It was the seventh of November and the sky was dark gray, rumpled with rainclouds. The icy wind sliced through their clothing as they walked toward the Meeting House. Most of the townsfolk were headed in the same direction. Everyone had a grim set to their features, even those who disapproved of Alice. This was heavy business at hand. Few spoke. The sound of their feet in the muddy road was the loudest sound.

They filed through the open door and took their seats just as silently, shuffling down to fill all the empty spaces on the benches, men on one side and women on the other. There was scarce a spot left. Even those who infrequently attended Meeting were present.

The elders were all seated along the wall. In front of them, a small platform with a railing had been erected.

"Alice Whitlock, you are called forth."

Alice had chosen a seat near the front for this reason. She rose silently and walked forward with her chin raised and her shoulders squared. She would not show these men fear, even if she inwardly quailed. She stepped up onto the platform took hold of the rail in front of her.

Bradford stood and read from a sheet of parchment, stretched dramatically between his hands. "Mistress Whitlock, you are called here as one of those who have had a great share in the causes of our public disturbances, partly because of the erroneous opinions which you have spread amongst us, partly by encouraging sedition amongst us, partly by casting reproach upon the faithful ministers of this country, and upon their ministry in the hearts of their people, and partly by maintaining weekly and public meetings in your house, to the offence of all the same, since such meetings were clearly condemned by our elders. Now, the reason you are brought here is that you may be brought to acknowledge your offenses, and repent from them, or otherwise that we may take such course with you as you may trouble us no further."

Alice spoke loudly so that the whole Meeting House might hear. "If I am called here to answer for breaking a law, name it."

There was a soft murmur among those seated on the benches because defiance wasn't what they had expected.

"The fifth commandment," Bradford snapped, "which commands us to honor our father and mother, which includes all authority."

"I have obeyed authority," Alice protested. "Can you show me where I have not?"

"We're not going to waste our time arguing with you," Standish broke in. "What say you about your public meetings? Did you have permission for them?"

"Meetings have never been forbidden in Plimouth."

Standish shot back. "Private meetings, indeed, of some few neighbors, but not so public and frequent as yours. Private meetings which were for increase of love, and mutual edification. But yours are of another nature. If others' meetings had been like yours, they were evil, and therefore you cannot use them to justify yours. I ask again, what authority you had your meetings?"

Alice lifted her chin even higher. "The holy scripture. The Bible commands older women to instruct the younger."

It was Bradford who responded. His face was becoming redder by the moment and even from her seat in the middle of the room, Bella could see the vein that pulsed in the middle of his forehead. "Privately! The Bible commands private occasional meetings, but that gives no permission for regular meetings for that purpose; and besides, you take upon you to teach many that are older than yourself, neither do you teach them to do that which the Apostle commands, to stay at home!"

Alice looked at the row of glowering elders for a moment, and her apparent tranquility was in vast contrast to their obvious agitation. "Can you cite me the rule of our community which forbids it?"

"The apostle Paul commanded women to remain silent and forbade them to teach."

"In public. My meetings were –"

"Your meetings went beyond that, and in your audacity, you corrected ministers of this church and pointed out where you thought they had failed, and you had no permission to do so."

"I have cited scripture –"

"Which does not cover your practices!"

Alice took a deep breath and templed her fingers beneath her chin. Bella gave a silent start because she had seen this gesture. Bess had done the same when she was being interrogated, her hands pressed together in innocent supplication while her words battled like a gladiator. Had Alice ever seen … Bella couldn't remember, but her own hands were shaking and she pulled a fold of her skirt over them to hide them.

"If I took on a public ministry, I would be breaking a rule. People come to me of their own accord and I should like to see a rule which requires me to turn away those who seek my counsel."

"It is your actions which draws them, much to the detriment of this colony. Families are neglected. Discord is sewn. Much time is lost. And we who are charged with protecting this commonwealth cannot permit it." Bradford gestured to the group at his side. "We intend to testify as to what we witnessed of these meetings and show that they were not as scripture nor the commonwealth permits."

"Does the commonwealth also permit men to be both witnesses and judges in a proceeding?" Alice asked. "And if you intend to testify against me, should you not be sworn?"

"If an oath is needed we will swear one but the court is satisfied as to the truth of the testimony of six godly men." Bradford pointed at her accusingly. "You desire to make us sin if we state something mistakenly under oath."

How was Alice going to trick them into lying, Bella wondered.

They ordered her to return to her previous seat and then took turns standing before the bar, testifying as to the dangers of Alice's meetings. They warned that a woman could lead the people into erroneous opinions, what they had heard from others Alice had said and why it was antithetical to doctrine.

Bradford's was the loudest and most vociferous. The hours slowly ticked by and it seemed his anger still wasn't quenched. But at last the day's trial was adjourned.

"Mistress Whitlock, the court you has labored to bring you to acknowledge the error of your ways that so we might be merciful. The time now grows late. We shall therefore give you a little more time to think on it and therefore desire that you attend the court again in the morning."

As they walked away from the Meeting House, the crowd kept their distance, shying away as if they were lepers. No one would meet their eyes. Bella and Edward walked behind Alice and Jasper as they headed home.

Bella helped Alice prepare a meal which they ate slowly and mostly in silence. Each of them thought that this might be the last meal before – before what, they did not wish to speculate. But they knew no matter how boldly Alice had defended herself in court, there was little chance the elders would find her not guilty.

Alice and Jasper departed to spend one last night together before the verdict was rendered. Bella had spent a night like that herself once and knew the desperation to soak in each touch, each whisper, the feel of a kiss, hating the inexorable passing of time, resenting the breaking dawn.

They walked to the Meeting House in the morning, again in silence. Alice paused at the doorway. She took a deep breath and looked around at the stark tree limbs against the sky, then at the faces of those who loved her. She gave them all a smile despite the tears gathering in her eyes. She took another deep breath and stepped inside.

Waiting to testify was Lauren Mallory. Alice didn't even pause when she saw her but took her place on the first bench, folding her hands in her lap. Laruen glanced at her, and her face was crumpled with shame. Alice gave her a reassuring smile.

Lauren's testimony was reluctant and halting. She twisted her hands as she answered, and perhaps she lied when she repeated that she remembered very little of what Alice had actually said in the meetings. The elders grew visibly frustrated with her and abruptly dismissed her. Lauren cast Alice a look of apology as she stepped away.

Two more witnesses came, both men, but neither of them could state something specific Alice had said that was incendiary. They, too, were dismissed when the elders grew frustrated.

Perhaps this could have been the end of it, and Alice's punishment would have been slight. But suddenly Alice looked up, her eyes blazing. Her voice rang out to every corner of the Meeting House. "I fear nothing but God, and He has told me of these things, and I do believe that he will deliver me out of your hands. Take heed how you proceed against me — for I know that, for if you harm me, God will ruin you and your posterity and this whole state."

Shock and silence greeted these words. Bella's hands flew to her mouth and she gasped under her fingers, gasped in horror. No, Alice. My God, why did you do that?

Across the room, Edward's panicked eyes met hers.

"She has revealed herself," Bradford gloated. "Her contempt of this court is thus proven. It is now a necessity that we be rid of her, lest we be guilty of disobeying the gospel and our sins cause God to remove his blessings from this colony. I move that she be banished."

One of the elders looked startled. "I do not see any clear witness against her, and you know it is a rule of the court that no man may be a judge and an accuser too. There is no law of God that she has broken nor any law of the country that she has broke. She does not deserve the punishment."

But his vote was not enough to sway the majority.

Alice tried to raise the legalities one last, futile time. "I ask the reason for which I am banished."

Bradford's retort was short. "The court knows why and is satisfied."

The rest of the sentence was declared. As a heretic and instrument of Satan, Alice was declared unfit for their society. She would be detained until spring when she would be required to leave Plimouth. She would be held in Standish's house.

They took Alice by her arms and frog-marched her toward the door. She cast one last, long look over her shoulder at Jasper, who was openly sobbing and being held back by Edward.


"Why? Why did she do it?"

It was the thousandth time that question had been asked in the Cullen home and the thousandth time it had gone unanswered.

Bella was darning one of Edward's stockings. She pressed the ivory darning egg firmly into the toe and said nothing.

"Perhaps she knew there was nothing that could save her and wished to make them aware of the punishments God has in store for those who persecute innocent Christians," Esme offered. She was dressing Rose and carefully inserting the straight pins to keep her sleeves in place. As both she and Emmet were fully pot-trained, they now wore miniature versions of adult clothing.

Bella had heard that excuse from her multiple times before. "It was foolhardy."

"She was –"

Edward stopped the argument from resuming. "In any case, it happened and we now must live with the consequences."

"I had thought to end my days here," Esme said, "And be buried at the side of your father."

"We have no choice," Edward said. "If Alice is banished, we must go with her."

Bella stabbed her needle into the stocking. It skipped across the egg and stuck into her finger. She gasped at the sudden sharp pain and the welling spot of blood on her finger. The smell of blood permeated the air and Bella stopped breathing for a moment, knowing that she would be sick if she took another breath.

"Here." Edward dipped one of the kitchen towels into a pitcher of water and brought it over to Bella. He pressed it against her finger, hard.

Bella's anger had hardened into a hot ball of rage she carried with her in the pit of her stomach. The worst thing about it was she wasn't sure at whom it was directed. At Alice? At the elders who had engineered this situation?

Edward drew away the cloth and both of them saw that Bella's finger had stopped bleeding. Edward kissed the tip of it lightly and Bella melted into his arms.

She still had this.

If everything else was taken from her, she could survive if she still had this.

There was a tap at the door and Esme jumped to answer it before Bella or Edward could even move. Lauren Mallory stepped in. She had an empty basket in her arms. Her expression told them her mission had failed even before they asked. "I'm sorry," she said. "But they took the laundry from me at the door and searched it before they carried it upstairs to her."

Months had passed. They only had scraps of information. Alice was kept on the second floor of Standish's house. She wasn't permitted any communication from the outside world. Even the linens and warm clothing Bella had sent had been returned without comment. A doctor had visited the house several times but refused to answer any questions about the identity or wellbeing of his patient. The house was too well-guarded for Bella to attempt climbing to the roof, which had been their earlier plan.

Lauren Mallory had discovered who washed Alice's laundry and tried to bring it herself in hopes of getting at least a glimpse of her, possibly slipping a note into the pile of clean clothing if possible, but had been defeated.

"Our thanks to you, Lauren," Edward said. "You have been a true and loyal friend."

God knew, they needed loyal friends right now.

The winter was a terrible one with bitter cold and deep snows that kept them trapped inside the house for long periods. There was nothing to do but wait and worry, and even when her hands were occupied, Bella's mind was on the crisis they currently faced. She had wanted to leave, but not like this. Not hurriedly and anxiously.

Where would they go? That was the topic of many nights hunched by the fire, their hands cupped around cooling cups of mulled mead. Bella insisted she wanted to go as far as possible from Plimouth, to entirely escape the influence of the Brownists. That would mean attempting to reach New Amsterdam, the Dutch colony.

Edward laughed softly whenever that destination was mentioned because he thought of how his father would feel. Carlisle had left Amsterdam for the New World because of the Dutch influence on his children, only for Edward to plan return to them.

In February, Bella purchased two oxen and hired a man to build a large, sturdy cart. Edward and Jasper insisted on doing the heavy lifting while Esme and Bella packed the wooden crates full of as much household goods as they could fit. But much of the beautiful things Ward had purchased to make his mother's home comfortable couldn't be taken. Bella had realized that the moment she saw the wagon. Her books alone would have taken up most of the space.

She said goodbye to them one night when the rest of the family was asleep. She caressed the spines and inhaled the scent of their pages, rubbing the vellum between her fingers. She ran her fingers over the ducal crests on the covers and wept. These books had been meant to be a legacy passed down through her family line, proud treasures that proclaimed their noble lineage on their faces. And she could only take a few with her because space had to be reserved for provisions and the things they would need along the road.

She traced the carving on her wood furniture and wrapped the tapestries around her, as if feeling one final embrace from her son. She sat on the floor and traced the pattern on the carpets. She was a selkie and her kind didn't keep possessions, but it hurt to lose these things all the same, because they had been chosen for her with love.

Esme, too, was finding it hard to separate from Carlisle's things and the hope chest she had assembled with her mother. Bella could tell she was glad Alice was going to have a baby as a reason to take the clothing her mother had once prepared for a grandchild she would never see, love sewn into every seam.

Paring down her wardrobe was the easiest, for Bella had never cared about clothing. Edward eyed the pile of things Bella wasn't taking and asked if she intended to sell it to the townspeople, but something in Bella's expression made him refrain from further inquiry on the topic. She simply said she'd handle it.

She knew the townspeople were excited about the breakup of their household and the prospect of snatching up the luxurious goods of Bella Cullen. They expected her to be desperate enough to sell them cheaply and Bella knew there were quite a few women already picturing themselves swanning around in her dresses. She even heard a snippet of conversation on the street about how Mrs. Bradford intended to arrange the furniture in her home.

Bella had to keep reminding herself that there was no point in anger. She had to focus on the fact they were finally escaping this place and on her hopes for their new life. But that hot ball of lead burned in her gut, always there, to painful to be ignored.


Alice was set to be released the first of March. The whole family arrived at Standish's house before dawn, prepared to wait as long as it took. Jasper was trembling, his breaths ragged. Bella put a hand on his arm to steady him and pulled Esme close to her side. There was an unspoken fear among them that they wouldn't release her after all.

The door opened and there was a soft gasp from someone as they waited to see who would emerge. A handful of Standishes guards tromped down the steps and turned back toward the opening. And then, there she was, pale and hidden beneath a shawl, her face glimpsed only in peeks from beneath the fabric. They rushed over to her, bumping into one another in their haste. Edward pushed aside the men who had escorted her out, but surprisingly, none of the guards reacted to this rude and arrogant behavior.

They instinctively surrounded her, shielding her with their bodies. Alice didn't speak as they hustled her away as quickly as possible, not even daring to stop for hugs, not until they'd gotten inside the house and barred the door behind them.

The hug that commenced became a tangled and confused mass of arms as everyone embraced her all at once, Alice somewhere in the middle. Everyone cried and everyone laughed. Everyone laid a hand on Alice's belly. She was almost six months along now, but she was so thin she was barely showing. Her face was drawn and pale with dark purple circles beneath her eyes.

"Sit, sit," Bella ordered and they put Alice into a chair by the fire. Esme brought over a bowl of the stew that had been cooking over the fire since the small hours of the morning in the expectation of her return. Alice took a spoonful and groaned. "I missed this."

"It looks as though they didn't feed you there." Esme's voice was sharp with anger.

"They did. Mostly pottage and bread." Bella saw that she was avoiding the chunks of meat and was chewing tiny bites of bread with care. The knuckles of her hands were swollen.

Esme put a cushion under her feet. Edward kept refilled her cup of mulled wine after every sip. Jasper kept tucking and rearranging a blanket over Alice's knees. It was anxious, but it was joyful.

After she finished her food, they tucked Alice into bed in what had become Esme's room. Edward moved the trundle bed into his and Bella's room for the night.

Bella brought a small tray with her when she went upstairs. On it was a steaming mug and a small pottery jug. She broke the wax seal around the edges of the lid and popped it off, offering the jar and spoon to Alice. "Eat this, as much as you can."

Alice poked at it. "Preserves?"

"Yes, raspberry preserves. Not as good as fresh, but 'twill have to suffice for now. And for the other." She handed Alice the cup.

Alice sniffed it and glanced up at Bella in surprise. "It smells like a pine tree."

"You probably don't remember when you were so ill a few winters ago and I gave you some herbs?"

Alice frowned. "Some, not much."

"Are your teeth loose?"

Alice nodded. "I thought it was because of the baby. My mother used to say a woman lost a tooth with each child she brought into the world."

Bella refrained from sighing. Humans had the worst nutrition and it took such a horrible toll on their bodies. The doctors advised pregnant women to eat red meat and avoid vegetables and fruits which had "cold humors."

"And I can tell your joints are swollen. This would not have happened if they had fed you properly."

Alice's hand flew to her belly and Bella hastened to assure her before she could even ask. "You will be well in a week or so. We just need to give your body what it lacks. One of the medicines I gave you when you were ill so long ago was this."

"Pine tree?"

"White pine needles, to be precise. Boiled in water with a little honey added for taste. This is what will help set your teeth back in place and heal the sores. The preserves might help a bit too, so I thought why not?"

Alice sipped at the cup cautiously, then took a bigger swallow when she found it was not unpleasant. "At this point, I just trust you know what you're doing and don't ask for it to make sense that drinking tree juice would help with my loose teeth."

"Good girl. Harken to me and your babe will be fat and hearty." She fluffed the pillow behind Alice and smoothed the blankets over her knowing that her hands needed something to do, some way to care.

"Otherwise the babe has been well?"

Alice rubbed her hand over her stomach again. "As far as I could tell. I started feeling her kick two months ago. I used to sing to her – the baby feels like a her to me – I would sing because there was little else to do in there. She helped me feel less lonely. I could talk to her when it started to feel like I would lose my wits."

"We tried to get messages to you."

Alice nodded. "I knew you would. I knew you must be in anguish. But there was no way. They kept me in an attic room with no windows. I saw daylight only through the cracks in the wall, though I began to hate those cracks as the winter winds came. I never left that room for five entire months. The only people I saw were those who came to bring me food and take away my chamber pot and they never spoke. Except for James."

Bella gasped. "James?"

"He was one of my guards, and 'twas a duty he relished. He would bring my food sometimes and grin at me, a wide gleeful grin and encourage me to eat it so I knew he'd done something to it. He would then report to Bradford that I was starving myself. To make it easier on them if I … well. Thankfully he wasn't always the one on duty. I know what the Bible says and I try to pray for him, but there's a dark spot in my heart that won't allow it."

"There is a similar one in mine," Bella said. "But you are free now and soon we'll be rid of him and quit of this awful place. May God smite it to its foundations."

"Where are we going?"

"New Amsterdam."

"The Dutch?" Alice said this in the same tone she would have if Bella had suggested they go live with the penguins of the ice lands.

"Aye, the too-tolerant Dutch who drove your father away with their abominable freedom," Bella said wryly.

"But all of your lands! Your house! You have -"

Bella waved a hand. "That can be dealt with later. My grants are not tied to the colony. I can sell them when we've decided on a spot to settle."

"A new home," Alice mused. "And a new life."

"I will be frank when I say there are aspects of this life I hope you will leave behind."

Alice looked as though she was going to argue but settled back among the pillows and sipped her drink.

"Why did you do it?" Bella asked quietly. "I need to ask you that."

Alice seemed to know immediately to what Bella was referring.

"I've thought about it a lot." Alice took a spoon full of preserves and let it rest in her mouth for a moment before she swallowed, reveling in its flavor. " 'Twas not intentional. I felt it in my heart, so strongly. It was all I could hear ringing in my ears. This colony will suffer for the injustice they did to me. I did not curse them. I just … revealed what I was told. It was as though the words grew heavier in me, an unbearable weight, and when I finally said them, the feeling of relief was …" Her voice trailed off and she tossed her hands as if from the frustration of being unable to find the words.

" 'Twas no relief for us," Bella said and Alice flinched. "We mused for months over why you would have chosen to make the situation worse. But in the end, we always concluded it didn't matter. They would have found you guilty regardless and we still would have seen you imprisoned. All we can do is deal with the consequences."

"And for that I truly am sorry." Alice turned the empty cup in her hands. "For my part, I do not shirk the consequences of my decisions, but I deeply regret the pain they've caused to those I love."

And Bella could not help but love her despite occasionally wanting to shake Alice until her teeth rattled.


The final morning of packing and preparing was interrupted multiple times by knocks at the door as the neighbors offered their coin for the things the Cullens would be unable to take. Bella's jaw grew tighter and finally she just refused to answer the knocks. She could feel the glances of everyone in the family but they didn't ask about the piles of discarded goods in the corners, or why she was refusing to sell.

They loaded the last things onto wagon, packing it until its sides were groaning. The two oxen were brought out and yoked to the front. They were placid-looking strong beasts, and after Bella had a long chat with them, they were content to pull the wagon, despite how heavy it was.

The townsfolk had been gathering in the street since dawn, watching them pack the last of it into place. Bella was handing up a small box when Lauren arrived. She was dressed in sturdy brown wool with her heaviest cloak over her shoulders. Behind her, she pulled a two-wheeled cart.

"I'm coming with you," she announced.

"Lauren ... Are you sure?" Alice asked. "We don't know what we'll find on the road, nor what will happen when we reach New Amsterdam. There could be great hardship."

"Whatever you build there, I want to be a part of it." Lauren parked her cart at the side of the road. "Now, how can I help?"

"You can help me with my cart," another woman called as she tried to yank her cart from a hole in the street.

They looked up to see a small group of people heading toward them, some with carts, some with large bundles tied to their own backs, or that of mules. Bella recognized many faces of those who had attended Alice's meetings.

Tears gathered in Alice's eyes and she went over to embrace them one by one, and ask each of them if they were sure. The elders gathered in front of the Meeting House grumbled quietly among themselves and glared in Alice's direction.

At the sight of Bradford, Bella's jaw clenched. "I'll be but a moment."

Edward thought she was going to say goodbye to the house one last time. "All right, love. A few moments. But we must get started down the road."

Bella took a lantern from Esme. "This won't take long."

She emerged from the house before Edward had finished tying down the last straps. "Are you ready?" he asked.

She nodded. "On to our next journey. I know not where it will take us but –"

"Fire!" screamed a woman across the street. All eyes turned to her and she was pointing at Bella's house. "Fire!"

Edward turned to look and saw a heavy plume of smoke pouring from the doorway. He instinctively pushed Bella behind him and stared, open-mouthed. Flames danced in every window.

"You didn't sell to Bradford?" he said to Bella.

Bella tilted up her chin. "I did not. I would rather see it all in ashes."

She turned around and pulled the front door shut and locked it, then dropped the key into her pocket.

Bella walked to the head of the oxen and laid her hand on the cheek of one of the enormous beasts. They started forward, down the street toward the gate. They passed the elders who stood at the foot of the path to the Meeting House. Bella barely restrained herself from spitting on the ground at their feet.

The guards opened the gates for them ... and then they were free.

As some of you may have guessed Alice's character is based on Anne Hutchison. Mush of the trial dialogue is lifted from the transcript of the real trial, slightly re-worded for clarity.