"And I'm begging you to be my escape."
We sat on the grass, leaning against my building, my head on his shoulder and our fingers intertwined. I was physically and emotionally drained, and while I was aware that we still ran the risk of being caught outside by campus security, I wasn't ready to move just yet. We were silent for a while, no doubt wrapping our heads around everything that had just happened. It was like we had finally crossed the finish line of a seemingly never-ending race.
I watched as Jared traced patterns along the palm of my hand with his pinky finger, remembering all the days I would sit in class beside him, aching to just reach out and touch him like this. Even just a simple arm graze would have been good enough back then, but I never found the guts to do it.
Oh, how things have changed.
I thought back to the day this all started—the day that lead me to this very moment. I remembered sitting alone in the corner of that Math class, so unhappy, desperately counting down the weeks until I could finally escape. Escape the dismal life of having few friends and few loves; of having little happiness and feeling alone and out of place. How wrong I'd been about the feeling of actually escaping La Push.
"Kim?" he asked, still focused on tracing along my palm.
His voice was soft when he continued, still vulnerable. "What's gonna happen now?"
I immediately knew what he meant, as I had been wondering the same thing. Our very surrounding was a confronting reminder of the reality of our situation. We still lived three hours away from one another. But I was tired of the challenges and suffering. I wanted to keep things light-hearted and optimistic, because I really did believe in us, and really did believe we could overcome something as little as distance.
"You drive next time," I said, and without looking, I could feel him smiling. "And shower beforehand," I added for good measure.
"Okay," he answered easily. "And when's next time?" He tried to mimic my carefree tone, though I could still hear the subtle pleading in his voice.
"Whenever you want," I answered. "And then I'll come home on the weekends to sleep outside your window."
He squeezed my hand, and without needing to look at him, I could tell that was the assurance he'd been waiting to hear. This relationship was going to work, and we both knew we'd do anything to make sure of that now.
"Make sure you shower, too," he teased, tugging on my grass stained pants.
We both chuckled, then sunk back into a comfortable silence.
"I'm tired," I finally admitted a few minutes later, still watching his fingers spiraling patterns into my hand. Although tired was an understatement.
We both breathed deeply, and I guessed that meant he must be tired too. He did run here after all.
"You are too," I pointed out.
"Kind of," he lied.
I didn't think he was ready to leave me just yet, and wanted to prolong our time together right now for as long as he could manage. But I wasn't keen on the idea of separation yet either.
"Come on," I said, squeezing his hand. "Let's go back to my room and sleep."
And I meant it in the most innocent sense of the word. At that moment, there was nothing more comforting than the idea of falling asleep in Jared's arms. Just lying together in our most peaceful states, no longer staring wide eyed at the ceiling wondering what the other person was doing all those miles away.
I began to stand up, but Jared's voice stopped me.
"Um…" he said nervously. "I don't think we should go into your room just yet."
"What?" I asked. "Why?" I leaned forward to shoot a look at my room, two windows away from where we sat, and noticed the light was on.
"Long story," he said, still planted on the floor, obviously making no immediate plans to move.
"You've met Dee?" I asked, intrigued.
What have I missed tonight?
"Briefly. I didn't catch her name," he said. "But she seems very… lively."
I smiled, shaking my head in disbelief.
You don't know the half of it, I thought wryly.
"And why can't we go in there just yet?"
"Well—" he began, but he was abruptly cut off by the sound of Dee's screaming voice resounding through the walls from where we sat.
"You're a WHAT?" she yelled.
Jared tensed a little. "Uh-oh."
"Who's in there with her?" I asked, confused.
"That would be Seth," he answered.
But her voice drowned mine out before I could continue.
"You did WHAT on me?"
Jared cleared his throat and tried to begin a conversation with me, obviously trying to ignore whatever was going on in that room. "So, what's college like?"
I leaned back from him with an incredulous expression on my face. "Jared, what is going on in there?"
Dee was upset, and he knew why.
He sighed. "Well…"
Our window slid open so forcefully that the smack of it hitting the top of the frame made us both jump as it echoed through the whole campus.
"Kim!" came Dee's yelling voice. "Are you out here?" I turned to see her climbing out of the window with a shirtless Seth following behind her, their hands unexpectedly joined.
I looked questioningly back at Jared who did not look surprised at all. We still sat in place on the floor, looking up at them standing before us.
"This idiot," she said, pointing to Seth with her free hand, "has just asked me to marry him!"
Jared burst out into a fit of laughter, as Seth's face just grew sheepish and embarrassed. "Way to show her who's boss, Seth," Jared teased.
"What?" I asked her.
"I didn't ask her to marry me!" Seth defended helplessly. "Well, not really. I was just explaining the whole imprinting thing to her and—"
"Ohhhhhhh…" I said, nodding my head in amused understanding. I laughed along with Jared, and then stopped when I realized Dee was still waiting expectantly for someone to explain. "Don't worry, Dee. It's not as bad as it sounds. It's actually kind of amazing. But yeah, Jared told me I was going to have his babies when he first tried to explain it." Jared sobered at that, and then both of the boys were looking hopelessly embarrassed.
"So, what?" Dee asked me. "I'm just supposed to believe that he's my… soul mate? Just because he's pawprinted on me?"
"Imprinted," Seth corrected. "I imprinted on you, Dee."
"Yeah," I answered. "That's pretty much what it is. Can't you feel it?"
She thought for a moment, and then looked back at Seth, biting her bottom lip. "Kind of," she answered hesitantly.
"Kind of?" I asked skeptically, squeezing Jared's hand as I contemplated how tied I felt to him. Even if Dee felt half of what I felt for Jared, it could not be explained as simply as kind of. "Dee, you're mad right now, aren't you?"
"Of course!" she answered.
"Why?" I challenged.
"Because this beautiful, half naked stranger has just told me he's my soul mate when I haven't even decided if I want to be with him!"
"So why are you holding his hand?" I asked, quirking my brow.
Seth and Jared were both beaming at this, awaiting her answer.
"I… don't… know…" she answered, genuinely confused, looking down at their hands as if she didn't even realize they were joined. She let go, probably just to make a point, and then quickly held back on, discomforted by the loss of contact between them, even though she couldn't logically explain it to herself. "It feels… right," she said unsurely. "But it just doesn't make… sense."
I thought about how I could explain it to her, to make her understand that it was okay and it would be okay. "Rainbows, Dee," I said, recycling the analogy she used with me for the very same situation. "Rainbows."
She nodded in understanding, trying to be brave. "So… he's…" She looked to Seth. "You're really a werewolf?"
He nodded solemnly.
She contemplated this silently for a moment. I could see the internal conflict playing out on her face. She wanted to trust him, but she still couldn't be sure about something so crazy. She needs to see, I thought.
I remembered the first time I'd seen Jared as a wolf, sleeping outside my window. I was alone in the dark, surprised and scared out of my mind. If Dee was going to be with Seth, it would be best if she saw him in wolf form earlier, and with Jared and I here for support. It was a scary sight to be confronted with for the first time.
"Show her," I told him. He looked to Jared as if for permission, who nodded in assurance with me. "Go on," I continued. "Go put your wolf on."
This confused him. "She means phase," Jared clarified.
He reluctantly let go of Dee's hand, and turned around to walk towards the neighbouring trees.
"Wait…" Dee cried out quietly, beginning to follow after him. "Where… are you going?"
I squealed a little inside, recognizing the bond that was already forming between them.
Seth smiled, realizing the same thing. She didn't want him to go anywhere without her. "I'll be right back," he said in a soft voice, looking at her almost the same way Jared looked at me. "Just wait here, okay?" He smoothed his palm over her cheek and then turned back around.
She nodded mutely, and stood in place, watching him walk away. She looked so sad.
"Come on," Jared whispered in my ear, finally pulling me to stand as he did the same.
We walked to where Dee stood, ready to act as support in case she ended up fainting, screaming, throwing up, going into shock, or all of the above at the sight of wolf-Seth.
"Are you ready?" Jared asked her as I held onto her hand with my free one.
She nodded, looking extremely nervous—a side of her I'd never seen. This imprinting really brings out the raw side of people, I thought. She took in a deep breath as Seth emerged.
With only the light of the moon shining above us, it took a while for me to see him clearly. At first he just looked like a huge fur shape, but as he came closer I could tell by his eyes he was still the same Seth. Innocent, little-but-big Seth Clearwater.
He came forward very slowly without any sudden movements. It appeared as though he was trying to make himself look smaller and less intimidating, walking with his head close to the ground.
Dee released the jagged breath she'd been holding and began to step forward. I gradually let go of her hand and remained behind with Jared.
She reached out to Seth with a shaky hand. "Heeeere doggy," she cooed nervously, patting the side of his face. "Niiiiiice doggy."
Seth's form seemed to relax at her touch, and then he suddenly leaned forward and licked the side of her face.
"Aw yuck, Seth!" she yelled out in surprise, pulling up the hem of her shirt to wipe her cheeks, all nerves apparently gone. "Bad! Bad doggy!"
I felt like I could see him smiling at this, even in his wolf form. Apparently she could too, and jumped up to hug wolf-Seth around the neck, her feet dangling in mid-air as she giggled and laughed playfully with him. My cheeks hurt from smiling.
"That is the weirdest thing I think I've ever seen," Jared stated in fascination as we watched the giant sandy wolf bounce around in the grass with his tiny little imprint.
"I don't think I've ever seen a couple more perfect for one another," I said, looking back to him. He raised his eyebrows. "Oh, right. Except us," I quickly amended, to which he rolled his eyes.
"Guess I've got a travel buddy," he said of Seth.
"Me too," I agreed, thinking about taking Dee home to La Push every weekend. I smiled at how much easier this seemed to be becoming for us.
We walked back towards my room, leaving the happy couple to play in the grass. "Now can we sleep?" I asked. "Or are there any more werewolves hiding in my room I should know about?"
He smiled, shaking his head, lifting me through the window.
We collapsed onto the bed, beyond exhausted. It felt so natural the way we fell into such a comfortable position together, given the limited space. Like two fitting puzzle pieces.
With only the sound of our steady breathing, I was beginning to drift after a couple of minutes, until Jared broke the silence. "I don't wanna be away from you," he admitted quietly. My heart broke a little. "I know you have to stay here and I have to go and I'll still see you a lot, but…" He held onto me a little tighter, not needing to continue for me to understand.
I wished I could somehow show him how much I loved him, more than I already had. I didn't want to be away from him either, but it felt like I was surer of us than he was. I felt immense guilt at that, knowing it was my fault that this doubt and fear had built up inside him. He knew I loved him, but obviously didn't know the extent. He could never leave me the way I left him.
I sat up in the bed, which immediately concerned him. "What are you doing?"
Ignoring his question, I got up, rummaging through a box on the other side of the room. Once I found what I was looking for, I climbed back into the bed with him and handed it over. "Here," I said.
He sat up, receiving it with both hands, looking closely at its surface. "What is it?" he asked.
"It's my diary. Or was my diary, I suppose. I've had it since I was six—since I fell in love with you."
I never ever, ever, ever, ever thought I'd see the day I would let Jared—the Jared—read my diary. But there wasn't anything in there for me to be ashamed of anymore. And it only felt right that he finally knew the truth. It was like physically handing my heart over to him.
"Since you were six? What do you mean?" he asked, flicking through the pages in awe.
"I mean, I've been in love with you since I was six years old. And I could never tell anyone, so I wrote all about it in here instead."
He stopped turning the pages, and just looked at me in utter disbelief. I waited for him to say something, but apparently he wasn't able to form coherent sentences yet, so I continued.
"So if you ever doubt my feelings, just read this and you'll know."
He blinked quickly a few times, looking back down at the pink hardcover book with our initials sketched in hearts and crooked handwriting. "This is amazing," he appraised in disbelief. He turned to the last pages. "Life isn't a fairy tale?"
I considered what I'd written for a second before answering, contemplating what my life had become as of late. I now lived in a world of magical love and mythical creatures and happily ever afters. It really didn't get anymore fairy tale than that the more I thought about it.
"Well, apparently I was wrong, because it obviously is. Or at least mine is."
He smiled, understanding what I meant, and leaned forward to kiss me, whispering his love for me in my ear shortly after. "Thank you," he said, his forehead leaning against mine. "I needed this."
I smiled back and leaned forward to kiss his nose, imitating the way he would do it to me. He chuckled a little, returning the gesture, whispering one last I love you, Kim. I love you so much, before we lay back down, ready to end this day and start the rest of our lives together.
He fell asleep almost immediately, finally at peace as he held me close, his arms protectively wrapped around me like a security blanket. Who was securing who, I don't know.
As I lay there in his embrace, everything that had happened pieced together in my head, forming a clear picture of what the future would look like between the four of us. Two couples, four best friends. It was a picture of love and friendship and happiness. It was a picture of never being alone, or feeling out of place again.
It was then I realized the escape I'd been aching for wasn't actually what I'd always imagined it to be. It wasn't a far away college, or physically running away from the confines of my life in La Push. It wasn't the moment I crossed the graduation line, or the day I left town. It wasn't even the act of doing anything or going anywhere like I'd always thought.
It was him.
It was Jared himself.
He was my escape.