she was the one wielding the blinding ray.
He lowered his hand as she lowered the light. "You're late."
"I know. Are you freezing?"
"No, you call this cold?" He surprised her by lifting her in his arms and carrying her through the fields. "Where to?"
"Your house. Where else?"
"Your house, the creek, or maybe the Newtons' farm. I still haven't met them."
"You haven't met anyone."
"I met you, didn't I? You're all I need."
She chuckled and kissed his temple.
"You're heavy." Edward set her down. "What's in your bag?"
She looked away, hiding her deceit. "Toffees."
They walked the rest of the way holding hands.
Isabella set her bag on the table when they arrived at the house. By the light of her flashlight, Isabella found a kerosene lamp and lit it.
"Where are the toffees? What's this?"
Isabella turned around to find Edward rummaging through her bag.
"Sheiks," he read aloud. "Rubbers, Bella?" He laughed. "I never know what to expect with you."
"Give them back." She tried to grab them.
Standing on his toes, he held the box up as far as he could reach. "Are they not meant for me?"
She tried to reach his hands, but even when she jumped, he was too tall. "They're meant as a precaution."
"A precaution for what?" His voice lowered as did his hands.
"You know," she said, taking the box. She turned from him to put it in her bag.
He stood behind her and pressed his lips to her neck. She sighed against the feeling of the chord he was strumming that ran straight to her chest.
His arms encircled her waist. Her head lolled to the side as his tongue joined his lips in the touches he was leaving on her skin.
When he moved closer, she felt his hardness against her lower back. A shiver ran threw her, for it was a thrill she'd never felt before.
He nibbled her earlobe. "A precaution for what, Bella?"
She brought her hands back until her palms were against his thighs and moved her fingers inward until they skimmed the bulge in his trousers. "For this."
His mouth stayed on her neck as his fingers undid the buttons on her dress. Lost in sensations, all she could manage was the roll of her head in whatever direction it fell.
He led her by the hand up the stairs. Her bag was slung over his arm.
In the darkness, they helped each other remove their clothes, and she lay down on the bed.
He kissed her ankle and rubbed his mouth up her skin until his face was between her legs. When he began to press tender kisses against her, she bunched her hands in the sheets and squished her lips together to hold in her whimpers.
He moved up her body until he was hovering over her. She felt rubber touch her thigh. Her hands trembled as panic set in. Her mind went numb, knowing pain was ahead.
He brought his mouth down to whisper in her ear. "I love you."
Unable to find her voice, she kissed him instead.
She flinched as he pressed inside of her. An ache seared through her body for a long few seconds before it eased.
"Oh, Bella. You've never done this before." He began to pull away.
She tightened her arms around his neck. "No, please don't stop."
"I don't want to hurt you."
He kissed her mouth. Their lips parted. Their tongues caressed. Her limbs wrapped around him as he moved above her. She thought, this is what it's like for two people to become one person.
When his body was spent, he slipped out of her and got off the bed, but didn't leave her waiting long.
He lay behind her and pulled her back to his chest. "I'll do right by you, you know that?"
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't." Tears began to fill her eyes. "I wish I didn't have to leave."
"You shouldn't have to." He pressed his face between her shoulder blades. "I'll figure it out soon."
She didn't have to be careful of staying awake. She wouldn't have been able to sleep if she tried.
Being with Edward had taken on a new meaning, a new closeness. Their love was a feeling that was with her even when she wasn't with him.
When she arrived at his house, the door was ajar. She didn't hesitate letting herself in. What she saw inside caused her steps to halt as if she neared the edge of a cliff.
Colonel Whitlock stood up from Edward's table. He nodded to Edward and then made his way toward the door. "Good day, Miss."
"You too, Colonel." She held her breath until the door closed behind her. "Is everything all right?" she asked Edward.
He shook his head. "I'm not sure."
"Colonel Whitlock won't tell anyone you're here." She sat on his lap and took his face in her hands.
"If you trust him, then so do I." His lashes blinked against her cheek. "Everything will be fine." He moved his hands up her back.
Her body warmed from his touch. "Take me to bed."
His chest shook as he laughed. "Take you to bed? Just like that? In the middle of the day?"
He pursed his lips as his gaze went up. "You know, I can't think of a single reason."
She leaned forward with a challenge in her eyes. "Then what are you waiting for?"
The interruption to their private world was forgotten as she ran for the stairs.
Edward ran after her, letting her lead, but grabbed her by the hips and spun her around just as she made it to the bedroom doorway.
He hoisted her up and kissed her. They didn't break apart even to breathe. As their garments came off in a flurry, Isabella crossed her arms over her chest.
"Don't cover yourself." He moved her arms.
She took a deep breath, and when she released it, she let go of her modesty. Edward had already seen her vulnerability, and it wasn't on her skin.
He laid her down and moved his hands all over her body, but avoided the places that craved his touch the most.
Her back arched off the bed as he pressed beneath her navel. "What are you doing to me?"
"What does it feel like?" He moved his hand to the top of her thigh.
"It feels like you're toying with me, like I'm your puppet. I've lost all control."
"No, you're wrong. You have all the control." He squeezed her leg. "Do you want me to stop?"
She shook her head and reached for the rubbers that were still on the bedside table from the night before. She handed him one and watched him put it on.
He leaned over her, but continued his ministrations on her stomach. Her body pulsated both higher and lower.
She had slept only moments the night before. Her mind didn't keep up with her mouth. "I don't think you're doing this right."
"No?" He brought his mouth to her ribs.
Her blood crackled in her veins. Pressure was building inside her. Her legs wouldn't hold still. "You're playing a game."
"No, I'm not." He laughed.
"This isn't a joke."
He positioned himself above her in the way she expected him to in the first place. "Never a joke."
When he started to push inside her, she closed her eyes, steeling herself for a searing pain that never came.
She had felt their love in the connection the night before, but this time, as she moved her hips with the rhythm he set, the pads of her fingers dug into his shoulders, she cried out, and her body convulsed.
When his movements stopped, she asked him, "Why do people ever leave their beds?"
"I have no idea." He kissed each of her eyelids.
She studied him as they lay tangled together. She wanted to know his body better than she knew her own.
He tucked her hair behind her ear. "I need you to trust me."
"I need you to understand that I never want to hurt you."
His eyes were glossy. "There's so much I have to do, but my plans mean nothing if I don't have you."
She snuggled in closer. "You do."
He arms tightened around her. "I don' want you to go."
"I'll come back tonight," she said, trying to stifle a yawn.
"No, you need to sleep. I need you to take care of yourself. Can you do that for me?"
They got dressed and Edward walked with her until they were in sight of her house. He didn't stop touching her, and every few minutes, he stopped walking to kiss her.
"I'll see you tomorrow," she said as they embraced.
He let go of her waist and reached in his pocket. "I want you to take this." He pressed a bill in her hands. "Buy yourself something you want, and keep the rest for whatever you need."
She looked down at the c-note in her hand. "This is a hundred dollars. I can't take this."
"Please, Bella. Let me take care of you. I let you take care of me."
She folded it in half. "All right. I'll hold on to it."
"I love you," he told her before he kissed her over and over again.
"I have to go," she said between kisses. "I love you." She walked backward, and he stayed where he was, watching her. When she reached her door, she waved to him before going inside.
Although her lack of sleep was causing a dull ache in her head, Bella felt whimsical as she tucked Edward's money into her mother's old jewelry box. Her body was still alive with the aftereffects of Edward's love.
She lay in bed hoping to rest for a few moments. Her mind was asleep before her heavy eyelids closed. She stirred once in the middle of the night, but didn't wake again until morning.
Feeling guilty for sleeping through the evening, Isabella got to work before Ms. Alice was awake. She made breakfast and put together lunch buckets before starting on her own chores.
As the sun rose higher in the sky, Isabella headed inside. Just before she closed the door, she heard a car.
She found Ms. Alice looking out the window.
"Who is it?" Isabella asked.
Ms. Alice shook her head. "These bulls were sneaking around here yesterday, too."
"What do they want?"
"I don't know. They wouldn't talk to me."
Bella peered out the window to see her father talking to two policemen. As she waited for them to leave, her stomach balled tighter than any fist she'd ever made.
When her father came in, he pulled off his hat. "Seems one of the Cullen boys is in some trouble."
Isabella felt light-headed as her mind connected the Cullen name with Edward's property.
Her father set a paper on the table. Isabella held her breath as she looked at a sketch of Edward's face.
Ms. Alice lifted it up for a closer look. "What did he do?"
Charles shook his head. "They say he's just wanted for questioning."
"Why would they offer a reward for questioning?" Ms. Alice asked.
"They're looking for information on who they called "a real big cheese." They didn't give me more information than that."
Ms. Alice set the paper back on the table. "Well, why is this Cullen hiding?"
"I'd say because mobsters don't take kindly to snitches," Colonel Whitlock said from behind them.
Charles nodded toward him. "No, I suppose not. The Cullens are good people. I think if we see or hear anything about Edward, we'll keep it to ourselves." He looked to Isabella who managed to dip her head in a small nod.
She snuck away then, and when she was out the door, she took off running.
When she got to the house, the door was locked. She knocked, and when that wasn't answered, she peered in a window. All of the furniture was covered.
She walked around the house, looking for signs of Edward.
I never want to hurt you. She heard his voice replay.
"No," she said aloud.
I need you to take care of yourself.
In a panic, she began pushing up on every window, all the while searching for rocks on the ground to break the glass if none would open.
There's so much I have to do. Let me take care of you.
On the last window, she found a power in her arms she'd never exerted before, and the glass moved up.
She pulled herself through and though she knew he was gone, she refused to believe it. As she walked through the house, her heart bled. Every room had been righted to the state it was before she'd helped him make the house a home.
Only spider webs greeted her as she entered his bedroom. All the bed linens were piled in the corner, and that's where she fell. Burrowing her face in the cloths, her sobs overtook her. Once again, she was left behind. Had she known he was leaving, she would have stuck by his side. He would have had no choice but to take her with him.
When her eyes were depleted of tears, she stood up and accepted her fate.
Wherever he was, even if he never came back, she knew he loved her.
Anything she had learned about heartbreak before that day had been a prelude. She walked home with her head held high. Birds squawked from above, and squirrels scurried across the ground. There was life all around her, and as long as she was still breathing, she was living.
As days passed, the pain remained, but so did the love. She was lifted higher with every step she took on her own.
It would be wrong to say that she didn't hold out hope for Edward's return. She did hope. Every night as she closed her eyes, she saw his face. The memories brought her peace. She loved Edward, and she loved the woman she was when she was with him. She wanted to be that woman, and more.
Eventually, she did use some of the money he had given her. She got her hair cut and bought a typewriter. She spent all winter learning how to type. Her mind would get lost in the clacking of the keys, as if it were a piano she was teaching herself how to play. The words were nonsense, but the sound was everything.
When her typing was good enough, she asked the Newton boy, Michael, to drive her into town to find a job.
It was good that she got that job, too. For soon after, her father suffered a heart attack, and they had to hire another hand on the farm.
On weekends, she'd let Rosie take her out. She'd borrow a short dress and dance the night away with her friend. In those moments, her spirit was alive.
In town one afternoon, she caught sight of a headline in the paper. The head of the Volturi was killed by police. After that, she saw Edward in every man she past. Countless times, she looked into faces that were not his. Each time, she was disappointed, but she never stopped looking.
Though the city had begun to touch her life, Isabella knew she belonged on the farm. It was one summer afternoon when she was making her way up the dirt road to meet Michael for a ride into town, when she saw a face she knew well.
As she locked eyes with Jacob, who was sitting on his horse, she knew exactly what he meant when he left. She was where she belonged. She smiled and waved. His necklace was no longer on her wrist.
He nodded, and went on his way.
The roots that already grounded her deepened.
Her days continued, and she lived them proud. Loneliness still surrounded her, but love kept her strong.
On an uneventful Friday, Isabella wished Michael a good evening when he dropped her off at home after work. Her skirt caught in the door and tore up to her thigh.
"Are you all right?" He reached for his door handle.
"I'm fine." She walked away, turning her body so he couldn't see the tear. He was always polite, but he looked at her with an admiration that made it difficult to maintain a comfortable friendship.
In her hurry, she didn't notice the tremor in the air—a wave of difference she would have been in tune to any other day. She rushed past the parlor, not hearing the voice of her father and his guest until she past the room.
"Isabella," her father called. "Come here a moment."
Holding her skirt together, she walked back as her father asked. Gooseflesh bristled on her arms at the knowledge of a visitor in their home. She looked at her father first, knowing she was not fit for company.
"Atta girl," he said. "What's got you running?"
"I closed the car door on my skirt." She turned to show him the damage. The movement turned her toward their visitor. His charcoal slacks were neatly pressed below a white shirt and a black, button up vest. His hair was greased back, darkening its color, but his eyes were still the same. Isabella's lips parted, but no sound came out.
"Hello," he said, taking a step forward. "I'm Edward Masen Cullen." He reached for her hand and she gave it. His lips brushed her knuckles, and he looked at her with all the longing she needed to see that he was still hers.
"It's a pleasure to meet you." She backed away, though the pull he had on her made it difficult to move. "If you'll pardon me for a moment, I really must change."
He nodded, still holding her hand. "I'm not going anywhere."
She could hear her father as she walked away. "You'll never find anyone with more spirit than my Isabella. You'll have to watch yourself around her."
"I look forward to it," Edward replied.
Tears filled her eyes as the pressure that had been compressed in her chest released. She changed and took a minute to steady her breathing.
When she returned, her father asked, "Why don't you show Edward around? I have some work I need to finish up."
Isabella caught her father's arm as he passed. "Don't work too hard."
He covered her hand with his and smiled. "I'll be all right."
Magnetized, her body moved toward Edward when they were alone. "You were gone for so long."
"I know. I lost time. I met with a lawyer that Whitlock told me about in Texas. Then I went back to Chicago and caught the influenza and it turned into pneumonia. I was bedridden, but my life started sorting itself out on its own. I headed here as soon as I could stand."
She grasped his arm. "You're well now?"
"Physically yes, but was I gone too long? Have you moved on?"
She took his hand and placed it on her cheek. "No."
He closed his eyes and exhaled. "How long do you think before your father lets me marry you?"
She stood on her toes and kissed him. "I can't be sure, but try asking in a week."