AUTHOR'S NOTE: Okay, I've got a lot of business to take care of before this last chapter. Yuck. I always hate it when these paragraphs at the beginning are so long. And of course here I am making them longer. So! First of all, it looks like Benjamin won the poll for "West", which is cool because once I started thinking about him I got some really neat ideas. I know a lot of y'all were pulling for Rosalie, though, so what I'll probably do is write a series of one-shots about her (Rosalie would have been tricky to do a full-arc story about anyway, she's kind of got her good ending already…) and then do my fourth compass point on Benjamin. Also, there seems to be a massive demand for a followup on Seth and Kira, so I'll write up an ending for them as well—maybe "Northwest", or something. Hopefully that will work for everyone :) especially and including me.
Anyway, keep an eye out for "West". It'll probably take me a couple weeks to regroup, hash out my ideas, and get my sleeping schedule back to normal :), but I'll start on it as soon as I can. Each of these fics has been a progressively better experience for me, and I attribute that all to you beautiful readers. Thank you for your support through all of these stories—if you didn't keep saying such lovely things, I doubt I would still be writing them. You guys are the best.
Okay, seriously. I do have a chapter for you. A thousand apologies for taking up HALF A PAGE with my rambling. Goodness gracious.
I wish I'd thought of this earlier. Well, not like I exactly could have pulled it off like this, because it required Tanya to show up and look really really hot, and regal, and terrifying. But maybe I could have played the whole I-have-a-girlfriend card for Jill earlier, because it sure did seem effective.
Tanya walked into the hallway, and Jill's jaw dropped. I mean it literally dropped—it fell open like it had come unhinged, and it stayed there. I didn't blame her. Tanya looked like a goddess—she looked like something you should paint, or sculpt, or worship, and not like someone who hung out in entryways.
"Jill," I said, trying not to be smug. That wouldn't be polite. "This is my girlfriend, Tanya."
Tanya swept forward a few steps, and I could see Jill actually pull away, eyes widening. "Hi," she said, with that cat smile. "I'm Tanya. And you are…?"
"I'm, um." She had nothing. "I'm Jill Keyes. I just wanted to see if Embry was home, it's, um—Prom, and I wondered if maybe…hmm. Yeah. I guess I'll just…go. Nice to see you, Embry."
She slunk out the door, shutting it quietly behind her as if we might not notice that she'd been here at all. We held it all in until she made it out of the house, but as soon as I turned and my eyes met Tanya's, we burst out laughing. The sound of it surprised me—I couldn't remember ever hearing her laugh. It sounded like glass birds. Glass ravens and robins.
The limo was tricky. Jacob and Quil's dates weren't werewolves, obviously, so they didn't know anything was going on at all, but Jacob and Quil themselves were having difficulty with the smell of Tanya in a confined space. It was going to take them all awhile to get used to her, but I had faith they'd be able to do it eventually. They'd already had practice with the Cullens these last few months—good thing that the treaty had been so flexible after the fight with Victoria, otherwise there would have been more problems than a limo that smelled like a vampire.
As it was, there was just a little squirming and some uncomfortable smalltalk—the other girls reacting to Tanya's unexpected hotness in the way that girls always did. But Tanya turned out to have a talent for putting people at ease when she felt like it, and she was determined to make this a good night for me. By the time we were done with dinner, they were chatting like old friends—though I doubted Tanya would ever talk to these girls after tonight. Quil didn't care about his date all that much, he'd basically just picked a name out of the yearbook—and Jacob didn't have all that great of taste in girls. I was the lucky one here tonight.
I couldn't keep my eyes off Tanya. I'd been tripping over things all night, chairs, staircases, the curb of the sidewalk as I got out of the limo. I was supposed to be helping her out like a gentleman, but she ended up having to catch the back of my jacket as I started to fall over, stepping out by herself and holding me up as well.
I could see kids starting to stream in through the gymnasium double doors, walking awkwardly in their high heels and tuxedos, not sure whether they should touch each other. Tanya came up beside me and slipped her arm through mine. "You ready for this?" she said.
Jacob and Quil and their dates were tumbling out of the limo behind us, chattering with excitement and nervous energy. Tanya and I, on the other hand, seemed to be trapped in a bubble of quiet, dramatic solemnity. We did not chatter. We just stood there and were in love for a little bit, while everyone else left glitter on the sidewalks and laughed at each other too loudly.
We finally started up the sidewalk ourselves, her arm in mine. I wasn't a particularly graceful person, but with her walking next to me like she was a queen and expected to be introduced at the top of the stairs by a royal herald—I managed. There was something about being with Tanya that dragged me up a few notches, that demanded I be better and didn't accept less. I was turning into something different than I was before. I hadn't known there was anymore room to grow, but here I was. Growing.
We made it to the open double doors, and then stopped. We didn't mean to, it just happened—like we'd hit a wall of sequins and polyester tablecloths. So this was Prom. It still looked like gym class, plus strobe lights and a kid with a laptop playing DJ. Girls were hiking up their chiffon skirts to dance with their dates like they were mad that the chiffon was in the way. A junior named Craig was spiking the Hawaiian punch.
Tanya turned to me, and slowly, slowly raised her eyebrows. I pulled her closer in to me, and raised my eyebrow back. And smiled.
"Want to get out of here?" I said.
She turned all the way to me. We were blocking the entrance entirely, and people were starting to walk up behind us, peering around us, wondering if we ever planned to move. "Yes."
I grabbed her hand, and she took off her heels, and we ran.
The promgoers scattered as we ran the straight at them, back up the sidewalk and past the surprised limo driver, and we did not stop till we hit the coast. We were surprised to see it, actually—I think we thought we'd run forever, even though her dress had gone muddy up the sides and caught by branches, and the cuffs of my dad's suit were worse. I think he would understand.
Alaska had been new and difficult to figure out, but this was my coast, and I knew where to go—I led her along the cliffs to a ledge, a long shale shelf that we dove from sometimes when we were really feeling like teenage boys. She pulled her dress up to her knees and sat down with her legs hanging over the edge. I sat down next to her and wrapped my arms around her waist, and we looked down at the water, at the stripes of moonlight running down the surface of it. The salt was collecting at the back of my throat already, I could feel it coming up from the waves shattering to pieces below us.
"So this is where you live," she said.
"Well, not here exactly," I grinned. "This is just a ledge. We go cliff-diving sometimes."
"Oh, do you?" she asked, leaning over to look at the water like she hadn't quite been aware of it before. "What is that, ten, fifteen feet?"
"I'd say about fifteen." It was nice to be young and totally indestructible. I wasn't afraid of heights and I wasn't afraid of the water. I wasn't even afraid of her anymore. She leaned back and pulled the clip out of her hair, and it fell down her back that same color that it always looked at night—cool gold candleflame. Nothing as boring as just plain blonde.
She was still looking at the water, and I was looking at her.
"Jump with me," she said.
I was surprised, but the answer was yes. The answer was always going to be the same—ever since I'd jumped out of Rosalie's car and run off toward Denali, and she'd hit me from the side and I'd rolled onto my back and looked right into her big gold eyes. Ever since then it was just always going to be yes. It was just her, that was the rest of my life—I could see it all the way out to the end, and it was just her. Just Tanya.
She stood up with her hand still in mine and pulled me up with her. I kicked my shoes off and left them on the side of the ledge. I would come back for them.
"One," she counted. Her hand was very cold in mine, and I locked my fingers in tighter. I wasn't going to lose her when we hit the water. "Two." I could see the waves crashing and snapping against the rocks, pounding into them as if it could bring them down. The ocean didn't look the way it looked in the daytime, blue where the sky reflected off it. It looked black. It was a long way down.
It really wasn't scaring me at all. "Three," she said.
And we jumped.