Staring out at the trees surrounding me, I decided Jake was right; I did love the forest. It was so green, with so many different shades; dark green and light green and army green and an almost fluoro green. I couldn't pick a favourite, because all of the colours mixing together was so much nicer than one just on its own. I was, however, sure now that green was my favourite colour.
'Do you like it?' Jake asked from next to me. I nodded, smiling softly.
'Yes. It's beautiful.' I replied, once again glancing around from my seated position. I couldn't seem to sit still, my eyes darting around wildly as I struggled to choose something to focus on. There was so much, almost too much; after spending god knows how long in a hospital bed, this was a nearly overwhelming change. It was worth it though, despite the confusion. Worth it to see something other than white wash walls and to smell the fresh air instead of the stuffy, sterile air inside. It would have been even better if I could walk through the trees, but that wasn't going to happen anytime soon; so far, my one attempt at standing had gone very badly. Jake had had to carry me downstairs to see this, which I had almost enjoyed. He was so warm, and so much bigger than me; I had easily curled up to him. But as nice it had been, I couldn't shake an urge to start walking again as soon as possible. There was just something about being so disabled that felt… wrong.
'What are you thinking about?' He asked quietly. I sighed.
'Everything. I'm just… trying to figure it all out.' Almost subconsciously I found myself pressing my fingers against my temples. 'It's all so confusing. There's so much I don't know, and what I do know doesn't make sense. And yet I still want to know more. I've still got so many questions…'
'It'll get better.' Jake replied.
'Will it?' I murmured, and I couldn't hide the dubiousness from my voice. In the corner of my eye, I saw Jake throw me a sad and sympathetic look.
'You need to give it time.'
'Do I have time, though?' I said, finally managing to tear my eyes away from the captivating forest to meet Jake's surprised gaze.
'I feel like I don't. I feel like if I don't figure it all out soon, if I don't heal soon, then I never will. Like I've got a time limit or something, but one I don't know about.'
'Thea…' Jake seemed stunned, lost for words as he stared at me.
'You'd tell me, wouldn't you? You'd tell me if something was going to happen?'
'I…' Jake paused for a moment, his eyebrows furrowing as he tried to think of a response. 'I honestly don't know. It would depend on a lot of things. But I can tell you truthfully now that there is nothing for you to worry about. There was something… before…' He winced, remembering. 'But that's gone now. Now, there is nothing that can hurt you.'
There was no hiding the resolution in his voice. I couldn't not believe him, not the way he said the words; with determination, with pain, with a touch of anger that he was trying to restrain. He said them so convincingly, too.
It was only hours after that it occurred to me to wonder who exactly he was trying to convince; me or him.
'How did you become a werewolf?'
'Technically, I'm a shapeshifter.'
'How did you become a shapeshifter then?'
'It's in my blood. I inherited the gene from my great-grandfather.'
'So you were born a shapeshifter?'
'Not exactly.' I felt my face twist with confusion at Jake's words.
'I didn't know I was a shapeshifter until I phased for the first time at sixteen.'
'Oh.' I said, thinking over the rest of his words.
'Wait, what do you mean you didn't know?'
'I mean I had no idea I wasn't human until one day I exploded into a wolf.' I gaped at him.
'Yeah. Especially since my own dad knew it was going to happen, and didn't tell me.'
'Would you believe it if someone told you out of the blue you were a werewolf?'
'I don't think I'm the best person to ask that.' Jake raised an eyebrow.
'Well, I'm accepting that everything you're telling me is true. I don't have any way to know otherwise. If you told me I was a werewolf… who knows, I might actually believe you.'
'I kind of remembered being half vampire. You'd think I would have remembered being a werewolf too.'
'You'd hope so.' Jake paused for a moment, his gaze fierce as it held my own.
'You know I am telling you the truth, don't you? I could never… I would never lie about any of this.' His eyes were almost pleading as he waited for my answer.
And I did. I did know. Somehow, I knew he was telling me the truth. To be honest, until now it hadn't occurred to me to think otherwise.
There was just something about Jake – I didn't know what – that made me trust him.
Thea was different now. No more did she ask me question after question, trying to learn and understand and remember the most basic of facts about her life. The questions were slow now, and harder to answer, no longer as simple as the ones she had first bombarded me with. But that wasn't what bothered me, what stood out.
It was the silence that had me on edge.
She was quiet so often now, her questions almost rare. Instead of talking, she spent all her time thinking, and I didn't blame her; I couldn't imagine how hard and confusing it must be to relearn everything you ever knew. I was willing – more than willing – to give her whatever and however long she needed. And yet, the quietness still bothered me.
Her silence bothered me. Hell, it was almost painful. Not having her voice in my ear to remind me that she was indeed alive and awake; I had to constantly look her over to reassure myself. And then there was the fact that her voice had been such a much needed distraction; without it, my mind was all to free to think over everything that had happened.
And I did not want to think.
Thinking hurt. Thinking reminded me of awful memories, terrible visions, that I wanted to forget. Thinking reminded me of all the torturous emotions I had suffered through waiting for her to wake. And thinking reminded me most of all of the fact that I had lost her.
I had lost her.
It didn't matter that the questions had reminded me of it anyway. It didn't matter that it was a fact that I could never – would never – truly get out of my mind. I had been handling it, with her as a distraction.
Except she wasn't a distraction anymore. And now, I was panicking.
I was panicking, because with every question she asked, her chances of coming back grew worse. With every answer I gave, every answer she failed to remember, that was one less piece of information to jog her memory. With every second that passed, I was losing her. Losing a chance for her.
And that could not happen.
When I had first realised what had happened, that she had no memory, I had told myself I could live with it. I told myself that it didn't matter if she never remembered, because at least she was alive. And I would take this, take her without her memories, over her being dead every single time.
But it wasn't the same.
I wanted, needed, the old Thea. My Thea.
And so I frantically began trying to think of anything, anything at all, that could bring her back.
'Can I show you something?'
'Hmm?' I glanced towards Jake, surprised by his sudden question. I had been so lost in thought I hadn't noticed the comfortable silence between us, but having it unexpectedly broken made me twitch.
'Can I show you something?' He repeated, his eyes strangely intense as he stared at me.
'Yeah.' I replied softly, unable to hide a slight sense of puzzlement in my voice. Jake was still giving me that look, one that I couldn't for the life of me decipher; until, suddenly, he was standing up in one fluid motion. I craned my neck upwards – he towered over me since I was still sitting on the forest floor – my forehead crinkling in confusion.
'Wait, where are you going?' Jake gave me a reassuring smile at my unsure words.
'I'll be right back.' He said quietly.
And then he was walking away. With his large steps, it didn't take long at all for him to take his way through the trees. I couldn't tear my gaze away from his retreating back, curiosity and bewilderment churning within me.
Until all of a sudden he disappeared.
I blinked in surprise, at first unsure if he really had vanished. Perhaps I had just lost sight of him? But as my eyes carefully roamed the trees, searching for his unmistakable figure, it didn't take long to figure out that he really was gone. There was nothing, no hint of him or where he had disappeared to. There was only the forest, which was a thick wash of brown and green, and–
And a wolf.
Just as quickly as Jake had vanished, the wolf had appeared. And it was huge. Even from a distance I could tell that if I was standing upright, it would be taller than me. Which was ridiculous, when you thought about; wolves weren't that big.
Except this wasn't a normal wolf. It had taken a moment for it to sink in that it had appeared from the exact spot Jake had disappeared, and another moment to connect the dots about what that meant. But, as I watched the enormous russet coloured wolf slowly pad over to me, looking almost meek as it bowed its head, I was sure I was right.
The wolf was Jake.
It was Jake who was now just metres in front of me, his head cocked slightly to the side as he watched me with an intensity that could only be human. It was disarming at first, to have him watching me so carefully; I wanted to fidget under his fierce gaze. But then he was stepping forward, ever so slowly, lowering his muzzle so his eyes were level with mine. And then, almost without meaning to, I found myself reaching out a hand to gently brush the fur of his jaw.
Soft. It was so wonderfully and amazingly soft. I couldn't hold back a soft smile as I sighed, a sound Jake mirrored as he let out a deep rumble. It was a rumble that probably should have scared me, because it was so deep and predatory and wild. And yet, I wasn't worried. There was no fear within me, none at all; not now, and not even when I'd first caught sight of the huge and intimidating wolf. And it wasn't because I trusted Jake – though I did – because at first I hadn't known it was him. No, I wasn't scared for an entirely different reason.
I couldn't be. It actually wasn't possible. I had no room for fear, for anything anymore; there was only confusion. My emotions had been wiped out by my overwhelming and all-consuming confusion. I couldn't feel anything else. I couldn't be happy, or sad, or scared, or worried, or excited. There was only confusion.
When I had first seen the beautiful forest, I should have been happy. And yet, all I'd been able to muster was brief flutter of enjoyment. When Jake refused to answer several of my questions with a haunted look on his face, I should have worried about what he was hiding. And yet, I had dismissed it. Everything just passed over me now.
I was only ever confused. I was empty, empty of everything, of all feeling; there was only confusion. And I had a feeling that I would only ever be confused. I had a feeling that I would stay empty. And because I was empty, the thought didn't bother me.
Even though it should have.