“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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I drive through the streets in a good mood. It’s one of the rare sunny days in La Push, but that’s not why I’m happy. Actually, I would usually be unhappy on sunny days because that meant everyone would be outside enjoying the nice weather, so I’d have to stay in to avoid them. The reason for my good mood today is because Dad suggested I go make the dream catcher Jacob wanted. The building should be empty today, so I could have time to paint, too, and luckily, I don’t have to work today.
Finally I pull up to the council meeting building and go inside, leaving the door unlocked and pocketing the keys. I go to work on Jacob’s dream catcher first, choosing a smaller rim than the first I made. I use brown leather to cover the rim and black string for the web, only adding a couple of beads. After I’ve picked several more beads, I attach small brown feathers to the middle of the web and the bottom.
I have to say, the dream catcher looks pretty good for being only the second I’ve ever made, and this time solely from memory. Leaving the dream catcher on the table, I go to the easel where my painting still sits and pour some paints. Even though the painting isn’t finished, I don’t feel like I can continue to paint it since I’m in a different mood than I was when I started it. I hesitate, deciding to just leave the first painting for someone else and start a new one. After moving the painting to the shelf with a note saying anyone can finish or take it, I find a blank canvas and pour a rainbow of acrylics onto the paint tray.
I’m not sure how much time passes before I finally am satisfied with the painting and put my paints away. Quickly, I sign my name and carry the canvas and dream catcher out to the car, setting them on the passenger seat and driving towards home. I park in our driveway and then carefully pick up the dream catcher, tuck the canvas under my arm, and walk over to the Black’s house.
Billy answers the door a few moments after I knock.
“Leah! What a surprise, ” he says with a smile in his deep booming voice.
“Is Jacob here? He asked me to make him this. ” I hold up the dream catcher.
Jacob appears behind his Dad and Billy retreats back into the house. It’s the first time I’ve been over to their house in what seems like forever. I don’t like coming over when Rachel and Rebecca’s aren’t living here. It just seemed so empty and boring.
“Hey, ” Jacob says.
“I brought you this, ” I say as I give him the dream catcher.
“Oh, thank you. It’s beautiful. Now I know who to call for all of my dream catcher needs, ” Jacob says with a smile.
“Yeah, I guess. Do you think maybe you could do a favor for me?”
“Sure, what do you need?” Jacob asks.
“Meet me by my car at midnight tonight with your tools.”
“Um, okay. Are we altering your car or something?”
“Yeah. I need the engine to run quieter, ” I say.
“Can do. Thanks again for the dream catcher.”
“Yep. Well, see you later, ” I say, turning and walking back home.
I manage to make it to my room without anyone in the house talking to me and go about finding a spot to hang my painting. Finally I decide on a spot beside my window that covers up a spot of peeling paint. As I finish straightening the painting, I have the crazy idea that I should just paint my room—not one solid color, but an array of pictures. I quickly dismiss the thought, since I don’t plan to live here much longer and I’d probably just get in trouble for it anyways. To avoid spoiling my rare mood, I stay in my room for the rest of the afternoon, doodling and sketching ideas for more paintings.
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So this is what Leah felt like when Sam first went missing, I think to myself. The thought makes me feel even worse after talking to her at the store. I haven’t seen or talked to Sam since that day in the forest. I feel so bad for the things that I said to him. Jared, Paul and now Embry all say they haven’t seen him. He hasn’t been home, and he hasn’t called.
The doorbell rings and I turn off the TV, since nothing good was on anyways, and open the door. Jared stands there with Paul beside him. I invite them in and offer them cookies, which they each take several of. I’ve learned to always make extra of everything, doubling or tripling the recipe since I know none of it will ever go to waste.
“Have you guys heard anything?” I ask when they are seated at the table munching down cookies.
Jared nods. “Actually yes.”
“What?” I ask excitedly. I miss Sam so much.
“He’s back. He’s . . . ,” Jared says.
“Having a hard time, ” Paul finishes, and Jared nods again
“He wanted us to be here when he came over—just in case.”
I sigh but my heartbeat quickens. “When is he coming?”
“He should be here anytime, ” Paul answers.
As if summoned by their words, the doorbells rings. I go to answer it and am quickly flanked by Jared and Paul. Jared takes the lead and opens the door. Sam stands there, looking handsome as ever, cleanly shaven.
“Sam,” I say and dive into his arms. Paul and Jared hesitate beside us, not knowing whether to intervene. Sam hesitates too, to wrap his arms around me but he does.
“I missed you so much, ” I tell him, and he lets go.
I take a step back to see him better. Paul and Jared hover nervously and Sam nods. His hand reaches toward me and stops. He drops it and then lifts it again, closer to my face this time.
“It’s okay, ” I say taking his other hand.
“I don’t . . . I don’t even know how to begin to tell you how sorry I am, Emily. If you never want to see me again, I understand. You should just tell me right now to . . . go jump off a cliff or take a bullet or something. I don’t know if I can live with this”—his hand grazes my scar—”knowing I hurt you —so your wish is my command. I wouldn’t ever do those things unless you told me to. I wouldn’t leave you . . . if not, ” Sam whispers, looking down and stuffing his hands into his pockets.
I shake my head and look away so he won’t see the tears filling my eyes when he looks up. I wipe them away.
“Stop. No. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said what I did. I didn’t mean it at all. You’re not like him—you’re so much better than that, Sam. I just feel so bad for Leah. I do want to see you. I’m just afraid you won’t want to see me . . . like this. And if you ever did, any of those things you just mentioned, I-I would have to, too. And then Leah probably would and then we’d raise the suicide rate in La Push by like, a ton, ” I finish off my words, laughing through my tears. Sam smiles.
His sad smile nearly breaks my heart, so I kiss him, wrapping my arms around him once more. I’d all but forgotten Jared and Paul were even there and they hover once more but back away when Sam pulls me even closer. We end our kiss and I rest my head against his chest with my eyes closed, both of us relaxed.
“I’m so sorry—” Sam begins again and I interrupt him.
“Stop. Are you hungry?”
“Starving, ” he answers and I take his hand, leading him inside.
He sits at the table while I heat up leftovers for all three of the men. While the food is heating, I grab plates and set the table.
“Gosh, I missed you, ” Sam says as I serve his food.
I laugh, “I’m sure. You don’t know how lonely it gets. Especially while I’m not working.”
Sam looks up, “Not working?”
“They gave me some time off. I go back after Christmas break, ” I explain while dishing food for the others. I’ve already eaten, so I sit in the empty chair at Sam’s side, pulling it closer to him.
He nods, “That makes sense. And that gives us like an extra week together right?”
Paul and Jared groan in unison and I giggle.
“It was bad enough when you were gone, ” Paul says. “Even with Embry’s help.”
“How is Embry? ” Sam asks them.
“Ehh, he’s okay. He’s got a lot of questions, that’s for sure, ” Jared says and Paul nods in agreement.
“Serves you guys right then, ” Sam retorts. “You two asked more questions than a classroom of four-year-olds. Is he running now?”
“Yeah, ” Paul says. “I’m supposed to go trade with him soon. You want me to send him in?”
Sam nods, “Yes, please.” He turns to me, “We can go out tomorrow if you want, Emi. I gotta take care of this tonight.”
“I understand,” I tell him. “I’m just glad that you’re finally back.”
I lean my head against his shoulder and he wraps his arm around me, the other guys making faces and pretending to gag. Paul leaves and a few minutes later, Embry comes in. He stands in the doorway awkwardly, not yet feeling welcome at my house like the rest of the pack does.
“Come on in,” I tell him. “Foods on the counter, plates in the cupboard. Help yourself.”
Embry nods and goes to the counter. Jared gets up and helps himself to seconds after Embry has his food, then they return to the table.
“Emily makes lots of food, ” Jared says to Embry. “And we eat it for her.”
I smile, “Isn’t that right? I guess that’s what comes from being the one and only imprint.” I lean over and kiss Sam’s cheek.
Embry nods but stays silent. Sam’s eyes are on him and I, too can tell Embry has a question.
“So, uh, ” Embry begins. “How does the whole imprinting thing work? I don’t really get it. I mean, You and Leah—”
Sam’s body tenses next to mine and I assume he wasn’t expecting this question.
“We don’t really know how or why it happens, just that it does. I think, ” Sam clears his throat. “That, uh, you imprint on the person that…How do I put this? That you, have the best chance of reproducing with. So that…the tribe will always have protection for our enemies when it’s needed.”
My cheeks grow warm and I know they must be bright pink. I look to Sam to see that his are too and then look away. Being the only imprint doesn’t really allow anyone to make many theories about imprinting.
“That makes sense I guess, ” Embry says. “So, like, how do you know?”
“You just do. The first time you see her, everything changes and she’s the only thing that matters anymore. You would do anything for her, ” Sam stops to kiss my cheek and I smile.
“Anything else?” Sam asks.
“Nah, I’ll let you know if I think-a somethin’.”
Embry continues to eat and Jared stands up to get more. Later we move into the living room and Jared leaves to relieve Paul. Sam answers more questions of Embry’s throughout the evening while I snuggle into his side, happy and content now that he is back.
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I was restacking a pile of boxes on display in the front of the store—that had been knocked over by a passing toddler—when I heard footsteps approach. Russet-colored feet with pink toe nails in white sandals waited patiently in front of me on the linoleum. They didn’t speak as I picked the last box up and placed it on the pile before turning to see who it was. Emily stood in front of me, her face free of the bandages.
Three scars stretched from her eyebrow to her chin. She wore a long-sleeved shirt, but the bandages had covered her arms as well, so I assumed there were more scars. The corner of her eye was dragged down by one of the scars.
Fighting myself, I turn and walk past Emily, ignoring her. She catches up and walks beside me.
“Leah,” she says. “How are you?”
I glare at her as I answer. “Sorry. I just wanted to thank you. For going to the hospital that day. I know that probably wasn’t very easy for you. It was good to have you there, though.”
“You didn’t even talk to me, ” I argue.
“Still. You went.”
“Yeah,” I say.
“I’m sorry, Leah. For hurting you. I miss you—a lot, ” Emily says softly.
“I don’t care, ” I say bitterly. “Why don’t you just leave me alone and run back to Sam?”
“Leah, ” Emily says, her voice full of pain, “I wish we hadn’t ever hurt you. You don’t know how many times I’ve told Sam that he should go back to you—he just doesn’t listen.”
I struggle to see right through the blurry fog of tears as they fill my eyes. I turn away from Emily and straighten boxes on the shelves.
“I don’t want him back, ” I say, although it takes every ounce of energy from me. Emily hears the obvious lie in my words and puts her hand on my arm. I shake her off.
“I’m sorry, ” Emily apologizes again and walks away.
I sink down to the floor with my back against the shelves, messing up the boxes I had just straightened. The tears spill onto my cheeks and I sit with my head buried in my knees, sobbing.
“Miss? Are you all right? ” a customer from out of town asks me.
I shake my head.
“Are you hurt?”
“Only on the inside, ” I respond, looking up to see a young couple watching over me.
I stand up and hurry to the back of the store where my boss is supposed to be, counting inventory. She takes one look at me and shakes her head.
“Go ahead, ” she tells me, and I leave the store.
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Thanks to everyone on Facebook who helped me with the idea for this entry! Also, just a side note, I don’t know how to make dream catchers so I did the best that I could, learning from the Internet. The color symbolism in this entry, I mostly made up since I couldn’t find Quileute color symbolism anywhere. The word bikà’watakwáyo is the closest Quileute word I could find to guardian and you can read about this belief here under ‘beliefs’ and I’m not sure that this spelling is completely accurate.
Tap, tap, tap.
“What?” I groaned as I rolled over in bed to see the clock; it was only seven in the morning and already someone was knocking on my door to wake me up.
“Leah?” My father’s voice spoke through the door.
“What?” I grumbled again.
“Get ready, will you?”
“For what?” I repeated, sitting up as I realized I probably wouldn’t get back to sleep.
“Well I seem to recall promising you to teach you how to make dream catchers a while ago. I thought maybe we could go do that today.” Dad’s voice is gentle, sincere, and it’s somewhat comforting to hear it—even if it is this early in the morning. No. It’s not comforting. What am I thinking? My parents don’t care, he probably just wants me to do extra chores or something.
“Dad. That was when I was ten. You’re a little late, don’t ya think?”
“Please, Leah?” Dad asks in a funny accent like he used to when I was little.
I hide my laugh with another groan, “Fine.”
Straightening the blankets, I crawl from my bed and get dressed quickly. I brush through my hair, leaving it down instead of my usual braid or ponytail.
Dad is downstairs at the table eating a bowl of cocoa pebbles—my favorite cereal, that I haven’t bought in years, but it appears like Dad got some to soften me up—as he waits for me. An empty bowl is in my spot with a spoon. Without saying a word, I pour the cereal and milk and sit down.
“I’m sorry I never got around to teaching you until now, ” Dad says as he takes his bowl to the sink and returns to wait for me.
“Doesn’t matter. I forgot about it anyways,” I reply with a shrug.
“Yes it does. And I don’t think you did. I think you remember a lot more than you say you do.”
“So?” My heartbeat accelerates, nervous that he sees past my lying.
Dad shrugs. “You never forgot when you were little either. When you were five, you remembered that you were supposed to have your birthday party in Makah after we had already had it here. You tried giving us the silent treatment for a week. But one morning you woke up and had forgotten all about that until lunch. You were so embarrassed—I took you to Makah for the rest of the day and everything was better, ” Dad finishes his story smiling at the memory.
I remember that too, but I don’t tell him so.
“You’re like your mother that way—so sweet and humble but can hold a grudge like no other, ” he says with a chuckle.
I finish eating and take my bowl to the sink.
“Ready?” Dad asks.
“Yeah, I guess.”
He holds the front door open for me and I go out to the car. He drives us through the town to the council meeting building. In the back of the building, there’s a room used for pottery and other arts our tribe does.
A few dream catchers and paintings hand around the room but most of the artwork goes to the museum safe down the street. In 1889, a fire had burned through the tribe’s land destroying nearly everything that they had. Since then, and since the technology has been gained, the tribe takes extra caution in keeping our culture safe from natural disasters as well as other technologies the world threatened to take over with.
We go inside to the back art room. A long table sits in the middle of the room and is lined with chairs. Along the back wall, shelves stretch from floor to ceiling holding art supplies, already-made pottery, and half made projects with names taped to the shelf in front of them.
Dad goes over to the shelves and starts searching.
Only council members have keys to the building, but anyone is welcome to use the supplies as long as they take care of them, clean up their messes, and write down what they used on the clipboard by the door so it can be replaced.
When I was little and Mom and Dad had meetings, Seth and I would paint in the art room. I always enjoyed it but as I got older I stopped coming. I think Seth still came occasionally but I wasn’t sure.
I join Dad at the shelves as he finds the thin strips of colored leather. He already has two metal hoops slung on his wrist.
“Pick a color,” he tells me. “The one that is you.”
I hesitate to decide. I had a willow dream catcher when I was little but as all the willow kind do, it collapsed as a symbolism of coming of age. That was a few years after I asked Dad to teach me how to make them. I don’t even remember what color that one was. As far as I knew, Seth still had his sky blue one.
“What color would you choose for me?” I ask.
“You have to choose. You can’t always depend upon others to make decisions for you.”
“Red, ” I say, taking not the bright red, but the darker maroon color from the shelf.
Dad grabs the white string to accompany the suede and sits at the table. I sit beside him.
“We’ll choose beads and feathers after we get the rim covered and the first row of web on.”
I nod and he passes me a hoop. Dad grabs a bottle of tacky glue from a tray in the middle of the table that holds pens, scissors and glue.
“Do the first loop and hold it while you wait for it to dry. After that’s secured you can do several loops at a time but don’t do so many that you can’t hold it while it dries, ” Dad speaks as he glues his first loop down and then passes the glue to me. “You can do it straight or on an angle. I find it easier when it’s angled.”
I struggle to glue and hold down the first loop but Dad just watches in silence. Finally I get it and he continues to loop the leather around his rim and glue it. I do the same when he is finished, realizing that Dad’s practiced hands make it look much easier than it is for me.
“The last loop will overlap a bit with the first, so cut the strip long enough for that. Then make a small loop around the top with the extra and tie it and glue it, ” Dad tells me as he glues his last bit of leather and then makes the loop for hanging.
He watches me do mine and then helps a bit when the leather doesn’t stick the first time.
“Okay, now the string. Tie it at the top, and then going clockwise, tie more knots. There should be thirteen when you finish. Thirteen for the thirteen phases of the moon.” Dad cuts two long pieces of string and hands one to me, then ties his string at the top of the hoop and continues down.
I do the same, trying to match my hands to his. My string tangles up and he has to help me several times to untangle it and fix my knots. With a sigh, I tie the last knot.
“Does it get any easier?” I inquire.
Dad chuckles. “That’s a matter of opinion. I think all of it is easy.”
I sigh again, “What next?”
He gets up and sets a bowl of beads and stones with holes in them on the table and then returns again with a clear box of feathers.
“Pick some beads—as many as you want. You don’t need a feather until the middle.”
Dad grabs a few random beads and sets them on the the table. I bring the bowl closer to me and carefully pick each one. As I do, he names of the symbolism of each color or stone.
“Red is for success.” I immediately throw the bead back in the bowl when he says that. “Why’d you do that?”
“I’m not successful, ” I say, avoiding Dad’s eyes. “I can’t even keep a boyfriend around.”
Dad fishes the bead back out and puts it on my string for me.
“You are. Sam had his reasons for leaving and it was wrong of him to do what he did. It had nothing to do with you though. He loved you, Leah, and he still does. You work well—at the store, in school. You know so much. You are successful, ” Dad insists. “Continue.”
I bring the bead up close to the rim, unconvinced by his words. “Now what?”
“Weave the string through. Make a hitch, here, like this,” Dad lifts his hands to demonstrate. “In the middle of that loop. Then do the same thing around the others. Add beads whenever you want.”
I nod, do a few more hitches and then dig for another bead. Dad glances up from his work.
“Yellow, for happiness.”
I sigh, “Why am I picking all the beads that aren’t me?”
“They are you, Leah. You just don’t realize it. Here—close your eyes. Reach out to the bowl and grab the rest of your beads. Choose them by how they feel, ” Dad says.
I fight the urge to roll my eyes but do as he says. He guides my hand to the bowl. The first few beads I touch all feel the same. I concentrate harder and find one that feels soft, like it’s made from clay. I open my eyes to see that it is clay, dyed a dark blue, close to being black.
“Navy, for courage. Pick another.”
I close my eyes again and find another bead. This one feels like wood; a sliver pokes out from it. I open my eyes. Green.
“Green, for nature. For earth and beauty.”
I repeat my actions, and find a white glass bead.
“White, for peace and serenity.”
“Okay, that’s all I want, ” I say.
Dad nods, “Finish the loops then. All the way until you get to the middle. Leave a hole anywhere from the size of a quarter to a dime, however you want. Some people make it determined by the amount of nightmares they have, bigger for more, smaller for less. That way the bad dreams go through and don’t get caught. Unless you use a smaller rim, then the hole is naturally smaller.
“Big then for me, ” I say.
I continue knotting the loops and get lost in my work until I get to the middle and realize how short the thread has become.
“Good,” Dad says. “Now the feather for the middle and for the ones going down. Choose.”
He lifts the lid from the box and I look through them carefully.
“Do I choose different ones or all the same?” I ask.
“However you like.”
“The same, ” I say and select four small white feathers with black tips.
“Eagle feathers, for protection, ” Dad says.
He shows me how to tie the feather into the middle and secure it with the glue and a bead. We add the three other feathers dangling from the bottom of the rim and put brown wooden beads at the top of each.
“Now you’re finished, ” he says, smiling. “You did good. See? That was successful. Now your bikà’watakwáyo can watch over your dreams too.”
“I don’t believe in bikà’watakwáyo anymore, ” I say quietly. Bikà’watakwáyo is a belief of our tribe of guardians that each person has. We have them to watch over and protect us. When I was little, I believed in them profusely, thanks to my parents and grandparents.
“No?” Dad asks surprised. “When did that change? You used to yell at the kids at school until they said that they believed too.”
I laugh. “I don’t remember that. When Sam went missing. Why did that happen if they are true? Sam’s guardian and mine would have kept him here. And when he got back, mine would have stopped the heartbreak. There has been so much that’s happened that I can’t possibly believe. Either they aren’t true or else mine just left me years ago.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way, ” Dad says, his face soft and sad. “Maybe one day your bikà’watakwáyo will return to you.”
I look away, unbelieving. “Yeah, maybe.”
“I have a meeting this morning in a few minutes, ” he says, and as he does, I hear the front door of the building open, more people arriving. “Are you okay to wait here? Or you can take the car and I’ll get a ride home.”
I shake my head, looking around the room to see that the easels and paint are still here. “No, I can wait.”
Dad smiles a little. “Okay then. Here take this one too. Do what you want with it, ” he hands me his dream catcher. “I won’t be too long.”
Dad stands up and goes out to the meeting room, leaving the door cracked open behind him. I hesitate for a moment and then deciding no one will be around to see me, go to the easel and begin squeezing paint out onto a tray. I have no idea what I’m going to paint, so I just start splotching random colors on until they make shapes. I get so caught up in my work, I don’t notice when someone comes in.
“Looks good, ” they say, making me jump. In doing so, my brush taps against my nose. I spin around to see Jacob Black watching me.
“Sorry,” he says and uses his thumb to wipe the paint from my nose and then brushes it onto his jeans.
“That’s okay, ” I whisper.
“I like your painting. And your dream catchers. You made them?”
“I made this one, ” I say holding it up. “My dad was teaching me how. And thanks.”
“Cool. Can I see?”
I pass him the dream catchers and he looks at each one closely before handing them back.
“Awesome,” he compliments again. “Do you think you could make me one?”
“Sure. When do you want it?”
“Before the thirteenth. It’s my friend’s birthday.”
“Okay. I’ll drop it by sometime soon then.”
Dad appears in the doorway then. “You ready, Leah?”
I nod, “Just a second.”
I turn around an pick up a pencil, signing my name in the middle of the canvas on a blank spot. Dad leads the way outside and Jacob follows, being joined by his Dad.
“Bye, Leah, Harry. See you guys later, ” Jacob says as we climb in the car.
I nod politely and Dad starts to drive.
“Thank you, ” I say to Dad. “For everything today. It was . . . fun.”
“You’re welcome. I’m glad you had a good time. There’s more I could teach you if you want. Our tribe use to weave baskets so tightly, you could boil water in them.”
I nod. “Yeah, maybe we can do more sometime. I really liked this even though it was hard. Jacob asked me to make him one.”
“That’ll be good. Gives you something to do this week. Borrow my keys whenever, just let me know.”
“Okay, ” I say smiling with the hope that I will be able to paint more.
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I was hyper. I had been sleeping a lot lately and now that I was up, I probably would be for awhile. I was mad again, too. Hyper and mad. Not the best combination under the circumstances.
Jared had gone back with Emily and we were all left out front in the waiting room. Mom and Dad sat down on a bench sided with end tables after-which the benches continued. I sat, too, in the middle of the bench on the same wall as theirs since there was no one else in the room.
The TV on the wall was turned on to the news channel, showing the weather. After a few minutes of waiting, Dad stood and paced the room. He seemed uptight, which I didn’t understand. On about his fifth turn, he paused and went to the window. Dad nodded at someone outside and then returned to his seat. I twisted in my chair to see who had been outside, but I couldn’t see anyone.
When I turned back, Paul was standing in front of me.
“Mind if I sit here?” he asked, gesturing to the spaces on either side of me.
I shook my head and scooted to one side to make room for him.
“How did you get here so fast?” I ask him. He wouldn’t have had time to go home, get a car and drive here in the time that it’s been. He lives on the opposite side of town as us and he was on foot when we left.
“I, uh, borrowed the Blacks’ car,” he says. That makes more sense since the Blacks live just across the street from us. We stop talking for a few minutes and I hear Mom and Dad speaking quietly to each other but I don’t eavesdrop.
“What’s going on?” I blurt out the question I’ve been wondering since I first went down the stairs and saw everyone gathered around Emily.
“Emily got hurt, ” Paul answers automatically.
“Yeah, I know that much. I mean how did she get hurt?”
“I wasn’t there.”
“No, but you know what happened. Don’t you?”
He avoids looking into my eyes, and then finally makes eye contact. He gulps, and I have to stop myself from laughing at him—it’s just like in the movies.
“I think it was a bear.”
“A bear?” I ask, and my eyes widen at how dumb that sounds. “Bears don’t attack people, Paul. And I’m pretty sure we both know that wasn’t it.”
Paul is saved, when the doctor walks in followed by Jared and Emily.
The pale doctor nodded to us, and turned to speak to the receptionist. We all stand in unison and follow Jared and Emily to the car.
Emily’s face was clear of blood but her face and arm were covered with fluffy white bandages. I narrowed my eyes in suspicion as they followed Paul around the back of the building where the Blacks’ car was supposedly parked. I was sure Jared and Paul both knew what had happened.
The sky had stopped crying but the roads were still tear-streaked. The streetlights reflected like clusters of stars off the asphalt as we drove back to La Push.
When Emily fell asleep with her head on Jared’s shoulder he spoke to me. “Sam misses you.”
“Whatever,” I scoff.
“He does. He loves you.” I see my parents exchange a glance. “But he’s in love with Emily.”
“Don’t care, ” I mutter under my breath.
“I think you do, ” Jared says softly. “You guys were so close to each other. I don’t think I ever saw one of you alone.”
“Dad, could you drop me off first?” I ask loudly.
“No, Leah. Emily needs to get home, ” Mom answers before Dad can.
I sigh and sit back.
“Sam wishes he could explain everything to you, ” Jared continues.
“Then why doesn’t he? I don’t understand. I loved Sam. I was in love with him. And he just left. He never even said goodbye. And he just keeps coming back, saying he can’t explain anything but he wishes he could. Every time I see them together it kills me. Kills me, Jared.”
“I know. We all have to live with it—” Jared stops suddenly as if he’s said too much. Dad looks back at him and Jared doesn’t continue.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“Nothing, ” he says quietly and I can tell he’s not going to say anything more.
A few minutes later we arrive at Sam and Emily’s house, which is more like a mansion compared to the rest of the houses in La Push. Jared helps Emily out of the car and Dad waits for them to get inside before he pulls away. When we got home, I stayed in the car watching the gutters drizzle leftovers onto the sidewalk. I almost didn’t notice when the Blacks’ car pulled up and Jacob was driving, Paul no where in sight.
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Cold! I gasp and struggle to open my eyes. The left opens easily while the right sticks closed. I close them both again when brightness hits. Where am I? What happened?
With my eyes still closed, I concentrate on each part of my body, accessing the damage. My eye seems to be the worst, but my face, neck and arm are stinging. I can smell bitter antiseptic in the air.
For another minute, I lay without moving, trying to recall where I am. Then I remember. The forest. Sam. Cutting claws reaching my face, my arm. Shards of fabric shooting in every direction.
I open my left eye, slow and careful this time. The scene is blurry at first and then transforms into a bland hospital room. There is a small TV in the corner, a doctor in a white coat to the right, standing with his back to me. Jared is at the door, wearing only shorts, his back to me also, staring out the window that peeks into the hall.
The doctor turns around and my mouth drops open. I recognize him, although we’ve never met. Sam’s descriptions of them fits the man perfectly. Pale skin, ice cold. Gold eyes—well, black right now.
My first instinct is to run but I am held in place with the knowledge that he is just as fast as Sam. The only thing left out of the description is extreme beauty. Dr. Cullen is handsome. I automatically feel guilty for thinking this and advert my eyes.
I don’t understand why Sam is letting me be near one of them, but then I realize Sam isn’t here. Maybe he doesn’t know. But how could Jared then be here with his back turned to the enemy?
The doctor notices the fear in my eyes and his lips raise into a friendly smile that meets his eyes.
“Glad to see you awake, ” he comments. “I’m Dr. Cullen. I don’t know if you already knew that or not.”
His dark eyes flicker towards Jared who has turned around. Jared gives me a weak smile but his expression turns back to a poker face. My fear doesn’t disappear though, and Dr. Cullen continues talking.
“Can you open your right eye at all?”
I try again. It still hurts, but I am able to open it just enough to see but not as wide as my other.
“Good, ” he says while he watches them closely.
“It still hurts, ” I inform.
He nods. “It probably will until the stitches come out. They’ll dissolve on their own in a few weeks. Look straight ahead.”
Dr. Cullen shines a light around into my eyes.
“Good, ” he repeats. “Is your vision normal?”
“You might want to see an optometrist anyways. Would you like a bandage on your face, neck and arm? Or you can go without. Either way, no getting any part of the wound wet for forty-eight hours, ” he says.
I think about it for a moment. If I could just see what it looked like . . .
As if he could read my mind, the doctor hands me a small mirror. It looks much worse than it feels, even with the stitches closing the wounds. From above my eyebrow started one claw mark and was joined by two others around my eye. The corner of my eye was pulled down and the stitches came so close to my eye that I wondered how the doctor could have possibly sewed them in. The lines traveled down my face and took a break under my chin. They resumed at my collar bone and went over my arm, ending just before my elbow.
If Sam saw this . . . he would never forgive himself. I probably needed to keep it bandaged so he wouldn’t see it, at least until the stitches came out.
“Bandage. And can I get some extra bandages to last until the stitches come out please?”
Dr. Cullen doesn’t seem surprised by my answer. He must know the whole story. What in the world am I supposed to say happened?
“Sure. Does anything else hurt?”
“Okay.” Dr. Cullen turns slowly, like a human, and grabs something. “Close your eye, ” he directs and goes about bandaging my face.
“Jared?” I say, when the doctor has moved onto my arm.
Jared looks at me again but doesn’t say anything.
“Honestly, I have no clue. He’s having a hard time phasing back right now.”
I frown. “Do you know when he’ll be back?” I think I already know the answer but I have to hear it anyways.
Jared shakes his head. “He’s pretty torn up.”
Dr. Cullen looks up from his work and Jared having realized what he said, apologizes. I don’t ask anything more.
“Well, Emily, I think you’re set. If your vision changes, see an optometrist. Maybe go just for good measure anyways. Don’t get your bandages wet for forty-eight hours, and change them every couple of days. Clean the wounds regularly but cover them after to avoid infection. If they bleed in the first week, that’s normal. Anytime after that, have it checked out. And of course, look for signs of infection: heat, swelling, pus, and abnormal pain. “
“Okay, ” I say. “Thank you.”
“Your very welcome. If there’s anything else–”
“There won’t be, ” Jared interrupts.
Dr. Cullen nods. “You can get up then, Emily. You’re fine to leave.”
I sit up slowly and Jared comes to the side of the bed. He offers his arm to me. I take it gratefully and stand up, my head spinning. Jared helps me into the hallway and we follow the doctor to the waiting room. Oddly, the doctor had seemed almost human. Maybe Sam was wrong about them.
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I woke up to lots of noise downstairs; the front door opening followed by loud talking and shuffling. It was about six in the evening and the sky outside was dark with the mix of night and a rainstorm. I had fallen asleep after my fights with Mom and Sam. My anger was diffused for the time being but I knew it could ignite again in a moments notice.
I walked over to my door and cracked it open to listen. Somebody was here; they spoke hurriedly with my mother. I couldn’t tell the topic of conversation so I walked out of my room quietly and stepped down the stairs silently. When I got to the bottom I peeked around the corner into the living room.
Sam was shaking as he kneeled over the couch where Emily was laying. Mom was cleaning Emily’s face with a rag that looked soaked with blood. I gasped at the sight of Emily like this, forgetting for a moment all that had happened.
Sam turned and looked at my father who was standing in the kitchen doorway, his back to the room, talking on the phone. Seth was no where in sight but Jared—a kid that had gone to school with me and Sam, but dropped out early this year—was standing behind the couch. Paul came in the door then—he had also dropped out—and spoke quietly to Jared. What were they doing here?
I exhaled slowly, trying to be quieter. Sam heard anyways and turned around, spotting me. He spoke a few words to my mother, then stood and walked toward me. I sat down on the stairs, leaning against the wall. Emily being hurt had melted my hardened feelings. I couldn’t not care about her, even though I still felt hate towards her for what she had done. Suddenly, I felt exhausted.
“What happened?” I whispered and dad turned for a moment to look at me. I glanced around the room again, seeing that Emily was asleep.
“Emily, uh, got hurt,” Sam explained weakly. His eyes gleaned as tears threatened to spill over.
“Well duh,” I said back, annoyed.
“I can’t do anything more to help, Sam. I don’t have the supplies. She needs stitches. Maybe even staples,” Mom told Sam.
Dad spoke then to Sam. “I—uh, talked to some people . . . . I think you should take her to Forks. We will go too.” There seemed to be some hidden meaning in his words that Sam obviously understood but I didn’t.
Sam sighed and looked toward Emily. “Fine.” Although Sam said fine, he himself didn’t look like it was okay with him. He began trembling and as it grew stronger, Paul hurried towards him.
“Sam, come on. We have to go, ” Paul said loud and demanding. Sam still shook but allowed himself to slowly be led outside.
”I’ll take care of her, Sam, ” Jared says just as Paul and Sam go out the door.
Weird. Sam and Jared hadn’t ever been friends when I was around. Neither had he and Paul.
Mom waited in the doorway and looked towards me. I stood up and took a few steps toward her, still not having decided whether or not I was going. Jared came around to the front of the couch and Mom moved out of the way, pulling on her shoes. He wrapped a blanket around Emily and carried her toward the door, only pausing for a moment as Mom opened the door. Dad was already outside starting the car.
Mom, knowing me well said, “You’re welcome to come with or stay. Seth is staying over at a friend’s house tonight so you don’t need to watch him.”
I nodded and followed her outside into the rain. In the van, Emily was laying next to Jared in the middle bench of seats, with Dad driving and Mom next to him, their hands intertwined over the middle console. I climbed onto the back row of seats and sat sideways so my legs would fit. I sighed, regretting my decision already. We drove through Forks to the hospital. Most of our tribe didn’t come here for the hospital, and some people didn’t even use American stores or anything—but the hospital especially was off-limits. Usually it was the older people that had a problem with it, but even our family preferred La Push’s resources over American’s. This was an emergency I guess, so was there an exception? Seth and I were not even born in Forks but at home in La Push.
Sam didn’t ever care before about using American stores instead of buying in La Push. But now, Sam acted like going to the hospital was the worst thing that could occur. I wondered silently what had changed. Last summer, we had gone on a picnic together in the park in Forks, and I had gotten stung by a bee. When it stared to swell, Sam started freaking out and saying he was taking me the the hospital. I wouldn’t let him, since I had been stung before and it was no big deal. We argued for a few minutes and then compromised by cutting our picnic short and driving home to my mom. She laughed at our story and then put some ointment on my sting. A minute later it was fine and I was telling Sam, “I told you so.”
We pulled up in front of the hospital and Jared raced in with Emily. My parents followed, slower, but still quickly. I dragged behind, torn between caring for and loving Emily and hating both her and Sam. The nurse ushered Jared and Emily into a room and us into the waiting room.
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I paced through the trees waiting for Sam to return; it had been almost an hour now! I still wasn’t sure how I felt about him. He obviously was not giving up his pursuit to win me over. He was nice enough but he was Leah’s boyfriend and he had just dumped her when he saw me. He didn’t even break up with her; just left her alone after she saw us together. Sometimes, he could be so sweet and I can’t imagine ever being with someone else. Other times…I missed Leah and knew what she would be thinking of us, then I hated him for what he’d done. Part of me wished that he would return to her, but the other part just wanted to forget it, and love him back. I knew I was falling more and more in love with him and further and further away from Leah every day. Maybe it was time for me to put my foot down before my heart got broken too….
He bought a house ‘for us . . . ,’ he’d said, ‘or just you,’ he quickly added when he saw my expression. He let me move in and he stayed in his old house but frequently came to visit, with or without an invitation. I had fun cooking for him and his friends who always gave tons of help on how to make everything taste better and ate as much as a herd of elephants.
And then there was his secret. Not just his, but the tribe’s. It seemed like more and more people found out nearly every week.
He’s already shared it with me, about why everything had happened the way it did and I’ve seen him and his friends in their other forms which was a little frightening. He explained why they exist and answers all of my questions. If only he would explain to Leah, then maybe we could set things right. He is so nice and handsome, but I still feel like Leah has a better claim on him. Maybe if she didn’t want him anymore, and as long as we could still be as close as sisters….
Sam suddenly burst through the trees, coming the opposite way I had been expecting.
“EMILY!” he shouted at me though I couldn’t tell if his words were meant to be harsh or simply filled with concern. He picked me up into an embrace that lifted my feet off the ground. “Where have you been? I told you to go home, not back here!”
“I was waiting for you to come back, Sam,” I explain. “I love Leah too you know; she’s still my cousin. Practically sister, although she apparently would not say the same anymore. You’ve hurt her you know. You need to just go back to her and forget me. I like you Sam, but you’re better off with her. She loves you so much. Please just go and give me my sister back. She hates me right now and I can’t live with that. Maybe someday, if she doesn’t want to be with you anymore than we—”
He lets go of me, not seeming to hear what I am saying and starts shaking. “Emily, that was something I needed to take care of on my own! You should have done as I’d asked! Leah won’t listen to a stinkin’ word I say. She doesn’t care. I love you, Emily. I need you, not her. I love her, but I’ve explained to you before; you are the one for me. Just deal with it ’cause I’m not going anywhere. It’s not like I get to control all of the . . . trashy circumstances. I know that it ‘s not fair for her. Life isn’t fair.” His words were half shouts, angry, but I didn’t know if it was me or Leah that had him upset. I started backing away from Sam as the shaking grew stronger.
I yelled back, angry that Leah didn’t matter to him and I apparently didn’t either since he wasn’t listening to me. I was going to lose the only sister I had and it was all Sam’s fault. “Stop! Trashy circumstances? Is that what this is? Because to me it seem like you’re just acting to much like a Uley to know a good thing when you’ve got it. Leah was good to you and now you’re treating her like the last few years didn’t even happen. You’re so selfish! What about what everyone else wants? Or are you the only one who’s opinion matters? How can you be so mean to her? To me? You’re just like your father!” He takes a step toward me and I push him away, “I’ve heard the stories and—”
That’s when Sam lost it. His clothes exploded into a million pieces. His limbs seemed to reach out in every direction, his right paw catching my face on its way toward the forest floor. Sam’s sharp claws scrapped down the right side of my face and then my arm and shoulder. I cried out in pain and fell back towards the ground in shock.
It took him a moment to phase back—he seemed to be having trouble with it. Then in an instant, the monstrous wolf disappeared. He shouted my name again, this time his voice was for certain full of concern. Sam scooped me up into his warm arms and began running, murmuring words of comfort along the way.
A black fog threatened to engulf me, blurring my vision and making my head spin. I could feel warm liquid on my cheek and arm. My right eye closed and once it did, it wouldn’t open. I didn’t try to open it anyways because of the pain that came when I did. Instead I closed both of my eyes and focused on my other senses. I struggled to concentrate on Sam’s voice, on the gentle, steady rhythm of his foot falls. The smell of the forest around us, then the smell changed to home. I was faintly aware of when Sam climbed the steps to our porch and a minute later laid me on the couch. I could hear him talking to someone but as the warm trickled to my ear, I stopped listening, for a moment.
I was almost asleep before Sam hoisted me into his arms again and ran out the door. It was raining now. The soft, cold drips felt good on my skin. We had a car, but I guessed Sam thought it would be faster this way, and it probably was.
Since he had first turned into a wolf, he could outrun most of the cars on the highway. Or so he told me. I never got to be with him when he was a wolf apart from one time. He said it was dangerous, and after what had just happened, I now believed him. I heard Jared, another wolf in Sam’s pack, join us but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. Sam was practically flying as he sprinted through the forest along the edge of the town. I began to drift to sleep again. I felt so tired.
“Sam. Tired. Stop running? Sleep?” I mumbled the words the best I could knowing they would probably be incoherent.
“No Em, don’t go to sleep. We’re almost there baby. I’m so sorry. Hang on,” Sam whispered more gentle words in my ear.
Then Sam and Jared spoke. I only made out a few words; sleep, angry and pain.
Sam slowed to a walk and then paused for a brief second. There was the sound of a door opening and then the voice of a woman quietly saying, “Come in! Put her on the couch Sam.” I recognized the voice as Sue Clearwater’s. She continued speaking in hushed tones. “I don’t know what I can do to help with my limited medical knowledge but I will do what I can. You really should take her to Forks. They really could help more than me.”
Sam laid me on the couch and someone pulled a blanket up over my legs. “You know I can’t do that. It would just make things worse.”
“You will take her if I say. If I can’t do enough then—”
“Then I will take her, ” Sam finished. “But please—” his voice was full of pain as he choked back tears. “Do what you can.”
And that’s when I fell asleep.
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