Note: I've mapped out the plot and a lot of details at this point. Assuming my enthusiasm holds I've got a full fledged story for you. Enjoy.
Chapter 2 - Brazil
I had elected not to swim almost 6,000 miles through the Pacific Ocean, and then trek across South America for a finale. Not that I was entirely sure I could do that to begin with. A plane sounded perfectly respectable to me. My Uncles? They're another story. They left a week before the rest of us. I think they planned on stopping in the Bahamas and Haiti along the way.
Planning a long distance trip like this, with so many of us, had taken the combined effort of Grandpa Carlisle, Aunt Alice and my father. Between travel time, a group of travelers who don't technically exist, and avoiding the sun in some way, it was a delicate balance. My leg of the trip wasn't nearly so trouble-some, aside from getting my papers in order. They passed me off as a 20 year old college student, the occupation was my parents' idea of course. And the sun didn't affect my public appearances much. I didn't hang out on the beach in a bikini or anything, but I was no pot of gold at the end of a rainbow either.
Jacob wasn't coming. This decision had been one of the more contentious in our long relationship. Sam and his pack left the reservation 8 months ago to follow a rumor about other shape-shifters. I was still suspicious about the circumstances the rumor reached us under, but that didn't change the fact that if Jacob came with me La Push was without an Alpha in addition to missing half it's protectors. Struggling with the decision tore him apart so in the end I had made it myself, demanding he stay in Washington with the pack.
He had driven me to the airport in Seattle, acting for all the world like he would follow me right onto the plane. He might have tried but for the TSA. Not that they could stop him really, but it would have caused quite a scene. It was a really long flight, nearly a full day, to reach the city of Cuiaba; just me and the memory of his face as I blew him a final kiss before the security line took me out of site. My Uncles would already be on the continent, somewhere north, by now. The rest of us were heading into the rain forest together so my father had arranged to put me up in a hotel for a night to await them. It was extravagant, of course, totally over the top. It wasn't until the bell-hop had delivered me and my small bag to the cavernous gilt hotel room that I realized that I was alone. Absolutely alone. I had never been so far from every single member of my very large family. My heart picked up as anxiousness stole over me. In 16 years I'd never slept a night alone, how had I not anticipated this? My night on the flight hadn't registered, surrounded by other warm bodies quietly snoring as our plane sailed over the equator. I glanced at the enormous bed. It looked cold and alien. But I wasn't ready to sleep yet anyway; I would have to face that later but I could push it off for now. I grabbed my purse and wandered out to greet Brazil in person.
The metallic ring of the hotel phone woke me sooner than I would have liked. Grey light filtered through the gold curtains. I reached groggily for the receiver.
"Good morning sleepy-head." My father's soft voice responded to my mumbled 'hello'. "I suppose I woke you."
"What time is it?" The fog of sleep was slow to lift. I searched for the electric alarm clock on the bedside table for a second before remembering I had unplugged it last night. It's high pitch electric whirring had been all together too loud and annoying to allow me to sleep.
"Just after 9. Everyone's a bit anxious to be on the way. Do you think you'll need long to put yourself together?" I guess it wasn't so early after all. Perhaps my long romp around the city, and then hanging out so late at the samba bar hadn't been a brilliant idea, but I was on vacation. I asked him for 20 minutes and threw myself into the shower. I didn't need to shower quite as often as a human, but facing a month in the rain forest this was my last chance for a while.
25 minutes later I was being accosted with hugs and kisses from my adoring parents. Parents who looked more like my younger siblings than anything else, but no one in the hotel lobby seemed too concerned. My father helped me check out and we grabbed a taxi north out of the city to meet up with my grandparents and aunts. My mother tried a few times to ask after Jacob but I think I dissuaded her with brief answers. She gave up the line of questioning at least. I wasn't ready to let his farewell face back into my mind again. I would have all month to miss him, I was sure to be sick with it by the time I flew home, best to stave it off as long as possible. My father, ever practical, made me update him on more mundane things. How was my job at the gift shop, how were Billy and Sue and Charlie, how was pack life, etc. etc. As though we hadn't talked a week earlier about nearly all these things. Honestly, my parents acted as though my life changed as quickly now as it had when I was a child. In reality, it was practically standing still. Frozen in time just as Jacob and I and everyone but the human pieces of our family were.
"Edward we should visit Charlie soon." My mother mused as the Taxi dropped us off on the side of the road 20 miles past the last house in the last suburb. My father handed the incredulous looking driver a roll of foreign bills. The confusion and concern on his face mingled with shock and I snickered as I climbed out and grabbed my bag from the trunk. We could have just paid him what he'd asked for the trip, in fact it would have been safer. He was more likely now to gossip about this strange fare with it's stranger passengers. I supposed it wouldn't matter though. My mother, who'd paid no attention to this transaction, fretted on as we stepped off the road into the green forest. "I just worry how many more years we have left with him."
They chatted about this a while, mother concerned and father consoling, as we broke into a jog and made our way. I had no idea where we were headed, but they seemed sure enough. Through the canopy of trees I could see the layer of clouds that hovered over the city were thinner here, the sun breaking through at random intervals and casting shafts of light into the emerald vegetation. The trees weren't dense, sometimes not even really forest; we were definetly not yet in the Amazon. This next part of the trip would take nearly as long as the flight and be quite a bit more exhausting. I realized suddenly, with a small shock of guilt, that everyone would have to stop for me to sleep at some point. Unless they planned on carrying me while I slept, which I hoped they didn't.
Some time later we were suddenly in the midst of a family reunion. I nearly ran smack into my grandmother as she rushed to greet me. Her cold stone arms wrapped themselves lovingly around me, scooping me off my feet. I was passed from embrace to embrace, cool lips brushing my cheeks and my forehead. They each murmured greetings to me, my hand trailed to each of their faces as I showed numerous times how I was doing, how Jacob was doing.
"I miss him already." I admitted. Which was returned by a series of agreements and "missed you's". I guess I hadn't staved that off very long, I bemoaned silently.
"Do you need to hunt?" My mother regarded me critically. It bothered her that she couldn't read those needs in my eyes. I shook my head.
"I ate before I left. And I, well, I had some pretzels on the plane." I knew I was making a face, remembering the saltiness and strange sourness and horrible texture. There were a few human foods I could tolerate but pretzels, I'd decided, were not one of them. My father chuckled, most likely reliving my memory more than a response to my expression. The rest of the family chuckled a little too and with that we all followed Alice as she lead the way north east.
We ran at a comfortable pace for a few hours. My father and Alice kept us entertained with little stories about how school was going, he and my mother were in their Senior year at Dartmouth and I could hear the pride creep in to his voice here and there. Aunt Alice was a junior at a public school with Uncle Jasper. Aunt Rosalie and Uncle Emmett had elected to skip school for a while. Emmett took a job in construction and Rosalie one in a clothing boutique. Both had quit for our vacation and were toying with the idea of another honeymoon. Their life seemed so much more interesting than mine some days. Other days I was glad for how quiet it was on the reservation, where everyone seemed capable of overlooking the fact that a good portion of the population never aged.
It was well past dark and the conversation had trailed off with everyone lost in their own thoughts when I realized I had fallen from the center of the loose party to the tail. I huffed and willed my legs to move just a little faster. Even if there's no way to compete evenly with my family, I couldn't bear not to at least keep up. One might say I have a competitive nature, Jacob would say so at any rate. My father threw me a sympathetic look as I caught back up to him. "Perhaps now is a good point to stop for a few hours."
I was grateful that I hadn't needed to say so myself. I pulled up short of the rest of them, taking a moment to catch my breath, a bit more weary than I had realized. Dropping my bag to the ground, I flopped onto a fallen log and looked around. At some point, possibly after one of the many ridges, the vegetation had changed from snarled broad leafed trees to tall vine covered monstrosities. The trees were closer together now, mostly obscuring the clear night sky. I yawned.
After some discussion I slept curled up in my mother's lap, about as much for her sake as my own. She certainly wasn't any softer than sleeping on the ground, though she was more comforting, and cooler in the humid night. The steady rhythm of her breathing put me to sleep quickly as she held my palm against her marble cheek awaiting my dreams, watching me sleepily remember my goodbye with Jacob and my long plane ride. What I wouldn't have given for my cozy, furry hulking wolf-man.
I awoke to the quiet murmuring of my family and a shaft of sunlight on my face. It was maybe an hour or so after sunrise. I wasn't groggy this morning, though maybe still a little weary. I climbed out of my mother's lap and stretched languorously while my father tried to convince me to eat a sandwich he'd packed for me. I refused although he insisted it was roast beef, one of the few human foods that didn't make me gag.
"I'll hunt again when we get there." I assured him, and then paused. "That'll be today won't it?"
"Yes." He assured me with a smile, though I wasn't sure the 'day' part of that meant the same thing to him. Refracted sunlight caught my eye and I turned to see my mother, still and silent, regarding me with a crease in her brow. "Really, I'm fine."
I think she would have pressed me, but my father grabbed her hand and looked pointedly at Alice. That was that. We grabbed our bags and were off running again. The day, the forest, the conversations, all passed in sort of a daze; each moment melting into the next. I found myself thinking about Zafrina, the reason for our visit. I hadn't seen her since the day in the clearing though I had hoped she would come to my wedding. I knew the 16 years meant little to her but it really seemed like ages to me at this point. It was nearly my entire life ago that we walked hand in hand exchanging pretty pictures as I had called them. I could both remember the beauty and wonder of the things she shared with me, and the odd combination of serenity and anticipation our home in Forks had during that month.
"They can be so hard to find since they don't really make decisions on where they're going." Alice, who had become suddenly talkative as the sun set, was explaining her frustrations with the Amazon coven. She looked back at me with a frown marring her little face. "That's why I couldn't track them down in time for your wedding Nessie. They weren't deciding anything, at all, it was horribly frustrating. Maybe if you'd given me another month or so, we could have tracked them down in person. You were in such a rush all of the sudden. Anyway, they're still following the tribe of humans right now. They're thinning them out I think."
It was silent as we all digested that. The Amazons were not vegetarians like our family. The tribe Alice saw them stalking had done something, though she wasn't sure what, to upset them or attract their attention. And now they were 'thinning' that tribe apparently. This was why our trip had been organized in such a hurry; we actually had an idea where to find them for a while. My stomach growled inappropriately, barely audible to me over the rustling of our feet through the underbrush.
"We're not here to judge them." Carlisle said evenly as a sandwich came sailing over his head at me. My father. I caught it with a sigh, resigned to my chewy fate, unwrapped the thing and tried to eat it. It wouldn't be half bad but for the bread, dry and sour. He'd tried at least, there was nothing else on it besides the roast beef and the bread. I chewed thoughtfully. There would be no mountain lions here. No elk. And yet, there was roast beef. Was I such a homebody that I couldn't survive a month, happily, outside of Washington? I resolved, once again, to lay aside my home-sickness, my Jacob-sickness mostly, and enjoy myself. I focused on Carlisle, still talking thoughtfully. "I wonder if they've been in touch with Huilen and Nahuel, or know where to find them. It would be a shame to come all this way and not find some time to speak with them again."
I was about to ask him a question about that when I suddenly stepped through the trees into a clearing. It was incredibly bright. The sun washing out the colors and glaring in my eyes. I could no longer make out my family in front of me. My legs stopped working automatically, folding into a crouch as my brain screamed danger. I heard the gasps of a few of my family members. They hadn't all been picked off then. A hiss escaped my teeth, in unison with a few others and a growl.
"What is it?!", my mother's frantic voice; I could hear the muffled sound of her wheeling to face me. Then the clearing and the sun were gone in an instant, replaced by my family and the dark forest. My mother rushed to me, enveloping me in her arms even as I remained crouched. My fear had not receded enough for logic to intercede and my eyes scanned my surroundings warily. The rest of my family were crouched much as I was, although they looked a good deal more forbidding than I, except my father who straightened out and cocked an eyebrow.
"Zafrina, it's the Cullens." He said in a clear voice. My brain put the pieces together then. We'd caught up to the Amazon coven, though we'd never smelled them or crossed their trail. Zafrina must have conjured a vision, and my mother had thrown her shield. I straightened out of my crouch, touching my hand to my mother's neck while still swaddled in her stone arms, and shared my theory with her. She didn't respond, or loosen her grip. I would guess her shield was still up around the family as well. She just looked to my father and he spoke again. "We didn't mean to startle you."
There was a brief whistling sound and they were standing in our midst. They looked exactly as they had that last day, in the clearing. Taller than any of us, with ropey limbs, and elongated faces. My eyes locked with Zafrina's and I could feel the smile break out on my face. She was the reason I'd suffered through the long flight and the days of running, though I hadn't guessed how dull those would be until I had to endure them. I felt a connection with Zafrina that didn't compare with how I related to anyone else. We'd bonded right away, but it had taken me years to understand why. This woman thought more like me than anyone else I knew. My thoughts came in primarily images. Because everyone seemed to understand me just fine it hadn't dawned on me that everyone else didn't think that way too. Through various discussions over the years I'd worked out that some folks thought almost solely in words, and most people fell somewhere between. Zafrina was on my end of the spectrum though, deep in it with me.
"Nessie." Zafrina rumbled in her deep voice; she held her arms out for me. I wriggled out of my mother's grasp and bounded over to her where she scooped me up like I was still 3 months old. I wrapped my arms around her unyielding neck and planted a kiss on her cheekbone. Her lips pulled into a tight smile as I leaned back to look at her face and placed my hand on her jaw. My memories flowed, starting from where we'd left off.
In my peripheral the family moved around, greeting Senna & Kachiri. They settled into catching up verbally, a low murmur in the background. I showed Zafrina my childhood in the cottage and in the farmhouse that she was familiar with. I missed it, though I tried not to let that discolor the images too much. Some special moments with Grandpa and Grandma Swan. I showed her my stint at Forks High, conveying how weird it was though my father had insisted I endure it. I lingered on my wedding, giving her each second of that wonderful day in detail. The tearful day my family had finally moved out of Washington, tainted with bitterness and guilt because they had lived in utter seclusion at the end to allow me to grow up in Forks with Jacob. My relationship with Jacob. My relationship with his pack. My life on the reservation, simple and happy.
"Very beautiful my Nessie." Zafrina crooned. "I have some for you too."
And I was flying through the treetops of the amazon, swimming rivers, running, leaping, stalking prey. Zafrina's visions, as she gave them to me now, were all consuming. I couldn't even feel her cool skin against me. I was her, pure memory. Unconsciousness pulled at the adges of my mind and her visions began to melt into and feed my own dreams.