Chapter 12.

Nessie – surfing

When I started back at school, I noticed how often my friends mentioned Jake's name in automatic coupling with mine. It wasn't that anyone exactly called him my boyfriend, more that they acknowledged a link between us. How had I never noticed this before? No wonder no boy at school had ever asked me on a date. It wasn't that I wanted them to, but they wouldn't have dared, even if I had! I must have been blind.

I became far more aware of how Jacob behaved towards me and I noticed another glaring fact. He had changed. Looking back over the last few months, I realised that something was missing from our old free and easy relationship. Jake had become cautious around me.

This was another bombshell. My secret fear had been that things would change between us. But I was a fool, change was happening under my very nose and I hadn't even noticed. The old Jacob was slipping away and I there wasn't a thing I could do about it. It made me feel resentful, why did he have to spoil everything?

I worried about it, but was unable to find a solution to the problem. I found myself going to the beach to surf more than usual. It was an easy way to clear my mind. I often went alone. It was cold weather and the beaches were frequently empty.

One Saturday morning I headed down to La Push, arriving just before dawn. I turned my eyes to the east; I wouldn't see the sun rise over the trees today. The low grey clouds were too thick. First Beach was deserted, but the forecast had been right, conditions looked good. I changed quickly into my wetsuit and I pulled my board from the roof of my car. I tied back my hair and carried my board down to the beach. A heavy salt spray was billowing off the sea. I couldn't hear much over the crashing waves.

I walked along the shore, my eyes scanning the horizon. The sun was coming; I could almost smell it. The driftwood on the beach became more visible every second. The sea still looked black. I took a deep breath and ran into the surf.

"Nessie!" I heard the call above the waves. Scanning the beach, I spotted Jacob. Seth must have told him I was coming down. I paddled swiftly to shore and met him on the sand. He took my board and slung it under his arm, putting the other arm over my shoulder, dwarfing me.

"How long were you out?" He asked casually.

"A couple of hours."

"See any sharks?"

"Yeah, I poked one in the eye!" I grinned and he squeezed my shoulder.

"Have you had enough for the day?"

"Sure."

We sat down on the sand. He didn't bother to ask if I was chilly; he knew I wasn't. My natural warmth was pretty useful, especially when the sea was so cold. I turned to him.

"So, when are you going to take me to see Rebecca?" Jacob's sister was married to a surfer and lived in Hawaii. I had secretly been dying to go there and surf. What better person to stay with than a local? And now I was out in the world, the trip finally seemed possible.

I glanced up, expecting to see him smiling approvingly. He wasn't. Instead he avoided catching my eye altogether. That was unusual in itself. I waited impatiently for him to look at me. When he didn't, I frowned, unsure what to say. Had I done something wrong?

"Jake, are you ok?"

"Sure, sure." He continued to look away.

"Is it something I said?" I felt uneasy and embarrassed.

He sighed and took my hand. "No, it's not your fault. I just don't like disappointing you."

"What do mean?" I bit my lip and turned my face towards the blustering wind. I wasn't entirely sure that I wanted to know, I tried to brace myself for a knock-back.

"I don't want to lie to you, but I don't know how to say this in way that won't upset you." He gave me an anxious smile. I didn't feel reassured and gazed at him with wide eyes.

"I don't think that it would be a good idea for you to stay with Rebecca." He spoke cautiously and I could detect an underlying concern.

"Why not?" I felt sick, as if I was failing a hidden test. What did his sister know about me, did she think badly of me?

"It's nothing personal," he added hurriedly, "it's just her two boys. I wouldn't want them to end up like me."

I was confused. "What do you mean?"

"You know that when vampires are around the wolf gene kicks into action." I nodded mechanically. "If they lived here, they would be the right age to join the pack. The only thing stopping it is the fact that they haven't had contact with a vampire…" He trailed off nervously. There was nothing else to say. He knew I could join up the rest of the dots.

My mind raced. I was an idiot not to have realised before. Maybe because no one had been unkind enough to point it out. They had always made me welcome, allowed me onto their land, but the naked truth stared me in the face. I finally saw myself as the pack saw me. I was part of the curse that rested on Jacob and his wolf family.

Somehow, it didn't make the pill less bitter because the first wolves had turned before I was born. Jake knew the danger that I represented, he knew it well enough to keep me away from his nephews. He didn't want me to infect them.

I sat for a moment, rejected, horrified and filled with self-loathing. I couldn't even bring myself to look at Jacob. I could feel his eyes upon me, unsure of my reaction. He put his hand lightly on my shoulder.

"Honey, are you ok?"

I jumped to my feet as if I had been electrocuted. My only thought was of escape. I was far too big a coward to continue this humiliating conversation. I couldn't bear seeing myself as I really was. My board lay forgotten on the sand as I started running up the beach.

"Nessie, wait..!" Jacob was on his feet in pursuit. He ran after me, but I knew that he wouldn't be able to catch me in human form.

I just kept running until I reached my car. I yanked the door open and jumped in, soaking the seat. I didn't look back as I hit the accelerator. I just wanted to get away as fast as I could. I knew I was being immature. I knew that I should be able to talk about this like a rational person. I knew that Jacob would never try to hurt me. I knew it, but I couldn't feel it.

I was almost at the border of the reservation when I found that my path was blocked by a huge red-brown woof. He stood in the middle of the road, staring at me. I stayed in the car and met his eyes. I shook my head slightly. I thought for a second that he was going to say where he was, but after a moment he stepped out of the way and let me drive on.

I don't think I registered a single thing about the drive home. I just sped along the road trying to put as much distance as possible between myself and the reservation. All the time I was trying to block out the picture of myself that Jake's words had revealed. I felt as if I was looking into a hideous distorted mirror.

I knew that my family weren't allowed on Quileute land, but I realised now that that rule should have applied to me too. My temptation for human blood was something that I had gained a strong control over as a child. It was something that I never even thought about, unlike my vampire family. But now I saw that my very existence was a threat to everyone there, even if my actions were harmless. The very air that I breathed could change them irreversibly.

I didn't know where to go. If I went home, then my father would know what had happened. I didn't want him to be angry with me or Jacob, and most of all I was too ashamed at the thought of him knowing. It was hardly logical. He already knew exactly how things were with the wolves, but somehow it would make my shame far more real, if we spoke about it.

I couldn't go to Grandpa's either, Seth was there. He might talk to Jacob and find out what had happened. Was there anywhere that I could go where I wouldn't be mortified? And Seth was another victim of the wolf curse. That was what decided it; I wasn't able to look Seth in the face right now. I drove to the big house.

Thankfully, the house was empty when I arrived. Mom and Dad had gone hunting the day before and had not yet returned. I let myself in and went straight up to my room to hide. I heard them return and tried desperately to think of something else. I recited song lyrics for ten minutes, but memories of my disastrous morning kept popping into my head.

"Nessie, what's going on?" My mother gently opened the door to my room.

"What did Dad say?" I watched her warily. She sat down on the bed next to me.

"He didn't tell me, he just suggested that I talk to you." I had hand it to my dad, at least he wasn't a complete snitch. I deliberated for a moment and then put my hand to her face, showing her, and my father downstairs, the whole shameful episode. As soon as I had finished, I buried my tearful face in my pillow. She put out her hand and stroked my hair.

"I know that Jake would never hurt you on purpose."

I nodded, my face still hidden in the bedding. "I know. I'm not angry with him."

"Then what is it, sweetheart?" She was so sympathetic that I raised my head to look at her face. Her beautiful amber eyes were full of worry.

"It's me. There's something wrong with me and nothing that anyone says can change that."

"None of us think that. Jacob doesn't think that." She said earnestly.

"I think you're deluding yourselves." I turned my face away, to hide the tears that were streaming down my cheeks. "Please, I just need to be alone for a bit."

"Are you sure?" She hesitated.

"Please, Mom."

"If you need me, just call." She kissed my cheek left the room. I was sorry to see her go, but my thoughts were so painful and chaotic, I was relieved to be left on my own. I tried to block out the sound of my parents murmuring in the living room. I was there for about an hour when another sound reached me that was impossible to ignore.

I could recognise Jacob's car engine anywhere. I froze. I wasn't ready to see him. My mind raced. I listened as he pulled up and heard the sound of my surf board scraping as he lifted it off his car roof.

I heard my dad's quiet voice. "Hi Jake, how's it going?"

"I think you know," was Jacob's tense reply. He then added in a calmer tone. "Nessie left her board at the beach. I didn't want her to lose it."

"Thanks for bringing it back." I heard Jake pass him the surf board.

"Listen Edward, I really need to speak to her." I cringed at the hurt that filtered through his voice. But I couldn't bring myself to go downstairs and face him. I can't, I can't the words screamed in my head. My father couldn't have escaped hearing me.

"I don't think she's ready to talk yet." He said, speaking as kindly as he could.

My mother interrupted him. "She's not angry, Jake, she's just confused." She sounded really upset. Listening to her unhappy voice, I chastised myself. I was a horrible person, putting all of them into this situation.

"I should never have said anything; I don't know what the hell I was thinking!" Jake sounded angry and regretful.

There was a thoughtful tone in my father's voice as he answered. "You had no choice; you have a duty to protect your family. It's not possible to shield Nessie from the truth; and even if you could, I don't think she'd want you to. Don't blame yourself for something that isn't your fault."

He's right, Jake. It is my fault.

"But I don't know for sure, maybe she wouldn't affect my nephews that way."

"Maybe not, but you would be foolish to take a gamble over such a serious thing."

There was a long silence. I held my breath, listening intently.

Finally Jacob sighed. "I didn't mean to hurt her. She must know that?" He sounded painfully unsure.

I covered my ears with my hands. I was such a coward. I wasn't sure how much more of this I could stand. Maybe I could escape out of the back door…

"Jacob," my dad's firm voice broke through my agonised internal monologue. "We know you care about Nessie. But the most helpful thing you could do right now is give her some space."

There was silence as Jacob considered my father's words. Then my dad spoke again, in answer to an unspoken request.

"Of course I will. Don't worry."

"Alright," Jake sounded resigned. "I'll see you guys soon."

I heard him climb into his car and my mother's pained voice.

"I'm sure it won't be long."

He didn't reply, maybe he couldn't. Right now, I wasn't sure that I wanted to know. I just buried myself under my pillow. I was in my room until the early afternoon. When I finally emerged – with dry, burning eyes – I found my mother in the living room, reading.

"Hi…" I paused in the doorway. "Sorry about earlier."

She looked up. "Are you ok?"

"Sure," I lied, badly. "How was Jake?"

"He seemed pretty upset." She caught my eye. "I think you should speak to him."

I ambled into the room, avoiding her gaze. "I know, I will. But…" I'm a coward.

"Don't leave it too long."

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