Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owes it; I borrowed it. She made a fortune from it; I just want to not get sued.
Author's Note: I can't believe I'm bothering to say this, but...this is not going to be a Nessie/Leah story. Just so we're clear. It's emphatically not going to be Jacob/Nessie and the Jacob/Leah may well be all in Nessie's head. Just so everyone knows. It's going to be...Nessie figuring some human truths. Growing up is not easy. People are complex. We all make mistakes. And it really sucks when his best friend is a girl.
The following exchange is based on the assumption that Quil can pass for Claire's father if he has to, a deception Jacob and Nessie can't pull off. And people don't mind their own business all the time. And yes, no seven year old would talk like this. Nessie's special. But for all her big words, she is just a kid.
She Hates Me
"She doesn't like me."
"Everyone loves you, princess."
Jacob said it with the sort of lazy nonchalance that was a little too unconcerned to be completely natural. Even at the age of three, with mental capacities well beyond the seven years I looked, I could tell Jacob was holding back on me. It was unfathomable. I hadn't realized he could resist me anything.
The cold water of early spring would have frozen a normal human; my status as official unnatural anomaly came in handy sometimes. That was why I liked making Jacob take me to the beach this early in the year, when only the two of us and our elevated body temperatures would be brave enough to tackle the frigid ocean. Only, like always, it was not just the two of us.
Even with my back to her, I couldn't not notice she was laying on the beach behind us. That she was engrossed in some literature from work was completely besides the point. She was here, spoiling my alone time with Jacob with just her mere presence. She was always there, always with us. Unlike Mommy, Daddy, the rest of my family and all of Jacob's other friends who also infringed on our time together, she was not a part of the scenery that I could ignore. I wasn't sure of the origin of my awareness of her, though I suspected it was due to Jacob's awareness. The feeling was intolerable, no matter its cause. This day was for Jacob and I.
"Leah doesn't like me," I repeated, loudly enough that she heard me. I didn't care, so sure I was right.
That made her look up, rolling her eyes, annoyed at my observation, mostly because it was an interruption. Even worse, she exchanged a look with Jacob, whose mouth twitched up in the corner. That just served to anger me further—it was my day and they were exchanging looks. Grownups were all the same, always pretending I was invisible as they pretended to know better.
After Jacob had finished staring at Leah, he looked at me.
"Leah doesn't like anyone."
"That's not true."
"Nessie," he tried to soothe me, "It's a well known fact that Leah is a cranky old harpy who hates anything that moves. Don't take it personally."
"I'm not old," was all she said.
"Sorry. See Nessie? Leah's bitterness has nothing to do with you."
I glanced back at her. She looked amused by what Jacob was saying, but when she caught me looking, she pulled her lip back and snarled.
"You're teasing her," I announced. "Teasing is a sign of friendship. Therefore, you are friends, Jacob. Therefore, she likes you. Therefore, she does not hate everything. Therefore, you are wrong. Therefore, Leah doesn't like me for reasons other than what you have proposed."
"Where'd you read that teasing was a sign of friendship, kid?" Leah asked. "Or did you learn it from PBS?"
Jacob growled at her—he never did appreciate public television, the only kind of television I watched—as I explained to Leah: "Daddy explained it. Teasing can be a sign of hostility, friendship, romance or repressed sexual desire. Hostility implies insults, laced with hatred. The humor contained within your discourse suggests that it is not hostility."
"Why can't it be—" she bit her lip, but the smile still came through "—repressed sexual desire? We're both attractive adults. At least, I am."
"You're such a—" Jacob choked on the word as he looked at me. "Cut it out, Leah."
"I'm asking her a question, Jake. I'm sure your little princess has an answer."
I did. "Jacob cannot. He loves me."
Leah stared at me for a moment, just stared, her face blank. Finally, she muttered, "Maybe spending my Saturday chaperoning isn't exactly what I wanted to be doing with my life."
"You shouldn't have volunteered, then," Jacob said to her as I tried to figure out what was going on between them. Usually adults were much simpler to decipher. Why did Leah look apologetic? Why was Jacob unhappy with my response? He was always telling me how much he loved me.
"And let you blow me off for a three year old? Please. I need someone to provide a small challenge when I run and you're the only one who can pretend to keep up with me."
"Pretend? I could run circles around you."
"In what universe?"
"Why are you chaperoning?" I demanded, ignoring their game of one-upmanship. Jacob was clearly superior, anyway.
He cringed and even she looked a little upset. With a quiet serious voice that Jacob used only when we talked about something very important and usually unpleasant he said: "We should talk."
"Nessie, come sit beside me." Leah patted the blanket beside her as she sat up.
When we talked all serious-like, I always sat on Jacob's lap. It was my favorite place in the whole world, like being held by a heating blanket that I knew would die to keep me safe, die to make sure I was happy. But this time when I moved towards him, he shook his head.
"Nessie, go sit with Leah."
"I don't want too. She doesn't like me."
"Please, Nessie," Jacob begged. "Just for now."
"Scared kid? This big bad wolf doesn't bite." Leah smirked. "Much."
I flounced over, purposely sitting right beside her. "I'm only doing this because my Jacob asked me too."
"So that's so sweet my teeth hurt."
Ignoring her, I sat up perfectly straight and watched Jacob expectantly. He was pacing along the water's edge, the water spraying against his legs, the wind blowing his clothes tight against him—he looked like he was being strangled. When he glanced over it wasn't at me, which was a horrific first that made me want to cry. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Leah motioned for him to get on with it. And because she said so, he did.
Crouching down in front of me so he could look me in the eyes, but not touching me, Jacob began to explain.
"You know how we aren't like normal people?"
"Because we're different, we do things that aren't the same that humans do, things they can't do, things they can't understand. Like imprinting. Do you understand imprinting, Nessie?"
"It means you belong to me," I said proudly. Leah rolled her eyes. My mommy had told me why Leah didn't like imprinting and she told me that I should feel sorry for what had happened, but I usually just wished Leah would go away.
"That's my clever girl," Jacob said with a thin smile. "But humans don't know what imprinting is. They don't know that you're my best friend in the whole world. When they see us together..." he took a deep breath, "They don't understand."
"I don't understand."
"A grown human man should not hang around a human little girl," Leah summarized. "Especially a little white one."
I still didn't get it but I wasn't going to tell her that. My Jacob realized there I was a little unsure on the details.
"If a human found the two of us together, without Leah or any of our other friends, they wouldn't realize that you were my imprint, my best friend and my favorite person on the planet. They would wonder how we knew each other, and where your parents were, and if I was treating you properly."
"But you treat me better than anyone."
Jacob looked happier, though Leah whined, "This is getting embarrassing. Do you really need your own personal cheerleader?"
He mouthed something at Leah—something off—then went back to ignoring her. "You and I know that, and our families do, but humans wouldn't. In case they see us, she has to be here; they won't worry enough to interfere if she's with us, even though she's actually the scary one. That's why Leah has to stay."
"What if I don't want her too?"
"Please, Ness? She can be annoying and mean and loud—"
"She gets it," Leah interrupted.
Jacob continued, "But for my sake, won't you try and get along with her?"
"She's the one who doesn't like me," I pointed out.
"But I'm still here, kid," Leah said. "And Jake asked you so nicely too. I guess you're just not as mature as I am."
The thought that Jacob might in some way find her superior to me was unendurable. I stuck my hand out, very formally, and plastered the biggest, fakest smile I could on my face. "Let's be friends, Leah."
"I can't believe I'm doing this," she said, putting her much larger, darker hand around mine. You could barely see my hand in hers. We shook solemnly and then I turned to my Jacob and asked him to take me back into the water.
"Humans can be silly sometimes, can't they Jacob?" Safely on his shoulders, I wanted him to verify my suspicions.
"Everyone can be silly sometimes. And it's just as much our fault for being so different as it is theirs for not understating—it's not really anyone's fault at all. We try, humans try. Everybody tries."
"It upsets you, what they think. How they think funny things about us. It bothers you. Doesn't it?"
"Yeah." He couldn't lie to me. Not if I asked him asked him a serious question and wanted a serious answer. "But you shouldn't blame humans, Nessie."
I didn't. Why would I blame humans when they couldn't know any better? You can't get mad at a dog for having fleas. I certainly couldn't blame Jacob for explaining to me the unpleasant realization that humans didn't want us to be together. With no other possibilities left, I had no choice but to blame Leah.
She didn't like me first.