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The Hard Knocks That Mattered by The Romanticidal Edwardian

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Story Notes:

Twilighted Beta:  Twilightzoner


I soaped the stairs down the way I knew Ms. Vicky liked it, wiping my hand across my forehead to brush away the strand of hair. I almost got soap in my eye as a result, and I knew that there would be bubbles and solution smeared on my skin. I couldn’t bring myself to care. Morning showers would be occurring in about an hour anyway.

I didn’t think this punishment was fair. So what if Edward and I were kissing in the broom cupboard? It’s not like we were doing anything else. Or would’ve. I think. I don’t even really understand exactly what “else” is. Every time I try to ask Ms. Vicky about it, she just says that the business between a man and a woman is none of my concern right now, and I shouldn’t be trying to find out unless I plan on becoming a real fast piece. In which case she’ll kick me to the streets right now, she claims. So, I don’t ask her anymore.

All I know is that I just really like kissing Edward, and I’m not going to stop. It feels too nice. We’ll just have to be sneakier. I like how he holds me tightly, and I like how soft his lips are. And how he can move them the same way I move mine. And how his tongue feels, and how warm his breath is without being gross. Not to mention the fact that he’s the most handsome boy I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen plenty passing by the street. And the fact that I love him and he loves me.

Edward. My long-time friend and now my beau. He has only been here a year longer than me. His parents died when he was six. Mine died when I was seven. I’d been at this orphanage ever since then.


Or maybe not so unfortunately. Because even though Ms. Vicky was really mean, and she made us do all the work around this cruddy place, and I’ve never had a real birthday or Christmas - I never would have met Edward without it. And I couldn’t imagine a life without him now. So I suppose I have to feel grateful for some of it.

All the boys sleep on the opposite side of the building, and that’s where their bathrooms and stuff are. The boys and girls aren’t allowed to be near each other from nine at night to six in the morning. Probably for some stupid reason. Except I remember that a couple years ago, an older boy’s hand had been up the shirt of a girl the same age. I think that’s the time that the curfew rule became strict, but I didn’t think it was fair. I wouldn’t even let Edward - who I trusted and loved more than anything - up my shirt yet, because I just didn’t feel comfortable with that right now and it didn‘t feel proper. One girl ruined it for the rest of us though.

Or tried to really. Because sometimes Edward snuck over anyway - always had - to hold me while I slept. I appreciate it - it’s real good of him. I sleep better with him there. I don’t have nightmares about the night of fire - the night my parents died. He’s never gotten caught either. That was good.

Things were changing all around though. In a couple months, when we’re both fourteen, we’d be sent off to the factory to work. We’ll still have to live here until we’re sixteen, but we’ll get better rooms once we work and get to eat slightly more food. And start saving up for a place to move to.

Edward told me he was going to marry me then. And we’d live together. I’m looking forward to that. I know he will marry me, and I want to marry him someday.

“Want some help Sudsy?”

I was startled as the most amazing voice snapped me back into reality, which I’d detached myself from as I’d continued on with my chore of washing the stairs - alone. Except now I noticed Edward was on his knees next to me, dunking a new sponge into the soapy, dingy water. I was confused about what he’d called me until I remembered that I probably still had soap bubbles on my forehead.

“Ha ha. You shouldn’t be here Edward! What if you get caught, eh?”

“I won’t,” he assured me. “’Sides, I’m not gonna let my future wife wash these stairs herself!”

I smiled, pleased, gently nudging him with my elbow. He smiled back softly, nudging me, too. He moved closer until his lips were touching mine tenderly, the warmth from them making me melt. He tasted so good. I’d never had candy, but I’m sure he tasted sweeter than even that.

“This is what got us in trouble,” I whispered against his mouth.

He nodded in agreement, still kissing me.

I decided, for now, it didn’t matter. He broke away after a little while and smiled.

“Got somethin’ for you,” he grinned and reached into his back pocket. He pulled out a piece of twine tied together like a necklace, with a couple of paper clips bent into the shape of heart dangling from it. My eyes widened.

He looked pretty self-conscious and shrugged slightly. “It isn’t much…” he began, but I threw my arms around him.

“I love it!” I squealed, and then immediately tried to quiet myself, even as I remained giggling with happiness, hoping Ms. Vicky wouldn’t come down.

He smiled his beautiful lopsided smile and put it around my neck. I beamed with delight, touching the paper clip necklace with my fingertips delicately.

I would never take this off. Edward and I had always been together, and this was like a symbol of it. I knew we always would be together, too. I would ensure it. It’s all that mattered to me.


A few months later we were sent to factories to help contribute to the orphanage and earn our keep.

It was a grueling, miserable place. Everything was dirty, everything dark and uninviting. The assembly line was filled with the dull faces of girls all around me, carrying out equally dull, repetitive tasks. It was enough to eat away at any one’s heart; I found myself thinking more than once dark, hopeless thoughts.

But I refused to let it break me. I still had Edward, after all, and I would touch my necklace often during work to remind me. That’s what kept me going. Besides, I felt that I didn’t have much to complain about in comparison. My job was dreary enough to make me cry, it’s true, but Edward had to do hard labor. He came home exhausted every day, much more than I, and I was still pretty tired. He would be dirty and sweaty and head immediately to the showers.

Still, he always found the time to ask me how my day was. I would sneak into his room and sit on his bed, stroking his hair and watching him fall asleep quickly, after I gave him a short response to his questions. I asked about his day, too. He would usually grunt and then quickly fall into slumber.

It was a big change from how it used to be. Before work, we could find time to be with each other throughout most the day. Now, there just didn’t seem to be enough hours in it.

But it was still okay. We were still together. That was all that mattered.


One day, just as I was sneaking down the hall to visit Edward, I saw Ms. Vicky turn the corner on the opposite end, and I knew she was coming to speak to him, too. Hastily, I side-stepped into a closet and hid until I heard the door to Edward’s room open. She didn’t close it, and I could hear their conversation clearly from where I was at.

“So,” she started off snidely. “Good news, Frog Eyes.” She had back-handed terms for each of us, usually based off our physical appearance, since it would be too much effort to remember everyone’s name. Most people called her Firelady because of her hair. I would like it and think it fitting, except the name always made me think of the fire my parents died in. Even if Ms. Vicky wasn‘t mean, I wonder if I could ever like her. “Some poor, unfortunate soul actually wants to hire you as his apprentice. Consider yourself blessed, sonny. I don’t know why any respectable artisan would want any of you, but it’s no loss of mine. You’ll be leaving at the end of the week. Be ready at dawn on Friday.”

I stayed hidden until I heard the clacking of her heels round the corner again, and then I slowly came out, walking into Edward’s room.

“Edward,” I whispered. He looked up at me, his eyes heavy and unreadable. Wordlessly, he held out an arm, and I came to curl up in his lap. He knew I’d heard everything.

“Does this mean –“ I whispered, but my voice started to choke up. “Does this mean you’re leaving…for good?”

He stroked my hair as I fiddled with my necklace. “Maybe,” he murmured. “But I’ll come back as soon as I can. And I’ll definitely send for you when I’m sixteen. I promise you that. This could be a good thing, Bella - I could earn more money this way, and we could live somewhere nice. And I could buy you nice things.”

“Oh Edward,” I sighed sadly. “You know I don’t care about all that.”

His hand continued to stroke my hair softly. “I do,” he whispered oh so quietly, longing in his voice. “I want to give you that more than you know. You’re my girl.”

“Uh-huh,” I agreed fervently, nodding my head against his chest. “You’re my man.” I turned my head to kiss his neck. “I’ll wait for you. I promise.”

I know we’ll be together eventually. And that’s what matters.


I’m sixteen years old today. And I’m anxious. Edward said he’d come get me when he was sixteen, and that was two months ago. But maybe he was waiting for today. I don’t know. I’m scared. Today is my last day in the orphanage. Ms. Vicky is sending me out tomorrow. I tried telling her I don’t have anywhere to go right now, but all she told me was tough luck.

So now I’m packing my couple of clothes, all the money I’ve managed to keep and save without having to surrender it to Firelady, and of course the necklace that Edward gave me over two years ago. It has been like my anchor and my source of strength while he’s been gone. I think about him every day, because I see it every day.

But I don’t know what to do, because he isn’t here. Even though he promised me he would be.

I placed my things on my bed and paced my room. I needed somewhere to go. I needed something to do.

I walked down the stairs and out the front doors, hoping I could get a clue, a sign, anything, from anywhere. I was desperate.

I walked down bustling streets, the air quite warm, but I was cold.

I must’ve walked for hours, looking around at buildings, anywhere that may have cheap rent, or a roommate, or anything like that. I came up with nothing. And I knew, bright and early, that tomorrow morning, I’d be right out here on these streets, with no alternative to turn to.

I shuddered deep inside my bones.

I’d thought that Edward and I would be together around now, and we weren’t. It was the matter that kept my mind preoccupied, scared, and alone.


I’m twenty years old, and I’m engaged now.

Half the time I spent out of the orphanage, I spent sleeping in the streets. The rest of my time was preoccupied with my work that only gave me enough money to buy food with - but not give me enough to eat. I was desperate.

Eventually, one of the ladies at the factory took me in, needing a roommate as well. In that aspect, I kept myself on even ground again. My life stabilized slightly. Things didn’t seem quite so bad as before.

But I was still miserable. I’d been in this city my entire life. I wanted to leave, but I didn’t. And though there were plenty of solid reasons to keep me here, I knew that none of them were the reason that kept me here. It was because of Edward. Because I kept expecting him to come back and find me. And I didn’t want to make it impossible for him.

Ha! I want to laugh at myself now. I was a silly little girl to believe in such a fairy tales. To believe that two people who had connected in an orphanage for the comfort value would actually be together forever like some princess story. It was a naïve view to have. Things don’t work out that way. We leant on each other because we had nobody else - once he got out, he didn’t need me anymore. I’m sure he’s forgotten my face. Maybe even my name.

A few months ago my roommate’s cousin came to visit her. He was a handsome, well-off man. He’d taken an interest in me. I’d felt no real interest in him, but I allowed him to pursue me because I knew I needed the help. I couldn’t live this way forever. I needed someone to help me.

So when he proposed yesterday, I accepted. I know we don’t love each other. He is security, and I am something pretty for his arm - once I’ve been scrubbed of the grim coating my skin.

I’m looking at myself in my mirror now in the bathroom. I’m wearing a nice dress - my roommate’s cousin is the living room, waiting to take me to a party his employer is hosting. Dangling around my neck is the crude necklace fashioned by the only boy I’ve ever loved. It looks childish and silly against the elegant fabric of my dress.

I am so stupid. I am so silly to have believed in love and believed in him. To have believed that the world was not just a mockery of me. I should’ve dropped the belief when my parents died. I should’ve dropped the belief when Ms. Victoria abused me. I should’ve dropped the belief when Edward left. I should’ve dropped the belief when he never came back.

I didn’t.

But I’m dropping it now.

My hand clasped around the paper clip heart and I wrenched it from my neck.

I dropped it in the trash can and walked out the door.

We were never going to be together. It didn’t matter anymore.


It has been thirty years since that day. I’m dying now of a consumption. It doesn’t matter much to me. I look back on my life, and the only times of value that I see are the ones when I was with Edward, a spirited girl who didn’t care if she had to clean floors so long as she got to kiss her love.

It took a while, but I finally figured out what happened. Edward had come to get me - he’d tried to. But he’d come down with some kind of sickness on the way, serious enough that it forced him to go to a nearby hospital.

I met the doctor that was last with him years ago. He said he died saying my name. Telling him that if they should ever see a girl with a paper clip heart around her neck, to tell her that Edward loved her.

I had wanted to throw that heart away so bad. I did. But when I got home the night after I dumped it into the garbage, I stuck in my pocket. I never wore it again, but I pulled it out from time to time. Dr. Cullen had seen me pull it out while I was eating at a restaurant, and came up to ask me if I’d ever known a boy named Edward.

My husband died years ago, but left me enough money to live comfortably. I haven’t really lived in many years though.

They tore down the orphanage I grew up in. I wanted to go back one day, to see the halls that would bring back my memories of Edward, sharper and clearer than I could on my own. But it was gone when I did.

I had thought, when I’d tried to let Edward go all those years ago, that nothing mattered anymore. But everything mattered. I’d just ignored it.

Looking back on my life, I see how much it did.

I’m standing in a cemetery now. I haven’t been able to come here, even though Dr. Cullen told me where it was, until this day. But I’ve reached a point where I can.

I walk between the graves until I find the right one. I see his name on it. The year he was born and the year he died. Nothing else.

I sit on the grass in front of the stone. A light wind plays around me. I am quite alone, and yet I haven’t felt so complete in years.

I reach into my pocket and pull out the aged and frayed, dirty twine. The paper clip heart is bent in several places, but you can still see it. I feel like I’m holding our love in my hands. I can’t believe I never saw that it - our love - has been with me throughout all these years. It’s why I could never throw it away.

I placed it lightly on top of the stone, and rest my cheek against the cool surface, closing my eyes.

“It’s been a while,” I murmur quietly. “It’s taken a long time. For me to get here. But I’m here. With you.”

My living days are drawing to a close, and I wonder if this will be my last night on this earth. I certainly hope so. I sigh contently and fall asleep, hoping to not wake up again.

We’re together. It never mattered to the world, but it was all that ever mattered to my world. I know this now.


Chapter End Notes:

So I wrote this as a cure to my writer’s block. I used an exercise where you just start writing whatever pops into your mind. So I did - which is why this isn‘t great literary perfection or whatever, but I‘m pleased with it. ‘Annie’ popped into my head when I first started for some reason, but it just gave me the setting really. By the way, this isn’t any particular time in history. I suppose you can think of it as an AU if you want.


- The Romanticidal Edwardian

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