I know you were way too bright for me
I'm hopeless, broken
So you wait for me in the sky
(Golden - Harry Styles)
August 13th, 2006
As twilight arrived, the wedding smoothly transitioned into a reception party. The Cullens' back porch was wrapped in soft fairy lights, and the setting sun illuminated a nearby river, making it almost glimmer.
Her favorite part of the wedding was perhaps the humongous blanket of white wisteria hung above the guests' heads. The air smelled predominantly of heady florals, with top notes of orange blossoms and roses.
Nina was incredibly fond of flowers and had a special place for wisteria and other hanging plants in her heart. Twirling under them in a dress would've felt like a princess dream come true, but she resisted the urge to save some face.
Leah, on the other hand, had her nose permanently wrinkled in disgust. She stayed glued to her mother's side, glaring across the room at a specific group of coldly beautiful, undead people. The hem of her mint-green dress quivered as she forced down a tremor. Her mother clutched her eldest daughter's arm, eyes wary.
At that moment, Leah and Sue Clearwater have never looked more similar.
Billy Black, Jacob's father, was also present at the afterparty. His dark eyes were warm and at ease, and he smiled gratefully as Nina handed him a glass of lemon water. Billy had never been a fan of the Cullens, so it surprised her that he wasn't against the wedding.
"It's good to see things work out for you, man. I'm happy for you." Her little brother, Seth, grinned innocently. He moved in to hug Bella and her gold-eyed husband for a third time that evening. The group winced, all for different reasons.
My son, embracing a Cold One, thought Sue, shuddering weakly.
That leech better not touch my brother a fourth time, thought Leah distastefully.
Perhaps an alliance is a possibility, mused Billy.
Dang. Did we starve Seth of affection growing up? thought Nina. She frowned, disgruntled at all the free hugs her brother was giving out, and made a mental note to smother Seth when they got home.
Her brother, after all, was an adorable person and deserved all the affection she could give.
"Thank you, Seth. It means a lot to me." Edward Cullen flashed a shiny smile, pulling away. He turned to Sue and Billy. "Thank you, as well, for letting Seth come. For supporting Bella today."
He was articulate in the same way a TV show host from the early 1900s was well-spoken. His words had an aristocratic tilt to them that could be taken either way: either Edward Cullen was British and faking an American accent, or he was a time traveler like Doctor Who.
Or both. You never know.
Oh my god. Wasn't Carlisle Cullen a doctor at Forks Hospital? I'm uncovering something huge right now, aren't I? Can I make a profit out of this?
Edward mumbled Nina's absurd conclusion into his wife's ear, and they shared a private laugh.
Leah, overhearing Edward's commentary, suppressed a snort. It was reassuring that nine-year-old Nina's inner fairy princess was alive and well, just perhaps with a streak of materialism developed over the years.
"You're welcome," Billy replied optimistically.
The rest of the evening was lovely, in her opinion, even if Nina wasn't used to celebrations.
She appreciated the new environment and the good food, and the fact that she knew a couple friends from Forks that were invited. But there was always a creeping sense of dread that filled her body whenever she stumbled a little too close to some of the guests.
Edward's family...are they even human? Are all of them on diets? Why aren't they eating?
Still, she brushed away her uneasiness and, with deep satisfaction, took in the sight of Mike Newton being slapped in the face with Bella's garter.
Serves him right for puking on my shoes.
Nina bounced up to him and stood on her tippy-toes to sling an arm around Mike's shoulders, head locking him.
"Jessica Newton sounds pretty fantastic, doesn't it?" she teased, taking great joy in messing up his carefully gelled hair. Her nude stilettos dug into his shoes in a silent, passive-aggressive demand for compensation money.
Those Doc Martens were second-handed, but they were expensive, goddammit.
Mike blushed furiously, and her Cheshire grin widened gleefully in response. She released him and glanced at Jessica Stanley, who was standing right behind them in a peach chiffon dress, an eyebrow quirked upward.
"Good luck dealing with him, darling. You'll need it." she patted the older girl's face cheekily, and waltzed away before both of them regained enough sense to try throttling her.
Nina let a slow, sweet smile spread across her face, giggling. She loved messing with people from Forks. They have the best reactions to everything.
Their eyes looked like cake pops!
Oh, dear. The festivities were getting to her. Calm down, Nina. Calm down.
Taking a second to compose herself, she returned to her usual spot beside her sister.
"Having fun?" said Leah sarcastically. Apart from her family, she hated practically everyone in the room.
Nina beamed, burying her face into Leah's shoulder and talking to her in the same cutesy voice she used on her pet cat. "Aww...don't be like that, Lily. You'll always come first to me." she pinched her cheeks, and avoided Leah's indignant slap by an inch.
"Gross," Leah hissed, rubbing her cheeks to cleanse herself of sister germs. Nina cackled. Leah wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for her and Seth's insistence.
Her adoptive brother had wanted to come for all the right, honorable reasons. She, on the other hand, had wanted to see in person why Jake was nowhere to be found these days.
The thought of Jacob Black immediately sobered her, and all her lingering resentment for him resurfaced.
They were both young - seventeen - and she was right to think that the arrangement they'd agreed upon wouldn't work out in the long run. She'd given him respect, and look where that had gotten her.
She'd wanted to believe him when he promised to be whatever she'd wanted him to be, but everything was just so sudden.
It definitely wasn't love at first sight, and thank god for that. They'd known each other for years, with their parents being close friends. But they'd never truly met and spoken until recently.
She didn't know what it was like for him, but for her, the small connection they'd formed was something precious. He was enchanting, and his kindness and warm personality were infectious.
But he but loved Bella Swan too much to let her go. A newfound interest in someone else wasn't going to change his feelings for someone he loved more.
Nina found herself hating how much Jacob changed as he chopped off his long hair and matured. He became more prone to anger, even if it was rarely directed towards her, and he often implied that being around her was something he was forced into.
She didn't know what his problem was, but he seemed so bitter about it that she wasn't sure if she wanted to know.
Their pseudo-friendship was short and contained amazing memories that she wouldn't trade for the world. But if it came down to Jacob not wanting to be around her, then he can go do himself a favor and kindly fuck off.
Free will and trust were important to Nina. Her feelings might be strong, and her hurt still there, but they would fade over time with enough distance.
She herself wasn't exactly without any emotional baggage - buses still terrified the living hell out of her - but she was well-adjusted enough to carry on everyday life without hurting everyone she cared for. Jacob needed to get his shit together.
She could survive without him, in the meantime. Losing him was always a possibility she'd considered in the back of her mind.
She had an incredible family that treated her like one of their own, and she was on her way to Seattle for university. Nina's future was bright and her life was fulfilling.
One boy, no matter how much of her affection he held, wasn't going to change that.
Someday, she'll meet someone who will love her so much more than Jacob does, and the kind boy she sat behind in art class will hopefully become a passing, bittersweet memory.
She would say there are no hard feelings, but she also wanted to kick him off a cliff, and it's always better to be honest to yourself.
"Did you find what you were looking for?" Leah asked. Her eyes held a knowing, expectant stare, and Nina bristled, coming out of her distracted contemplation.
In truth, no. She did not. She didn't know what she was thinking, coming here. Standing next to Bella Cullen, who looked like delicate lace and smelled like strawberry champagne, made her feel like utter crap.
"Not really," she admitted, because there was little she hid from her adoptive sister. "I'm trying to be supportive. But if he's not going to fight for Bella, I'm worried that he's going to try settling for me."
Settling. She hated that word. It implied that he wasn't gracefully accepting defeat. It meant that he'd grudgingly accepted his second choice.
"Have some self-respect, Neen. You're not a prize. It's not a competition." Leah's voice drew her out of her pondering. She rested a hand on Nina's head. "And even if it was, any person with a brain would've picked you over the leech lover."
"Leech?" Nina inquired, her brows furrowing.
"Doesn't Cullen look like a vampire? Pale, brooding, cold. He smells like a rotting corpse too, doesn't he?" Leah's face was completely blank, and she said everything with an intense, serious expression.
"Oh." Nina's brown eyes lit up with delight at the presented conspiracy. "What smell? Do you have evidence? He smells like Dior Homme to me."
Leah let out a startled, incredulous laugh.
"No, seriously," Nina insisted, smiling at the sight of her sister dissolving into hysterics, "Iris and leather. That's Dior Homme 2005. I would know. Studying fragrance is, like, my backup plan for if I flunk med school."
She continued musing about Edward Cullen's distinct characteristics. "I guess his hand was cold, but I thought it was just because he had low metabolism, kind of like how Ma said you and Seth have higher metabolisms than regular people do. It would also explain why he's pale because he probably anemic and has poor blood circulation..."
Nina held up a hand to her lips in realization, gasping before Leah could fully process the irony of her previous statement. "Do you think that's why he was adopted by a doctor? Because he was a sickly baby? A preemie baby, maybe? You did say he looks depressed occasionally, right? Does he need a therapist too?"
Leah huffed amusedly. Her sister, as mature and observational as she is, was so unbelievably dense. A vampire therapist...
As if those bloodsuckers even have enough empathy in the first place.
"I have no idea, Neen. I guess we'll figure it out soon enough."
"In all honesty, though..." Nina started carefully after a moment of silence, "Bella is a sweet person. I don't know her well, but she seems kind. Whatever he's going to do about it, I hope Jake's happy."
Leah's mouth pinched in trepidation. She'd spent years upon years caring for her sister's wellbeing, and Jacob Black was ruining her by simply existing. Nina might not hold much against him for choosing Bella Swan, but Leah was definitely incensed enough to dunk his head in a toilet a couple hundred times.
A part of her respected Jacob for fighting the imprint. It was what she'd hoped Sam would've done for her. But now, seeing the consequences, she was sure that her sister was more important than her own self-satisfaction.
Because of the imprint, Nina was never going to be fully over Jacob, even if she isn't aware of it. Their lives were intertwined by his ancestors, and no matter how much they tried to avoid it, they would end up crossing paths again and again.
"Bella Swan is not a kind person," Leah growled unhappily, frustrated by the restrictions placed on her by way of Sam's orders. She was used to sharing everything with her sister and hated keeping her discovery of the supernatural from the person she loved the most, especially since it unknowingly influenced so much of her life.
"She's fucked up in the head. Completely dependent on boys for her self-worth. When Cullen was gone, she went to Black. And when Black fixed her, she went back to Cullen but expected Black to stick around like a fucking lapdog. She expects us to put ourselves in danger for her, and has the audacity to judge us for refusing."
Nina stared at her adoptive sister with round eyes.
"Goodness gracious, Lee. I was just making an observation." she exclaimed, her freckles stark on her face with worry. "Calm down! You're shaking! Do you have a fever? Oh my god, I need to get Mom -"
Leah breathed in deeply, composing herself. She shook her head. "I just wanted to let you know that..."
That Bella Swan had signed away her humanity when she married a Cold One.
That Jacob Black is a werewolf.
That your brother and I are werewolves, and that our parents knew all along.
That I killed our dad.
"...that I love you. Don't put strangers' needs before yourself."
Leah pulled Nina into a scorching hug and rested her chin on her sister's head. Her anger against Sam Uley, although faded with the discussion they'd had months ago, sparked.
She wished, not for the first time, that Jacob Black never imprinted on Nina.