"Though my soul may set in darkness

It will rise in perfect light

I have loved the stars too fondly

To be fearful of the night"

Sarah Williams, The Old Astronomer


I spent the first six years of my life never once feeling that I was strange

I was born into a world where strange was so commonplace that I didn't even realize that I didn't know my definition for normal was nothing like that of most humans. I was always told I was special. I had always been adored by my whole strange extended family. And most especially by my beautiful mother. From the moment of my consciousness she was there yearning for me. My earliest memory is feeling her adoration like a cocoon around me; I wouldn't be surprised if she willed me into existence.

At least, now I wouldn't. If I had been asked before, I would probably have smiled and shown you that I had been destined. I wouldn't have called myself a princess, but that's what I was, that's how I felt even if that wasn't the word I'd have used for it. I never felt like I commanded anyone. But I did, even if I never meant to. And never anyone as much as mother.

She worshipped me the way she worshipped dad. I never thought anything of that either. It never once crossed my mind that she loved me so selflessly, so wholly, fully, and irrationally, because of him. Because I was piece of him that was fused with her, a physical embodiment of her desire to be completely one with him. A year ago, I wouldn't have even been able to fathom this statement if someone spoke it to me. I can't even imagine how I would have reacted because the idea of it was so unlike anything that existed in my little world.

I was educated to be sure. I was a voracious reader from early on, devouring libraries of poetry and literature, science and the humanities. Everyone saw to my education. Home-schooled as I was, it was like being the only child of four sets of parents, each one seeking to put themselves in my mind the way I did theirs. And I loved them all back just as fiercely. I couldn't imagine what life was like without any one of them, even though that would never happen any way, if anyone were to go, it would have been by pairs. I wouldn't have known that then either, even though it's crystal clear now.

The funny thing is I really felt like I was so aware, so in-tune with everything. To learn other wise was like having gravity suddenly stop. I had always been so sure of everything, so sure that it never occurred to me that I was sure of it. That's just how it was and I never had any cause to even think about questioning it.

I knew that certain things were never discussed in front of Grampy. It was obvious that certain conversations upset him, that communications with him were limited both in content and method. It didn't register then for me because by the time I was 18 months I realized that no one else talked with their hands the way I did.

But that hardly pointed it out as strange, I was well aware that some of us had talents that the rest didn't, that these skills were mostly unique to the individual. Without even thinking about it, I started unconsciously adapting the conversation to the person I was having it with. Before long, Jake was the only one that I talked to that way, except on the occasions that I was so excited that I had needed a way beyond words to express it.

And every once in awhile when I had to reassure mother that I adored her every single bit as much as she loved me. If I thought anything of that, it was quickly chalked up to her missing the physical connection we had once briefly shared. Though at the time, it felt like I was in there much too long, there were times that it was as painful for me as it must have been for her. Even if the memory of thirst and suffocation wasn't enough to make me cringe at the thought of it, knowing the burden of my existence then on her, on daddy, on grandma Esme and auntie Alice, on Jake…

Even thinking about thinking about it feels like I'm smashing and rending my way out of my own insides.

Because our birthdays were so close, mother and I often had a shared birthday celebration. Not that it was condensed into a single event, instead it was an extended affair, lasting from 3 days to a week depending whether there were any pressing concerns. My first birthday was the only one we didn't really share the festivities for, my parents spent that whole month so involved in each other that it seemed they would forget the existence of everyone else the moment they left the room.

I actually didn't mind that at all. I had a perfect party, all to myself, with aunts fussing over me and every detail they could cognate between them. All while I sat contentedly in Jake's arms or lap, amusing each other as we watched them squabbling over what to dress me in. I don't know why aunt Rosie even bothered pushing the wardrobe issue, Aunty Alice always won; she had even smilingly warned Rosie that she would.

My second birthday started the tradition. The whole clan of us went to grandma Esme's island. I didn't think anything of it when the porpoises only wanted to swim with me; I just thought it was part of how I was special. I didn't think anything of it when grandpa Carly decided to start teaching me about marine biology. Not until daddy reacted when grandpa was skimming over page 367. Nobody would tell me what triggered them both to go so still before daddy took off. I didn't see him or mother for the rest of the night.

As soon as they left me alone with Jake I went back to that page. At first I thought it was because daddy objected to them teaching me about mating at such a young age. Only later did I realize that it was something specific about sea louse reproduction that made him so upset. That later revelation was one of the first inklings I had that there was more to the world than the one I lived in. It's hard to look back and see how little I really knew, that for all my astounding development I really was just a naïve little girl about so many things. It's hard not to cringe at my own stupidity.

I should have known. I knew that carrying me hurt her, I knew my birth was why she turned. But with everyone showering me with affection from the first moment on, mother most of all, it was very hard to reconcile such an outpouring with how they had initially conceptualized me before seeing me.

The first time it crossed my mind I was floored. What if my gift hadn't been making people love me? What if the only reason I was cared for was because I made them do it? What if my talent had been pyrokinesis, how would they feel about me then? Even though I wrote off daddy's reaction to his obvious discomfort with the idea of my sexuality, there was a look in his eye as he fled wildly out the door that disturbed me so much that I filed it away anyway.

Only a few years later when I pulled that memory from its drawer and examined it in the new light of my understanding did his horror make sense. Only then did I start to really question my existence and its purpose. Only then did I feel like an abomination.

I've always remembered the day the Volturi came, I've always remembered everything. As long as I've existed, I've been aware in some form or another. But my memory reflected how I thought back then. My recollection of the event was always through the old filter, painting a tenacious picture of my loved ones trying to save our family from an obvious misunderstanding, of a greedy Aro willing to lie and kill in order to possess that which wasn't his.

I never used to wonder if that could have been avoided if I hadn't been born, if Irina would have just come and made peace and lived to find her true mate. It was these thoughts that were my first secrets from anyone. I knew even talking about such things would only bring more suffering to my wonderful family. I tried to talk to Jake about it once and the horrified look on his face haunts me to this day. For three solid hours he held to me so tight I could feel his veins pulsing in time to his heart as he clung and rocked me like daddy rocked mother when grandma Nene drowned in a storm surge that flooded the St. John's River.

Mother never forgave herself or Phil for that, even though it wasn't either of their faults. She always blamed herself for things but this was so much worse. A little of her died that day and I could always tell that it took a piece of daddy with it.

I've tried being objective about this, tried to keep in my mind that this might just be a trait I inherited from her, an all-consuming need to protect those I care about at my own expense, to feel overly guilty for causing even the slightest bit of suffering to them. But I know the pain I caused is a fact, that her pregnancy killed her physically and it killed daddy and Jake emotionally.

And it kills me to know that. Even more than it kills me to know about Jake and my mother.

As much as it pains me to think about it, I can't help but wonder if Jake's devotion to me is just a misplacement of his love for mother, just like I wonder if my parents love for me isn't just a facet of their adoration of each other. Just like I wonder if grandma Esme and my aunties love for me is just redirection of the love of the children they can't have. It sickens me that I even have these thoughts but ever since I learned about all these things they just keep gravitating into big balls of doubt and subsequent shame in my head and reinforce that one central theme, how could anyone really love something as monstrously self-serving as myself.

And yet, there's no way I could ever deserve this level of adulation, not when I've caused so much trouble and heartache for such amazing people. I puzzle it over and over in my head and the only conclusion I can ever reach is that my power to make people care for me is the cause of their devotion. A supernatural defense mechanism designed to promote my life and well-being at whatever the cost of others. Like I'm nothing more than a parasite that's learned to talk.

I know that's what Leah thinks of me, I heard it myself, heard her call me his little leech. I certainly never meant to. Jake and I were lying watching the sky, on our backs with our heads together looking for shooting stars. He was all wolfy, like he always was when it was just the two of us, like he didn't have that half-second to spare on phasing in case something happened. Like most things, I never paid attention to it at the time, just accepted it as something that simply was.

I've wasted a lot of time not questioning things.

I didn't realize that I could hear his thoughts when our heads were touching, though I had noticed that I could talk to him this way. I'd like to think that it was just because I was so used to projecting my thoughts at others that I simply didn't know to listen, rather than think it was because my self-absorption kept me from noticing his voice in my head. I had never given my father's talent a second thought and even if I had, this type of communication only worked with Jake anyway. I just hadn't noticed until that night and only then because I heard Leah.

If I hadn't felt her teasing disgust, so different from Jake's thoughts but a part of them at the same time. Like falling asleep with the television on and waking to the sound of the commercial break.

I sat up quickly, looking around for her, slightly miffed by the casual familiarity in her tone. This panicked Jake of course. He popped up coiled and frantic before I had a chance to call Leah out into the open. His terror gave me pause, hadn't he heard her too? And in that moment it clicked into place.

Of course he had heard her; I had only heard her because he had.

His ignoring her chatter was second nature at that point, like scanning a foreign radio frequency and only picking out certain keywords. I was the one overreacting and ruining the quiet. I immediately felt guilty for startling him out of his peaceful reverie. Ever since I had begun puberty, we barely got any time alone.

Daddy may have considered Jake family but there were certain things he'd never get used to. More so than the standard 'daddy's little girl' virginal thing, I think he was motivated by fear of the possibility of me ending up like mother, of having to live that again. Maybe it didn't even have anything to do with me, maybe it was just the rehashing of losing her.

I tried to settle back in but he was too on edge after that, even after I tried smoothing it over. That was the first time I lied to him, and at the time I didn't even think twice about, it just came out as I tried to soothe him. Just a little white lie about nothing. I told him it was nothing. In all honesty it should have been nothing. But the judgment in her voice had started something in motion in my brain.

In retrospect, I'm glad that he took me home then. Too spooked to sit still, he dropped me off to go run patrol around the house. I was mad at the time; mad at myself for missing a chance to hear what she was saying about me, mad at missing a chance to be with him, mad at Leah for being with him in the night while I sat there regretting. I wasn't mad at him though, his loyalty was unquestionable.

Sometimes I wonder if Jake's even really imprinted on me at all, if it's just a wolfy reaction born of desperation and the influence of my talent. I feel even guiltier for doubting my Jake when I've seen his devotion, felt it. But that treacherous thought creeps in more and more often these days. The more cracks that appear in the veneer of my world, the more I mistrusted the rest of the structure, its foundation.

But, regardless of the source or cause, there is no denying the love there. The only qualms I've ever had about that are strictly in relation to mother. Even so, I was jealous of Leah. She was intimate with the terrain of his mind, she could enter him at will from across great distances. She had been a resident of his inner space since before I was born. I worried myself to the point of exhaustion that night and awoke feeling like I was somewhere else.

From the next morning on, everything looked different, like I had been looking through a dirty windshield all my life but hadn't realized it until Leah had written 'Wash Me' in the grime.

That first shift was jarring, but after that things slid into place easily, fluidly, logically progressing from that first set of realizations until the walls of my mental doll house came crashing down and I realized that my perfect little life was a lie.