The tiny black backpack with a large "Q" embroidered in the center sat next to the door caught my attention. A Spiderman figurine stuck out of the top. The zipper snuggly zipped around the toy securing it in place. Sitting next to the backpack was a bright yellow plastic lunchbox with stickers of various breeds of dogs plastered everywhere except the very center where a large Batman emblem peaked through. On top of the lunch box, written in neat motherly writing, were the initials "Q.A." and then a smudge of black next to it.
I sipped on the glass of orange juice in my hand and wondered what it was about super heroes that little boys loved so much. Even as a little boy, I had sat on the floor of the living room eating my cereal and watching X-Men wishing that someday I would be a real bonafide super hero. Little did I know then, that I would somehow become the super hero of our reservation. Instead of a sidekick, I had a pack of brothers that supported me through everything.
They were there for me when I had lost it all. They stood strong and waited as I foiled through woman after woman searching for what I had already found once. But, the pain inside of me never died down. It never wavered. It never once faded. Yet, here I stood, watching kids in my front yard play before they headed to camp. Their toys, bags, backpacks, all sat in my living room waiting to be stuffed in the trunk of a car and driven off to camp for the next 2 weeks.
I'd come so far. I'd been beaten and bruised, broken and confused. But, I survived and my heart…it was intact now. It was full of hope, freedom, and love. Once the pessimist turned optimist over night. But, I hadn't always been the pessimist just during those times and while…I tried to find my way back. And I had. I was back. Jacob Ephraim Black was back and ready to take on the world just like a super hero would.
A part of me secretly hoped that the little boy in the front yard with the chocolate brown eyes and deep black shaggy hair would see me as a super hero. I smirked at myself. Maybe…like Wolverine from X-Men.
Just as the thought entered my head, the little boy turned around and ran toward the front porch. I stepped out the screen door to meet him – a silent hope inside of me that he'd never have to go through the pain, the anguish that I had been through.
"I'm thirsty!" his tiny hand ran over his forehead, wiping the sweat away.
"What do ya want," I asked dipping on my knees to meet him face to face.
I'd learned over the years that meeting a child – any child – face to face made them feel a little more important, like their opinion mattered. That's how my mom used to talk to me, eye level and straight on. Never once did I feel like she towered over me with orders and dictatorship.
His perfect smile spread across his thick lips. "What's that?" His dirt covered finger pointed to my glass of orange juice. "Can I have a drink of that?"
"Of course you can, buddy," I laughed and handed him the half full glass of orange juice and stood back up.
Six years ago, I would have punched someone in the stomach if they told me that I would have all of this. That my life would work out and the pain was only temporary. I couldn't see past the red, past the ache, past the dark crevice in my chest. Automatically, my fingers ran across the left side of my chest as a faint memory sprung in my mind. That memory caused a mirage of pictures to float across my mind. The last one…the very last one…jerked my body with a familiar ache. The blood bath. The death. The broken pack. What had happened had been my fault no matter how many times they told me it wasn't. I knew it was. There was nothing I could do to change it. Quil would never believe this.
The slurping boy jerked on the leg of my jeans. Kneeling down to his eye level, I smiled at the familiar face reflecting back at me with an orange juice mustache. A chuckle escaped me. With my thumbs, I wiped away the orange juice from his upper lip. He reached the cup back to me and smiled.
"What do you say?"
"Do you want more?"
The boy shook his head with a goofy smile and wrapped his arms around my neck. The hug took me by surprised but was welcomed. I'd miss the little guy even if he was only gone for a week.
The screen door shut loudly and a huff broke the silence.
"Q, it's time to go."
"Aw, MOOOOMMM!" he whined. His arms were still wrapped tightly around my neck.
"Listen to your Mother," I whispered kissing the top of his head.
"Boys don't kiss boys!"
I chuckled at his response. I had taught him that. No harm done.
"Q. Listen, you be good at camp ok?"
"And listen to your Mom on the way there." I smirked when he shoved his hands in his pockets and shuffled his feet. He nodded his head and dropped his eyes to the ground.
A hand rested on my shoulder and squeezed. Bella knew this was hard for me to do. Not once in his 5 years had I been away from him for more than a day or two. This was an entire week, but I didn't let the concern show. I knew that if I needed to, I could faze and run the half hour to the camp and see him. Just to make sure he was ok.
"I'll miss you," Q sniffed back.
"I'll miss you too, bud. And listen, if you ever need me, you just blow this, alright?" From my pocket, I pulled a dog whistle. It was a gift from Bella on my 21st birthday. A bad joke, but hey, it came in handy in situations like this. Not that I had ever been in a situation like this. I had secured the whistle on a thin piece of leather. Quickly, I tied it around his bare neck and grabbed his chin with my thumb and forefinger.
"Here. Can you put his shirt on him while I grab the keys?"
"Mom, is that my good shirt? I hope it is. I want to make sure I have my good shirt on that way the girls will like me." Q grabbed the shirt from my shoulder and looked it over. "Do you think they'll make mud pies with me?"
I laughed breathily as those memories flooded back in my brain. A soft giggle came from the living room. I nodded my head. "Sure, they will."
"Mom! This is the wrong shirt! I want the one with the wolf on it!"
"Q. You already packed that shirt. Just wear that one."
I raised an eyebrow at him with a stern face. "Wear this one to camp. You can wear the wolf one on the night of the dance, ok?" I took the shirt from Q's hand and helped him put it on.
"But…but…" He whined.
"Alright, but, I really like the wolf shirt."
"I know you do. Wear it on a special occasion."
"Yup. Like the dance. You'll get all the chicks that way." I winked at him and stood up.
"Jacob, do not teach him that!"
"Yes, mom!" I laughed only to be greeted with a bump of the shoulder.
"Alright, let's head out Q."
"Bye!" he waved and took off toward the car.
"Thanks." Bella whispered leaning forward and pecking me on the cheek. Her rounded belly made it hard for a hug. I placed both of my hands on her growing belly and smiled as a small nudge pelted my hand.
"Be careful." I whispered returning the kiss to her sweetly and hugging her from behind.
"You have precious cargo, ya know?" I playfully stated, although I was serious as a heart attack.
"I know." Her eyes glowed as they drifted over me.
Turning toward the screen door, I noticed the bright yellow lunch box nestled snug against the wall. I grabbed it and quickly turned back to find everyone inside of the car. I held the lunch box up and yelled, "Q! Lunchbox."
Q darted out of the car door and ran bare footed across the muddy grass. He jumped up the two steps onto the front porch and reached for it.
I stooped down and held the dog covered lunch box out to Q so that he could grab it by the handle.
"You're welcome." I patted him on the head and stood up turning toward the door.
"Wait." He tugged my jeans again, and I quickly stood at his level again.
"You know why I have all these dog stickers on my lunch box?" Q looked over each of the stickers attentively. His eyes never left the confines of his dog covered Batman lunchbox.
"No, why?" I watched him stare at the dogs.
"'Cause when I grow up, I'm gonna be a wolf!" He snarled his teeth at me and growled a hollow growl.
I nearly fell back on my ass as I laughed whole heartedly at the little boy who knew way too much about his future already.
"You can be whatever you wanna be, bud, but right now if you don't get in that car and go to camp, Mom is probably gonna whip both of us."
Q tilted his head to the side and smiled. "That would be funny!"
The way he held his head sent a shockwave of memories through me. I remembered that look. Q looked a lot like Quil, especially with his head tilted like that. It had been six years since we lost Quil. Seth and Leah Clearwater had joined the pack not too many days after Quil's death. It was our ancestor's way of assuring our survival. For that I was grateful, because one year to the day of Quil's death, Bella gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, who we thoughtfully named Quil Aterra Black. We called him "Q" for short, and out of respect for the true Quil Aterra, whose body was peacefully laid to rest not on ancient spiritual grounds deep in the woods.
A part of me, though, saw the same twinkle in Q's eyes as Quil had in his when he was about to pull off some mischievous prank. Every so often, Q would say things, things that he shouldn't know about at the tender age of five. Those thoughts only led me to believe that somehow Q's soul was a reincarnation of Quil. The only proof I had was in my old, bruised, and beaten heart.
Someday I would tell my son all about Quil, but he was a little too young for those types of stories now. Maybe then, I would find out the truth behind my son's soul. Until then, I'd have to be sure that I protected him in ways I never protected my best friend, my brother.
I reached out and wrapped Q up in a giant bear hug. "Love you kid." I said into his ear and kissed the side of his head.
"Love you too, Dad. Can I go now?" Q, somehow, had become bored with staring at his lunchbox. I nodded, and sent him on his way.
Q had made it half way to the car when he turned back. His tiny face scrunched up, and he nodded his head as if someone had told him something. "Hey Dad."
"Yeah, bud." I answered.
"Uncle Quil is happy you finally forgave Mom."
"What?" I was stricken back with confusion. Bella and I hadn't fought since, well, since she had come back all those years ago. "What are you talking about, son?"
"You know, when Mom left and came back. Uncle Quil is happy you forgave her. You were always who she was supposed to be with." Q, my five year old son, spoke of a time when he hadn't quite been thought of. Just before he turned around to go, Q smiled this bright, toothy grin that I swear had Quil written all over it.
At that moment, I realized everything that had happened between Bells and me had happened the way it was supposed to. And, if Quil were here right now, he'd be taunting me with his loud and annoying "I Told You So's".