A Look in the Mirror
Jacob didn't answer; he only stared blankly into the distance, unwilling to acknowledge my presence. I fought the instinct to just give up and walk away.
"I'll wait as long as I have to, Jacob," I said. I wasn't really sure if I meant it, but hopefully he would believe me. "I'm not going anywhere. Take your time."
Jacob grunted. That was an improvement; any response was better than awkward silence. Again, I struggled against the part of me that was screaming that this was a bad idea. The other, smaller part of me knew that I couldn't just leave Jacob to his misery.
Unlike the rest of the werewolves, I knew how it had felt to be rejected. Sam had loved me – I believed that he still did – but his powerful, passionate love for Emily had overshadowed his love for me.
Now Jacob was facing the same problem. Although I'd never exactly been friends with Bella Swan, I knew every detail of the intricate love triangle that had formed around her, Jacob, and the bloodsucker. I'd seen it all through Jacob's eyes, through his mind. It was like looking through a magnifying glass, seeing things you'd never even noticed, and suddenly viewing everything around you in a different light. As reluctant as I was to admit it, I cared about Jacob. I understood him, and not just because I'd seen his every move, heard his every thought.
I knew how it felt to watch your soul mate find someone else, just as Jacob had watched Bella choose Edward over him. I knew how it felt to have your closest friend lie to you, keep secrets, just as Bella had initially hidden Edward's true nature from Jacob. I knew how it felt to truly love someone, to believe that they felt the same about you, and then to watch with horror as they took your heart, threw it away, and damaged it forever.
Jacob continued to stare off into the distance. Maybe this was hopeless – I had better things to do besides waiting for him to acknowledge my presence. But, somehow, I couldn't just let Jacob suffer. He hated me, but he needed me. I wanted him to understand that I knew exactly how he felt, and maybe we could help each other pull through the heartbreak, because we both knew what it was like to be rejected.
"Come on, Jacob, do you think this is going to take too much longer?" I asked, trying to be polite. Somewhere in my throat, my voice changed into an impatient whine. Jacob clenched his teeth, and then responded in that annoyingly calm tone that always got on my nerves.
"Jump off a cliff, Leah." He gestured to the one he was sitting on.
Just like Jacob, I didn't get angry. I was used to the other wolves and all their dirty names for me. I hated every insult, but I tried not to let it get to me anymore. If I didn't let the words sink in, they couldn't hurt me.
"Really, kid," I grumbled. I slid into a sprawl beside Jacob, still calm and casual. Every muscle in my body screamed at me to turn and run, to leave Jacob to his brooding, to worry about my own problems. I fought back and stayed put. Turning to Jacob, I admitted, "You have no idea how hard this is for me."
"For you?" Jacob was somewhere between amused and infuriated. He was still looking away from me, refusing to make eye contact. "You have to be the most self-absorbed person alive, Leah. I'd hate to shatter the dream world you live in – the one where the sun is orbiting the place where you stand – so I won't tell you how little I care what your problem is. Go. Away."
I felt anger rising up in me again, but I shoved Jacob's words out of my mind, catapulted them far away, where they couldn't hurt me, couldn't have any meaning. In only a moment, I had forgotten them, left them drifting in an empty void. Obviously, if I wanted to avoid an altercation with Jacob, I needed to get right to the point, to the fact that I understood his pain, that I cared, that I wasn't the harpy that he thought I was.
"Just look at this from my perspective for a minute, okay?" I asked.
Jacob's face changed, then, and I thought that he was going to yell at me. His teeth unclenched, his mouth closed, then opened, and he started…
Was I only a joke to Jacob? A comedy act?
"Stop snorting and pay attention!" I requested. It sounded more like begging. At this rate, Jacob would never believe me when I explained that I empathized with him. He'd just think that I was joking.
"If I pretend to listen, will you leave?" Jacob asked, finally stifling his laughter. For a moment, I wanted to do exactly that – leave – but I couldn't. I reminded myself that Jacob needed me, and I stayed put.
Finally, Jacob looked me in the eyes for a brief moment, and then looked away again, pretending that I didn't exist. I grew angrier, but I tried to rein in my emotions, to make them work for me instead of the other way around.
Why couldn't Jacob just take me seriously? Couldn't he think, for just one moment, about something besides Bella? I could almost read his thoughts, even though we weren't wolves at the moment.
Bella. Bella. Bella.
That was all that Jacob had thought about ever since he'd discovered her plans to marry the bloodsucker.
I'd come here to console Jacob, to tell him that I understood, but everything suddenly bubbled up inside – all of his hateful thoughts about me, his harsh words, his disrespect. Couldn't he look at the world through my eyes for just one moment? I wanted to help him, but he was too judgmental to even consider that as a possibility. Did anything matter to him apart from Bella? It was bordering on obsessive – I had dreamed about kissing her only the night before!
In that moment, somehow, all of my emotions went to my mouth, and suddenly I was yelling at Jacob instead of trying to console him.
"This is making me sick, Jacob. Can you imagine what this feels like to me? I don't even like Bella Swan, and you've got me grieving over this leech-lover like I'm in love with her, too! Can you see where that might be a little confusing? I dreamed about kissing her last night. What the hell am I supposed to with that?"
"Do I care?" Jacob interrupted, inflectionless. I knew that he didn't, and that made me even angrier. I continued, furious, consumed by my rage. I hardly even knew what I was saying; all of my emotions exploded in one wild tirade.
"I can't stand being in your head anymore. Get over her, already. She's going to marry that thing. He's going to try to change her into one of them. Time to move on, boy."
"Shut up!" Jacob growled. His eyes were voids of animalistic fury, his teeth clenched unnaturally tight. It was a wonder that he hadn't fazed yet. Somehow, I didn't even want to comfort him anymore. I wanted revenge, to get back at him for all of the things he'd said and done that had hurt me. He had ignored my pain when Sam had rejected me; now it was time for him to get what he deserved. I tried to think of something to say that would cut deep into Jacob's heart. It hardly took a moment. Soon, I had the perfect insult, the one thing that would strike Jacob's weak point and leave him as miserable as he had often made me feel.
"He'll probably just kill her, anyway," I said. "All the stories say that happens more often than not. Maybe a funeral will be better closure than a wedding. Ha!"
Jacob closed his eyes, trying to control himself. Tremors were running down his back, and he fought them, trying to keep control. I smiled. Finally, he would see how I felt, what it was like to have lost your true love while the rest of the world ignored your pain.
Jacob glowered at me. "If you're upset about gender confusion, Leah," he began. He separated each word, sharpening it into a knife that would cut especially deep. He continued, "How do you think the rest of us like looking at Sam through your eyes? It's bad enough that Emily has to deal with your fixation. She doesn't need us guys panting after him, too."
I tried to block Jacob's words, to shut them out, to order them away. But the words were too strong, too personal, and they broke down all of my mental defenses. Each word sunk in, slowly, like a long needle, and I felt indescribable pain in my chest, in my fragile heart. Sam had already broken it – did Jacob really have to damage it further?
The pain in my chest continued, and it was joined by anger. This anger was different than before, more animalistic. I was going to faze at any moment. I struggled to find myself amidst the emotional pain and the tremors racing through me, and somehow I stumbled to my feet. And then, vengefully, not wanting to let Jacob have the last word, I paused to spit in his direction. Finally, sure that I would transform at any moment, I darted away, my whole body shaking more than it ever had before.
Somewhere far behind, Jacob laughed callously. "You missed."
At that, I felt myself tumbling forwards, burning heat overcoming me. I felt my body explode, thin gray hair blasting out of it on all sides as I landed on all fours. I'd never quite gotten used to phasing – it was disorienting and painful. It happened whenever I didn't want it to, and it forced me to share my thoughts with the rest of the pack. Fortunately, I was the only one in wolf form at the moment.
Despite my desperately needed solitude, Jacob's malicious words continued to hurt, like an infected cut. I understoodJacob, but that didn't justify his actions. We had so much in common… why was he so much crueler?
Then it hit me.
Was he? Or was Jacob a mirror, a look into how I appeared to the rest of the pack? His disrespect, his obsession with Bella… it was all a mirror. I was just as cruel to the rest of the pack, purposefully remembering things that they had all tried to forget. I had pushed my own problems, my own hopeless, but passionate love for Sam, on the other wolves. I remembered Jacob's words, for the first time seeing the truth in them.
How do you think the rest of us like looking at Sam through your eyes? It's bad enough that Emily has to deal with your fixation.
I recalled his earlier insult.
You have to be the most self-absorbed person alive, Leah. I'd hate to shatter the dream world you live in – the one where the sun is orbiting the place where you stand – so I won't tell you how little I care what your problem is.
Although I was afraid to admit it, I knew the truth, and the realization was burning me alive. I was just as self-absorbed as Jacob. It was no wonder that the wolf pack hated me.
I didn't think I'd ever be able to stand Jacob again. We were very much alike, but that made everything worse. It made his every word cut even deeper, and it made it painful to look him in the eyes, knowing that I was looking in a mirror. I saw myself in Jacob – my own miserable, rejected self – and I saw my own faults and weaknesses. And still, I was stuck sharing my innermost thoughts with him. I remembered something else, something that Jacob had said to Bella, that I had seen in his thoughts.
No privacy. No secrets. Everything you're ashamed of, laid out for everyone to see.
I didn't have any secrets anymore. And for the rest of my life – which might be very long, since I wasn't aging – I would always have to share my mind with Jacob. As long as I lived, I would have to look into a mirror, to watch myself reflected in the face of Jacob Black.