Leah’s Diary: Over And Done With

Dear Diary,

I lie in bed out of boredom, not because I’m tired. I quit school. After the last little incident, I refused to go. Dad talked to Mom and after several arguments and him sleeping on the couch for a few days, he took me to Seattle and I took the tests for my GED.  Now I’m officially graduated. Yippee. But what now?

My iPod sends a variety of music to my ears—anything and everything but love songs—but that doesn’t stop me from hearing the tap at my window. I pause my music and wait to see if the sound repeats. It does. I reach over and turn on my lamp, illuminating the room. I go to the window, curious of what I’ll find. Down on the lawn is a pile of rocks lying on a worn out jacket. Immediately I know what’s going on and I have no clue what to make of it. There’s only one way to found out though.

I tiptoe downstairs and slip on my shoes before stepping onto the porch. A piece of paper sits on the bottom step under a rock, fluttering in the light breeze. I kick the stone away and snatch the paper to read it. In a handwriting I would recognize anywhere it says: You know where to go. 

I do know where to go. But do I want to? What could this possibly be about? Has—no. I can’t even consider that; won’t allow myself. It would hurt too much to be wrong, especially now that I have nothing tying me down to La Push. Nevertheless, I head across the lawn, breaking into a sprint as my feet trace the familiar trail.

Sam is standing when I get there, quietly pacing back and forth. In fact, he’s so quiet his feet don’t even make a sound. I fold my arms defensively across my chest and stop a few yards away. Sam glances up from the ground when I stop.

“Hey,” he says gently, coming a few feet closer.

“What do you want?” I ask, trying to keep my voice steady. Even so, my voice cracks in the end. It’s too familiar, being back in this place with him. A longing spreads through me, for Sam, for us.

“I, uh . . . we need to talk. Would you like to sit?”

“I think I’ll stand.”

Sam shrugs. He seems to struggle with speaking, almost as if he literally chokes on his words. I wait, wondering and—despite my efforts—hoping.

“I . . .” he pauses, drags in a breath. “I still love you.” I’m ready to turn and walk away before I can be friend-zoned, but Sam calls out, walking closer, “Wait. It’s not like you think.”

“Oh, really? It’s not what I think? How would you know? How could you when you always promised was to be there for me and that’s all I haven’t had for the last couple years. And that’s not all you promised. There was other things—things I counted on. I’m not about to be friend-zoned, Sam. It’s either you’re here or you’re not.”

He sighs. “Can I just explain please, Leah?”

“Explain that you disappeared for a month, left me practically catatonic and worried as heck and then you came back and weren’t at all the same person, then you see my cousin and bam!, love at first sight, not even a second thought for me?”

Sam nods, his eyes on the ground. “I’m sorry. But you’re wrong about one thing: second thoughts. You have no idea how much I think about you. How much I hate myself for what I did. It was . . . stupid and immature of me. The truth is, Leah, I’m really not myself. Not without you. With Emily, things are so complicated and I have to plan everything out ahead of time just because there’s so much that . . . I don’t know. But with you, it was as easy as breathing. I’d do anything to make it that way again.”

His words sound so honest, so sincere, and I know he’s not lying. I still ask, “You want it to be easy with her?”

“I’m not sure it can be. Do you think that maybe . . . ” I wait for him to continue, my heart beating quickly inside. Sam reaches over slowly and takes my hand. A shock races through me. His other hand snakes around my side, drawing us closer together. “I miss you.”

Those three words are the ones that unleash a stream of tears cascading down my cheeks. I rest my head on his chest, soaking his shirt with tears. Sam moves one of his hands to my chin and lifts my head to face his. And then he’s kissing me and it’s like all the nightmares never even happened. Sam never left, he’s still here, it was just a bad dream. Emily and Sam were never together. But when he pulls back, all the time spent apart comes rushing back in, forcing us apart although we’re still touching.

“My Lee-lee,” he whispers. “You’ll always be my Lee-lee.”

“But you can’t leave her,” I state plainly, my voice void of emotions although tears stream down my face, now out of sadness.

“I’m so sorry, Leah. I wish . . . that things were different. Maybe someday they will be.”

He kisses my forehead one last time and before I know what’s happening, he’s gone, running away into the dark forest. I’m still standing there, trying to make sense of the night’s events when a soul piercing howl fills the air. It makes me shudder. I start to head toward home, but instead I find myself in front a canvas in the council building. Tears cloud my vision but I fight them. I’m going to talk to Rachel. I’m going to leave home and never look back. My family will have to visit me because I just can’t come back here. I have to end this chapter of my life because Sam isn’t coming back. He got what he wanted, I got a broken heart. So it’s over.




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Leah’s Diary: Second Thoughts (Sam’s POV)

This entry is from Sam Uley’s point of view. Dialouge is italicized for conversations taking place while in wolf form.


Dear Diary,

I wake up from another dream, thinking once again that it is only a memory of yesterday and is Leah in my arms. Then I remember and come to he present time. It’s Emily. The dreams used to be bad, and slowly faded away. But now, since my engagement, I’ve had nightmares—if you can call a memory of a drop dead gorgeous love of my life a nightmare—every night. Emily doesn’t know, though. I untangle myself from her and sit up in bed watching her sleep soundly for a moment. Her lips form my name in her slumber and for a second I wish it was Leah. It shouldn’t be like this. I imprinted. So what the heck is wrong with me? Why, oh why does this have to be so complicated? No matter what I do, a heart and a half will always be broke. Leah’s is now, as well as part of mine. If I left Emily, hers would be, as well as mine. Imprinting is full-on no question for the others, so why for me?
I do love Emily. I do. But I also miss the carefree, easy going me that appeared when I was with Leah. With Emily, I’m so serious and uptight. I have to think of ways to tease and joke hours ahead of time. With Leah, it flowed freely. Why not now? Is it the new responsibility? The weight of protecting my tribe? I wonder if I went back to Leah if I’d be the same as I am now.
Emily stirs in her sleep and I lean down and kiss her upturned cheek; the one left unscared—that’s just another thing making life complicated. It’s nearly time for me to run patrol, so I climb out of bed and go to shower. Before leaving the house, I glance in at Emily seeing that she’s still asleep. I hope she sleeps the whole time I’m gone; she worries too much when I’m gone.
Jared is running nearby when I phase and greets me with a yawn.
I got this if you want to go,  I tell him. I need to think through some things anyways.
Nah, I’m good for awhile. Kim won’t be up yet. You wanna talk about it? Or….
I shrug in my mind since that’s a difficult movement to imitate while in the form of a running wolf. Jared scans my thoughts; there’s no privacy in our pack. It’s mentally exhausting to try to keep the others from knowing something and never really worth it anyways, being as we’re pretty much a family.
Jared’s eyebrows raise. Wow. I mean, like…Whoa. I would say congratulations on your engagement—since I haven’t seen you in a while—but it looks like you’re having second thoughts. 
His words sound awful when stated like that and outside my mind.
What should I do? Do you ever—
Seeing where my sentence is going, Jared interrupts. Ha. Ha. No. Kim is it. She’s always been it. She just didn’t notice me until a Universal force was telling her to. For a moment I wonder if it’s possible that imprinting has less to do with the imprinter—us wolves—and more with the supposed imprintees. If you want to see how you are around Leah, why don’t you? It’s better to know now, right?
I guess. But Leah kind of hates me.
And she has a reason to. But you know better than anyone what would work—if anything—to get her to talk to you. You probably even know how to get her to forgive you.
I don’t answer. I know he’s right. I think of Leah, my Lee-Lee. Us. With the memories comes a longing that I haven’t had since I first phased, before imprinting.
Just go see her, he persists.
What about Emily? I ask.
Isn’t she going out of town this weekend?
I forgot about that. She leaves right after school today. I’m supposed to bring her the car after work.

Jared doesn’t reply because it’s obvious what I’m going to do. What I need to do.
Well I guess I will head out. Kim should be up soon and I wanna shower; there’s a mud bank on the west side to look out for. Smells like vampire mud washed down here.
Ick. I flinch at a memory of smell. Cullen?
Nah they don’t usually go to that area.
I’ll check it out. Anything else?
Well I think we should keep an eye out. There hasn’t been much happening since the Cullens left. 
Yeah. Well thanks, Jared. Have a good day. Paul’s switching me for an hour at seven, right?
Far as I know. Good luck, man. You’ll need it. Be sure to wear a bullet proof vest when you go to see her.
I sigh and Jared fades out. He’s right more than I’d like him to be—except for the bulletproof vest, since Leah doesn’t own a gun. I head to the west, slowing my pace to avoid the mud and check out the new scent. For once, I hope for some action—anything to distract me from the acting I’ll have to do when I see Emily later.
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Leah’s Diary: Seth’s Party

Dear Diary,

Seth’s birthday was yesterday, and since it’s now the weekend we are going to dinner. He warned me last night that Sam and Emily would be there. In addition, Billy and Jacob Black, a few of Seth’s close friends, and us. He had had lunch earlier with his large group of friends. Sometimes, I envy my brother for his talent at making friends. I don’t think he knows anybody who doesn’t like him. On the other hand, I could probably count on my fingers how many people actually like me. Besides my family, I can only think of Billy and his kids. Maybe Charlie, but I might have ruined that when I ran away for Christmas. Maybe Rachel’s friends, but chances are I will never see them again so that doesn’t really count; it’s be like counting imaginary friends. 

I shower early in the afternoon and put on sweatpants until it is nearly time to go and then I quickly change into an outfit I know will make Emily and Sam grit their teeth—the one I wore the day they . . . yeah. I leave my hair straight, the way it dried. Downstairs, I have to wait for everyone else who is still getting ready to go. Seth stands in the front hallway, combing his hair by the mirror as I put on my shoes. 

“Why do guys take so long to get ready?” I tease.

He laughs but doesn’t unleash a comeback.

I try again. “You didn’t invite a girl did you?”

Seth lets out a nervous chuckle and avoids my stare. My mouth falls open in disbelief. ”My brother invited a girl to his birthday? Does Mom know? Is it someone we know?”

“I don’t know that she’ll even be there. Yes, Mom knows. And no, I don’t think you know her. She’s from Makah.”

I still couldn’t believe it. “How do you know her?”

Seth looked away again and put his shoes on. “Uhh, Emily introduced me when she was here with Luke’s daughters over Christmas break.”

“Oh,” is all I say—what else could I say? It’s been years since I’ve seen Luke, but I used to know him pretty well from all my trips up to Makah with Emily.

Leaving Seth to straighten his shoelaces and scan his polo once more for lint, I head out the door. Mom was still inside getting ready but Dad was in the yard ready to go, passing the time pulling weeds from the flowerbed. I head over to join him but he stands when he sees me coming. Dad raises his eyebrows when he sees my outfit but doesn’t say anything. 

“What?” I ask defensively.

“Nothing. Just wondering what your mother will say is all. I’m all for someone else taking the heartbreak if it means you won’t have it.”

I don’t get a chance to answer because Mom and Seth come outside then. Mom huffs when she sees my outfit and tells me to change but I follow Dad to the car without a backward glance. When we’ve started down the road, Seth tells me I look nice. I smile and turn to look out the window.

It’s not long before we pull into the parking lot of the restaurant, which hosts the majority of our celebrations. Mom had made reservations so the restaurant host greets us at the door and leads us to our table. Several tables have been pushed together and balloons are tied down with weights as centrepieces. A chair in the middle of the tables had also been tied with balloons and the host holds the chair for Seth.

Before we’ve even taken our seats, some of Seth’s friends show up along with Billy and Jacob Black. Seth’s friends instantly sit down around and across from him and Mom, Dad and Billy claim one end of the table, leaving only a few empty seats. There’s one in the midst of Seth’s friends, but that’s probably for the girl he invited. I reluctantly head for the four empty seats at the end of the table and claim the outside one. 

Jacob hesitates before following me then pulls out the chair across from me and politely speaks. “Mind if I sit here?”

I shake my head, noticing something different about him. It takes me a minute but I finally pinpoint what’s changed. “You cut your hair.”

Jacob nods. “It’s easier this way.”

Easier? That doesn’t even make any sense. “What is?” I ask, hoping for a logical explanation. 

Jacob doesn’t hear me though, his focus on the entrance of the restaurant where Sam and Emily just came in. 

I clench my jaw as they head towards the only two seats at the table other than the one Seth has saved; one is next to me, the other across from it and next to Jacob. Sam sits down by Jacob and Emily walks around the other side, hesitating with her hand on the chair. After a minute of avoiding eye contact with her, she sighs and sits down. I lift my eyes and find Sam and Emily both watching me.

“Nice outfit,” Sam says through his teeth.

“Oh, you like it?” I stand up and spin. “It’s my favorite one,” I say with a smirk. Emily coughs into her hand and Sam’s face pales. I smile widely as I sit, not afraid to show that I’m pleased with their discomfort. Jacob just looks confused. “So you were saying?” I ask Jacob. 


“You said your hair was easier this way. I was just wondering what you meant. You always hated getting your hair cut. So why have it this short now?”

“Uh,” Jacob quickly glances to Sam and back—something I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to notice. “Um, I’ve been running around a lot lately. Motorcycles and mechanics and stuff.”

His answer didn’t make much sense because he’d been doing those things his whole life as far as I knew. I drop the subject anyways, not truly caring. 

“How’s Bella?” Emily asks Jacob.

“She’s okay, I guess. I haven’t seen too much of her, been pretty busy, ya know?”

Emily nods.

“What’re you busy with? I haven’t seen you at school in weeks.”

Sam’s voice cuts in, as though he’s in charge. “It’s not always convenient for everyone to go to school, Leah.”

“Right,” I say, dragging the word out. “I mean, some people should just skip class to meet people, right?” I glance toward Emily suggestively.

Sam begins to shoot back a remark but Emily’s shout stops him. “Sam!”

“Probably not all too convenient for those people to support their families, either, I suppose. Or is it? You, Mr. Know-it-all, should know from experience, right?”

Emily looks back and forth between us, a hurt look on her face. For a fraction of a second, I feel remorse but that fades when Sam reaches across the table and takes Emily’s hand.

The waiter comes then, bearing pitchers of water and a stack of cups, saving us all. Once everyone had their water poured, the waiter returned with a couple more employees who carried trays of sandwiches and other snack foods that Seth and Mom had ordered ahead of time to make his birthday dinner easier. Our end of the table stays silent through all of that, and even after. Seth talks to us for a few minutes but after a series of one word responses he turns his attention back to his friends.

Jacob tries to get us all to talk again. “So, uh, my dad and I are having a pasta party at my house in a few weeks. You guys wanna come?”

Sam waits for me to answer so that he can determine his own answer.

“Sure, I’ll go,” I say just to spite Sam.

Emily speaks before Sam can. “We can probably go too, right Sam?”

“No. Not if all the guys are gonna be there. Somebody needs to . . . ” He stops talking in the middle of the sentence but both Jacob and Emily act as if he had finished it.

“Just for an hour, Sam? Seriously, what is it going to hurt?” Jacob asks, annoyed.

“That’s all it takes, Jacob.”

Jacob shakes his head, irritated, but doesn’t say anything. I am completely lost with their confusing talk.

Mom, Dad and Billy at the other end of the table have fallen silent and been listening to our conversation. Dad stands and comes over to us.

“Everything okay down here?” he asks.

Sam nods. “Jacob was just inviting us to a party that he and his father are having in a few weeks.”

Dad turns to me. “Billy was just saying the same thing. You going?”

“I guess so.”

“Good. That’ll be good.” Satisfied, he returns to his seat.

We fall silent again until Seth starts up a conversation with Jacob. I notice one of Seth’s younger friends staring at Emily’s face. She doesn’t notice because she is eating, but Sam does.

“Hey!” he shouts, making several people at the table jump. “It’s rude to stare.”

The kid mumbles an apology and looks away. Emily reaches across the table and takes Sam’s hand. I look away and Seth returns to distracting his friends from us.

Still holding Emily’s hand, Sam watches me for a minute and then says, “Leah?”

“What now?”

“I, uh, think I can finally explain a little.”

I raise my eyebrows in surprise, not expecting this. I struggle to not get my hopes up, already dismissing the thoughts in my head trying to figure what he will say.

Sam hesitates. “So, um . . . about when I disappeared for awhile. . . . My dad had called me and my mom. We all met up in Seattle and, well, I’m not sure what you would call it. Dad sat there and watched TV the whole time and only talked to me during the commercials. Mom went shopping with his credit cards, which I’m sure she maxed out just to make him mad. I was so caught up in him actually paying a speck of attention to me, that I didn’t call. Not just you, but anyone. I should have, though. Going there was a mistake. It didn’t end very well.”

I sat silent for a minute, taking it all in. I wasn’t sure I believed him because he had been so different when he returned. I suppose that could have been from spending time with his messed up family but what about the heat of his skin? Could it have been just a fever? The day Emily got hurt he had touched my ankle and it burned then. I didn’t know whether or not his skin still burned now and I wasn’t about to touch him to find out.

Sam continues without me saying anything. He gestures toward Emily as he speaks. “About us—”

“Stop! I don’t care to hear that part.”

Emily turns to face me. “Please, Leah? I wanted to ask you something.”

“Just ask then. I don’t need a stupid explanation for why my boyfriend broke up with me so he could get together with my cousin. I’d say that’s more information than I ever wanted to know. “

Emily nods, seeming to understand even though my words were bitter. “Sam has asked me to marry him. “

“Arghhh, ” I groan and turn away. “This is exactly what I don’t care to hear!”

“I know. I know, ” Emily says quickly. “But Leah, you’re practically my sister. I don’t see how I could get married without you there. Won’t you be my bridesmaid?”

I sigh. When we were young, maybe twelve or thirteen, and had started actually liking boys instead of pretending they had cooties, we had promised each other that we would be in each other’s weddings and would plan them together. When Sam and I started dating, she used to joke and say that she was already drawing up wedding plans. Now, the situation was almost completely reversed. I wonder if she remembers this and sees the irony of it.

I realize it has been several minutes since she asked and she is still waiting for me to reply. Most of the other conversations have died down again and they have been listening to us.

“Do I have to answer that now?” I ask.

“Nope!” she chirps. “Anytime. We don’t have a date set and probably won’t for awhile. Just let me know when you decide.

I nod and don’t say anything more. I knew this was coming, but it still hurts. Like Emily had thought, I too was sure that Sam and I would be married. I look around the table and just seeing their hands intertwined sends daggers through my heart. I love them and hate them both so much still. I wish I could just forget everything that had happened and start fresh.

Finally, an eternity later, we migrate outside. I lag in the back behind all the split groups of people, and climb in the car the first chance I get. Dad says a few goodbyes and then gets in the car as well. Mom and Seth taking longer, thanking everyone for coming. They get in the car too a few minutes later. Mom asks us all if we had a good time. Dad grunts, Seth answers with an, “Yeah, thanks!” I don’t answer, which is an answer itself.

It isn’t until we’re almost home that I realize Seth is unusually quiet. After a few minutes of thinking about it, I realize the girl never showed up.

“So, um, the girl? What was her name?”


“Yeah, she couldn’t make it?”

“I guess not.” His tone is bitter.

“Stinks. I’m really sorry. Maybe she just had family stuff.”

He shrugs and turns to the window. Dad glances back in the mirror at us and meets my eyes. For once, I’m not the only broken one. Sharing the sorrow isn’t as great as I thought it would be.




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Leah’s Diary: Everybody Talks
Dear Diary,
“Jacob?” Mrs. Claymore asks.
“He’s not here, ” a girl from the front of the classroom answers.
“He’s not here either.”
Mrs. Claymore sighs and puts down her paper, “Well where on earth is everyone today?”
“I heard that Jacob has mono, ” someone else answers.
No, he doesn’t, I think but don’t say anything outloud. They probably dropped out like the rest of them. I saw Jacob and Jared at the store together last night.
“Well, I heard that Embry has mono, ” another student counters.
“Wonder how they both got it within a week of each other,” a boy from the back of the classroom says suggestively and everyone laughs, except for me.
Mrs. Claymore hushes herself then the class and quickly finishes the roll. 
“Well since Mr. Claymore is visiting his mother in Seattle this week, I’ll be filling in. I’m not sure how much you guys have learned of the Quileute language but I thought that maybe we could just work on easy phrases today. Some of them you may already know, but hopefully there will be some that you don’t know yet,” Mrs. Claymore says, getting my attention. 
The one thing I do like to learn in school is our language. It makes me feel at home, and like I belong.
“You all have learned pronunciation, right?”
The class mumbles quietly which Mrs. Claymore interprets as affrimation.
“Good. I’ll read these phrases and words and you guys try to tell me what they mean, okay? First, Hach chi’i?”
I wrack my brain for the definition. A memory hits: I’m walking down the stairs as a little girl, my favorite blanket in hand and rubbing my eyes with the other. “Hach chi’i, Leah,” My grandmother says. “Morning, Gramma,” I answer.
“Good morning!” I shout before I realize what I’ve done. Surprisingly, I’m not too embarrassed although every pair of eyes in the classroom is on me and some of them whisper. A lot of the whispers seem to be still dwelling on the drop outs.
“Good, Leah!” Mrs. Claymore says. “How about this one? Ayàsochid?”  This one I remember even faster; how are you?
Xlià’li,” I answer with the closest word I know to match my mood; I’m grouchy.
“How do you know so much?” Mrs. Claymore says setting her papers down.
“She’s a whiz, she’s just quiet,” Someone says.
“My grandparents,” I whisper.
“Well, you’re very good at speaking the language. You should consider learning more and maybe you could teach the elementary class,” Mrs. Claymore says and continues saying phrases.
I stay quiet, afraid of the spotlight I brought upon myself, and to give the others a chance. Still, Mrs. Claymore asks me the questions when the others are stumped. During the quiet moments though, I think about what she’d said. When I try to think of the Quileute words, I can’t. But when someone speaks to me or I am mad, the words just seem to come on their own. I don’t think I could teach, but I could easily have a conversation. Teaching wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life, but I guess it was always an option if I ended up dropping out with the rest of my classmates. Our classes had started out small and now our numbers dwindled more and more.
The courage of answering questions and bringing attention to myself reverts quickly the instant the bell rings and I move unnoticed among the small crowd to my next class.
Mr. Olbert was teaching history as per usual. His lips move and he writes on the whiteboard but I don’t hear or see any of the words. This was somewhat normal for me—even before, when Sam and I were dating I would get distracted watching him in class and lose focus on the instructor. But it became even worse after Sam left me and hadn’t improved.
History was usually one of my more attentive classes of the day, but not today—not after my dreams last week as well as my abnormal participating earlier which had drained me. For the past several weeks I hadn’t been dreaming and it was a nice break. The other night’s memory though had awakened more dormant memories and I was afraid of going to sleep again for the nightmares that would surely come.
“Leah?” Someone says, making me aware.
“Sorry?” I answer.
“I was asking you about the cabinet?” Mr. Olbert repeats himself. “What roll does the cabinet play in the U.S. government?”
The cabinet? What the smack is that supposed to mean? I never paid much attention to American history, preferring Quiluete history. I didn’t understand why we had to learn American history anyways. Probably just because the teacher wasn’t Quileute himself. These were always the worst classes.
“I don’t know, ” I say softly and my face heats up. A few of the other kids snicker and Mr. Olbert shakes his head. I hear their whispers about my downfall from knowledge in the last class.
“Please try to pay more attention, Miss Clearwater, ” He continues to teach and I hear him speaking but the words don’t make sense.
I watch the clock, anxious for my classes that come after lunch becuase after that comes work and home. 
“Psssst, ” Someone whispers. “Here.” The boy sitting behind me hands me a note. I take it, ready to pass it along, but realize it has my name on it.
I open the note and just as I do, Mr. Olbert appears at my desk. He hold out his hand and waits for me to give him the note. I do and he reads it quickly to himself.
“Who wrote this?” He asks the class, and all laughter ceases. No one answers him. “You will all be staying late if no one answers.”
Someone must raise their hand in the back of the class because everyone turns their heads, except for me.
“Office. Now. You too, Leah.”
My face heats up again and I gather my things, heading for the door. I walk down the hall to the office, the sound of Mr. Olbert’s and one of my other classmates following. The boy ends up being someone I don’t know very well named Jay. We enter the office and I wait in one of the chairs as Mr. Olbert explains the situation, note in hand to the prinicpal in his office. Mr. Olbert closes the door to the principal’s office on his way out joined by the school counselor that we share with Forks, Mr. Hayes.—he only comes out for an hour or so around lunch each day.
“Leah?” Mr. Hayes says. “Mind if we talk for a minute, ” he says it as a statement instead of a question.
To talk to a counselor is the last thing I want to do but I don’t see that I have another option. I don’t answer.
“This way, ” he says pointing toward his office. Mr. Olbert returns to the hall and I stand up, slowly dragging my feet to his office. The room doubles as the teachers lounge and has several couches on one side of the room, and Mr. Hayes’ desk on the other. To make things less formal, Mr. Hayes tells me to have a seat on the couch. He sits on an arm rest of one couch while I sit on the cushion of another.
“So, Leah, I know you’ve had a rough year, ” he waits for me to say something and when I don’t, he continues. “Why is that?”
I snort, “Like it’s a big mystery?”
Mr. Hayes shrugs guiltily, “Sam. Is that it? Because it seems like there might be more to it.”
“Well there isn’t.”
“You’re doing pretty good in school considering. You’re very smart, Leah. I noticed you already have everything done that you need to do to graduate. Do you have any plans for after graduation?”
“Get out of here.”
He nods, “I thought that might be it. What about school? A career? It might be a good distraction.”
I shake my head, “If I knew that would work, don’t you think I would have done something already?”
“I guess so. I don’t know what to do to help you, Leah. You’ve shut everyone out of your life.”
“Then don’t. Didn’t you ever consider that maybe they shut me out?” I stand up and walk out of his office. I leave out the front door of the school since another class has already started and I can’t stand more humiliation from going into class late.
I don’t go home, since mom would wonder why I was home early and then I’d have to explain everything. Instead I go to the beach.
After walking up and down the coast I have memorized, I sit on the sand with my knees pulled up and watch the waves move in and out, in and out, in and out. I love the way the ocean has a familiar pattern of waves, yet is different each time. I sit there contently, trying to keep my mind off school, until it is time to go to work.
At the store, I enter through the front. Big mistake today. A group of girls from school are standing at the sunglasses display by the door and don’t notice when I come in. I freeze at the sight of them.
“I heard she wrote a note to Jay first being all rude and stuff, ” One girl says.
“I don’t know. She doesn’t seem like the person who wants to talk to anybody ever. Especially someone she doesn’t know very well like Jay, ” Another says.
“Maybe so. Could be she was hitting on him. What is her problem anyways? I mean, plenty of guys have broke up with me and you don’t see me still moping around a year later.”
“True. They were pretty close though. Did you ever see one of them alone?”
“Not until now. But still. Seriously she should just get over it already.”
Having heard enough I walk closer to the girls. One of them sees me in the mirror while admiring a pair of glasses and gasps. They all spin around.
“Maybe,” I say. “She had her heart broke and it never gets any better because everyone gossips about her behind her back. Next time, if you have a problem with me, tell me, not your friends. Or even better, stay out of other people’s business.”
I walk away toward the back of the store to clock in, leaving them alone with their jaws dropped.
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Leah’s Diary: Memories
Dear Diary, 
It was the last day of summer and the sun was shining through the treetops. My Junior year would start tomorrow as well as Sam’s Senior year. We walked hand in hand on the our trail that runs through the forest.
“Sam?” I ask with an austere tone.
He responds by ending his lengthy stride mid-step and kissing my cheek. I grin despite the seriousness of my awaiting inquiry. 
“What’s going to happen to us? After school is all finished?” I say, spitting the words out before I change my mind.
“I think we both already know the answer to that, silly.”
I wait, not saying anything. I may already have an idea or two about what I hope will happen, but I want to hear him say it.
“I’ll talk to your dad, you’ll pick out a white dress. It’s a love story. Baby, just say yes.” Sam sings the Taylor Swift song off key, making me laugh. He twirls me but I force myself to a quick stop and face him.
“I’m serious,” I tell him sternly, fighting my lingering urge to laugh at his answer.
“So am I. There isn’t anything I want more. Nothing and nobody can manke me change my mind, Leah.” 
I raise an eyebrow although I’ve already accepted his answer; now I’m just teasing and perhaps flirting a bit, hoping to spend every last minute of our summer together.
“I,” he says and kisses my forehead. “Love.” Kisses my nose. “You.” He kisses my lips gently and pulls me closer, wrapping his arms around my waist. With a giggle, I sneak my arms to his neck and lace my fingers together.
When we end the kiss, I move my arms to around his waist and lay my head against his chest. I can hear his steady heartbeat slowing its rhythm after the acceleration caused by our kiss.
“I love you too,” I say. He continues to hum “Love Story” quietly. “Is that really what will happen?”
“Absolutely. I promise. I love you, Leah. Nothing will ever change that. “
We stand there for a long time, maybe minutes, maybe hours, before continuing to walk until we reach our little clearing. A large rock sits hidden a bit deeper in the trees than our clearing; it’s covered in moss that is cool but not too damp, so instead of getting my new jeans dirty on the unusually dry ground, we sit against the rock. If we were string, it’d take a good amount of time to untangle us the way we intertwine our arms, legs, fingers. 
After a few minutes of quiet, my thoughts drift to school. “If I can, I’m going to take on some extra classes, maybe online so I can earn my credits.”
“Why’s that? So you don’t have to see me as much?” Sam teases.
“So I can graduate earlier and see you more,” I counter, reaching up to press our lips together. The kiss lasts awhile and before I know it, the sun is setting and we’re even more tangled up.
My eyelids dart open and I blink rapidly as a waterfall of tears pour down my face. His name escapes my lips in a yearning whisper as I remember he’s with Emily now. I am not his and he is not mine, despite the promises I know I meant and thought he did too. Breathing heavily, I sit up and bring my knees to my chest. With my arms around them I rock back and forth. Little did I know that less than a mile away, Sam was waking from the same dream. Neither did I know that Emily, his new fianceé, was by his side. 
It’s the dreams that make everything worse. They are the same memories and daydreams that I used to replay over and over in my mind to put me in a good mood. I wish that still worked. I turn to look at the clock after a bit, when my tears have slowed. It’s four in the morning. I crawl out of bed anyways and head to the shower, knowing that sleep won’t come easily for another day or two. I’ll probably wake up everyone else since I don’t bother to be quiet but at least they’ll know not to talk to me in the morning. I can’t help but wonder as I step under the blazing water if Sam has dreams and flashbacks like this too, and if he does, how he handles them in front of her. Does she even know? Maybe he recreates our memories with her, replacing the old-ugly-Leah ones with new gorgeous-exquisite-perfect-Emily ones. 
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Leah’s Diary: Roses Are Red, Topaz is Blue (Emily’s POV)

This entry is from the Point of View of Emily Young.


Dear Diary,

I was painting my fingernails a maroon color when my phone rang. “Snap, ” I say, using my preferred form of cussing—not that I hadn’t adopted worse from being around Sam and his friends. My phone was in my front pocket and I couldn’t get it out without smudging my polish. I wipe my nails on the towel, smearing the wet polish which leaves behind a mess and take my phone out. It’s Sam. Of course; tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day so I expected him to call.
“Hello?” I say.
“Hey, beautiful,” Sam greets, his voice smooth and steady.
“I’m sorry, who’s this?” I tease.
“Oh! I must have the wrong number. Oh well. You free tomorrow night?” He says, playing along.
“Won’t your girlfriend mind?” I chastise.
“No way. She knows I live for—”
My voice raises into a high-pitched scold, “Sam!”
“You know I’m just kidding. But anyways, do you have plans tomorrow?”
“Yeah, Sam, I totally have a date with this guy I met last week. He’s into modeling,” I say in a sarcastic tone. 
“Just checkin’.”
“So what are we doing? ” I ask him.
“It’s a secret, ” he says intriguingly.
“I’ll pick you up from work at four. I have to run for awhile, otherwise you could call in sick to work.”
I sigh, “Yeah well, be careful, ” I reply, trying not to let the worry that’s always in my voice show. When I know he’s running, it sometimes keeps me up all night. What if he got hurt? Or a vampire—No. I can’t even think about that. “Oh, and what should I wear?”
“Anything you want. I’ll probably just wear jeans and maybe a nicer shirt than normal, but don’t worry about dressing up. Anything else?”
“See you later, Em. Have a goodnight, ” Sam says, reminding me of how late it is.
“Goodnight, Sam. “
I hang up the phone and repaint my nails, this time leaving my phone beside me although there’s no need; no one but Sam ever calls this late. As soon as my nails are dried, I check tomorrow’s lesson plans and then get ready for bed. I fall asleep quickly, knowing Sam’s safe at home for the night. I dream of running beside him in the forest under the clouds made light pink by the sunrise.
Morning comes sooner than I would like and too soon, I have to go to work. I dress in a red shirt with ruffles that compliments my nails, and black dress pants as I’m not allowed to wear jeans to work. I add a chunky black necklace and a pair of black sandals with a small heel for accessories.
All through my classes, I am distracted, wondering what on earth Sam could have planned for the evening. I let my students work on their projects and instruct only when I have to. In one class of Juniors, my students notice my lack of contentment despite my attempt to act normal.
“Miss Young? You seem really out of it today,” Karina says to me.
“Yeah, ” I say, trying to quickly think of an excuse. “I haven’t slept well this week. It’s catching up with me.”
“Are you sure?” She asks. “Cuz Jess thinks it’s because today is Valentine’s Day and you have that guy who always picks you up.”
I blush, giving them the answer. “Yeah, maybe that’s it. None of you are much better. Karina’s been making googly eyes at Cade, and Cade at Jess, Caleb at Karina, Draven at Mary, and so on, ” I say, revealing some of their crushes lightheartedly and making them forget about me for the moment. I allow them to talk through class as they paint and sketch, playfully teasing each other and revealing more crushes.
Finally the last bell rings and I gather my things, heading out to the parking lot. It’s not quite four, but Sam is already there, leaning casually against a car, his hand behind his back. The car isn’t ours, since Sam runs here everyday and carries me back. Whenever the subject comes up with co-workers or others, I say that he parks around the corner.
He’s wearing a pair of black jeans that I don’t recall him owning so they must be new. His shirt is a tight white polo with half sleeves rolled up a few times. The pounding in my chest and sudden outbreak of butterflies in my stomach don’t even begin to describe how he’s making me feel as he embraces me with a hug and kisses me on the cheek. He smells fresh and clean, but not like a clean hospital smell, more like waking up in the morning after spending a night in the forest under the stars. After letting his side embrace drop to take my hand, he brings a single short-stemmed red rose from behind his back. I smile and thank him and he tucks the flower into my hair.
“Hey, you,” I kiss him back on the nose.
“Ready?” He asks.
I’m about to answer when a group of my students start chanting a few yards away. “Miss Young and…a stranger, sitting in the lot, k-i-s-” That’s all they get out before another teacher ushers them onto the bus. I shoot her a grateful glance and then take Sam’s hand and we walk around to the street, where Sam ‘parks.’
When we are out of sight of any bystanders, Sam runs into the woods ahead of me, sprinting out of sight. I wait for him about ten yards inside the forest, facing the street. Silky fur grazes my arm and I turn to see him as a wolf towering like a shadow overhead. He lies down and I crawl onto his back where I sit, holding his fur tightly in my fists. He stands and begins to run. I’ve always hated not being able to talk as we travel this way, but Sam knows that and always makes up for it by running his fastest and after all, it’s the cheapest form of transportation. He slows his run to a walk and then I can hear cars passing by again. He lies down again and I climb off. Watching the ground carefully so as not to stumble in my raised heeled shoes, I begin walking forward. Soon I can see the edges of a town I don’t recognize from the view since the backs of buildings face the forest. I hear Sam’s quiet human foot-falls against the forest floor and wait for him to catch up.
We walk hand in hand into the town and once we pass by a few buildings, I recognize Port Angeles. He leads me in the direction of the several stores and restaurants facing the bay. He stops when we are in front of a nice restaurant that I’ve heard costs a fortune.
“Hungry?” He inquires.
“Yes, but are you sure this is where you want to go?”
“Absolutely if it sounds okay to you.”
“I’ve heard the food is fantastic, but also expensive,” I say, feeling guilty for even addressing it.
“Don’t worry about the money, Em. If I couldn’t afford it, I wouldn’t have stopped here. Trust me,” Sam says, kissing my hand.
“Okay,” I answer and let him lead me inside.
The food is incredible to say the least. We both have the special—Champane Shrimp & Pasta—and after taking the first bite, I sigh with delight. Sam chuckles and makes a guttural sound of agreement. We eat mainly in silence, enjoying the food. When we do talk, we laugh at the cliché cheesy couples around the restaurant (before realizing we’d be included in that group), as well as the single people along the bar, treating themselves to a night out. For dessert, we shared a slice of Chocolate Lasagna, topped with pink sprinkles in honor of Valentine’s Day. Delicious was an understatement that everyone in the restaurant seemed to agree upon. 
Later in the evening we end up on the beach back in La Push, building a fire from driftwood. Sam pulls a box of matches from his pocket and ignites the fire. A blue flame spreads slowly, until the whole pile dances in the dark. The sun has already set but the sky still glows a perfect Valentine’s pink.
I sit on the sand with my back against Sam’s chest, watching the fire. He rests his chin on top of my head and laces his hands with mine. We listen to the crackling of the fire and the familiar whoosh of the ocean for several minutes without speaking.
“Emily?” Sam asks.
“Hmm?” I say contently with my eyes closed.
“Can I ask you something and you answer as honestly as you can?”
I straighten a little, turn to see Sam and open my eyes, becoming more attentive of what he’s saying, “Okay.”
“When I imprinted on you, you were mad and hated me and wanted me to go back to Leah.”
“That’s not really a question, ” I think about it for a moment before answering. “Yes, I was mad. No, I never have nor ever will hate you. And yes, I wanted you to return to Leah.”
Sam thinks over my answer, “You didn’t even hate me when this happened?” He brings his hand to my face and gently moves his finger along my scars.
“No. It was an accident, Sam.”
Sam is quiet for a moment and I think he is done with his questions and I turn my attention back to the fire until he does speaks again. “Do you still think I should go back to Leah?”
“If that’s what you want to do, I won’t stop you. I do like you, Sam, but I miss Leah. If the only way she would forgive me was for you to go back, then yes. But even if you did, I don’t know if she would forgive me. And I would miss you. A lot. If she ever decided she didn’t want you anymore…Well, I’d probably be there waiting.”
Sam sighs, “I wish this all were easier.”
“Me too, ” I agree.
“One more question, ” He pauses “okay maybe not. There will be more no matter how you answer.”
He hesitates again and I turn to look at him. His brown eyes reflect my silhouette against the rainbow flames.
“Do you…love me?”
I am taken aback by his question and have to turn away from his stare.
Do I love Sam? Do I? I realize I do. . But does that mean I don’t care about Leah anymore? Can’t I have both?
I turn back to him bravely, “Yes. I love you.”
Sam smiles and my heart melts with the power of this newfound  love. I love Sam Uley. I want to shout and proclaim my love for him to the world. The look in his eyes says he does too, but we settle for a kiss. Gently, he places his hands on either side of my face and comes closer, closer until our lips meet.
“I love you, Emily Young, and will continue to love you, until forever ends, with you in my arms.”
“I love you too, Sam.”
“So, another question then,” Sam draws himself away from me and kneels as if getting ready to stand. He reaches into his pocket and holds out a small box. My heart pounds like a jackhammer and it’s like we’re the only two people on earth. “Will you marry me, Em?” As he opens the box to reveal a silver ring, a clear round gem in the middle and lined with light topaz on either side. My eyes fill to the brim with tears.
“Yes, of course, ” I answer and saltwater spills onto my cheeks. He comes closer and kisses me again and I see that his cheeks are tear streaked too.
“I was hoping you’d say that, ” Sam says when we finally stop kissing.
I laugh, “I bet.”
Sam remembers then what he was doing before he kissed me and removes the ring from the box. He takes my hand and slides it onto my finger. In the colorful, shimmering light from the fire, the silver of the ring seems to bend and change colors. The contrast of the diamond against the topaz and the russet color of my skin is beautiful. Sam did a wonderful job choosing a ring and in that, I know I’ve made the right choice. He knows me so well and there is no one else on earth or even imaginable that I’d rather spend my eternity with.
We sit there for hours in each other’s arms, until the clouds above break and water falls down on us, putting out the fire. Sam scoops me into his arms and runs home, both of us with enormous smiles.
emilysoutfit samsoutfit thering
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Leah’s Diary: Friends and Foes

Dear Diary, 

Going back to school after breaks is always hard. My Christmas break was interesting…not terrible but not great. Now school has returned and with it, a strong rainstorm. I walk to school anyways, not even wearing a hood. I don’t really care what my hair looks like, or if I’m soaked.

Outside the school building a group of my classmates are huddled under the shelter of the roof, chomping down breakfast before they head inside. They are quiet as I begin to approach then someone says, “Can’t even put on a jacket by herself? She’s gotta have a man for that too?” The group all snickers and the tears barely even threaten to come while I go inside.

“Leah? Can I talk to you for a minute?” One of my teachers, Ms. Mersey, catches me in the hallway.

I don’t say anything but walk with her into the empty classroom.

“How was your Holiday break?”

An flash of images enters my mind, the haunting ghosts that overtook my life more than usual over break. “It was okay,” I lie.

“I got something for you. For Christmas. I didn’t get a chance to give it to you before since I had to take a sick day just before break. My oldest daughter had her baby so I went to Seattle.”

“Oh, um, you didn’t have to do that.” I hate when people randomly give me gifts; it’s not like they care about me.

“I wanted to. Here, open it. I think you’ll like it.”

I take the present she’s holding out and hesitate a moment before neatly unwrapping the paper. Inside is a beautiful journal with the Quileute insignia in the middle surrounded by words and quotes of varying fonts and sizes. I open it and let the pages fan out as I drop them back down. Each page is an off-white with faded black lines and quotes interrupting them every few pages.

“Wow,” I say, surprised by how much I love the book. “Thank you.”

She smiles at my genuine interest. I put the journal in my messenger backpack and head to class.

My homeroom class is the first and last of the day and it’s the only one in which my teacher forces me to sit in the front of the room. Mrs. Warner is one of the few teachers not originally from La Push but she married a native a few years ago. A couple months later, he passed away and she got a job teaching at the school to pay the bills. Usually I sneak to the back of the classroom anyway, in hopes she won’t notice me there, but today, since I stopped to talk with Ms. Mersey, most of the class has already filed in and sat down. Those that haven’t had their seats claimed with their things. The seat I usually end up sitting in is vacant so I sit down with my bag atop the desk and rest my head on it.

“Jesse, Leah, heads up please,” Mrs. Warner insists after calling the class to order. I lift my head for a second and as soon as she begins speaking again, put it back down, ignoring the class that goes on around me. For the most part, they ignore me too.

“Leah,” someone whispers, nudging me. I raise my head a bit and open my eyes to see the girl who sits next to me with her hand on my arm. “We’re supposed to be finding a partner for the assignment. Do you want to work together?”

I shake my head. “I, uh, don’t—” I stop speaking when I see the look on her face. She looks…friendly. I look around the classroom and see that everyone else is already working. “Okay. You’re…Brianna, right?”

“Yes,” she says, studying me curiously. “You really don’t pay attention much, do you?”

“Why should I?” I automatically snap and instantly regret it. “Sorry, I just…I really have no reason to.”

She nods. “So we’re, um, supposed to choose a famous mathematician and do a report on them with a poster to explain what they taught and their theory and stuff.” I don’t say anything so she continues. “So I guess we should see if we can use a computer?”

She gets up and asks approval to use one of the ancient computers our school has only a few of and returns with a permission slip. We go to the computer room and sit together around the monitor. It takes several minutes for the old machine to begin to hum and come to life. While we wait, Brianna tries to make conversation, but I’m severely out of practice.

“So, what do you like to do, Leah?”

She has to repeat the question a few times before I comprehend.

“Do? Uh, I don’t know. I don’t do anything.”

“Do you like books? Movies? Sports?”

“No. I can’t…focus.”

“Oh.” Brianna gives up and turns her attention to the computer, typing in the school’s log in and opening up the slower-than-molasses-Internet. I never use the computers here. Mom and Dad have one at home that they use for work sometimes. Seth occasionally plays games on it but I’ve never really had an interest in using it. What would I do? Solitaire my life away? Talk to the friends I don’t have?

Brianna does most of the work, telling me what to write in a notebook after she finds information on the computer, occasionally drawing a quick sketch and then returning the pencil to me.

“What’s that?” she asks, taking me from a daydream I’d drifted into.

I look up at her and down at the paper where she appears to be looking. I’ve been doodling, I guess, and nearly the entire second page is covered with dark pencil lines. In the bottom right corner is a picture of a cage, a prison with me inside. The bars of the cage are actually made of feathers and beads that go up to form a dream catcher just under our few sentences of notes. I’m not in the web of the dream catcher like I was in the prison, but someone else is; It’s Sam and he’s not really caught, more like relaxing in the web. In the left hand corner, is the part I was last working on it appears since it’s not fully finished. It’s Emily, tossing a key behind her into a wolf’s mouth. I have no idea how I came up with any of it—it was all a subconcious effort. The truth in the picture is so strong it hurts—except the wolf. What is the wolf there for?

Brianna takes the paper and looks at each part of the drawing closer. “Wow. You’re really good. I didn’t know you could draw.”

I shrug. “I didn’t either really.”

“Who are they?”

I look at the picture once more and then look away. “I don’t know,” I lie.

The bell rings and Brianna hesitates with her hand on the notebook. “Do you mind if I keep this? It has our notes,” she says.

I shake my head and swing my bag over my shoulder. “It’s yours anyways.”

Then we head our seperate ways to the next class. Nothing out of the ordinary happens until lunch; just same old boring classes and people grumbling about having to come to school after break. At lunch when I walk into the cafeteria that holds kinderten through twelfth grade for lunch, I notice something off in the high school section. Hardly anyone is at the tables; instead they are huddled in groups and there’s a buzz in the air. I slide to a halt in the doorway but the principal pushes his way past me with the secratary and lunch duty following close behind.

“What’s going on?” Mr. Steadfoot, the principal, demands in a loud voice.

A few of the groups loosen but no one says anything.

“Now!” he continues. Someone pushes a freshman girl from their group towards him. She shuffles forward slowly with a paper in hand, gives it to him, and retreats to the lunch line—not that it does any good, because everyone has stopped moving to watch. He examines the paper with his group gathered around. “Who drew this?”

Again, no one answers. Finally someone lifts their finger to point. Other hands slowly raise to join them in pointing at…me?

Mr. Steadfoot turns toward me in complete and utter confusion. “Her?” He raises an eyebrow. “No offense to you, Miss Clearwater, but you’re not one to draw attention to yourself let alone pick up a pencil. Is this yours?”

I don’t move. I don’t speak. What has happened? After a few seconds he walks to me with the paper lifted up by a corner as if it is contaminated. It is my drawing. The one I gave Brianna earlier but since then it’s been altered inappropriately. It was obviously made to hurt me though, not anyone else. Why would someone do this? My eyes flicker around the room until I find Brianna. She’s stitting down in the middle of the floor, her eyes cast downward.

Mr. Steadfoot still has his eyebrow drawn and is waiting for my answer but I continue to watch the group. A few girls, the more popular ones, stand around Brianna. One of them—Kelsey—speaks to Brianna with her hands on her hips. “Get up. It’s not like you were her friend anyways. It’s better this way. You wouldn’t want her to come between us, would you? I mean, all she cares about is that dumb guy.”

“Miss Clearwater? Leah?” the principal says, bringing my attention back to him. “Is this yours?”

“I’ve never seen that before,” I lie. I turn on my heel and walk down the hall to my next class even though it’s not time. Mom won’t be happy if I miss any more classes for ‘no reason,’ as she puts it.

Behind me, I try not to listen to the commotion. It’s too loud though. I can hear the tapping of Kelsey’s heels as she crosses the linoleum and says, “Mr. Steadfoot! It is hers. Brianna watched her draw it in 3rd hour.”

Then his deep voice, “Brianna, is this true?”

I don’t hear an answer but from the way the noise resumes in the cafeteria, it seems as though Brianna has answered. In my next class, the bell has already rang and the teacher started class when I realize that Brianna should be in this class. She comes in late and takes the only empty seat in the room, which happens to be in front of mine. When the teacher has handed out old papers and gave us an assignment later, Brianna turns around in her seat.

“I’m really sorry, Leah. It was sticking out of my bag and Cory grabbed it. I didn’t even realize he and Kelsey had it until they’d drawn all over it and made like ten copies.”

I ignore her and pretend to do my worksheet.

“Leah? I’m really, really sorry.”

“I don’t even care.”

“Please? I do want to be your friend, Lee.”

I look up at her. “Kelsey doesn’t want you to be my friend very much. Aren’t you her puppet anyway? Never stray from the pack, right?”

The look on her face says I’m right; she’d never betray her best friend, and befriending me would be doing that. I ignore her for the rest of the class despite her attempts to apologize. The instant the bell rings, I dash towards the hallway with my bag slung over my shoulder. I’m going so fast the strap of my messenger back catches on the doorknob, slinging me into the wall like a rubberband. Instead of getting up, I sink to the floor as the tears begin to roll down my face.

“Leah?” a deep voice asks, holding a tissue in front of my face. I snatch the tissue away but don’t use it. I don’t look at the owner of the voice either who seems to have the intention of staying beside me. After a moment, he sinks to the floor beside me, our backs against the wall and legs extended. Our classmates have to play hopscotch to get through the maze of us and our things.

“Can I do anything for you, Leah?” The voice asks.

Finally looking up, I find myself drawn into a pair of beautiful hazel eyes. I frown because I can’t remember the helpful man’s name. He must notice this somehow because he holds out his hand and says, “Tony.”

I begin to shake my head in reply to his question, not shaking his reaching hand, but his hand quickly raises and catches my cheek, forcing me to look at him.

“I saw your drawing before they ruined it. You really have a talent. It was beautiful, just like you.”

I don’t plan to answer but a whispered “thank you” escapes my lips.

“Do you think maybe I could take you out sometime?”

The question catches me off guard and before something else slips out, I stand up, leaving my bag behind, and sprint out of the classroom. Where is there to go though? It seems as though no matter where I am, the nightmares are there too. Finally, I decide to go home, not caring that I’ll surely get into trouble for skipping more classes.

Mom is in the living room, chatting away with her company—Old Quil and his daughter, Mishawn, who is a good friend of Mom’s—as she irons clothes.

“What are you doing home from school?” she asks with an exasperated sigh. I shrug. “Oh Leah! You have to stop this! You can’t just come and go from school and work as you please! You do need more credits if you want to graduate with honors.”

“Maybe I don’t.”

“Well perhaps I expect it from you.”

“Perhaps I don’t care.”

“Leah Anne Clearwater! Go to your room! Now! I expect you back at school in the morning with all of your work done.”

I roll my eyes and go upstairs. What could she possibly punish me with? Deprive me of sleep? Not like the nightmares don’t already do that. Not let me see anyone? Not likely anyways. Why do I even bother living?

An hour or so later, the front door opens and closes a few times so I assume mom’s company has left. Then someone walking up the stairs—probably Mom coming to give me another lecture about missing school.

There isn’t a knock on my door before she enters. No, not she, but my father.

“Hey,” he says, sitting on the bed across from mine.

I don’t answer.

“What’s going on?”

“Did Mom send you to lecture me?”

“No. She’s in a bad mood though so I guessed you’d come home early. Wanna tell me what’s going on?”

“Not really. I don’t want to seem weak just because I come home when I get tired of being treated like crap,” I say.

“Leah, you’re the strongest person I know. You’ve been through so much more, and even before that, you were more mature than any of the kids at school. Your soul is a thousand years old. Nothing you say could make you seem weak,” Dad says gently.

I suck in a deep breath and then tell him everything. “They all hate me and think I’m weak. None of them know me. We had to work in partners today and while I was taking notes, I started to doodle without thinking about it. The notebook wasn’t mine and someone else got ahold of it. They changed the picture to something bad, and then told the principal I’d drawn it. I just can’t stand to be laughed at day after day for things that have hurt me, things I can’t control. They think I can’t do anything without Sam.”

Dad sighs and takes a moment to gather his thoughts. “They don’t know you. They don’t understand what you’ve been through. I doubt that any one of them has evern had a love like yours and Sam’s. Next time something happens, fight back harder. Explain what happened. Don’t let them push you around. You have it in you to fight and be strong. It’s in your blood, Leah.”

“You know I don’t believe all that tribe stuff anymore.”

“It doesn’t matter. It’s in your blood anyway. Did I ever tell you about what happened with me in high school?”

“I don’t think so,” I answer, trying to recall all the stories he’s told me.

“I’ll be right back,” he says, going out into the hallway and leaving the door open. He opens the hallway closet that holds extra linens and digs through a box at the bottom. Dad returns a minute later with a photo album, which he opens and sits by me, pointing to a picture of a younger version of my Dad and someone else. “This was my best friend in high school. He died the week before our senior year. It was so hard on me. I didn’t want to do anything—eat, sleep, go to school, be at home, nothing. So many people made fun of me, telling me to get over it and move on. He’d been my best friend for years, so that was not easy. In about the middle of the year, they started wondering if his accident wasn’t so accidental after all. Rumors started to fly about suicide and homicide. At school, speculations were made about me being involved. It was awful. I mean, he was my best friend. Anyone that was kind to me, the others would tell them that they were next.”

“I had no idea,” I say. Dad’s story is so similar to my own, so painful also. “Dad, how did you make it through the rest of school? And what happened?”

Dad exhales slowly. “I barely made it through passing. It wasn’t easy and I still think about the things they said to me. Whether friends or foes, you’ve got to become friends with everyone because everyone is really fighting the real enemy; yourself, and others can help you win that fight.”

I nod but don’t reply; I’m too busy thinking about everything he’s said.

Dad leaves me and keeps Mom from bothering me for the rest of the day. He wakes me up in the morning, telling me to ‘go fight and don’t let them get to you. Friends may come and go, but foes do too.’



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Leah’s Diary: New Year’s Ghosts
Hey! Sorry it’s been so long! To make up for it, this is a super long entry!
WARNING: ahead of time, there may be some triggers in the last paragraph for those of you who need to watch out for them. Also, all the italic section is a memory so when it switches back to normal font, it’s back in the present time for Leah. I hope you enjoy the entry! Love you all! <3 Annee
Dear Diary,
A Lindsey Stirling song seeps to my ears from my headphones. Thump. Thump.  That’s new, I think, wondering if it was possible that I’d somehow missed two stomps in the song I thought I’d had memorized. Thump. Thump.  Louder this time. No, not possible. I pull an ear bud out in time to hear a third knock on my door.
“What?” I groan, hitting pause on my new mp3 player. 
The knob turns and Dad pokes his head in. I relax since it’s not Mom coming to hound on me. From the time of my return from Rachel’s, Mom’s been so snappy and overbearing. Dad on the other hand, had been the closest thing I had to a friend. And when Seth wasn’t in his room humming along to love songs on the radios—something weird and unusual for Seth—or out with friends, he’d sometimes come in and talk to me. 
“Hey, Lee-bear. I could tell your mom was plotting to come up and drag you to the neighborhood party tonight so I figured I should come warn you. Mom’s not so great at being relaxed and keeping her cool sometimes.”
I force my lips into a tight grin. “Thanks, Dad.”
“Really though, you should come. I don’t think it will be too terrible. And if it is, you can be my excuse to leave. Or vice versa.”
A short laugh escapes me. “I’ll think about it. What time?”
“Ten-thirty. And the usual spot. Not the same as last year’s though since this is just the neighborhood, not the council’s party.”
Dad leaves and I spend a minute thinking it over. Last year when I went, I was still with Sam. It was just before he disappeared. For a few minutes, I allow myself to remember, knowing it would come in my dreams tonight anyways.
I hear the doorbell ring downstairs and then voices as it opens and closes. Sam must be here. I smooth over my dress, straighten my corduroy jacket one last time and head downstairs with my sandals sinking into the carpeted stairs. I watch Sam’s head lift from his conversation with my mother and his eyes gaze across me. He takes my hand at the bottom step and doesn’t let go as I come to stand beside him, not even when my father comes in the room. In fact, he kisses me quickly on the cheek. I blush which makes Sam laugh. 
“As long as it’s fine with you, Mr. and Mrs. Clearwater, I’ll take Leah to dinner and then we’ll meet you in a couple hours at the party,” Sam says, looking both my parents in the eye.
Dad nods his head once. “Sounds fine. Have a good evening you two. No messing around. And take good care of her, Sam. She’s my princess.”
“Always, sir. I would never let anything bad happen to her.” Sam smiles at me. We bid my parents a good evening, and head outside. I laugh when I see the car Sam’s got for us for the evening. He doesn’t have his own car yet and instead borrows from someone. This time he has his mother’s ancient, beat up VW bug. I punch him in the arm and run to escape the teasing I know will come in return.
Sam laughs, shakes his head and runs after me. I pull open the passenger door, get in and lock the doors. Sam jogs around to the driver’s side and leans down to look in the window. First, he raises an eyebrow and then shrugs when I give him a challenging look. I grab the keys from the middle console—no one steals cars in La Push— turn the car on and the radio up enough to make the seats vibrate. Looking back at the house, I see my parents and Seth peeking out the windows laughing. I wave and smile before turning back to Sam. His nose is pressed against the glass, his lips drawn into a pout, and his eyes wide, faking sadness. I burst out laughing so hard it takes me awhile to find the unlock button. 
Sam gets in the car, turns the radio back to its normal volume and watches me laugh.
He smiles. “Well, I certainly no longer regret bringing this car.”
“Why’s that? You like getting locked out of your own car? That’s really weird, Sam, my man.”
“Ha, ha,” Sam says sarcastically as he backs up the car. “No, not really. But I do love seeing you laugh and have a good time.”
I take Sam’s free hand that’s not driving and lay my head on his shoulder. 
“I love you,” I say.
“I love you more,” he counters, leaning to kiss my head at a stop sign.
“Where are we going?” I ask as we head further into town instead of our normal date route towards Forks.
“You’ll see.”
I close my eyes and breathe in Sam’s smell; sweet, delicious and mature. My stomach does flips even though I’m comfortable with Sam. He’s home to me. 
The car comes to a stop and I open my eyes to find us parked near the edge of the forest, not our usual place but somewhere I’ve never been. 
“Ready?” I don’t answer Sam through words but sit up. Before I’ve got my seatbelt off, Sam is opening my door and taking my hand in his. 
We hike through the forest, Sam helping me around and over nature’s obstacles. 
“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea,” I comment as I see our next trial is a large pile of rocks to climb over without a hint as to what’s on the other side. The accumulation of rocks ranges from small pebbles to stones as big as Seth’s head and looks unsteady. I’m more than ready to turn back after watching a squirrel scamper across sending several rocks—of varying sizes—tumbling down to the dirt. 
“Nonsense,” Sam replies and scoops me into his arms. Instinctively, he holds me close and I curl my arm around his neck, linking it with my other hand. Sam paces himself and ascends the mound with ease. He’s sure-footed and so natural in the forest.
“I thought we were going to dinner anyways, Sam.”
“We are.”
“What’re we gonna do? Catch it ourselves?”
“If that’s what you want. But not exactly what I was thinking.”
We reach the top of the pile and after a few steps down, we are on the most beautiful cliff edge overlooking the forest, the rocky beach, and beyond that, the waves of the ocean. You can even see A-Ka-Lat, known by those outside of our tribe as St. James Island. Sam sets me softly on my feet and I gaze around at the breathtaking view. 
“How did I not know about this place?” I ask.
“Honestly, I have no idea. Sometimes the tribe council has evenings or parties up here. It’s kept pretty quiet though. They don’t want a bunch of tourists or trouble-makers up here.”
“We’ll we’d better leave then,” I say, moving to face Sam and thread my arms around his neck again. Our foreheads touch and for a moment we breathe each other in. It doesn’t take long though before our lips meet and Sam brings me even closer to him. When we stop to catch a breath, I pull back a bit and smile.
“I miss you.”
“You see me every day, Lee-lee,” Sam laughs. 
“I know but if it was my way, you’d always be around.”
“Me too. Soon. Once we graduate…” 
I press my lips against his again, interrupting his words.
“I love you, Sam.”
“I love you, Lee-lee. Are you hungry?”
I turn back to look around the cliff again, wondering if we just came up for the view and Sam still plans to eat at a restaurant. No, there on the edge of a cliff, still ten feet from the drop, a blanket is spread across the wild grass and damp earth. A cooler sits by the edge of the quilt. I raise my eyebrows. I must have been pretty distracted to miss a bright red box. 
With our hands linked we go to the blanket and arrange ourselves comfortably. Sam opens the cooler and begins getting out the food. Apparently it’s actually a hot/cold box, with half of it meant to keep food warm for a few hours and the other side to keep things chilled. We sit facing each other as we eat, but I’m not looking at Sam. Instead the view distracts me for the majority of my meal. As the full moon rises, I find myself concentrating more on Sam; the soft brown of his eyes, his full lips, his dark russet skin, his feathery hair. Everyone of his features, I know as well as my own.
“What are you thinking about?” Sam asks, breaking the silence.
“You,” I answer, setting my drink on the ground and scooting beside him. Sam puts his drink down as well and drapes his arm around me. I rest the back of my head on his chest and tilt my chin up to see him.
“So…New Year’s resolutions?” Sam asks, his voice steady and curious.
I groan, “Uhh. I hate those. If you want to do something, do it. Why wait for the New Year? I hate that word, goal. Sounds so…Uhh. It should be more like ‘What’s on your bucket list?’ And pick twelve or so; one for each month. Or smaller ones, to do each week.” 
From the movement against my head, I can tell Sam is nodding. 
“That makes sense. So, your bucket list then?”
I think for a minute. “I don’t really know. Maybe we should make one for us to do together,” I suggest, another set of stomach flips arriving.
Sam brightens at the idea and and picks up on my own excitement. He pulls out his phone and opens the notes in front of us; ‘Number one: Never go a day without a kiss.’
“That sounds achievable,” I smile and move to kiss him. “What else?”
“I don’t know. Until you’re finished with school, I don’t suppose your parents would like us to do much more in that direction. Maybe some kind of date adventures; miniature golfing, or scavenger hunts or some stuff like that.”
I scrunch up my face in an attempt to look upset but Sam kisses me on the nose and I end up laughing.
“My Lee-lee,” Sam whispers and kisses me once more. After a few minutes we begin cleaning up our food, folding up the blanket, and storing them both under a tree. Sam says he’s coming back for them tomorrow, so we begin the hike back down. Sam helps me down the sliding rocks again and guides me through the forest by the light of the moon. If it were just me alone in the dark forest here, I wouldn’t have a clue as to how to find my way back, let alone see all the obstacles. It’s almost like Sam has a sixth sense. 
Soon we’re back at the car where Sam opens my door for me and waits until I’m in to close it. We check the time and decide to head to the New Year’s Eve party although we’ll be a bit early. Even though there’s plenty of time to spare, most everyone is already there. Our neighborhood usually throws a New Year’s party each year, but this year is a council meeting party—not that that means anyone out of the norm will be there since La Push is so small. The council throws a party every year, but rotates which holiday it’s for. Sam and I make our was to the crowd dispersed among the small grass and mud covered field. Music plays loudly, forcing everyone to talk louder to be heard. We spot my parents with Billy Black, Charlie Swan—actually from Forks but invited anyways since he’s pretty much family—and Old Quil who’s another council member, and head toward’s them. Their circle widens as we join.
“Hey kids,” says Billy with a smile on his face.
“How are you Leah? Sam?” Old Quil says and shakes our hands.
“Good,” we answer in unison. I smile at our jinx and lean against Sam. He wraps his arm around my waist at the same time I fold my arms and grab his other hand. We’ve been together so long now, Dad doesn’t even blink. I know he approves of Sam and how well-mannered he is despite his father’s short comings. 
“How has your evening been?” Mom asks us.
“Amazing. Sam’s quite a good cook and the view from our picnic spot was incredible. You could see A-Ka-Lat.”
“Oh yeah? I bet that was beautiful with the sun setting and stars coming out.”
“It was,” I answer. 
A slow song comes on through the speakers and Sam knows by the jerk of my head to look at him that I want to dance.
“Excuse us,” he says politely and escorts me to where others are dancing. “Your parents and the others are talking about us,” Sam says as we sidestep in a circle.
“How do you know?” I ask.
“They’re all watching us and I can read our names on their lips.” 
I turn to see them and watch as they meet my eyes and all quickly look away. I laugh and Sam joins in; alto and bass, a harmonious sound that blends with the fast song coming on.
For a long time we make rounds to friends and distant family, back to my parents and again to the dance floor. We do separate a few times, me being whisked away to the dance floor by my father to swing or slow dance, and Sam chatting with the adults and my mother. By the time eleven-thirty rolls around, my feet are aching and my voice raspy from having to speak so loudly. Sam notices how worn out and tired I am and watches silently for an opportunity to get away. When an older couple takes the dance floor doing a traditional Quiluete dance and drawing most of the crowd’s attention. My parents are watching intently along with the rest of their group so Sam takes my hand and leads me a way into the forest. We go to the trail that runs around La Push, a hundred and fifty yards or so in. In fact, that’s where we usually spend time together, just not this part of the trail. Sam finds a mossy boulder with a bed of pine needles below and spreads his jacket for us to sit on.
“Tired?” he asks, already knowing the answer.
“Mmhmm,” I murmur, closing my eyes as I rest against his shoulder.
“The hike probably didn’t help.”
“It’s worth it if I get to be with you.”
I hear the crack of his parched lips as he smiles. We are quiet as we rest for a few minutes. A loud crack makes me jump. Sam’s body tenses, his arm curling tighter around me to offer—no, give—his protection. Another snap and footsteps. Hushed voices. We both look around for the source of the noise. Two dark silhouettes stand out and pause as they catch a glimpse of us.
“Who’s there?” Sams asks, his voice strong.
The figures stop walking and turn to see us.
“Um…,” a male voice hesitates, “we’re not really supposed to be here so…we’ll just go.” 
Sam stands up and finds the voice’s owner in the darkness.
“Who. Are. You,” Sam growls.
“Parker. Parker Vance. And my sister, Julia. Please, just let us go.”
“Why are you out here? You’re not from La Push.”
“No, no. We’re from out of town,” the voice says.
“Why are you here?” Sam repeats.
When the voice responds, it is thick with the threat of tears. “We shouldn’t be. We—”
The girl speaks for the first time, sensing her brother’s trouble finding words. Her voice sounds younger than I thought her to be. “Our mommy and daddy went to heaven and the bad people took us so Parker’s taking us to a nice warm place. Only he forgot how to get there and Madi went to get help, only she got took again. So me and Parker are just trying to find more good people like us.”
Somewhere during the little girl’s explanation I stood up. The moon came out from behind the clouds, giving us more light and illuminating the pair’s exhausted and dirty faces. I walk to Sam’s side and touch his arm. He turns and his face softens when he sees the pleading look on my face.
“Please don’t let them take us,” Parker says. His eyes are distant and afraid, like he’s remembering something haunting from his past. I turn away from Sam to him and am taken back by how handsome he is.
“Come on,” I say. “It’ll be okay.”
I take hold of Julia’s hand and begin leading the way to the parking lot, leaving no choice for the others but to follow. I hear Parker’s loud footfalls and have to look over my shoulder to see that Sam is there too, as his footsteps are nearly silent. We reach our car and I grab mine and Seth’s cell phone from the middle console to dial my mother’s number.
“Leah? Where in the world are you? You two do not—do you hear me?—not, run off like this!” She continues rambling on, not allowing me a word.
I say, “Mom!” several times growing louder each time until she finally stops speaking.
“What?” she snaps.
“Can you and Dad and Charlie please come to the parking lot ASAP?”
“Uhh, okay?” She sounds confused but I know they’ll come. 
I watch as three figures emerge from the crowd and walk toward us at a brisk pace. Under the streetlamps, it’s easy to see that both Parker and Julia have not bathed in days. They are so thin; they’re stomachs must be long past growling and now just suffer in silence. Even the skin on their faces stretches tight across their cheekbones. Parker’s eyes have dark circles below them and Julia’s covered in goosebumps, shivering despite the unusually warm night.
“What’s going on?” Charlie asks as they approach our silent gathering, surveying the newcomers. 
“I’m hungry,” Julia says to Parker, tugging on his arm.
He replies, “I know, sissy. We’ll find something in the morning.”
Charlie meets Parker’s eyes and when Parker says no more, looks from me to Sam. “Sam? Leah?”
Sam answers, “We found these two in the woods. Parker and Julia.”
Julia shivers again and I remove my jacket, wrapping it around her.
“Let’s go back to the house and we can figure things out,” Dad says.
“We brought Charlie from the house and Billy and Jacob so we don’t have enough seats in the car. Do you have room, Sam?” Mom asks.
“Yeah, we can take them. Leah…”
“I’ll sit in the back with Julia,” I say, exchanging a look with Sam. He doesn’t want Parker to be able to do anything to us from behind like in the movies, and no way would he want me to sit next to him. It may be silly to consider such a thing but I don’t argue with him. He’s protective—which I like—and the last thing he’d want to do is take an unnecessary risk. Charlie retrieves Billy and Jacob from the crowd. Our group departs and gets in the cars to head for home driving behind my parents.
For seeming to have lived in the forest for awhile, Parker smells incredibly good. He has a woodsy scent—not like Sam’s forest floor and sea air smell—but a sweet, sappy evergreen aroma. The only sound in the car during the short drive is Julia humming a lullaby.
At the house, Sam waits for Parker and Julia to go in first, after Mom, Dad and Charlie and takes my hand as we bring up the rear. Parker and Julia settle on the couch with Dad and Charlie in recliners. Mom busies herself with checking in over the phone with Seth and getting mugs of warm milk and toast for our visitors. Sam and I head over to our usual spot on the love seat and he wraps me in his warm embrace. Only a minute after receiving her milk and gulping the entire glass, Julia falls asleep on a throw pillow. 
“All right, kid. Parker, was it?” Charlie begins. “Let’s hear this story.”
Parker gazes around at all the eyes on him and then looks down, not saying a word. 
“Okay,” Charlie continues. “We’ll start easy. Where are you and your sister from?”
“Seattle,” Parker’s smooth tenor voice replies. The sweet sound of it makes me shiver and Sam gives me a strange look which I pretend not to notice.
“And your last name?”
“Where are your parents?”
This too is only followed by silence. 
“Look, Parker, I’ll be honest; I’m a cop. I want to help you two out but I can only do that if you tell me what’s going on. I promise not to let anything bad happen so long as I can. I will do everything in my power to help you out. So either you can answer my questions and I will do that, or I can take you to the station in the morning to answer them,” Charlie says.
Parker’s face twists into a look of anguish.
Words come from my mouth before I’ve even decided to speak. “They both look exhausted, hungry, and need to clean up. Let’s let them sleep through the night and take care of their needs. Maybe Parker will be more open after a good night’s rest and a full meal.” 
Mom agrees and the men instantly know that there is no use arguing against the two of us. 
“There’s two beds in my room and Seth’s gone for the night so I can take his,” I say.
“You sure, Leah?” Mom asks, already gathering pillows and blankets.
I nod and Parker follows Mom up. Dad scoops up Julia and he follows as well. I stand and Sam comes up with me. 
“Leah,” Sam whispers seriously once we are out of earshot. “I don’t like this. Them taking your room? Him?

“Sam,” I argue, “they have no place else to go.”
“The couches, Leah. Not your room!” he hisses.
I shake my head and go upstairs. We stand between rooms in the hallway.
“I’ll be fine,” I insist. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
“Come over first thing in the morning and you’ll see that everything is fine. Text me when you get home.”
Sam nods but his lips are drawn tight and I can tell he still despises the situation. Sam retreats down the stairs and I get ready for bed in the bathroom then head to Seth’s room shutting the door behind me. 
“Goodnight, Leah,” my parents say, and I hear them head back downstairs. 
There’s a soft knock on Seth’s door a few minutes later at the same time my phone buzzes. It’s Sam saying that he’s made it home. I text him back telling him ‘goodnight’ and ‘I love you’ and then open the door expecting Julia to be there. Instead, it’s Parker standing there in a clean set of clothes a bit big for him. 
“Hi,” I say, unsure of his reasons for being here. A voice in my head tells me to call for my parents, that Sam has been right but the words that come next from Parker say otherwise.
“I was wondering if I might ask you a few things? And perhaps confide in you. You’ve been so kind to us, Leah,” he says in that charming voice. 
“Yes, of course. Umm—” I look around at our options of where to talk and remember Seth’s bed is a hide-a-bed. He wanted a couch in his room to make playing video games easier but there wasn’t room for both that and a bed. I go back in, clear my pillow off and fold up the bed. Parker hesitates in the doorway until I put the couch cushions on, and tilt of my head towards the sofa. We sit  half facing each other with nearly a foot between us. 
“Why did you help us?” he asks.
I shrug. “It seemed like something I should do. I would want someone to if it was me. And our chilly, wet weather already isn’t too fun even with a warm house.” 
Parker nods, and goes to ask another question.
“Wait,” I interrupt. “My turn, if I may.” I wait for an approving nod. “Is what Julia said true? About your parents and everything?”
Parker hesitates before he answers, looking down at his hands. “It started about three months ago. We’d just moved from California to Seattle. Our parents went out to sign some more papers on our house, only they never got there. There was a bad rainstorm and we’re not so used to this weather. Something happened with the car; they lost control and hit a truck. We didn’t know what was going on. It got late and they didn’t come home so we—Madi and I—put Julia to be and then went ourselves.
“When I woke up, my sisters were downstairs and there was a stranger in the kitchen an police officers on the couch. They took us to a home, the Bergstrom’s, where we stayed for three days. Then to the Delany’s. As nice as they were, they just had too many kids and it wasn’t home. It was like a combined duplex with two families, both with biological, adopted, and foster kids. We were walking to school one day when these people came and offered us a lift. Julia accepted so Madi and I had no choice but to follow our little sister already in the car. We didn’t go to school that day. I don’t even remember the weeks after that. They’re just gone. Until one day, a few weeks ago, we woke up and they’d forgotten to lock the door. They were in another room so we sneaked out.
“For about a week we ran, stealing from trash when we could and collecting rain water. It was clear, though, that we had to keep moving. We have a family friend  who lives just over the Canadian border and if we could just get there…Only Madi started to get sick. She threw up every morning and could hardly keep anything down—not that there was much to eat anyways. She got upset and found a little gas station. She went in to get help while Julia and I hid outside across the road. Then a car showed up. The same one from weeks before. The people went in and only minutes later, Madi was being forced into their car again. We couldn’t go back or get help—I’d turn eighteen and could be charged with kidnapping since we’d disappeared from a foster home. It looked bad so we had to just keep going. We’re running out of luck though. It’s only a matter of time before we starve or freeze or something attacks us,” Parker finished in a fearful whisper. I close my eyes trying to process everything. 
“Madi’s your sister?”
“Yes. She’s fifteen.” 
A tear spills from my eye, sympathetic of their hardships. “How old’s Julia?”
For the first time since Parker began his story, I turn to face him fully and look him straight in the eye.
“You are incredible for staying alive with your sisters so far. If you remember where the place was you escaped from, I bet Charlie—the cop friend—could help get Madi back.”
Parker shakes his head, “They’ll end up back in a foster home. Even though I’m eighteen now, I haven’t graduated yet. I can’t support all three of us. And if we told and those people weren’t located, I can be accused of kidnapping the girls. You can’t tell anyone this , Leah. Not even your parents. No one can know. Okay?”
“Okay,” I agree, even though common sense tells me not to. Parker has trusted me and if I can’t explain, maybe I can convince him to tell Charlie something. “I promise.”
“Thank you, Leah. For everything. Just giving us a good meal and a warm place to sleep is more than I’d ever thought would happen. I’d wished though, and you made that come true. It’s so much.”
“Of course.” We are quiet for a moment so I ask another question. “So, what now?”
“Well if we could stay another day or two to get more rest and energy. I know the cop probably won’t let me go too long without answers, so…I don’t really know. I’ll think of something. Just as long as I can keep Julia quiet while we’re around.”
“I don’t have my license but maybe I can talk Sam—my boyfriend—into giving you a boost. And you’ll let me know if there’s anything else I can help with?”
“Yes.” A yawn interrupts his words. 
“You should get some sleep. Just give me some kind of signal if you need or want to talk more.”
Parker nods and stands up. “Goodnight, Leah. I’ll never stop owing you for this kindness.”
He envelops me in a warm hug, giving me another whiff of his delicious smell. 
“Goodnight, Parker. I hope everything works out.”
He leaves the room and I put the bed back together. Despite my fatigue from the long day, I have a hard time falling asleep—too much to think about. Sam, Parker, Julia, Madi, Charlie, so many fill my thoughts; It takes hours to find peace and silence in my mind.
In the morning, I am faintly aware of a knock and someone coming in but I don’t fully arouse until sunlight streams in through the window and someone sits on the edge of the bed. I stretch my arms and legs and rub my eyes to clear the gunk that settled there overnight. A smile comes to my face when I see that it’s Sam in the room. My parents must be in a good mood to let Sam come up while I’m in bed which is surprising since we sneaked away from the party last night; they must be preoccupied with our company. 
“Good morning, beautiful,” Sam says, leaning to kiss me quickly—no, maybe not quickly. There’s no such thing as a quick kiss when it comes to us. “How’d you sleep?”
“Pretty good.”
“Good. I brought you some breakfast,” Sam says lifting up a tray of scrumptious looking food, equipped with orange juice and a daisy in a vase. I smile bigger and sit up, pushing more pillows behind me and moving to make room for Sam next to me. He hands me the tray and I lay my head on his chest while I eat.
“How are you? How was your night?” I ask between bites.
“Better now that I’m with you. I’ve been worried. Up most of the night.”
“You know you can call me. Or text. I’m fine,” I tell him. “Parker…he’s a good guy. He’s just trying to keep his sister alive.” Sam shrugs and I know he wants to change the subject. “Thank you for last night. I had a good time with you. As always.”
“Me too. If we didn’t have school and me work, I’d take you on a date everyday.”
I smile for a moment but the thought of returning to school after our break makes me groan, “You had to bring up school.”
Sam chuckles. “Five more months. Maybe you should see about doing something over the summer so you can graduate early. Then we could go to Seattle or somewhere together in the fall or winter.”
As Sam speaks, already holding my left hand he traces the base of my ring finger giving me chills. So soon. I want it though. More than anything else, I want Sam to officially be mine forever.
“Not sure my parents would go for that. I don’t even turn seventeen for another month. And besides, you’ve already been accepted to UW so it’s way too late for me to even apply.”
“Yeah,” he sighs. “I just…I wish and hope. I want to be with you always. And not just a date every Friday and Saturday night but every day and night. I…dating isn’t quite enough anymore. Well it is, I just wish…”
“I know.”
“I’m not sure I’m even going away this year.”
“What? Why?”
“I don’t want to leave you. I’ll find another job, maybe more to Forks or at least find another house, but, Lee-lee…” I wait as he finds the right words. “Leah, I love you. And I do not want to leave you. I can wait another year for you so long as you’re all mine after that.”
I lean up to kiss Sam. “I love you, too. I’ll be okay with whatever you choose, and I certainly won’t stop you from hanging around here.”
We chitchat for a bit longer about more lighthearted things as I finish my meal. Sam goes downstairs to give me privacy to shower and dress. It’s nearly ten in the morning when I go downstairs but I don’t suppose anyone has been up for too long because of the late night. Sam is waiting for me, sitting on the bottom step observing from a distance the heated discussion. He stands and puts his arm around me and I assess the situation.
Dad and Charlie seem to be pestering Parker for information while he refuses to speak to them, only Mom and Julia. Julia is coloring at the coffee table with Mom on the floor beside her. 
“Give them some time for goodness sakes!” Mom says defiantly. “They were found starving and freezing in the woods. The least you could do is give them a day or two to warm up to us.”
“Sue,” Dad says gently, “I’m not against helping them. But we’d at least like some answers what with all the hospitality. We want the answers so we can help them more.”
“I can’t just let them stay here and not do anything. It’s against my code of conduct. They’re minors, or at least the girl is, and if they’re missing you can be held accountable for accessory at very least. Now, kid, Parker, just give me a birth date, your parent’s names, something, anything, to work with! I will help you,” Charlie says.
Parker shakes his head and glances over his shoulder to meet my eyes. He looks worn and desperate, just wanting a bit of peace to find some rest. Sam looks down at me curiously having noticed Parker’s gaze along with everyone else. 
“Sue, Parker, Charlie’s right. We need to at least talk this out civilly,” Dad adds 
“Julia,” I say. “I have a box of dolls in my closet if you want to go up and play with them. They’re in a white cardboard box on the left corner.
“Okay,” Julia nods looking happy to leave the tense room where her future is being discussed.
I walk to my spot from last night on the love seat and Sam of course follows. Mom joins Parker on the couch. Dad and Charlie also take seats but everyone sits on edge.
“I’m dying here, Parker,” Charlie says. “I want to help you guys.”
“I don’t know that you can,” Parker says, speaking for the first time since I’ve come downstairs. “And I know for certain that you won’t help me do what Julia and I are trying to.”
“And why’s that?” 
Parker stays silent. Charlie lets out a long sigh and begins to rant out his spiel about trying to help.
“Wait!” I interject. “Wait. Why can’t we just let them stay while they need to and then give them some stuff to help them get where they’re going?”
Parker excuses himself to use the restroom probably thinking we could talk better without him too.
“We can’t do that because it is my duty to do more,” Charlie explains. I feel defeated in a sense and regret ever bringing Charlie into this after his next words. “If I suspect runaways or kidnappings or whatever, it is my responsibility and liability to report them. Any kind of home they may end up in is better than living off garbage and plants in the woods.”

“What if it’s not for them? And what if they’re going where they’re going is better than any of the other places they might end up?” I counter.

Charlie shakes his head and doesn’t speak for a moment. Then in a softer tone, matching the gentleness of Dad’s from minutes ago, “Did Parker tell you something, Leah?”

The hesitation in my reply gives everyone a clear answer. Parker might be out of the room but is he within earshot? No, it doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t tell even if he was on another planet. “I can’t say,” I finally whisper.

“Please, Leah. It will be better if you do,” Charlie pleases with me.

All at once, Charlie, Mom and Dad begin arguing loudly with one another again.

Leah, can’t you just tell them a little?” Sam asks me quietly. “At least a bit more than what Julia told us?”

I shake my head. “I promised him I wouldn’t.”

“Can’t you tell me? I won’t tell anyone else and maybe between you and I we can figure out a way to help.”

“No, Sam.” I don’t even dare consider asking him to give them a ride now. He is apparently on Charlie’s side and would tell after he got back from dropping them off somewhere. They probably wouldn’t even make it a mile; the cops would be all over them.

“Why the heck not, Lee? What’s it gonna hurt? The way he’s hiding it all looks bad you know. Why can’t you at least tell me? Or get him to tell someone? They can’t stay here. That was just for one night.”

Now I’m upset. My voice is raised when I speak again. “Sam, it’s not your house! It’s up to us, not you. And Parker’s not hiding anything, he just needs a little boost. Some food, rest and a warm bed for a few days. Quit being so overprotective and nagging. Parker and Julia’s situation is none of your business.”

 “Yeah, of course I’m going to be protective when we find an agile man in the woods and you bring him home and give him your room and share each other’s deepest secrets! When was that anyways? Did you share your bed last night? Is that what you meant by ‘giving him a warm bed?”

Before I have time to think, my hand flies out and slaps Sam on the cheek causing my palm to burn on impact. His face doesn’t even flinch but his body shakes with anger. The sound had been loud enough to silence the room—or maybe our yelling did that.

“Let me know when her new boyfriend turns out to be a sex offender,” Sam says to Charlie as he heads toward the door.

Seth had got home from his friend’s and stepped into the doorway sometime during all the action. Now the room is so silent you could hear a pin drop. Parker and Julia had also found their way into the other thresholds sometime during the mayhem and now stare silently. Tears gush down my face and I push past Seth out the door. I can’t follow Sam and I don’t know where he would have gone anyways.

The next day goes by in a blur. I don’t see anyone or anything. I alternate between running, sleeping and sitting in random places—the beach, the woods, the streets, anywhere that’s away from everyone I care about.

When I return home, I am exhausted having gone without food or even a sip of water and it is the day before school returns. Inside the house, Dad, Mom and Seth eat at the table with only the sound of their forks clinking to be heard. I go upstairs to my room—everything is back in place; the dolls, blankets, pillows, everything without a trace of Parker and Julia ever being there. Except, there is a crayon drawing laid upon my pillow. It’s a picture of Parker and Julia meeting me and Sam in the forest. Julia’s name is written in the top corner, but someone else has added speech bubbles and pens in black ink. I can hear the voice I’d learned to love to listen to so much as I read the handwriting I know is his.

In Parker’s speech bubble is a long monologue. It reads, “I’m sorry for the trouble we’ve caused you. I never meant to come between you and your boyfriend. I do like you, Leah, but I know better than to purposefully interfere with someone’s relationship. Thank you for not sharing my story. If they continue to pressure you, go ahead and tell, just please give us as much head start as you can. Hopefully by then we will be well on our way to a new home. Maybe our path’s will someday cross again and I hope karma will return the kindness you’ve shown us. Thank you, Leah. Forever in your debt, Parker.”

I wish they were still here. There’s so much I still want to say. I rip the paper up and throw it in the fireplace later. They are gone and I can do nothing about that. Sam, however, is around and if I want him to forgive me, he can’t ever see that piece of paper. That night, I allow myself to think of Parker, Julia and Madi for awhile but I know I cannot continue to dwell on them. 

In the morning, I go to the phone first thing before school to call Sam. No answer. I ditch school and go to his house. No one’s there. When I return home, Sam’s mother’s car and Charlie’s are in the driveway. I hurry inside expecting to see Sam. He is not there. In the living room, my mother is consoling Sam’s sobbing mother. Charlie whispers to Dad in the kitchen doorway. When they see me, they give me a sorrowful look and explain. Sam is missing. Gone. Not here. They are ready with the needle when I go into hysterics.

I shiver as I leave the memory. I wish I could go back and change the past. I don’t know whether it’s easier to face them awake or in my dreams. Either way I cry and scream. Nearly thirty minutes have passed by as I’ve remembered. I don’t want to go to the party—even if it’s just a neighbourhood one—after how terrible last year’s turned out. I sit on my bed as a statue, numb from all the pain that comes with my memories.

The party starts outside yet I hear the front door open and someone coming upstairs. A knock. Not even my lips can move. Seth comes in and sits beside me.

He drops his arm around my shoulder and speaks gently, “No one’s going to make you come. I know it hurts. Everyone there is good. You’ll be okay to just come down and say ‘hi.’ And you haven’t had dinner. You have to eat, so…”

I nod and allow Seth to lead me outside. I’m still not fully aware—the pain is so strong—the evening seems to blend with memories of last year. In every lull of conversation, I hear them. The ghosts of my past. They haunt me as often as I breathe, so long as my heart beats. For a second the thought crosses my mind; maybe if I stopped breathing, if I stopped my heartbeats.The evening really isn’t too bad, though. I even laugh a little, smile, as long as Seth is nearby giving me nods and smiles, promising I’ll be okay and can leaven when I want. I stay until the party is over, having at least escaped my horrid memories a little. They have to return sometime though and they do. That night, I awake nearly ten times screaming and crying and drenched in sweat. The thing that haunts me even more than Sam on this new day of a new year is the realization that I still have never told of Parker’s past, and more than that, I don’t know what’s become of them.


The song Leah is listening to in the beginning can be found here.


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Leah’s Diary: Family (Emily’s POV)

Note: This entry is from Emily’s perspective.

“Are you nervous?” I ask Sam.

We are holding hands across the front seat of Sam’s car on our way to my parent’s house in Makah for a New Year’s get together. Sam’s mom, Allison, is asleep in the backseat. I had offered her the front seat but both she and Sam insisted I take shotgun.

“A little, ” Sam admits with an anxious chuckle.

“It’s okay, ” I tell him. “They’ll love you.”

I squeeze Sam’s hand and he lifts my fingers to his lips, kissing them gently.

“Who’s running tonight?”

“Nobody, but they’re each supposed to run a quick lap, every time they get a chance.”

I nod. “Things been pretty quiet lately?”

“Yeah, which is good, but also means Jacob probably won’t be phasing anytime soon.”

“You’re ready for him to take over?”

“More than ready. It’s okay being in charge, but it’s a lot of responsibility. I’d rather spend more time with you, ” Sam explains with a smile. He leans over and kisses my cheek, never taking his eyes from the road.

We slow down at the edge of town and I direct Sam through the streets to my family’s small house. The house isn’t really that small in comparison to the majority of homes in Makah, but it is compared to where I live now.

Allison yawns from the back seat and both Sam and I glance back to see her stretching, her eyes glazed over from her nap.

“This one here, ” I say to Sam, pointing to the yellow house.

He pulls up next to the curb and we climb from the car. Sam retrieves the soda we brought from the backseat and then joins me and Allison on the sidewalk. I let us into the house and we follow the noise to the kitchen.

“Emi!” My two year old niece cries, running towards me.

I let go of Sam’s hand and lift her into my arms.

“Hi, Claire!” I exclaim.

“How are you, Em?” My mom asks.

“Good, ” I say taking hold of Sam’s arm and smiling at him. “This is Sam, and his mother, Allison. And this is my mom, Christa, my dad, John, my brother, Luke, and his daughters Cally and Claire, ” I introduce everyone, pointing and gesturing to each person as I say their name.

They all say hello and greet each other and my mother leads Allison further into the kitchen, chatting up a storm. Sam strikes a conversation with my father, and they head outside leaving me with Luke and his girls.

“Where’s Amy?” I ask about Luke’s wife.

The last time I talked to Luke was just before Christmas and he and Amy were not having the best time. She was hardly ever home and when she was, she was sleeping, leaving Luke to take care of the girl’s, provide money to pay the bills, cook, and clean.

Luke shakes his head and a look of sadness crosses over Cally’s face. I make a mental note to ask later when the girls aren’t around.

Mom ushers me and Allison into the kitchen and the men go to the family room with Claire. Cally disappears outside, a notebook in her hand.

I join Mom in loading the dishwasher, our backs to Allison who begins wiping down the counters.

“We’re so glad you could make it,” Mom tells Allison. “You must have done well in raising your son to make Emily leave Makah for him.”

Allison nods, “Thanks for having me. He’s a good boy. I think he could make any girl fall for him.”

I frown, upset at her seeming disbelief in the reality of our love. Pretending to look at the clock, I sneak a glance back to see that Allison is yawning, forcing a break in her words.

“But he’s very lucky to have Emily. She’s a hard worker and not totally dependent on Sam like some of his girlfriends in the past have been.”

A glare forms on my face. The only other girlfriend Sam has ever had to my knowledge is Leah and I hate what she’s implied about her. As I reach for another dish, I find that we’ve finished.

“Anything else you need, Mom?” I ask.

“Nope, I think we’re set.”

I reluctantly leave the kitchen and head outside since through the window on the backdoor I can see Cally still in the yard. She’s sitting on a swing staring at the ground in deep thought. The notebook is on the grass a few feet away. I take the 2nd swing and sway lightly back and forth.

“How’s it going, Cal?”

She sighs. “I don’t know.”

“Life giving you some pretty sour lemons?” I ask.

“Yeah, I guess,” Cally hadn’t looked at me until now when she turns her head up and I see the wet streaks running from her eyes.

“If you ever need to just talk, call me. Or have your dad drive you up. I know how rough things can get sometimes. I can always come find you too. Okay?”

Cally sniffs, “M’kay.”

We are quiet for a moment and I am about to go find Sam when she speaks again.

“It’s just…I’m afraid my mom’s going to leave us, you know? I heard you and Dad talking when we were at your house just before Ann and I came back from the beach.”

Alarm crosses through my mind but I keep a neutral expression. “You did?”

She nods.

“I’m sorry, Cally. It’s just…sometimes couples just can’t be happy together anymore. It might mean that things will get even better for you guys. Wouldn’t it be easier if you didn’t have to be rejected by your mom every time you want her to do something with you? She wouldn’t be around to ask, but what if your dad found someone else who stayed home with you and Claire all the time? Wouldn’t that be nice?”

Cally sniffs again and shrugs.

“You know Seth’s older sister Leah?” Cally nods and I continue, “Well she and I used to be best friends. We did everything together. We even made a pact that we would help each other plan our weddings. Then boys came along. She started dating Sam Uley—”

“Wait, ” she stops me. “Sam that came with you tonight?”

I nod, “I hadn’t been going to Leah’s as much after that since we were both more busy with our lives. I hadn’t even met Sam officially, only seen him from a distance and in pictures. One day, I went to visit and I got to where we were all eating before Leah did. Sam was already there. I suppose you could say it was love at first sight. Everything was different after that. And even though they loved each other, it just wasn’t meant to be. Sometimes it’s not.”

After a while, we all end up in the backyard, watching the display of sky fireworks set off by the town. It’s eleven-thirty and Claire has been asleep for a few hours inside on the couch. Cally insists on staying up until midnight but she yawns more and more as the time goes by.

I’ve hardly been with Sam all evening because he’s been busy talking and laughing with my family. He was the one who put Claire to sleep, rocking her and singing, since she wouldn’t let anyone else. That makes me look forward to our future; on those sleepless nights when our baby won’t stop crying, Sam will get up and gently rock them to sleep, allowing me a few much needed minutes of sleep.

“How’s it going, beautiful?” Sam’s familiar voice whispers warm into my ear.

I smile and turn to him, wrapping my arms around his waist.

“Good, except I’ve hardly seen you tonight, ” I say.

“Well you were right, they love me, ” Sam says with a smile.

“I knew they would.”

Sam doesn’t say anything and instead kisses my head. Luke comes to stand by us and Sam lets go of my so we can both face him. He keeps one arm wrapped tightly around my waist.

“So, Amy?” I ask Luke.

“She’s supposedly at a party for work. One that families weren’t invited to,” he explains. His face is worn and he looks much older than the last time I saw him, only weeks ago.

I draw my lips into a hard line. “You don’t think that’s where she really is?”

“No. What kind of workplace does that? And more importantly, what kind of mom abandons her family on a holiday to go to a work party?”

Sam and I don’t answer his questions.

“I’m sorry, Luke. That must be hard.”

He nods and his eyes travel to Cally who gets closer to sleeping every minute. She’s now moved to a lawn chair and her chin rests in her hand.

“I’m happy for you though, sis. You two seem perfect for each other.”

I smile and turn to see that Sam is too. He kisses my lips quickly just as my parents and Allison come to join our circle.

“Thanks,” Sam says to Luke and then turns to my parents. “You raised the most wonderful woman I’ve ever met.”

My parents smile and as happy as I am, the smile on my own face falters as Leah enters my mind.

“It’s time, it’s time!” Cally exclaims, looking at her watch. “Ten!”

I join in counting, as do the others, grateful for the distraction from my thoughts.

Later when it is time to leave, we say our goodbyes and climb in the car and head home.

We are all tired and I’ve lost my excitement for the new year, my thoughts focused on Luke and Amy, on Leah.


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Leah’s Diary: Better Than Expected

“Thanks so much, Rachel. I had a blast. For like, the first time in a long time,” I say hugging Rachel in the parking lot of the hospital. We stand between my car and Kara’s, which are both running. Kara is sitting in the driver seat of her car adjusting the controls. After Kara got back from Christmas with her family earlier today, she drove me back to my car and is returning to college with Rachel.

“Yep, it was awesome. You have to come back soon. I don’t think Kara will let you stay away for too long.”

“Yeah, I will. I would say you should come here too, but…”

Rachel makes a face. “Yeah, I know.”

“Well, talk to you later, Lee. Thanks for coming.”

Rachel gets in Kara’s car and I get in mine. I drive home slowly, dreading my return and the scolding which is sure to come. When I pull onto the street, I sigh with relief to see that our other car is not parked in the driveway. Maybe I can just go upstairs and act like nothing ever happened once my family got back from wherever they were. Of course, I’m not so lucky. I park, take my things from the car and go into the house. Dad’s sitting on the couch, doing nothing, it seems, but waiting for me.

“Welcome home,” he says politely. “Have a nice time?”

I nod. “The best.”

“Good. You’ve been needing some fun. Some time to get away.”

“Yeah, I really had.” Oddly, I don’t feel in trouble at all. “Bad luck still follows me everywhere, though. Sam showed up on day three.”

Dad’s eyebrows raise in surprise. Apparently Sam had kept his word. “So you were with Rachel?”

“Yeah. And some of her other friends. It was…a nice break.”

“Good,”  Dad says. I head for the stairs, assuming he’s done talking. I’ve just reached the stairs when he speaks again. “Hey, Leah? Next time you want to get away, can you just ask me? I’ll take care of Mom, make sure she doesn’t freak too much.”

His words shock me and it takes me a moment to reply. “Uh, yeah. I guess so.” I come back to where I can see him. “You’d really do that?”

He nods. “Sam really has made it hard on you, and your mother only adds to the pressure. I understand that you need a break. And one more thing?”

“Yes?” I whisper. Dad’s words have surprised me so much, I can’t say much more than that.

“When you decide to leave home, don’t be like Rachel. Come back and visit your old man more than once a year. And call. I don’t want you to just disappear.”

I nod and murmur, “Okay.” The conversation once again seems to be finished and I walk upstairs quietly, thinking about what he said. Dad must understand more than I thought.

Awhile later, Mom and Seth come home. I hear Mom and Dad argue a little, but no one comes to my room. Not even when I smell dinner cooking and Seth leaves his room to eat. Intrigued by this newly offered loneliness, I decide to go down and eat with my family.

Everyone looks up as I walk into the dining room. Charlie is here, seated between Dad and Seth. My place at the table is set, but empty. I sit and begin dishing food onto my plate without saying a word.

“Good to see you home, Leah, ” Charlie says to me. “You gave your family quite the scare.”

I shrug, not knowing what to say to that. It’s kind of nice to know that they tried looking for me, enough to enlist Charlie’s help.

The room has a heavy awkwardness lurking about as we eat our meal and it leaves little room for conversation. After they finish eating, Dad, Charlie and Seth all go into the living room to watch TV.

“Do you mind helping me with the dishes, Leah? ” Mom asks. It’s the first thing she’s said directly to me all night.

I nod my head and begin clearing the table. It’s not long before we have everything in the kitchen and are washing the dishes. Mom washes and rinses after which I dry and put everything away.

“So you were with Rachel?” Mom inquires.


“She said you weren’t.”

“Well I asked her not to tell anyone I was there, ” I admit.

“I was so worried, Leah. I wanted to call in the FBI and everything, just to find you. I probably would have, if Charlie and your dad hadn’t stopped me, ” Mom whispers, her voice unmasking her worry.

“I didn’t want to be found, Mom. I just wanted to get away for awhile.”

Mom nods. She’s heard this from Dad, I’m sure.

“Sam did,” I say. “Find me, I mean.”

Mom turns her body towards me with interest. “He did? I didn’t know that.”


“What happened?” Mom asks, having heard the anger in my voice.

I sigh and repeat myself. “I didn’t want to be found.”

Mom nods again. “And you were having a good time? Before that? “

“The best, ” I answer. “Even after he left, it was good. Well, the next day.”

“Well, I’m glad you had a good time. Just don’t scare me so much next time. And sorry about Sam.”

I nod and finish putting away the last of the dishes.

“Going to your room? ” Mom says as I head towards the kitchen entryway.

“Yeah. G’night.”

“Goodnight, Leah. I love you and I’m glad you’re home.” The word ‘home’ makes me cringe. Mom probably notices but continues anyways. “Now maybe I can sleep without having nightmares about you,” she says.

I nod once more and go upstairs. I sit on my bed and doodle, waiting for sleep to set in. Before it comes, though, Seth knocks on my door and I tell him to come in. He closes the door behind him and goes to sit on the second bed that is still in my room. I tried removing it once, a few months ago, but the room was so empty without it that I put it back. Something stops him before he sits, and he turns around, facing my window.

“Where’d this come from?” he asks, gesturing toward my painting.

I don’t answer and he moves closer to it, enough to see my loopy signature.

“You did this? It’s awesome.”

“Thanks,” I reply quietly.

“So you were in Seattle? With Rachel?” He asks as he sits down.


“I got your note. But not until a couple days before Christmas Eve. Before that, I was, like, as worried as Mom,” Seth admits.

“I left the note at last minute. I wanted to just tell you where I was going but I was afraid you’d tell before I could get away.”

Seth laughs. “Probably. Keeping quiet after I found the note was hard.”

I smile. “Yeah. Thanks for doing it anyways.”

“Yep. So what did you do the whole time you were there?”

“Hung out with Rachel and her friends, until they all left for Christmas. And then by myself for Christmas Eve and Christmas.”

“Weren’t you lonely?”

“No. Rachel’s friends were such good company that I was dying to be alone, when I finally got to.”

“Which friends? ” Seth asks, his eyebrows wagging. I swat my hand at him playfully but he leans back and I miss.

“No one you know. Kara, Joey, Camille, Mark, Kayla, Jenny, Fred,  and Caden. I don’t even know their last names.”

“Oh,” Seth says. He is quiet for a moment and then he jumps, “Oh! I almost forgot. Here’s your Christmas present.”

He reaches into one of his cargo pockets and pulls out a small driftwood box with my name carved across the top in gold lettering.

“Wow,” I say reaching for it. “Thanks.”

I lift the lid from the box to reveal a closed oyster shell.

“Took me forever to find, days and days of walking down the beach, and some help, but I finally got one. It’s still got the pearl. You can see it through this slit.” He points to a spot on the shell and I peer inside. Indeed, I can see the silver ball shimmering in the small amount of light let in by the holes on the surface of the shell.

“It’s beautiful,” I say.

“Mom says you’ll probably leave after this school year, so I wanted to get you something to help you remember how pretty it is here.”

I feel a pang of guilt mixed with sadness for planning to leave my brother behind. “I’m sorry. I didn’t get you anything. I just kind of skipped Christmas.”

“No worries,” Seth says. “I understand. I got too much stuff anyways. Mom and Dad have your other gifts around here somewhere. There weren’t many and I think it’s mostly clothes and stuff.”

He stands up and I do too, giving him a hug. “Thanks, Seth. You’re the best. I don’t deserve to have a brother like you.”

He moves toward the door but I stop him, calling out, “Wait!”

Quickly, I hop across the second bed and retrieve the painting from the wall.

“Take this. For Christmas. I, uh, want you to have it, ” I say, handing the canvas to Seth.

Seth smiles hugely, “Thanks.”

He leaves then, and I turn out the light behind him. For hours, I lie in bed, replaying the scenes of the day in my head. It turned out to be a much better day than I expected.

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