1921, Chicago (1/1)
Edward Masen stood outside the Halloway Mansion, ignoring the revelers around him and ignoring the music still sounding from within. Tonight was supposed to have been the night he told Isabella Swan the truth and depth of his feelings for her as he proposed with his grandmother's ring.
Instead, it was a night he would never forget, for all the wrong reasons. Isabella had not been present, despite having told him she would be; her parents had been there though, happily announcing their daughter's newly agreed upon engagement to Mr. Jacob Black, the son of Mr. Swan's friend, who resided in Washington. He'd come down to Illinois for the sole purpose of meeting Isabella, with her parents hope of the two of them making a match.
Edward had been crushed, and with the ring weighting down his pocket, he had escaped the ball room before anyone had noticed him.
He'd first met Isabella at a dance hosted by an old school friend of his. She'd become friends with Rosalie Hale, the beautiful blonde heiress who'd debuted only last season. Isabella, with her long dark hair and soulful eyes, had quickly captured Edward's interest; captured also, the interest of many of the other men present. But she had seemed as taken with him as he'd been with her, and since that night, only one month gone, Edward had done his outmost to seek her out whenever he could.
Invitations he would have shunned just one month ago were suddenly accepted, if he knew she was to be there. He joined his mother on her weekly shopping trips, knowing that Isabella and her mother visited the same green grocer the same day of the week.
He was enamored with her, and though he had tried to keep it to himself, even his mother and father had noticed.
But he had been too late; only five days had passed since Jacob Black had come down to Chicago for his visit with the Swan family. Edward had only seen him once, at a distance. The man could not have looked more different to himself; where Edward was fair and redheaded, Black was dark and naturally tanned from his work as a prosperous rancher. Though Edward was tall, Black towered over him, and his muscles were thick where Edward was lanky and sleek.
Edward had the body of a runner; Jacob Black the body of a strong man.
Rain started to fall as Edward stood outside the mansion he'd just escaped from, and while the other guests out for a nip of fresh air quickly hurried inside again, Edward turned toward the street and began walking home.
He was drenched before he'd come halfway, but too depressed to care. With every step, the ring box pressed against his leg, reminding him of his love and his failure.
The night was dark, in part due to the rain, and when someone struck a match and lit a lamp in a nearby window, the light drew Edward's attention. Only then, as he paused to gaze through the window of the now lit room, did he realise his feet had not brought him home; they had brought him to Isabella.
The light had been lit by one of the maids who worked in the grand Swan Mansion; she was of no concern to him, and as she began straightening the room, Edward paid her no more mind. Instead, his eyes travelled over the front of the house, wondering which room belonged to his beloved. He doubted her room would have a window that faced the street, so he walked on, following the pavement as it curved around her house.
Few windows held light, signaling that the Master and his wife were not at home, or at the very last not entertaining. Edward frowned at the thought, wondering if it meant Black had returned to Washington, or if his engagement to the Miss Swan had entitled him to a familiar visit now, though they were not yet married.
As Edward stood in the rain, morosely looking up at the house in which his beloved lived, a back door quietly opened. If not for the lightning that suddenly flashed overhead, Edward would have missed the figure, clad in a long dark coat, a hood flung over their head, as it slipped out of the house.
He frowned, following behind for a few paces. In the dark once more, it was difficult to make out who it may be. Edward naturally assumed it was one of the maids, on her way out for the night and he had been about to turn back to gaze at the house when lightning flashed again; this time just as the figure had turned and looked at the street behind her.
It was Isabella.
Edward, now frowning, followed behind her as she scurried off down the street. His heart pounded in his chest, in worry and concern. His long legs hurried after her, and soon he was close enough to call out to her. He held back however, not wanting to alarm her.
The rain pounded harder than before, and the dark seemed almost oppressive. Edward's worry increased.
Then, suddenly, a light was seen up head. Isabella moved towards it, and it wasn't until they were far closer that Edward realised where the light was coming from; the train station.
"Miss Swan?" he called out, just before the lady in question entered the building.
She twirled around, her cloak swishing around her legs. Her face was wet from the rain, and in her hands she held a large suitcase; a suitcase which had previously been hidden from Edward's view. He eyed it, feeling dread for reasons he couldn't explain.
"Edward," she breathed, before blushing. "I mean, Mr. Masen."
Water weighted down his hair and dripped down his nose; it got into his eyes and blocked his vision, and yet, he could see her clearly; even with the light from the station behind her.
"Where are you going?" he asked, eying her case.
"I-" she looked down at the suitcase also, before looking back up at him. "I am going to visit my aunt in California."
"In California?" he asked, surprised. "I didn't know you had family there; I do as well."
"Oh you do? That's nice," she mumbled, looking away.
They stood in silence for a moment, only the rain falling and a few passersby running to get away from it to disrupt them.
"So um, congratulations," Edward said, softly. "On your engagement."
Isabella stared at him. "Thank you," she said in a small voice.
"I was surprised not to see you at the Halloway party, with your parents," he continued; Edward didn't quite know what he was saying, he only wanted to keep her with him for as long as possible.
"I wasn't feeling well," she admitted.
Edward frowned. "Then you should not be out in this weather, Miss Swan," he said, walking past her to hold open the door to the station. "Please, let me help you with your luggage."
Isabella accepted his help after a few token words of protest.
"I must admit, I am surprised you are leaving now; from what I understood of your parent's announcement, you would be married soon," Edward said as he lead her to a bench where she could rest.
"Um, yes," Isabella hedged, looking away.
"And you are travelling alone," Edward frowned again, "is it quite safe for you to do that? I am shocked your parents allowed you to go by yourself, even if you are to meet with family upon arrival."
"Mr. Masen, I-" she stopped, blushing as she leaned closer and continued in a quiet whisper, "Edward, I am running away."
She breathed deeply, resolved and determined. "I have no family in California, but I have a friend who works as a governess with a family there, and she has often said that I would be welcomed to visit and that she could help me find work if I should need it."
"You cannot work!" Edward exclaimed, seeming much more affronted at the idea of her working than the idea of her running away by herself.
"I cannot stay here and marry Mr. Black," Isabella said, tears in her dark eyes. "I do not love him, and I cannot be a rancher's wife; not so far away from my family and all I have known."
"But work; you cannot be a maid, you are a lady."
Isabella laughed and smiled gently at Edward. "Oh, Edward," she said, her eyes softening as she looked at him. A tear spilled from her eyes, and Edward, propriety and witnesses be damned, brushed it away for her with a gentle caress.
"I have family in California," he said gently. "If you would allow me I-" he paused, uncertain. But the look in her eyes as she looked into his own gave him strength. "I love you," he said.
Isabella gasped, and her eyes watered again as a smile spread over her lips. "I love you too, that is why I could not marry him."
Edward reached into his sopping wet pants pocket and extracted the box holding his precious cargo. Fingering the small clasp, he turned to his beloved. "I came to the party tonight, hoping to find you and tell you how I felt."
"I'm sorry," she said, looking down. "It can't have been easy for you to hear my parents announce my engagement."
"No, it was not. But if I had not heard it, I would not have left when I did, and I would not have seen you leave, and not sit here with you now, asking you if you would do me the outmost honor of accepting my hand in marriage."
Isabella gasped, her eyes wide as he opened the box and presented the ring to her.
"I know it's not much but-" he tried to excuse himself and the small diamond band, but Isabella waved him off.
"It is beautiful, absolutely perfect. I love you and yes, yes I will marry you."
Edward felt his chest expand as his heart grew several sizes with love for her. He thread the ring onto her finger, glad when it fit perfectly, and kissed her hand with feeling. Isabella laughed and smiled, more tears falling, as around them people of all walks of life walked past and smiled, seeing them together.
"You have made me incredibly happy," he whispered. "I wish I could kiss you."
Isabella laughed. "I wish it also," she revealed.
They sat in silence, holding hands and gazing into each other's eyes as trains came and went. A last call for the train departing for California finally made them look up from their bubble, and Edward smiled sadly.
"Do you still wish to leave?" he asked. "I can go to California with you."
"I-" Isabella hesitated. "I do not know if my parents would accept our union, not now when they have agreed to Jacob's proposal."
"Can you return home for the night? Allow me time to pack and tell my parents, and then we can leave together tomorrow? We can marry as soon as we reach California."
She smiled. "You wish to marry me so soon?"
"I would marry you tonight if it were possible," Edward admitted.
They were quiet for a moment as Isabella frowned in thought and Edward watched her.
"I believe we could, if you truly wanted to. Then I would not have to return to my parents house tonight, but to yours," she blushed prettily, looking away from his eyes, "and we can journey to California as husband and wife."
Edward swallowed. "Yes, I truly want to. But who would agree to perform our marriage, at this hour and so suddenly?"
"Reverend Webber. Angela, his daughter, is one of my closest friends."
Edward stood, holding out his hand for hers. "Then let us go find him, Miss Swan."
Isabella took his hand, and with a smile, they walked out of the station and into the rain, together.