AN: I've been trying to re-do an older story of mine. Unfortunately, my life has been super busy and I really don't have a lot of time to write... But, I still felt like posting this. For those of you who have read the older version, this will keep to the story line, but it will be quite different. There were a lot of things with the older story that I wasn't happy with and I'm trying to do it better this time around... Please keep in mind that English is my second language. Books: thanks for being a great beta helping me with great ideas! Sorry for disappearing from the fanfic world, unfortunately I don't know how often I'll update or how often I'll be able to write.
The characters belong to the wonderful Stephenie Meyer.
Thanks to bookishqua for helping me as a Beta and OTB for the super banner!
A New Beginning
I couldn't help but notice how empty the room looked. Nothing had been moved or changed, but it was as though something important was missing. Something essential… Even the room had noticed her passing.
With careful steps I entered, the familiar smells hitting me like a brick wall. I recognized the sweet scent of her perfume. Tears burned in my eyes and a large lump grew in my throat. I was so tired of crying. My fingers traced the piano, her most beloved possession. She would spend hours here, losing herself in beautiful music. She had taught me, but my clumsy fingers were nothing in comparison to her elegant ones. Never the less, she would always encourage me… tell me how practice makes perfect and that I was doing well.
I turned away from the instrument, the pain in my chest growing too strong for me to handle. Instead, I made my way to the sofa, sitting down gently. My stance was stiff as I looked around me. Her paintings and books were all mixed in with mine... This had been our room, our sanctuary. And now she was gone…
My mother… had loved unconditionally and was loved back in return. Her smile would brighten up any room, her laughter-. A tear made its way down my cheek. For a moment, as I sat there, it was almost as though I could hear her bell-like laughter echo in the room.
"Lady Swan", they'd called her. A title not commonly used here in "the New World". My mother's poise and elegance was evidence of her fine upbringing. Her soft English accent shining through every time she spoke. I sometimes imagined what her life must have been like, before she met my father. Grand parties in majestic houses, dances with the finest of the finest… She never seemed to miss it though, and she never complained. The love between her and my father evidence of why she made that decision so long ago.
My eye caught a flash of purple on the sofa next to me. I lifted it carefully as I realized what it was. Her embroidery… Ma had been famous for her stitching. "Works of art," they called it. She could make anything. Here, she had taught me well. My usually clumsy fingers were able to find purpose in fabrics and thread. The lump in my throat grew steadily as I remembered exactly what the embroidery was for. It was a handkerchief… My handkerchief, embroidered with my mother's favorite flower, the Mayflower, and my initials I M S: Isabella Marie Swan. My fingers traced the soft colors as I remembered one of the last conversations between my mother and I.
"Ma, please, whatever will I need a string of personalized handkerchiefs for?" I had laughed, not understanding the use of her new project.
"My dear, you are coming of age," she said simply, as though I needed no other explanation.
"And?" I pressed, a laugh escaping my lips in response to the look of mischief and secrecy that shone on my mother's face.
"Well, my dear child, the way to catch a man is to simply drop your handkerchief in his presence. If he is a gentleman and finds you eligible, he will pick it up and return it to you. Also, it's a wonderful way to start a conversation."
She had winked and smiled knowingly, as though she knew everything about the subject. Excitement and anxiousness had grown in my stomach… I didn't know much about conversing with the opposite sex, but I couldn't wait for my mother to teach me.
Yet another tear ran down my cheek as I was reminded of all the things we'd never have the chance to do together.
"There you are, Missy. I've been look all over for ye."
I startle, dropping the embroidery back on the sofa and hastily wiping my wet cheeks, before standing to my feet.
"Mrs. O'Connor," I said, nodding my head in greeting as I forced a small smile to my lips. My hands were gently folded by my stomach, my back straight and poised just as my mother had taught me.
"Ai dearie… No need for that. It's only me." Her soft Irish accent was comforting and familiar.
Maggie O'Connor had worked for my Ma and Pa ever since I was a little girl. She was the closest thing I had to a second mother. Her plumb finger immediately stroked my cheek, drying the remnants of my tears, as she studied me with her eyes.
"It's all right to miss her, ye know?"
My eyes shifted to the ground in front of me, escaping her examining eyes.
"I know… I just-. I know she'd want us to go on, but I just don't know how. How am I supposed to be the lady of the house without her to show me how?" I explain, expressing my hidden fear. The burden of my new role felt exhausting. Tears were yet again brimming in my eyes.
"I'm so tired of missing her all the time, Maggie," I whispered.
Maggie wrapped her arms around me, pulling me to her round body for a warm hug. I allowed myself to relax and let go for a moment, reveling in the familiarity of her smell and soft limbs. She always smelled like freshly baked bread and flowers, very different from my Ma, but still wonderful.
"She's taught ye your whole life, dearie. We all just need to adjust a little, is all," she said comfortingly, holding me tightly for a few long minutes.
Her arms tightened around me as she squeezed gently. Keeping one arm around me, she turned slightly to allow her expert eyes examine the room.
"Ye know what this room needs?" she asked softly after a few seconds. Continuously, stroking my shoulder in comfort.
I simply shook my head, standing as close to her as I could, enjoying her warmth.
"We need to switch out them flowers. Your Ma would be aghast if she saw the state of them!" Maggie exclaimed, lightening the mood instantly as we both were reminded of how my mother loved to surround herself with fresh flowers.
A smile began spreading on my lips as I nodded in agreement. With her arm still around me, we made our way towards the kitchen.
"I got a large bundle of beauties from the marked this mornin'. Your Ma loved those arrangements of yours. Come on, Missy, let's go make her proud. And then later ye can make your Pa's favorite pie, huh?"
It was as though a small weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I wasn't alone. With Mrs. O'Conner's assistance, somehow, life would go on as Ma had wished it.
I had been checking the new flower arrangements in every single room, just like Ma would have done, when I heard the front door shut softly. I wasn't expecting any visitors so I was rather shocked and moved quickly towards the doorway. When I got to the hall, I instantly recognized my father's lean figure.
"Pa! You're home early," I exclaimed happily, moving towards him quickly to help him with his coat. He kissed me softly on the cheek, a ghost of a smile spreading on his lips.
Ever since mother's passing, Pa's smiles had grown smaller and smaller. His dark brown eyes never lit up any more like they used to. He had always been a serious man, but when he was at home Pa would always smile and laugh whole heartedly with his girls. I missed that carefree and happy man and longed for his return. However, I knew that something in Pa had died the day Ma passed away… I could see it in his eyes. He wasn't the same man anymore. So, I did my very best to cheer him up.
"I made you a pie today! It's your favorite. And I did it all by myself. Maggie didn't help me once!"
I had always loved helping Maggie in the kitchen. Although, I usually didn't have time because of my studies and Ma's projects, I used to love sneaking into the kitchen now and again to watch Maggie. After a while, Ma noticed my interest and agreed to allow me to spend a few hours every week in the kitchen.
"Every woman should at least know a little bit about cooking," Ma had said, causing my Pa to laugh loudly for some reason. Mother had simply raised an eyebrow at him in warning as he visibly tried to swallow his laughter.
"Well… At least most women should learn a thing or two. Others simply don't have a schedule that allows it," she explained, lifting her teacup gracefully to her lips. Ma and Pa had shared a secret smile before changing the topic.
I wasn't a great talent in the kitchen, but Maggie was always patient with me. I could now bake a good loaf of bread and was getting better at making pies.
"That sounds wonderful, Bells, I can't wait to taste it," he answered unconvincingly.
His mustache bounced slightly as he fidgeted with the hat still in his hands. I recognized the traits instantly. Something serious was on Pa's mind. He had stood the exact same way the day he told me Ma had been feeling under the weather. Then he had insisted that I stay with the neighbors for a few days to make sure I didn't catch anything. When I was called for a few days later, Ma had died… Anxiousness spread in my stomach as I continued to study my father. He had dark rings under his eyes as though he was having trouble sleeping, and his suit did seem to fit him anymore. I had noticed his lack of appetite, but I hadn't realized -. My eyes widened in shock.
"You're ill, aren't you?"
His thick black brows furrow in confusion.
"That's why you're obviously so nervous. Pa, you get up to bed. I'll be up there soon with some broth. You just need your rest. We'll have to healthy in no time. Don't you worry," I rambled, pushing him towards the stairs. He paused abruptly, grabbing both of my hands in his forcing me to a stop.
"Bella, I'm fine." His voice was calm and composed.
"No, you're obviously not fine. You're not sleeping. You're barely eating… How can you be fine?!" I exclaim, the fear of losing yet another parent causing my emotions to amplify. Short and shallow breaths were leaving my mouth as my heart pounded in my chest.
"Isabella, breathe," he ordered firmly, his hands now gripping at my shoulders.
His eyes held mine for a few minutes as I tried to collect myself. Pa's strong arms lead me to the sitting room, guiding me gently to the sofa. The room was quiet for a few moments before my father's deep voice rang out, breaking silence between us.
"I received a telegram today about a job opening," he paused, looking straight ahead.
"I wasn't aware you were looking for something else," I said softly, willing him to continue. He turned towards me, his face all of a sudden looking much older. Years of reading my father's emotions allowed me to recognize uncertainty and anguish as they flashed across his face.
"I wasn't," he answered simply. Standing abruptly from the sofa. I stayed seated, awaiting his explanation.
"I need a fresh start, Bella. A new beginning somewhere. This house-." His voice began to break, proof of the obvious emotional war he was fighting within. I bowed my head, giving him as much privacy as I could. I felt uncomfortable, unsure of how I was supposed to act. I wasn't used to seeing my father so emotional. He'd been unnervingly composed and somewhat cold even before the funeral. I hadn't seen him break once.
"There's just too many memories. I can't stay here any longer, Bella. Please, tell me you understand that."
In a flash he was by my side again, his eyes burning into the side of my face. His voice sounded desperate as he pleaded with me for understanding. I turned towards him, my hand finding his. Hoping my actions would give him a sense of comfort and assurance. There was truly nothing I wouldn't do for him.
"Of course I do, Pa. Anything you need."
Luckily, my voice seemed to have lost it childish uncertainty and rung out strong and reassuring.
He nodded carefully, squeezing my hand briefly in thanks. Relief was clear on his features, both on his face but also at the slight drop of his shoulders.
"I've spoken to Mr. Richardson about his son Isaac. The boy's had a big smile for you some time now and he'd be a good match. He'd be able to take care of you and give you a life you deserve," Pa said hastily. It took a few seconds for his words to register and when they did I stood up in shock.
"But, Pa, I want to stay with you!"
Isaac Richardson came from one of the wealthiest families in Saint Louis. We lived in a small town nearby, but I had met the family on several occasions. Isaac was quiet and respectful, so much so that we'd hardly even exchanged words. I didn't know him at all!
"The job's in Washington, Bella." Pa's voice sounded exhausted and resigned. My movements froze as I realized exactly which area my father was talking about.
"Oregon territory, Washington?" I asked, my voice shaking with disbelief.
He nodded sadly, affirming my fear.
"That's thousands of miles away!" I exclaimed.
The shock over the situation completely overriding my fine upbringing. Ma had been taught never to raise my voice, especially not to my elders. I had always been soft spoken and careful… This was the first time I'd ever contested my father's words. The widening of his eyes was physical proof of his obvious surprise. He hadn't expected this from me.
"I apologize," I whisper, bowing my head in embarrassment. My cheeks heated up as a blush spread. Tears burned in my eyes as I tried to accept my fate. Pa was going to leave me…
I could hear him exhale deeply, before I felt his hands take mine. He was still seated on the sofa, so as he looked up into my eyes there was no way for me to hide. His brown eyes held mine as he pleaded for understanding.
"Bella, this is a great opportunity for me. After the Oregon treaty, thousands of people are moving northwest to the new American soil. Even people from the California gold country are moving upwards in search for something new. They are in desperate need of lawmen…I have to go."
My heart raced in my chest. I would ask him one more time.
"Then I'll come with you." The lump growing in my throat muffled my voice to a whisper. I could see he was debating with himself with the way his mustache moved.
"Bella-," he began, but I interrupted him. I had to show him that I meant what I said.
"No, Pa, please? I just lost Ma I can't bear to lose you as well." Tears welled up in my eyes, but I was able to keep them at bay. He looked as though he was in pain, but I could see that he was carefully considering my request.
"It won't be anything like this… the frontier is wild and unclaimed. You'd have a better life here."
I'd heard stories about the West... My body shuddered before I could stop the reaction. I lifted my head to show a confidence I didn't know I had in me.
"I'll adapt," I promised.
"There's so much you don't-." I could see how he was grasping at excuses now. He wanted me to go with him… It was evident in his face now.
"I'll learn," I vowed.
He still looked unsure, so I begged him with the final argument I had in me.
"Pa, please, don't shackle me to a loveless marriage simply because it would be more practical. Ma, would never have allowed it."
I knew bringing up my mother was harsh, but it was the truth. Ma had been thrown out of her family for wanting to marry Pa. She'd lost everything, but she always said it was worth it. "Love never fails," she'd said. A good marriage was supposed to be based on love… Both of my parents had taught me that.
The conflict on my father's face disappeared instantly. He closed his eyes for just a moment as though he was remembering something, before he slowly began to nod in agreement.
"Okay," he whispered. My heart swelled in my chest with happiness. I knew that what lay ahead would be very different from what I was used to, but with Pa by my side… We'd manage.