Disclaimer: Absolutely nothing's changed since I've written my last Twilight disclaimer. I still don't own it.
I tossed the ball once more, trying to concentrate on the fifteen free throws I was supposed to be shooting. No such luck, I decided as the ball sailed through the air to land feet away from the hoop.
I ran to scoop up the ball and toss into one of the ball bins around the gym before grabbing my bag and heading for the parking lot. Sitting on the bench, I pulled out my iPod.
The old thing was battered and bruised from my years of abuse, but the black iPod was still a black iPod, and my initials were still tattooed onto the scratched back plate. I ran my fingers along the worn white writing. GMLB. My middle names ended up being Mary Lillian, and only my mother and I knew what they stood for. I just didn't understand why.
Why name your child after the very persons who hurt you in the past. Who left you to grow old and rot. Alone. Why? And she didn't even really like Rosalie.
I shoved the white ear-buds into my ears and turned the old thing on. Luckily, the iPod survived these six years, I think, of unfair treatment on my part, or I wouldn't be getting a new one.
Money was a pretty big issue in our home, and I was luckily I was extended some of the luxuries I got; I decided listening to a random Linkin Park song. My dad worked a couple jobs here and there, and my mom worked down at the Newton's store still. She'd been working there on minimum wage since she was a high school senior actually.
When grandpa died of a heart attack, he left the house and what little money he had to my mom. She decided she couldn't live there with all the memories the house held and sold it. The town of Forks was still a small town, but it had almost doubled in size in the last twenty two years. I guess that's why no-one's made a fuss about the Cullens. All the old residents are well… old. And most moved out, leaving the town filled with newer people. People who didn't know about the Cullens who lived here twenty two years ago… and the Cullens who moved back looking the same as they did twenty-two years ago. Maybe even looking the way they did centuries ago.
The bell went off then, but I didn't bother to move. Quil and Embry would find me if they looked hard enough.
I caught a glimpse of bronze hair, but as quickly as I'd seen it exit the building it was beside a little silver car. It wasn't a Volvo like my mom's stories featured, but a newer Ford model. Huh, I can't imagine anyone (with that amount of power, reputation or money) driving something like that now anyways. Someone like my mom/dad would be lucky to get a car like that.
Edward stood perfectly still, almost like a statue, gazing at me across the parking lot. I figured he must have been waiting on me to do something (and I sure wasn't planning on throwing myself into the road for a car to run over just so he could blow his cover and save), so I flipped him the bird with a smile. His features hardened and he turned away quickly, almost embarrassed.
Somehow, I found that amusing, so I chuckled quietly to myself.
"You know, talking to yourself is the first sign of insanity, and you were laughing with yourself. So, where does that put you on the list of mental patients?" Quil asked, coming behind me. The annoying know-it-all tone in his voice reminded me of a blonde vampire who I'd shared a run-in with only minutes earlier and my head snapped up to glare at him.
"Oh, it's just you." I couldn't help the disappointment that seeped into my words. That was an unexpected response. Masochistic much?
"Were you expecting someone else?" he asked, perching on the edge of the bench. I felt it creak beneath his weight. If this were Saturday-morning cartoons, I'd fly off the end like a see-saw.
"Not exactly," I replied, plucking out my ear buds and turning off the iPod. After stuffing those into the front pocket of my canvas bag, I glanced back over to the silver car.
Edward was still standing there, watching us with his eyebrows furrowed. This time, he was joined by the pretty blonde girl and the buff brunette dude I'd like to see pick a fight with Quil or Embry.
Speaking of my dad's other right-hand man. "Where's Embryo?" I asked, looking back at Quil.
"I should attack you for that seeing as your dad isn't here. But then I'd have to phase, and not only is this parking lot full of innocent teenagers, but there are five vampires watching us like a fucking science experiment," Embry's voice startled me.
"Hey, not my fault you got saddled with a stupid-ass name like Embry Call," I replied with a smirk.
"Wise-ass," Embry mumbled and Quil laughed.
"On a serious note, do you think this will start more La Push kids phasing? Remember last time vampires were in the area? Kids started from as young as thirteen," I asked them, thinking about the last time a coven almost this big came into the area.
"I don't know. They might shove you back in Quileute school, and then you wouldn't have a shot at your journalism dream, kiddo," Quil replied uncertainly. I almost flew up in a rage.
"No friggin' way! Just because a coven of vampires come around doesn't mean my parents shove me back into that stupid, stupid, stupid school!" I whisper-yelled causing Embry to slap a hand over my mouth. I bit down into his palm hard and tasted blood. I almost gagged and he released my hand.
"Don't. Do. That. Again," I pronounced each word sharply before trying to spit the taste of his blood out of my mouth.
"Did you have to bite so hard?" he demanded.
"Is it my fault genetics made my teeth so sharp?" I asked, wiping the corner of my mouth where Quil indicated there was blood.
Embry held out his palm to the light. The cut had already sealed, and there was only a faint pink scar. "Bitch," he hissed.
That did it and I stomped hard on his foot with a few choice curse words. "What is this? The pot calling the kettle black?" I spat sarcastically.
"You are a Black, and the Black blood flows freely through your veins," he raged, almost as angry and sounding a good couple years older. "Therefore, you are a dog. And, a female dog is a bitch."
"And you are also a dog. A big, pathetic dog that follows in my father's shadow like the glass-licker you are." I spared him a cold glare as I stormed off with a huff.
That was the first time I started to shudder. And I shuddered so violently, I had to lean against the wall of the nearest building and take shallow, panicked breaths. Once I had calmed, so did the shudders. I sank slowly to the ground and crumpled into a tiny heap. All I could think was, no, not me. Not now. Please, if there's a God out there, don't do this to me. Please, please, please… I chanted over and over in my head.
That is where Quil found me minutes later, tears streaming down my cheeks. He let out a sharp gasp before bending down to lift me off the ground. Apparently my parents had driven the car down to pick us up, and I wasn't in the parking lot waiting where I should have been so they sent Quil to get me.
He set me down in the backseat and got in on the other side. I curled up against the window and Quil slid across the seat to sit beside me and Embry against the other door. Embry was still fuming.
"Are you okay, Brie?" dad asked, glancing around. Mom was looking around worriedly. I quickly ducked my head and wiped my tears and glanced back up.
"Fine. Just overreacting as usual," I lied. Mom didn't buy it, but dad turned back to the wheel. I didn't meet her gaze, knowing her chocolate brown eyes (just like mine – only mine were bigger) would hold concern I couldn't deal with.
Mothers had a way of getting you to spill everything. When I started liking boys, I couldn't look at my mother for days. And then once I met her gaze and just spilled. And, in true mother fashion, she'd already known.
When I'd dented her old bike trying to learn to ride it, she cornered me the next morning as I woke up. She just said good morning and met my eyes. And, just like that, she knew. And I was grounded.
But this time I wouldn't… I couldn't tell her, or dad. They'd throw a fit and pull me out of school and lock me in the house. It'd be a pack issue. And just like that, it would be over. I wouldn't be given a chance to argue before they'd shove a 'fragile – combusts with pressure and flame' sign on my forehead.
We pulled up to the house, and mom opened the car door and let me out. Quil and Embry took off for the clearing, where I'd expect there would be a pack meeting.
"What aren't you telling me?" she asked in a whisper, concern lacing her voice. I jerked my chin in the direction of dad, who was unlocking the door. He would probably head upstairs and change quickly before heading out to the clearing. He was the Alpha, they'd wait.
He didn't want to be the Alpha, but time eventually caught up to him and he and Sam couldn't pull off the façade anymore. So, Sam stepped down and eventually learnt to control himself and stopped phasing, letting my dad step up. He didn't like it, but Aunt Leah slapped him into place and that did the trick.
The guys never used to like Leah, but I guess they respect her a bit more now. I adore her though. She seems to understand things no one else does. And I spend quite a bit of time with her. Plus, her dad died not long before my grandpa died, and of the same thing too. Probably all the famous fish-fry those two ate. And I guess she and mom mourned together for a while. Harry Clearwater, Billy Black and Charlie Swan were the three musketeers. And now Billy was the only one left, but he wasn't going as strong anymore.
"You'll tell me when he leaves?" she whispered. I shrugged, grabbing my bag and hitching it on my shoulder.
"I don't know." I followed her into the house and she headed to the kitchen to start whichever part of dinner would be her job today. We usually ate at Sam and Emily's, but everyone pitched in. Almost like a family. Brothers joined together with their wives and children, I concluded, that's our pack.
I heard the door close as dad slipped out and I went to my window to watch as he phased behind a bush and took off. His fur stayed almost the same, only seeming to darken as the years went by. He was enormous, almost as tall as I was, and I was pretty tall.
I took off my sneakers and went downstairs, where my mom was in the kitchen chopping up tomatoes which would join the bowl of vegetables on the counter. I took a seat at the kitchen table and watched her work.
"Mommy, I'm scared." I think the fear in my voice shocked her because she came and wrapped her arms around me. I doubted that even as a child, I'd never sounded that pathetic and vulnerable.
I'd been the little girl who'd sit on the big rock in the clearing and shimmy up trees as the pack discussed whatever issue they had until daddy was free to run around with me. I'd skin knees, and cut palms, and catch minor infections. And I wouldn't shed a tear. I'd fall from weak branches and climb right back up again, so I did surprise myself at the fear I'd shown at the possibility of starting to phase.
"Gabrielle, what's wrong?" she asked, pulling me to her as I cried. "Tell me all about it. And don't leave anything out," she ordered firmly.
"Well, today I skipped Biology; Edward's in my class and I didn't really feel like going anyways. I was feeling off, so I went to the gym and tried to shoot a couple free throws. But then Jasper came in, and asked a couple harmless questions… but then I dared him to bite me," I paused for the fussing about which didn't come. "And he called me a dog. It didn't bother me, really, because I was looking for a distraction. And to them, I am a dog.
"But then, after school I might have said a couple things to Embry and he got upset and started talking about me being a Black, and therefore being a dog. I think he was just angry though. Then I said some offensive stuff because I was pretty hurt and then walked off. I realized was shuddering by then.
"And I'm scared, because the last time a coven roughly the same size as the Cullens was in the area, kids started phasing like crazy. Even thirteen year olds. And I don't want to phase," I sobbed.
She was silent for a few minutes, allowing me to cry for a while. "It's not exactly the end of the world, Gabi."
"It's the end of my world. I can't just go around perfectly fine on the outside, but a ticking time bomb on the inside. I'm not going to be the same Gabrielle Black anymore. I won't be able to be a journalist."
"I know you had your heart set on that, but you can always do it when you're older," she suggested.
"Yeah, for the Forks Local Paper."
"But you're still going to be my daughter, Gabrielle Black. I don't think it'll change anything," she tried to reassure me.
"No. You said yourself, you pity Aunt Leah. You also told me about how hard it is being the only girl in the entire pack. And what Leah must be going through," I reminded her. "And soon I'll have probably joined her."
"That's not true. There's some good to being in the pack," she argued.
"Like what? Having your dad know all your secrets? No, no. Having the entire pack know all your secrets?"
She sighed. "You're right. But I doubt there's anything I can do about that, honey."
"Me either," I mumbled. "Me either."
"I guess you can go back to Forks High though. Maybe. In a couple years. Plus, you wouldn't really have grown, so no-one would know. You could even go to a better high school, and do some big-time journalism. How does that sound?"
"Like a circus act."
"Well, yeah… but it's all we can do now. If it's going to happen then it's going to happen. Whether we like it or not. But, you've only shuddered once, right? And you haven't started the… more uncomfortable parts yet. So you can stay in school a while longer."
"Well, people wouldn't really care. We could make up a big story about me being emotionally depressed and having to go to rehab or something while I burst out of my clothes and scare townspeople. Ooh, I could maybe even kill some wild animals!" I said sarcastically, causing her to smile.
"There's my baby. My big, strong baby who thinks she doesn't need her mommy anymore," my mom laughed.
"I'll always need my mommy," I mumbled against her hair.
And earlier today all I could think about was how cavemen didn't need to go to school to learn to kill and eat meat raw. Ha, looks like I won't either. Careful what you wish for.
A/N: Second chapter, I felt like I owed you, my two reviewers. *sigh* Two reviewers ... and six times the number of alerts. This bothers me.