Bella doesn't know how she made it here.
It seems so distant, that moment seven days ago when she came home from a hunt to a stoic Edward sitting by the telephone. Afraid that something terrible had happened to Esme or that Jasper had suddenly lost his willpower and attacked again, she rushed to her husband's side and begged to know what happened. He couldn't meet her eyes as he handed her the slip of paper with the one-line message from Sue.
Charlie is dead.
Somehow, after a period of almost schizophrenic behavior, she had ended up in a small Port Angeles cemetery near the harbor, surrounded by the dark green of Washington that she had left behind more than two decades earlier. Edward had wanted to come with her, to say his goodbyes to the man who gave him his daughter, but somehow she knew that he wasn't meant to be there when they laid her father to rest.
She had phoned Jacob and left a message with Renesmee about the date and time of the burial.
He never called her back. He never did anymore.
Leah Clearwater is technically her stepsister, Bella reminds herself as she catches a glimpse of the statuesque woman straightening her pea coat. They haven't spoken in almost sixteen years. Bella hadn't come back for her father's wedding; too many faces would question her ungodly youth and she wasn't ready to lie completely to people she once cared for. Leah, on the other hand, had not only served as her mother's maid of honor, but chose to come back to Washington and set up a her own home there. Last time Bella heard any news from La Push, Leah was teaching on the reservation. Of course, that was fifteen years ago, and Bella hadn't even bothered to think about the grey wolf in the last ten.
The eldest Clearwater child cannot contain the surprise on her dark face when Bella embraces her and kisses her cheek. "You haven't change a bit in seventeen years. You must be swamped with questions about your beauty regiment."
Leah barks out a half-hearted laugh as she pats the shorter woman's back. "People on the rez are too smart to ask questions. The stories are still alive. They won't die, no matter how many times we try to beat them down."
"Yes, well. I guess it's all for good reason."
Leah shrugs, unconvinced, but smiling.
There are only a handful of people at the cemetery. It had been one of Bella's two requests of the service: that only those who were somewhat apprised of her…unique situation would be invited to the burial itself. Bella feels almost guilty when she thinks of the one person she had explicitly excluded; she's almost sure Renee would have wanted to watch Charlie be laid to rest. Then again, she's not sure her mother is still alive.
Bella Cullen has never been one for small talk, and she finds herself increasingly tense as Leah's dark brown eyes flicker amongst the crowd, as if she is on edge as much as Bella.
"How is Seth?" Bella breaks the silence. "I haven't seen him yet. Is he coming?"
Leah chuckles. "Seth is…Seth. Married to a crazy woman from California who teaches Philosophy at Berkeley. Apparently she has some undue interest in folklore and vampires. He hardly stood a chance."
"He never imprinted. He was the lucky one." She doesn't even try to hide the bitterness in her voice. "Anyway, they have three troublemakers of their own, and were expecting their fourth the last time I talked to him on the phone."
"So he's not coming."
"He never comes here anymore. He doesn't want them exposed to what happens in this place. He says…" the dark-haired woman pauses, as if she's afraid the words will be heard by the wrong ears. "He says that what happens here is toxic to the soul." Her voice falters as she stares at something behind Bella. "I can't say I entirely disagree."
The vampire turns around slowly. Her breath hitches as her glance held to a tall, young man whose arms are wrapped protectively around a grieving Sue Clearwater. Behind Bella, Leah waves, and the young man kisses the elderly woman sweetly on top of her head and makes his way over to the younger women.
"Who is he?" Bella questions before he draws too near, assuming he's some long-lost relative of the Clearwater family that she never managed to meet. "A cousin of yours?"
Leah's entire body goes rigid. "He's my son."
Bella can hardly breathe as she processes the information. "Adopted son?"
Leah laughs heartily. "After thirty-six hours of labor and three epidurals? I certainly hope not."
For a moment, Bella can't speak, a long-forgotten lump coalescing in her throat. "Jacob…he said you were…that it was impossible…" her voice trails off helplessly as she tries to remember the conversation. It seemed like centuries ago.
Leah's lips part into a soft smile as the boy hugs her, her dark eyes filled with sadness. "Thankfully, I was wrong."
"I don't think I've met you before," the young man says, looking down at Bella.
"Bella Cullen. I suppose I'm your aunt." She looks furtively at Leah. "Is that right?"
"Simon," the young man says almost enthusiastically, stretching his disturbingly familiar, warm hand to take Bella's. "I heard so much about you from Charlie."
"He let you call him Charlie?" Bella asks, slightly amused. "He always got so upset when I called by his first name."
The dark-haired boy looks suddenly uncomfortable. "He said…well, he said it reminded him of you."
He blushes, dropping her hand when he realizes how very cold it is. And that's when she sees it. The way his mouth curls up in a perfect semicircle as his eyes crinkle ever so slightly at the corners. And the slightly woodsy scent that seemed to permeate the air the moment he stood next to her. It's like walking into some fantastic memory from some twenty-odd years ago, one where she's smiling and her best friend is laughing and has grease on his face from working in the garage for ten straight hours.
"How old are you?" Bella manages to squeak, making the mental calculation as her stepsister's face darkens.
"Older than he looks." There's a sharp warning in Leah's tone.
The boy looks at his mother curiously. "Sixteen next month. Why?"
Bella shakes her head, head feeling uncomfortably light. "You just…look familiar. That's all."
Her eyes don't leave the boy's handsome face. She hasn't made a mistake.
"Not here, Bella," Leah hisses. "Not today."
But Bella cannot stop staring.
"He's got his eyes!" she mutters as Leah drags her down the cobblestone path towards the darkened church building. "He's got the same smile, the same skin, the same damn voice..."
"Yes." Leah tightens the grip on Bella's arm, nearly breaking her thick skin. "He's Jacob's son. Satisfied?"
Bella's head pops up, her topaz eyes stricken with incredulity.
"But make no mistake," the raven-haired woman snaps, her heels clicking angrily on the cold stone ground. "This changes nothing."
"It changes everything!" Bella's voice rings across the stained-glass windows.
"Jacob Black is not a part of my life anymore."
"You're the one that left him! Left us!"
Leah snorts angrily as she grabs the white wooden door and shoves Bella inside the building. "Let's make one thing very clear, leech; I had to leave. Give my son a chance at a good life. God knows that would have been gone the moment that your spawn turned seven and I was left in the cold with a kid and another broken heart."
Bella is beyond listening now. "You have to tell him, Leah. Call him. Right now. Please." Bella pulls her phone from her purse, punching numbers in haphazardly and forcing the metal contraption into Leah's hands. "Do it."
"I don't have to tell him," Leah sighs, closing the phone and handing it back to the excited vampire.
"If you don't, then I will!" Bella begins dialing again, before Leah snatches the machine back and places it in her pocket.
"I don't think you understand. Jacob already knows."
"How could he know?"
"Everyone knows," the shape-shifter growls. "Simon knows. My mom knows, your father knew, Billy knows. Damn it, your whole creepy coven sends him birthday cards every year!"
"But… how come I didn't know? Why didn't anybody tell me?"
Suddenly, Leah bellows in hysterics. "You're at your father's funeral, Bella. Do you even realize that? And you think that this is the right time to pull me away to discuss why you didn't know that Jacob had a son? Who are you?"
She takes a calming breath as her fists clench.
"Do you even know how he died?"
Bella is quiet.
"You never called him anymore. You didn't bother writing back when he sent you letters. The doctors said he died from a broken heart. Nothing else was wrong with him, physically speaking. You killed him, Bella. You did that. I don't think you'll ever understand how many lives you ruined when you lost yours. You're so busy being wrapped up in yourself that you can't see when things are falling apart around you. When people are falling apart around you."
"That's…that's not true." Bella can barely hear herself.
Leah takes a step towards the lighter-skinned girl, her breath startlingly hot against the vampire's ear. "Aren't you a little bit curious why Jacob never calls you back anymore? And doesn't it seem at least a little out of character for someone to not make it to the funeral who was so close to your father? To you?"
Bella can almost swear she feels Leah's hands turning into claws as the older woman clutches at her shirt.
"Jacob isn't here because he can't handle seeing all this. Me. Simon. And most of all, you. Everything he left behind when he imprinted on your daughter."
"He loves Renesmee." She's still sure of that. Isn't she?
"Jacob Black is very good at falling in love." Leah grins miserably, dropping Bella's shirt and straightening out her own dress. "He's not so good at falling back out of it."
"I'm here to say goodbye to Charlie, Bella He was my father too. He was the one who cut the umbilical cord at the hospital and everything when Simon was born. So please," she lowers her voice. "Just…let it go."
"I'm so sorry, Leah." The words fall freely from Bella's mouth now, and she finds herself pulling Leah dangerously close. "I had no idea."
"Honestly? We're okay, Simon and me. We've got everything we wanted. And Jacob…" she laughs a little too cynically as she pushes Bella away. "Jacob has the one soul in the world he can't live without." She looks Bella directly in the eyes. "Even if that's not the one soul he really wants."
Bella steps backward involuntarily. "He doesn't love me like that. Not anymore."
"He may have shared my bed for awhile. Called out my name instead of yours when the lights were turned off. But it was never me he made love to. Not really."
"He loved you, Leah. We all saw it. We all thought he would break the imprint for you."
"Of course he loved me." She's crying now. Bella can't remember if she's seen Leah cry before. "He just loved you and your brat more."
The two women turn around as the heavy white doors to the chapel are opened. Simon shivers slightly as he stands at the doorway, carrying a black umbrella in his large hand. It has begun raining, and, for the first time since she's been home, Bella remembers why she loved Washington so much before she changed.
"The pastor is ready."
Leah nods curtly, and takes her son's hand. She refuses to look back.
The procession is modest. Just like Charlie would have wanted.
Bella can hardly stand as the ten or so guests line themselves on the wet grass. Leah had not bothered to set up chairs; Charlie, for all his misgivings and complaints about the weather, had been a man of the earth. It was only fitting that when they said their last farewells, they would try and be one with the part of the world he loved so much.
As her father's casket is placed in the ground, Bella trembles involuntarily. She gets a twisted thrill from it; perhaps some humanity is left inside her after all.
The pastor's words echo through her mind as she throws a white bouquet of flowers into the open grave.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
The sun peaks out from behind the listless grey clouds, and she's certain that people will stare as she sparkles in the sunlight, but in that moment, she couldn't care less.
She looks at Leah and her son, Jacob's son, one last time before she crumbles to the saturated ground, wishing for once in twenty-three long years that she had tears to shed.
Disclaimer: I don't own it; never did, probably never will.
Notes: Yeah, yeah, I know: cheesy title. Also, the name Simon is quasi-taken from the Old Testament. Simeon was one of the six children of Jacob and Leah. I know; I am insanely creative (not). Finally, this story was supposed to be a bit disconnected in thought. It's a new style I'm working with, and I'm not sure I'm enamored with it yet.
Questions, comments, and concerns should be addressed to zetetic7 at yahoo dot com.