PLEASE DON'T HATE ME TOO MUCH

I know I disappeared for a while there, but I'm back! Between life, depression, and writer's block, I just haven't been able to spit out a decent chapter. To be honest, I don't even think this is a decent chapter, but it's more of a filler at the moment. I just needed to post something, and I figured getting Nori's inner thoughts and emotions as she tries to deal with returning to Washington would be a start.

With Christmas break coming this Friday, I should have more time to sit back and write. Please don't give up on Solstice, guys. I have so many ideas and plans for Nori and her many love interests, the Volturi, the pack, and Charlie. I just hope I will have the motivation to write them all out.

Your reviews and PMs have been amazing during this time, and I hope you all know just how much I appreciate your support!

And now, enjoy this short, super shitty, kind of important chapter.


The minute I stepped out of the hospital, the feeling of being watched immediately became apparent. My nerves cooled, my stomach clenched, and the fight or flight notion began screaming in my head.

But I knew it was the wolves, and that knowledge was enough to calm me down as I drove back to my father's house across town.

It still blew my mind how untouched everything was. It was as if the town had frozen in time, and I had been the only one aging. Stores were the same, homes were the same, and even the people hanging out in their usual spots, from the older men out front of the hardware store to the crackhead girl bumming dollars at the only red light in town, hadn't changed a bit. My heart twisted in my chest at the familiarity of everything.

Parking my little car beside Bella's monstrosity of a truck, as I had done a million times before I'd left, I shifted the gear into park and leaned back as an old CD played music softly in the background.

Seth had mentioned that Jacob had kept our cars running in top condition. A million questions filled my mind as I dwelled on that fact, distracting myself from the other thousand problems I needed to worry over.

Why would Jacob take the time? Was it a favor to Dad, Bella, or to me? Did he know I would be coming back?

My heart twisted again and I reached up to rub it. Touching my chest, long healed after the scratches from my previous mental breakdown years ago, I could still feel the phantom pain of the separation.

As soon as I had left Washington, I looked for the pain. I waited for it to return full force. But the separation had attacked me in other ways - ways I had least expected.

I yawned. Sleep had been hard to come by after I'd left. Between the nightmares and the tossing and turning, I had practically given up on ever sleeping through the night again.

Shutting the car off, I stumbled exhaustedly up to the front door and locked it quickly behind me. An unlocked door was an invitation for visitors, and I wanted nothing to do with anyone until I absolutely had no choice.

I gazed around the kitchen and living room, my heart breaking at the obvious signs of my father's presence such a short time ago practically everywhere, from the single dish and coffee cup left to dry by the sink to the remote sitting on the arm of his favorite recliner, waiting for him to come home after a long day to flop down and turn on the latest game. The newspaper lay haphazardly on the coffee table, the kitchen pantry closet was open slightly from where he hadn't closed it all the way after searching for his usual bag of chips or bowl of prepackaged microwavable soup, and dirt smudges covered the carpet in the living room where he'd worn his boots to his chair on a particularly tiring day. He absolutely hated vacuuming because of the loud noise and back-and-forth repetition, so it had always been my chore.

Who had vacuumed in my absence? Had Sue volunteered, or was Dad forced to suck it up and do it himself?

My head began throbbing as the guilt, worry, and questions bombarded me again in full force. I hated myself for returning and hated myself even more for leaving in the first place. I was at an emotional impasse, with no real solution in sight.

I swallowed heavily and headed for my room.

-/-/-/-/-/-

The world is a vampire

Sent to drain

Secret destroyers

Hold you up to th-

I snatched my phone from the counter, nearly falling as I struggled to wrap a towel around myself with one arm and shut the water off with my foot. Flipping the device open, I held it to my ear without bothering to see who was calling. I had a feeling it would be my mother; I had yet to call her since arriving in Washington, and I was pretty sure she had already blown up my voicemails.

"I know, I know. I should've called you when I landed and I didn't, but in my defense, I just got back from the hospital and I haven't even eaten yet which means I'm choosing you over food and you know how much food means to me so we should really call it even," I sputtered out in one breath, my words flying out of my mouth too quickly for most people to understand.

A deep chuckle sounded from the other end of the line. "As much as I appreciate that and all, babe," a familiar voice spoke, causing me to roll my eyes in annoyance at my stupidity for not checking the caller I.D before answering, "I just can't call it even. I didn't even get a call before you got on the plane."

Shit.

"In my defense-"

"You should've told me," Grant interrupted, his voice taking on a serious tone. "I didn't even know you left the state until your mom called me all frantic and shit an hour ago because she hadn't heard from you in two days."

I fell back onto the bed, still in only a towel with my short hair spiked in all directions, dripping onto my shoulders and soaking the blankets beneath me. I was freezing, as if the goose bumps covering my skin from head to toe weren't a telltale sign of that, but I embraced the physical discomfort that distracted me from my emotional turmoil.

I opened my mouth to explain myself, to tell him how weird things had been since I'd stepped foot in Washington, to pour out my fears and thoughts and guilt so he'd understand why I hadn't had a chance to call, but the only words that slipped out were a murmured, "I'm sorry." I had always burdened Grant with my problems, and now I was too drained to get into it.

Grant sighed. "It's cool, babe. But if you ever skip states without giving me a heads up again, I'm hopping on the next plane and coming after your ass. Got it?"

The humor in his voice as he joked to lighten the tension brought a small smile to my face. "Got it," I responded with a laugh. "After this trip, I probably won't leave Florida again for another three years, at least."

"If you ever make it back here," he mused. "I'll bet my last ten dollars that you end up staying in that crazy backwoods hometown of yours."

If he'd been in front of me, I would have flipped the boy off. There was no way I would be staying in Forks for a prolonged period of time. I only needed to be there until Dad woke up, and then I'd be free to scurry back to Florida and my future.

The sooner, the better.

"Anyway, how's your dad doing?"

I rolled onto my stomach and picked at my nails as I gave him the details of my father's wreck and condition, including the surgeries and coma. My throat tightened as tears threatened to fall, but I swallowed them back like a trooper and held the emotions in. I couldn't afford to break down, especially with someone listening from three thousand miles away.

"Damn," Grant whispered. "I'm so sorry, Nori. I can't even imagine what you're going through."

I shrugged and paid close attention to a hangnail on my left index finger. "Yeah. I'm trying not to think too hard about it, you know?"

"Don't bottle it all up. That's not healthy, and you'll only end up exploding over something small later," he warned gently. "You've got my number though, so use it and call me if you need to vent or something."

"Yeah, yeah. Thanks, mom." I brought my index finger up to my mouth and bit down on the hangnail with my teeth. It ripped from my flesh with a single yank and a spasm of pain. "On another note, I've been invited to a bonfire tomorrow night."

"And they got you to agree to it? What, did they come at you with guns and threats?"

I rolled my eyes and pressed my throbbing finger against the towel, grimacing as a little spot of blood seeped through the white fabric. Picking at my fingers was an anxious habit that had only gotten worse over the years. The torn flesh and chewed-down nails were a testament to that.

"No, they asked and I said I'd be there."

Silence.

"Just like that?" Grant finally asked, surprised.

I bit my lip and stared out at the setting sun as it splashed golden color over the green forest behind the house. A sudden sense of deja vu hit, making me shudder and look away. I had witnessed that same scene a thousand and one times over the years. It was so strange to see it again, as if I had never really left.

"Yep," I muttered. "Just like that."

My phone buzzed, alerting me to an incoming call. I pulled the device away from my ear and saw my mother's name in white, bold lettering across the screen.

"Shit, my mom's calling."

Grant burst into laughter and wished me luck before hanging up just in time to avoid any sarcastic comeback. He knew me too well, but I was thankful for his listening ear and loyal friendship. While everything else seemed to be falling apart around me, he was my one constant at the moment.

I pressed the green button on my keypad and brought the phone back to my ear with a deep breath.

"Hi, Mom."

-/-/-/-/-/-

Sleep had evaded me for three years, and whatever notion I had gotten into my head that I would possibly get a full night's sleep once I returned to Washington was straight up bullshit. I tossed and turned, stared at the ceiling off and on, and contemplated a future with no stress and no supernatural beings.

For the three hours and twenty-two minutes I actually did sleep, I dreamed of red-eyed vampires and angry wolves.