A knock sounded on my door later that evening.
"Come in," I said, glancing up from my book.
Mom and Dad entered my room. Try as I did to remind them that I wasn't a child in need of being tucked in, they insisted on it anyway.
"Just coming to say goodnight," Dad said, as he'd said every night since I could remember. He gave me the traditional hug, and then left the room. I frowned. That was not traditional. He usually waited until my mom had said her good nights, and then they would leave together. He and Mom exchanged a long glance before he shut the door behind him.
"Mom? What's going on?" I asked. My mind raced with possibilities that might explain an expression like the one she was wearing.
"I wanted to finish what I started telling you a few weeks ago," she said.
I felt my anxiety levels building. "Okay."
She sighed and took a seat on my desk chair. I sank to the side of my bed without consciously choosing to.
"So…you remember telling me about Dad leaving for my safety?"
I nodded mutely.
"And you remember me telling you that that was when I became friends with Jacob?"
I nodded again.
"It was clear from the beginning that he always wanted more."
"More than friendship."
I stared blankly. That simply wasn't possible. Jacob? My mother? "What?" I choked.
She bit her lip. "Let me explain."
I nodded again, anxious to understand. It couldn't be as bad as it sounded…could it? There had to be some reasonable, rational explanation for this…this…insane, outlandish idea. Jacob couldn't like my mom. Not that way.
"We were friends for several months when your Aunt Alice showed up at my door one day, terrified because she thought I'd killed myself."
"She thought you'd what?" This story was getting crazier with every sentence.
"She'd seen a vision of me jumping off a cliff, and then everything going black."
I stared at her. "You…you jumped off a cliff? What would possess you to jump off a cliff?"
She smiled sheepishly. "Cliff-diving."
"Oh," I said understandingly, and then paused as she looked at me curiously. I pursed my lips and thought quickly. "Yeah, Quil and Embry have told me about it." Actually, they'd done a little more than that. They'd taken me cliff-diving twice while we'd lived in Washington.
She continued. "Jacob and I had gotten into all kinds of crazy extreme sports. It was sort of a form of revenge. I had promised your dad to stay safe before he left, and I…wanted to break the promise."
I rolled my eyes. What a human.
She half-smiled. "I know. Anyway, I got a call one day. It turned out to be your dad, pretending to be Carlisle, asking for Charlie. He was at Harry Clearwater's funeral at the time, so when he heard that he was at a funeral. Aunt Rose told your dad, who–"
I gasped. "Dad assumed it was yours."
She nodded sadly.
I hated to imagine the pain that would cause him. The image of Rob's face upon hearing that Adelaide had planned to kill herself flashed into my mind, followed by an image of that pain on my father's face... I banished it instantly. It was too horrible, too painful to imagine. I suddenly wanted to hug him again.
Mom paused. It was clear that it pained her to talk about it. "He flew to Volterra."
I gasped again, a hand flying to my throat. "No…he wouldn't." He would.
"When we got back…well, there was a lot of tension between Jacob and your dad." That explained a lot. "Jacob realized before I did."
She bit her lip again. "That we were in love."
I couldn't breathe. It took me several minutes to be able to think enough to speak. "Y-You were in…what?" The last word came out as a screech.
I jumped to my feet, suddenly frantic. I had to have heard wrong. That was impossible. "What did you just say?"
"Jacob and I were in love."
This was all wrong. Things like that just didn't happen. I'd always known that Mom and Jacob had had some kind of bond, but it couldn't be that. She had to be lying. That was completely impossible. No. I refused to accept this. "You say that you and Jacob were in love…so…he loved you too?"
I got to my feet and left the room. I needed air. This was too much. It was too impossible.
I whirled around at the sound of Jacob's voice, suddenly furious. My vision began to go red. Before I even really knew what I was doing, I drew my hand back and slapped him with all my strength across the face.
The shock was instantaneous. The look on his face would have crushed me if it weren't for my all-consuming rage. The skin on my palm tingled with the impact. I stood there in shock for a moment, shaking, not quite able to believe...well, anything.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tara, who was washing the dishes with Grandma Esme, drop a glass in shock. It shattered on the floor, punctuating the intensely awkward silence.
"Nessie!" It was Dad's voice this time. He was just as floored as I was. He didn't need to ask what was wrong; the conversation was playing through my head, as though some sadist had stuck it on repeat.
"So, you thought you'd just bide your time with me to get back to my mother?" I screamed at Jacob, rediscovering my rage. "Was I the ticket? Is that why you came with us?"
"This is my cue," Leah murmured from the living room, vanishing from the room.
"Right behind you," Embry said, following quickly. Seth and Quil trailed after him.
"No, Nessie," Jacob said, his voice soft and pained. "I–"
"Just shut up!" And then I was running. I heard my family calling out to me, but none of it mattered. I just needed to get away.
I was barely a half a mile into the forest when I stopped, unable go any further. Not from exhaustion, of course; I could have run all night without tiring, but I was too upset to keep going, and far too angry to go back. I stumbled to a fallen log and sat down, wrapping my arms tight around my stomach as pain burned furiously through every cell in my body. I wasn't sure how long I sat there for. I was only aware of two things: the tremendous pain that tore through me, and that Jacob Black, my Jacob, did not, had not and never would love me.
All of the crushing and blushing... I had made such a fool of myself.
I buried my face in my hands and took several deep breaths to ward off the tears threatening to take form.
When I finally returned home, I was grateful to find that my family had scattered to different parts of the house. I couldn't bear to deal with them, not now. As I headed for the second floor, I stopped dead as I saw Jacob. He sat dejectedly at the top of the stairs, his shoulders hunched. I felt a twinge of guilt at causing him such pain. No, I told myself firmly as I fought the urge to run to him. He's at fault here.
He looked up when the door closed. "Nessie," he said with relief that sent another wave of tears cascading down my cheeks.
Being alone with Jacob now felt very different from the way it had before. I was almost afraid, but mostly angry.
"No!" I said, stopping him before he could try to explain. "Whatever it is, I don't want to hear it."
"You need to hear it."
I laughed a cruel, bitter laugh. "Yeah, I'll bet you've got a great story all worked up. Wait, no! I've got it! You're going to say, 'No, I swear I meant to tell you! It just slipped my mind.'" I said, trying to imitate his voice.
He lowered his eyes.
"So what was your plan, then?" I said, my voice raising a pitch.
"There was no plan! I–"
"Convince her that if you were good enough for me, you were good enough for her?"
"Settle for the daughter if you can't get the mother?
"That's enough!" he snapped suddenly. "I did not settle for you, Renesmee Cullen. I did not use you to get Bella. I'm not in love with Bella. I did not leave my family in La Push to come live in a house full of reeking vamps for Bella. I did all that for you."
I snorted. "Right. Like I'm supposed to believe that."
"Did you even let Bella get far enough to tell you that I imprinted on you the first time I saw you?"
I faltered. I would have been flattered and jubilant at this moment in any other circumstance. But this wasn't any other circumstance.
"That's right, Nessie, you. Not Bella. It was always about you."
I paused and processed that for a moment. But that couldn't be true. He just didn't want to argue.
"Why do you keep lying to me?" I demanded, taking a step forward furiously. "Don't you think you've done enough?"
He threw his hands up in defeat. "You are completely beyond reason!"
"I'm beyond reason?" I snarled. "You are shameless, Jacob!" I flew up the stairs to my room. As soon as I had slammed the door behind me, I threw myself down on my bed. If I never saw his face again, it would be too soon.
She'd known all along! She'd watched my feelings for him grow, she had even defended my feelings to Dad, and she hadn't even bothered to warn me about where Jacob's feelings really were. I was angry and disappointed, but I couldn't hate her the way I hated Jacob right now, not my mother. I loved her far too much for that. She'd given up her human life for me. She'd been ready to die for me.
I groaned and rolled over, trying to bury the pain and humiliation beneath something, anything else to think about. I searched for somewhere to put it, to keep it at bay to deal with at another time. Anything to fall asleep, to leave reality far, far behind.
I looked at the wolf pendant Jacob had given me for my fourth birthday sitting on my nightstand. I picked it up and studied it. A part of me longed to crush it, to throw it away and forget him, but the rest of me needed it. I needed it to remember the way things had been, to remember when there weren't confusing emotions ruining everything, when there wasn't imprinting or almost-kisses or kind-of love.
Why did things have to change?
* * *
Sunday passed utterly uneventfully. Dad and the pack kept Jacob from the house for the whole day, and Aunt Rose found ways to entertain me to keep my mind off of him.
I didn't sleep well that night. When I did finally fall asleep, it was early Monday morning. Mom woke me for school, as she would have any other morning, but she was hesitant this morning. I couldn't stay angry at her, but Jacob on the other hand…
"Good morning, Nessie," Adelaide said with a smile as I entered the kitchen. She stood by the breakfast bar, drinking her morning cup of coffee. I saw the worry in her eyes. "Are you…are you okay?"
"Perfect," I lied.
"'Morning," Rob half-growled. I looked at him in surprise, curious as to where the tone was coming from. He threw the fridge door open and retrieved one of the packages of blood that we kept chilled in a separate compartment. Grandpa Carlisle had brought supplies home from the hospital. He didn't think it would be a good idea for the Winters to hunt with the possibility of the Volturi coming at any time. Aunt Alice hadn't seen anything yet, but they had found loopholes in her powers long ago, so nothing was ever certain.
Adelaide rolled her eyes. "At least get a cup for that."
He lowered the packet and glared at her venomously. "Really? Are you going to try to dictate how I'm going to drink, too?"
"Why must you insist on being so ridiculous about everything?" she asked, slamming her mug down on the granite counter top, her blue eyes sparking with irritation. "You are so bloody histrionic!"
"I'm ridiculous about everything? I'm not the one–"
"WILL YOU TWO PLEASE SHUT UP?!"
It was only when they both looked at me in shock that I realized that the outburst had come from me. I looked around the kitchen. Aunt Rose had frozen in mid-pancake flip, Tara was gaping at me, her cereal spoon stopped half way between her mouth and the bowl, and Ian had come to a standstill in the middle of the room.
"S-Sorry," Adelaide stuttered. "I didn't mean–"
"No, don't apologize," I growled. "I don't know why I said that." I hurried out of the room before I could do anything else.
Great. Now I was snapping at my friends.
* * *
"All right, extremely tall boy–" said Mr. Wilkes, gesturing to Jacob, "And Nessie, you take that far right side and…Melina and Alice, you go with them."
I took my position stiffly, snatching the volleyball Jacob had retrieved for our group and prepared to serve. The sophomore and junior fourth-period gym classes had been combined for today, as the junior teacher was out with a sprained neck.
"Now I don't want to see any more palm-slaps," Mr. Wilkes said from the front of the room. "Got it? All right, let's go."
"Hey Jacob," said Melina in a sickeningly flirtatious voice.
Jacob glanced at her briefly. "Hi."
"So…you looked pretty good at the game on Saturday."
I was about to spring at her and tear her throat out when Aunt Alice gave me a deadly glance. "Take a breath and calm down," she said, her tone gentle but firm. "We don't want to make a spectacle." Melina seemed to take no notice. She and Jeff would be perfect for each other.
I grit my teeth and forced myself to stop imagining ripping her apart limb by limb. I bumped the ball to her extreme left and watched with satisfaction as she dove in an attempt to volley it back, and failed. A small, smug smile turned up the corners of my lips.
Jacob snorted. "Nice shot," he murmured.
I ignored him.
* * *
I rolled my eyes as Jacob's voice came from the other side of the door. He opened it before I could say anything. "Nessie, can we talk?"
My teeth clenched instinctively. "Get out of my room, Jacob."
"Can I just explain?"
"What more could you possibly have to say to me?"
He sighed. "Nessie…please try to understand…"
"Understand what? How you used me? I got that part, Jacob. Believe it or not, I'm not completely dense. Now get out. I have better things to do than listen to your pitiful excuses and your lies."
He sighed. "Can we please just discuss this?"
My anger took over. Papers flew into the air as I jumped to my feet. "Get out, you stupid mongrel!" I shouted. "Aunt Rose was right all along, you're just a brainless mutt! I never should have let you get to me! Go back to La Push! I never want to see your face again, do you understand me? I hate you!"
The pain on his face stole my breath away. I felt the pieces of my already-broken heart shatter. It took all the restraint I had not to fall to my knees and weep, but my anger was stronger.
"Please don't ask me to do that, Nessie. Please," he said in a soft, agonized voice.
"LEAVE!" I screamed in rage. I grabbed a glass candle holder off of my shelf and hurled it at him.
He side-stepped quickly. The candle-holder slammed into the wall, indenting it and shattering into a thousand tiny pieces. He looked at me for a moment, a tear rolling down his cheek, and then left without another word.
I took absolutely still for a few seconds, still not entirely able to comprehend what I'd just done, and then slammed the door shut. I glanced at the clock. It was already eleven-thirty. I threw back my covers and climbed in after dressing in my pajamas and brushing my teeth. I needed desperately for this day to end.
I woke up the following morning in a far pleasanter state of mind, despite the fact that I'd had barely over half an hour's worth of sleep. I'd been a complete idiot the other night, and I realized it now. I'd been unfair to him. If I couldn't punish my mother for falling in love with Jacob, how could I punish Jacob for falling in love with my mother?
I performed my morning routine quickly and raced down the stairs. I had to find him. I had to tell him that I had been wrong about everything, and that I loved him. I skidded to a stop as I passed the living room. Everyone was sitting stiffly, their eyes following me. Panic began to set in as I registered the looks on their faces. Was this about the Volturi? Had they decided to come for us?
"Good morning, Nessie," said Grandpa Carlisle in a subdued, almost sympathetic tone. "Did you sleep well?"
I glanced around suspiciously. "Y-Yeah, pretty well, thanks. Um, have any of you seen Jake this morning? I really need to talk to him."
Dad rose, looking at me sadly. "Nessie…Jacob's not here."
I paused. "Why? Is he hunting or something? I can wait."
"No, he's not hunting," Dad said. "Nessie, you told him to leave.""What, that? I was just mad," I said dismissively. Jacob knew that. He knew me better than I knew me half the time.
"He…left last night. As soon as he left your room, he packed his things and left. The pack went with him, of course."
I stared at him. "What do you mean, 'left'?"
"He returned to La Push with no intention of coming back."
Dad and his stupid jokes. "Come on, Dad. I know you and Jacob don't get along all the time, but that's not funny."
His eyes tightened. "I wish I were joking, Nessie."
He was serious? How could he be serious? Jacob wouldn't do that. Jacob knew when I was just being stupid and when I was being serious. I stood absolutely still for a moment, not even daring to breathe.
"He didn't want you to make you unhappy."
This was too horrible to be real. Jacob, my Jacob…gone? The idea was so foreign. My Jacob had always been there, from the time I'd been a child, always. He wouldn't leave now, not just because I'd said something angrily. After everything we'd been through together, he wouldn't go after something stupid like that, would he?
Of course he would. He'd thought I'd meant what I'd said last night in my foolish, childish anger, and he would never make me unhappy intentionally.
The weight of what I had done threatened to choke the life out of me as I fled for the door. I had to run. I had to go after him. I had to tell him I'd been wrong. I'd been stupid about everything. So what if he'd loved Mom once upon a time? She'd chosen Dad. What difference did it make now? He would never try to steal her away from Dad, especially not now that she was a vampire. Had my anger really blinded me so much that I hadn't been able to see something so blatantly obvious?
Apparently it had.
My chest felt like it was on fire with a combination of panic, pain and horror. Finding out about Jacob and my mother had been heartbreaking. Shouting at Jacob had been painful. His pain had been more agonizing still. But this? This was unbearable. A horrible, searing, unquenchable, stomach-wrenching, skull-splitting torture filled my senses.
I was sinking, falling slowly into blackness. I reached out for something, anything, that would slow my fall. My hands closed around air.
And then it was silent.
* * *
When I opened my eyes, Dad was glaring down at me. "Don't you ever do that again." I blinked several times and tried to sit up. Dad pushed me back down. "Don't even think about it."
"You passed out," he informed me tersely. "You didn't eat at all yesterday and you've barely been sleeping. Don't think we don't notice," he said, taking in the surprise on my face. "You need to take care of yourself, Nessie."
I turned my head to see Mom, Grandma Esme, Aunt Rose and Aunt Alice standing over me as well. Uncle Jasper, Uncle Emmett, Adelaide, Ian, Rob and Tara were standing towards the door. This was not what I needed right now.
"Serves you right," Dad said in response to my thought. "You terrified us."
"No, she's right," Mom said. I only noticed now that she was holding my hand. "She needs some space, everyone," she said over her shoulder.
I flew to my feet suddenly. I needed to be alone. I didn't need my family hanging over me.
"Where are you going?" Dad asked. His tone wasn't angry, as I'd expected it would be, but fearful.
"To my room." I closed the door to my room behind me. I stood in front of the door for a long time, pain locking my joints.
Day lapsed into night. I was barely aware of the change. It didn't matter what time it was. His absence was like a horrible weight that I was unable to escape, threatening to sink me into oblivion. I was barely aware of anything else. I heard Mom and Dad speaking in low, concerned tones several times throughout the day, but I couldn't seem to bring myself to care what they were talking about. Adelaide and Rob were shouting at each other now, probably clashing over some mundane, irrelevant detail.
I finally wandered my way over to the wide window overlooking the sprawling yard behind the house and the forest bordering the property. I remembered hunting in the woods with Jacob. Our walks together. Our almost-kiss. Our hunting expeditions. I opened the window and leaned against the sill, inhaling the cool night air. The cold air travelling through my lungs was a welcomed relief in comparison to the constant burn radiating from the hole located at the centre of my chest.
I glanced down the four-storey drop and briefly considered jumping. I doubted that it'd hurt me, but it'd provide me with an escape from all of these people constantly hovering over me.
"I brought you some dinner."
I turned around. Aunt Rose stood at the door, a plate overflowing with food on it. "I made your favourites."
My stomach clenched. I was starving. I couldn't remember the last time I'd eaten, but those were his favourites, too.
"Nessie?" He'd come up with that name.
The pain intensified. I sank down into the chair beside my desk.
Mom bit her lip. "Nessie, what's wrong?"
I frowned slightly. Wasn't it incredibly obvious?
Dad and Aunt Alice appeared now. Great. Just what I needed: more people.
"Don't you ever think about jumping again," he said firmly.
Mom looked at him briefly, confused.
"That window is not there for you to do stupid things like that. If you ever think about that again, I will have every window in this house barred."
Could he even find enough bars to cover all the windows we have? I thought randomly.
"Try me," he hissed. He glanced at Mom now, who was staring at me, horrified.
"Are you…are you really thinking about killing yourself?" she asked in a broken whisper. I heard hisses of horror coming from downstairs as soon as she said it. "Answer me, please," Mom said.
I looked at her again. "No, I'm not." I sighed and looked away. "You don't understand," I muttered.
"I think I do."
"How could you possibly understand?"
She bit her lip and cautioned a very quick glance at Dad, almost too quick to notice. Oh right. That.
Dad looked away, his face suddenly agonized. Apparently he'd noticed.
I glanced at Aunt Alice. Her eyes had become distant with a memory. Dad was wincing with each memory.
"Nessie, he just wanted to make you happy. It's not worth ending your life," she told me.
I rolled my eyes. "I'm not suicidal." I looked away, swallowing. He should have known that the only way I could be happy, ever, was if he was with me. He was a part of me, as much as my family was. More. He was the other half of everything. My family was part of my half, but it was still useless without him. He was what I needed, more than anything. Nothing made sense like this.
I saw Dad becoming more and more distressed with each new thought. I tried to stop thinking about the pain for his sake. Please, Dad, I just need to be alone.
His expression hardened into a mild glare. "Promise me you aren't planning anything stupid."
He turned back.
I chewed on my lip. "Can't we go after him? It was all a misunderstanding. I just want him back."
Mom sighed. "Nessie, I think between the two of us, we've put him through enough."
I looked at her now. "What do you mean, 'between the two of us'?"
It was her turn to bite her lip. "I've hurt him, too; very deeply, and more times than I care to count. And now this…I don't think it'd be very fair to him to ask to him to come back now. I think you should give him some time. I don't think you quite understand how deeply you hurt him, Nessie. He only wanted to explain. You could have at least let him do that much. You're my daughter, and I love you, but you had no right to treat him like that, hon."
I closed my eyes and tucked my knees up to my chest, laying my forehead against them. "I know," I whispered.
"Let's go," Dad said quietly after a moment. He and my mother and my aunts left.
The silence that was left in their wake was both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I could finally wallow. On the other, the pain seemed to intensify. I felt my nails digging into my palms as I clenched my fists, but it was almost a relief in comparison with the raging, screaming anguish that blazed inside me like an insatiable flame. I had never been in this much pain, not when I'd thought that I would never see my mother and father again on that horrible, snowy day in the meadow so long ago, or that even more horrific day not so long ago when I'd sent my Jacob away.
I stared at the ceiling blankly. I wasn't sure how long I'd stared for when my eyes finally began to drift shut.
I was lying in a gorgeous green meadow. The sun shone clear and beautiful above me, the perfect aqua sky completely cloudless. That was definitely rare for Forks, Washington. My skin glistened faintly in the warm golden rays.
I sat up slowly, basking in the sunlight. It was both pleasing and strange. I'd not seen much of the sun in my life thus far. I saw now that the meadow was surrounded by trees. The emerald green grass was dotted with bursts of colour, provided by sporadic flowers. Even they seemed to be enjoying this rare glimpse of heaven. They seemed to have opened their petals wider, to soak in as much nutrition as they could before the clouds closed in again and stole the sun away.
It was completely and utterly perfect.
My ears caught the sound of laughter rolling towards me from the western side of the meadow. I stood slowly. I knew that laugh. I'd known it all my life. It was the laugh that brought a smile to my face reflexively.
I heard him long before I saw him. He was just as vividly wonderful in dream-form as he was in reality. He was still laughing, his face light with humour. My heart soared instantly. "Jacob!" I cried, racing towards him.
His dark eyes finally rested on me. My heart skipped a beat in response. His smile slowly faded. "Nessie," he said solemnly.
That brought me up short. I stopped immediately. "Jacob?" I said it as a question now. My Jacob didn't look at me like that.
Suddenly, Melina was at his side. He glanced down at her with his perfect smile, his smile that had always been just for me. He wrapped one strong arm around her and kissed the top of her head.
A horror-struck gasp escaped my lips.
It seemed enough to attract their attention. Melina looked at me, and then at Jacob. "What's she doing here?"
Jacob looked at me again, his glittering black eyes growing cold as he looked at me. "I don't know. She made her choice."
I awoke with a start. The pain was mixed with a red-hot fury. I was furious that no one had told me. I was furious that he would have actually listened to me. Most of all, I was furious with myself.
I shot off my bed and threw the first thing I could find, not even stopping long enough to see what it was. I tore my room apart in minutes. I was in the middle of ripping out each drawer in my dresser when something flew out. I caught it easily and examined it for a moment. It was the braided promise bracelet that Jacob had given me for my first Christmas.
The pain rushed back, cooling the fury like a gush of ice water. I crumpled to my knees in the middle of the devastation, completely overwhelmed. As I began to cry, I wished more than anything to take back what I'd done, to prevent me from having to bear this for the rest of time. I wished more than anything to be mortal.