PART ONE

Leah Clearwater (is losing her mind)

Friday, October 17, 2003

Oddly enough, the sun was a discomfort.

Normally the fresh warmth they so rarely enjoyed evoked celebration, even on the plainest of days. But today she woke in a pool of sweat, clutching her pillow, mumbling words she barely understood, the sun casting a red glow behind her closed eyes. Today she choked down the cafeteria's steaming hot beef stew, tasting heat more than flavor. Today she uncrossed and crossed her legs thirty-seven times in her last class until that evil Miss O'Sullivan griped that childish fidgeting would not be tolerated in any capacity during her lesson on Quileute verbs and "don't you want to learn how to speak the language of your ancestors, don't disgrace them with your ignorance," until she retorted that nothing was more distracting than her mispronunciation of every other word and "how come, Miss O'Sullivan, you don't know your father's language, Gaelic, wouldn't it be?" (The young half-Quileute, half-Irish woman aimlessly shuffled papers for the rest of the period and tried not to think of her absent father.)

And so, Becca's invitation to hang out at the cliff was harshly declined and a beautiful afternoon was wasted in the confines of her home because the sun truly was a discomfort.

The rain came as a surprise, accompanying the sunset. She stretched an arm out of her window to confirm it was not a mirage caused by the sweltering heat. She pulled her arm back in and watched the droplets train down to her elbow. Licking her dry lips, a single word slipped out - "Damn."


The average La Push wind came home and began its nightly music rehearsal. Screen doors squeaked on the hinges and children's toys clattered into the street. The buzz of television and the hum of lazy laughter danced in and out of her ears as she passed different houses. Two or three times someone was in the doorway and invited her in. She had to admit she did look somewhat pathetic with her broken umbrella and too-small raincoat. Each time, she trudged up to them and whispered her questions hurriedly. She never got the answers she needed, not even in a tiny little gossiping town like this. She was almost back home when she heard a low whistle.

"Yoo-hoo! Lookin' foxy in that raincoat!"

"Becca." Her smile was real, for the first time all day. She had forgotten what street she was on. Normally, the bright blue house would draw her gaze, no matter that she'd seen it all her life.

A tall, dark-skinned girl bounded down her steps, her curled hair bouncing with every step. She stopped next to Leah and hooked arms with her.

"Y'know, if you wanted to hang, I would've picked you up."

"This wasn't exactly where I was headed." Leah kicked her dirty sneakers off by the door.

"I almost didn't recognize you with that zombie look on your face," Rebecca continued. She grabbed a paper dinner plate. "Want something?"

"Pizza?" Leah sniffed hopefully.

"Pasta. Pizza's a luxury."

"Says who?" Leah smirked.

"Says Dad. He hasn't been working much."

Leah settled at the kitchen table. "We all need a break here and there."

Becca nodded, taking the seat across from Leah. She is silent for once, and Leah can see her mentally preparing to speak again. She wrung her hands for a few moments before approaching the elephant in the room. "You going to see her again?"

Leah delicately swirled her spaghetti, surprisingly tired of not speaking about it. "I already did. Nobody answered so I used the key in the mailbox. His room was -"

"Ooh, stalker," Becca giggled.

"You mean detective," Leah shrugged since she felt her actions were completely justified. "His room was a mess. It's never a mess, he cleans better than a maid." She smirked at a memory. "It'd be creepy if he weren't so cute," she added offhandedly.

"Well, did you find any leads, Miss Detective?"

"No. Allison came home and well, you know how she is."

Becca studied her for a minute. "Did she say anything?"

"Absolutely nothing. She just started crying," Leah said, irritation creeping into her voice.

"Well, she is his mom…"

"Yeah, I know." She felt a little guilty. "But it's like I care more than she does. She's done nothing to look for Sam. How can she just not care?"

"Maybe...maybe, it's like last time."

"It's not." Leah slammed her glass down. But how could she be so sure? Sam had a complicated history with his father, Joseph Uley, an alcoholic who left Allison while she was pregnant. He would call to "catch up with Sam" (or, sometimes, flat out ask for money or a favor), they would argue, and Sam would leave town for hours, sometimes a day or two. Allison, in her usually flighty manner, would assure concerned neighbors that everything was alright, in her sugary tone. "He tells me when he's leaving and where he's going and why…"

Rebecca shifted uncomfortably. "I know -"

"But now he leaves without telling me, his mother, no one -"

"Did you -"

"What if he's not okay this time? I have this awful, sinking feeling. What if he's hurt?"

"I never…"

"Something terrible has happened. I know it!"

"Leah! How can you say such a thing?"

"Because, Becca! Sam could be dead right now, and everyone who's supposed to care doesn't!" Leah gripped her glass in one hand and dug her nails into her palm with the other. She exhaled sharply and looked up at Becca. The normally carefree girl next to her focused her wide eyes on her clasped hands.

"He's not...he can't be…"

"Bec, I'm sorry."

Becca shook her head quickly. "No, I am. If there's anything I can do…"

"I'll let you know." A silence hung in the air.

"I'm sorry," Becca apologized again, unnecessarily. "I've just been thinking...about my mom."

Leah tried not to wince, wishing she could swallow her words. "When's the service?"

For the past three years since the accident, the Black family and their friends celebrated Mrs. Black. A local child therapist had suggested the idea. Billy loved it. He told sweet or funny stories about Sarah, their marriage, her art. It was hard to tell if people came because they loved Billy, and denying the kind man such a thing would feel heartless, or because they had loved Sarah, a bright, influential figure in their society. Leah didn't think it was so great for the kids. Jacob missed his mom terribly, but his family shielded him from the pain and made his comfort their priority. A happy child, he smiled more than he cried each year. The girls, however, Rachel and Rebecca, always seemed a little distant during the service, but Leah believed she was the only one who noticed it. An unspoken agreement formed three years ago, between herself and her best friends - to never discuss the hollowness each twin felt since the loss.

Rebecca replied, "Three weeks from Sunday. Dad wants me to speak this time."

"That should be your choice, Rebecca," Leah said gently.

"No, no. I want to. He's not forcing me. And he's just trying to help." She tossed her fake curls. "Besides, I've got loads of great stuff to say about Mom."

"Like how you tried to hang up her paintings with scotch tape? And tried gluing her jewelry to a freakin' window?"

Rebecca laughed. "Don't talk shit on my interior design methods."

"Dad said to talk like a lady, Becca." Rebecca's younger brother Jacob sauntered in and went straight for the cookies on the kitchen table. "What's up, Leah?"

"Hi, Jake," smiled Leah.

Rebecca said, "Go ahead and tattle. I'll tell Dad what happened at school."

"You know about the bathroom wall?! They called you?!" Crumbs fell out of the thirteen-year-old's mouth.

Rebecca sent Leah a wink that said Now, I do. "Yep. I'd hate to be you when he finds out. No Christmas presents for you," she bluffed. Jacob froze. Rachel took advantage of his shock, snatching the cookies away.

"Chill!"

"And these are dessert."

"Dessert should be homemade, like brownies or something. Learn to cook!"

"I do cook," Becca snapped.

"Laaazzzyyy," Jacob sang as headed to his room.

"Greedy," Becca rolled her eyes.

Leah smiled. Rebecca and Jacob had the same teasing relationship she shared with her brother, Seth. It was one of the few times, also, that Rebecca seemed to laugh genuinely.

Now she seemed a little less tense, but not by much.

Leah sighed internally. Her worries would have to wait. She pasted on a toothy grin. "Did you hear who came to Maggie's party -"

"Trashed? Yes, yes, yes! So her ex was home for a week, some say he got kicked out of Washington State, but you know how people gossip…" Becca launched into an animated story, and soon both girls forgot each others' troubles and almost their own.

Almost.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Leah woke up the next day with a pounding headache. She flipped open her phone to see several text messages, none of which she felt like answering. After ensuring her ringer was on, she stiffly marched to her closet to get ready for the day.

The door swung open and Mrs. Clearwater entered without so much as a "May I come in?" or "Good morning." Her bob was pulled back and she wore her pale pink scrubs. Sue was always in and out of the house, yet managed to prepare meals and get done most of the chores. No one "did it right" which was fine with Seth and Leah.

"Geez, I thought that smell was coming from Seth's room. You surprise me, Leah." She pushed the two windows all the way open. "I almost thought you were hungover. Thankfully, I scared you enough the first time you pulled that crap."

Leah almost asked what she meant until she glanced at the alarm clock on the nightstand, which read "2:18".

Sue continued, picking up the dirty socks scattered on the floor. "But your father said to let you sleep since you're so busy these days. He's right sometimes. You don't look much better, though…"

There was no escaping the all-seeing eye of Sue Clearwater. "I'm good, Mom, I just went to bed late."

Sue sighed. "He didn't call, dear."

"Damn." Leah sunk back onto her bed.

"I promise, I promise, I promise, if we don't hear from him soon, I'll talk to the council myself."

"You? What does Dad say?"

Sue pinched her nose in a manner that told Leah she didn't want to discuss it. "Despite an opposing view on the matter, your father is giving special consideration to your involvement and your feelings." She kissed the top of Leah's head. "Dinner's in the fridge with instructions on top. Can you heat it up? Your father lost his glasses and I don't want him setting the kitchen on fire." She winced. "Again."

"I have plans."

"Hm. I think I'll have to put our photo album in the car, then, just in case." Sue left the door open, to get some more fresh air in. She was just down the hall when she came jogging back in. She planted another kiss on her daughter's matted hair and hugged her tightly. "Oh. And happy birthday, sweetie."

"Thanks, Mom," Leah mumbled. Her attention had been turned to the unavoidable party they would celebrate as soon as both her parents were free. Celebrating her birthday with her family was a tradition she could look forward to most years, but this year all cheer and excitement were washed away by her worries. And when she wasn't worrying she was sulking, which made her feel guilty, which made her angry because she shouldn't have to be guilty. A shaky sigh escaped her lips. She'd be furious, crazy enough to do something reckless if the person she was upset with wasn't Sam.

Sam.

Sam. A simple name for someone that had her whole heart. He always had, she thought, before they were together, before she even looked his way. The day he walked up to her to ask to walk her home, with the nervousness of an insecure boy but with such genuity, it was impossible to not return his smile, Leah had felt like the ground was shifting under her feet. And when he called the following day, the shift became a full-on earthquake. It would be weeks later, after many walks, many calls, many smiles, until she realized, everything was shifting into place. She hadn't prepared for that security to leave her, without so much as a backward glance.

Leah squeezed the phone in her hands. "One last call," she promised herself. The phone call went to voicemail all too quickly. "Sam," she breathed. "I hope we're still on for tonight. Can't wait to see what you have planned." She laughed dryly. "Just… I miss you. Okay? Come home soon. I love you. And I miss you. And… that's all."

To love was to hope, and Leah Clearwater had both in abundance. One could see it in the way she softly walked over to her mirror and brushed her raven black hair, a slight smile on her face. She was the hopeful sort of girl a boy wished to find and to deserve. The kind that Sam deserved. La Push's golden boy with La Push's sweetheart. A match made in heaven. She'd be perfect for him, her prince when he finally came to rescue her from her tower of doubt.

Pretty, hopeful, and in love. This princess would get her happy ending.


She had waited. It was childish and embarrassing, but she waited. Dolled up in a chic sweater dress she'd bought a month ago with babysitting money, her thick curtain of black hair all neat and shiny, she waited. What had Sam said on Tuesday? She thought back to the last time she'd seen him, exactly four days ago.


Leah hugged her books to her chest as she leaned outside of the Quileute Tribal School entrance. Hordes of students marched past her, either groaning over homework or chattering about weekend plans. She quickly spotted Sam in the crowd, for once alone rather than with his usual group of buddies.

"Sam!" she called. When he continued to duck his head and scurry past, she caught up to him and grabbed his arm.

"Uh, hello?" she smiled, already giddy at seeing him, after such a long day apart. She had just finished a practice SAT exam and was ready to drag him to her house for some much-needed movies and cuddling.

"Oh. Hi." He shook his head, looking confused.

Leah kissed his cheek. She grabbed his hand, swinging their arms excitedly."How was your terrific Tuesday?"

"Hm," came his halfhearted reply.

" I bet it wasn't half as crappy as mine. Your so lucky you're finished with those stupid PSATs! Not everyone even wants to freakin' college, yuck."

"College? Hm, yes, sure."

"I didn't even ask you a "yes-or-no" question." She stopped walking. "You okay, babe?" She felt his forehead. "You're burning up! I think you have a fever. You've got to quit stressing about school or you're gonna keep getting sick."

"I'm fine. Don't worry about me, Leah." He dropped her hand.

She rolled her eyes, not interested in another argument. They had just made up from a huge one yesterday. "You wanna come over, put on a movie? My mom made cookies last night…"

"No. Can't. I gotta work."

"I thought you weren't gonna work this week because of studying for midterms?"

"Forgot to trade my Tuesday shift with Jeff."

"Oh, okay. Just don't forget about our date Saturday."
"Date?"

"Y'know. My birthday...Our anniversary." She sighed dejectedly.

Sam shook his head again, mussing his already messy shoulder-length hair. "Yeah, no, of course not. I'll see you, Saturday."

He gave a little wave, as he turned the corner toward the little convenience store where he worked. Leah glanced at his retreating back, her mind already returning to the chocolate chip cookies waiting at home.


He didn't come to school the next day, which was unusual, but unsurprising. Leah had smiled ruefully, disappointed she was right but relieved he was resting. When she learned he left again, that afternoon, she had dismissed it. Sam was nearly an adult, wasn't he? But then his disappearance dragged into the second day, and no calls were returned, no messages were left. His mother didn't know where he was. His friends didn't either. By Friday, Leah was as tense as a prisoner waiting for the electric chair.

Yet, Saturday evening, Leah mustered the courage to put her faith in the unlikely event Sam was coming for her. She put her cellphone on her nightstand and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited…

She didn't realize she was crying until her mother walked into her room to see Leah pacing anxiously by the window. "Sweetheart, are you alright?" Sue stood next to her daughter and swiped her tears away with her thumb.

Leah nodded.

Sue glanced at the heels, purse, and jean jacket strewn about the floor. "It's half-past nine."

Leah faced the window. Her eyes were trained on some undefinable object in the distance.

"Are you sure he's coming?" Sue asked.

"I'm sure." Leah paused, disappointed by the evident exhaustion in her voice. "He wouldn't do this. He's coming."

Sue swallowed the frustrated retort on the tip of her tongue before shuffling her slippered feet toward her bedroom. A second later, she heard her mother and father talking in hushed, worried tones. They weren't accustomed to seeing their eldest child so pained.

And Leah hated it. She hated feeling that pain, caused by worry and heartache. She hated that another person could make her feel this way as if she was completely consumed and enraptured by him. Love was never supposed to bring such suffocating emotion. It was to be the source of all things light and happy. She was determined not to let such suffering continue for a second longer than necessary.

That was the thought she held on to as she rushed down the stairs and out of her house. Selfish as it was, she had found the most driving reason to find Samuel Uley and bring him home. Herself.

Leah hesitated on the last step of her porch. The full moon's light was captivating, yet intimidating, threatening. In the woods behind her house, the strangled cry of some beast tore through the night's quiet. The sound seemed to speak to a wild side of the girl, deep in her bones, in the surface of her soul. She knew where she'd start looking first.

Leah Clearwater had a lot on her mind as she seemed to float between reality and daydreaming. (Her brain felt distractingly cloudy from her crying.) In her more clear-headed moments, she berated herself for doing something so stupid as walking out into a dark place all alone in the middle of the night. Wasn't this the part of the scary movie right before the dumb girl was killed? But Leah felt too exhausted and too determined all at once to turn back now, so she allowed herself to slip into a state, not unlike intoxication. All in all, she felt quite odd.

The soul is stronger than the mind, she philosophized. After all, aren't you only a gauzy soul after you die? And ghosts aren't lost minds. They're souls. And minds don't drift up to heaven or fall into hell. Souls do. Sometimes they drag you into darkness while your mind, the knowledgeable do-gooder, screams and thrashes, trying to get away. And Leah's soul had led her to follow the howl, to complete her search in darkness.

She seemed to have walked forever in these unknown woods. Like an old classmate or the clerks at the local supermarket, the woods were as much a familiar presence as a stranger. They surrounded the homes of her and her neighbors, encircling nearly the entire reservation. They had provided trees to climb in her backyard for children, a quick way to sneak home from parties for teenagers, and a sense of privacy in an already overcrowded community.

A second howl ripped through the night, soft and pained. Leah paused to listen to it fade, then repeat several more times, with rising urgency. She shook her head, trying to think clearly for once. What was that? Over the years, there'd been hikers' and hunters' deaths, warnings of bears and wolves from the police but those were so far and few between and no Quileute truly believed the woods, their woods could be a source of danger.

Leah hissed a curse when she realized her heels were stuck, slowly sinking into the ground. The rain from earlier in the day had left the ground soft and squishy with moisture. Leaning against a thick tree, she scraped the muddy shoes against the rough bark. Her frustration eased slightly once her nicest shoes were clean but her heart continued to pound painfully and her hands shook with indecision. Nearly a meter of ground was conquered before she froze again. No longer was her soul in the grip of the howl. A powerful gust of wind whipped her waist-length hair around her face, temporarily blinding her. It was like swimming in the ocean, she thought hazily. She was shrouded in even more darkness than before, gaping into a rayless whirlpool. The fallen leaves gently brushed her body as they swirled around the trees. When the freezing wind settled, the anguished howls had disappeared completely. A faint whistle of air hung limply in its place.

Leah glanced over her shoulder, trying to estimate how far she'd come and how long it'd take to get back home. She took a few steps, her vision blurring with tears. "No," she gasped. All she saw was an endless forest, thick and lush for miles. She spun back around and nearly stopped breathing when two eyes stole her gaze.

Those unnatural, sinister eyes held her firmly in her place. Her pointy heels slowly drilled into the mud. She was sinking like a statue that'd been dropped into a volcano. Petrified, she took in the stranger. He seemed perfectly at home here in the dark, not hesitant and scared, like herself. Though he'd probably fare a lot better than she could. Even in the faint moonlight, she could recognize broad shoulders and muscular arms. The crimson eyes contrasted greatly with the glowing, flawless skin and smiling full lips. The eyes were set above a sharp nose only a few inches from her own. When did he get so close? She couldn't look away and she was unsure if she wanted to. Leah couldn't recall ever being struck silent at the beauty of another person. Surely she must have been dreaming. The creator of this creature sought perfection that even God wouldn't aspire to produce. This was the work of evil.

Slowly the stranger's pale hands reached out for her arms as if she were a skittish animal he wanted to befriend. The jolt of energy from his cold fingertips pulled her from her reverie. A strange yelp escaped her lips. She stumbled backward. The wind picked up as she ran in what might be the direction of home. "No, no, no, no, no," she panted. Whatever this is, it cannot happen. Just run, left, right, left, right, left, right. Faster, faster, faster.

Then her entire frame slammed right into what felt like a brick wall. She looked up into the face of the handsome, red-eyed man. How did he do that, get here so fast? Her brain seemed to fail her in both answering questions and in finding escapes. Slowly, the red-eyed man crept closer, cornering her into the nearest tree. Cold, steely hands latched onto her arms decisively. "Easy, dear," the red-eyed man whispered, inching closer, a sadistic smile on his face.

Leah's fear was matched with anger. Who was he to taunt her like this? Her parents did not teach her to cower in the face of danger, but to fight. Clearwaters were strong!

Leah stood to her full (though unimpressive) height and leaned in further. "Let. Me. Go!" she barked. For good measure, she spat right in his face.

The man hissed, an awful, animalistic sound. He turned her around and gripped her throat, much tighter than he had held her arms. His other arm snaked around her waist and lifted her off the ground with ease.

"No!" Her muscles trembled, but he didn't budge. It was as fruitless as pressing a skyscraper. She tried to twist around, digging her heels into his thighs.

The red-eyed man hissed again. His hand squeezed her throat and midsection to the point where she was struggling to breathe. He tilted her head back and pressed his lips to her neck, inhaling deeply. This stranger was much stronger and had her completely alone. No one was looking for her. No one would hear her if she screamed. What would her parents say if they knew she'd been insane enough to walk right into trouble like this? Her heart ached to think of her family's resulting pain, if - no, when - this happened to her.

"Please," she pleaded. "Let me live. Do what you want. Just let me live." The creep chuckled cruelly in response.

Her mouth flooded with saliva, instinctually knowing this was the end.

The lips parted to expose his teeth. He dragged them across her exposed neck, before biting down, ever so gently. Leah stilled.

And she was tossed to the ground. Tree roots and fallen branches scraped the thin skin of her face and arms. The moon glared down on the girl, offering no pity as she gasped for air, blinking away tears. She couldn't decide between laughing at her good fortune that the creep was also a klutz and simply screaming curses at him. She sat up to see the strangest sight of the evening - two shadowy figures fending off her attacker.

A giant, bear-like man ran, pouncing on him. They skidded a good twenty yards across the mud, slamming into a tree. His speed rustled the leaves as much as the wind had. The creep was still faster, though. As the bear delivered thundering punches to his face, he slithered out from under him, flipping him onto his back.

The second shadowy figure was on the creep before she could harm her companion. The moonlight shone on this one. Judging by the petite, elfin figure, it had to be a young girl. Her size didn't do her abilities justice. After a quick, wrestling match, she managed to leap onto the creep's back, twisting his head clean off his shoulders. A crack rang out through the forest - the sound was equally satisfying and unsettling. Like shooting a used napkin into a trashcan, she tossed the head into a small fire, which the bear must have started. The elf continued to tear away at the body and soon the bear joined in.

Leah collapsed against the tree, beyond eager to get away from the horrifying scene. Her once frozen brain began to thaw, firing like a supercomputer. How had she not guessed it? The red eyes, stunning good looks, and freezing skin should have tipped her off, but the enhanced strength and super speed made it impossible to ignore the truth. She was living out the tales of her ancestors. All those "Cold Ones" legends that the elders engraved on the minds of young Quileutes were so detailed and valued because they were so much more than campfire stores. They were warnings.

Carefully, she stood on shaky legs and stumbled to where her rescuers were cleaning up. In the light, their faces revealed exhaustion and relief. No doubt, they were also of the same species, if not a similar type of creature. They were strong enough to kill him, after all. The possibility that the pair may have just been unwilling to share her sent a chill down Leah's spine.

Would they have killed her attacker, though, if they had the same intentions for her? The legends, though, made no mention of heroic Cold Ones - only murderous, bloodthirsty demons. Her mind felt cloudy with all the unknowns and most likely awful possibilities.

The elf was at her side instantly. "Are you alright?" She couldn't have been much older than Leah, yet she acted like an elderly woman who'd seen a child fall down at a playground. She didn't wear the mask of cruel indifference the creep had worn but seemed genuinely concerned. Leah tried not to shrink away from the cold hand on her arm.

"Yeah, it's pretty hard to guess how a chick would feel when a vamp almost drained her," the bear chuckled as he moved to put out the fire. His face was just as kind as hers, despite his much more intimidating frame. Glancing between the two, Leah could detect other similarities: jet-black hair, model-like bone structure, and - bizarrely - bright honey-gold eyes. Did not all Cold Ones have red eyes? Could they...have siblings or family? That was oddly human. It was hard to remember all the details.

Leah's mouth was stuffed with cotton. She tried to mumble her thanks, but the rescue team was no longer paying attention.

"It's called compassion, Emmett. I highly recommend you use some." She stamped a tiny foot like a toddler would. Maybe she was younger than Leah had guessed.

"It's called humor, Alice. I highly suggest you use some," he said, trying to make his deep voice squeaky in a poor imitation of the short girl.

Alice glanced at Leah apologetically, in a "sorry-he's-so-embarrassing" sort of way. Their banter reminded her of Seth, a welcome thought among the chaos of the night.

The elf went back to business mode. "We should take her to Carlisle. She still might be injured. Carry Leah. She's in no condition to walk."

Emmett balked. "Are you crazy? Let's get her home and out of these woods. That guy might have had friends."

"You know we can't do that - just drop her off like a package delivery! The treaty forbids it."

"Oh, screw the treaty. They should be thankful we were around to help!" Emmett tensed ever so slightly.

"They'll see it as meddling. And leaving her without explanations, we're just asking for trouble."

"I think the Quileutes know the story as well as we do."

"But how are they going to tell it?" Alice muttered, her expression darkening.

Emmett didn't move a muscle. Running a hand through his dark hair he wondered, "Are you sure you didn't see anything else, anyone else?"

"Nothing. I saw nothing but him, and we took care of it," Alice said softly.

Emmett nodded, seeming to regain some of his upbeat nature. "Milady?" he grinned down at Leah. Before she could reply he had scooped her up, bridal style. Her stomach rolled, not anticipating the swift motion of his walking speed, or being so far from the ground, but she was too exhausted to protest.

Alice sensed her discomfort. "Slow down."

Emmett obeyed her request, smiling an apology at the human girl. Being cradled in his arms was not unlike sitting in the corner of an elevator - an odd, cool, but not unwelcome place to rest. Leah gave up listening to either her brain or her soul that night. She dozed off to the sound of Alice and Emmett's hushed conversation.

Leah's eyes snapped open as quickly as they closed. Either she was trapped in a nightmare (as she originally guessed) or the shouts she was hearing were real.

"What's happening?" she murmured.

Emmett held her closer. "Trouble."

The shouts turned to snarls.

Alice looked just as grim. "Give her to me," she told him.

"What? Why?"

"Trust me on this." She shot him a meaningful look that did not go unnoticed by Leah. Emmett transferred Leah smoothly into Alice's arms as if she were a newborn baby.

A tearing noise rang out.

They began to walk at a much brisker pace than before, ignoring the shouts. Leah gently clung to Alice's small shoulders though the shorter girl didn't seem to struggle at all.

The taller of the pair glared down at his companion. "You saw nothing else."

Alice was silent. She locked her gaze on the ground.

"Right?" Emmett prodded. "Alice?"

"I saw - nothing bad."

Emmett grimaced. "Let's hope you're right."

Alice started to reply but Emmett looked up from Alice's face, into the thicket. Their voices became so low and hurried Leah struggled to keep up with their conversation. The air around them seemed to thicken as both her companions stiffened into statues.

"Uh, guys?" Leah questioned feebly.

Without explanation, both Emmett and Alice charged forward, moving at a supernatural speed.

Leah resisted gasping, in fear of the wind blowing some debris into her mouth. Instead, she dug her nails into Emmett's steely cold shoulder and prayed for this dream to end. The sound of the leaves rushing in the wind was a sharp whistle in her ears. The only accompaniment was the surprisingly soft footfalls of the Cold Ones, a steady thump-thump-thump-thump, grounding her here to this moment, ensuring this was all very real. Emmett's arms remained locked in a cradling position despite how fast he and Alice were running. When she peeked up at his face, his earlier childlike glee was replaced with solemnity.

"Slow down, Emmett!"

As soon as the words left her mouth, Emmett obeyed, stopping so sharply Leah's stomach lurched. Alice and Emmett stared straight ahead, muttering.

"What's there up ahead?" wondered Alice.

"What the hell?" Emmett crouched into a ferocious position, ready to attack.

Leah craned her neck around, trying to investigate. "Um, guys?"

"I'm so sorry, Leah," Alice said, surprising the other girl with her earnestness.

"For?..."

"It's alright, Alice." Emmett gave his companion a curt nod. "You can't win 'em all."

The screams began, then. Too animalistic to be men, but too unnatural to be some commonplace beast. Several voices, maybe three. All pained and frenzied.

As if making a unified decision, Emmett and Alice made a sharp turn and sped through the woods. Leah buried her face into Emmett's shoulder to protect herself from the dirt and dust stirred up by the Cold Ones' breakneck speed. She hated the helpless feeling of being the damsel in distress to people (who were hardly people!) she could almost certainly not trust, seeing as they would very likely murder her. Though she supposed she should be grateful her life was extended by several minutes. Maybe some sort of escape plan could be formed…

Leah peeked over the muscled shoulder that had served as her temporary headrest.

At first a blur. No distinct color to it.

Ir was nearing closer.

Leah opened her mouth to scream.

A powerful force slammed into Emmett, causing Leah to tumble onto the ground, flat on her back. Already bruises were likely forming from the hit. For a moment she laid there stunned, gasping for air. Above her, Emmett struggled against another man, keeping him in some sort of chokehold.

Alice leaped towards Leah with such jaguar-like ease, Leah flinched to move away, but the smaller girl simply crouched in front of her, like a mother lion protecting her cub.

Emmett seemed to have the upper hand, though the snarling, frantic man he was wrestling with was a bit quicker. Instantly, Leah knew it was a Cold One, but not ones like Emmett and Alice.

"Are you alright?" Alice asked her without taking her eyes off of Emmett.

"Yes. Should we help?" Leah asked dumbly, knowing full well she was of little use here.

"We need to leave, now."

Leah hopped to her feet in compliance.

The small movement drew Emmett's attention. The other Cold One took advantage of the distraction and kicked him in the jaw. He rolled over and scrambled over to where the girls were, thirty yards away. Emmett was hot on his Alice charged also, ready to attack.

Suddenly, a pale blond man rushed into the clearing and shoved the Cold One to the ground. He pinned him there, ignoring the way his face was clawed at. Emmett joined in, effectively keeping the man down.

The blond man looked up at Alice. "You take her. Please, I can't hold him back any longer!"

In a swift easy motion, Alice picked up Leah and cradled her like a newborn. The pair sped away from the violent scene, and Leah saw nothing but darkness for the rest of the night.

Monday, August 12, 2002

There's a big cliff jutting out over the water at La Push. All grass break up and for many yards, it's mostly grey, bleak rock. The cliff isn't too high, but if you stand on the very edge it feels like you're on top of the world. In control, yet free.

It's more of a guy's place (or "man's place" as Seth was quick to argue). Guys would dare each other to jump, but most of them end up standing there, flirting with the girls that came to watch.

During my summer break before her sophomore year, August got a particularly hot day. In a place as rainy and gray as the reservation, this was something to savor.

Leah, Sam, and a handful of kids from their high school spent the afternoon there, as teenagers were prone to do, laughing and joking and eating. Those days, his smile was unwavering and his happiness couldn't be eclipsed by anything, not even when his mother absentmindedly brought up his father.

It was good for him to be out of the house, Leah thought, as she pressed closer to Sam's side. Allison was nice enough, but not as stable and grounded as Sam would like her to be.

Sam turned to her. "Ready to go soon?"

"Not really. My parents are having some dinner party."

"Mine, then. Mom's at the casino."

Leah tried not to sigh in relief. "Let's go rent a video first."

"Great."

"So, Uley, you going or what?" said a greasy-haired kid, Jack, as he plopped down on Leah's picnic blanket.

"Huh?"

"Cliff diving. Who knows when we'll get another nice day? Me and Matt went last month, Gabe finally went today, even though he swore he'd go the first day of summer, but it's all good, and you went...oh wait, that's right! Never!"

Sam huffed as if offended by the mere suggestion. "I'm not going to risk my life to look cool!"

"Oh, geez! Not like anyone's ever died from cliff diving around here, mumbled a gangly kid, taking a long swig from his soda.

"That you know of," piped up a senior girl Leah didn't know too well. She was sprawled out on a towel, trying to soak up the few rays of the sun bestowed upon them.

"Exactly". Sam wasn't good with sarcasm. "There are better, safer ways to have fun. You guys can go if you want but I'm not jumping off a cliff for any reason." He delivered his little speech casually, trying to sound laid-back and mature at the same time. Leah stifled a giggle at his self-righteous dorkiness.

Some of the guys instantly backed up Sam's wisdom. Cliff diving was condemned an unseemly pastime for suicidal idiots. Some were even wondering if their current hangout spot was unsafe, as they "might topple off the edge" as one girl so passionately put it.

Leah shook her head and smiled wryly. He just had that magnetic effect on people. "C' mon, captain. I don't think you need to supervise these guys any longer," she tugged Sam's hand. "That movie won't watch itself."

The sunbathing girl perked up. "Aw, leaving so soon? But I had a question!"

"Yeah, Amber?" Sam asked.

"I was wondering, would you jump off a cliff to save a damsel in distress?" She gestured to Leah with her long fake nails. A few people chuckled at the implications.

Leah sighed. Too many times people cast her in the role of weak, helpless princess and Sam as her hero. Since they became a couple a year ago, many people saw them not as two people, but one...thing. On one hand, if a girl must be packaged with one person, who better than Sam? A boy who was respectful, kind, and looked up to by everyone. La Push's "golden boy". On the other hand, it was a bit irritating. Others were surprised to see her alone if she attended parties and bonfires without him. A couple of her male friends grew more distant as if spending time alone with her counted as adultery.

I'm not his, she thought. I'm mine.

Sam was all too happy to reply. "Lee-lee's too smart to even think about jumping. But if she did make a bad choice, or fall, she knows I would save her."

Leah felt her face heating up. Was that really how he thought of her? One misstep away from getting into trouble? Or did she really lean on him that much?

"Hey! Like in geometry, when she'd always beg you for help. Or when we saw that snake and she jumped on your back," snorted Matt.

The dude next to Sam clapped him on the shoulder. "Or when she broke her arm and you were stuck carrying all her crap!"

Everyone jumped in with their own story of a time Sam came to her rescue. It was like some kind of warped fairytale. Leah found her voice a little too late. "Do you all think I depend on Sam that much?" She glared at them all, which was, at its best, enough to make a baby...less...happy.

Their friends glanced at each other, then cracked up.

The sunbather, Amber, (who Leah now wanted to kick in the face) sashayed over to her and placed a manicured hand on her shoulder. "Face it, Lee-lee. You'll always be a prissy princess. But at least you're…Cute?" she mockingly questioned.

Shrugging off Amber's hand, she turned to Sam. He raised his eyebrows as if to communicate his loss of words. Still, she knew he was nervous. Sam was the only person who could be intimidated by her glare.

He caved in. "Okay, Lee, you're not always like that, but it's not like we're lying. Girls are just like that, you gotta admit. And I stand by what I said. No matter what, I'll be your protector."

She tilted her chin up, smirking at his annoying yet adorable face. "Don't bother."

Like a queen, she gracefully glided over to the very edge of the cliff. Behind her, no one moved or spoke. For a second, she just paused there, basking their shock and in her boldness. Bare toes dangling over the edge. Sun baking its ray of admiration into her copper skin as if she was something to be admired.

She wasn't sure at what point she jumped, or if it was even a decent dive, but sooner or later, her body was submerged. The water wasn't as clear as she had hoped it would be, but it was just as expansive. How could a whole new world lie so close to her home? She was a queen. She had traveled to an uninhabited kingdom and would claim it. A bolt of fear struck her heart. Her eyes snapped shut. This land, or lack of it, was dangerous. She floated there just a second, too afraid to open her eyes again, though the deed was already done. Was she dead? Undead? She spat out her morbid thoughts like sour milk and began to swim for the shore.

As she wrung out her sopping wet ponytail and slipped out of the water, she tossed a glance at her companions on the cliff. There, they stood, frozen in the heat of the summer day, looking back at her. Even from her spot on the ground, she could sense their growing respect. And Sam was...flailing and floundering in the water, just below the cliff. Sighing, she charged back into the water to rescue her boyfriend like a good girl.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

The last thing she ate was a ham and cheese sandwich. That was around three, maybe. Her mother had insisted on her eating dinner, but Leah was so adamant about Sam whisking her away, the issue was dropped. Then the night grew late and dark and she couldn't eat at all because she knew she'd throw up like she was doing right now.

Slowly, she stepped away from the forest surrounding the Cullen house and met up with Alice. She avoided her eyes, which was easy, considering there was at least a six-inch height difference between them. All Leah had to do was look straight ahead, above Alice's pixie cut.

"Throwing us is only natural. You're human, aren't you? And you're not that much taller than me. Look at me, Leah." She scowled but still managed to look angelic.

Leah gave into her order in exchange for answers. "How do you know my name? Why did you save me? And, what the hell just happened back there?"

Alice relaxed slightly as if her silence was burdening her as well. She shepherded Leah inside. "Come in."

If she wasn't already nauseous, disoriented, and dirty, Leah might have been able to enjoy the cedars in front of the home. It looked like a piece of history, monumental almost, with its three stories hugged by a roomy porch. She heard the Cullens had money, but it was still too spacious for just a few people. They must have more Cold Ones than she guessed. It must be nice, to own such a home. What she would give to move her parents and Seth into a house like this…

Her family. The moon was still out and would be for a while. Day had yet to break. But her mother would come to check on her soon…

Leah wrung her hands together anxiously. "Well?"

Alice was the most charitable, formal hostess she'd ever met. But this was not a situation where she wanted to wait to talk after she'd had a "relaxing, restorative bath and eaten a little something". The Cold One even lent her some of her older sister's clothes, a simple heather grey pajama set made of an unbelievably soft fabric. Leah declined her offer to order takeout and nibbled on some crackers she found in the back of the cabinet. Curled up in a plush white blanket in an armchair, she surveyed the room. The glass wall and varying shades of white were a sharp burst of modern against the aged outward appearance of the home. The high ceilings were cool and she was almost jealous when the soles of her feet touched the velvety carpet, but what stole her attention was the grand piano. Subconsciously, Leah's fingers wiggled, as she remembered the songs from the lessons she used to take, up until high school. Her eyelids slid shut as she hummed classical music pretending it was her fingers tip-toeing across the keys.

A clear high voice walked onto the railroad tracks, right in front of her train of thought. "You know what we are. That's obvious. But me and my brother, Emmett, saving you was a lot more than 'right place, right time.'"

She leaned back in her chair. "I can see the future. It's a talent I received when I became a vampire. Earlier tonight, I knew a girl was going into the woods - you. Never a good idea, dear. Very few of our kind commit to a vegetarian lifestyle."

"Vegetarian?" Leah tried to recall any tribe legends about vampires sucking the juice out of veggies, but all that came to mind was some silly children's book.

"Wonder why I and my brother have gold eyes, while that man had red? Feeding on the blood of solely animals. No humans."

"Oh. I guess that's...better." Leah internally gagged. Is it rude to let a kind, sweet girl that saved your life know that she's disgusting you?

"The bigger problem was that in this vision, a vampire was here around nighttime, the perfect time to hunt, of course. It was decided that me and my two brothers, Emmett and Edward, would head out to catch him before he ran into you. Our father, Carlisle came too, to stop the nomad, or possibly treat you if we got there late and you were hurt. But we knew with four of us, he'd likely back down. My husband stayed home but he's quite the negotiator too, partly because -"

"Wait, you're married?" Leah blurted. Of course, they must not age, but this girl could easily pass for a teenager. Weird.

"You could say I look a bit young for my age," she smiled mysteriously. "But that's beside the point. The four of us were almost there when Edward lost it at the scent of your blood. He's always had so much control, more than most of us. He was like a regular vampire. He fought to turn around to head home, but trust me, it's harder than it sounds. Your blood just seemed to call out to him. We were able to calm him a little, but we knew we were running out of time, so we left Edward with Carlisle. But as you saw..he's still...not calm. It hurt to see him struggle like that," Alice sighed.

Leah felt herself tense in irritation, that Alice seemed to have more sympathy for the wicked Cold One than she, the victim who was nearly attacked, twice! But he was their family. Could he really be related to such peaceable vampires as Emmett and Alice?

"Do you guys always have vampire fits like that?" she wondered.

"You don't understand. All of us go to school every week, pretend to be normal teenagers. We're in close proximity to humans for hours, and we always suppress any urge to hunt them, because it's evil. I've rarely taken a human life, but I never want to again." She shuddered so quickly Leah almost missed it. "For Edward to go off like this, is something unexpected, a unique case."

Alice paused, but the human girl refrained from interjecting. She needed to know what could make a fearsome creature look so fearful.

"Once in a while, a vampire will find a human whose blood practically sings to them. As if the pull wasn't strong enough with every other being, this one single person can ruin a vampire's world if they don't feed on them. Most vampires will kill that human without a second thought. For the rest of us, it's a big decision. You get as far away from that human as possible for as long as you can. If you don't you give in to temptation and live with the guilt."

She abruptly ended her story. The elfin girl gazed out of the glass wall as if she was weighing whether or not to continue. Leah stared at her shaking hands, wondering if the crackers were going to come back up soon.

"I-I...I suppose he's far away from here now, right? That Emmett and Carlisle took him somewhere...I mean, I'm sorry he left because he's your brother but it's for the best, since he won't, well, kill me. Or maybe killing me would be for the best because then he wouldn't have to...um, freak out...not that I want to die because I don't. I guess I should be grateful he left." Then she babbled some more idiotic crap, though a part of her was wondering if her butt and mouth had switched places for the night.

At some point, Alice interrupted her, very gently. "Yes," she said. "He's far away from here. Very far." Her voice was gentle but her face was pained so Leah shut her eyes and focused on that promise of safety.