I know I have been gone for many moons but if there's anyone still out there, know that I love you! And you rock. I've rewritten the first couple chapters so please reread. Much love.
Seeing the familiar roads back to my old home through a slightly rain spattered windshield was oddly satisfying. I had been back only a handful of times since graduating from Forks High. Charlie had come to visit a few times and of course to see me graduate from Seattle University. But I had seen him just twice for Christmas, once my first year of college and then again last December. I found my old home didn't hold anything for my new life. Yet, here I was making the three hour drive to spend my summer in La Push. When Angela called me a month ago and told me she was getting married to Jake I couldn't have been happier for my two best friends. I was shocked when she asked me to be her maid of honor but I accepted without hesitation.
I had stayed in contact with just Angela, as well as Jake but it had been almost a year since I had seen them. I had spoken to Angela and Jake a week ago and they insisted that I stay with them for the summer. They were living in a beautiful house that Jake had built for them. I had only seen it through pictures but from those alone I could tell Jake had done an amazing job.
I had wanted to visit before now but I had only been a teacher for a year and didn't have the seniority the other teachers did so I didn't get the same time off, at least that was the excuse I used. Every time Angela or Charlie would invite me down. I just didn't feel like I belonged there anymore.
Even though it was an exhausting job at times, I still found teaching incredibly rewarding. Mostly I was happy for the distraction, ever since Edward had left me after my 17th birthday I was never the same person. Sure I had healed, I no longer loved Edward but I never moved on, thought I had the opportunity more than once nothing ever felt right.
As I pulled into an unfamiliar driveway I turned off my car, I had to buy a new one after my truck had roared its last roar just a year into college. I was about to open my door when it was yanked open for me and I was pulled from my seat into a huge bear hug that could rival the hugs Emmett used to give me.
"Bells! What took you so long?" Jake asked swinging me back and forth my feet hanging a foot off the ground.
"Geez Jake, how tall are you now? Aren't you supposed to stop growing after high school?" I teased him, he really was huge, he had to be 6'7" by now. I wrapped my arms around him and hugged him back with all my strength. I hadn't seen him in almost a year; I had at least 365 hugs to make up for.
Once he put me down I took a step back and got a look at him, he had grown up. He was more masculine; his jaw squared and had a bit of stubble on it. His hair was cut short like the last time I had seen him but it looked good on him.
"You look good Jake," I smiled at him.
"Thanks Bells, you look skinny. Are you eating enough?" he asked eyeing me.
"My eating is fine Jake," I rolled my eyes at him; he was starting to sound like Charlie.
"Sure, sure." He said looking skeptical, he opened my back door and started to grab my things. We chatted while we brought all my belongings into the spare room I would be calling home for the next couple weeks.
My apartment in Port Angeles, where I stayed during the summer when I wasn't teaching in Seattle, wasn't an hour away but since I would helping Angela plan the wedding most every day we agreed it would be silly to drive back and forth. Once all my things were inside I took a look around at Jakes house and I was impressed.
"Jake…did you really build this?" I asked astonished, I hadn't paid much attention when we were lugging my things from the car. Now that I could take a look around, I was thoroughly impressed. It was a one story house like most on the Res but the ceilings were vaulted in every room and all the doors were huge. Looking at Jakes tall frame it made sense. I wouldn't want to have to duck through doorways in my own house either.
The curved windows were large to let in the natural light and it made the whole place open up. The entryway led straight to the open living room. There was a deep green L-shaped couch along with several other seating options in the same green color that reminded me of the trees in the forest right outside the door. The kitchen wasn't huge but sizeable compared to others in the neighborhood. I was sure that was more for Angela's use than Jakes.
"Yea, I had a lot of help from some of the guys on the Res," he said looking shy, rubbing the back of his head. He looked adorable like this, when he looked like the same warm hearted young boy I had met so many years ago.
"You guys have a construction company out here right?" I remembered Angie saying something about it briefly. That must be how he built this wondrous house we were standing in. I briefly pondered how many houses he had built here on the Res.
"Sam's the owner, do you remember him?" Jake asked. Sam and I had met once right after Edward left me in the woods, not a day I was likely to forget.
"Kinda hard to forget," I smiled at him. Sam had been the one to find me and bring me back to Charlie. I tried not to think of that day, or what would have become of me had Sam not found me that night huddled on the forest floor.
"Right, so tell me about your class." Jake said walking into his living room, I was thankful he didn't linger on the subject. We grabbed a seat on the huge couch; he threw his arm over the back and tucked me into his side. He still had an almost scalding body temperature, it had been like this ever since he had gotten so sick junior year.
"They're amazing, I didn't know 4th graders could be so into art but they all really seem to love it," I said craning my neck to look up at him.
"Well duh Bells, they have the best teacher ever," he said matter-of-factly. I laughed; I had really missed Jake it felt so easy to be around him. I was always astonished by how much more comfortable he was to be around than Edward. Though, looking back, I can't really remember why it was appealing to spend all my time with a human popsicle…though maybe human wasn't the best choice of words.
We talked for a long time, just catching up. He told me about the auto shop he was running part-time while still working full time at Sam's contracting company. I told him he was beyond crazy. I could barely handle one job and it was still running me ragged. And I had summers off! He insisted he had more help at the shop than he knew what to do with, but that the Res was more of a job than anything else.
I told him about my class. My wondrous little artists, they had amazed me every day without fail. The different ways they all learned. The astounding works of art they could produce at an incredibly young age. I loved my job, but more I loved my students, they were my family. Each and every one, I told Jake all this with tears in my eyes. Saying goodbye to them all at the end of this year was the second most painful thing I've ever gone through. All the other teachers told me that my first class would be the hardest to let go of but I really couldn't see myself reacting any other way.
I tried to explain to Jake, when I teach those kids and when they react to you and hope for your approval, it's the most humbling thing I've ever experienced. I felt like I was a mother and friend to all those children. Jake looked at me with a sparkle in his eye and said he understood exactly what I meant.
Some of the younger kids on the Res were why he had so much help at his auto shop. He was teaching them everything automotive, and basically how to run the shop. Apparently these were the kids that would spend their whole lives on the Res like so many others. He wanted to make sure they didn't spend their lives being bums, and they looked to him as not only a teacher but like a brother. He too felt humbled by them, the look in his eye told me they were his family and he would do anything for them, he almost got emotional. I was touched. I had missed my friend, his warm smile, his energy was infectious. I realized then he was more than my friend, he was my brother, one of the only family members I had that I truly felt close to.
I told myself then, I wouldn't ever go so long again between seeing Jake. He was my rock, I knew no matter what he would be there for me and I promised myself I would do them same for him should he ever need it.
"Where's Angie?" I asked after maybe an hour, I would have thought she'd be home by now.
"She's down at the beach helping set up for the bonfire tonight, a little 'Happy Engagement' party kinda thing," he said smiling, I could tell he was thinking of her by that goofy smile, his Angela smile the one reserved only for her.
"Should we go down and help?" I asked.
Jake looked up at the clock hanging just outside the kitchen wall. I hadn't really given a good look to the kitchen. I knew Jake had designed the house but the kitchen was really something. I wasn't sure who it looked like more, Jake or Angela. The cabinets were a warm chestnut color with beautifully carved wooden handles, it was hard to tell from the couch but they almost looked like wolves. Warm granite countertops covered the cabinets and the backsplash. There were signs of their heritage everywhere, Quileute saying beautifully carved above the doorways. It felt like home.
"It's almost 6 o'clock. We can probably start to head that way actually, everyone will be there around 6:30." He said getting up and stretching his long arms high above his head and again I could see the need for high ceilings. I got up and followed him out the front door; it was maybe a 10 minute walk from his place to the beach so we didn't bother taking a car.
"So Bells, are you going to have a plus one to the wedding?" Jake asked keeping his eyes straight ahead.
"Is that your way of asking if I'm seeing anyone?" I teased, nudging him with my shoulder.
"Well…yea. I just need to know if I need to scare the crap out of anyone," he smirked down at me.
"No Jake, I'm not seeing anybody." I rolled my eyes at him.
"Can I ask why? You still not over Cullen?" he sneered when he said Edwards last name.
"I was seventeen Jake, it hurt me when he left but I got over it, you helped me get over him. I guess I just haven't found the right guy yet and I don't see a point in just dating for the sake of not being alone." I explained. After being with a vampire and thinking you were going to spend eternity with your supposed soulmate, it seemed kinda stupid to screw around just for fun.
"I guess I can understand that, but don't you ever get lonely?" he asked me seriously.
I looked up at him a little shocked; Jake was never the one to inquire about my lack of a dating life. He had been their first hand to see the aftermath of Edward.
Thinking about it though, it made sense. He was about to marry the love of his life, he didn't want me to end up alone. I wasn't sure if I ever would find someone to fill the giant hole inside my heart.
It wasn't just that I got dumped, I wasn't that juvenile. My entire family had left me behind; Alice my beautiful crazy sister dropped me like I was last season's Louboutin's. Same with Esme, Emmett, Carlisle; when they all left with Edward I realized they never truly saw me as one of them. Just a pawn in a game to pass time that was what caused my true heartbreak. I had lost the only people I truly felt were my family.
"Sure I am, sometimes. Not often though, my kids keep me busy and when I'm not at work I have my art to keep me company." I told him honestly, I really didn't miss having a boyfriend, I wasn't sure I would be any good at having one now that I had been alone for so long.
"Fourth graders and paint aren't the same as a boyfriend Bells," he said looking stern.
"Jacob Black, you sound like my mother." I laughed at him but it was kinda true.
"Hey! I do not!" he said in defense.
"You do too! You sound like you're about to try and set me up on a blind date honestly," I teased. We were getting close to the beach now. I could always smell the beach before I could see it. This beach was my absolute favorite. It didn't have the warm salty smell like beaches in Florida where my mother and Phil lived. It smelled like a crisp cool morning, with hints of seagrass and just a bit of the forest trees mixed in. This smell felt more like home than any other smell I could think of, and I loved it.
"I just worry about you Bells, I don't want you to be alone forever," Jake said interrupting me from my thoughts. "But trust me, you don't want to get involved with my friends," he chuckled.
"Should I be worried about you? Do I need to call your father and have a parent teacher conference?" I mocked him using my teacher voice I reserved for when the kids were being particularly bad.
"Very funny Bells, no they really are all good guys they're just…a hand full." He said looking down at me, I gave him a curious look but he just shrugged his shoulders.
We walked to rest of the way in a comfortable silence; once we got close I could see a lot of people already there. Some of them I recognized from school but most of them I hadn't ever met.
I scanned the faces looking for one in particular when I finally saw her I went to her at a run.
"Angie!" I yelled and saw her turn at the sound of her name, when she saw it was me she started to run at me. I hadn't seen Angie since the last time I saw Jake. We had gotten closer than close after Edward left because Ben had just dumped her to date Lauren of all people. We leaned on each other and I was actually the one to introduce her to Jake. He helped her heal after Ben and I'm sure she saw how truly amazing he was just as I did
Once we had gotten to each other I pulled her into a hug, it had been over it was far too long since I could hug her familiar frame.
"Oh god Bella, I can't believe you're here. What took you so long?" she asked the same question as her soon to be husband and I laughed.
"I came as soon as I could," I said still hugging her; I really didn't want to let go.
"Let me look at you," she said pulling back and looking me up and down. "My god, you look hot Bella," she winked at me.
"You look beautiful as usual," I said smiling back. "Ok, I need to see thing ring," I told her holding out my hand, it was time for girl talk.
She placed her left hand in mine and saw the most stunning engagement ring I'd ever seen. The band was a warm yellow gold twisted around it was a slightly more slender rose gold band around and resting in the middle was a square diamond surrounded by a ring of smaller red stones.
"Dear god Angie, it's amazing!" I said, stunned. "Did Jake pick this out himself?" I asked.
"Jake designed the whole thing himself! Then Paul made it for him, you'll meet him later tonight," she explained, a beautiful sparkle in her eyes. I always thought people were being silly when they said brides glowed because they were so in love but Angela was absolutely shining.
"Well the kid did good," I said approvingly.
"I'm glad you think so," Jake said coming up and bending down to give Ang a kiss, and wrapping his arms around her much smaller frame. I smiled at them, they were so in love. I was happy to see my two best friends find their other half; it was so obvious to me that they would be together forever.
"Alright Bella let me introduce you to everyone," Ang said grabbing my hand and pulling me toward the crowd.
"Hey Em! Come here, I want to introduce you to someone," Ang yelled at a native man half way between us and the unlit bonfire. Once he turned I immediately recognized his face though he had grown considerably since I last saw him.
"Embry this is Bella, Bell this is Embry." Ang said.
"Yea, we met once I don't know if you remember me though," I said waving.
"Of course I remember it's good to see you again Bella!" He beamed down at me before he pulled me into a hug. I chuckled but I was thrilled he felt so comfortable with me, I remembered him being incredibly shy. Stepping back I got a look at him, he was tall, if I had to guess I would have said he was at least 6'4" if not taller. Of course, it seemed like everyone here was freakishly tall. He was handsome not unlike Jake but he had more of that boyish charm. Jakes face had seemed to be a little more serious, his smile was always present but his eyes I could see were focused, almost as if he was on alert.
As Angie, Jake and I made the rounds they introduced me to a lot of people from the Res I didn't know, they all seemed to treat me like family as soon as they met me. I wasn't likely to remember all of their names but it didn't seem like they cared, I was here so I was family.
There were a few people from Forks I caught up with but the exchange was much less friendly than with the people from the Res. When we were finally done we ended up chatting with Sam Uley and his wife Emily who I loved. We were talking about recipes and what it was like teaching fourth graders; turns out that Emily was a fourth grade math teacher. I hadn't felt this at home with a group of people in a long time; actually the Cullen's always made me feel like I was less than them. That wasn't the case here, I was an equal.
"Hey Sam, where are Paul and Quil?" Jake asked.
"I think they're still running around, they should be here soon though." Sam said his arm wrapped around Emily. Though she was extraordinarily beautiful, her face was marred with three vertical claw marks that started just below her hair line and led past the collar of her shirt. Jake told me before he introduced us that Emily was attacked by a bear years ago, but I thought she was more than beautiful inside and out.
"Paul is my best man, I can't wait for you to meet him," Jake said with a mischievous smile on his lips and a glint in his eye.
"Should I be scared?" I asked turning my head to Angie who was trying not to roll her eyes.
"Paul is a character, that's for sure." She said trying to hold back a smile, I looked at her curiously. Maybe he was one of those friends who were a "handful" as Jake had said earlier.
It wasn't ten minutes later, that two guys came walking down the beach, both ridiculously tall. There had to be something in the water here, people just weren't this tall.
"Paul, Quil come over here. There's someone I want you to meet," Jake yelled waving them over, as they both jogged over to us I noticed neither was wearing a shirt. Not an odd thing to see at the beach but they had come out of the forest which was a bit odd.
"Bells, this is Quil I don't know if you remember him." Jake said pointing to the shorter of the two.
"I remember meeting someone a lot shorter but I think it was you," I teased reaching out to shake his hand; Quil laughed pushing my hand aside and pulling me into a hug.
"Yea, I remember you too. I think you got shorter though," he teased me right back. I liked him already.
"And this is Paul, my best man." Jake said and I looked up into his eyes for the first time and all the air left my lungs.
He was the most good-looking man I'd ever seen, even more so than Edward and all the Cullen men combined. He was hand broad shoulders and well-defined arms. Standing next to Jake I could see that he was almost if not just as tall; his face looked rough under his strong jaw line but there in his eye was a softness that touched me. I opened my mouth to say something but there were no words because I had seen his face before though we had never met.
I wasn't sure how long we stood there in silence before I heard Jake mutter under his breath.
"Oh shit," I looked up at him confused. I was having a hard time catching my breath, it was like I couldn't take in any air it was all just going out.
When I looked back over at Paul he was shaking all over, it almost looked like he was shivering but violently. His hands were clenched into fists like he was about to hit someone and his faced as pinched as though he was in pain.
"Take care of Bella, we'll be back," Jacob shouted to Ang. As he, Sam, and Quil all grabbed Paul by the upper arms and pulled him from the beach back into the forest. The whole time he kept looking back at me, but every time he did it seemed like his shaking got worse.
"Come on babe, lets grab some food," Ang said softly touching my arm making me jump.
She pulled me by the hand over to a log and sat me down, going to grab me a plate of food. When she came back I sat there looking down at it not sure what to do. I wasn't hungry in the slightest, in fact I felt a bit sick to my stomach. I had no idea what just happened but not only was my stomach hurting, it felt like my heart was slowly being ripped from my chest.
For maybe an hour I sat there in between Angie and Emily. They brought people over and started to talk but it was like I couldn't function. All I could see in my head was his face, I tried to talk at first but after a while I decided I wasn't up for it and started to take the short walk back to Angie and Jakes house.
Once inside I went straight to my room and grabbed my portfolio with my most precious works of art. I took them into the dining room and spread them all out in front of me trying to make some sort of sense out of the events tonight.
I wasn't sure how long I was there before I heard Angela call my name from the front door but I didn't say anything.
She found me sitting at the table with my portfolio still spread out in front of me.
"Bella, are you ok?" she asked putting a hand on my shoulder, I didn't say anything. "What are you looking…" she stopped short and gasped after she saw the drawings I had laid on the table.
"Bella, when did you draw these?" she asked me, her hand slightly covering her mouth in shock.
"This one I drew two years ago when I was in college," I said pointing out a charcoal portrait I'd done. "This one I did less than a year ago," I pulled forward a watercolor of a particularly intense pair of brown eyes. "This one I finished last week," I showed her an oil painting with the same subject, a young native man.
"When I first started them I thought it was Jake, but the more I saw him in my dreams…face isn't right and the eyes..." I said running a finger over the face of a man I had drawn a hundred times.
He had plagued my mind, this young native man from my dreams. Angela sat down next to me, her hand coming to rest over mine.
We sat for a while both just looking at the pictures covering the table. There was at least fifty, all of the same person, some in color, others in black and white but all the same man. A man who, until today, I thought only existed in my dreams. But he was real, he was here in La Push, and his name was Paul.
"Ang, what's happening?" I asked in a slightly shaky voice with pricks of tears in my eyes. She squeezed the hand resting on mine.
"We need to find Jake."