Disclaimer: I'm not Stephanie Meyer, and Twilight isn't mine. I'm just a little obsessed with her characters. That's all.
A/N: I am still working on Climate Change, honest. I promise to update it soon. But after reading Breaking Dawn, I kept hearing Leah in my head. She wouldn't shut up and she kept interrupting Alice and Jasper. So I decided to write a story for her first. This takes place the day after the climactic battle at the end of Eclipse.
You know things have gone downhill when you start to envy fictional characters, especially mentally unbalanced weirdos who run around in stupid costumes. But, I had to admit, I was jealous of Bruce Wayne. I mean, after spending the night battling all the psychotic villains of Gotham City, at least Batman got to come home to a million-dollar mansion. He spent all his off-duty time throwing parties and living the life of a billionaire. And me? After spending all day yesterday fighting an army of bloodsuckers and dealing with the aftermath of the battle, what did I come home to? Homework. Of course. A five-page English paper, to be precise. Ugh.
I sighed as I took out some paper and switched on the ancient computer that was collecting dust on my desk. You just couldn't escape it, could you? Schoolwork was one of those constants in life, like death and taxes. Well, for the first eighteen or nineteen years at least. Possibly longer, if you were motivated enough to go on to college, or dumb enough to fail high school the first time around. Thank God I didn't plan on doing either. Though I was awfully close to the latter, which was the only reason I was writing this stupid paper at all.
I scowled at my computer as it slowly came to life. The crappy machine moved at the speed of molasses. Sitting and staring at it while it loaded was a waste of time. Heck, this entire assignment was a waste of time. School was such a joke. You would think that after staying up all night, running patrols and protecting the town from bloodthirsty leeches, we'd be off the hook for school, right? Wrong. Never expect life to be fair. Instead, we had to maintain the appearance of normality. Ha. Normality. That was a good one. So, for the last couple months, I had dragged myself to the godforsaken building known as our high school, and slept through the better part of every single class. I slept through some of the tests too. But, by some miracle (or probably a little pity from my teachers) I had managed to pass all my classes except English. Technically, I shouldn't be allowed to graduate this semester, but the principal and Mrs. Williams, the nice grey-haired old lady who taught English, took pity on me. I actually used to be a decent student, back when I cared about school, and I think Mrs. Williams had a soft spot for me. Anyway, the deal was, if I wrote the paper, they'd hand over the diploma. It was too late to walk across the stage wearing a dorky cap and gown with everyone else, but I could care less about that. Honestly, I wasn't even sure how much I cared about graduating. Did it really matter? It wasn't like I was ever going to have a normal life, with a nice, normal job, and nice, normal kids to support and…
I quickly swallowed the lump that had risen in my throat. I needed to focus. Mrs. Williams had given me one week to get the paper to her. Now I only had half a day. I clicked on Internet Explorer and prayed to whatever god might be listening that the connection would go through this time. Yes! Success! My fingers flew across the keyboard as I googled Hamlet and Ophelia. Of course I hadn't read a word of the actual play. I hadn't even kept my eyes open for the movie version we watched in class. Somehow, though, I had managed to absorb enough information to know that this one girl named Ophelia went crazy and drowned in a stream.
Everyone else in the class seemed to feel sorry for her. I didn't, and I had made the mistake of saying so out loud. I'd developed a habit of speaking my mind, especially when the chance to be cynical or annoying presented itself. And their conversation had been making me too nauseous to sleep anyway. It was poor Ophelia this, poor Ophelia that. How disgusting. I had to say something.
"I think it's horrible," Denise had said. Our class discussions had been a lot more lively ever since the new girl had moved to La Push at the beginning of the semester. "Ophelia seems like she was a good person, better than most of the characters in the story. She didn't do anything wrong, but she ended up more broken than anyone."
"Yeah, I felt sorry for her," Craig agreed. "Especially the part where she drowns."
"Oh, please," I snorted. My classmates all stared at me, shocked to see me come out of hibernation. "Why would you feel sorry for her? It was her own fault. It's not like anyone pushed her."
Craig seemed taken aback by my callous statement. Denise looked positively scandalized.
"How can you say that?" Denise gasped. "The poor girl went crazy with grief. You probably would have too. Think about it. Hamlet had told her he loved her, he'd sent her all these romantic letters, she was completely head over heels for him. Then, out of nowhere, he totally rejects her and she has no idea why. And then, on top of all that, her father dies."
Right, I thought bitterly, I have no idea what that must feel like.
"I wouldn't let myself drown," I replied icily.
The rest of the class had fallen into an awkward silence, and Denise decided to drop the subject. That may have had something to do with the dangerous glare I was giving her. Mrs. Williams, unfortunately, hadn't forgotten the conversation. After all, it was the only time I'd contributed anything in months. Now she had decided a character analysis of Ophelia was the perfect topic for my paper. I should've just kept my mouth shut.
At long last, the first ten hits from my Google search appeared on the monitor screen. One was a link to Wikipedia, and another to Sparknotes. Perfect. I opened them both and browsed through the information listed there.
I snorted. Nice, normal life or not, I didn't see how Shakespeare could possibly be useful to anyone. What moron decided it needed to be taught in every single high school in the entire country, anyway? Shakespeare should count a foreign language class, if you asked me. Not that any ever did.
But seriously, why the heck did they expect me to understand this crap? "Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remembered." That was definitely not English.
I kept reading. Ophelia had a father named Polonius, a brother named Laertes, blah, blah, blah. I so did not care. One important and indecipherable scene seemed to involve Hamlet telling Ophelia to "get thee to a nunnery." Whatever that meant. I looked to the websites for help. Aha, here we go. Translation: "You should never get married or have kids" and, taken in context with the rest of Hamlet's lines, "men are jerks. Besides, no man would ever want you anyway, you little whore." There, that was much better. Thank you Sparknotes.
Soon I had enough information to work with. I made a rough outline on some scratch paper, jotting down ideas here and there. One of the nice things about English papers is the way you can ramble on and on to fill up space. The trick is to make all the b.s. sound insightful and relevant. That shouldn't be too hard; I was good at using words to hide reality.
Since the printer was broken (again) I would have to write the paper by hand. I sighed, grabbed a clean sheet of notebook paper and started to write my name at the top.
Leah. I was beginning to really dislike that name. Maybe I would have it changed, find a new name that didn't sound remotely like "Lee-lee." I gave a tiny shudder.
Wasn't there a Leah in the Bible? Hadn't I read that story as a little girl? Yeah, I remembered, Leah married some guy named Jacob. Only Jacob had been tricked. He never wanted Leah in the first place. He loved her sister Rachel, and that's who he thought he was marrying. He did marry Rachel eventually, but he was always stuck with Leah. Rachel and Jacob were completely, nauseatingly in love with each other. Leah was just this awkward other woman, permanently bound to a man who would never love her. By simply being there, she was ruining Jacob's and Rachel's happily ever after. Nobody wanted her around, but she couldn't go away. I bet she wished she could leave… Well, no, maybe not. The Biblical Leah ended up with a bunch of kids. That was something at least.
I stared at my paper in disbelief. No way. No WAY I had just written 'Leah Uley' at the top of the page. But there it was, staring back at me, that name from another lifetime. The name I used to practice writing, once upon a time, so often that I would occasionally write it on my homework by accident.
I angrily fought back the tears that threatened to fill my eyes. Anger was good. I never cried when I was angry. I ripped the paper in half with a furious snarl, wadded it up, and threw it in the trashcan.
I stood up so quickly that my chair toppled over. Forget this. Forget the damn paper, and the diploma too. I needed to get out of here. I crossed the room, yanked open the top drawer of my dresser, and grabbed a pair of socks, running shorts and a sports bra. The drawer was almost empty, partly because I desperately needed to do the laundry, but mostly because I just didn't have that many clothes left. Flimsy cotton undergarments don't last long when you're constantly exploding into a giant wolf. Underneath my very last pair of clean socks, a small rectangle of white plastic lay on the bottom of the drawer. I gently traced my fingers over the back of the upside down photograph, but I didn't flip it over. I already knew what this picture showed: me at the Homecoming dance, my freshman year. With Sam, of course. It had been our first date. Seth and Mom assumed I'd thrown away all those old pictures of us, but I hadn't been able to. I hid them instead.
If only I could hate Sam. I had every right to resent him, and it would make both our lives a whole lot easier if I did. But, angry as I was, I couldn't bring myself to truly hate him, any more than I could throw away old photos like this one.
I changed clothes and ran downstairs, past the couch where Seth was camped out in front of the TV, and into the kitchen, searching for my tennis shoes.
"Leah?" Seth called out.
"What do you want?" I answered sharply.
"You going somewhere?" Seth was standing in the entrance to the kitchen now, watching me pull on my tennis shoes. I could've sworn he was even taller than he had been when he left to go to… to Emily's house this morning.
"Yeah," I replied brusquely, "running."
"Oh." Seth paused to consider this. "Wolf?"
"Right, because if I was going wolf, I'd be sure to put on the last pair of tennis shoes I own," I answered sarcastically. I gazed sadly at my pitiful excuse for a pair of shoes. "It wouldn't be much of a loss, though."
The shoes I wore now were three years old, hopelessly filthy, and literally falling apart at the seams. They deserved a nice quiet retirement, I thought, as my big toe poked through a hole in the tip of my right shoe.
"When are you coming back?" Seth asked.
"Dunno," I shrugged. "I might be gone a while."
"Mom's still with Billy?" Seth continued. He was beating around the bush. I wished he would just ask what he really wanted to know already.
"Yeah, as far as I know. She won't be back until late." I replied, tying the knot on my left shoe now. With Jacob incapacitated for a few days, Billy might need a little extra help around the house.
"So, then, what are we doing for dinner?" Aha. So that was the real issue here. I stared at my brother incredulously.
"Seth," I asked, "didn't you just get back from the barbecue at Emily's? Why didn't you eat there?" Emily had decided to throw a small party, celebrating the fact that we had all survived yesterday's battle. Seth had gone without me. I'd much rather face another army of leeches than an afternoon of seeing Sam and Emily together.
"I did!" Seth protested. "But that was like a whole hour ago. I'm hungry again, and the fridge is practically empty."
I rolled my eyes.
"Wonder why?" I muttered as I opened the refrigerator to see for myself. As if teenage boys didn't have enough of an appetite already. Now that Seth was running patrols every other night, with a werewolf's raging metabolism to boot, I was surprised there was anything edible left in the kitchen at all.
"Here's some leftover squash casserole," I pointed out with a malicious grin. "And I think there's a can of lima beans in the pantry. You should be all set."
Seth looked like I'd just suggested he go hunting, and then eat his kill in human form.
"Aw, c'mon Leah!" he whined. "I need real food!"
I chuckled at the look on his disgusted face.
"It wouldn't kill you to eat something green once a year or so," I smiled. I opened the mini freezer on top of the fridge and examined the contents. "A few vegetables never hurt anyone."
"Yeah, but why risk it?" he muttered darkly.
"Here," I said, tossing a frozen dinner at him. He caught the box and stared at it. "Meatloaf. With mac and cheese, and mashed potatoes and gravy. Is that real enough for you?"
"It's frozen," he replied, looking slightly confused.
"That's the idea, moron," I answered. "See, that way it doesn't go bad. It's called a frozen dinner because they freeze it for you."
"I know that," Seth scowled at me. "But I can't eat it like this."
"So try cooking it, O witless one," I sneered.
"I don't know how to cook a frozen dinner," he replied, ignoring my jibe. "Can't you do it for me?"
God. Was I actually related to him? The doctors must have sent Mom home with the wrong baby.
"Seth, the directions are on the box!" I shook my head pityingly. "All you have to do is stick it in the microwave."
"Fine." Seth did as he was told, and put the frozen dinner in the microwave, cardboard and all.
"No, you idiot!" I yelled as he started to set the timer. "You take it out of the box first, and then poke holes in the plastic so it doesn't explode. Jeez, are you really that helpless?"
"Shut up, Leah," he grumbled. He took the frozen dinner out of the microwave and removed the cardboard container. Suddenly, he seemed unsure of what to do again. "Um… you said to poke holes? Like with my finger?"
"Just give me the stupid dinner," I sighed, extending my hand. Once he passed it to me, I grabbed a fork and jabbed it into the plastic several times. "Guess you really are that helpless."
I placed the dinner in the microwave and set the timer for three minutes.
"Okay, I'm going to use small words so you'll be sure to understand," I said in my most condescending voice. "When the timer goes off, take the food out." Using hand motions, I mimicked taking an imaginary dinner of the microwave. I continued to mime the rest of my instructions too. "Pull the plastic cover off and stir the mashed potatoes. Use a fork, not your finger. Then put the plastic back on, and cook it for three more minutes. Let it cool off unless you want to burn your tongue. Think you can handle that?"
"I'm not stupid, Leah," Seth responded, glaring at me.
"Coulda fooled me," I replied. I headed towards the back door. "I'm taking my cell phone, so call me if you accidentally set the house on fire or something."
"Bye, Leah," he growled. "Get lost already, would you?"
"My pleasure," I grinned. I stepped out the back door, and was starting to close it behind me when I saw Seth's expression soften.
"And hey, Leah?" he called after me.
"What now?" I sighed. I stuck my head back inside to meet Seth's gaze.
"Thanks for the help," he said shyly. I felt the thick layer of ice around my heart melt just the tiniest bit at his words. My brother had a way of doing that to me.
"No problem, kid," I replied, with a hint of a smile on my face. "Someone's gotta make sure you don't starve."
With that, I shut the door and took off down the street.
I kept up a fast pace. Nothing close to the way I could fly through the forest as a wolf, but still pretty speedy for a human girl. I relished the relentless pounding of my feet against the sidewalk, the sound of my quickened breathing, my racing pulse, the cool air rushing past my unnaturally hot body and blowing through my short black hair. I ran harder still, flying through my neighborhood without really caring where I was headed. The direction and the distance didn't matter. I just needed the pain of exertion, the rush of endorphins, and, most of all, the silence.
Flying through the woods on four legs may have been more exhilarating, but it was no way to escape, not if any of the others were in my head. I loved the isolation of running as a human. Not to mention the clothes. Ugh. That was one more reason to envy Batman. Sure, his stupid mask and cape would be embarrassing, and that spandex was definitely too tight, but I'd much rather wear his ridiculous costume than run around naked all the time.
I forced myself to go even faster. I was practically sprinting now. My muscles began to ache, but I loved the sensation. This kind of ache I could handle. Maybe if I could just run fast enough, I wouldn't feel anything other than the physical pain.
Really, though, did it have to be wolves? Freaky giant wolves at that? If we had to have alter egos, why couldn't we transform into something that wore clothes? I hated the vulnerability of being naked, almost as much as I hated crying. They'd all seen me by now, thanks to the way I would occasionally burst out of my clothing when provoked, especially at first. Of course, just having one of them see me would've been enough to put the image in all of their heads. But the physical nakedness was the least humiliating. Far, far worse was the way I was completely naked inside my own mind, with every thought exposed, and every emotion laid bare for them all to see. They'd all seen me for what I really was, beneath my disguises, and they were disgusted. Some of them, like Sam, might feel sorry for me, or even a little guilty. But none of them wanted me in any way. They all wished I would disappear. Especially Sam.
I ground my teeth together and pushed my body harder. The beach was just ahead. That would be the perfect place to go. On a chilly day like this one, the shoreline was likely to be deserted. I almost smiled when my pounding feet hit the cold sand. Sand is one of the most challenging terrains to run on; you have to push yourself twice as hard to keep up the same pace while the soft ground gives way below your feet. I welcomed the challenge. My calf muscles were screaming in agony by now. But I wanted them to scream even louder.
I'd been right. The beach was totally empty. There was nothing here other than the sand, the pounding waves, and the vast ocean that stretched out endlessly beneath a cloudy sky. It was a relief to be alone. Out here, there was nothing to see but the timeless, unchanging water. There was no sound apart from the endlessly crashing waves, the rhythm of my feet hitting the sand, my labored breaths and my racing heartbeat. And the sound of my own thoughts, of course. Only my own thoughts.
After a moment or two, I passed the road that led up to Jacob's house. I snorted. That stupid idiot would be lying in bed for at least a few days, according to Dr. Dracula. This meant the rest of us would have to cover his patrols for him, while he spent the days and nights sleeping. Inconsiderate jerk. I never asked him to rush in and save me like some knight in furry armor. I was doing just fine until he knocked me over.
A tinge of guilt tainted my thoughts. Well… so maybe I hadn't been holding my own against the bloodsucker. But Jacob still should have let me be. Now he was hurt, and everyone resented me even more. My baby brother was a hero. Jacob was a noble, self-sacrificing martyr. And I was the pathetic idiot who almost ruined everything with my reckless stupidity. Maybe it would have been better if that leech had locked his arms around me instead of Jacob, and actually finished the job. He would've done my pack a favor.
The briny ocean breeze stung my eyes. I rubbed my hand angrily across my itching eyelids, and my fingers came away wet. I could feel drops of salt water sliding down my face. Must be sweat. Or else the salt spray from the crashing waves. Except that these drops were only sliding down my cheeks…
I still wasn't exerting myself enough. I looked around for an even more challenging path and spotted a dirt road that ran uphill parallel to the shoreline. That would work. I turned onto the road and sprinted up the incline, pumping my arms and driving my legs into the ground with as much force as I could muster.
I tried to make myself think about something practical and mundane, like that annoying English paper. I would analyze Ophelia if I had to, but I wasn't going to like her. She didn't deserve my sympathy or anyone else's. So life was hard on her. So she lost her father and had her heart broken. Well, boo-hoo. Nobody pushed her into that stream. Ophelia did that all by herself. She was weak and foolish and selfish to give in the way she did. I didn't feel sorry for her at all, not one bit. She asked for it! That's what happens when you open yourself up to the pain- you drown in it.
Every inch of me was aching when I finally reached the top of the hill. My arms and legs were on fire, my throat was raw, my head was throbbing and my lungs felt ready to burst. At last. This was exactly what I wanted.
I literally couldn't run another step without out stopping to rest, so I slowed down to a gentle walk. I paced back and forth on the side of the path with both hands on my head. If there had been anything in my stomach, it would have come back up right about then. Yet I felt great. The physical exhaustion was so overwhelming that it almost drowned out everything else. Almost.
The little dirt path I'd followed had led me to a rocky outcropping that jutted out into empty space. In the quietness surrounding me, I could hear the surf beating against the rocks far below. Still panting, I walked to the edge and looked down. This was obviously not the place where the guys sometimes went cliff-diving. There were way too many jagged rocks sticking up through the water. Even a werewolf would have trouble surviving a dive into this water. The ocean still looked fairly agitated after the winter storm that had blown through a couple days ago. Or maybe the waves always looked this rough here.
I stopped pacing, and stood on the edge of the outcropping, mesmerized by the churning ocean below. Jacob still hadn't forgotten the day Bella nearly killed herself jumping off a cliff. The whole pack had watched the images replay in his mind at least once. Of course, Bella had only jumped for the thrill of it. Or so she claimed. Right. The dark water was very tempting, I had to admit. Maybe I had been too hard on Ophelia. Were her actions really so unforgivable? I mean, it wasn't like she had anything to lose. No parents, no fiancé, no future… nothing but a shredded heart. And the water promised to put a permanent end to the pain.
I took one step forward, moving closer to the edge of oblivion.
Was it so wrong to let yourself sink below the water? If you were sick and tired of life on dry land? If everyone else would be happier once you were out of the picture?
She had to do something about the hole in her heart, didn't she? She could have tried to ignore it, to force herself to feel something else instead. She could have distracted herself with anger. She could have lashed out at everyone around her for the sick satisfaction of forcing them to feel just a tiny fraction of what she was feeling.
Or she could decide she no longer wanted to feel anything at all.
I moved my right foot forward, so that the tip hung off the edge of the rock. I could still see my toe poking through the hole. I should have tossed these shoes a long time ago. When something is damaged beyond repair, the only thing left to do is throw it away.
She had decided to let herself sink. And what was wrong with that? She had nothing to lose besides the agonizing ache.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
No. No, that wasn't true.
My eyes opened again as soon as the realization hit me. She did have something to lose. She still had a brother.
I backed away from the cliff. The sun was still hidden behind the clouds, but I could tell it was falling quickly towards the western horizon. Before long it would be dark and Seth might wonder where I was. It was time to turn around and head back.
I started back down the dirt path, keeping up a slow, steady jog. Only a few seconds after I'd left the rocky ledge behind me, my cell phone vibrated in my hand. I paused and flipped it open. It was a text message from Seth. He wanted me to know that the house was not on fire, but we were completely out of milk. He thought I should go grocery shopping later tonight.
The ghost of a smile flitted across my face. Really, what would he do without me? Poor kid would probably have to live off of Poptarts and dry cereal.
I turned my back on the churning water and jogged swiftly towards home.
A/N: I love getting feedback. Reviewers make me very happy.