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The wind blew across the small ranch in the early morning, the sun was slowly rising yet the wind was hot. A small family lay inside, the mother’s body covered in sweat from the exertion undertaken bringing a new life into the world. The father lay beside her holding his daughter in his arms, marveling at the perfect being they created.

“She’s perfect Charles.”

“She really is.” He kissed his wife’s head, the love he had for her flowed throughout his body, he would never be able to thank her for bringing his daughter to life.

Renee could feel that pure love without trying, the little girl in his arms looked remarkably like him, the curls in her brown hair, whilst her eyes were blue at the moment, she had no doubt they would turn a brown the same as her father. She closed her eyes knowing that he would watch over them both.

Charles looked down into his daughters sleeping face, “Isabella Marie Swan, welcome to the world.”

The next morning Charles had to go back into the fields to tend after his land, as well as checking on the cattle to ensure they were fed. “Morning Mr Swan.” Wesley called, he waved to the young man.

“Morning Wesley, how are you?” Wesley was an African-American who was previously owned by a plantation owner some years ago, Charles found the young man after he escaped the torturous conditions of the plantation, rather than returning the man Charles promised him fair work for fair wages.

Wesley remained at the ranch not due to ownership status, but due to the respect he had at the home. Charles refused to let company treat Wesley as anything less than a free man, any one who dared oppose this view was quickly met with a rifle and hunting dogs.

“I’m good Mr Swan.” Wesley took his hat off and waved some cool air on his face. “It’s going to be a might hot day, how are you after last night? Is Mrs Swan doing well?”

Charles smiled at the young man, he was never able to get him to call him by his first name, both decided that when Wesley was comfortable with it he would, until then both worked together happily. “If we start early maybe we can finish early? What do you think? Renee is doing fine, Isabella is beautiful. After work we’ll wash up and you can meet her.”

“I think it’s a mighty fine idea, I would love to meet the little miss.” Wesley brightly smiled at the older man, Charles clapped him on the shoulder and both headed into the fields to start their morning.

Renee woke up from her deep sleep to hear the crying of her newborn child, she knew the basics of motherhood from watching the various different mothers she’d seen in the city many years ago, yet it was instinct that drew her to gather her daughter into their arms and sooth the crying child.

She ached deeply from the birthing process of her daughter, yet looking into her smiling face made the pain entirely worth it. She knew she’d have company today since the Whitlocks were expected some time after lunch.

Daphne came into the home after politely knocking. “Come in Daphne.” The young African-American woman came into the home looking down at her feet.

“Morning Mrs Swan.”

“Good Morning, Daphne, are you able to help me get ready this morning? I know I would never normally ask but I’m struggling a little after last night.” Renee’s face blushed, Daphne nodded her head as Renee noticed her gaze turn towards the basinet. “Would you like to meet her?”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“My name is Renee, We’re friends here Daphne.” She chided the woman who smiled at the encouragement.

“Yes Renee.” She walked over the sleeping child, her pale skin glowed prettily in the sun, Daphne reached towards the sleeping girl. Isabella reached out and grabbed onto her hand in her sleep. “She is beautiful, what is her name?”

Renee saw the captivated look on Daphne’s face, “Her name is Isabella, when she wakes up you can hold her if you’d like.” Daphne tuned to stare shocked at the woman beside her, her previous owner refused to let the children be anywhere close to her. “I’m not like them Daphne, you’re my friend, or really more like family. I want Isabella to grow up knowing you’re always going to be there for her in the same way her Aunt would be.”

Daphne wiped away a tear and smiled at Renee, she helped the exhausted Renee out of bed and into a warm bath, all whilst keeping an ear out towards the sleeping child. This child would be the change this world required, and heaven be damned if she allowed anyone to hurt her.

Daphne never complained when either of them asked for help, they saved not only her husband from a horrific end, but saved her from a never ending existence at the hands of bored old men. She could not ask for better people to be part of her life, whilst they remained with the Swan family they were givne their freedom instantly, a wage to live on but was not required to pay rent for living on their property.

She remembered asking to keep the pretence of ownership when out in the community to not only ensure their safety, but also that of the Swan family. Renee and Charlie hated the idea, but this time in the world was not the safest to run against the grain of society. Both her and Wesley noticed that the slaves they did encounter they refused to treat them as lesser than themselves, and chastised anyone who did.

Many people only came onto the property to do business with them now, their families long disowned them, whilst people charged them more for anything purchased, they merely bit their tongue. This caused Mr Swan to begin planting a large garden at the back of their property to grow all kinds of crops for the household, as well as guard dogs for their property. Between both the women they kept the garden flourishing and domestic pets fed so the men didn’t have to worry.

When Renee found out she was with child they were over joyed at the prospect of a small child joining their family, Daphne and Wesley did everything they could to ensure both new parents had little to no worries about the farm. Daphne was well versed in how difficult child bearing could be, she had no wish to make it more difficult for either of them.

The Whitlock and Swan family had been doing business with one another for generations, they were also a family with similar views on treating the African-American’s in Texas, a somewhat unpopular decision to everyone else.

Daphne was able to hear the horse drawn carriage coming down the long pathway. “Mrs Swan the Whitlock family is coming.” Now dressed in her more fancy outfit consisting of a long dark green skirt with a thick leather belt, a simple white shirt that covered her from her neck down to her wrists, a simple dark green bow kept the shirt from opening at the neck.

Her hair was intricately done in an up do, a simple curl framing both sides of her face. Daphne smiled at the woman, she knew she had to be exhausted an in no doubt pain, yet she presented herself like a lady worthy of a crown. Isabella started cooing from her cradle bringing a soft smile to her lips.

“You look beautiful.”

“Thank you Daphne, it really means a lot.”

Both women stood at the patio waiting to greet their guests, the carriage came to a slow and steady stop at the front of the home. Robert Whitlock was riding on a horse, he leant over to kiss his wife before she exited her carriage, their young son laughing at the display of his father. Robert took off his hat bowing slightly in his saddle towards Renee who happily waved him off.

“Charles is in the fields with Wesley.” Renee called out.

“Thank you, ma’am. I’ll be back soon Mary, Jasper be polite.” He winked and galloped off towards Charles.

Jasper was only  two years old, yet his mother had him dressed similarly to his father, brown pants with white linen shirt, a leather vest keeping him tidy, the handkerchief around his neck and broad rimmed hat hiding the blond curls Renee knew hid beneath it.

Mary got down out of the carriage and helped Jasper down as well, the little boy ran up to Renee with undisguised glee. “Morning Mrs Swan.”

“Good morning, Jasper. Would you like to play with the dogs?”

“Dogs!” Jasper squealed loudly and ran behind the house to play with the dogs, Daphne laughed and went to follow the young boy much to the relief of both women. That boy was able to find trouble anywhere.

“Morning Daphne.”

“Morning Mrs Whitlock, I’ll look after the little master.” Both women went inside the small ranch house together.

“Go take a seat Renee, I’ll make you a cup of tea.” Mary went about the kitchen as if it were her own, Renee got Isabella out of her cradle and held her soothingly in her arms, once Mary came back to the table, she cooed over the new addition to the Swan family. “She’s beautiful.”

The next few hours Mary helped clean up around their house whilst Renee fed the hungry Isabella, Mary even watched the newborn child whilst Renee had a small nap. “Jasper hon, come here.” Mary cradled the small child in her arms whilst sitting outside under the large tree by the house.

“Yes Mama.” Jasper diligently came over to his mother, curiosity dominating him as he looked at the small bundle in his mother’s arms.

“This is Isabella.” She showed him the small child, he peered into the wrapped bundle to see a small face looking back at him. Her brown curls catching the light almost turning them auburn.

He reached out to touch the small child, her skin looked soft to the touch. He noticed that she watched wherever his hand went. He giggled at her. His mother noticed how taken he was with the small girl and she sent a small prayer to the lord to always keep this little girl safe.

The next few years went by quickly for the swan family, Isabella learnt to walk at around 9 months old, much to the chagrin of her parents. Both parents had managed to find her hiding in the hay bales in the barn on multiple occasions, often falling into puddles of water and mud eliciting a scream of joy when she was found.

Often both mothers came together to allow the children to play together, Jasper never took his eyes off her, every bump or fall she took he tended to with care. The Whitlock’s had two new additions to their family, a set of blonde twins that hollered day in and day out, forcing both parents to hire a nanny to look after the children since they both spent so much time looking after their horses.

Jasper had begun to be taught how to ride ponies under the careful supervision of his father, the boy took to his father’s work like a duck to water. Renee had bought Isabella over to Whitlock farm on the day the young boy was learning, her hair now hung below her shoulders. She hobbled over to the training pen to watch Jasper, laughing when he did. The two were inseparable.

As they grew older the dynamic of their relationship changed, Isabella was now 10, Jasper 12. Both mothers were content to let their children be friends but they were required to be chaperoned at all times, there were talks of the North and South beginning to go into a civil war which both families hoped to avoid entirely.

“Isabella, would you like to go on a horse ride?” Jasper had a polite smile as he asked her.

“I would very much like to go, thank you.” Many years ago, Jasper had taught the young girl to ride horses, she was not as skilled in the action as he was so he made sure to always stay close to her offering support.

Daphne had escorted them on the afternoon ride, making sure to keep her distance but stay close enough that she could keep the conversation in a polite way. His father demanded most of his time to keep working on the farm, where they would go for rides nearly every day was down to once or twice a week.

Renee kept Isabella mostly inside instructing her on the ways of cooking, cleaning and other womanly activities to ensure that whomever she married would have a wife worthy of the Lord himself. She hated being parted from Jasper, yet in her little heart she hoped if she diligently learnt her mothers lessons that he would be proud of her.

When they were 14 and 16 alike both had begun to blossom into adulthood, Jasper was no longer a small boy with a cheeky grin but was now a tall young man. Nearly as tall as his father, with broad shoulders rippling with muscles he gained from years of working the land.

His blonde hair glowed in the sun, his skin kissed by the rays of the sun making his blue eyes sparkle. Isabella was still holding some of the baby fat of her childhood but she grew as well, she now stood only a foot smaller than Jasper, who easily cleared 6 feet.

Her clothing now closely resembled that of a woman, pinching at the waist, sleeves down to her wrists. She had a bonnet matching the deep blue fabric of her dress. Her brown curls hung down her back now something Jasper longed to touch.

Jasper got many looks from the daughters who came with their fathers to do business with his father, he learnt to charm them to make sure they hounded their fathers for repeat business, all whilst remaining perfectly polite. He tipped his hat at women when walking or riding past, he learnt that emotions were fickle things, quickly navigating them to his benefit.

That was until he noticed Isabella and her mother in town, he hitched his horse to the post and walked over to the women. “Mrs Swan, Miss Swan. Pleasure to see you.” He called out.

Isabella turned towards the comforting voice she had grown up with, blushing prettily when his gaze fell upon her. “Jasper, it’s a pleasure to see you. Did you come with your father?” Renee asked.

“No ma’am, I’m on an errand for my mother.”

“Oh of course, how are your family doing?”

“They are well thank you for asking. Do you require assistance to carry your things to the carriage?” He flicked his gaze over Isabella loving the way her blush coloured her skin.

“No thank you Jasper, we don’t wish to keep you. Isabella and I are looking into the seamstress today, it may take some time.” Noticing the glances between the children she carefully extracted herself to converse with Mrs Dawn who she noticed passing.

“Good morning, Jasper.”

“Good morning, Isabella, you look beautiful this morning.” She looked down at her feet before glancing back towards him.

“Thank you very much Jasper.”

“You’re very welcome, do you think tomorrow we can go for our afternoon ride?”

“I would like that very much.”

He tipped his hat bowing to both ladies before saying his goodbyes, Isabella sighed contently as she watched his lithe figure walking away. Renee smirked at the look on her daughter’s face, no doubt that the children had grown closer over the years. The dynamic changing them for their future roles.

“Come Isabella.” She turned away from watching Jasper.

They spent the new few hours getting measured for the new dresses they required for the town dance which was happening in a few months time, it would be September and Isabella would be turning 15, officially old enough to start courting if she so desired.

Whilst Charles hated the idea of men coming to court his daughter, he was aware that it needed to happen eventually. He always though the Whitlock boy would capture her attention first, however neither son or father had spoken to him about a potential engagement or courting so he’d left it alone.

Now they were preparing for the town dance held yearly, it was a change for the teenage population to come together and meet one another. More often than not parents had a discussion about a potential marriage only a few days after.

Isabella was hoping that this dance would finally solidify the relationship between herself and Jasper, she hoped that the feelings bubbling within her chest were reciprocated. She had picked a light pink fabric for her dress with white trimmings, collar and cuffs for her sleeves. It had a simple pattern of white polka dots around the bottom of the skirt.

Her mother was going to curl her hair to fall around her face, a light dusting of make up to make her brown eyes stand out against the crowd. They would go to the dance in their family carriage. All parents remained at the town hall; the men went into the gentleman’s saloon where the women stayed in the hall with the children but were more focused on conversing with one another rather than watching the children.

Jasper was dressed to the nines, black dress pants with a matching black jacket a light blue dress shirt completing the ensemble. He looked like a rich mans son instead of a ranchers son, his blond curls refused to be tamed.

The girls flocked to him in the town hall, battering eyelids, blushing cheeks to gain his attention, wanting to dance the night away with the young man yet he had his eyes trained on the entryway for one person only.

When she walked through the doors she scanned the crowd for him, but even though he was taller than most of the boys here her height made it difficult to find him. “Good evening.” A boy came to stand before her, wearing something similar to all the other boys only in a deep brown colour, his hair was yet black but his eyes were green.

“Good evening.” He bowed as she curtsied slightly.

“Can I ask you for a dance?”

“I am sorry but not right now, I’m trying to look for someone.” He looked crestfallen as he digested her words.

“Maybe later?” She blushed and mumbled a response before pushing through the crowd. She deeply sighed and glared at a spot on the ground that captured her wrath.

“Did the ground upset you?” She heard a chuckle behind her, she twirled around and smiled brightly.

“Not terribly so.” His blue eyes shined with humour.

“You look mighty beautiful tonight, Isabella.”

“So do you Jasper.” He laughed and held out his hand, she gracefully placed her hand in his. Together they headed towards the dancefloor and slowly spent the night in each others arms.

They spent the next year engaged to one another, nearly boarding on two, both family farms began to prosper and plan the large wedding to join them together forever. Isabella now 16 had the figure of a woman, and desires that any other woman would have when looking upon Jasper.

Where they would be escorted but not watched that all changed when they got engaged, the reminder of how the Holy Spirit must have room between their bodies is a constant reminder. The fears of a war between the North and South was no longer a mere rumour spread between travelling customers, but war was around th corner.

The army had been going door to door recruiting the young men to go fight against the Yankees, both their fathers were too old to fight in a war, or refused to fight in the war. Charles had to remain on the land to care for his family, Wesley was always out of sight when the army came to visit something they couldn’t blame him for in the slightest.

“Isabella, can we talk?”  Jasper looked guilty as he stood before his fiancé.

“Of course, Jasper... Mother do you mind if we sit beneath the tree?”

“Not at all.” The look on Renee’s face was one of pity and acceptance all at the same time, the set of the young man’s shoulders left no mistake of what he was here to do.

They headed out together Jasper placed her hand in the crook of his elbow, he looked down at the small woman with a heavy heart, he sat her down on the chair sitting beside her. “Isabella...”

“You’re going, aren’t you?” She refused to look at him and instead looking at her feet, if she had looked up she would have seen the hurt in his eyes.

“We’re going to war, I don’t want to look back on my life and realise I could have done something to protect you, our family or our land.”

“What if you don’t come back Jasper?”

“Of course, I’ll come back, I love you Isabella.” She tried to hold back the tears which were threatening to fall.

“Is this war more important than the life we’re supposed to be starting together?”

“Of course not!”

“That’s how this feels Jasper! You’re running off to a war that you’re likely to die in!” She stood up and yelled at him. “I’m going to be a widow before I’m even married!”

“We’ll marry before I go!” He stood up her fury turning his calm into fury too.

“I don’t want to marry a man who is going to be gone for god knows how long!” Tears began to well in her eyes.

“What are you saying Isabella?” His voice dropped to a whisper.

“That if you go... That I won’t wait for you.” They were staring at one another, tears falling down her face, displaying the sheer pain going through her heart at that moment.

“You’re asking me to choose between you or our country?”  She refused to answer but the defeated sigh spoke volumes. “I can’t do that Isabella... Fine. If you won’t marry me, maybe we weren’t destined to be together anyway.” He stormed away from her, ignoring the cry of agony torn from her lips.

He jumped onto his horse and tore out of the ranch, the sound of her cry following him every day till his heart stopped beating.