Note: The italics in this entry are a memory of Leah’s from the past, not an event currently happening.
I stumble out of my makeshift bed and into the bathroom. When I return, I stop at the window for a moment. The night is dark, but a quiet wet snow falls, illuminated by the street lamps. The flakes melt before they hit the ground so the snow doesn’t gather, but instead leaves a slushy mess. Across the street in another apartment building, I can see the glowing blue and red spots from a Christmas tree.
A noise from a neighboring apartment startles me and then quietly “Silent Night” starts to play. A glance at the clock tells me it’s past midnight, Christmas now. What a cute little Christmas scene, I think sarcastically. I look out the window again to see a couple walking by holding hands. They stop to kiss and I look away. Like a lightening bolt, a memory hits me so strong that I have to sit on the couch.
The grandfather clock downstairs chimes midnight and I crawl from my cozy bed wearing new flannel pajama pants and a sweatshirt. I slip my shoes and hat on and grab the package beside the door before scurrying downstairs and outside.
We expected the rain that is falling lightly, so we meet in the forest, under a canopy of trees that keeps us mostly dry. Still, a large drop of rain gathered from several branches drips onto the back of my neck and I shiver. Sam notices and wraps an arm around my waist, warming me up.
“Hey, beautiful,” he says as he kisses my lips gently.
“Merry Christmas, Sam,” I whisper even though there is no one else around to hear. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
“Merry Christmas, my Lee-lee. I got you something.”
He passes me a package and I hand him mine to free my hands.He watches as I unwrap the paper, stuffing it in the pocket of my sweatshirt. A white box now sits in my hand and I slit the tape with my fingernails to open it. Inside is a wooden bangle that’s been carved from driftwood. I take it out of the box, bringing it closer to my face to see that it has our initials carved into it inside a heart. On the inside the words ‘Always and Forever’ are carved lightly in Sam’s scribbled handwriting.
“Thank you,” I say as I slip it onto my wrist and kiss his nose.
I watch as he opens my present for him; a bottle of cologne that I picked out the scents for when I last went to Seattle with Emily. There is a small store there where you can make your own custom perfumes and cologne’s. He takes the bottle from the box and opens it.
“I picked out the scents,” I tell him. “It fits you, don’t you think? The ocean, the forest, and rain.”
He nods after bringing it to his nose. “Yeah, it sure does. Thanks, Lee-lee.”
I smile and he takes my box and puts them both on the ground, pocketing the cologne, and then pulling me close. I wrap my arms around his neck and he kisses me, his lips lingering a moment longer than usual.
“I love you so much, Lee-lee. Merry Christmas.”
“I love you, Sam. Can I see you tomorrow?”
“Should be able to. I’ll meet you at your doorstep, when all the lights are out,” he promises.
“Okay. Merry Christmas, Sam. I’d better go—Seth still wakes everyone up at the crack of dawn on Christmas.”
Sam laughs. “Sleep well, Lee.”
Sam picks up the boxes and watches me walk out of the forest, back onto the lawn and go inside.
Tears fall down my cheeks like the snow outside. My silent crying turns into sobs and I bury my face in my pillow, desperate to escape the music from next door and the memories stuck in my head. “All is calm! All is bright!” Like heck. All is not calm—not at all. Not in my world.
I struggle to fall back to sleep, to forget how that memory was not yet a memory, but the present only a few years ago.
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Note: The last several entries have been from perspectives other than Leah’s but she’s back now!!!
Laughing at her friend, Kara, Rachel stands up to get the door, which someone knocked at a moment ago.
I’m sitting on the couch next to Rachel’s empty seat and on the other side of her is Kara’s boyfriend, Joey. Kara sits against the coffee table, which has been pushed up against the wall to make room for the arm wrestling that Jenny, another friend, and Kayla, Kara’s sister, were doing earlier. They now sit with their backs against the coffee table painting their nails. Jenny’s boyfriend is here as well, making a sandwich in the kitchen and Rachel had said more friends are on their way
All of Rachel’s friends have been welcoming to me and surprisingly, we get along well. I’ve had tons of fun with them already although I’ve only been here a couple of days. Rachel and Kara had picked me up in Kara’s car and we drove to Rachel’s apartment where we stayed up nearly all night, getting to know each other. Kara has hardly left Rachel’s place since then and we’ve become pretty good friends. Kayla is a couple years younger than Kara and still in high school, is visiting her sister for a few days. We’ve become friends too, in the time that I’ve been here, and she keeps telling me I should come to Seattle for school like she plans to, so that we can hang out together. I reply each time with, “I haven’t decided what I’ll do yet.”
As promised, more of Rachel’s friends are at the door. Two guys, and a girl come in and Rachel introduces them to us.
“This is Camille, Mark and Fred,” she says pointing to each of them. Camille is a small, dark haired girl with olive skin who waves when Rachel says her name. I notice she is holding hands with Mark, who is nearly as tall as Sam, with black hair, olive skin, and dark eyes.
Fred is a little more interesting to look at, but seems uncomfortable with being here. He has soft ocean blue eyes and sandy hair that is cut short, but messy. He is the exact color scheme of a beach house, down to his sandy colored shoes and a light blue belt. It’s almost disturbing how much he matches.
Rachel begins talking again, pointing to each of us as she says our names, “Leah, Joey, Kara, Kayla, Jenny, and Caden’s in the kitchen.”
More of the girls wave like Camille did and I see Jenny making googly eyes to Fred. He doesn’t see her though, and instead watches me for a moment. I catch his stare and he blushes, his eyes moving to the ground. As the three come further into the room, they separate, claiming territory. Fred stands in the corner and busies himself, looking at the shelves of movies and pictures while Mark and Camille sit together on the floor against the wall, their legs extending nearly to meet everyone else’s on the crowded floor. When Caden returns, with a plate piled with food in one hand and a huge sandwich in the other, he sits on the floor next to Jenny.
“Well, eat all my food, why don’tcha?” Rachel teases as she turns her ipod speakers on. “Oh, and sorry there aren’t enough chairs for everyone. “
Caden says something with a mouth full of food that no one seems to understand and Jenny swats his arm and scolds him for talking with food in his mouth. The mood is so lighthearted and friendly in the room, I don’t ever want to leave.
“I know Kayla is Kara’s sister, so I think the only one I don’t know is you, Leah,” Camille says to me. “Where are you from?”
“La Push, like Rachel. We’ve lived across the street from each other all of our lives, ” I answer with a smile.
“Oh, cool. I thought Rachel was going home for Christmas though. Are you going back with her for Christmas? ” she asks.
Rachel and I exchange another glance, “No, I’m staying in Seattle until after Christmas. The last couple of years haven’t been…” I struggle for an explanation without going into the complexities of the situation. Rachel comes to my rescue.
“Leah’s been trying to get away from La Push almost as long as I had, ” she explained. “So I helped her get away for a week for now. Maybe soon she can extend her visit.”
“Yeah, that’d be awesome, ” Camille says and I am grateful she stops asking questions then. “Oh, by the way, for you guys that don’t know, Fred is my half-brother. He’s doing some project thing out here for the next couple summers, so our mom convinced him to come stay with us for awhile and check out the area. Kind of a pre-observation, you could say.”
Fred looks even more uncomfortable now that he’s been spotlighted.
“What’s the project?” I ask him, trying to help him be more relaxed.
“Marine Biology. Plant and animal habitation for the coast, ” he says quietly.
“That’s cool. If you need any help, I know the coast up here like the back of my hand, ” I offer. It would be nice to have a distraction.
He nods, but continues staring at the ground.
“Where do you go to school?” Joey asks him.
“Stanford, ” he mumbles so quietly I barely hear it. Of course, it would probably be easier to hear him if Kayla and Jenny weren’t laughing like hyenas about something Caden said.
“Wow. Guess it makes sense that you’d come here then, for a project like that. Less pollution in the water, ” Joey replies.
The conversation branches off then and Kara and Rachel and I pick up our conversation where we had left off with Jenny joining in. Awhile later, all at once the conversations seems to slow and the doorbells rings.
Kara speaks the words I had been thinking, “I didn’t know anyone else was coming, Rach.”
“I didn’t either, ” Rachel says, standing and going to the door. The room quiets in anticipation except for the music quietly humming from the speakers. She peers through the peephole and then looks back at me and opens the door. She is blocking my view so I can’t see who is standing there but I immediately recognize the voice.
“Hey, Rachel, ” It says, “She here?”
I freeze faster than Rachel can reply. How could he be here?And why now? Why does he always have to ruin every good thing I come across?
“Leah?” Kara asks, seeing my horrified expression, “You okay?”
Ever so slightly, I shake my head no. He comes into the room then. I don’t know whether or not Rachel invited him in, but the look she gives me says she is sorry.
“What, exactly, do you think you are doing here? ” I ask with my teeth clenched tightly and turning my head to meet his warm brown eyes. “Do you have to ruin every good thing I have going? Cuz it sure seems like that’s your purpose in life.”
“Obviously, I’m looking for you. And no, I wish I could make a the bad things in your life go away but—”
I interrupt, “You started the bad things in my life, Sam.”
“So answer me this, Leah. Would it have been better for me to tell your parents that this was where you were and that Rachel lied to them? Or to come here myself and talk to you?” The answer he wants me to choose is obvious.
“Neither. You could have just kept your mouth shut. If you knew or cared about what’s good for me that’s what you would have done. How did you find me anyways?” It seems as if we are the only two in the room since everyone else is dead silent, watching us argue. Sam and I both notice this at the same time.
“Can we go talk, Leah? Please? Then I’ll answer your question,” he gestures towards the hallway outside the door that serves as the vestibule to the apartments on this floor.
“Fine, ” I spit through my teeth and get up hastily. I walk far enough around him to avoid his outstretched touch and out the door. Once in the hallway, I stand with my arms folded facing him. Rachel closes the door behind us.
“I found you, because I know you best. Emily didn’t even quite believe that you would be here. No one did. I knew it though.”
I roll my eyes, “Whatever.”
“I thought that maybe we could talk, could trade, your secret place for my explanation?”
I look him in the eyes to see how much truth he is telling because like he said, he knows me best, but I also know him best. I can tell that he won’t tattle on me even if I don’t agree to his trade. He’ll let me stay for the week out of mercy.
“Okay,” I agree, surprising him and myself. “I want to know what happened to Emily.” He winces. “You said you would answer my questions.”
He hesitates, “A bear.”
“You know I don’t believe that lie.”
“I know. I hope that one day I can tell you the truth. But for now, you get to hear what everyone else does. A bear.”
I shake my head, “I thought that day was going to be today. But once again, I made the mistake of trusting you. I hate you, Sam Uley. Kíta.” I make my way back towards the door and let myself in.
Although I’ve already closed the door, I hear him yell, “I love you too, Leah!” From the expressions on everyone else’s face, I can tell that they heard it too.
Blood rushes to my face coloring my cheeks. I just want to be alone now, instead of coming back to Rachel’s group of friends but I don’t have another option. Everyone stays silent as I return to me seat, avoiding the stares.
“Okay, how about some games?” Rachel asks, lightening the mood again and changing the mood. “Kara’s wii is here.”
She moves about the room handing out controllers to those who want them, which ends up being Mark, Joey, Caden and Jenny and then turns on the Tv. Once the game is going, conversation picks up again. Rachel returns to her seat next to me.
“Everything okay?” Rachel whispers quietly to me.
“Not really, ” I admit. “I don’t understand why he keeps doing this. “
Rachel nods, “I know. Me neither. I really hope things get better for you soon.”
I nod. The day goes on and controllers are passed around. I even take a few turns and banter playfully with the others, but nothing returns me to the lighthearted mood I was in earlier. Late in the afternoon, people start to depart, first one by one and then two by two until only Rachel and I remain. We have a quiet dinner and retire to bed earlier than we have all week.
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Note: This entry is from Leah’s Brother, Seth’s, perspective and is a continued entry to the previous one.
I laugh, “Well I guess those two hit it off.”
Ann laughs too and turns to me with a spark in her eyes.
“Do you mind if I ask how old you are?” She asks casually.
I shake my head as I reply. “Fourteen. But I’ll be fifteen next month.”
She laughs, “I’ll be fifteen in two months. I was afraid you were going to be way older than me.”
I smile, “So you like the beach?”
“Yeah, I love it, ” She says turning toward the ocean again.
“My sister’s graduating this year, and I’ve been trying to find a Christmas present for her that will remind her of the land here for months. I haven’t found anything yet though. She loves the beach and I think she wishes she could stay here forever, if things were different,” I tell her as we watch the waves.
“I can see why. Do you want to look for something now? I could help.”
We begin walking with our eyes sweeping the ground. I spot several pretty shells, but none of them are right. As we hunt, I listen to Ann talk about her family, her life.
Ann pauses, “What about you? I’m the only one talking. What’s your family like?” She’s paused in her walking too and is watching me.
I keep my eyes on the ground, and quickly return to where I had seen a sand dollar a moment before. I crouch down and pick it up. I walk to where Ann is standing, “For you, ” I say and hold the dollar out in my hand.
“Thanks, ” she says taking it. She examines it closely and slides it carefully into her pocket.
I wasn’t planning to answer her question before but guilt overpowers and I do. Bravely, I reach for her hand and we walk closely for awhile, only letting go to grab a shell, which she pockets several of.
The sun soon begins to slowly droop in the sky and the clouds that were on the horizon before sneak closer and closer. Ann and I have given up our search and now sit with Cody and Cally, helping Andrew build a sandcastle. I love the feeling of her hand, still gently resting in mine.
“Sorry we didn’t find anything for your sister, ” Ann says when Cally says something about heading back soon.
“That’s alright, ” I say, although I am a little disappointed.
We say goodbye to Cody and Andrew and begin walking back to Emily’s. Just as we reach the edge of the beach, Ann runs back before the shore.
“What are you doing?” Cally asks.
Ann reaches down and picks up something that looks like a big rock. She brings it close to her face and turns it over in her hands. “Finding this, ” she answers after running back.
She hold the object out to me, “Will an oyster with the pearl still in it do?”
My jaw drops, “Really?”
She nods, “Yeah. See?”
She shows me where to peer in and I do, she still holds it in her hands.
She takes it back, close to her side. “I’ll trade you for your phone number.
My jaw drops again. Cally laughs, “Well, say yes to her already!”
I just nod. We continue walking, and we are over halfway there when I finally get over my astonishment.
“So, uh, do you guys want to come down again for my birthday next month?” I ask.
“Sure. Hopefully we can come,” Ann says and Cally nods.
We reach Emily’s house, and I walk the girls to the porch. I’m about to open the door for them, when Cally stops.
“Listen, ” She says and we quiet down.
I can hear Emily and Luke talking inside.
“I just don’t know what to do, Emily. She’s never home. And when she is, she just sleeps. It’s like they don’t even have a mother. They love her though and I don’t want to have to take that away, ” Luke says. I glance at Cally’s face. She has the same sad look on her face as Luke did earlier.
“They could still see her, Luke. And if she just sleeps when she’s at home, then how will it be any different?”
“I guess it’s not. She’d have to make an effort though. I don’t think she will.”
“Okay, that’s enough, ” Ann says taking charge. She takes Cally’s arm and goes inside.
I wait outside with the oyster in my hand. Ann comes back out and hands me a paper and a pen. I scribble my number down and she does the same, then we trade. I am hating this moment and loving it at the same time. I don’t want her to leave, but I’m loving spending this time with her. I silently wish I could hug her.
“Thanks, Seth. For everything—it’s been a great day.”
“Yeah, it has, ” I agree. “You have to come back soon.”
“I will, ” she promises.
I get up my courage then and we both seem to go for a hug at the same time. Our hands end up hitting each other, and we laugh and move our arms. The hug is over way too soon. We say goodbye and I get on my bike to head home while she goes back inside.
At dinner, Mom and Dad both notice the grin that seems to be glued to my face.
“So what’d you do at Emily’s today, Seth? You were gone long enough, ” Mom says to me.
I feel the smile on my face grow even larger and recount the details of the day for them. They don’t seem very surprised and I tell myself to remember later to thank Leah for being born first. Telling my parents about a girl would probably be a lot harder, if I was the one always teased instead of Leah.
That night, I lie in bed, waiting for sleep to come. The day was pretty much perfect. The only thing that would make it better would be to know Leah was safe at home in the other room, even if she was keeping me awake like she does so often with her crying.
I think back to the last time I saw her and she gave me the phone. In her eyes, she carried the visible weight of a secret. One I didn’t know until over twelve hours later. Maybe I still didn’t know all of it.
The phone. I can’t believe none of us, even Charlie, have gone this long without think to check it. I hurriedly grab it from my desk and go to the messages. They’ve all been erased. Calls. Gone.
I sigh, of course she would erase them.It’s not until I’ve laid down again that I think to check the notes. I do, and my heart skips a beat when I see the most recent one.
Seth, I have to tell someone. I just can’t stand to have Christmas without him.I hope you never have to have the pain of getting your heart broke. Please don’t tell. I’ll be back. I promise. Thanks. -L
I turn onto my side with a smile permanently painted on my face. With the promises of Leah’s note, an oyster, and a new phone number, the day has been perfect.
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Note: This entry is from Seth (Leah’s brother’s) perspective and is just part one. The continued entry will be posted soon.
The day after I had sneaked out to ask Sam about Leah, I slept in late. Mom didn’t come and wake me up although I knew she was home. Dad had plans for the day with Billy so I was sure he was already gone. Around ten thirty, I finally got up and got dressed. I’m glad I showered the night before, although I don’t yet have any plans for the day.
I go downstairs to find Mom mixing a large bowl of what appears to be banana bread and swoop my finger into the bowl and with practiced movements, to my mouth without dripping.
“Thanks, Seth. This was for Billy and Jacob. Now I guess I get to start all over, ” Mom says.
I shrug, “Well, I’ll eat this batch then.”
She shakes her head, “I wouldn’t give you the pleasure. I’ll make more for me and Dad later.” I can’t help but notice she doesn’t say Leah’s name as well. I miss Leah, although she’s only been gone a few days and Dad is convinced she will be back after Christmas.
“So what’s for breakfast? ” I ask.
“You missed it. By a lot. Emily invited you over for lunch though at eleven.”
“Why’s that?” I say, glancing up at the clock. It’s nearly eleven now.
“Her brother came down for the day with his daughters. You remember Luke? It’s been awhile since we’ve seen him. And I don’t think you’ve ever met his daughters.”
Once she says Luke’s name, I do remember him although I was a lot younger the last time I saw him. It was at Leah’s thirteenth birthday party that he last came to La Push with Emily. He was probably close to twice Leah’s age then, and had just adopted a little girl, although he wasn’t married. He did get married later though and have a second girl. His first daughter had been close to my age, but had stayed at home with a babysitter.
“Oh, cool. Well, if I’m going to be on time, I ‘d better hurry.”
Mom nods, “Have fun and behave.”
“I will, ” I say as I put on my shoes.
Just as I’m going out the door, Mom calls, “Stay safe!”
“I will, ” I repeat and head outside.
It’s a sunny day, rare for December. Gray clouds linger on the horizon with the promise that normal weather will return. Since the ground is dry, I grab my bike from the small shed in the backyard and pedal quickly down the road. The way to Emily’s house is uphill part of the way, so I’m still late arriving.
I lay my bike on the ground, to the side of the walkway and knock on the door. Within a few moments the door opens, and there stands a beautiful girl I’ve never seen before. I would most definitely remember if I had. She looks close to my age and smiles brightly when she sees me. I find myself hoping that this isn’t Luke’s daughter, because that would make us related, even if it is third cousins.
“You must be Seth, ” she says in a soft, voice I would never get tired of.
Not trusting my mouth to find the right words I just nod.
“Well come on in. I’m Ann, Cally’s friend.” I don’t know who Cally is either but I think and hope it’s Luke’s daughter since the name sounds familiar.
She leads me to the kitchen where Emily is standing, arranging vegetables on a tray.
“Hi, Seth, ” She says. “Glad you could make it.”
This is the second time I’ve seen Emily since she got attacked by the bear, and I can’t keep myself from quickly scanning over her scars again since last time I was exhausted and it was dark. It doesn’t look like an attack from a bear at all. I don’t ask though. Leah always says that I never keep my mouth shut and I’m determined to prove her wrong.
“Food’s over there, ” Emily says pointing to the table around which Luke sits. Another girl is seated next to him with a toddler on her lap. “Help yourself.”
I walk towards the table and Luke greets me, “Hey, Seth. Been awhile, hasn’t it? Where’s your sister?” Luke’s tone seems happy but he has a familiar expression in his eyes that I can’t place.
I nod and it takes me a moment to answer his second question. I glance back at Emily, surprised that he doesn’t seem to know anything about what’s happened. Does he even know that Sam was Leah’s boyfriend first?
“Uh, she’s in Seattle. We think, ” I say.
“You don’t know?” He says
I shake my head, not wanting to say anything more for fear that I won’t keep my mouth shut.
“Well, Seth, these are Luke’s daughters. This is Cally, the baby’s Claire, ” Emily says gesturing to the girls seated beside Luke. “And you met Ann, Cally’s friend.”
I nod, trying to hide my secret happiness that came when Emily said that Cally was Luke’s daughter, not Ann. “So where’s Sam today? “
“He, um, ran to Seattle. Had some last minute Christmas shopping to do, ” Emily explains. I’m not sure if she’s telling the truth for Luke, and hinting at something to me or not. Maybe Sam went to look for Leah.
I nod again and sit down across from Cally. Emily sets a stack of plates on the table and we all dig in
“So are you from Makah too, Ann?” I ask.
She smiles and nods, “Yep. Cally talks about how pretty the beaches here are after every trip she makes. I pretty much live for the ocean so I had to come and see for myself.”
“Well you came to the right place. The beaches here are the bomb, ” I say proudly.
“Cally and I hoped to go after lunch. Maybe you can be our tour guide for the day. That is, if you want to…”
I can’t help but contain my excitement. I grin, “Totally. I’d be honored.”
She smiles back sweetly and her and Cally continue talking, Cally recounting when she was last here. I hurriedly eat, anxious to get going. I finish eating long before everyone else. Cally notices that I’ve finished and hands Claire to Luke so she can eat faster. Claire falls asleep quickly in Luke’s arms and he complains.
“I’m so boring, Claire falls asleep every time I hold her,” he says and Emily laughs.
“Maybe if you weren’t so quiet. You used to be so loud, we could hear you from down the street, ” Emily says.
“Dad’s still loud, but only when he yells, ” Cally counters.
Luke produces a sad smile and only then do I realize what seems so familiar about him—he acts like Leah.
A few minutes later, Cally and Ann finish eating. I take their dishes for them, against protests from nearly half the crowd, while they get ready to go.
“Do you guys want a ride?” Luke asks.
“Nah, it’s not too far, ” I answer.
I wait by the door as the girls scurry about the room. Geez, I think, I guess all girls do take a long time to get ready.
Finally, they are ready and we head out the door. I lead the way down the road towards First Beach, leaving my bike at Emily’s since both girls are on foot. I can’t find the words to make much conversation with either of the girls on the walk. It seems like there’s a third wheel, making it awkward.
“Well, here it is!” I announce when we reach the beach.
“Wow, it is pretty, ” Ann says, slipping off her shoes and walking ahead with her eyes on the ocean. She stops when she is standing on the hard wet sand lined with pebbles. When the white foam reaches her bare toes she squeals and I laugh.
“That’s the downside. The water’s like ice, ” I say as Cally and I join her.
Ann nods, “It’s worth it, though. It is so beautiful here.”
Laughter from behind us interrupts then and I turn my head. My friend Cody and his little brother Andrew are walking up the beach.
“Hey, dude!” I call out.
“Hey, man. You’re mom said you were out at lunch but I guessed I might find you here. My mom made me bring Andrew out anyways.” Cody makes a face and looks toward his brother who is digging in the sand a few yards away.
Cally and Ann have turned around now and I go about introducing everyone.
“Ann, Cally, this is my friend, Cody, and his brother, Andrew. Cody this is Cally, my third cousin, and Ann, her friend,” As I say Ann’s name, I shoot Cody a look telling him to stay away. His eyes are on Cally, so I am sure he will comply.
“Nice to meet you,” Cally says, her eyes still on Cody. Her cheeks are bright pink.
Cally joins Cody in following his brother down the beach.
To be continued…
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Note: This entry is Part 2 to the previous entry and is from Sam Uley’s perspective. Also when Sam is in wolf form, the dialogue is in italics to differentiate between the two forms.
“Any ideas?” Emily asks me.
I’m about to shake my head when I catch sight of the Black’s house, which does give me an idea. Rachel. She lives in Seattle which isn’t too far, and I know she and Leah are close friends.
I pause before answering, “. . . Possibly.”
She follows my gaze. “I’m sure they’ve asked them all.”
“Maybe so, but if Leah came to you, asked to stay, and asked you not to tell anyone she was there, wouldn’t you do it?”
Emily barely has to think before she answers. “Yes. But I wouldn’t do it for more than a week.”
“And a week is all Leah needs.” Emily considers this and nods. I can tell she’s not sure, but she knows it’s possible. Now that I’ve thought of it, it seems like the only solution. Christmas was never Leah’s favorite holiday and it would probably be even more miserable for her now. I cringe with guilt, and know the only way to get past it is to reach over and take Emily’s hand, so I do.
“Wait. Em, Leah doesn’t want to be found. At least not yet, which is why she ran away. If we go in and tell Harry and Sue, and we’re right, and the Leah finds out that we figured it out and tattled on her—”
“She’ll be more upset with us than she already is.”
“Exactly. But on the other hand, we could use it to our benefit and say we found her because we know her and love her best,” I whisper, grateful that Seth had fallen asleep.
Emily thinks it over. “I don’t know, Sam. What if she’s not with Rachel? Then what?”
The thought sends another twinge of worry through me. I miss Leah. And love her. I’m in love with Emily, but I will always love Leah.
“I know what to do, ” I say. “Don’t say anything about our theory tonight and I’ll check into Rachel tomorrow. “
“You mean go to Seattle?”
She sighs, and I know she’s not happy with it but knows it’s best.
I pull the car onto the side of the street behind the Forks’ Police Cruiser and we get out. Seth wakes up as I shift the gear into park and gets out of the car, leading us into the house in a zombie-like posture. He leaves the door open behind him and Emily and I follow him in, her soft hand in mine.
Harry, Sue, Charlie, Billy, and Jacob are all placed timidly about the brightly lit living room. Seth heads straight for the stairs without saying a word.
“I believe Seth may have sneaked out to talk to us,” I announce while closing the door.
Sue sighs, “Sorry if he bothered you two. And thanks for bringing him home. At least that’s one kid.”
“So we heard. And nope, no bother, ” I say, realizing afterwards that her words implied Emily and I had been together when he showed up.
“Well since you guys are here, ” Charlie says to us, “Mind answering some questions?”
“Nope, not at all, ” Emily answers. I like that we speak together; answer for each other and trust that we know each other well enough.
“Have either of you seen or heard from Leah in the last . . . hmm, week or so?”
Emily and I both shake our heads.
Charlie sighs, seeming to be giving up.
“Seth told us what was going on, ” I say. “I think I might have an idea—”
I haven’t finished speaking when Sue interrupts. “Where?”
“Have you checked Rachel?” On instinct, my eyes move toward Billy and Jacob. Billy looks tired and worn out. I automatically scan Jacob for any changes. He is expected to phase any time, being old enough. Guiltily, I look forward to the day when he does, so that I can step down from my leadership position in the pack and Jacob will be alpha. I can feel Emily’s speculative gaze examine me, wondering what I’m up to. I want to tell her; I don’t want them to be surprised that Rachel lied, if Leah is there.
Sue, Harry, and Charlie all look disappointed when I ask them this. Harry nods. “We’ve called twice.”
“Think about it. This is Leah we’re talking about. She hates Christmas, and she disappears a week before it. I’d bet she’s just trying to get away from here for the holidays. And I’d bet she’s staying at Rachel’s whether Rachel says so or not.”
Billy shakes his head. “Rachel’s supposed to be down here the day after tomorrow.”
“Which makes it even better for both of them. Leah gets to go away for a week. Rachel gets housekeeping,” I argue.
“I don’t know, ” Charlie says looking doubtful.
I let out a long breath in frustration. “Well do you have any other leads? I know Lee. She just wants to get away for awhile, especially because of me and Em. Just give her a week, she’ll be back.”
“No we don’t have any,” Charlie answers.
“Rachel wouldn’t lie about something like that, ” Jacob says in defense.
“Sam’s right. Just let her be. She’ll come back just like he says,” Harry says from the corner. I see Sue give him a glare. “Whether she’s with Rachel or not, ” he adds for Jacob and Billy.
“Well, it’s up to you guys, ” Charlie says, “I’ll keep an eye out. Let me know if she comes back.”
Sue still looks upset. Emily sees her at the same time I do and lets go of my hand to go to her. I hear her murmuring words of comfort and take the chance to look at Jacob again. Billy sees me do so and gives me a look that seems to ask how much longer I think it will be. I shrug my shoulders slightly, trying to avoid drawing attention, but Jacob sees and his eyes narrow at me.
Emily returns to my side a few minutes later. ”Well, we should probably get going, ” she says to me, as well as everyone else.
“Thanks for bringing Seth back, ” Sue whispers.
Emily answers her as we return to the car. We are both quiet on the ride home, lost in our thoughts. I am trying to plan what I will do tomorrow once I get to Seattle. I don’t know where Rachel lives, or even have an idea of the area.
“Have a goodnight, Em, ” I say as I drop Emily off.
“You’re really going to Seattle tomorrow?”
“I have to, ” I answer and the look on her face tells me she understands. She sighs anyways.
“Goodnight.” She walks toward the house and I think I hear her say ‘I love you,’ but it might just be my imagination since that’s what I wish she would blurt out someday.
Once home, I don’t go inside but instead run into the forest and phase after I park the car.
Yoo-hoo, I holler in my thoughts. Anybody here? You’re supposed to be you know.
Paul answers back yawning, Yeah, yeah, I’m here.
I thought Jared was supposed to relieve you after he had dinner?
Yeah. He was. Never showed up, and you weren’t answering your phone when I called thirty minutes ago. No one else did either.
I relay the evening’s events for him and he understands. Well ya could-a howled, I joke with him. Anyhoo, I’ll go see what happened to Jared, you go ahead and sleep. We’ll be okay for awhile. And hey, any idea of where Rachel lives? I show him my plans to go to Seattle in the morning.
Thanks, Sam. And no idea. I’d like to though; she’s hot! Images replay in his head of his memories of her and I groan.
Please spare me, Paul.
Why? You don’t for us. Sam and Emily sitting in a tree, k—
I interrupt his chanting with a command, Go get some sleep, Paul. So that you guys can take care of stuff for me tomorrow. Make sure that if anyone new phases, I hear about it. I don’t want to come home and find a bunch of surprises.
Yes, boss. His voice fades from my head and I race toward Jared’s house.
When I am close, I phase back to my human form and dress quickly. The lights are on in Jared’s house where he lives with his older brother and sister-in-law. I hurry to the door and knock, loud and hard. Jared’s brother, David, answers the door.
“Hey, Sam. What’s up?” he says nonchalantly, and I can tell he knows where Jared is and where he’s really supposed to be.
“Where’s Jared?” I question, skipping the small talk.
“I don’t know,” he lies.
“Yes, you do.” I can hear other voices inside so I ease my way past him into the small living room.
Seated on the couch is Jared, trying not to laugh, along with Kim, a girl I recognize from school. She’s in Jared’s grade and has always had a crush on him. The pieces click, when I see their hands intertwined. “Well, crap. Great timing, Jared.”
He is to his feet in a moment, looking alarmed. Kim looks confused, trying to figure out what is going on, which tells me he hasn’t explained much yet.
“What’s going on?” he asks.
“Long story. You need to be running. I sent Paul home. I’ll explain on the way.”
The word running, seems to make sense to Kim and in unison sadness crosses over both of their faces.
“Say your goodbyes, ” I tell him with a sigh, “I’ll be outside. Make it quick.”
I exit the house and go to the forest where I phase. I’m just about ready to go back in and drag Jared out by his ear when his thoughts glide into my mind. All he can think about is her and I am tempted to roll my eyes. But as Paul said, I’m just as bad for them with my thoughts of Emily.
He starts to run the perimeter we’ve set, and I catch him up on what’s happened. So I need you guys to figure out something for tomorrow, I don’t care who runs but don’t be slacking just cuz you’ve got a girlfriend now. Oh, and I’m happy for you by the way.
M’kay, yeah, thanks. Jared sounds as if he’s speaking on the phone with all his distracted thoughts.
So do you happen to know where Rachel lives? I ask.
No. But, hey—I can have Kim ask Jacob. Tell him she was wanting to go visit or something.
I smile, grateful for imprints, Do that. And thanks. Let me know as soon as you can. I’ll probably run there tomorrow, so just pop in when you find out.
Will do. Sorry about Leah.
What is there to be sorry for? I might actually be able to talk to her for once. The thought makes me smile again. I don’t wait for a reply, since I am home now. I phase and dress, and go inside to bed. Tomorrow could be a long day.
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“Well I can’t just stay here for Christmas, Sam. If I did that, my dad would just drive up here and drag me back kicking and screaming if he had to,” Emily’s voice came through the receiver.
“I know. I understand that. My mom doesn’t have anybody to be with for Christmas,” I point out once again. “I don’t know. Maybe you should just go, and I’ll go to my mom’s.”
Emily lets out a long sigh that I know means she doesn’t like that. “I want you to meet my parents though, so…”
“Yeah, and I want to. I just—”
“I know, ” She finishes.
We’ve had this conversation so many times now, it just keeps circling back around without anything being decided. The doorbells rings, distracting me from what I was going to say. I’m sitting in the kitchen of my small mobile home which gets more and more lonely, the more time I spend with Emily in the house I bought her.
“I don’t know, Emily. Can’t we just decide later?”
“You’ve been saying ‘we’ll decide later’ for weeks now. I think we need to decide now.“
“Maybe we need to just let things fall into place. It’ll all work out, ” I say this to comfort her though I’m not sure of it myself since there’s hardly a week left until Christmas. The doorbell rings again and I start walking, flipping lights on in the dark house as I go. “I gotta go, Em. Someone’s here.”
She sighs again, “Fine. But this conversation is not over.”
“Okay, ” I say smiling at her bossiness. “Bye, Emi. Sleep well.”
“See you tomorrow, Sam.”
I snap the cell phone shut and open the door. The screen is still shut, but the porch light illuminates Seth Clearwater’s face.
What is he doing here? I wonder. It’s nearly eleven at night, long past Leah’s curfew when she was Seth’s age.
I open the screen door and gesture for him to come in.
“What’s up, Seth?” I ask.
“Hey, Sam. You haven’t talked to Leah, have you?”
“Uh, when? The last time we spoke I think was when Emily…” My voice trails off. I’m afraid to speak the words, afraid that saying them will bring bad luck.
Seth’s head hangs low, “Yeah, that’s what I guessed. Still had to know though. Thanks, Sam.” Seth moves toward the door.
Suddenly, my mind is conjuring up the reasons he would want to know. Maybe bad luck just follows me anyways.
“Wait!” I call out before he is off the porch. He turns, hopeful. “Why?”
“Leah…she’s missing,” Seth starts to ramble. “We all thought she was just sleeping in yesterday, but when mom went in to offer her lunch, she wasn’t there. So we talked to Charlie Swan and he said that if she was still missing at lunchtime today, then they could file a report. She’s eighteen but—” My heart speeds up and the sound of blood traveling through my veins overpowers my hearing. I may not have imprinted on Leah, but I still love and care about her.
“So everyone’s out looking for her now?” I ask interrupting.
“Yeah. Well, sorta. We’re all just talking to the people she might have said something to. Charlie’s idea. I think it’s pointless, since she probably doesn’t want to be found but…”
“So what do you think we should do?” I interrupt again.
“I don’t know. You know her as well as I do. So does—”
“Emily, ” We say in unison.
“Let’s go over to Emily’s, ” I say. “Where are your parents?”
“Home. Charlie’s there too.” Seth avoids my stare as we walk outside together. He climbs in the passenger seat of my car and I start it up. I narrow my eyes at him.
“Seth?” I ask after a few minutes. I turn to look at him for a moment, since the quiet roads of La Push at this hour require little attention.
“Do your parents know where you are right now?”
He continues to avoid my gaze, answering my question. He mumbles something incoherent.
“Well gosh. Now I’m a kidnapper and probably a suspect on your sister’s case. Thanks, ” I joke, trying to lighten the mood.
Seth only chuckles nervously, “Or else they’ll blame me.”
I can tell how worried Seth is about Leah and I don’t blame him. I’m the same way. We pull into the driveway of Emily’s and the automatic porch light comes on. I see Emily watching from the kitchen window. When she recognizes my car, she steps out onto the porch in a white bathrobe and pink pajama pants with multicolored polka dots on them. The corner of my mouth pulls up in a lazy smile. Emily looks so cute that I wish I was coming over just to spend time with her.
“Sam?” She inquires as we get out of the car in unison, “What’s wrong?”
“Leah, ” Seth answers. “She ran away.”
I see Emily’s face turn from wonder and confusion to worry.
She doesn’t even hesitate, “Give me one minute.”
She returns inside and I see her scurry through the house quickly flipping lights on and off again as she goes. Finally she comes outside again wearing the same clothes she had been earlier that day. I climb back in the driver’s seat and Emily into the passenger, since Seth has moved to the backseat. Seth catches Emily up on the events from the last few days.
Although the ride from Emily’s to the Clearwater’s is short, Seth appears to be exhausted and falls asleep on the way over.
Emily turns to me just as we pull off the main street.
“Any ideas?” She asks me.
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Note: This entry is from the perspective of Leah’s mom, Sue Clearwater.
Angrily, I march to the top of the stairs and down the hall. I had been calling to Leah for the last five minutes and she hadn’t come downstairs yet. She had been so moody and upset lately, it was driving me nuts. Most of the time I kept myself calm in front of her, but more and more often I was loosing it, and we would fight before she stomped away to her room, angry and crying. If only I could take away her pain, could soothe the bitter remains of her last few years, maybe then we wouldn’t fight so much.
I can’t understand how some mothers handle so many kids. Seth and Leah were easier to raise when they were little, but now as teenagers, gray hairs are completely taking over my head. Harry and I had planned to have three or four kids originally, but even before Leah was born we had complications. Those only grew more frequent and heart-breaking after Seth was born. As he went into kindergarten, the idea faded to the back of my mind. I hadn’t thought of it for years until now.
“Leah!” I say loudly as I knock on her door. I already checked the knob and as expected, it was locked. “It’s almost noon! You need to get up and do something. You will not be spending your Christmas vacation locked away in your room. I don’t care if you sleep in a little, but not this much. Get up now and come downstairs.”
I go back downstairs to the kitchen fixing a sandwich for myself and one for Leah since we’re the only ones home. Harry went fishing with Billy and Charlie today since none of them had to work. It’s not that we need more fish—we have a chest freezer full—but that’s their favorite thing to do together. Seth went with Cody and his mother to Port Angeles to do some more Christmas shopping.
Ten minutes later, Leah has still not made an appearance and I haven’t heard the creaks in the floor from her moving around.
“Leah!” I shout and when there is no answer, I storm up the stairs again, this time with the skeleton key in hand.
She still doesn’t answer as I unlock the door, although I know she must hear the knob rattle. I swing the door open to see…nothing. Leah’s bed is neatly made, as if she had gotten up. I know for a fact, she hadn’t come downstairs. On instinct, my eyes sweep the room, and I go inside. Something is off. I look around the room again and again, and my gaze finally stops on the window. It’s unlocked. La Push in December isn’t exactly warm enough weather to keep your window open, and when I cleaned all the windows on Wednesday, it was locked.
I hurriedly open it and look out. None of the upstairs windows had screens on them when we moved in since it was such an old house. Leah’s emergency ladder has been unrolled and the breeze causes it to clatter softly against the panels along the side of the house.
With my heart pounding in my chest, I huff downstairs. Seth has the phone with him today, so I know I can’t find Leah that way. I take a quick walk around the inside of the house, looking out the windows to see that Leah’s car isn’t here. She parks around the side of the house, so none of us would have noticed this morning that it was gone. I dial Harry’s number and wait as it rings and rings. Finally he answers.
“Harry, Leah’s gone, ” I cry into the phone.
“What do you mean gone?” he asks. I can hear his mood changing from the lighthearted atmosphere of fishing to scared. I know the feeling. Not ten minutes ago, I was angry with Leah for sleeping in so late and now I was terrified.
“I thought she was just sleeping in. So I went up to wake her and she wasn’t there. Her window was unlocked and the ladder was unrolled. I have a bad feeling about this, Harry. What if she’s really gone?” Tears spring to my eyes as I speak.
“I’m sure she’s somewhere around town. You know how she is. She’ll be back.”
“Would you please just talk to Charlie?”
“Yes, honey. Give me a minute. ” I heard noise in the background as he spoke to Charlie.
“Sue?” Charlie’s voice came over the line.
“Yes?” I asked.
“When was the last time you saw or heard from Leah?” he inquires, Police Mode kicking in.
“Last night. She got off work at nine and was home awhile after that. She ate a sandwich and then said she was going to bed.”
“Does she have a car?” I look out the window once more, hoping her car is back, as he asks.
“Yes. It’s not here.”
“All right, well I cane come back with Harry and have a look around. We can go out looking and call around, but technically since she’s eighteen, she’s free to come and go legally. We can’t file a missing person’s report for twenty-four hours so even if she left last night, we have to wait until this time tomorrow because she could have left ten minutes ago. Does that make sense?” Panic consumes me as he speaks.
“Yes, but, Charlie, how can I sit around for that long? What am I supposed to do? She could be hurt or—”
“I know, we’ll find her, Sue. We’ll cut our fishing trip short and come help you look, okay?”
“Yes, yes. Please help me find my baby.” Tears stream from my eyes now as I whisper into the phone.
“We’ll find her, Sue. We’re heading back now, ” Charlie reassures.
I mumble something of an affirmation and hear the click of the phone as he hangs up.
With the phone still closed in my fist, I go to the dinning room window. It caves outward in a long half circle so you can see the whole street. I stand there and wait until the men pull into the driveway. I cry and the sky cries with me for my missing, troubled daughter.
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I sit on my bed waiting for the call. The cell phone Seth and I share sits beside me along with my wallet. I pick them both up and let out a long sigh. Waiting is the hard part. I check the phone for the umpteenth time then put it back down. From the wallet, I pull out the money I had. It had taken a month of paychecks to get enough, but finally I had it. Just enough to run away for a week. Just long enough to avoid Christmas at home. It wasn’t like leaving for good would be, but it would be enough for now. And I was sure they wouldn’t find me. Maybe they wouldn’t even look.
After recounting it, I put the money and wallet back and went to the window. It was the middle of the night, pitch-black outside. Rain tapped on the glass and then gathered and slipped down like teardrops. I closed my eyes for a minute and listened to the familiar sound. Tap. Ta-ta-tap. Vvvvrrrrrrr. I opened my eyes. The phone, I remembered, was on vibrate. I hurriedly picked it up and read the text message.
‘Okay. You’re good. I’ll be there at eleven tomorrow night. I have to go home a couple days before Xmas eve, but you can stay until the day after Xmas.’
I smile to myself as I text back, ‘Thanks for doing this. You’re a lifesaver. I get off work at nine so I might be a little late meeting you. See you tomorrow.’
I wait for the message to send and then delete all evidence from the phone.
The next day, it takes an eternity for the hours to pass. It was Saturday, and I was working to make up for the time I would be gone this week. I would leave tonight and wouldn’t be back until next Monday. When I left for work this morning, Mom had been excited that I would have a week off for Christmas. Little did she know I wouldn’t be spending the holiday at home.
Finally, the end of my shift rolls around and I head out the front of the store in my warm jacket and start the car. After the incident in the forest with Sam and Emily, I started driving the car to work everyday. I missed the walk but it was better than encountering them again. I feel like they always ruin everything I enjoy.
I wait a few minutes in the car before heading home, giving time for the heat to kick in. It’s only nine, so I have time to go home and eat before I sneak out to catch my ride.
The hours at home go faster than they have all day and suddenly, I am nervous. What if I get caught? What would I say to Mom? To Dad? To Seth? I think about telling Seth, but he would probably spoil my plan before I was out the door. I wish I could confide in him. I am about to return the phone to his room when I think of it. I could leave him a message on the phone. I’ve already eaten, said goodnight to my family and am supposedly going to bed. I go to my room and type the message into the notes of the phone. He may not find it, but there is still a chance.
‘Seth, I have to tell someone. I just can’t stand to have Christmas without him. I hope you never have to have the pain of getting your heart broken. Please don’t tell. I’ll be back. I promise. Thanks. —L”
To avoid causing Seth to worry more, I don’t mention the fact that I may be running for good sometime in the future. I save the note and then go to the hallway. I knock on Seth’s door and he says for me to come in. Seth is lying in bed watching Call of the Wild on the old fuzzy-screened TV that sits on a table and end of his bed. The room is dark, the only light coming from the TV.
“Here’s the phone, ” I say, holding it out.
“Thanks. When do you need it again?”
“Probably not for awhile.” I try not to let him hear the complete truth in my voice. I won’t need it, because I won’t be here. I wish I could think of something else to say, something that will give him a hint to look in the notes of the phone.
He nods. “Well, goodnight.”
I return to my room and put my jacket on. I’ve already packed the few things I need and put them in the trunk of the car.
When I slide the window open, a cool breeze whispers in. I untie the fire ladder and it rolls quietly down to the ground. With years of practice, I swing myself outside without making a sound. Then with one hand, I hold the wood bar that stretches to either rope side of the ladder and with the other, close the window. I know my sneaking won’t be perfect since I can’t re-roll the rope or re-lock the window, but it is the best I can do for now. I sit in the chilly car, without starting it until all the lights in the house are off. I don’t have to wait long, since there were only a couple on and once the house has gone dark, I don’t hesitate to turn the key. The engine starts silently, thanks to Jacob Black’s expertise, and I begin the drive.
The road to Forks passes uneventfully, not a single other set of headlights piercing my vision. I drive through Forks which is pretty quiet for a Saturday night. The hospital parking lot has a variety of vehicles scattered among the yellow lines, just as I’d hoped it would. I park beside the small silver car I know well. Its headlights are off, but I can see the shadows of two dark figures in the front seats. Before walking back to the other car I take the keys—since I will need some way to get home at the end of the week—and my bag from the trunk.
I slide in the backseat of the silver car.
“Ready? ” a voice asks.
“More than ready, ” I reply.
The headlights flip on and we drive.
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“Because we need to spend more time together as a family. And I’m sure you’re not finished with your shopping yet, ” Dad answers, his arms folded and impatiently waiting for me to get in the car.
“What if I am done with my shopping? Then can I stay home?”
“No, Leah. You are going and that is final. Get in the car.”
Why do parents always say ‘and that is final’? It’s not like it will make a difference, I think hastily as I climb in the car.
Dad gets in the driver’s seat of the already running van and starts down the street.
“Well, ” Mom says from the passenger seat. “How about some Christmas Carols to get the festivities started?”
She pops a CD in the player and “Jingle Bells” floats through the air. Mom begins to sing and Seth and Dad join in, making me want to cover my ears. It’s not that they’re bad singers—they’re actually pretty good—I just hate Christmas music.
“So after we get our shopping done, we’ll go to Jeffery’s and get a tree, ” Mom says.
Seth smiles excitedly. He’s always loved Christmas, as did I when I was little. That’s changed now though.
“Why do we even celebrate Christmas?” I shout through the blaring Christmas Carols.
Mom turns the volume down, “Christmas is Christ’s birthday. He—”
“I know that. I mean why do we celebrate Christmas? We’re not Christian. We don’t go to church. So why celebrate some guy-we-don’t-even-believe-in’s birthday?”
That quiets Mom down, “It’s a fun holiday anyways. Don’t you think?”
“No, I don’t, ” I mutter quietly. Mom either doesn’t hear me or doesn’t answer and they resume their Christmas Caroling.
We drive the speed limit to Port Angeles and park on the end of the long row of stores facing the ocean.
“Alright, ” Dad says as we climb from the car. “We’ll meet back here at noon to have lunch together and then if we still have shopping to get done, we’ll shop some more. And we’ll go to pick up a tree after that. Sound good?”
“Yep!” Seth chirps and hurries down the sidewalk, wallet in hand. Mom and Dad follow closely behind, holding hands. I linger a few minutes and then wait until Mom turns her head over her shoulder to dive into the closest store. I wanted her to see me go into a store so she thinks I am actually shopping and not skipping out.
“Can I help you?” A middle aged sales lady asks.
I shake my head, not even knowing which store I entered and watch out the window for my family to go into another store. As soon as they do, I hurry out of the store and down onto the rocky beach.
I skip across the large stones peeking out of the water until I’m several yards from where the tide reaches. The water laps against the rock and splatters dark spots against the hem of my jeans. I watch the waves form far out and roll in towards me getting smaller as they come.
I don’t know how long I stand there, but finally I dare to pull my phone from my pocket, checking the time. I still have nearly an hour before I have to meet my family and I wait several more minutes before bounding back across the rocks. I find a log of driftwood and sit, not bothering to brush the sand from the wood before I do. The beach is nearly empty today, everyone being too busy with the holidays to spend time there. A couple walks down by the water and as I see them I look away. The reminders are everywhere, mocking and haunting, like ghosts.
I watch the scene around me, narrating the details in my head to avoid thinking of anything else. The sky looked down like a parent over the beach, her child, a solemn gray promise in her eyes. The sun, a bright sliver of hope, murmurs against the salty wind which gathers the dark storm clouds on the horizon, closer and closer until suddenly they would take over, menacingly spitting rumors onto the beach. The ocean yells, over and over, threatening to rebel against the rocky shore, but each time, it’s strength peters out before it can and it’s white whispers slide across the land and then return, leaving helpless artifacts in place. Another shout comes, and in it’s wake, sacrifices the twisted remains of a jellyfish, already lifeless and flat, strangled by a green snake, seaweed.
A buzz in my pocket brings me from my trance. I remove my phone and open it beside my ear.
“Hello? Leah? You know it would really help if you said something when you answered the phone,” Mom complains.
Mom sighs, “Where are you? It’s time for lunch.”
“Oh, I finished my shopping so I walked down to the beach. Be there in a minute,” I quickly lie.
“Okay, see you in a minute.”
We hang up and I walk back up to the street, taking my time. Mom, Dad and Seth are waiting beside the car when i arrive.
“Where’s your stuff?” Seth asks.
“I didn’t find anything. I already have my shopping done,” I say, lying again. I don’t really plan on buying anything for Christmas since I don’t plan to be home.
I follow my family down the street and around the corner to a little cafe. After lunch, we decide to go get the tree since everyone but Mom has finished shopping. I refuse to get out of the car as Seth leads Mom and Dad through the lot pointing out the best trees. It takes nearly a half an hour for them to decide on the ‘perfect one’ and another twenty minutes to tie the tree down on top of the car. I wait in the backseat, my head resting against the window as I try to sleep, only to be reawoke every few minutes by a child squealing with delight.
Finally we went home and I went straight to my room and listened to the grunts from Dad and Seth as they lugged the tree inside and the high-pitched orders from my mother as she directed them on where to go. I heard as they dragged the boxes of decorations down from the attic and the Christmas Carols they played loudly on a loop.
Finally at midnight, the house was silent except for the rumbling in my stomach that had steadily been growing louder over the last few hours. I sneak downstairs to the kitchen, and eat a sandwich as I stand in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room.
Our house looked like the Christmas Fairy had dumped a bucket load of pixie dust, leaving behind a perfect Christmas scene. The tree occupies the corner, glistening with lights and ornaments. As a border, icicle lights are drooped around the room with big red bows every few feet. The picturesque view made me sad; I wanted to be happy and enjoy Christmas but I didn’t see how I could. No one wanted me included anyways, and it wouldn’t be fun without friends in addition to my small family.
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Leah is at our rendezvous place before I come across the street, carrying a black box filled with the tools I will need. I’m glad we are neighbors, just in case I need to grab more tools.
“Hey, ” I say, approaching Leah. She doesn’t answer. Her arms are folded across her chest and there is a thoughtful frown across her lips. Her eyes look like Dad’s sometimes do, when he’s looking at pictures of Mom, like he’s in another world. “Okay, so you want the car to run quieter?”
“Yeah,” Leah says, coming out of her trance. She turns around to watch as I lift the hood.
The job only takes about fifteen minutes and I finish with a yawn. “Okay, try that.”
Leah opens the driver’s side door and sits with her legs outside the car. The engine starts quietly and I smile at its purr. When it stops and Leah gets out, I can see even in the limited light that she’s smiling too.
“Thanks, Jacob, ” she says sincerely.
“No problem. It was my pleasure.”
I pack up my tools and say goodnight before heading back across the street. My work seemed to make her happy but I can’t imagine why she would want the engine quieter. Leah is definitely a puzzling person.
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