A/N: I don't really have an explanation for how long it's been, I just hope you like what I do post. *bites lip* Just a short one for now, while I get back into the hang of it.
Chapter 24. The Threads That Bind Us
Diminutive of Penelope
From the Greek"πηνη" (pene)
Meaning: "Threads, weft"
She took in everything like it was art in a museum. I'd never found my bedroom that interesting but when I thought about sneaking a peek at Sophie's room, I realised how much I might figure out from looking at it. This was where I spent most of my time, or used to, at least. Now it was split between patrol, Emily's house, school and Sophie.
This was like an archaeological dig of my life. There were posters, photos, medals, magazines, clothes, random bits of junk, I even thought I might have a bottle of vodka somewhere in the back of my closet from the good ol' days.
Sophie wandered slowly about the room, studying every piece of junk and scrap as though it was the most fascinating thing she'd ever seen.
In turn, I studied her because she was the most fascinating thing I'd ever seen.
The way her hands ran along the frames without touching any of it. The way she brushed her hair back from her face only for it to swing back a second later. How she leaned down to study the delicate carvings of the head of my bed- they'd been made by Billy Black, back when he did some carpentering and so it was engraved with wolves and bears.
Her face was open for the first time in ages and every little emotion crossed her face. Wonder when she looked at the little figurines Mom had me make for good luck on the window sill. Surprise when she found the collection of track and sprinting medals from way back when. Amusement when she studied the notches in the doorway that marked my height growing up. I bet she was wondering why there was suddenly a good foot and a half gap between lines but I hoped she wouldn't make me lie to her again. Finally, concern when she looked at a photo of me with my old friends.
"This is you?" she asked, brushing dust from the frame.
"Sort of," I responded, evasively as I collapsed on the bed. It groaned under the pressure.
"Sort of?" Sophie echoed, raising her eyebrows. "Just like how you're sort of running a temperature?"
"No," I forced a chuckle as she sat down beside me. She didn't know it but her scent was pouring off her, dousing my whole room. Everything she touched would smell like her for weeks. How the hell was I going to stand it? "It used to be me. I straightened out, around a year or so ago."
"When you joined Sam's…group?" she guessed. I nodded, taking the photo off her.
"That's Ryan Aspens and Mac Kings from our school," I pointed out. "The others are from Port Angeles High."
"They seem…interesting?" Sophie said, sounding like a question.
I winced. "Soph, they're a bunch of deadhead lowlifes."
"You hung out with them for a reason."
"They weren't good reasons."
"They're your friends."
"Were. Were my friends." I got nervous when I saw how closely she was eyeing the frame. "Sophie, I'm asking you now, don't go near any of them?"
She watched me, her gaze like a needle. I always hated needles. "What were you doing with them then?" she asked, abruptly. "I'm trying to picture it. It used to make sense, you know," she let out a strained chuckle. "You used to make sense. But seeing you with Zoe and your room and just being around you…I can't help but wonder why you did it."
She was talking about my less than stellar reputation that had been years in the making. I sighed, noisily, wondering how much I should tell her. I tried not to look at her directly while I talked. "It's a long, dull story Soph."
She laughed once as she leaned back on her hands on the bed. "I'm sort of an expert on those."
"Sort of?" I echoed her, trying to throw her off track. "Like how you're sort of hiding something?"
Sophie looked uncomfortable for the first time since we entered my room and I backtracked, hastily. Fuck Paul, screw things up why don't you?
"I was around thirteen when I started hanging out with those guys." I admitted, reluctantly. "I did it to make my parents mad."
"Why?" Sophie's nose wrinkled.
"Well," I drawled, hesitantly. "To make my Dad mad really. He's sort of a dick."
"There goes that 'sort of' again…" Sophie hummed. "Honestly though, why did you want him angry?"
"He did some bad stuff." I finally settled on, firmly. "To my mom and our family. He left about two years ago."
Sophie looked down as her hand slowly crossed over to mine on the bedspread. I savoured the contact like a drowning man savours oxygen. Her grip felt hesitant though. Loose. "I'm- I'm sorry I asked, Paul. No one deserves to have their parents let them down like that."
She spoke like she knew and it made me curious. Her mom was gone, I knew that much and her Dad worked a lot. It occurred to me that maybe he knew the Anderson creep; why else would he have been at her house that night?
"Soph-" I started but suddenly there was a banging noise downstairs and my Ma's voice rang out.
"Paul? Paul I need help, come down!"
I winced and Sophie noticed.
"What's wrong?" she asked, amused.
"Nothing, nothing," I told her, hastily as I tried to stealthily shut the door.
"Who's was that?" she asked, eyebrows raised delicately.
"And what are you doing with the door?" she snickered.
"Nothing." I answered, defeated.
"Paul, I need help with the groceries, come down!"
"It's just my mom." I said, slumped. Crap.
"Really?" Sophie tried to play it off as something uninteresting but her eyes lit up with curiosity. And then dimmed quickly. "You don't want me to meet her?"
"No!" I almost yelled because fuck, of course I wanted them to meet. Preferably away from the house with duct tape over my mother's mouth so she can't unleash the load of embarrassing stories that she's been compiling for the past eighteen years.
"Then why don't you go talk to her?" Sophie suggested, edging toward the door. I felt like whining. Stay here… "She sounded pretty tired."
"She works at the diner in La Push." I replied as I stood, reluctantly.
Sophie giggled as she exited my bedroom and I flinched from the sound and I wondered if that was a good thing. My reputation was going to shit; I'm an absolute sap around Sophie and now my five foot four mother scares me?
"Worst werewolf ever." I complained as I followed after my imprint.
Paul's mother wasn't tall or imposing. She wasn't overtly muscled or even as lithe as her son and apart from general colouring, their features weren't obviously similar; I figured that Paul must get all of his superficial looks from his father who was 'sort of' a bad guy to him and his family.
When Paul said that, I wanted to crack: Bad guy? I know bad guys. I know lots of bad guys.
But I didn't because once again, my loose tongue scared the crap outta me. I mentally put a lid on it right as Paul started to talk again but I was worried. My restraint where Paul was concerned wasn't particularly strong or reliable.
When I came into the kitchen, sensing Paul behind me, I was pleasantly surprised to find a short but steady looking woman with long dark hair and silky russet skin, her face beautiful despite the obvious years.
"Paul, when I ask you to come down, I mean now- oh hello there." She said, her bright eyes resting on me. "I didn't know Paul had friends over."
She emphasized 'friends' as though she was in on a joke with Paul and when I turned around, I thought, just for a second, I saw embarrassment flit through his expression before I turned back into an annoyed scowl.
Was he embarrassed of me? The thought leapt away from me before I could control it. All this time, I'd been trying to keep Paul a secret because of my Dad and the attention and whatever but maybe Paul was trying to do the same thing? But for what reasons?
Suddenly insecure, it surprised me when the woman strode directly toward me and hugged me tightly, smacking Paul in the shoulder while she did. I froze up, unable to help the automatic response but she was polite enough not to say anything. "Since my son has the manners of a barbarian, I'll introduce us," she said, cheerfully. "I'm Penny and you must be Sophie-"
"I told you he talks in his sleep," Zoe said casually as she slid onto the stool by the counter, Collin close behind. I could hear Paul choke behind me.
"You told her what?" he snapped
"-it's lovely to meet you," she continued, as the two siblings bickered. Penny handed me and Collin grocery bags filled with food.
"You two will do nicely as replacements for my inconsiderate children." She told us, winking and I allowed myself to smile back at her.
"Thanks Mrs B," Collin said as he pulled out Pop Tarts from his bag. He was about ready to rip them open when Penny stopped him.
"Collin, I'd thank you to remember that yours is not the only stomach in this house." Penny added, casually and Collin looked thoroughly chastised.
"Sorry Mrs B." he mumbled, putting the box away.
Penny looked triumphant as I set about sticking vegetables in the bottom of the refrigerator. "You just have to show them who's boss, sweetie." She told me, wisely as though instilling an important life lesson.
"Ma, tell Zoe to stay away from my room!" Paul eventually snapped, grouchily. Zoe stuck her tongue out at him.
"It's not my fault he was so loud!" she chirped, indignantly and I felt like my face was on fire. Paul dreamed of me? Loudly?
I might've been socially handicapped but even that sounded inappropriate to my ears. Paul obviously thought so too since he groaned and turned to Zoe with a trembling finger.
"Look squirt, you either stay out of my room or I'm telling Collin about what happened last summer at that sleepover, understand?" he threatened and Zoe's face screwed up with fear and anger.
"Paul! You suck!" she whined and turned to her mother for support. "Mooom!"
"Zoe, stay out of your brother's room and Paul, stop threatening your sister." Penny disarmed them both neatly as she pulled out various foodstuffs from the fridge and pantry. "Now leave each other alone until dinner. Sophie dear are you staying?"
"Of course she is, Ma." Paul said, his face triumphant. "She promised. Right Soph?"
"Right," I sighed, internally pleased that he'd remembered and was forcing me on his mother rather than leaving me to do it alone.
"That sounds wonderful." Penny answered, busily. "Now Paul-"
Suddenly there was a long howl from outside and everyone turned toward it. I frowned because it almost sounded like a wolf and I felt an irrational pang of fear for my wolf, the grey one I'd seen outside my house all those weeks ago.
I began to turn to Paul to ask if we should call someone because it sounded so close but he and Collin were already exchanging serious looking glances. "Ma, I'll be back for dinner." He finally told his mother.
"What's going on?" Zoe asked, innocently, looking a little scared for her brother and babysitter.
"My thoughts exactly." I mumbled as Paul ran a hand through his hair, frustrated.
"I'll be back for dinner." He repeated, looking miserable and apologetic. "Me and Collin-"
"Collin and I." Zoe corrected as she hugged her babysitter goodbye.
"-are going to go see what's going on, okay?" Paul studied my face (which was pretty stunned by this turn of events…I mean, you hear a wolf's howl you stay inside right?) and then brushed his lips across my cheek, so quickly I thought I might have imagined it.
I couldn't have though; not even my mind could have come up with the burning sensation that rushed along my cheek where he'd touched it.
"Bye!" Zoe called as both of them left and it was at that point, I realised that Paul Beckett was leaving me alone with his mother and sister, both of whom were a little frightening.