Sam was walking several paces in front of me, refusing to make eye contact. Several times, I tripped over evergreen roots. He did not turn around to help me up. By the time we reached the heart of the forest, I had tears welling up in my eyes. He had been acting distant these past couple of days, but this was extreme.
"Sam," I murmured, just as he turned around to face me. For the first time in the decade that I had known him, his dark eyes were cold. I flinched at the emotion in his face, completely lost. I had been nothing but wonderful to him, hadn't I? Just a week ago he had kissed me in front of Paul and Jared, pulling me closer than ever before as they had sung drunkenly at a campfire.
But now there were three yards between us and, by the look in his eyes, Sam had no intention of closing them. I clenched my hands into fists, holding them weakly at my waist.
"What?" I whispered, one tear escaping from my eye. It raced down my cheek, landing lightly on the leafy ground. Sam followed its path before looking back at me, his face thick with regret.
"Leah, I can't do this," he whispered, his voice hoarse with tears of his own. I blinked in shock. He had never cried before, at least not with me around. But that wasn't what had shocked me. It was the words themselves, twisting menacingly around my heart and squeezing... like a boa did to its prey.
"I'm sorry?" I replied softly, completely lost. Sam nodded, running his hand through his thick black hair. After a second, he placed his face in his palms, staring down at the ground.
"I can't explain everything, Leah," he said stiffly. "But it's... I can't be with you anymore." He was breaking up with me. What had I done? This had never even been a remote possibility... We were supposed to die together. Sam Uley had been my first everything... my first hug, my first dance, my first kiss. It wasn't supposed to end like this- it wasn't supposed to end at all.
"Why not?" I demanded, my voice raising an octave in fear. Sam shook his head, heaving a sigh and staring up at the sky as if praying.
"Jesus, Leah, I wish I could say," he moaned, pinching the bridge of his nose, "It's not that I don't love you. I always have and I always will... in a way." In a way. Those three little words went back on every promise that he had ever made to me. Two weeks ago, he had mentioned marriage. And Sam did not mention things like that lightly- at least I thought he didn't... But maybe I didn't know Sam Uley as well as I thought I had.
"You can say, Sam," I urged him. "Is it me? I can change! I can be different." Sam shook his head, angered by something that I had said. Even his hands were trembling violently.
"No, Leah, it's not you," he corrected me, his eyes closed. "It's me." What a classic line. A bunch of bullshit, too, as far as I was concerned.
"If it's you," I began tentatively, trying to string his words together, "Then what exactly is it? You seem exactly the same to me. You're the same person that I fell in love with five years ago." Sam shook his head, shaking with anger.
"God damn it, Leah," he snapped. "Don't make this any harder than it has to be." I was taken aback by the acid in his voice. How could it be any harder? Was there another girl? No, I reminded myself firmly, There's never another girl when it comes to Sam Uley. It's always been you, Leah. Since you were children.
"Why are you doing this?" I whispered. "You have to tell me. Things can be different." Sam shook his head firmly, tearing me up even more.
"No, they can't, Leah," he replied sternly, like a father reprimanding his child. "This is how things have to be. I- I am sorry. That's all there is to say." I bit my bottom lip, trying to control my trembling jaw. I tried to be angry, but it didn't work. I never was and never would be angry with Sam Uley. He had been my best friend, my boyfriend, and so much more. So much more than anything that I had ever known. Now he was pulling it all out from underneath us.
"You owe me that much," I pointed out, the tremors in my voice giving me away. The tears overflowed, chasing each other down my face. "I won't leave unless you tell me." Sam sighed, massaging his temples.
"I won't leave you in the middle of the forest," Sam muttered.
"Why not?" I demanded, feeling a twinge of ferocity in my stomach. "What's the worst thing that can happen to me here? No bear can hurt me as much as you have." Sam froze; I had found his vulnerable spot. I needed to tell him how much he had hurt me- then maybe he could see that he was making a mistake.
"Don't be dramatic, Leah," he whispered, though he did not seem mad at all. "I can't take any more of it." Sam had loved it when I was dramatic. He had made jokes about it, too... whispering in my ear, "My little drama queen." Where had those loving whispers gone? Had they all been lies?
"Oh, now I'm being dramatic?" I insisted, taking one step towards him. "You're leaving me without an explanation and I'm the dramatic one?" My anger was obscured by my tears, but the emotion was portrayed enough for him to realize just how deeply he was cutting me up.
"Leah, if I've broken your heart," Sam began, "then I've broken mine a thousand times more." It was the first loving statement that he had said in the past ten minutes, but it burned like a branding rod. He didn't love me, anymore. He had proved that tonight.
It was not supposed to be like this. My story had played out in my mind over and over, and it always involved an intimate wedding and a large family. But I should have known… I should have known that there would be a twist in my story.
With one smooth motion, he closed the space between us. At first, he held out his hands awkwardly, debating whether or not to embrace me. I pulled away, refusing to let him destroy me any more than he already had. He grimaced a bit, but seemed satisfied with my reaction.
But all of my will power vanished as he kissed me on the forehead, a burning passion still there somewhere behind his pitiful kiss. And then he was gone.
I stood there on the forest floor for a moment, completely dumb-founded. Life as I knew it was over, and nobody else mattered. It had always been Sam Uley and Leah Clearwater. We had fit together perfectly- it was as natural as breathing. Eventually, I let myself collapse into a heap on the floor, not bothering to stifle my heavy sobs.
Somewhere in the distance, a wolf howled.