Title of Story: BOUND
Word Count: 10,511
Type of Edward: Civil War/Reconstruction
Category (Literotica or Young Adult): Young Adult
Story Summary: An entry for the Age of Edward contest 2013:
As the Civil War looms, two lifelong friends—one the daughter of privilege, the other the son of a slave and her master—are thrown apart. Will an aristocratic life and education in France allow Edward to shed his burdens and become the man he longs to be? And will he ever see Bella again?
Standard Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended. Note: This story is set during an oppressive time in American history and located in an area where black men and women were not considered human beings, but property. The author strives to portray events and characterizations as accurately as possible. There are words spoken and implied acts that may be uncomfortable for some. This is a work of fiction and is not meant to offend or incite. Although the story is fictional, these events could have happened. There are thousands of untold stories from this era.
Thank you for reading.
The banks of the Ashley River near Charleston, South Carolina.
Little Miss Isabella Swan wandered along the riverbank, looking out over the estuary, watching the egrets forage along the sand bars. Baby turtles, fish, and frogs swam in the safety of the tide pools.
Bella was a wet, sandy mess. She knew Lizzie would have her hide if she saw her in such a state. Her pale yellow gingham dress was heavy from gentle waves, the ruffles of her underpinnings brown from mud and sand. Bella had left her boots and hat on a patch of grass not too far from the shore before she trudged down to the waiting banks.
"Bella! Mama sent me to fetch you. It's time for your lessons. Missa Banner done come up and been waitin' a spell. Yo' Pa's in a right mood. Say he pay Missa Banner a heap o' money fer you to have good book learnin', not to be wadin' 'round in the muck and mire," the boy chuckled, reciting Master Charles' rant. "He tell me to be sure I say that last bit." He covered his broad grin with his hand to hide his laughter.
With her focus on the wondrous world of the tide pool and not the giggling boy behind her, Bella answered, "I think you just like bossin' me, Edward. Why didn't Pa send Em?"
Edward's laughter instantly quieted. He looked down contritely and his chubby cheeks pinked in embarrassment. "I meant no disrespect, Miss Isabella. I was just doin' like yo' Pa say. I don' want Massa Charles sore with me. Please don't tell him I'm bossin' you les he won't let me play the piana no more." Edward was near tears.
Bella finally turned away from the tide pool she was investigating to face the boy. His thick, rust-colored hair stood on end from nervous tugs; his hazel eyes looked mostly green with the water reflecting in the unshed tears she found there.
"I'm sorry, Edward," she said, her tone no longer playful, but full of regret. "I was sassin' you, just pokin' fun. You know I won't let you get in trouble—you're my very best friend. We gotsta stick together," Bella said lightly, righting her clothes. She then hooked her arm with Edward's and skipped back toward the big house.
With their brief disagreement forgotten, the two children laughed loudly as they weaved through the grand oak trees that lined the drive. Bella released Edward's hand and broke out into a full sprint. "Race ya home!" she called out behind her, pumping her legs with all her might. Edward streaked ahead, his clothing transforming him into a blur of white and blue with a rust-colored top.
They skidded to a halt at the kitchen steps. The two friends fell in a heap, panting and laughing heartily.
"It ain't fair. Your legs are so much longer than mine," Bella said as she raised her skirts to measure her leg against her friend's. "And I have all this stuff." She tugged on her underpinnings. "You just have your britches. You don't even wear shoes most times!"
At Bella's outburst, a tall, pecan-colored woman appeared at the screen door, her thick, dark hair braided tightly around her head as if it were a crown. She looked ruefully at the children and her full lips pressed into a scowl.
"Now Miss Bella, what've I tole you 'bout these unladylike antics?" she scolded as she stomped down the stairs. "Look at yo' dress! Get on 'round to the commode and wash up. Missa Banner been waitin' a spell and jus' 'bout gave up on you, you wild child. I'll bring you a fresh dress in a minute." Her stern glare made Bella's blood run cold. "Scoot!" Lizzie barked, swatting Bella on the backside as the girl scuttled past.
Edward dared not look the woman in the eye; he knew he was wrong for horsing around with Bella and not getting her straightway to her lessons. He wondered if he'd simply be beaten, or beaten and punished. His mother, nor anyone else, had much cause to raise a hand to him. If the occasion arose, it was usually over some foolishness he and Bella were mixed up in. The beating, he'd take it, if it kept Bella from suffering any pain.
"Massa been good to us. Why you keep workin' that child up? You know Massa Charles want her to be a right fine lady. Miss Bella can't be carrying on 'round here, runnin' and catchin' pollywogs. It just ain't ladylike, Edward," she said, shaking her head.
"I'm sorry, Mama. I went to fetch her like you tell me to. But then we gotsta laughin' and...we's friends, Mama. She ain't gots nobody else to play with."
She gripped his chin to force his eyes to hers. "Edward, you's gettin' too old to be foolin' 'round with Miss Isabella Swan. Y'all goin' on twelve years now. Hiking up her petticoats and climbin' trees with the likes of you ain't becomin' of someone like her. You gotta understand, son, some things jus' can't be."
Edward once again fought an onslaught of tears as his mother's words sank in. Lizzie knew better than most; it was better that Edward learned now. It broke his heart. That wasn't his mother's intention, but it broke just the same.
Elizabeth and Edward Masen were the property of Charles Swan. Sure, life was comfortable on the Swan plantation, much better than how others lived, but nothing would change the fact that Edward and his mother had never known a day when they were the masters of their own destiny.
Her eyes never looked up from the worn tracks of the dusty trail. She rubbed her protruding belly, hoping, praying the Swans were kind. She thought there could be little worse than living under Mrs. Katherine Masen's wrath; her drunken, venomous tongue was sometimes worse than her bony fists. Lizzie had served her master's house well, yet her mistress was rarely content.
If she were handed over to a cruel master, Lizzie vowed to run. Even heavy with child, she would run.
Loud whinnies and a strong jerk alerted Lizzie that she had reached her destination. Patrick opened the coach door for Master Masen, and then walked to the seat his sister was perched upon with her small bundle of possessions pressed tight against her chest. He reached for her to help her down, and whispered in her ear. "Lizzie, it's gon' be all right, ya hear? Massa Swan a good man. They gon' take good care of ya and this lil' one."
Edward Masen dared not look at the woman. She, who was carrying his child. She, whom he was handing over to his dear friend and business partner now that his affections had become known to his wife. She, who had been beaten after Katherine spied them from an upstairs window when Edward brought a cool drink for Lizzie while she toiled in the small kitchen garden. She, who had graced him with honeyed eyes and an equally sweet smile before her dress had been shorn from her back by the overseer's whip. She, who had refused to cry out whenever the tips of the leather tassels tore into her flesh, leaving angry, bright pink tracks upon her creamy brown skin.
Edward couldn't face her, his shame too great. The figure reflected in Lizzie's bright, wise eyes bore little resemblance to a man. He was yellow through and through.
He could take her. They could run. But there would be little refuge found in Europe, despite Negroes living as free men and women there. Katherine's family was too well-connected there and would never support a divorce. Edward dared not broach the subject in South Carolina—divorce was unheard of in his home state. He would face financial ruin if he pursued this course.
Edward could gift his love her freedom and move her to New Orleans, buy her a house, publicly declare his affections for her and their child—but not live with her as his wife. Living apart from Lizzie held little appeal.
His options were dwindling fast.
They could go west, or up to Canada maybe. With talk of expansion, who knew where they could safely eke out an existence? For months, he'd heard news of new states in the West, some of them free states. Wide open plains or rugged hillsides, Edward didn't care as long as he could have his love and their child.
Yet he could not dream big or fast enough to outpace reality, for here he stood, forced to abandon his heart or risk ruin. At thirty, Edward Masen had never known romantic love. Men like him were matched to daughters of other businessmen in order to build and fortify alliances. Edward's ten-year marriage to the Frenchwoman Katherine Moreau had been fruitful, on paper. His holdings grew, as did his legal practice. Masen preferred to work primarily out of his country manor, and his clients traveled many miles from Charleston for his services.
His wife had been silent and indifferent throughout their courtship. After they wed in Paris, and he brought her home to the estate, she quickly became cruel, expressing her disdain for the Carolina Lowcountry, its thick marshes—and even thicker heat—by abusing the help. She often pointed a reproachful finger at her husband, yoking him to her misery. Soon, she found friendship in opiates and strong drink. After a while, Edward rarely caught sight of his bride outside of her bedchamber. The quiet was welcome, although it made him painfully aware of his own loneliness.
Lizzie had been a constant presence in his home and had managed the Masen household well for a year. At just seventeen, she possessed wisdom, ingenuity, and skill well beyond her years. Edward often found an excuse to occupy the same space as the girl, discreetly watching as she went about her duties. In time, his words and actions became more bold; he had come to believe that none could match Lizzie in beauty or intellect.
Growing up, Lizzie knew her life was not her own. She recalled sitting with her mother and the Negro women who would sometimes gather after toiling in fields and washhouses, kitchens, and the like. Even in the night, their hands were busy. Idle time was rare on a plantation. The women spoke in hushed tones about overseers and slave owners using young, female bodies for carnal pleasure. Tearing undergarments away with threats of more pain if they cried out or resisted.
With her striking looks and statuesque form, Lizzie had caught the eye of many. Experience had shown it was only a matter of time before she was smitten or taken by force. Lizzie knew Master Masen to be kind and surprisingly friendly. Still, she would give her master and mistress a wide berth in every effort to remain untouched.
Edward had proven to be a genial man, happily sharing his evenings with Lizzie, teaching her figures and letters, asking her opinion on politics and other matters as she did her hand tasks by the fire once the rest of the household had gone to bed. One evening, Edward stilled Lizzie's hands from her work and pulled her to him. The girl's flawless skin, fragrant with magnolia blossoms, set his pulse alight. Surely, she knew what she did to him. In that moment, he declared his love for her. Her breath, sweet and spicy from licorice root and mint, blew in panicked puffs against his chest as she recalled the warnings of her elders. Edward released his hold and moved her to his favorite chair, kneeling on the floor in front of her. By the light of the fire the man glowed, and Lizzie all at once saw the truth. He did not speak flowery words in order to gain her consent.
When Edward had told Lizzie it was she who owned him, she pondered how such a thing was possible. She had nothing of value to give in exchange. She had been to the slave market; she had seen money being transferred for human life.
Love was a selfish emotion, and emotions were not afforded Lizzie and her kind. Nor was age a quantifier of wisdom. In her short years, Lizzie had witnessed the destruction that followed these deals of flesh; human beings paired up and bred like cattle while the true object of their affection stood by scorned and forlorn, choking on the devastation. Children ripped from their mother's arms, lovers torn from the other's embrace, all for the greatest profit. Wailing pleas of faith-keeping and eventual reunions drifted into the clouds above the auction block to be caught on angels' wings.
Edward saw her fear and pleaded with Lizzie to accept him, to love him back as he kissed her, punctuating each brush of his lips against her flesh with a trembling "I love you."
He kissed her palms reverently, silently thanking her for her diligent and nimble fingers.
He kissed her cheeks in gratitude for the warm smiles she graced him with daily.
He kissed her forehead for the blessing of her strong mind.
He kissed her eyes, for they are the window to the soul, and they told Edward that she loved him in return.
Out on the Swan's drive, Lizzie walked up silently to stand behind her friend, her lover, ...her master. She kept her eyes downcast for fear of offending her new masters. She would behave, not make trouble, in order to keep her child safe. Secretly, she prayed her child would be more Negro than white, so she would not have to give it up.
Edward felt her presence pressing firmly against his back without touching. The breeze swirled jasmine and azalea blossoms around their feet, and he thought of the warm, clear nights where he would bring her large bouquets for her room, and then lie with her. Sheer perfection was created as their lovemaking and the fragrant aromas of the flowers filled the tiny room.
He would never again feel the completeness of having her in his arms. Edward tipped his head to the side and murmured, "I am sorry, my love." He swallowed down his emotions as Charles Swan and his wife, Renée, stepped onto the large covered porch. Their young son peeked out from behind his mother's skirts and assessed the scene.
"Welcome, Edward!" Charles moved to shake the other man's hand heartily. "Shall we discuss business in the parlor?" He led Edward into the stately home.
"Boy," Renée called to Patrick. Her voice carried a thick, French accent. "Why don't you go on and water the horses while mademoiselle and I get acquainted."
Patrick pressed his lips into a tight line, worried of what this sweetly smiling woman had up her sleeve. He trusted few. Edward Masen had been one, but he had betrayed him by carrying on with his baby sister. Now Master's child grew within her while Mistress Katherine had her bound and beaten in hopes that the child in Lizzie's womb would be expelled. When that did not work, Edward was commanded to remove Lizzie from Katherine's presence. Patrick had no doubt that Mistress would have had his sister hung after a while. It was only a matter of time. Mistress Katherine was a cruel and vain woman. Sending Lizzie to the Swans was the only way any of them would have any semblance of peace. Lizzie and her child would live…they would survive.
"Yes, ma'am," Patrick muttered, before trotting off quickly to the pump.
Renée patted the porch swing after she sat down, and then pulled her son into her lap. "Come on, I won't bite." She smiled and patted the seat again in an effort to coax the other woman out of her frozen state.
"Mama, who's dat?" the boy asked in a shy whisper.
"Well, Em, I was hoping Miss Lizzie was to be our friend, but it seems she doesn't like us very much."
"I don't know, mon amour, why don't you ask her." The boy climbed down from his mother's lap to stand on the stair in front of his new caretaker.
"Hello," he whispered, rocking on his heels with his hands clasped behind his back, making his round belly protrude. "I'm Emmett Swan. I'm free and a half." He held up one hand and tucked his pinky under his thumb to illustrate his age.
Lizzie met the boy's bright blue eyes and smiled at his easygoing demeanor. Perhaps she would be all right.
"Very pleased to make yo' acquaintance, young sir. I'm Lizzie."
Emmett responded with a broad grin that showed all his teeth. "Mama wanna be friends, too. Come on," he said cheerfully, before tugging on the woman's hand without apprehension.
"Bonjour, Lizzie. Welcome to our home." Renée greeted the young woman with genuine affection. "Emmett, darling, why don't you go see if our other visitor needs help with the water."
"Yes, mama," he said, before sprinting around near the barn to assist Patrick.
Renée patted the seat beside her again, but Lizzie did not move, fearing impropriety. "Come on, Lizzie, please set a spell." Renée's eyes were a sparkling, clear blue, like a cloudless day—a trait her son had inherited—and they set Lizzie immediately at ease.
"Thank you, ma'am." Lizzie dared not lean back; the wounds, although a few weeks old, were still tender. She knew some were not healing well, constantly re-opening whenever she bent, reached, or stooped in her work, which was all the time. The overseer had wounded her well and good with just five lashes. Each one overlapped to create the likeness of a gnarled tree on her back.
"How far along are you?"
Lizzie spluttered at her new mistress' boldness.
"I'm not blind, Lizzie, nor am I stupid. I don't really need help caring for my family or my home. Edward Masen has visited my husband much too often in recent months. Business and politics are not all they speak of, and my Charles is a terrible gossip." Renée winked, pulling the parcel from Lizzie's hands to set at their feet. She leaned in to the girl as if they were old friends.
Candor was not something Lizzie had ever experienced beyond her private moments with Edward. The few dozen who worked Masen lands rarely ventured near the manor that Lizzie and her brother maintained. There were scarcely any joking and carefree moments…not in the daylight; nothing beyond passing glances and gracious smiles. In the night, when Edward would visit her bed, they were of accord: mind, body, and soul.
"You have nothing to fear here." Renée patted Lizzie's hand, recognizing the girl's mind had drifted to a dark place. "I'm with child as well. Charles does not know yet," she whispered, with a secret smile.
"That is fine news, ma'am."
"Isn't it?" The woman glowed at being able to share her secret. "I've missed my time twice now, but Charles hasn't noticed—too caught up in talk of Hidalgo and western expansion. He's very enthusiastic." Renée giggled like a small child.
A comfort Lizzie had rarely felt engulfed her as she and Renée swayed gently on the porch swing. The calm loosened her tongue and words tumbled out. "Edward speaks often of startin' over in California..." Her hand stroked her belly as the child quickened.
Contentment turned to anguish as Lizzie's mind ran through everything Edward had promised but would never be.
In an act of solidarity, Renée squeezed Lizzie's hand to remind her that she had a friend–that she was not alone.
"When will your child come?" she asked softly.
"I missed my time five months now, so I 'spect June. He a big 'un, though. Already kickin' up a storm." Her mistress' hand now rested upon Lizzie's quivering belly.
"That he is," Renée said in awe, feeling the child move beneath her palm. "I'll take care of you, Lizzie. Charles, Emmett, and I, we'll take good care of you and this bel enfant."
Life with the Swans was good. Better than good. They treated Lizzie kindly, taking care with her. Even little Emmett was helpful as his nurse waddled around the grounds in a vain attempt to keep up with the rambunctious child.
They had been taking a slow walk, with Emmett reciting his letters by spelling out all that he saw.
"Creek, Lizzie. C-R-E-E-K." He looked up at her in triumph.
"Very good," she said, as her face pinched in pain. "I think it might be time for us to head back to the big house, Em."
"But we just left," he complained. Before he set to whining, Lizzie let out a wail as a trickle of sweet-smelling water ran down her leg.
"Emmett, please don't sass me. The baby, I think the baby comin'!"
The boy's eyes grew wide as Lizzie's face twisted cruelly before she dropped to her knees. He was instantly afraid. Being near the slave quarters, Emmett raced to the nearest one, pleading for someone to help him.
A strapping young man called Raymond scooped Lizzie into his arms and carried her to her quarters in the back of the Swan home. Emmett followed on their heels, calling for his mother the entire way.
After some long hours, Lizzie finally held a wriggling pink boy in her arms.
"Oh, Lizzie—" Renée sighed, her happy tears cut off by the door flying open and rattling against the clapboard walls of Lizzie's tiny home.
"Lizzie..." Edward moaned, moving quickly to be at his love's side. "I came as soon as I heard."
Lizzie held her son tighter to her breasts and quickly turned her body away from Edward. He would not take him. She couldn't bear it if she didn't have her child—a blend of him and her, their love personified.
"No." She whimpered as she tried to move her body, sore and exhausted from childbirth, out of the man's grasp. "No, Edward. Don't take my child." Her only thoughts were of her son being in the arms of Edward's wife. It was all so wrong. In that moment, she vowed that she would die before she's let her son go.
Edward's hands stilled, and he sat back on his haunches, stunned at Lizzie's reaction. Standing, he smoothed out his suit, as Renée and an older Negro woman who'd assisted in the birth stood in shocked silence. "The boy is mine, Renée. Be sure he has my name." Edward took a deep breath, absorbing his Lizzie's essence before silently leaving the room.
Edward's presence, along with Lizzie's strength, evaporated with the click of the latch falling into place. She sobbed onto the top of her son's downy, rust-colored hair.
Little Edward grew fat off his mother's milk. His pale and creamy skin held a sun-kissed tan, yet his chubby cheeks were perpetually pink from the constant pinching and kissing of his master and mistress. They doted on the infant as if he were a blood relation. Oftentimes, Renée and Charles placed wagers as to what the boy's eye color would be from week to week. So far, the boy's bright blue eyes had darkened slightly to almost gray.
Mistress Renée's birthing time grew near, and the house flew into a tizzy as the rains set in. Days after Miss Isabella Marie Swan was born, storms ripped through the South, leaving destruction in their wake. The rains did not let up for days on end. Everything was soaked through. Despite the workers' best efforts, there was scarcely a dry log to keep fires going, nor a dry soul to stoke them.
The hands were huddled together in their shacks, working tirelessly to keep the outside from coming in. The walls cracked and leaked. Entire roofs were shorn off, while others were spared. Sickness soon followed.
Come November, Renée was struck with fever. By the new year, she was gone.
Lizzie held the children in her lap, Emmett too, as Renée's body was lowered into the earth. In the few months the women had known each other, they had become dear friends. Renée's loss was felt throughout the plantation, where she had knit hats and socks for the Negro children, and had known each one by name. She had been a fine mistress.
Over the years, Emmett became his father's shadow, while Lizzie cared for Edward and Isabella. The two were inseparable and grew in kindness, intellect, and affection.
A quiet and studious child, Edward was enamored with Bella's exuberance and beauty. He would often stare at Mistress Renée's portrait that sat upon the mantelpiece near the piano he loved. The woman's dark hair and bright eyes shone, her full lips smiling warm and genuine for him when he sat down to play. He imagined her to be much like Bella: loving everyone and everything, even him.
When Master Charles insisted that Isabella begin lessons in language, literature, and music, Edward was dismayed; this substantially cut into their playtime. He volunteered to help in tasks about the house—preparing meals, cleaning, polishing silver. Any excuse to be within earshot of Isabella's lessons. If he could not hear it firsthand, she would teach him later down at their secret spot near the river. Whatever she learned, he learned.
One autumn morning, Lizzie and Edward were gathering eggs for breakfast when a visitor arrived unannounced and without a horse or carriage.
"Mornin', Lizzie." His voice was soft and tender, the same as it had been thirteen years ago. She stood frozen at her name falling from his lips. Lizzie dared not face him for fear she would fall at his feet. Her son, the Edward she could truly claim as her own, had sustained her all these years. His presence had kept the longing away.
"Mama, the sir is talking to you." Edward tugged on the sleeve of his mother's dress to get her attention.
"Go inside and get Massa Charles." Her voice was not her own. It rang out quiet, fearful, and unsure. Her son looked upon her with confusion. Her eyes darted to his. He stood almost as tall as she did, at five feet and four inches, yet he was merely twelve years.
"He's a fine looking boy, Lizzie."
She gripped her son's hand, silently pleading for him to mind her. "Go, Edward. Do like I say."
The man sucked in a harsh breath, and his eyes grew glassy. The boy looked upon him curiously before racing to the house to fetch his master. The elder man followed, with Lizzie silently trailing behind him.
Charles beckoned his guest to enter, and offered Lizzie an apologetic smile. Edward Masen's sudden appearance was confounding; he had not stepped foot on Swan land since young Edward's birth, twelve years earlier. Whatever brought Masen to his home on this day most assuredly could not be welcome news.
Neither man deigned to participate in the plans of their governor or the cotton barons. Charles ran a comfortable operation with some cotton, but he farmed mainly tobacco and some produce; he had no desire to own the men necessary to maintain the large fields cotton required. His real money was made in shipping. His Negroes were always busy, and though the law said they were not free, they were never treated as beasts of burden. The Swans provided a peaceable a life for their hands—as much as society would allow.
Once inside the parlor, Charles did not offer the man a chair or a beverage, not even a smoke. "What brings you today, Masen?" Charles' voice held a hint of annoyance, which left the other man fidgeting like a child.
Edward roughly deposited himself into a chair while Charles stood at the side of his desk, eyeing his friend suspiciously.
"This will kill Lizzie..." He leaned forward to cradle his head in his hands. "I've come for the boy." He talked to the floor, not meeting the other man's eye.
Charles gripped the lapels of his suit tightly; otherwise, his hands might have found their way around his friend's neck.
"Katherine's maladies have persisted, and I have sent her ahead, back to France, upon my oath that I will follow. With war looming, it is the best course." His eyes remained trained on the wood floor. A spider poked up through one of the hollow knots, then quickly retreated; Edward wished he could follow."I...I've thought long and hard about this, Charles. He can travel as my valet. Patrick will teach him, watch over him—"
Palms slapping harshly onto mahogany interrupted Edward's well-practiced speech. "Katherine will not hold her tongue, no matter how ill her vices have made her! You aim for your son to be killed?" Charles sat heavily beside his friend and patted him on the shoulder before speaking in a considerably softer tone. "That boy is the light in our lives, Masen. How could you think this would go well?"
Outside the house, Lizzie stood and stared at the door her son's namesake had passed through moments earlier. The crackle that coursed through the air whenever he was near was not present. She stood and stared out of curiosity, out of fear. Edward eyed his mother with an identical expression.
Wood creaked and groaned as a heavy coach came to a stop, surprising the pair. "How do, Lizzie?" the driver said, climbing down from the reins.
The woman's eyes focused on the face. It was older, wrinkled, and the ebony hair now had flecks of gray. His eyes had not changed; they looked sad on this day, the same as when she last saw him nearly thirteen years ago.
"Pat..." Lizzie stumbled forward, tripping on her skirt. Patrick caught his sister handily and laughed into her neck. "Pat, what in blazes you doin' here?" Her mind was a muddled mess, jumping from one thought to another in rapid succession. "Edward…" She blindly reached for the boy before tucking him into her side. Lizzie beamed at her son, smoothing his unruly hair down as Patrick assessed the boy.
"Edward, this here yo' kin." Patrick reached out to shake the boy's hand. His smile was soft as he fought with the surprising surge of emotion at finally meeting Lizzie and Edward's son, and the errand he and his master were on.
Back inside the house, the two men were at an impasse. "The boy is my son, Charles. I won't leave him here for the Yankees or the gray backs to slaughter." Both men swallowed the bile that rose in their throats at the thought of harm coming to young Edward. "His skin is fair. He hardly looks Negro at all. In Europe, he could be a well-educated gentleman—marry, have a family, inherit my estate."
Charles stood and put some distance between himself and Edward Masen. His mind and feet kept time as he paced rapidly behind his desk, seeking a way to provide young Edward the future they both desired for him. The men had exchanged no money or papers for Lizzie. It had been an agreement between friends—a favor to answer the desperate plea of a heartbroken man to save the life of his child and the woman he loved.
Edward could have returned at any time and done as he pleased. By law, Lizzie and her son were Masen property. Charles only had them on loan. He held no legal claim to mother and child.
"You should leave as well, before your son gets the urge to fight." Charles bristled at Edward's words. At sixteen, Emmett was larger than he was, and itching to matter, to make a name for himself. Charles was relieved to have already secured a coach that would take his family to Chicago, far away from the destruction sure to follow the fevered talks of secession. Papers were signed and notarized, granting freedom to each of the men and women Charles Swan's family owned. The overseer was to ensure the Swans' workers were given their papers once the family, along with Lizzie and Edward, was settled in Chicago. Now they would have one less traveler.
In the yard, Patrick assessed the boy, looking between his sister and her son for familial features. The boy carried their same shape of eye, wide and wise, large and bright, that seemed to see all. Just the color was off; much more green, although the siblings' honeyed brown was flecked through the irises. The shock of rust-colored waves on top of young Edward's head was a few shades lighter than his mother's dark, bronzed locks, and carried so much of his father's red.
Edward's lightly tanned nose and cheeks were dotted with café-au-lait freckles that became more prominent the longer he stood under the sun's rays. His nose, narrow and straight, was not like Patrick's or his sister's shallow bridge and wide nostrils. The boy's lips were full and a pouty pink. Patrick marveled at his nephew. His master's plan could be successful. Young Edward could pass.
"He a fine boy, Lizzie. A fine boy." Patrick cupped his sister's cheek just as the door to the house flew open.
"Edward, go collect your things. You are to leave with me straightaway," the elder Edward commanded.
The boy stood stunned, his mouth agape. "Mama?"
Patrick wrapped his arms around the boy's shoulders, leading him away from the scene just as Lizzie fell to her knees with an anguished wail.
"Come now, nephew, let's go fetch yo' traps." Patrick tried to remain calm, but his anger surged; he knew, however, that this was the best solution to their dilemma.
"But...Mama?" Edward tried to wrench himself from the man's grip. He was strong, but not strong enough. "Who is that man? Why do I have to go with him?"
Patrick's grip tightened, and he spun Edward to face him. He hissed in the boy's face as he spoke. "That there is yo' massa, boy." He jerked Edward's biceps to shake him, to make him understand. "He gon' make it right." Patrick's voice thickened as he sought suitable words to explain what was happening. There were none.
Despite his fair skin and white, aristocratic father, Edward was Negro, and by law three-fifths of a man, if he lived to be a man. Mulatto children fared far worse than their pure Negro brethren. As living, breathing evidence of their mistresses' insecurities, they were treated more cruelly, shamed, and stripped of any traces of humanity. Demoralized in one way or another, they were used for indulgences in carnal acts and harsh labor, beaten, and maimed. Sold off from their mothers, or worse, killed, there was little that offered these children peace. Perhaps Katherine had provided Lizzie and young Edward a small mercy.
Masen wanted his son to live, to be educated, to have access to all that being a Masen afforded. Patrick believed that to be good, well-intentioned, noble. At hearing Lizzie's rasping pleas, he was reminded that the road to Hell was paved with good intentions.
Edward trembled in his uncle's arms. "But...but, ...I don' wanna go," he said, through hiccupped sobs.
Bella ran from her bedroom upon waking to Lizzie's cries. Still in her bedclothes, the girl raced down to her nurse's aid. Her father and brother tried to hold her small, flailing body back. She clawed and scratched, crying out for Lizzie, desperate to see what was the matter.
When Patrick rounded the house, with Edward trailing solemnly behind, toting a small trunk, Bella looked up at her father with confused eyes. "Is Edward leaving, Daddy?"
Patrick secured Edward's possessions and turned to his master.
Bella finally noticed the Masens' coach and horses, heavy with crates and trunks. "Where is Edward going?" she shrieked, and threw herself at her father. Emmett tried to pull her away and back into the house.
Lizzie's tightly braided coif had come unraveled from her clawing at her hair. The elder Edward's instinct was to comfort her. He reached out to pull her into his arms. After all these years, he still loved her dearly.
Lizzie jumped away as if she'd been burned.
Her formerly warm eyes were now vacant and cold when she looked upon the man she'd once loved. "I hate you," she whispered. Her anxiety had eclipsed propriety. Lizzie would not hold her tongue. She would risk being cut down to save her son's life.
"I hate myself, too, but it's the only way."
"Why now? Why, Edward?"
"So he can have what he should."
"But he has what he needs."
"He can be somebody, Lizzie. In Europe, Negroes aren't thought of the same as they are here. Even if his skin were darker, he could be somebody."
"She will have my son strung up. Murdered before you board the coach north!" Lizzie gripped the hem of the man's pant leg so tightly that the weave puckered and tore. "Please don't do this. If you ever truly…"
If he ever truly loved her, Edward knew those words were on Lizzie's tongue. His eyes fell to the dingy white of the undergarment that peeked out from beneath her dress; the scuffed toe box of her shoes suddenly became interesting. Then, his eyes darted to the peeling paint on the pine floor of the Swan porch. A strong breeze set the creaky porch swing in motion; his eyes went there next. He looked everywhere except at this woman he truly adored, yet had destroyed; he leveled blow after devastating blow without lifting a hand to her silken flesh.
He had kept his distance all these years for the well-being of all concerned. Katherine had promised Edward a place dangling beside Lizzie should he betray her further. Although he resided just a few miles from the Swan estate, Edward had not dared set foot on the land after his son's birth.
Time would no longer allow him to wait. Word of war whispered on every breeze. Sympathizers, such as he and Swan, were enemies to the Confederacy. Edward had been making plans for months to escape with his son. He had had papers drawn up granting each of his slaves their freedom once Katherine was aboard a ship back to Europe.
Lizzie would never acquiesce; therefore, Edward's hand was forced. He would take what was, by law, his. "Edward will be safe with me, Lizzie. I sent Katherine ahead months ago. She is not well. I stayed behind to ship the last of our items and close up my affairs."
"Of what does that matter? I ain't gon' be there to protect him should Mistress Katherine want to share her misery." Lizzie yanked the collar of her dress to the side, reminding her former master—her former lover—of the proof of her claim. Her tears had dried up as she righted her clothing, covering the scars on her back as she stood and beckoned her son to her. "Katherine isn't the only one who can be cruel. The overseer's whip was but a tickle compared to this."
Lizzie held her son's head in her hands, forcing his large, green eyes to meet hers.
"Mama, I don't understand."
She shushed him and kissed his face.
"You mind Pat and Massa Masen, ya hear?" She spoke with a firm, commanding voice, mustering a power whose origins she was unsure of. "I love you, always, Edward."
The elder Masen had already climbed into the coach and listened with a heavy heart as Lizzie said her farewell to her son. Their son.
Young Edward climbed up to sit beside Patrick at the reins, and then bid his family farewell . He knew who and what he was, and that there was no use in fighting fate. "I'll write to you!" he called out, each Swan believing the message meant for them, and clinging to that small comfort as the coach set off down the lane.
Bella darted out after the them, crying out for her friend to come back. She chased the coach the length of the drive until her bare feet were split and stinging. Her tears spent right along with her energy, Emmett scooped her up into his large arms and carried her into the bathhouse where Lizzie was waiting. Together, they sat and hummed the tunes Edward had made up for them while Lizzie washed Bella's hair and tended to her injured feet.
"Why, Lizzie? Why did Mister Masen take my Edward?" Life on her father's land had shielded Bella from her and Edward's differences. Now, reality had torn through them all like a great hurricane, without warning or logic. Despite the overwhelming devastation, life would go on. It always did.
"That's jus' how it is, baby. We gotta pick ourselves up an' keep goin'." Lizzie kissed the child's forehead once it peeked through the top of her fresh gown. Although it was still morning, the entire Swan household felt as if they'd lived a lifetime in just an hour. They all wanted to go back to bed and start over tomorrow. "One day, ...one day y'all will find a way back to each other. I feel it in here." She tapped her chest, over her heart.
Mistress Katherine had barely survived her journey and was at death's door when Masen and his party arrived in Paris. Patrick had spoken often during their long voyage, advising his nephew on how to act around their mistress. The older slave's tales ran a chill up the boy's spine, but fate worked in young Edward's favor this one time—he never laid eyes on the woman before she was cold in the ground. He felt slightly guilty for having been granted that small mercy.
Upon his arrival in Paris, young Edward set his pen to paper, writing missive after missive to the Swans. He longed to see his mother's well-practiced script upon the parchment, if nothing more than to confirm that she was well. His finger traced the swirl of his name, imagining her whispering in his ear that she loved him beyond measure.
Edward grew in size, strength, and intellect. He was a remarkably gifted boy who excelled at his studies. It was all he had; there was no playmate. No Bella to dream up adventures with, no Emmett to antagonize them. Despite the circumstances of his birth, Edward had had a warm and fulfilling childhood on the Swan plantation. He longed for those simple times, especially when his letters were never returned.
Feeling abandoned, Edward poured himself into his studies, determined to be a well-learned man and make his own way in the world. He had no desire for his father's and Mistress Katherine's fortune, no matter how many certificates of deposit Edward Sr. slid across the dinner table. Edward stored them all in a case, doubting he'd ever have a desire to view the documents, much less touch the king's ransom his father attempted to purchased his son's good favor with. In Edward's eyes, no amount of money could ever recompense what the man had done.
Living a bonne bourgeoisie life in the heart of Paris was something Edward could not get used to. The streets were too congested, and the buildings too close. Although the homes were well-appointed, Edward thought the Swan slave quarters more appealing than how these folk lived, all mashed up together, stepping on one another. Nary a pleasant greeting or welcoming face. No porches for sleepy dogs to claim. No trees to climb. The city was in a constant state of demolition and construction, covering everything and everyone in a fine layer of dust and soot.
The heavy fabric of his clothing itched, and he could not quite get the hang of the tie he was now required to wear. His shiny leather shoes pinched his rapidly growing feet. On a rare occasion, his master would notice the boy's sleeves and hems suddenly much shorter than the day before and call the local tailor to let out the boy's wardrobe yet again.
The elder Masen never corrected any of the visitors to their home if they referred to young Edward as his son or when they offered condolences on losing his mother, Katherine. Edward remained silent, not wanting to challenge his master and risk disappointing Lizzie. Patrick always stood nearby with an encouraging or admonishing glance.
His tutors marveled at the boy's aptitude. He picked up the language quickly, having spent many an afternoon eavesdropping on Bella's lessons. He would continue with private tutoring until he was ready for a trade or the university, possibly becoming a lawyer like his benefactor, although young Edward's sensibilities leaned toward science and medicine.
Nearly two years had passed. Edward Masen went about his days practicing law, leaving young Edward in the care of Patrick and the housekeeper as a steady stream of tutors cycled through the flat, filling the boy's curious mind with Latin, French, finance, politics, literature, and history. Although they took a meal together once a week, Edward had little to say to his son, and they usually ate in silence with the boy asking to be excused to finish his meal in the kitchen with the servants, his uncle Patrick counted among them.
In the quiet of the night, Edward crept into his uncle's room and finally spoke what he had longed to have acknowledged. "I knew when you collected me that Edward Masen was my father," Edward whispered in the dark. Despite the late hour, Edward was wide awake, still not accustomed to sleeping in his own room after living abroad for two years. His sleep was always fitful; he needed his mother's soft snores to lull him to sleep from her cot across the tiny room they had shared. Although well-dressed in the finest of appointments, Edward's new room was too large, his bed too soft, the street below too noisy.
Patrick sat up in his bed. The boy's tone was too quiet, so there was no way to gauge how this knowledge affected him.
Edward folded his legs beneath him and sat at the foot of his uncle's bed with his mother's quilt wrapped around his shoulders. He had stolen it from her bed and refused to have it laundered, no matter how insistent their housekeeper was. It was the boy's sole matter of defiance. Edward held a corner of the blanket to his nose and inhaled deeply, imagining there were still traces of his mother's scent embedded in the fabric.
"I could read. Bella taught me, and Master Charles. I saw the boarding passes in his billfold. They named me Edward Masen Jr., his white son." Edward spoke in hushed whispers against the scrap of fabric he still held to his nose. "Did he hope I was dim? That I did not know what I look like? That I would not immediately see the similarities between him and me, or the differences between Mama and myself?"
"I had hoped that Massa would've spoke the truth by now," Patrick answered, timidly.
Edward responded with a humorless laugh. "All my life I'd hoped I was a Swan, but I could never find a resemblance."
Patrick cleared his throat and sat up taller, letting his nephew have his full attention to speak whatever was on his mind.
"I, …I miss them." Not so much a boy anymore, Edward was almost fifteen and growing into quite a fine young man. His voice cracked as he strained to not cry out under the weight of his burdens.
Edward's time in Europe had taught him the truth of his existence, how the American government did not recognize him as a person, but as property, despite this so-called Emancipation and the South falling. Not all men were free. He counted himself among those still bound, despite holding both a Certificate of Freedom and a second set of papers identifying him as a white man.
The elder Masen was mistaken. Although his son attended school, and was well educated beside white students and Negroes, both American and European, he had no place where he felt he truly belonged. He could not be both black and white.
Edward purposed to be something uniquely his own, fitting the duality of his life. Doors were opened, he was waited upon, greeted with deep bows and fidgeting because of his pale, creamy skin, mossy eyes, and fine clothes. He usually slathered pomade on his waves and brushed his hair until his arm ached in order to get his hair to lie down and cooperate. His efforts were noticed by many who complimented the elder Masen on his handsome protégé. He smiled and offered quiet thanks. No one here understood his heart.
Years passed in silence. Edward held fast to his mother's directive and did as his master instructed without complaint.
Patrick grew old and frail. The French climate was much more harsh than the subtropical climes of their home in South Carolina, and had taken a toll on him. Arthritis and illness came with a vengeance. Caring for his uncle in his final days was Edward's honor.
"Are you at peace, Uncle? Do you believe you've lived a full life?" The two had often sat up late into the night pondering philosophical questions. Now, with the Reaper lurking nearby, Edward needed assurances that this existence they'd shared came with some kind of reward. That though he'd never since felt whole, there were some precious joys to be found in the half-life of a slave.
Patrick turned his weary eyes to his nephew and marveled at him once again. He was an astounding boy. So smart and talented, excelling at everything he set his mind to. Patrick had no doubt his nephew would change the world, if he so desired.
"I, …I wish I'd had a wife and boy o' my own, Edward. I been tied to Massa all my life, gifted to him when I cut my first tooth."
A bitter taste covered Edward's tongue. "Why do you still call him that?" Edward went into Patrick's bureau drawer to retrieve a leather envelope. "Do I need to read this again? I'll read it every day until you understand, Uncle." Edward waved the binder containing Patrick's Certificate of Freedom.
Patrick swatted the parcel away. "I don' wanna hear that. I knows what I is. Do you know what you is?"
Edward had no need to fetch his papers. He knew the words by heart, having read and re-read them in an attempt to make sense of his situation, to no avail. He had read the documents that attested to his freedom hundreds of times over the past several years, memorizing every line.
"It don't matter what yo' skin look like. You gots one drop, you's Negro. Don't you forget."
"Everythin' wanna be free, Edward. No matter how good you treat it, how good you feed it, how fine you dress it up. Open that cage, it gon' wanna fly."
Some months later, his uncle's lasts words echoed through his head when he buried his father, who had fallen to cholera shortly after Edward's twentieth birthday. Edward could not say he mourned the loss. Edward Masen meant little to the young man. He was no father, no friend. Just a distant benefactor. Yes, Edward had had access to the best, but he had lacked what he needed most. With his white father dead and buried, Edward felt the last latch of his cage released.
News from America still spoke of turmoil and inequality despite the Emancipation declaring that all men were free. He longed to return, to discover for himself the fate of his mother and the Swans.
He wanted to return to the country of his birth and nuzzle into his mother's sweet-smelling skin and feel her chest vibrate in her smooth alto as she sang him to sleep. Although he was twenty-two and considered a fine and proper gentleman among the London and Paris crowds, Edward longed to wade in tide pools and climb trees with a particular brown-haired beauty whose smile shone brighter than the sun.
Serendipity in the form of a broken carriage axle and sudden downpour brought Edward to a small London pub where he befriended a kindly young doctor. Both men immediately identified a kindred spirit in the other. Carlisle Cullen desired a companion for his journey to America. Edward Masen sought to sate his longing and learn the fate of his family.
Meeting Carlisle Cullen had set direction to Edward's wandering feet. Negroes, Chinamen, and Indians worked tirelessly, and mostly under duress, to connect the West to the industrialized North. The South was just beginning to rebuild from the ravages of war. Both men, eager to make their own way, set their course for America.
Before they departed, Carlisle had used a contact to discover the fate of the Swans and their land. When the letter arrived during their stopover in Chicago, informing the men that the Swan estate had been burned to ash shortly after he was spirited away, Edward did not leave the privacy of his train car until they arrived in Tacoma.
Quietly, he mourned. Had his father not come for him, would he, too, have been counted among the lost? While he was away, Edward had kept up with reports of the war. Sympathetic landowners such as the Swans were reported to have been sealed inside their homes and burned alive. Brother against brother was often what the headlines read. His heart shattered as he imagined Bella clinging to her father and brother as flames nipped at their shoes and smoke choked their lungs. His mother, the other hands, parsed out and shipped to other plantations. Others, those who resisted or were caught trying to flee, left dangling from trees like paper lanterns.
His seclusion led him to a dark place. Edward gave in to the pain. It was better than the emptiness he'd been walking around with for almost ten years. He felt the flames lick at his back, his skin blistering to bursting. He felt the thick rope of the noose tighten around his neck—rough, hard, jerking him back and strangling him. The whir of the rope against the thick tree branch blending with the crackle and sizzle of the burning fields as his feet lifted off the ground.
Smoke…so much smoke.
Even the air was on fire. Everything around him was lit orange and red. He could not close his eyes no matter how much they stung.
Another firm tug and he was lifted higher. His tongue poked out of his mouth without permission, suddenly too big for the space, and it dried, cracked and swollen, as soon as it hit the overheated air.
He dangled there for hours, days, spinning on the breeze like dogwood blossoms.
Carlisle could offer little comfort to his new friend. He simply moved quietly about the room, occasionally offering Edward food or drink. The young man lay on his bunk unresponsive. If not for the rise and fall of his chest and the fluttering of his eyelids, Carlisle would have thought Edward had passed on in his sleep. He pulled a tattered quilt from Edward's trunk and laid it upon him. A soft whimper was the only response.
Edward remained in this state for three days. When the train whistle tore through the smog of Edward's purgatory, he rose and readied himself for the remainder of his journey.
Much to Carlisle's surprise, Edward emerged from their quarters refreshed and determined. His family would not have perished in vain.
Stepping off the train in Tacoma, Edward breathed deep. They had been on ships and trains for weeks on end. The open deck of the steamship to Seattle would be a welcome change of pace. Edward felt he had not experienced the simple pleasure of clean air since he was taken from the plantation. He filled his lungs, savoring the dampness of the bay. His inhalations turned to amused snorts as he thought on his life.
They boarded the vessel in Tacoma for their destination. Edward had not seen such green. It stretched as far as the eye could see, and then met the sea at jagged cliffs. The air was different here, the pine more fragrant. Edward thought for a moment of Bella as he spied the largest tree he'd ever seen, knowing without a shadow of doubt his friend would have found a way to conquer it. He smiled and laughed in spite of himself.
"It does my heart well to see that your dark mood is lifting, Edward."
The young man's cheeks heated. It had been so long since he'd had any measure of happiness. He wished to hold on to this moment for all his days, but he was shamefaced at leaving Carlisle to fret over him.
"I am sorry for my….absence, Dr. Cullen."
The other man raised a hand to dismiss Edward's worry. "There is nothing to apologize for, Edward. I regret that the news I had to deliver was not more favorable."
Edward shifted in his seat and nodded.
"If I may ask. You were very…affected. Was your intended among those lost?"
His brow knitted. He had never thought about anything of the sort. He only knew Mama and Bella. Then there were others—housekeepers, shopgirls, and classmates Edward barely paid notice to. Traversing the Parisian city streets, he'd made a habit of keeping his eyes downcast. His master had implored him to portray himself as a white man, but he was never comfortable denying himself. Therefore, he kept himself guarded and closed off from all others.
With Carlisle, Edward was at ease and felt no need to hide. "Those whom I care for more than all else in the world perished there, yes. But I had no intended. I was but twelve when my master came to claim me."
Carlisle's eyebrows shot up into his hair at Edward's revelation.
"I am Negro, Dr. Cullen—an educated, free man of color." Edward pulled his papers from his breast pocket. Carlisle looked them over with great interest, opening and closing his mouth as question upon question surfaced, but a crowded boat was not the place for such a discussion.
He slid the papers back to Edward and patted him on the shoulder. "All is well, young friend. All is well. However, I would be most interested in learning more of your experience."
Edward nodded in agreement. It was of no consequence should Carlisle decide to part company. Both men had more than enough money and ability to manage separately. Although, Edward would miss the other man's companionship. Yes, they would speak once they had settled at their boarding house.
Seattle seemed to expand with every step the men took away from the port. A young settlement, it grew by leaps and bounds every day. The scene was chaotic. The din of a multitude of tongues clashing—each one shouting over the other in a desperate attempt to be understood—was deafening. Continuing their deferred conversation was next to impossible.
The two men climbed the hill toward the center of town and turned down a blessedly quiet street where, instead of competing languages, children's laughter filled the air. Well-appointed homes dotted the lane, with expansive green space between them. Edward nodded his approval. This was a far cry from the chaos of London or Paris.
They climbed the stairs to a large home, which sat on a corner lot. An empty porch swing swayed in the breeze. Edward felt at once at peace in the familiar setting.
"This is very much like the home I served in as a child," he said with a smile. Carlisle looked at the young man curiously. What he knew of Negroes in servitude would never conjure fond memories.
"You were treated well, then?"
Edward scoffed and pulled the handle for the bell. "I was well cared for. Those were the happiest times of my life."
A lovely woman with a soft, kind face opened the door to greet them. "You must be Doctors Cullen and Masen. Please, come in."
Removing their hats, the men crossed the threshold. "Thank you for your hospitality, Mrs. Platt," Edward offered, after noticing his companion seemed to be suddenly tongue-tied.
"Well, we'll see how hospitable you believe me to be, young sir. I have a mess of firewood that needs to be chopped, and other repairs about the house. Since my niece and her husband moved into their own home, I have been without help," she confessed.
Becoming aware that he was being rude, Carlisle jumped into the conversation. "I am sorry about the loss of your husband, Mrs. Platt."
She shrugged her shoulder in a gesture the men found peculiar. "No real loss there," she said under her breath, and placed their hats on the coat tree in the entry. "Come. Let me show you to your rooms."
The men followed her up the stairs. "Breakfast and supper are at seven. There is a Negro woman who will do your wash for a fair price. She comes by on Wednesdays. Just leave your bundles outside your door before you leave for the day. You'll have freshly starched shirts waiting for you by Friday afternoon."
"That sounds fine, Mrs. Platt. Thank you." Edward nodded in appreciation as she opened his bedroom door for him.
"It's Esme, dear," she said in a matronly tone, gently patting his quickly pinking cheek.
Edward and Carlisle never finished their discussion. Both weary from their travels, they collapsed onto their beds and did not stir for the better part of the next day. But there would be no time for dallying, as the men were set to begin work at the small medical clinic that had been left vacant after tuberculosis had claimed the previous practitioner.
Removing their jackets, the men rolled up the sleeves on their dress shirts and set about tidying the office. Edward had gone to inventory the back storeroom while Carlisle was busy clearing the exam room of cobwebs and dust, when the bell clanged.
"'Mornin'," a woman called, with a soft, southern drawl. "We were just passin' by and saw the place all opened up. Thought we'd say hello."
Carlisle stilled his broom to greet his visitors, extending his hand to the young woman and her companion.
"Welcome, Dr. Cullen. We are in desperate need of your services. Our prayers have been answered, that's for sure," she said, with great enthusiasm. "Well, I'd better get on to the schoolhouse, and Lizzie here's got a cake to deliver to Miss Esme."
Carlisle stood stunned at the young woman's rapid-fire tongue. She'd scarcely taken a breath. The Negro woman stood silently beside her, offering Carlisle a timid smile before they turned out the door just as fast as they had appeared. He followed down the few steps after them, asking the girl her name.
"Bella," she called behind her, moving rapidly up the dusty road. "Bella Swan."