A/N: Here we go with the sequel to A Crappy Little Piece of Forever. I wouldn't say that having read the first one is absolutely crucial to understanding this one, but you will get more of what's going on and have a better understanding of some background information. I hope you all enjoy it!
Huge thank you to both of my betas for helping with this chapter: Jezebel Jai-Braxlin and cmaa225.
January 7th, 2008
Nessie Cullen had a shit Christmas. I hadn't seen her in a couple of weeks, but I knew that much.
I'd patrolled with Jake several times since Nessie's favorite "aunt" and "uncle" left town. Each time I had been inundated with his anger. It was almost at the same level as his Bella days. His imprint wasn't getting over her sadness, and Jake wanted to fix it.
But he couldn't. Because the only solution was dragging Rosalie and Emmett all the way back from England. Regardless of how much Nessie begged, that was one thing Jake couldn't do.
It was a bittersweet feeling for the wolves. More vamps gone from the area was a good thing. Rosalie and Jake especially had always had a terrible relationship. I knew Jake, in particular, was thankful she was gone even while mourning the loss for his imprint.
While I'd had no choice but to listen to all these thoughts of his while we were on patrol, I'd avoided facing Nessie.
In an attempt to cheer the girl up, Bella and Edward had planned a trip to Alaska for Christmas to see the Denali. Jake had been invited as well but managed to get out of it. I wasn't sure how it had gone. Jake was too cranky for me to bother asking.
That was, until today. Today I was watching her because Leah Clearwater was the obvious person to shove upset toddlers at.
I wasn't sure what turn of events had led to Nessie being left in my care. All I knew was Jake had called last night to ask if I could do it. Considering my school didn't start back up for another week, I'd had no good reason to say no. Watching the little monster wasn't troublesome enough for me to put up much of a fight against it.
Despite everyone's worry, Nessie was in a better state when Jake dropped her off than she had been back in December. I wondered if I was the only one to pick up on it after being gone from her for so long.
Sure, she wasn't all smiley like normal, although I couldn't list that as a bad thing. She wasn't pouting like the last time I saw her. That was an improvement.
She was quiet. That was the only thing that might have been unnerving, but Nessie had always been quiet when I watched her. She was sitting there reading one of her books like usual. There was nothing out of the ordinary about that.
The first time I believed the others might not be exaggerating was when it was time for The Magic School Bus to come on. Nessie always counted down the minutes until she could turn on the TV, so it was surprising when I had to turn it on instead. Nessie hadn't given any sign of wanting to watch.
That didn't stop her from watching her favorite TV show intently, a little too intently. Usually, Nessie would complain about the unrealistic aspects of the story. Today, she preferred staring at the screen with her mouth in a thin line. She must be enjoying it as she didn't go back to her book, but she wasn't enjoying it in the way that she usually did.
By the time the credits were rolling, I'd had enough of the quiet.
"You want to talk?" I asked as I reached over to grab the remote and switch off the television.
Nessie fiddled with the book in her hand, more interested in it than me.
"Not really," she admitted.
I sighed. Part of me was tempted to let it go, but I wasn't sure I could take the strange silence anymore.
"You sure? I've got nothing else to do."
Oddly enough, being dismissive worked best with Nessie. When I acted like I didn't care much, it took enough pressure off of her that she was more likely to speak up. She became more open.
I watched her shoulders droop a bit, and I knew she'd managed to let go of some of the tension she was holding in.
"It's almost been a month." She continued flipping the pages of her book the way one would watch a flipbook.
I hummed in agreement, waiting to see if she would say anything more.
"I thought it would get easier, but I still miss them. I thought I was supposed to stop missing them."
With a sigh, I moved closer to Nessie on the couch, preparing myself for the role of comforter. I would never not feel awkward doing this.
"You're not supposed to stop missing them. Everyone misses people they love who aren't around, no matter how long they've been gone. My dad's been gone more than a year, and I'm not as sad about it as I was then, but I still miss him. I always will. The only difference is I don't think about it as much now."
Nessie watched me as if she were calculating my motives.
"So I just need to stop thinking about them?"
I shrugged. "Kind of. You might have to force it at first, but eventually, you won't think about them as much without even trying. But when you do, I'm sure you'll still miss them. That's what visits are for. And after a visit, it'll be a bit harder again, but it'll go away faster each time."
Nessie's brow furrowed.
"Think about something else," she muttered under her breath. Then she spoke up. "I've been reading a lot, but I still think about them when I read. I connect stuff back to them. I just do it."
"That's natural," I assured her. "There's nothing you can do except push it from your mind whenever it happens. Easier said than done, I know. And I'm saying that as a wolf who had to learn to do it to keep her thoughts from a million other people."
Nessie was still frowning down at her book, but she'd stopped flipping the pages. I could tell that she was deep in thought. Eventually, she sighed.
"Everything would be easier if everyone stayed in Forks forever."
I scoffed at her. "Not possible. You were going to deal with this sooner or later. At least now you'll know how to deal with it for later."
I expected Nessie to throw a temper tantrum, but despite her pout, she refrained herself. Her fists curled up a few times, showing her frustration, but she didn't let any of it out. After several moments, she opened her book and went back to reading. I read a bit of the page over her shoulder, just now noticing that it was The Odyssey.
"How much of that do you understand?" I asked, more out of surprise than expecting an answer.
Nessie shrugged, not bothering to glance up from the book. "It's pretty straight-forward once you accept that it's mythology and has different rules."
"But all the references..."
She looked up at me with confused eyes. "They're not references. It all came from this book originally, didn't it? It's one of the oldest epics."
I didn't have an answer to that. Nessie might have had a better grip on ancient Greek literature than I did, and that kind of scared me. Not that I'd ever considered myself an expert. You still didn't want a child to know more than you. The excerpts of The Odyssey I read in high school should have been enough to beat Nessie's knowledge.
An hour had passed before the irony of her reading choice hit me. What I remembered of the story was limited, but I remembered enough. A story of a traveler who's gone for a long time and comes home to find things in chaos. Had Nessie known all that when she picked it up? I didn't have a chance to ask before her imprint was stomping into the house followed by my brother and Embry.
The noise levels escalated the second they were in the door without them saying anything. Jake found his way to Nessie's side immediately. She still hadn't moved but had made significant progress in her too thick book. Closing it, she gave Jake her first smile all day, but even her wolf wasn't enough to keep the sadness from her eyes.
Seth and Embry pushed passed me and went for the kitchen where I could hear them rummaging around in the fridge. I couldn't help but roll my eyes at everyone's predictability.
It took five minutes before Seth and Embry were back with their food and took seats in the living room with the rest of us. I could tell Nessie was trying to act happier now that Jake was here, but she was failing. Something Jake was the only one of the boys to notice.
His eyes glanced over at me, and I knew he wanted to ask how she'd been. But he couldn't without her overhearing, a downside to hanging around supernatural people. I offered him a slight shrug, hoping that would give him some hints about how the day had gone.
"One more semester left," Embry commented. I wasn't sure if he was oblivious to Nessie's feelings or trying to lighten the mood, but I thought it was the latter. "I can't wait to graduate."
Seth groaned. "Stop reminding me. You may be finished in May, but I've still got three years."
Embry shrugged. "Sorry, dude. Nothing I can do about that."
I watched Seth's face closely. I was still worried about him these days even though he was back to his old self on the outside. I wasn't sure what was true and what was an act. Despite having been out to Mom and me for a month, Seth wasn't giving any sign he was ready to come out to the pack yet. Carrying around that big of a secret was exhausting, especially with the pack mind. I'd had a few near slip ups and was always angry with myself for ages afterwards. I could only imagine it was ten times worse for Seth.
You'd never know it by observing him though. He had become better at concealing his inner turmoil. In a way, that left me more worried than the anger had.
"That's easy to say when you know what you're going to do with yourself," Jake complained to Embry. "All I know is that I'll have to find a job. Besides that, I don't have a clue."
"I still don't know where I got in at, asshole." Embry shot his leg out to kick Jake.
As if I needed the reminder. I knew Embry had applied to several colleges in Washington state. I also knew that included my school. The possibility that Embry could be invading my escape from La Push was one I didn't like to think about. I was sure he'd get in. I was less sure he'd decide to go. Embry got that school was a safe haven away from La Push for me. I knew he did.
Jake brushed off Embry's words. "You'll get in somewhere for sure, even with your terrible attendance record. You have better grades than any of the rest of us."
"They're not that great," Embry muttered.
I wasn't sure why he was so defensive over how well he did in school. Sure, the guys mocked him about it sometimes, but they didn't care. Embry acted like their teasing was much more malicious than it was.
Whatever. I'd given up trying to figure him out. He'd have to remain the most mysterious of the guys. As mysterious as anyone could be when I shared their mind regularly that is.
January 14th, 2008
This was my second semester of college, yet I still felt like it was my first day. I'd thought that was supposed to go away after months of being here. As it was, winter break had left me feeling like I was never a student here, like I'd dreamt the last semester.
It wasn't like I had much to show for my previous attendance other than some completed credit hours. Which was the "real" point of college obviously, but it wasn't why I was here. A possible degree was an added benefit, but I'd wanted to occupy my time, which I had. I just hadn't achieved my other main motive of befriending people who hadn't known me my entire life.
Sure, I'd had Lucas, but that had fallen through pretty spectacularly. I was set on trying to befriend a girl, someone who wasn't getting close only because they wanted to date me. That, and I had far too many guys in my life as it was. It wasn't like I needed more.
What I lacked in was girls to talk to. The only ones I had were my mother and the imprints. My preferred friend could be in a relationship, but I drew a line at anything cringe-worthy. That was a prerequisite of imprints.
The one reminder I wasn't a new student was that I already knew where to find each of my classes. I also knew ways to remain inconspicuous going into a classroom and my preferred seat when I got there.
I was just lacking the friend or two that would serve as a sign that I did, in fact, know people here. Everyone else around the room had one, whether they'd come in together or ran into each other upon arriving. One other girl sat a little isolated, scrolling through her phone.
I could have done that, but I didn't have anyone to text. And I didn't even have Internet on my phone to do anything else. So fiddling with my pens for a few minutes it was.
I felt less self-conscious once the lecture began. After that, I wasn't a lone wolf among a pack. I was just another student listening to the professor talk.
Another sign I wasn't a new student: the syllabus talk was more monotonous than last semester. Fighting off sleep was a struggle, but somehow, I made it.
I had a break in my schedule after my first class, one that I'd been rather annoyed about during scheduling. It was the same time as the one I'd had last semester, and yet again, I was starting the semester with no idea how to fill it. I wasn't eager to create set plans like I had last semester either.
I wandered to the library, deciding that using the break for studying might be a smart idea at least some of the time. Last semester me would have been better off for it.
There was just the little problem of it being the first day. Any homework I had after my first class was reviewing the syllabus, which was worthless. Nothing library time worthy, but I went. It provided a semi-quiet place where I could spend time without feeling out of place being alone.
As a sign of the times, the students actually here on the first day were clustered around the computers. I walked past them and wound my way through the stacks, not having any idea where I was going. I kept walking and turning until I was in a particularly quiet area of the library. These books didn't feel like they got pulled off the shelves as often.
I dragged my finger along them as I skimmed the titles. They were on things like the "McDonaldization of society" and robots' inevitable rebellion. I couldn't deny that I was tempted to read about robot rebellions.
Resisting the temptation, I kept wandering until I was out of the bowels of the library. It was complete coincidence that I stumbled upon the billboard with various flyers on it. In the months I'd been attending, I'd never stopped to look at one of these. I'd always operated under the assumption there wouldn't be anything of interest on it. Sure enough, my eyes glazed over most of the flyers, which were advertising for new club members.
I couldn't deny that joining a club might be a good move though. It was a way to gain access to potential friends, but only if I could find one that wasn't too... club-y. Out of all of them, two caught my eye. One was the gay-straight alliance, but part of me felt wrong for considering joining. I wouldn't be outing Seth by doing it, but my joining might send stronger hints to the guys back home if they got wind of it. Better safe than sorry on that one.
The only other one that sounded like I could relate to it was the diversity club, which was an actual thing. I supposed I qualified given that I wasn't white, although I had no idea what was expected of members. All I knew was that they focused on diversity on campus through "activities." The whole thing sounded like it could be cheesy as fuck.
International Club sounded interesting, but the longer I looked, the less confident I was that it was the right way to go. It could be a way of making friends, but I had a picture in my mind of a certain type of person that attended clubs. I wasn't sure if it was for me.
Pushing that worry aside for now, I pulled a notebook and pen out of my bag to scribble down a few of the meetings. I could make a decision about them later. At least I'd have the information then.
January 16th, 2008
By the time my classes ended on Wednesday, I had realized another reason why clubs may not be for me: They all took place in the evening, long after classes had ended.
It wasn't ideal for someone who lived far away and didn't relish the idea of staying on campus when they didn't need to.
I did stay though. I'd promised myself I'd attend one club meeting. International Club happened the earliest, cementing my decision of which to choose. If I'd had later classes, I wouldn't have had to wait at all. But I finished up at noon on Wednesdays.
Attending also meant discovering the International Services' little corner of the campus. It had never been something I'd needed before, but luckily, my knowledge of campus had improved enough that I found it easily.
If I'd ever felt out of place when entering a class for the first time, that was magnified tenfold now. I couldn't help wondering how many of these people had been in the club before and already knew each other. I was hoping to make friends, but what if I'd walked straight into a clique that would reject me?
I signed the paper like they asked and took a seat on the fringes of those who had already arrived. Most of them seemed to know each other, although I could pinpoint a few people who seemed to be new like me.
Throughout the meeting, I couldn't shake a feeling of not belonging even though no one said or did anything to trigger it.
The meeting was nothing more than discussing what would be happening the rest of the semester. The ideas ranged from movie nights to food nights to other sorts of nights and a cultural fair the school held.
It didn't sound bad. Most of what they were discussing could be fun if I started to make friends with some of the others.
When the meeting ended, more than half of the members lingered to talk among themselves. I dwelled for a second, not wanting to look strange by leaving quickly. This was the friend making opportunity I'd been looking for, but I didn't know what I would say to anyone.
Just as I was about to call it a day and walk out, a kind-looking girl approached me, large smile and all. She was one of those people who appeared to always be cheery, a lot like Seth had been back when his life had been simpler. Something about her had me drawn to her before she'd said hello.
"Are you leaving?" she asked, motioning towards the door with her head.
For a split second, I thought she was trying to get rid of me. Then I realized she was carrying her bag and leaving too. I nodded and walked out the door of the room with her by my side. It was strange how something like that would happen. Fate was making it harder and harder for me not to have faith in it, it seemed.
"I'm Joselyn Desrosiers," she said, holding out her hand even as we walked.
I shook it, hoping, not for the first time, she wouldn't pay attention to how hot my hands were.
She nodded, still smiling.
I wasn't sure what I was supposed to say, also not new since so much of my life became a secret. I'd never considered myself a shy person, but becoming a wolf had ruined my social skills.
"What year are you?" Joselyn asked.
I took the out. Somehow, the conversation kept flowing. By the time we'd reached the lot where Joselyn was parked, I wasn't struggling over what to say. Something about us had clicked in the best possible way. Not even having to lie about where my car was could bother me.
I felt good about this. Better than I had about Lucas. Something told me Joselyn was going to be important in my life.
Hopefully, this time fate wasn't letting me down.