Pulling my knees up to my chest, I began to hum a song. After the first verse, the words started to escape, so that my humming morphed into melodic whispering. Though soft, my voice echoed around the seaside, ricocheting off of the harsh edges of the cliff.
"I'd like to be under the sea in an octopus's garden in the shade…" The words danced around, flying off into the night. It was as if I was alone, the only person in the world.
But I was far from it.
"Who sings that song?" Jacob demanded, reclining nonchalantly against the sole patch of grass on the cliff. I cast him a scathing look.
"The Beatles," I retorted.
"Let's keep it that way," he replied, smirking. I scoffed.
"That's the lamest joke ever," I muttered, resting my chin on my knees. It was strange, sitting up here with Jacob. At such a high altitude, his jokes seemed almost pleasant. It was as if he was teasing me, the way best friends tease each other. I had never had a best friend. It felt nice.
"So, I'm guessing you're not going to the wedding?" Jacob inquired. Damn. So much for our 'nice moment'.
"What wedding?" I demanded. I wasn't sure whether or not I was simply pretending to be oblivious or if it was simply because I couldn't give him an answer. Or maybe I just couldn't say the words myself. The wedding. Holy matrimony. Marital union. The death of me. They're all the same.
"You know which one I'm talking about," Jacob snapped, clearly annoyed with my brooding. I refrained from pouting my lower lip.
"Oh," I muttered shortly. "That one. Nope."
"Nope?" Jacob inquired, arching his eyebrows cynically. I bit my lower lip, shaking my head.
"Nope," I repeated. "I sure as hell am not going." Jacob shook his head slowly, looking slightly taken aback.
"Don't tell me that surprises you," I murmured bitterly. I had made my views on this wedding clear. I had made my views on everything clear.
"To be quite honest," Jacob replied, "it does surprise me." I glanced at him, my expression a cross between curiosity and anger.
"You really thought I'd be there?" I demanded. "You really thought I'd walk down that aisle in that damn maid-of-honor dress with my hair done up all nice?" Jacob shrugged.
"I figured you would," he explained. "She's your cousin."
"She's dead to me," I snapped, my voice echoing around the woods behind us. Jacob frowned.
"I thought you were stronger than that," he muttered, staring out across the sea shore. I glared straight ahead, refusing to look at him.
"I am stronger than that," I blurted out. I rarely lost control, but now I could feel the tremors flying through my limbs. "I'm strong enough to stay away. You know, I've always thought about walking down the aisle towards Sam. But whenever I pictured it, I was the one in the white dress." I stood up abruptly, folding my arms across my chest. My voice did not echo across the sky; my desperate breaths did.
"He's wrong for you anyway, Leah," Jacob called, standing up after me. I could feel his warm hand on my shoulder. Normally I would have yanked away childishly, but I couldn't find the will power to hurt him. What was wrong with me? I always hurt Jacob, and now I couldn't? The thought of hurting Sam, or Emily even, wasn't enough to satisfy me now.
With slow, gentle steps that I had never taken before, I turned around to face Jacob.
"I've done all I can," I whispered. There were tears in my eyes, but it didn't matter. Those were the first, and last, tears that I would cry.
I had to get out of here. I had to get the hell out of here. Jacob was blocking the way back home, and the only way out was behind me. I didn't even bother to stifle a sob as I took a step backwards. I could have just pushed past Jacob, but I was tired of pushing people. And I was tired of nobody chasing after me.
"Let me take you home," Jacob offered, closing his eyes and holding out his hand. Acting solely on my instincts, I laid my hand in his. It was a short, fleeting gesture. I didn't want him to think that I was going home at all.
"I have to get out of here," I blurted out, my voice short like the barks of a wolf. "I have to get the hell out of here." I tangled my hands in my dark hair, trying desperately to clear my mind.
But it was too full to be cleared. Or maybe it was empty already. I didn't know which one; I never had.
Suddenly, there was no ground beneath my left heel. It had been pulled out from under me, just like everything else in the world. Jacob's warm eyes widened in horror, but he didn't stop me.
Nobody ever had.