Author's Note: All character's belong to Stephenie Meyer
I've always been very good at keeping secrets, especially my own. I like keeping them safe inside where no one will ever find out about them. Because sometimes, some secrets should never be told.
I wish I could follow my own rules.
Because if I'm good at keeping secrets, my best friend Katie is even better at getting them out of me. She has this way of making you trust her with your deepest thoughts, because for all her joking, you know she'll never tell anyone. Which is why, one rainy afternoon, when we were both bored out of our minds, I found myself saying something I had promised I would never say aloud or even write down. Because if it got out, if he heard about it, I'd probably have to dig a hole and bury myself alive. It would be that bad.
I took a deep breath.
"I am in love with Quil Ateara," I whispered, my heart throbbing so loudly in my chest it was a miracle Katie couldn't hear it.
She shrieked, her fingers latching tightly onto my elbow. "Oh my God Claire. Quil? Does he know?" she demanded.
My heart stopped for a second"No, and you have to promise me that you'll never tell him! You can't tell anyone." I begged, grabbing her arm. "I'm serious Katie; I will kill you if you do!" How many times had I heard my friends say this exact same thing and made fun of them for being so dramatic?—well now I finally understood why. The thought of Quil knowing was unbearable.
She shrugged. "Ok, ok. Who would I tell anyway?" I relaxed my grip. "Do you think he knows?"
He'd better not. "I don't think so, that would be so embarrassing."
"Why—because you're only thirteen and he's…" she frowned." How old is Quil anyway?"
"I don't know, in his twenties maybe? But I don't care if he's a hundred years older than me. He's perfect." A blush spread across my face. It felt so good to confess to Katie. I had been keeping this secret for too long, years it felt like.
"Well, I don't think he's gone past a hundred yet, he's way too cute," she joked.
"He's more than just cute," I sighed.
"He probably already knows you like him," she said mercilessly. "And he's just being nice by letting you hang around him all the time."
I tried to ignore that. "No, I don't think so. He doesn't have to come see me as much as he does, I mean, it's not like he's babysitting me anymore or anything." I trailed. The blush returned.
"Does he have a girlfriend?"
I don't know," I said honestly. I didn't want to let Katie to know how carefully I'd been paying attention over the years trying to answer that question. "I think he used to. Once, a couple of years ago I called him and some woman was laughing in the background." I didn't tell Katie how that thought had made me miserable for weeks. "But I've never met anyone when I go to La Push, not even at one of Aunt Emily's dinners."
"So never anyone serious then. That's weird."
I nodded. "I don't care if he has though."
"Well, you've had a boyfriend before too, so I guess that makes you even."
"Katie! I was seven years old—for two weeks! Todd and I never even kissed."
"Still…" she grinned. "What about Peter? He likes you."
I made a face. "He's ugly!"
"Oh, he's not that bad, you're just prejudiced. Not everyone can look like Quil you know. You're going to have to settle sometime."
"Never. I don't want to have another boyfriend," I vowed, feeling the magnitude of my words, even as I spoke. But I didn't want to stop. "I know he'll never love me back, but I'd rather die alone than be with anyone but him."
Katie rolled her eyes. "Stop being so melodramatic Claire. It's kind of pathetic."
Her words stung. This was not one of my friends' stupid crushes that lasted two weeks; Quil was much, much more than that. "It's not, it's the truth. I'll never love anyone else." Beside me, Katie snorted. I glared at her.
"Claire!" my mother called from the kitchen. "Quil's here."
My gaze shot to Katie; I could feel my cheeks burning like they were on fire.
"Promise me you won't say anything," I begged. "Please Katie, please."
At that moment, Quil entered the living room, smiling. I bit back a sigh; he looked like he always did—beautiful, and too old for a thirteen year old. His hazel eyes darted back and forth between my mortified face and Katie, who was still giggling unabashedly.
A frown marred his smooth forehead as he sat down on a chair next to me. "What's going on?" he asked suspiciously.
"Nothing," I said quickly, glaring at Katie.
"We were just talking," she added, trying to look innocent.
"Secrets," Katie grinned. I shot daggers in her direction, and felt my face turning even redder.
"Katie, shut up—" I hissed. She'd been my best friend since we were babies, and I knew she wouldn't actually tell him, but I also knew she liked watching me squirm.
"Were you talking about boys?" he asked, his voice low and conspiratorial.
Katie nodded. "Claire's in love."
A strange look flickered across Quil's face, but it was quickly replaced with his usual lighthearted smile. "Is he cute?" he asked me
I slumped forward in my seat, groaning. No way was I answering that.
"Claire thinks so…" Katie giggled again. "He's not really my type though, too ol—"
"Ok, goodbye Katie." I stood up, grabbing her hand and pulling her towards the front door. "I'll see you tomorrow at school."
"Oh don't be mad Claire," she grabbed her backpack, and still laughing, stuck her tongue out at me. "You know you love me!" she called back.
Sometimes I wonder.
Quil was exactly where I left him; he was smiling too. "You don't have to be embarrassed," he said quietly.
"I'm not," I lied, knowing the blushing was giving me away. "Katie should just keep her mouth shut," I muttered, slinking back onto the couch.
"You never used to have a problem telling me about your crushes…remember what's his name—Todd?"
I remembered vividly and felt hatred wash over me for my stupid seven-year-old self; how pathetic must my love struck ramblings have sounded to Quil? He had been perfect though, offering advice and sympathy. "It's a little different now," I mumbled, wishing desperately for a change of topic.
Quil leaned towards me, "You can tell me anything you know." I nodded miserably.
That was the whole problem; if he hadn't been so perfect and understanding I would still think of him as an older brother—annoying sometimes, but always around when you need him. Now… well, I definitely did not think of him as a brother.
"I know." I forced myself to smile.
My mom has a funny story about Quil and me; she tells it whenever she's in a sappy mood.
I was four years old and he was over baby-sitting me and my sister one afternoon like usual. We had an old metal jungle gym in the backyard, the kind a fearless kid like me liked to climb all over. Quil had taken his eyes off me for just one second to look at whatever scrape my sister Colleen had gotten when she'd fallen off her bike.
One second was more than enough time for me. When he turned back towards me, I was perched high up on the metal bars. I held my hands out and said, "look at me—I'm flying!"
I still remember the feeling of falling through the air, down, down, down… and then the feel of Quil's arms as he caught me. I never had any doubts that he would catch me when I jumped, even though he really was too far away.
Quil never knew…but the only reason I liked jumping so much was because I knew he'd be there to catch me. And he always is.
So really, it was only a matter of time before I fell for him.
I don't remember Quil ever not being in my life, but Colleen says I was two when we met him for the first time. I've made her tell me everything she can remember about that day so often that I can almost see it in my head, even if she says I was too young to remember.
It was May, the sun was shining and it was almost warm out. Colleen and I were at Aunt Emily's house, playing in the yard when I saw them coming—Uncle Sam's big friends. Colleen was scared the first time she saw them, but not me; I just giggled and smiled at them and tried to give them my markers. But I had never seen Quil before, not until that sunny afternoon.
Once, I asked Quil if he remembered meeting me. He didn't say anything at first, just got a funny look on his face like he gets sometimes when I ask him something he doesn't want to answer. Finally, he said of course he remembered: I had dirt on my nose and leaves in my hair. I was wearing a little white dress that had practically turned brown and a blue sweater that was covered in grass.
I was kind of surprised he remembered all that.
I've never told anyone this—I know Colleen would think I'm making it up, and Quil would think I'm crazy—but…sometimes when I think very, very hard, I can remember Quil crouching down in front of me. Aunt Emily's voice is in the background and it sounds like she's introducing us, but I'm not paying any attention to her. Just to Quil and his eyes, which are locked on me. He's staring at me like he never wants to look away…and then, very slowly, he reaches forward and picks a leaf out of my hair, making me giggle. Somewhere in the background, someone is crying now and calling for Sam. Quil looks scared and happy and confused all at once, but I don't care anything about that. I catch Quil's hand in my little one and play with his big fingers.
Sometimes it seems soreal, but other times I think it must be a dream, or maybe that I am making it up because I'm wishing so much that I could remember that day. Everything is hazy and disjointed like a dream, and Colleen says she doesn't remember anyone crying, but that doesn't really matter because Colleen was only six herself and she's never had a very good memory. But whenever I convince myself it's true, a little voice in my head whispers what about his age?
That's the part I can't explain away, because in that memory Quil looks exactly the same as he does right now. And if there's one thing I know for sure, it's that it is impossible not to age in ten years.
Although sometimes Quil seems to be awfully slow about it.
The next day, after I'd forgiven her for her teasing, Katie and I were looking through my mother's old picture albums for a school project. As we thumbed through the photos, I saw that of course, Quil was in almost every photo with me. Even though he lives in La Push, and I live in Neah Bay—the only town on the Makah reservation, he's always around, just like he's been ever since that first day.
Katie was peering at one of the pictures, squinting hard like she does when she's trying to concentrate. "Jeez, Quil doesn't look any different does he? I mean your mom—look at her hair! She was so young. But Quil…."
I snatched the picture out of her hands and looked closely. Katie was right. Oh, his dark hair was a lot shorter then, and his clothes were definitely a little dated, but in essentials, he was exactly the same. His smooth russet skin hadn't changed and he was just as enormous, looking even bigger because he held me—a small for her age five year old in his arms. His muscles still strained under his t-shirt like usual, and the impish grin he always wore was exactly the same. The picture could have been taken a week ago and I'd hardly know the difference.
"Wow," I whispered. "He really hasn't changed at all."
"And you never noticed that before?" Katie asked skeptically.
I could have pointed out that she'd known Quil almost as long as I had, and had never noticed anything either, but I only shook my head. "I dunno, I don't look at these pictures very often, and well Quil's always just been… Quil."
"And you really don't know how old he is?" I shook my head again, feeling stupid. I'd asked Colleen about it once, but she hadn't known, and I guess it hadn't mattered enough for me to ask Quil about it later.
But as I stared at the pictures, I decided he wasn't going to get out of it so easy this time.
I had to wait until the weekend to corner him, which only meant that there was more for all the little questions I'd had throughout the years to pile up. It seemed strange and impossible that I had I gone ten years without wondering what he did for a living, but now that my eyes were finally open, they were open all the way.
Quil always came over to my house at 10:30 on Saturdays, so I waited for him outside on my porch. The sun was shining brightly, and it was warmer
than usual for a late summer day, everything felt bright and warm in the sunlight. It even made my little faded blue house look better.
As always, my heart started beating a little faster when I saw Quil emerge from the woods—and there was another question, what was he doing in the woods anyway? He had a truck. He used it drive up and see me sometimes, but more often than not he what?—hitched a ride with someone and cut through the woods to my house? I didn't know for sure.
"Hey Claire," he smiled, and I smiled back up at him. He started to walk into the house, but I caught hold of his shirt.
"Can we just stay outside today? It's so nice."
Quil smiled and sat down beside me, as I stretched out my legs so the sun would hit them.
"So, vacation's going by pretty fast. You ready for school?" he asked.
"Thanks for reminding me!" I groaned. "We still have a month left—let me enjoy it. I don't want to think about ninth grade, or high school…or turning fourteen soon."
"Fourteen, huh?" There was an odd tone in his voice. I felt suddenly nervous, reminded of where I wanted this talk to go.
"Are you ok?" he asked.
"I'm fine." I looked up at him, and he looked so concerned that I felt my nervousness fading. This was Quil after all; he wasn't going to get mad at me. "You remember how you said that I could talk to you about anything?" I began, feeling brave. Quil nodded, a little crease in his forehead. "Well, Katie and I were going through a bunch of old photos the other day, and we noticed that you don't look any younger in them…" I held out the picture and he took it from me, an odd look on his face. He stared at it for a few seconds before handing it back.
"I remember when that picture was taken—"
"Quil!" I interrupted angrily. "Don't change the subject! This is important to me. You look exactly the same as you did ten years ago, how is that even possible? I mean how old are you? And what do you do for a job, and why do you always come through the woods when you visit me? There's so much I don't know about you and it's not fair, you know everything about me!"
"You're right," he said quietly. My head snapped up I hadn't expected him to give in so easily. "It's not fair… but Claire, there's a reason for it…and I can't tell you what that is."
Maybe not so easy after all.
"Why not?" I demanded, feeling the anger rise up through my chest. It took a lot to get me mad, but once I was it could get scary. Quil could see the signs and his voice lowered soothingly. He held my hand.
"Please Claire, can you just believe me that you're better off not knowing?"
"No!" I yelled, pulling my hand out of his. He looked a little hurt at that. "I don't see what the big deal is—what's wrong with wanting to know how old you are, or what you do?"
"There's nothing wrong with it, it's just hard to explain."
"So try. I have a right to know!" For the first time, I felt like maybe I'd gone too far.
After all, what right did I have? So yeah, we were friends, best friends even, on my part at least, but that didn't make me special.
I waited for him to tell me to mind my own business. But he didn't, if anything, he only looked guiltier, like I was making too much sense. "I have a right to know," I said again, quietly, just to see what he'd say.
"I know… I just didn't think you'd ask these questions yet. I'm not ready for this." He tugged on his hair nervously—it was the first time in as long as I'd known him that I'd seen him so uncertain.
I frowned up at him. He was acting like I was asking to know some deadly secret instead of just being a little bit nosy. My curiosity intensified. "I don't understand."
He raised his head to look straight at me. "Give me a little time—"I opened my mouth to argue, but he cut me off. "Just a little while, so I can tell you the right way."
"Why is this such a big deal?"
"It just is. Nothing about me is simple Claire, you should know that."
"Did you do something bad, is that why you can't tell me now?" He laughed. "Do you rob people? Are you in hiding? Are you a murderer?"
"Claire, come on." He rolled his eyes, but for a second I thought he looked worried. "If you don't let this go, I'll leave right now." I hated it when Quil got bossy, but I didn't want him to leave either.
"No!" I grabbed his hand when he pretended to stand. "I'll be good. But you promise to tell me right? Soon?" I begged him with my eyes.
I could see him melting. He usually did. "I promise," he sighed.
I relaxed, but didn't let go of his hand when sat down beside me again, the heat of it felt nice. "Good," I smiled.