"Everything we do is a choice. Oatmeal or cereal, highway or side streets,
kiss her or keep her, we make choices and we live with the consequences.
If someone gets hurt along the way we ask for forgivingness, it's the best anyone can do."
The Piemaker in Pushing Daisies' "The Fun in Funeral"
Chapter Six, Vav
I'm dreaming again.
I know I had to be, because a part of me was cognizant that I was still dozing in the back seat of the Audi in the Rez school parking lot, listening to waves crash on the beach I am just feet from and the voices of those bustling about the diner next door. I know he is still in class and that he doesn't even know I'm here, but it is a good dream.
The sun has managed to break through the rain this afternoon, and the warmth of it on my face is like his hands, so warm and gentle and perfect, though not quite as perfect as him. "Hello," I imagined him saying softly, climbing gracefully into the back of a car that no two werewolves were meant to inhabit. Of course, this would mean that he'd have to be half atop of me, but I didn't mind. I liked the place where this met his body would have to rest, between my legs and the weight of him there.
"Hello to you too," I'd whisper if he were here, and the presence of him really just inches above me, his knees a positioned just so, one arm holding his weight just above my shoulder, the other reaching up to cup my face. But he is not, so I close my eyes more tightly and imagine, if only to keep myself from going mad, sitting here, waiting, trying to tell myself that school is important and I should not set a precedent of dragging him into broom closets when he should be in class. Then the pups would want to be allowed to skip class – for other reasons I hoped – and then where would any of them be? Exactly.
"I didn't expect to find you here."
"I didn't think you'd mind."
"What's wrong, Lee?" he'd ask, his free hand suddenly leaving my face and going to my belly. "Is it the twins?" The twins would move towards his hand as best they could, as they always did, and start fighting to be nearest. The twins loved fighting, no matter what the excuse. I could only think of what they'd be like when they were older and shudder...
"No, they're fine."
"Then what," he'd say, brushing his lips against mine with his final words, his breath so hot and humid and perfect that they were just Jacob, "did Kate do to you today?"
"I've had a bad day. Make me forget it, please."
"Anything," he would say around a deep kiss, "for my Alpha female."
I imagined his hands on me, going under these stupid clothes and doing things that set me alight with pleasure, and his mouth trailing kisses until...
...until I couldn't pretend any more, and I had to acknowledge it was a dream... and that Jake was still in school, and I was still in the parking lot, and the sun had given away to rain again.
I just don't get life sometimes. I bet Ephraim fucking Black never had to deal with this sort of drama. It must have been nice having just three people in that pack... but you know what they say: three people can keep a secret – if two of them are dead. Stupid Cullens. I blame them.
I mean, when the Cullens had moved to Forks the first time I could understand how they could not know the tribe nearby would become wolves because of them. But why had they come back, knowing this, knowing they were so many more than before? I know they had stayed for Charlie's sake, and I could understand that – I was even happy about that, because it was God-damn unfair to let a bitch like Bella ruin her father's life, again, and Ness deserved to know her grandfather. But why had they come back in the first place, when they'd left to keep her safe from them? Why had she chosen to become a vampire when-
-when it meant that she could never walk out in to the sun again, and feel its loving embrace, and imagine it was her lover's hand caressing her while he was away, not at least where anyone could see her, or might come across her, or close enough for her to smell? How could you live forever without that warmth? Would it even warm her icy skin any more?
-when it meant that she could never eat again, not anything but blood, stolen from other beings, say a deer a week, for the rest of eternity? How many animals was that over the centuries? Would she even care? No doubt she would – she struck me the kind of person who wouldn't harm the fly, or rabid dog, or ravenous vampire who bit her, - so how could she "live" with the pain of it?
-when it meant that she could never dream again, like I had been just a moment ago, or like I sometimes did of aliens and jello and multicoloured wolves and clairvoyant watermelons?
-when it meant that she would have to watch Charlie die, and her mother, and all the friends she'd had at her school, and all her friends' children, and possibly even Nessie, for all we knew, for Nahuel only knew that his oldest half-sister, Gabriela (who Kate, knowing all the gossip, said was also called U'Yara in her native language, The Lady of the Water), was only two hundred fifty or so? Maybe vampire-human hybrids could live for three, four hundred years and then suddenly died – could Bella live with herself if that was so?
-when it meant that more of us would phase, loosing something of our humanity that she'd willingly given up?
I could understand how it was easy for us to get drawn into the animal within, and how it was such a relief to be able to hide from our human problems in a world where politics didn't mater, nor jobs, nor school, nor anything but the pack. But why, how had we let it get this far, to the point where Sam was behaving like a dominate male, and he and Jake had gotten into more and worse clashes than they ever had when we were all still one pack, and apparently so I had a role in it, somehow, being the sexy Alpha female I was (I took a moment here to think on how wonderful I was, and then I remembered that one of my pups, my oldest pup, was dead and in the ground and his flesh would be the soil for other peoples' children, and it was all I could do not to cry)? Why did Matty have to die? How could the leeches sit in their library, discussing politics and ways to Pinky and the Brain the world – no, that was wrong, they'd already "taken" it over, they were just trying to figure out what to do with it now – when a little boy was dead, a poor boy who wasn't even fourteen yet and had died for no reason other than a stupid log and too strong a heart?
Pregnancy had obviously turned me into a romantic. Next thing you know I'm going to be listening to Celine Dion and Frank Sinatra without shame. Here I was, asking questions that wiser folk than me had yet to answer, and, for the life of me, I didn't know how we are supposed to hope for that happily ever after that Disney promises us when children can die and magic refuses to be purely beautiful...
Damn you, Disney. Damn you and your singing teapots and your "princesses." Why do you lie to us, persist in telling us youth is happy, that the world is good, and that all things are possible for those willing to believe? Do you like seeing our pain so much? You rat bastards, you fucking pieces of donkey shit, how many lives have you let be ruined when those children you lied to learned the truth? How can you live with yourselves?
How can any of us live at all?
I come home in the morning light
My bother says, 'When you gonna live your life right?'
my phone sang. Without moving or opening my eyes, I felt along the car floor for the phone that I'd dropped between the passenger seat and the back.
Oh mother dear, we're not the fortunate ones
And girly, they want to have fun
Oh girls just want to have fun
Finding it, I quickly hit the talk button I'd memorized the position of long ago, and said into the phone, "Look, Kate, I don't know how you manage to change the ringtone on my phone every three seconds, but I'm kinda having an existential crisis, so, no, I don't want to have a 90210 marathon with you, be taken shopping for antique lace tablecloths in Paris, or hear you tell me how much you like the name Katrina for one of the twins, so if you wouldn't mind-"
"Aunt Leah!" came the voice, rough and sounding of tears. Immediately my stomach clenched, not knowing what it was I feared, only that I did not like it, not the least, and it was bad. Terrible. Death. Nothing good, nothing safe."You've got to come and pick me up. I was at lunch and overheard Ricky Miller saying that it Matty's own fault that he died – the Rez thinks he di-died in a four-wheeler accident, remember – and I just got so angry and I kinda broke his arm and now they suspended me for the rest the week-"
"Whoa, Judy," I said, trying to maintain my balance after bolting upright and opening my eyes, momentarily seeing spots dance in front of them and feeling even after they passed like my breakfast was going to come up in waves, "stop, rewind, and freeze for a second." I leaned forward as best I could, fiddled with the door pull, and threw the car door. Now only to manage to climb out without causing myself great bodily harm...
Forget romantic, I'd turned into Bella freaking two-left-feet Swan with pregnancy. Never again, I swear it. I will go on every pill in existence and steal enough money from the Cullens to buy Trojan if necessary to keep this unduly complicated development from happening again. Or ask Carlisle to find a way to do the whole sea horse thing on Jake, so he could deal with it.
"Ricky Miller was being-"
"I got that part- ha," I added, managing to clamber out of the car without injury, then grabbing the keys from the the front and heading towards the office, "It's the suspension part I don't get."
"Oh, that," she said rather more flatly, which I suppose was better than sounding like she was going to cry on me – I did not do well with crying - "Well, the principal told me to go and get Dad and I went and got Jake instead, and Mr. Jones was all, 'Blah, blah, your brainwashing is killing people Jacob Black,' and then I was kinda, 'If being a decent person these days counts as brainwashing, than I can see why your wife divorced you,' and then it was the suspension."
I almost walked into the school doors I was trying so hard not to laugh. "You've been spending a little too much time around me, cub." The Rez school, for all it held grades K-12, was small, and I had been to the office many, many, many times in my day.
"That's what Jake said. And then Jake said something about how Mr. Jones had no right to- Leah!" Judy said, dropping the phone as I walked into the office, not bothering to put it back on the hook. Running up to me, she buried her head in my shirt and asked how I'd gotten there so fast. At least, that's what I thought she said – it was hard to make out her words, muffled as they were in my stupid let's-dress-the-Indian-girl-up-as-a-elfi
"I was dozing in the parking lot."
"'Cause Kate wanted to paint my toenails and Sam Uley is a rat-ass bastard," I glared at the receptionist, who'd gasped at my use of "language". She should've known better than to be surprised by now, really. "Jake still in there with the principal?"
"Yeah. I think he's getting chewed out for calling," Judy looked quickly at the receptionist, then back towards me, "Mr. Jones a 'fascist dictatorial pig who wouldn't know the first thing about the real world if it jumped up and bit him in the face.'"
"God, I've corrupted you all." I considered for a second saving Jake from his torment, then decided against it. He was a big boy and had to fight his own wars. 'Sides, if I saved him now, that'd just give him that much more energy for beating up Sam for kissing (gross) me, which should probably at least wait until I've had a chance to explain to him what (I think) was happening. "Come on, I'm starving."
Half hour and two appetizers later, Judith was staring at me from across the table at the diner. Her gold-flecked eyes were still bloodshot, a permanent feature, I was now sure, and staring intently on the bottle of ketchup – like she wasn't seeing it, but something beyond. I wondered what to say. What could you say, when child you'd both known and loved was dead and nothing you could do could bring him back?
"Aunt Leah?" she asked suddenly.
"Uh-huh?" I was busy staring at the mustard at this time, in part because I didn't know what to say, and in part because I was drying to remember enough Chem to figure out what the fuck methylchloroisothiazolione was and why it might be in my food.
"Why is it like this?"
I looked up. "Why is what like this?" I looked around the diner, half expecting there to be some sort of weird St. Patrick's Day decorations up already, found none, and shot a dirty look at a couple of the towns more hardcore gossips before turning back to the girl.
She took a breath, gathering her thoughts, and brushed a lock of hair that had come out of her braid from her face, "It's like... before I wasn't great friends with John or Jim or Timmy, but ever since we've been getting into arguments over the most stupid things – Zack and I were in English with John the other day and we were reading some weird play in class and I swear he and Zack almost got into a shouting argument over something in it; I can't even remember what now, it was so stupid. And we find ourselves almost growling at each other in the halls – at Colin and Brady too, and I don't even know them.
"And I don't know why I got so angry at Ricky Miller. I mean, it was terrible and mean but Zack was holding me back and I pulled away from him to beat up Ricky, and I might really have hurt him if Zack hadn't managed to stop me – well, Timmy too, he pulled Ricky away, but still – and it's like I don't know why I got so angry and...
"And I've been thinking about imprinting. And I think to myself, I've liked Zack since we were in kindergarten and he shared his cupcake with me when Mike Carter stole my snack, and it was like, 'I'm going to be with this guy forever,' one of those cheesy moments from TV where everything just clicks, you know? I'm pretty sure he likes me too, that way, though I can't be certain, 'cause every time anyone's thoughts go so much as anywhere near that direction he starts thinking about baseball, and doesn't know a thing about it so- well, you know; you've heard him. And I can't help but think, 'I love Zachary Clearwater and I want to marry him one day,' even though I know we're just in middle school and I don't even know if he likes me back. But what if I can't ever get the chance to find out if he likes me back? What if he goes off and imprints? What if I imprint? Will all the love I have for Zack just go away, like it never existed? Would that make it nothing? Or would I forever have these feelings bottled up inside me that I can't act upon?
"And then I think about Matty, and how I'm never going to see him again, and feel so stupid for worrying about myself, but it's like, 'Here I am, sitting around, worrying about if I'm ever going to get my happy ending, and Matty doesn't get one. Matty doesn't get to fall in love or get married or become a teacher, like he wanted, because Matty's dead.' My big brother's dead and all I can seem to worry about is if Zack likes me likes me and how much just being around the other pack is like torture and...
"And the other day I'd run into my room when Mom was crying on and on about how the pack thing would end up killing me too, and she told me I couldn't go back. I wasn't allowed to phase any more – that's what she said – and I actually yelled back at her, 'You're not my mother.' I said that to my own Mom... But it's true... I love my parents, and they're great, but you and Jake... you're something more than they are to me. You and all the pack..."
We sat in silence for a while longer, and our food came, but neither of us touched it.
"I went to Emily's today. Apparently Alice sent out the invitations."
"I thought you hated Emily."
"I thought I did too."
"Then why'd you go, Aunt Leah?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"Sam showed up."
"Did you fight?"
I moved a fry around my plate idly, hungry but unable to eat – the same fear I'd felt when Judy'd called me earlier swirling in my stomach, but for different reasons, for frightened reasons, though I don't know what I was afraid of: the bad vampires are gone, the world is still turning, I'm married to a man I love and having his children. There was no reason for me to be afraid. But I was, and I think Judy was too, 'cause both of us just stared at our food and didn't look at each other. Or, at least, I didn't look at her. Maybe she was looking at me. I dunno. But it was like... How could I be a more important figure in this girl's life than her own mom, especially when I'd only known her what? Two, three months? I didn't disbelieve it, and that fact more than anything stirred the worry inside of me. I'd've been happier with an enemy I could see, I could fight...
I had met the enemy, and it was us.
"I think it's more complicated then we think."
"What? How can a fight be complicated?"
"Sam kissed me."
"Keep it down, Judy," I hissed.
"Sorry, Aunt Leah. He what?"
"You heard me."
"I think- I think because he couldn't help himself."
"But he imprinted on your cousin."
"Tell me about it."
"It's not going to be easy, is it?"
"What's not going to be easy?"
"Life in general. The packs in particular. We're not going to be able to go on like this for much longer."
"No we're not."
"It's going to end badly, isn't it."
Smally, "Are more people going to die?"
"I don't know."