In The Deepest Space - Chapter 9: Hovercraft For Two, Please

Chapter 9 - Hovercraft For Two, Please


gnyuck gnyuck - an admonishment like "now now"
Sa-ahn - sorry
Ahhh-ghizhhhhhhh - a calming sound, to sooth
Zhah-wuut - hold still
Shahn - NO!
Mexxsssssh - Shit
Di-dhyme - (Dee-hi-may)

Bella’s POV ~

The area that the pod is parked in is kind of like a garage, but with a glass wall that looks into the rest of the dwelling.  Through the glass windows, I can see all types of furniture in varying colors.  Bright colors adorn sofas, chairs, and tables, almost all of them kidney bean shaped.  What the fuck is their fascination with kidney beans?

I shake my head, chuckling, as Edwaird nudges me gently with his arm.  I smile at him and simply shake my head to let him know that nothing is wrong.  The rest of the family files out of the pod as Edwaird leads us over to the glass window.  He waves his hand over a sensor I don’t even notice, and part of the glass wall slides up, allowing us entry into their home.  I follow him in with the rest of the clan trailing me.  Ah-lisss and Jassspeer say nothing, but immediately take off running down a hall.  I can hear Ah-lissss giggling, and yeah, I know exactly what is going to go on with them.

Roe-salie stands to my left and fixes a curl on my head that has fallen out of one of the pins.  The curl rests behind my ear, and I notice that she is quick to fix it, leaving the skin behind my ear exposed.  With her quick fix, I suddenly realize that they want to showcase my difference, my alienness compared to them.  On the ride here, I’d contemplated that maybe they had done my hair and make-up to resemble them.  Now I realize, they want to make sure that the rest of their kind see that I am different, and that it’s okay.

My tummy rolls in nervousness, but I’m not allowed to dwell on it for long because Emmeet, comes to stand in front of me.  He lifts his right arm up in front of his face with his palm facing his body.  He holds his arm at an angle, makes a fist and stares at me, waiting for me to do something.  I look up at Edwaird, and he mimics Emmeet’s gesture, then nods at me.  

I follow both of their leads and put my arm up just as they have.  Emmeet then leans in slightly, and moves his arm so that both of our arms touch on the outside make an “X” shape.  He smiles then, nods at me, and drops his arm.  Roe-salie grabs his hand, and they walk down the same hall that Ah-lisss and Jasssspeer just disappeared down.  I’m totally confused by what all this means.

I turn to ask Edwaird what it’s all about, but I hear Emmeet shout out to me, “BERRRP!”  He chuckles, then they are out of sight.  

“What was that about?” I ask, the confusion plain in my voice.

“Emmeet isss filled with happinessssss that you are of our clan.  That we are mated.  That issss hisss disssplay of accceptanccce,” Edwaird explains as he grabs my hand, pulling me behind him down a different corridor of the house.


Edwaird pulls me through the remainder of the house quickly.  It is fairly large, and like he has told me, much different than their first home.  Where that house is all old stone and vines, this house is abstract cutouts in random walls, brightly painted rooms and light fixtures that weirdly resemble squid.  Oh, and don’t let me forget the fucking kidney bean furniture, no, that would be blasphemous.

Edwaird pulls me out a side door of the house, and we step outside into the late afternoon.  The sun sits above the horizon, but it won’t stay up for much longer.  Esssme has advised Edwaird that I need to see and experience their life and culture as much as possible before this evening when I will meet their queen.

We walk down a small hill and towards the part of the city that seems to be bustling.  After walking only a few hundred feet, Edwaird stops us at a little shop of some sort.  There is a sign above the door that, of course, I can’t read.  

“Our pacccce issss too ssslow, we mussst travel with ssspeed, ssso you may sssee more, Bell-a,” Edwaird explains, pulling me behind him and into the little shop.  There is an elderly gentleman that stands behind a counter and wears gauzy strips of material around his head.  As we walk in, he looks at Edwaird and smiles until he notices me.

The smile leaves his face, and he looks back to Edwaird, saying, “Eessssst truthhhh.”  The look on his face is one of total shock, and he turns around, grabbing something from the shelf behind him before coming around the counter to stand in front of Edwaird and me.  He cocks his head to the side, and I realize he is looking for my flain -- the holes that I don’t have -- and I self-consciously raise my hand up to cover my ear and neck.

“Gnyuck gnyuck,” he admonishes me, for covering myself.  I look up to Edwaird, and he is looking at the old man with a hint of panic written across his face.  The old man takes Edwaird’s hand and places something inside of it.  Edwaird then reaches to grab something from some kind of pocket, but the old man holds up his hand, stopping Edwaird.

“Sssshow the female what there isss to sssee.  Make her cherisssh it assss we do.”  With that, the old man walks around the counter again, but disappears through a small doorway with more of the same strips of cloth he had wrapped around his head, hanging from it.

I look up at Edwaird again, and he has an unreadable expression on his face.  He changes it quickly as we emerge into the sun once again.  He leads us to the side of the small building where there is a row of some type of hovercraft.  He pushes something on the odd key that the old man gave him inside, and one of the craft hums to life.  The color changes from a dull grey to a vibrant red as Edwaird walks over to it.  I follow him, and he takes my hand, helping me sit down on it.  It kind of looks like a motorcycle, but after Edwaird sits down and pushes another button, the craft rises off of the ground slightly, and we begin hovering.  Another button, and suddenly, a glass-like shield encloses us on the hovercraft.  Awesome.  Now, no matter how fast we go, I don’t have to worry about the wind ruining the work that Roe-salie and Ah-lissss did to my hair.

Edwaird flies us around on the hovercraft, and mostly, we look at all of the people just below us.  There is a large market area that I am quite fascinated with, so we spend a lot of time looking there.  Edwaird also wants to show me the rest of the city, the buildings, and of course, the Queen’s domain.  It is dark and covered with sharp angles.  I get a weird feeling looking at it, maybe a bit foreboding, but I don’t tell Edwaird about that.  I don’t want to worry him anymore than he already is.

We don’t get off of the hovercraft for the entire city tour, which takes a while, until we come to the very end of it, as Edwaird says.  We actually return the hovercraft to the shop we first stopped at near Edwaird’s home, but then walk further down the hill.  We venture to the west of town by what I would call a few “city blocks” until we come to another shop.  While the shop that offered the hovercraft rental reminded me a bit of a gypsy’s trading post, this is anything but.  The doorway to this shop is decorated with tiny crystals of every color.  The door is painted a green that pales in comparison to the color of Edwaird’s eyes, but the entire facade itself is quite impressive.  

Edwaird opens the door and gestures for me to go inside.  I wait for him to follow me in, but he doesn’t.  He simply shakes his head at me and closes the door, leaving to fend for myself in this random store.  I realize he must be doing this for some reason, but a little warning would have been nice.

I step further into the small shop and find that there are all kinds of jewelry that line the walls, locked in cabinets and sitting upon shelves behind the counter.  There is no one standing in the front, and as I wait, I begin to look around.  There are jewels of all sizes, types:  some that hold precious looking stones, and some that are simply metal.  There is one that catches my eye, that has two “S” looking characters on it.  I know that that they are not “S’s” because their alphabet isn’t even close to resembling mine, but I still like it.

I hear a shuffling noise behind me and turn around quickly, seeing a thin woman with ancient looking eyes and black raven’s hair that falls far past her waist.  She walks behind the counter without looking at me, but when she finally does, her eyes grow wide.  

She offers me a coy smile, saying, “You have come, ccchild.  It isss the will.  Make your choicccce.”  She nods her head, gesturing to her store.

“You want me to pick something?” I clarify.

Her smile grows wider, and she nods her head again.

“But I don’t have any money.  Payment?”  I hold out my empty hands to show her I have nothing.

“Gnyuck gnyuck.  Peeeek,” she says, waving me off with her hand.

I look over my shoulder, behind me, where the piece with the double “S” caught my eye, but I make myself look around further.  I continue wandering for a few minutes and hear her chuckle.  I turn around to look at her, seeing her shoulders shake gently with laughter.

“Why do you laugh?” I ask.

“Loff?” she questions.  Fuck these language barriers.

“Oh.  Um.  Huhn huhn,” I explain.

Her eyes light with recognition of her language and what I’m asking, and she nods at me once more, then gestures to the piece that I keep eyeing.

“The pieccccce pickssss you, ccchild.  You musssst not deny it.”

I walk over and stand in front of the small case that holds the piece that I like so much.  Without so much as pointing to the piece, the woman takes it out of the case, then walks back around the counter and motions for me to turn my back to her.  She reaches around me, placing the pendant against my skin and hooking it at the back of my neck.

The second the pendant touches the skin at my throat, something inside of me changes.  It’s the oddest sensation, and my body flushes involuntarily.  It feels like my blood grows warmer inside of my skin, and I’m hyper-aware of the way it thrums in my veins.  I feel slightly panicky but am brought out of it by the touch of the woman’s hand on my bare forearm.

“Caaalm, ccchild.  Thisss isss your pieccce.”

I nod at her and focus on her eyes.  They seem to dart to my neck, eyeing the necklace, than back up to my face.  I realize that she is nervous, although I have no idea why.

Bell-a, you may retrieve Edwaird,” she tells me, and I want to ask her how the hell she knows my name, but I keep my mouth shut and go to get Edwaird.  As soon as I open the door, he eyes the piece that I’m wearing, and I swear, his eyes bulge a little too.  I watch his Adam’s apple bob as he swallows hard and goes over to stand in front of the woman.

“Sssshe chossse that pieccce of her own forccce, Di-dhyme?”  Edwaird asks her, not me.

This woman, Di-dhyme, looks Edwaird directly in the eyes and nods, not breaking eye contact.  There is silence for a few moments, and I worry that I’ve chosen a piece that is too expensive.  I move to take it off but they both yell, “Shahn,” at me.  I drop my hands to my sides, feeling panic bubble up in my throat.

Edwaird grabs my hand then, pulling me toward the door, and Di-dhyme stares after me, looking sad and confused all of a sudden.

What the fuck is going on?

We walk through the door and back outside.  It is full dark now. and we immediately start heading back toward home.  Edwaird holds my hand securely, saying nothing, and I worry that I’ve angered him somehow with my jewelry choice.  It’s his fault for not going in with me in the first place.  And Di-dhyme said that the piece would pick me, so I once again wonder.  What the fuck?

Anger boils just under the surface of my skin, and I can feel the heat of my blood through my skin.  I know it’s ridiculous, but it feels like something about this necklace makes me more attuned to my body or something.  Finally when we are about twenty feet from the door, I refuse to go into that house angry at Edwaird.  I don’t want to be angry, I’m already nervous enough as it is about meeting the queen tonight.  I stop abruptly, and Edwaird does not notice, so my hand slips from his.  

He stops and turns back to face me.  “Bell-a?” he asks.

“Why are you angry with me?  What have I done?  I’m sorry if you don’t like my choice, but you made me go in there alone.  She said that the piece would pick me.  How can that be my fault, Edwaird?”  The words fall out of my mouth in hurt and anger at him for acting this way with me.  

How is he acting, Bella?

Ugh.  I don’t know how he’s acting.  Hurried, worried, distant.  It’s driving me crazy, and I don’t want him to be mad at me without a valid reason.

“Angerrr?  I do not feel angerrr toward you, my Bell-a.”  In the light of the moons, I see his hand reach out like he is going to touch my necklace, but then his hand balls to a fist.  Instead, he gently brushes his knuckles along my jaw.  I lean my face in toward his palm.

“Come,” he says, grabbing onto my hand once again and pulling me the rest of the way to the house.  I guess that’s all the explanation I’m getting for now.


Once again, it is all of us women getting ready for the concert, and my introduction to the Queen.
Ah-lisss flits around her bedroom like a madwoman, pulling out several gowns that are absolutely remarkable.  I worry that perhaps none of Ah-lissss’ gowns will fit me; she is so much smaller than I am, but I find out that all three woman hold their gowns in this one closet because it has a high ceiling which allows the gowns to hang without wrinkling.

The other three already know what gowns they will be wearing, but in front of me, they have several laid out in varying colors.  The only color that is not displayed is red.

“Why no red?  I noticed that there are no red dresses.  Do you not have red here?” I question.  They all look at me in confusion, so I walk into the closet, searching for something in red.  I retrieve a shirt from a compartment that is all red and bring it back out.


“Sssihh.  Raaaid,” Ah-lissss says.  

“Queen Ssssulpicccia will adorn a cloak of sssihh for the concccciato.  No other may adorn it,” Esssme explains to me.

I nod and walk over to the various dresses that have been set out for me.  I point to the emerald green one, deciding the color will look good with my complexion.

After I strip out of my clothes and pull the dress on, I need help getting buttoned up in the back.  Esssme moves my hair away from the buttons, then touches the clasp on my necklace.

“Edwaird hasss taken you to visssit Di-dhyme?” she asks.  I nod my head yes in answer.

“What pieccce sssspoke to you, my ccchild?”  Essssme finishes buttoning up my gown and spins me around so that she can see.  Her eyes fall on my necklace, and she stares at it for an uncomfortable amount of time.

I clear my throat lightly to get her attention, and she quickly snaps her head up to look me in the eyes.  She blinks several times, but continues looking at me like she’s studying me or seeing me in an entirely different light.  Then, just like that, she snaps out of it and flits off to finish getting ready.  

I walk back over to the other women and notice Ah-lissss and Roe-salie quickly eye my necklace.  However, their eyes seem to stay away from it altogether after that.

Seriously, did I pick a necklace that used to belong to a dead girl or something?  What the fuck?


As is custom here, the men have left early to go and secure our places at the concert.  We are guaranteed our seating due to my expected meeting with the Queen, but since it is custom, they go early anyway.  We arrive when all the other females are arriving, so we blend in quite well.  Esssme stands to my right side, and I grip her hand tightly.

Woman shuffle by on either side of us in all kinds of colors.  Some colors, I’ve never seen in my life, but none of them are red.  Roe-salie sidles up on my left and points to a woman up in front of us a ways.  Her dress is kind of like a burnt orange color that skirts the boundaries of red.

Roe-salie leans into me, whispering, “Sssshe will pay a priccce for disssplaying ssssuch a color.”

We file into a large hall, searching out the men.  Ah-lisss spots Carlisss on the far right side of the room, and we all make our way over to them.  As soon as Edwaird sees me, he rushes to my side, squeezing me to him.  He leans down toward me, growling slightly, and it is all I can do to not attack him in the room full of people.  He nibbles at my neck a little but straightens up when some kind of music begins to play.

The entire room falls quiet, everyone’s attention focusing on the center of the room.  Where there was once just a sea of people, there are now two separate groups as a long isle is formed down the center of the room.  Several people begin to walk in until finally, the music stops completely.  The room is totally silent, and finally, a female -- who I assume is the queen -- wearing a blood red gown, is escorted into the room.  She makes it almost the entire way up to the front of the room when suddenly, she stops.  I look at Edwaird and he appears just as confused as I am.  Then I see Roe-salie stare at me, then nod towards the front of the room.

The queen continues her path to the front.  Behind her trails the girl with the almost red dress.  This can’t be good.  I look at Edwaird again, and he has a worried look on his face.  Now I know this won’t be good.

“Maaaiden!  What issssss the tone of your garmaaaant?” The queen questions her.  Her voice is powerful, demands attention, and is utterly frightening.

The girl doesn’t answer.  “Why doesn’t she answer?” I whisper to Edwaird.

“The Queen doessss not desssire the ansswer.  The female isss not worthy of making her voiccce known to the Queen,” he replies.

I look forward again, in time to see a guard hand the queen a pair of shears.  The queen bends down, starting at the bottom of the beautiful gown, and begins to slice upward.  She gets to the girls thigh area, continuing to slice it away, and I have to close my eyes.  If this is how she is just because of a dress, what the fuck is she going to do to me?

I open my eyes in time to see a guard escorting the woman from the large room in only her undergarments.  When the commotion is over, Esssme leads us the area closer to the Queen’s table, and we sit at our designated area.  My hands shake a little, still upset by the display I’ve just witnessed, and Edwaird grabs my hand under the table, doing his best to calm my nerves.  

Our evening meal is simply exquisite.  I have no idea what it is that we’re actually eating, but I’m pretty sure I eat both mine and Edwaird’s helping of a few of the dishes.  Emmeet eats about four helpings of everything and is quite bashful about it.  Before long, our plates are cleared, and there us an announcement saying that soon the lights will go down in the house.

We chat for a few moments until a male, who appears to be one of the Queen’s guard, approaches our table.  He bends down and speaks with Essssme, who nods her head minimally in my direction.  Edwaird grabs onto my hand again and squeezes it gently.  Essssme then stands up, along with Edwaird beside me, and I rise up along with him.

This is it.  Moment of truth.

The brute of a guard shoves people out of the way as we make our way toward the queen.  Edwaird has me wrapped up tightly in his arm and tucked into his side as we walk.  People watch us from everywhere in the room, and I can feel their eyes zeroing into the back of my head...and ears.

We finally reach the area that the queen is sitting, and she, too, has just finished eating.  She was the first to be served and the last to finish.  She must be a slow eater, or need a lot to wash her food down with.  She glances up from her plate when she notices us standing before her.  Edwaird and Esssme lower themselves to one knee before her, and I follow suit, unsure of what I should do.

“Risssse,” she says.  Her voice is slightly high pitched, but a little on the hoarse side.  Still, it holds a great deal of authority.  The three of us stand back up and wait for her to speak to us again.

“You are what isssss called a huuuman wohhhman, yessss?” she inquires.

I look up, then back down, unsure if I should make eye contact with her.  I finally look back up and nod my head slightly.  “Yes ma’am, or Queen Sssulpicia, or...I’m sorry, I’m unsure of how you prefer to be addressed,” I admit.

Her eyes narrow slightly, resting on my collarbone, and I swallow in anxiety.  Actually, I’m terrified.  “You may refer to me asssss your Queen.  Assss it issss my underssstanding, you will be unable to return to your planet.  Yessss.  It isss only natural that you now bow down to me.”

“Yes, my Queen.  Thank you.”

Beside me, Edwaird quietly lets out a stream of air, and if I understand him, he is relieved.  The Queen speaks to someone in her group, and I quickly chance a peek at Esssme, who looks pale, ill.  I look back to the queen and see her whispering to someone while looking at me.  The look on her face has gone from almost pleasant looking to furious.  Who the fuck pissed on her shoe?

She raises her hand and flicks it at us.  Edwaird quickly grabs one hand while Esssme grabs the other, and we quickly make our way back toward our table.  My heart pounds in my chest, and I suck in large gulps of air, trying to calm myself.  That wasn’t so bad after all.

The lights begin to go down before we are even back to our table, and so when we do get there, we have no time to answer any questions.  The music is about to start.

Now, I’d like to say that it’s some blue woman that comes out and sings the Diva Song a la The Fifth Element, but that doesn’t happen at all.  There are a few different performances that we sit through before an upcoming intermission.  My favorite out of the first three is a drum group that consists of all females.  Their costumes resemble a more primitive age, and their hair is worn long and wild, twisting into dreads with feathers and ribbons woven throughout it.  Each of them beat the drums in sync to the actions of the others, and it is simply mezmerizing.  

Various times throughout the first part of the concert, I feel eyes on me.  I’m being watched, scrutinized, like I’m a Christmas display that could potentially fall apart or explode.  As nonchalantly as I can, I sneak peeks around the room and of course, it is always the Queen staring at me.  The first time I catch her doing it, I smile at her.  She stares daggers through me, and I turn my head quickly back to the performance.  I do my best to focus on the performers but several more times, I feel her eyes burning my skin.  I don’t chance another glance when I feel her looking at me, but wait until the feeling is gone and then peer in her direction.  The Queen whispers into the ear of one of her guards, and he watches me with a disgusted look on his face. 

Edwaird nudges me then, and I turn my attention back to the performance and attempt to swallow down the dread that has unexpectedly shown up.

The performer before the intermission seems to not want to give up the stage, because he just keeps singing.  Just when I think that he is going to be done, the song continues, and my bladder begins to protest all the wine I’ve drunk.  When intermission finally arrives, Ah-lisss jumps up from her chair at the same time I do.  We look at each other, laughing, then Ah-lisss grabs my hand and pulls me behind her.  I hear the rest of our party’s chairs scraping on the floor as they too rise, so they can use the restrooms during the break.  Ah-lisss must have to go even worse than I do, because she pulls me quickly over to the bathroom area.  When we are in, she locks the door behind us.  

Each toilet is enclosed in its own little separate bathroom.  There’is a door and four walls, and it even has its own ventilation system.

“Be right back,” I tell Ah-lisss before walking into the small room.


Ah-lissss’ POV ~

I move into the private room to make a releasssse.  It issss mossst impossssible to think about anything other than Bell-a’ssss meeting with Queen Ssssulpicccia.  We need detailsss, ssso that we may interpret the entire ssscenario.

Bell-a, I am mossst curiousss asssss to how your introduction with Queen Sssulpicccia went,” I ssspeak to her through the division.

“It was weird Ah-lisss, I mean.  Not at all what I expected.  I’ll tell you when we’re out of the bathroom,” Bell-a repliessss.

I finisssh and move out of the cubicle over to the fresssshening counter.  After sssteaming my handssss, Bell-a issss ssstill not out, ssso I give her ssseveral more momentssss to finissssh.

After a few more momentsss, I can wait no longer assss there are otherssss making a raucoussss noissse againssst the door in an attempt to enter.  

Bell-a, we musssst go.”  Ssshe givesss no ressssponse.  

“Are you unwell, Bell-a?” I inquire, beginning to worry for her health.

Ssshe ssstill doesss not anssswer, and finally, I move to the door of her cubicle.

knock knockBell-a?”  knock knock  “Bell-a?”  knock knock Bell-a?”

Bell-a doesss not return my call.  I attempt to open the door to her cubicle, but it doessss not open.  I pull a pin from my hair and tamper with the latch on the door for ssssseveral momentsssss.  The noissses from outssside grow louder, making me nervousss, but I am finally able to get the door open.

I gasssp at what I see, before I run from the room.  More realissstically, I gasssp at what I do not sssee.  There issss no Bell-a, only the hanging vent that ssshe wassss taken through.

I fall through the door and pusssh mysssself through many angry sssouls, finally reaching Edwaird, falling into hisss armssss and sssobbing hard.

“Ah-lisss, where isss my Bell-a?” Edwaird asssskss, ssssounding worrisssome and angry.

I sssob loudly, flinging my ssshell into hisss armsss and tell him, “Vanissshed!” 
In The Deepest Space - Chapter 9: Teaser

Chapter 9 - Hovercraft For Two, Please

Bella's POV ~

“Sssshow the female what there isss to sssee.  Make her cherisssh it assss we do.”  With that, the old man walks around the counter again, but disappears through a small doorway with more of the same strips of cloth he had wrapped around his head, hanging from it.

I look up at Edwaird again, and he has an unreadable expression on his face.  He changes it quickly as we emerge into the sun once again.  He leads us to the side of the small building where there is a row of some type of hovercraft.  He pushes something on the odd key that the old man gave him inside, and one of the craft hums to life.  The color changes from a dull
grey to a vibrant red as Edwaird walks over to it.  I follow him, and he takes my hand, helping me sit down on it.  It kind of looks like a motorcycle, but after Edwaird sits down and pushes another button, the craft rises off of the ground slightly, and we begin hovering.  Another button, and suddenly, a glass-like shield encloses us on the hovercraft.  Awesome.  Now, no matter how fast we go, I don’t have to worry about the wind ruining the work that Roe-salie and Ah-lissss did to my hair.

Edwaird flies us around on the hovercraft, and mostly, we look at all of the people just below us.  There is a large market area that I am quite fascinated with, so we spend a lot of time looking there.  Edwaird also wants to show me the rest of the city, the buildings, and of course, the Queen’s domain.  It is dark and covered with sharp angles.  I get a weird feeling looking at it, maybe a bit foreboding, but I don’t tell Edwaird about that.  I don’t want to worry him anymore than he already is.

We don’t get off of the hovercraft for the entire city tour, which takes a while, until we come to the very end of it, as Edwaird says.  We actually return the hovercraft to the shop we first stopped at near Edwaird’s home, but then walk further down the hill.  We venture to the west of town by what I would call a few “city blocks” until we come to another shop.  While the shop that offered the hovercraft rental reminded me a bit of a gypsy’s trading post, this is anything but.  The doorway to this shop is decorated with tiny crystals of every color.  The door is painted a green
that pales in comparison to the color of Edwaird’s eyes, but the entire facade itself is quite impressive.  

Edwaird opens the door and gestures for me to go inside...
In the Deepest space - Chapter 8: Your Ovum Does WHAT?
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Deitssska - their deity

Chapter 8 – Your Ovum Does WHAT?

Bella’s POV ~

When I wake, Edwaird is sleeping soundly on the bed beside me.  The room is dark, and I look around, squinting to see if I can determine if we are still in that hill or back at the house, and what time of day, night, or early morning it is.  I gently move off of the bed so that I don’t wake Edwaird and step over to a tall window.  I look out over two moons that are beginning to lower in the sky, telling me that we may be getting onto morning.

“How issssss your health, Bell-a?”  I jump, unaware that anyone is in the room as Esssme walks up to stand beside me.  I place my hand over my heart where it thumps out of control.

“Oh.  Hello, Esssme.  My health is fine.  What happened?” I question, unable to remember anything but the computer screen focusing on Charlie in that hill bunker.

“You heet a black ssssspell, child.  You have undergone sssssso much.  You musssst come to find nourissssshment?” Esssme says, walking over toward the door but grabbing onto my hand before she is very far from me.  

I look over my shoulder to see that Edwaird is still sound asleep on the bed, and my tummy growls.  “Yeah, I haven’t eaten in quite some time.  I’ve always been like that, though.  Charlie, my dad, used to joke that I had a second stomach where I stored food.  He said I could hibernate if I wanted to.”  I chuckle, thinking of my dad once again.  A smile creeps up on my face, and I’m so happy, so relieved, that I got to see Charlie.  Part of the memory feels fuzzy, like a dream, but I know that it happened.  I remember how my heart felt, so full with love yet housing a twinge of pain and making me feel as though I would burst.

“So.  I blacked out then?  I guess that could be expected, considering everything that has happened.”

Esssme pulls me down a hall, and we descend a different staircase, entering into what appears to be the kitchen.  In the light of the kitchen, she nods her head.  “Yesss, child.  Your black sssspell is mosssst understood.  Your ssshell,” she gestures at my body, “and your computer,” she points to my head, “have been through a great ccchange.  Ssssit here.”

She moves me over to sit in a large chair over by a hearth where a huge fire blazes.  This kitchen is like something out of Wuthering Heights, or some other book from that era.  Everything about this house looks like it was all “Beam Me Up, Scotty” back in the 1800’s and teleported here.  But really, the house is perfect.  I know that when we get into the city, it is going to be a severe shock to my system.  I shudder at the potential of all of the kidney bean shaped furniture and buildings there could be.

Esssme drapes a blanket over my lap then moves over to the kitchen area and begins pulling things from a shelf and from what appears to be some type of refrigeration unit.  I look around, studying the kitchen.  It is very large and has three doors that allow entrance and exit.  There is a contraption that hangs from the ceiling made of some iron-looking material but I’m not sure what it is used for.  Along the far wall, there is another smaller fire where a large kettle rests over the flame.  Essssme chops something up and throws the pieces into the pot.  The walls are a kind of natural brown color, not from paint, but with whatever was used to construct the home, like the walls were left in their bare, natural form.  

I feel slightly chilled, so I turn back to the fire, where I see a book out of the corner of my eye.  I pick it up and begin flipping through the pages, noticing it must be like some sort of coffee table book as there are mostly pictures in it.  I chuckle to myself, realizing they even have the dreaded coffee table book in outer space.  The photos are slightly grainy and consist of landmarks as well as photos of their moons and maybe a few other smaller, uninhabited plantest surrounding this one.  I get lost in the pictures and don’t notice when Essssme has brought a bowl over and placed it down on the table in front of me.

Esssme walks back over to me and takes the book out of my hand, setting it on the table beside the chair.  “Huhn, huhn.  Bell-a, you mussssst,” she says, pointing at the bowl of food.

“Sorry, I got caught up in the book.”  I smile at her and pick up the steaming bowl.  It smells....well it smells fucking divine, and I dip in the spoon-like utensil, drawing some of the broth up to my lips.  I smell it first, then taste it.  It’s fucking good.  I could drink just the broth and feel satisfied, but I don’t.  I dip the spoon in further and find that there are some kinds of what look like are root vegetables, as well as some cooked greens.  I sample three different root vegetables, then the greens and finally find the source of the salty flavor.  There is a heavier meat toward the bottom of the bowl.  I don’t question whether it could be Sssoom, just put it in my mouth.  The texture is not what I expect at all.  I was expecting it to at least be a little chewy, like meat usually is, but instead, this meat was kind of flaky, like fish.

No matter, it all tastes divine, and within minutes, I’ve polished the bowl off and can’t help the small burb that escapes me.  From the doorway, I hear a deep baritone say, “HOOGP.”  I leap out of the chair to see Emmeet standing in the doorway, smiling from ear to ear.  

“Burp,” I reply, smiling back at him.

“Berrp,” he interprets, and I nod, smiling.

I sit back down, and Esssme is back at my side, collecting my bowl, then setting another small plate in front of me.  It holds several very colorful foods, colors that food just shouldn’t come in.  I’ve seen some of these colors in the bad clothing era that was the early ‘90s when it was hip to wear florescent colors.  Some of the food is dotted with tiny black seeds; it looks like it could be fruit.  I decide to give it a chance, considering I was nervous about the stew, and that did not disappoint at all.

I pick up one of the less vibrantly colored pieces of food and bite into it.  It is green in color, seafoam green, and has a pungent, salty flavor with a hint of sweetness.  I finish it and try another, this one is more blood red colored.  It tastes zesty, kind of peppery, not what I was expecting at all.  I don’t like that one, but I finish it nonetheless.  I eat as much as I can, and overall, everything was pretty fucking good.  I feel full, and if I’m honest, a bit sleepy once again.

I stand up, patting Emmeet on the shoulder where he sits across from me and walk over to the small fire place where Essssme stands, coaxing the coals and logs there.  “Thank you for the food.  It was delicious.”

Esssme turns toward me, and I don’t know what comes over me, but all of a sudden, I want to hug her to me fiercely.  So I do, because she feels like the mother I really need right now.  I wrap my arms tightly around her neck, crushing her to me, then rest my head on her shoulder.  She lets out a little “Oof” but wraps her arms around my back and pats my shoulder with one of them.  We stand like that for a few moments until I finally back away from her.  She has a wry smile on her face, and I smile back, then fly up the staircase that we descended earlier.

I look out the window in Edwaird’s room and notice that the sun is beginning to rise.  I quickly crawl up the bed and lay down beside Edwaird.  He stirs a little then pulls me to him, nuzzling into my neck.  The heat of it peppers my skin with goose bumps, and I feel a stirring of need within me.  Edwairds left hand comes up to my neck and begins to trace my jaw, dragging lightly across it then up to my face.  He traces my lips with his finger, then the bridge of my nose, my cheekbones, my brow bones, then the lines in my forehead.  He moves his fingers over to the side of my head, lightly tracing my ears, further stirring my need.  

I let out a little whimper, and he pulls me closer to him, turning me so that my back is to his chest.  I can feel him move behind me a little, then I feel his lips on the skin of my neck.  His lips softly caress my skin, nibbling, licking, tasting me.  I squirm under his hold, then press my ass into his groin.  He moves to my ear and begins to lick and nibble there, as his hand sneaks up the front of my shirt.

His fingers ghost along my ribcage, leaving behind a trail of more goosebumps, and a shuddery breath comes out of me.  My need grows even stronger for him, and he whispers in my ear, “Bell-a, thine mate.”

The words rip through me, creating heat in every single cell of my body, and I quickly turn over to face him, smashing my mouth to his and making his air, mine.  Our tongues mingle, taste, nip and even in the morning, he tastes good.  I want more of him, and before he has time to notice what I’m doing, I throw my leg over him, lifting myself up to straddle him.  I grind down on him ever so slightly, and he lets out a low grown, then pulls me back down closer to him.  I feel his cock grow rigid in seconds beneath me, and I kiss a trail down his neck.  

I sit up a little and grab the hem of his shirt.  He quickly sits up so that I can pull it off of him, and he does the same with my shirt, before falling back to the bed.  We do nothing but stare at each other for several moments until he finally reaches up and grasps my breast in one of his hands, lightly rubbing his thumb over my hard nipple.  I throw my head back a little and grind down onto him even more.  He lifts his hips up a little, meeting my friction with his own, and right now, I really don’t want fucking foreplay.  I need him in me, like I’ve never needed anything before.

“I need you, Edwaird,” I say, and it comes out pleading.  I don’t fucking care right now.  I awkwardly maneuver myself on the bed, still hovering slightly over him, and pull my bottoms off.  I help Edwaird out of his, and when we are both finally naked, I rest myself over his cock once again.  The feel of his hard cock settled against my core that aches for him feels perfect.  I rock against him a few times, creating friction and driving us both a little crazy.  Edwaird grips my forearms then, and says, “Bell-a.”  It comes out slightly strangled and needy sounding.  I smile at him.  

I lean down close to him, lick his ear, then kiss his lips, and sit back up.  I position him at my entrance and without anymore waiting or any kind of warning, I slam down on him.  We both gasp out loud at the suddenness of it and I sit there for a moment, reveling in the feel of him inside of me once again.

Edwaird grabs onto my hips, and I grip his thighs as I begin to slowly move my hips, rocking against him and making sure that as we move, his cock slides slightly in and out of me.  I can feel how wet I’m growing by the slickness of myself on Edwaird’s cock, and it turns me on even more.  Edwaird moves one of his hands from my hip and rubs at my clit.

“Uh.  Yes, baby.  That feels so good,” I say, spurring him on further.

Edwaird growls, beginning to pump into me harder, and I know I won’t last long.  “Please, Edwaird.  I’m going to come soon.”

He sits up then and grabs me roughly by the waist, pulling me away then back to him hard, as he slams into me.  I attack his mouth and feel the moisture of sweat on his upper lip, and I lick it.  He continues to slam into me, and I cannot hold out any longer.  My head falls backward as my release washes over me.  I moan, and whimper, “Edwaird.  Oh my Edwaird.”

He holds onto me, and his mouth finds my nipple, sucking on it and he pumps several more times into me until he erupts with a growl.  He moves slowly in me a few more times, spilling the rest of himself into me, then nuzzles his face into my neck once again.

“That issss the mossst pleasssant way to awaken on the sunrisssse,” we whispers in a throaty voice against the skin of my neck.  I clench my inner walls around him once more at his words, and he hisses at me.  I tip my head back up and look in his eyes, seeing so much emotion in them.  I smile at him and lower my mouth to his, giving him a small, yet emotional kiss that I hope conveys everything I am feeling right now.

I reluctantly roll off of him to lay in the bed beside him.  There is movement outside of our room, and I hear murmuring.  Edwaird chuckles lightly and sits up, scratching his head.  “We mussst prepare oursssselvesss, Bell-a.”

I swallow down the lump that forms in my throat and push myself up off of the bed.  Edwaird stands as well and points to a far door as he pulls on a pair of what I can only say closely resemble sweat pants, only a little stiffer.  I walk toward the door and step inside, as he walks toward the door that leaves the bedroom.  Inside the door I enter, is the en suite, and I realize that this house does not have sensors like the ship does.  This house has a deep basin tub that is a perfect circle shape and stands almost as high as my waist.  I look around, looking for a way to get inside of it, then see a step stool.  I climb up onto it and step through the heavy curtain, where there is not only a bath, but a shower head as well with normal handle nozzles.  I smile and lift both handles, turning the water on.

After my shower, I see that Edwaird has gotten clothes for me from one of the other females.  They look similar to the lounge clothes he put on earlier, and I quickly slip them on, then use Edwaird’s bristly hairbrush and pull the tangles out of my hair.  When I emerge from the bathroom, Edwaird is not there, but Ah-lisss is, sitting on a chair and reading something.  There is a crease in her brow, and I wonder what has put it there.

When she hears me step out of the bathroom, she looks up and smiles, then stands, walking over to me.  The furrow is gone, and she seems jubilant once again.  She grabs my hand and begins to pull me toward the door.

“Where are you taking me, Ah-lisss?” I ask, laughing slightly at her enthusiasm.  “And where is Edwaird?”

“You mussssst be prepared to meet our Queen, Bell-a.  Ssssooolpicccia requiressss that you be mossst ressspectable.  Edwaird isssss making preparationssss with our matessss,” Ah-lisss explains, pulling me behind her down the hall.

We enter a room where the other two women in the family sit, speaking with their heads tilted together.  Ah-lisss sits me down in a chair and immediately begins messing with my hair, and as I sit, I listen to them tell me what is expected of me.

Essssme’s POV ~

“Our planet isssss a very old planet, Bell-a.  Our kind live longer than mosssst of any other kind we retain knowledge of.  Our Queen, Sssooolpicccia, has reined our planet for nearly sexxxtenth querassss, which nearly equalssss seeexxxth hoondraid yairssssss in your time meassssurement.  Here on Ssssissla, it issss the mossst aged female in a clan that makesss decissssionsss, and all femalessss in a clan, cooridinate their functtion for the Queen,” I inform, Bell-a, for sssshe will need to learn thisss, if sssshe will remain here permanently.

And ssshe will.  Ah-lissss hassss ssseen it, although there are ssssome holessss that remain unknown.

“You are required to go before Queen Sssoolpicccia prior to the conccciato upon our ssssun’sss ssssetting thissss eve.  It issss not allowed to go before the Queen in plain dresssss, therefore, we all musssst look appropriate asss the Queen deemssss it.”

“Ah-lisssss and Roe-salie will prepare your crown at thisss moment, however, we will not dressss in our appropriate gownssss until we reach our other home, in the cccity.  We do not retain formal garb here at thisss home for there isss no ussse for it.  We will ssssoon prepare to travel the ssssmall disstance to the cccity, and Edwaird will sssshow you Ssssisla.  It isss important that you give Queen Sssoolpicccia a proper impressssion of your knowledge and admiration for Sssisla.”

Bell-a nodsss her head asss Ah-lisss preparess her hair.  Roe-salie beginsss to prepare her face to resssemble the proper image to meet the Queen.

“I mussst make my leave, to alssso prepare myssself.  Emmeet will announccce our departure sssoon,” I warn the females, then exit to my own chamber to prepare.

Bella’s POV ~

After Ah-lisss has seemingly pulled every single hair from my head, curled it, pinned it, teased it, and Roe-salie has plucked, waxed, scraped and painted on my “Queen worthy” face, I am finally deemed appropriate to see their Queen.  At least, my hair and face are appropriate.  I have yet to find out what they will make me wear, but will have to wait to we get to their home in the city to find out.

I leave the room while Ah-lisss and Roe-salie begin preparing themselves and go in search of Edwaird.  He is not in his room, so I wander the house, finally finding him in the kitchen, sitting next to Jassspeer and nibbling on some type of bread.  

He doesn’t initially notice me, but Jassspeer makes a little noise, causing Edwaird to turn around in his chair and stare at me, taking me in.  His eyes darken ever so slightly, and I’m glad that Jassspeer is in the room with us, because if he weren’t, Edwaird would quickly ruin all the work the girls had just done on me.

I offer Jassspeer a small smile and move over toward Edwaird, resting my hand on his shoulder but making no move to sit down.  If they are having a private conversation, I do not want to intrude.

From one of the front rooms, maybe the entryway of the house, I hear Emmeet bellow, “The ssship issss prepared.  We mussst go!”

His voice cracks several times as he speaks, sounding like he is a prepubescent boy.  It must be the hormones...or something.  Jassspeer and Edwaird stand up, and Edwaird grabs onto my hand.  He leans in and places a sweet, chaste kiss on my cheek, pulling me after him toward the front of the house.  Edwaird’s sweet kiss makes me a little nervous, as normally, his kisses are filled with passion.  He seemed distracted with that kiss just now and I wonder how nervous he is about my introduction to the queen.  Everyone is here but Ah-lisss, who, moments later, comes flying down the spiral staircase, carrying several bags.  I hear Esssme chuckle lightly behind me.

Once we are all loaded up on the pod, Emmeet lifts off, and we are soon on our way.  The window below my feet is uncovered so that I can again watch as we fly over forest, the river, and the nomads once again.  This world is so beautiful, and seeing such beauty makes me wonder about all of the questions that have been plaguing me.  Mostly one.

“Esssme?  May I ask you a question?” I ask, then quickly take a peek at Edwaird.  He smiles at me, and I look back at Esssme.

“Of courssse, child.  You may.”

I take a deep breath and try, once more, to get an answer to the question I’d asked before we ever got to Ssisla.

“Before we left the main ship, I had asked about the mating and carrying of children for your kind, but everything was so crazy then.  I’d still really like to know how that works.  Please?”  I ask, putting a little bit of a pleading tone into the last part.  

Esssme looks at Carlisss, then back to me and smiles.  “Yesss, I believe that it will be of importanccce for you to know.  Now that you and Edwaird are a mated pair, it will be important for usss to undersssstand how this will affect you.”

Esssme takes a deep breath, and I lean into Edwaird’s side, ready to finally hear this.

“When our kind matessss, we build a relationssship that will remain sssstrong until we both exxxpire.  There are ritualss in which we practiccce when preparing to reproduccce, and all mussst be completed before we begin the quessst to have a child.  I believe that you are not exactly interesssted in thessse ritualsss ssso much assss why it issss a male that carriesss the child, inssstead of the female, which mussst be the ssscenario for where you come from.”

I nod quickly, urging Esssme to continue.

Esssme clears her throat quietly, then her face turns a bit red as she looks to Carlisss, who smiles at her and chuckles.

“When the male and female come together for intercourssse, it isss at the height of their mating that the processss beginssss.  The female body holdssss the ovum, but releassesss at her climax, traveling through her body and to the opening in which ssshe issss connected to her male mate.  Of courssse, we know what the male’sss partssss look like, and they have an ovirecccceptor, that drawsss the egg from the female’ssss body, and into their own.  From there, the ovum travels through the male’sss body, via a tube, and isss deposssited into the gessstation sssack.  The ovum is fertilizzzed there and will remain their until emergenccce.”

As I take in all that Esssme is telling me, I think back to several biology classes I took when I was in college.  I remember something like this, and I think it had something to do with seahorses.  Actually, I’m sure it was seahorses.  I mostly understand everything she is talking about, except one thing.

“So, after the baby is born, what happens to the pouch on the back?”  I ask, pointing to my lower back to emphasize the meaning of my question.

“The gessstation sssack will dissolve once it isss no longer required.  The baby will no longer need it, and the ssshell will no longer sssend any required nutrientssss to it.  It will dry out, ssshed layersss, and then fall off.”

I shudder at the mental image of that a little, thinking about Emmeet losing his little baby fanny pack.  I’ll be sad when that happens, because I’ve never seen him without it.  The fanny pack kind of makes him... him.  

“Wow.  That’s incredible.  There is a sea creature on my planet that has a very similar reproduction process, but they are very very small and cannot survive out of water,” I offer, trying to say thank you for finally explaining all this to me.

We sit in silence for a while, and I begin to watch what passes us under our feet again.  The trip to the city seems to be taking longer than it did when we were traveling to the country home.  Just as I think this, the small pod shudders with some force.  I grip tightly onto Edwaird’s hand, and he leans down to my ear, whispering, “Sssecure port.”  He then sits back up and begins a conversation with Carlisss.

We stay here for a while, and while everyone around me seems to be caught up in conversation, I can’t help but wonder what their reproductive process means for Edwaird and me.  I wonder if we can ever have children together.  

I look up to see Esssme looking at me, and she offers me a soft smile.  It seems like she could almost tell what I was thinking about.

The pod makes another small shudder, and we begin to move once again for just a few moments.  We seem to circle a few times, then we finally move into a docking station that is completely enclosed.  The view below is gone, and everyone begins to stand, grabbing the bags they have packed and brought with them.  Edwaird stands up, pulling me up beside him and gently squeezing my hand.

“We have arrived to our permanent resssidencce, Bell-a,” Edwaird explains as he pulls me to the door of the pod.  This time, we are the first off, and as soon as I’m out of the pod, I look around and check out my surroundings.

And what do you fucking know?  Kidney fucking beans.
Living Free - Chapter 5: A Decision Made
Chapter 5 – A Decision Made

Bella's POV ~

On the thirty-third day away from home, I woke up with an ache in my chest.  I untangled myself from Edward, as he had taken to sleeping on the bed with me since the first night I’d arrived, and trudged into the bathroom.  Something was off; I felt, off.  I didn't feel ill, and it wasn't an ache that made me worry about my health, it was something else.  I tiptoed through the bedroom quietly after I finished in the bathroom and made my way downstairs.  Edward preferred coffee in the morning, but I liked tea, so I set up the coffee pot to brew and I put a pot of water on the stove to boil.

Edward woke about forty minutes later and made his way down to the kitchen.  He greeted me with a hug and a peck on top of my head.  I smiled at him and pointed to the stool at the kitchen island's bar.

"I made chocolate chip waffles for you and cut up some fruit for breakfast."

Edward moaned and dove into the plate I set in front of him within seconds.  I grabbed my own and sat beside him, methodically picking at my waffle.  I had no appetite and still couldn't pinpoint what it was that was bothering me so.

"Are you alright, Bella?" Edward asked me as he swallowed a bite of waffle.

"I'm okay.  Just not feeling very well today.  But I would like to talk to you tonight, about finding some kind of work for me.  I want to contribute.  And thank you for asking about me," I quietly mumbled.

Edward nodded and we finished the rest of our breakfast in silence, well, Edward finished.  I barely managed five bites.  I took our plates to the sink and began to wash them while Edward went back up to the bedroom to get ready for work.  He returned twenty minutes later ready to go.

"I'll call you at lunch time, but call me sooner if you need me, okay?  And feel better, Bella."

I nodded at him, "Okay."

He gave me a peck on the cheek, grabbed his messenger bag and keys, then left.

The remainder of the morning was spent cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, and by the time eleven o'clock rolled around, I had nothing left to do.  I decided a shower would be nice, and by the time I was finished with that, Edward would likely call. 

Just as I thought, my phone rang shortly after I was showered, but not yet dressed.  I quickly ran from the closet in my robe and down into the living area, where my phone was plugged in.

“Hello, this is Isabella,” I answered.

There was a low chuckle on the line, then, “Hello to you, Bella, it’s Edward.  How has your day been?”

“My day has been good, a bit boring, but good.  I think I need more things to do while you are at work.  I don’t feel as though I’m pulling my weight,” I stated.  I hadn’t meant to unleash all of those feelings, but they kind of just flowed out.

“Yes.  I think we can talk about that soon...  Not that I think you owe me, not at all.  But I was wondering myself if you were getting bored.  But we can talk about that another time.  I called to see if there is anything specific you would like to do tonight.”

“Whatever you have in mind is fine, I’m sure.”

We spoke for a few more minutes and hung up.  I quickly went back upstairs to get dressed; I drug my fingers along all of the new clothes that Angela had picked out for me and Edward paid for.  They were all so colorful, and I couldn't deny that I felt more alive, and maybe a little pretty when I wore them.  The thought of actually thinking of myself as pretty brought an onslaught of guilt.  I was plain.  I couldn't forget that, it's who I was.  As my fingers flitted over the clothes, they came to a rougher material.  My Amish garb, my dress.  I fingered the material and felt the tears spring to my eyes; I finally figured out what it was that had bothered me all morning.

I lifted my black bonnet from the shelf above my dress and left the closet.  As I made my way down the stairs, I fingered the cloth strings used to tie it under my chin.  When I got to the living area, I sat on the couch and fingered the bonnet.  It was a plain black bonnet.  No lace, no frills, just black cloth that was made to fit my head specifically.  Back at home, I had one more.

Home.  What did I call home?  Where was home?  Where did I feel at home?  I couldn't say.  What I did know was that I missed my family, my mother and my sisters most.  I thought about the turmoil that they must have been going through, and that I was the one that caused it.  I thought of Jacob, and what he must think of me.  I knew for a fact that there would be horrible rumors going around about me.  But then Edward's face came to mind.  I thought about how patient he had been with me and how he made me feel comfortable and important.  I thought about the way it felt when he touched me, and what those little kisses on my cheek and the top of my head meant to me.  They meant everything.  They made me want more, and part of me felt guilty about that, but mostly, it made me feel something else; something I couldn't describe.

I don't know how long I sat on Edward's couch, crying and memorizing every last millimeter of my bonnet.  After a while, I heard a knock on the door and was startled out of my reverie.  I had only ever had one visitor while Edward had been at work, and that had turned out to be the mail delivery man.  I quickly made my way to the door and peeked through the little hole that allowed me to see who was on the other side before I opened the door.  I saw the worried face of Angela.

I wiped away my tears and opened the door for my new friend.  "Hello, Angela.  What brings you over today?"

"Hey, Bella.  I got a call from Ben, who was talking with Edward.  I guess he's a little worried about you.  He - wait.  Have you been crying?  Are you alright?" Angela questioned.

"Oh.  I'm alright.  Just a little homesick, you know?  I just woke up feeling different this morning, and I'm not sure how to get out of this dark spot I've fallen into," I explained to her.

Just then, I noticed that Angela held a hanger with a long black plastic bag draped over it.  "What is that?"

Angela flitted around me, avoiding my eyes, and quickly began to walk up the stairs and toward our bedroom.  Did I just call it our bedroom? "Wait, Ang.  I'm not sure Edward..."

"Relax, Bella.  Edward gave me free reign of the closet and the master bathroom," Angela reassured me.

"This was Edward's idea?" I inquired.

"Yep.  So relax.  You know that neither he nor I would steer you wrong."  She continued into the bathroom with me trailing her.  She pointed at the commode.  "Sit."

I complied and Angela immediately went to work.  She began to plug contraptions into the wall outlets and set several little black squares of make-up on the counter.  The last few items in her shoulder bag were hairspray and perfume.  I grew nervous at the site of the perfume, I wasn't allowed to wear it - at least, I never used to be.

After all of Angela's "equipment" was warmed and ready to go, she started on me.  I had no idea what kinds of things she was applying to my face, but as I sat there, I worried that I would soon look like one of those clowns from the circuses I'd heard about growing up.  Time passed quickly with Angela talking to me as she worked.  When she finished my make-up, she moved to my hair and began to roll long cylinder-like objects and pinning them to my scalp.  It hurt a bit, but I didn't say anything.  I've endured worse pain.  She told me it would take a while for my hair to be ready for the "curlers" as she called them, to come out, so we went down to the living area and turned the television on.  Neither of us really paid attention to the show, but we talked instead.  She told me about how life was with Ben, and being away from the rest of her family.  I told her how much I missed mine, and she understood, but said that she could never give up Ben, even as much as she loved her parents and six siblings.

I understood completely.

By the time I looked at the clock again, an hour had passed and Edward would be arriving home shortly.  I still had the curlers pinned to my head and didn't yet know what was hidden under that plastic bag that now hung in our closet.  Again with the "our."  "Ugh, Ang?  Shouldn't we finish with my hair?"

"Oh! Goodness, yes!  When do you expect Edward home?"

I glanced at the clock.  "In about thirty minutes?"

"Shit!  We have to hurry," she replied as she pulled me toward the stairs.

I stared at her wide-eyed as I followed her; I had never heard her use a swear word before.  A part of me wanted to try it - sometime...maybe. 

In the bathroom, I once again sat on the toilet and Angela immediately began pulling the pins and rollers from my hair.  It felt good and my long hair held soft waves.  When she was done removing them all, she immediately began twisting little pieces and pinning them to my head with what she called bobby pins.  They weren't as painful as the roller pins.

With only minutes to spare before Edward usually walked in the door, Angela pulled me from the bathroom and shoved me into the large closet.  "Put the dress on," she demanded.

I was confused; she wanted me to put my Amish dress on?  She must have read the confusion in my face because she shook her head at me.  "Not that dress, the dress in the plastic.  Now hurry!" she said and shut the door.

I quickly went to work removing my clothes and lifted the plastic from the dress.  It was a rich blue color, and my eyes had never been graced by something so beautiful, at least, in the clothing area.  I quickly lifted the dress over my head and maneuvered myself to zip up the back.  I looked down at my feet, unsure of what shoes I should wear.  I opened the door and saw Angela sitting on the end of the bed, waiting for me.  "What shoes should I wear?"

"Oh!  I forgot."  Angela grabbed her bag from the floor and riffled through it.  She pulled out a pair of blue flat shoes that matched the color of the dress perfectly.  "Edward didn't think I should do heels, so I got these.  Try them on."

I took the proffered shoes and slipped them onto my feet.  They fit perfectly.  Just then, the door opened downstairs.  Angela quickly went into the bathroom and with one sweep of her arm, had all of the make-up and hair torture devices in her bag.  I made my way toward the stairs to welcome Edward home, but Angela quickly walked in front of me.  I let out a nervous giggle.

By the time I got to the top step of the staircase, ready to descend, Angela was already at the bottom.  I glanced over to Edward and saw him staring at me intently.  I quickly looked to Angela and saw her smiling.

"Alright, I think I am going to head out.  Ben and I have plans.  You two have fun tonight," Angela said as she turned one more time to look at me.  She winked, then turned and left.

I was nervous and refused to look at Edward again, but slowly walked down the stairs, being careful not to fall. 

Edward was at the bottom of the steps to meet me.  "Bella, you incredibly beautiful."

I smiled up at him and told him thank you.  He reached over to the table at the side of the staircase and produced a bouquet of flowers, but they weren't just any kind of flowers.  They were wildflowers.  I felt tears well up in my eyes, but knew that Angela had put some kind of product on them, so I did my best to rein them in.

"They're beautiful, Edward.  Thank you."

"Not nearly as beautiful as you, but you're welcome.  Ah, do you think you could give me a moment in the kitchen?  Have a seat, Bella."

I didn't know what he had up his sleeve, but I complied.  I was afraid that if I sat down I would wrinkle the dress, so instead, I wandered over to the window in the office area and looked outside.  The sun was still bright in the sky, but beginning to make its way more to the west.  It would soon be twilight.

A throat cleared behind me.  I turned around and saw that Edward had laid a blanket out on the floor of the living room, along with several pillows.  It was reminiscent of our day at the waterfall.  I smiled broadly at him and he returned it.

"I wanted to cook for you, but I had to work a little late, so I ordered us a meal in.  Have a seat?" he requested.

I walked over to our picnic area and lowered myself, careful to lay the dress out under me and across my legs, both so it wouldn't wrinkle and I wouldn't expose anymore of myself.  I noticed that Edward had changed his shirt and wondered how long I had been staring out the window.  I must have been absorbed as I hadn't heard him do any of this.

Edward and I ate a lovely meal, he said it was Italian; it was incredibly delicious and filling.  When he finished, he brought out something that he called tiramisu.  After the first bite, I didn't want to stop eating it.

When we were finished eating, Edward pulled me up onto the couch beside him.  I snuggled into his side, loving the warmth and security I felt with him.  I didn't want it to end, ever.

"I have something for you, Bella," Edward whispered in my ear. 

I turned to look at his face, and saw that his hand furthest from me was holding his telephone.  I didn't understand.

He smiled at me, then said, "Flip it open and hit the nine button, then read the display."

I took the phone from him and did as he requested.  "Esme Cullen" popped up onto the screen.

I quickly looked up at Edward, excited, yet nervous.  "Really?  It's really her?"

Edward smiled and nodded, but said nothing.

"Does she live here?  Is she nearby?" I flung the questions at him, but I couldn't help it.

He chuckled.  "Yes, she lives here, at least, the area code of her phone number says so.  I'm not sure how far from here she lives though.  You could give her a call and ask?"

I smiled, but felt the butterflies take action in my mid-section.  I nodded, unable to speak.

"I'll give you some privacy.  I'll just be in my office if you need me," Edward said, then left me with the phone.

I held my finger over the send button, nervous but excited.  It had been years since I'd last spoken to my Aunt Esme.  I missed her dearly.  I hit the button.

As it rang I debated on hanging up, but before I could, the call connected.

"Hello, Cullen Residence?" a smooth male voice answered.

"Ah, ah, um, is this the residence of Esme, uh, Swan?  Or Cullen?" I stuttered through it, nervous.  I hadn't thought about a man answering the call.

"It is.  May I tell her who is calling?" he asked.

"Um, tell her this is Bella." I told him.  There was some muffling over the phone as I waited.


"Oh my goodness, Aunt Esme!  This is Isabella!  How are you?" I flung the words at her at once.

"What?  Isabella?  Charles' daughter, Isabella?  This is she?" she asked.

"Yes!  Yes, it's me!"

"Oh my goodness child, you sound so grown up!  The phone won't do, I have to see you! I assume that I can see you, since you are using a telephone?"

"Um, yes.  You can.  When?" I inquired.

"Tonight, of course.  I can't wait to see you!  Is that convenient for you?"

"Um, let me check..."  All I had to do was look at Edward.  He had heard it all and smiled at me, nodding his head yes.

"...yes.  We can come over tonight.  Where do you live?" 

Esme gave me her address and Edward assured me that I didn't need to get directions.  We planned to head over there immediately, so I quickly ended the call and promised to see her soon.

When I hung up the call, I felt my stomach turn a little.  I wasn't nauseous per-se, but I was incredibly nervous.  Why?  I wasn't sure.  It was my Aunt Esme, the least judgmental person I knew.  She also left the Amish, and so I knew that she would want to talk to me and figure out was going on, as well as help me.  I prayed that she could offer me some insight.

I debated changing for a moment, but I didn't want to waste any time, and I kind of liked the dress, and how Edward looked at me in it.

The drive to Aunt Esme's seemed to take forever.  I asked Edward several times if we were almost there.  After the fifth time, he was finally able to tell me yes.

We pulled into the driveway of a large white house about twenty minutes after we left Edwards’.  As we walked to the door, I became more and more nervous.  Edward must have noticed as he put his hand on the small of my back in reassurance.

I climbed the concrete step to the front door, took a long, deep breath, and knocked on the door with the little brass knocker.  I turned around to look up at Edward.  He gave me a dashing smile, a subtle nod, and just like that, my nerves dissipated.  With him at my side, I knew that I could face anything.  The thought both scared and excited me.

I didn't have much time to think about how I felt about that as the large red door was pulled open by a tall man with blond hair.  He looked to be in his fifties or so, but I couldn't be sure, and wore a brown sweater with khaki pants.

"Hello.  You must be Isabella?  I'm Carlisle.  Welcome to our home," Carlisle said as he waved his hand, inviting us in.

"Hello, Carlisle.  It's a pleasure to meet you.  This is Edward, my...uh..." I didn't know what Edward was.  I didn't want to make him angry by saying the wrong thing.  If I were home, I would say he was courting me, but I was playing in a new field.  It was a whole different game.

"I'm Bella's boyfriend.  It's a pleasure to meet you," Edward finished for me, not missing a beat. 

My mouth dropped open at his confession and I watched Edward as he stuck his hand out and shook Carlisle's.  At that moment, I heard a throat clear. 

Seeing my Aunt Esme that way, uncovered and wearing “English” clothes, was one of the most extraordinary and startling things I had ever witnessed.  I had only ever seen her in our traditional Amish garb, and rarely without her hair covered.  I couldn't remember her ever being so beautiful, which made sense, since none of us were allowed to appear beautiful.  Her hair was something of an auburn color and cascaded down over her shoulders in soft waves.  She wore a black skirt that fell to just below her knees and a red blouse that had shell buttons and soft ruffles around the neckline.  Her shoulders were left bare, as were her feet.  I couldn't seem to look away from her bare feet until I felt Edward nudge me from behind.

I ran to my aunt and she enveloped me in her arms.  I hadn't felt so at home since I had left the farm.  Without meaning to, I began to cry.  Esme walked us from the foyer and into the living area and sat us on the couch.  For a quick second, I worried about Edward, but then heard Carlisle strike up a conversation with him.  The voices became quieter until I no longer heard them and Aunt Esme sat back from me a little.

She handed me a tissue and I wiped at my face with it.  I had so many emotions running through me, and there were so many things I wanted to say, but she beat me to it.

"I cannot believe what my eyes see, Isabella.  You have grown into such a gorgeous young woman.  Not that I'm shocked about that, but I am shocked to see you here, like this.  It makes me so happy.  How is everyone?”  She paused, and I knew who she really wanted to ask me about.  I gave her time.  "How is Charles?”  She finally asked.

"Father is fine.  Working like usual.  He has had Emmett McCarty and Jasper Hale helping him since last year.  I think Emmett will be courting Rosalie soon, and Jasper may court Mary-Alice.  I'd overheard Father speaking to Mother about it on a few occasions.  But I think both of my sisters will be happy with that arrangement.”

My aunt nodded.  "So, you are here.  How did you get here?  I assume it has something to do with the handsome young man speaking to Carlisle?”

I felt the heat flood my cheeks and I quickly looked down at my hands, resting in my lap. 

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to embarrass you.  Why don't you tell me about it?" she requested.

And so I did.  I told her the whole story - from the day I accidentally met him while picking flowers, to our day at the waterfall, and up until he found her for me.  As I told mine and Edward's story, she sat with rapt attention, never interrupting me to ask any questions.  When I finished, she had a glorious smile on her face.

"Why are you smiling?  Is something funny?"  I felt a bit self-conscious under her gaze.

"Not funny at all, my dear.  I'm just happy for you.  Happy that you have found love, and so quickly," she stated.

"Love?  No...I - I don't...I..."  I couldn't finish.  Was I in love?  I mean, could I love Edward?

I thought about all the time that we had spent together, his confessions of the fear of losing me at the waterfall, and the way I felt in his arms every night and morning.  I thought about how leaving him to go back to my family might possibly ruin me, completely split me down the middle.

After looking around the room but not seeing anything, I finally looked back at Aunt Esme.  She wore a knowing smirk on her mouth, which grew to a full smile when I finally looked her in the eye.  "You love him."

I bit my lip and nodded, then whispered, "I love him.  Please don't say anything."

"I would never say anything, dear.  I promise.  But you have to tell him, let him know how you feel.  I'm pretty sure he feels the same way."

"Really?  Do you really think so?" I asked.

"I do," she said as she stood up.  "Come help me get dessert on the table, you’ve eaten supper already, haven’t you?"

I nodded and followed her into the kitchen.

Over dessert, the conversation was light and fun.  Edward and Carlisle seemed to hit it off quite well and so the topics went from commercial electrical jobs, to Carlisle’s responsibilities at the hospital, and to the organization that Aunt Esme ran.  When we finished, we all went out onto the back patio.  I sipped at my first glass of wine ever.  The first sip burned and I gasped at the tingle on my tongue.  Esme chuckled and patted my back.

“The taste gets better after time.”  I just nodded, still stunned by the flavor. 

We talked for a while, but it was getting late.  I knew that Edward had plans in the morning, and I also saw him hide a few yawns.

"I think Edward and I should be going now," I stated.

Esme nodded, then said, “Could I have a private moment with you, Bella, before you go?"

"Of course."

She walked me out to a little sitting garden and we sat on a wrought iron bench.

"Bella.  Is it okay if I call you that?  I heard Edward call you that earlier, and it suits you."

I nodded.  "Yes, I like it too."

"I want to tell you a few things.  They are important, so please, listen carefully."

I waited for her to continue, giving her my complete attention.

"Deciding to leave my family was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make.  I hadn't even met Carlisle when I left.  I knew no one.  But I knew that I couldn't endure that lifestyle for the rest of my life.  I didn't believe in the things that we were taught.  I wanted more, and I felt that I shouldn't be punished for that.  Now, I don't blame them or think badly of them for what they believe.  That is their choice, but this was mine.  No one can make the decision for you Bella.  The choice is only yours.  To live Amish, or to live free.  Whatever you decide, make sure that it is what you truly want.  And please know that whatever you decide, I will always love you and I will always be here for you."

I threw my arms around her and hugged her tightly.  I didn't know how she knew what I was feeling inside, but everything she had said made me feel so much better.  "Thank you so much for saying that.  It is exactly what I needed.  I know that I have an important decision to make, but to be honest, I think it is already made."

I pulled away and wiped away the stray tear that slid down Aunt Esme's cheek.  "I love you dear girl."

"I love you too, Aunt Esme."

We quickly said our goodbyes and I promised that I would call to get together again soon.  The drive back to Edward's was quiet; I had much on my mind.  Edward seemed to as well.

By the time we got home it was almost eleven o'clock.  Edward and I quickly changed, him in the bathroom and me in the closet, and tiredly climbed into bed.  For the first time in a long while, Edward fell asleep before me.  His breathing evened out and I felt his warm breath fan over my cheek.  And just with that, something in me changed, something I couldn't pinpoint.  The only way I could describe it, was to say that I wanted to drink his breath, his air.  And I wanted to kiss him.

I pulled his hand away from my waist and pressed my lips to the back of it, leaving a soft kiss.  I turned to look at him as he slept, admiring his features and the way he wanted to protect me, even in his sleep.

And I whispered to him, "I love you, Edward."  Then I closed my eyes.  We would need to have a talk tomorrow.


Edward was up early and out of the house before I could make him breakfast.  I wasn't offended as I had a task that needed to be completed.  I needed to write my family, and tell them that I wouldn't be coming home.

I sat down to write the letter with my glass of warmed milk but was unsure of where to start.  The first sentence was the hardest; just writing Mother and Father had me in tears.  After that, the words just flowed.  I told them about how I never felt like I had fit in, never made the right kind of Amish girl.  I wanted too much from the world when I wasn't supposed to.  I told them not to worry about me, I had found Aunt Esme and she was well and promised to help me.  I also told them that I had found love, and I couldn't walk away from it.  I also asked them to not believe any of the rumors they would hear, because they would hear them, and they wouldn't be pleasant. But most of all, I asked them to trust that I loved them, and that I never meant to hurt them, but I needed this.  Like Aunt Esme said, I needed to live free.

When Edward returned home, I handed him the letter and asked him to read it before I sent it.  He went and sat on the couch and began to read.  When he finished, he looked up at me with tears in his eyes.

"You love me?"

I nodded.  "I do.  With all of my heart."

"Oh, Bella.  I love you so much.  I think I have since that first day, and I don't believe in love at first sight.  But you're it for me," he said as he pulled me to his chest.

"You're it for me, too, Edward."

After several moments I pulled away from him, so I could look in his eyes.  I didn't know any other way to convey my sincerity.  Slowly he began to lower his face toward mine, and a bubble of nervousness lodged in my throat.  I refused to give it attention.  Edward was going to kiss me, and I was truly scared, but I also wanted it more than anything.

He came closer and closer, and finally, it was up to me to move the last little bit.  I reached up on my tip toes and slowly, softly, brushed my lips against his.  Just that feel, that sensation, was enough to drive me crazy.  It was and wasn't enough.  I felt his hand come up to cup my cheek and he kissed me this time, with a bit more pressure.  It was a sweet kiss, and my lips rejoiced at the feel of his on mine.  They were soft, full, and smooth like satin. 

We kissed like that for several moments, but my toes began to hurt, and I assumed Edward's neck began to hurt, because he quickly pulled us over to the couch.  He fell onto the couch and pulled me onto his lap; his lips immediately returned to mine.  This time, our kisses turned a little more urgent, with both Edward and I angling to get better access.  I felt his tongue on my lower lip and I gasped, shocked.  I had never kissed a boy before and I wasn't sure what all it entailed.  I grew nervous again, but then remembered, this was Edward, and I could trust him.  His tongue licked along my lower lip and I slowly slipped my tongue out to meet the tip of his, ever so gently. 

Edward moaned.  "Oh God, Bella.  More.  Kiss me more.  Please."

I kissed him more and stuck my tongue out to lick his lip.  He groaned in pleasure and stuck his tongue against my mouth, putting pressure against my lips.  I opened my mouth to him and his tongue was immediately in my mouth, seducing my own tongue.  I had heard about this kissing, but up until now, had found the thought of it disgusting.  This was anything but - Edward's lips on my lips and his tongue in my mouth, dancing with my own, was pure beauty.  I wanted to kiss him forever.

At that thought, Edward removed his mouth from mine and I whimpered at the loss, but he began to trail kisses down my neck.  I started to squirm at how wonderful it felt.  Part of me worried that I was committing horrible sins.  Sins that I would never be forgiven for, but the rational part of me knew that Edward would never lead me to hell.  He loved me.

He loved me.

We continued to "make-out" as Edward called it, for a while until we both broke away from each other, gasping for air.  I broke out into a fit of giggles and Edward prodded at my sides, tickling me.  That was when I knew, without any doubt whatsoever, that I had made the right decision.  The decision to stay.

Life was so odd.  I felt like I had been going through my days like a body without its spirit, its soul, before I met Edward.  Then, everything had changed.  It changed for the person it wasn't supposed to change for, but I couldn't stop it, didn't want to stop it.  I lost a lot in my decision to stay with Edward.  I lost the respect of my parents and I lost the companionship of my sisters.  But I knew above all else, that I hadn't lost their love.  I knew that they would always love me, no matter what, even if they couldn't show it or speak of it.  I chose to leave my Amish family to be with Edward because I knew that I couldn't let him go.  I felt my future in him and that was not something I was willing to give up. 

Like Aunt Esme said, it was my life to do with it as I pleased.  I took her words to heart and knew she was right.  If the rest of my family chose to stay and live the Amish way, I accepted that, understood that.  It was the only way they knew and it was how they wanted to live their lives.  It wasn't the way I wanted to live my life, so I changed it for the better.  I decided to choose a new path, with Edward; a new path to Living Free.