This was such a challenge to write. The idea for the story came into my head pretty suddenly and would not leave me alone, so I sat down and wrote this 5-part story in about a week. I had a lot of help with getting this story ready from many ladies over at The Air, the Sun. Thank you all so much!
Songs from Different Times
And as the sun died / I promised that I'd seek you out / Well now the years have weathered me
broken records – a promise
Mechanically, Jacob shoved the food into his mouth, barely chewing, barely aware of any taste. His motions were sporadic, short, lifeless.
Yet, no one seemed to notice how life was slowing being soaked out of Jacob Black's veins. How his eyes turned more dull with every seemingly pointless morning he woke up, how his smiles became less sunny, always less honest until, finally, they became a rarity. Only to be seen in exquisite moments he specifically chose to keep up this endless charade.
Because that is what his life had become over the past three decades. A game. An odd reality that seemed more and more like an endless rehearsal for something grander.
This could not be it.
The food he was eating – Jacob was sure it was delicious. In the very early days, he had enjoyed Esme's cooking. But his sense for taste had been blunted over the years, just like the constant sticky sweet smell that surrounded him had killed of his sense of smell.
Sometimes, Jacob thought that his sense to feel had disappeared along with them.
There were few things Jacob Black still felt these days. Most of them, he wished would just disappear like the rest.
"Jake, could you hand me the potatoes?" Leah's voice echoed into Jacob's thoughts, ringing like alarm bells in his ears.
Without glancing in the direction, he grabbed the bowl of baked potatoes, handing them across the table to Leah. He dared to look up from his own plate for a split second, seeing Leah take the bowl from his hand and for the fragment of the second he dared to stare, he saw a flicker of Seth's face reflecting from hers.
Seth was the reason Jacob avoided looking at Leah in her human form these days. She knew, of course she knew. She had not intentionally looked into a mirror for almost seven years, afraid of the downpour of sadness that overcame her at the memory of her brother – his memory always and forever etched onto her own face. Maybe literally.
Jacob had never thought of the two of them as looking tremendously alike. But he realized with time, that the only reason for that was the difference in the way they wore how they looked. The life that had always been lacking Leah's smile and the absent shine in her eyes had reflected twice as much from Seth.
On rare occasions, when Leah dared to smile, Jacob could hardly bear being in the same room as her. He could feel the echoes of Seth's warmth, hear the faint memory of his laughter. Saw debris of his smile in hers.
To say that he missed Seth would be an understatement. When he had imprinted seven years ago, an anchor had been ripped from beneath Jacob. He had let him go, happy, that at least Seth would finally live a life like they all should. But a selfish part of him had wanted his friend to stay, to dwell in the same misery like he himself, to stick with him until the end of time.
They had agreed that not staying in touch would be best and easiest for all of them. Just like they barely had any contact to anyone else. They lived in a different world, and over the years it had turned out that there was no point in clinging onto the past. It just hurt too much.
Jacob had suggested that Leah should go with Seth, finally live a life, stop phasing. Be happy. But she would not even listen to him, treating his voice like the wind. Who answers the wind?
Suddenly, Jacob felt the spider web of his thoughts dissolving around him, started to perceive his surroundings more and more, heard a soft, gentle voice whispering his name, the warm touch of a hand on his bare arm.
"Jacob, are you alright?"
He hated this. Hated how her mere presence prevented him from dwelling too deep in his thoughts, how the sound of her voice – asking for him – pulled him away from his own mind. How his free will dripped out of him at her order.
He knew it was not her fault, she did not even know the effect she had on him. Never would he put that pressure on her. He literally could never do that.
Jacob's head turned without him giving the order, and one of his masquerade smiles stretched his unwilling lips apart, the sore ache in his cheeks tearing at his insides.
Looking at Renesmee's compassionate face, Jacob just nodded. She would believe him, never knowing that this was a different person answering her than the one that had imprinted on her all these years ago. This new Jacob was what she was used to. The small changes she did not notice. There was no way for her to know the person he once was. So, how could she differentiate that person from the one he had become?
She smiled at him, continuing to eat her Popsicle, one of the only real foods that she did eat. It had bothered Jacob at first, the fact that she preferred blood over real food. It seemed so cruel, the image of this young, pale but healthy looking girl, lips stained with blood. But eventually, Jacob had to accept it. Not that he ever had a choice not to.
Her hand remained on his arm, always holding on to him in some way. She would hold his hand, hug him, sit on his lap although there were plenty of empty seats in the house. Still, it was all platonic. They were friends, would always only be friends. Jacob was sure of that. So, he tried to explain her need to be physically close to him with the imprint. He never knew how Quil's imprint on Claire had eventually formed their relationship – had had not heard from his best friend in thirty years. Whether they were also just friends, or had fallen in love.
Jacob could not deny that, in the wake of his imprint, he had been looking forward to having the one later in his life. That there was, in the end, really that one person out there for him. That Renesmee would give him what he had been longing for for so long. And that he had finally found someone he could give everything of himself to.
But, with every year that he watched her grow, that he was her brother and friend, that he watched her turn from an infant to a young woman, realization slowly sank in that he could never feel for her in any other way than friendship.
He used to look at her, playing with her dolls, and the thought that maybe, in the future, he would be kissing her, touching her, disgusted him.
No. They would never be more than they were now. He was already everything to her that he could be. Jacob had nothing more to give.
And she would never know that the pull she had on him was slowly driving him away from himself.
Jacob knew that no one here noticed how he slowly changed. Change was foreign to everyone here. A faint, distant memory from a life they had, for the most part, forgotten. Also, much like Renesmee, they had never really known the person he once used to be. The sunny, happy, enthusiastic boy that used to work in his garage for hours – a garage of which he did not even know if it still existed – and who would get into trouble with Quil and Embry – his best friends who he had left behind just like his old self.
There was only one person who could see the changes as clearly and sharp as everything else. Who could see the old Jacob dying with every tick of the clock, who saw the sunlight fading from his eyes.
But Jacob knew, as his eyes fell on Bella sitting on the couch with a book in her pale hands, that she would never tell.
Jacob's numb heart shattered slightly more when he laid his eyes on her, and so he quickly focussed back on his plate, realizing that his hands had continued shoving food into his mouth without him taking any notice of it.
Things had gotten better between them after it had become clear that Jacob would never actually become her son-in-law. But he knew, and was sure she did as well, that it would never be the same between them. The girl he had been friends with, the girl he had fallen in love with when his heart was still capable of doing so, that girl was dead, gone. Forever.
Instead, he was given a substitute that neither looked nor spoke like his girl. And over the years, she stopped acting like his Bells, as well. Everything he had once loved about her was gone. Her creamy skin had turned into hard, cold marble. Her soft brown eyes had turned into sharp, golden orbs. Her adorable clumsiness had given away to a graceful control of her body. Her laughter sounded nothing like bells anymore, there was no more warmth radiating from her.
Not becoming direct family had eased some of the awkwardness that determined their relationship now, but nothing could disguise the fact that they were just two people who had once known – loved – each other and who now found no way to be together anymore.
Every time Jacob dared to look into Bella's golden eyes, he saw guilt and insecurity looking back at him, and in those moments, he wanted nothing more than to shake her so long and hard that his old Bells would crawl back to the surface, would wake up from her slumber. Because, although he knew that that person was long dead, he felt as if he never made it over the phase of denial, still hoping that somewhere beneath the marble surface, she was still hidden. That the girl he once loved was still there.
But every time he saw her in Edward's arms, he knew that his mind was just playing with him – maybe it was because he was literally losing his mind whenever their daughter was around – and he had to realize that the only place his Bells still existed was his memory.
And when he lay awake during another sleepless night, he hoped that the memories would just fade away. That he would stop seeing her face, and the faces of Quil and Embry, his father and sisters, even faint memories of his late mother. He wished he could just erase the images of the garage and First Beach, of bonfires and the red Rabbit, of motorcycles and warm sodas, of a school he had no motivation of attending, of people whose names he did not even know.
If it would all just go away…
On the other hand, Jacob's stomach clenched painfully at the mere idea of losing all the memories, when, in fact, they were everything that kept him alive. There would never be anything to look forward to for him again. So, all he had were blurring images in his head, filling his dreams, keeping him awake.
Swallowing a bite of steak down his unwilling throat, Jacob dared to flicker his eyes over to Bella again. There she sat, completely immobile except for the artificial and unnecessary rise and fall of her chest, and for a moment, Jacob wondered if maybe there was a chance. If maybe, he could love her just as much as he had loved the girl she once used to be.
But, who was he trying to deceive here? He felt pathetic, knowing all too well that he had been in way too deep. In a strange and twisted way, this person on the couch was indeed still his girl, only changed, different, and he would love her until he took his last breath, until the sun died and the earth slowly faded away.
It had surprised him at first, when he discovered that the more his imprint on Renesmee lost meaning, his buried feelings for Bella crept back into his consciousness. All of a sudden, he started to see beauty in the grace of her movements, lost himself in her eyes, found himself longing to be near to her. His heart clung to the last bit of hope that maybe, possibly, she was still there somewhere.
Jacob hid these feelings deep down, wrapping them up in a cocoon of lies and pretences, and only allowed them to break to the surface – always just a little bit – on rare occasions like this, when both Edward and Jasper were hunting. No one would read his thoughts or sense the turmoil of emotions that were crumbling him. He knew that the truth had to be kept secret, locked up in the vault of his heart forever.
She had chosen someone other than him, had willingly left him behind. End of story. Jake and Bells had never been, and had never been given the chance to be. And it was too late to make up for that now.
Jacob suddenly sensed movement before his eyes, and when he refocused his gaze, he could see that Bella was looking straight at him, her yellow eyes burning into his.
He tried to avoid these situations, direct eye-contact, whenever he could. Somehow, Jacob feared that if Bella looked into his eyes, she would stare right down to his soul and read the truth from his eyes the way she read words from an open book.
But over the last years, these moments seemed to have slowly increased. Moments when their gazes would meet in a room full of other people for no reason, where their eyes locked in a bond stronger than what they shared in everyone else's eyes. Jacob often wondered in these moments when he could not seem to tear his eyes away from hers, if maybe she knew it all. If she knew why his heart was still beating; unlike hers. Why he was still breathing; unlike her. How he still felt after all those years although she had sent him away and became a different person. Died, even.
For those few seconds, or hours because both of them started to lose their sense of time while they stood still and everything around them continued to turn round and round, Jacob liked to pretend and believe that she knew. That she felt the same way. That she kept Bells beneath the surface because that fragile girl could not survive this, but that she was still there, always waiting for him.
But then she would turn around and press a soft kiss on Edward's cheek, or she would crawl closer to him, or talk to Alice about things he knew did not interest her; everything to avoid him. Until the next time their eyes would meet and the truth would linger between them, unspoken but as sharp as a razorblade.
This was one of these moments. The tension in the room was so thick that you could cut it with a knife and Jacob felt his heartbeat pick up, the coil in his chest tightening as he stared into Bella's eyes, seeing a long lost future shining there, the golden color always so wrong, and he hoped, prayed, dearly that she knew. That he was not the only one caught in this misery.
For the shortest fragment of a second Jacob thought that he saw Bella twitch, her façade crumbling, but he immediately shook himself mentally, telling himself that nothing Bella did these days was involuntary. It was him who broke their moment, fear of the agony that always tore apart his heart every time she looked away causing him to make that step now, his eyes falling back down on to his plate.
Jacob knew that the world would keep turning and that his heart would keep beating as his surroundings slowly started to sink back into his mind, voices echoing in his ears. Esme and Alice talking about the new house they would soon move into, Renesmee and Leah chattering about the food, Emmett typing on the computer in the next room, the sound of Rosalie working on her car in the garage fainter than the rest.
They were all so painfully oblivious of the turmoil in his heart and mind, of the changes around them, of everything shattering slowly. Jacob often wondered if they really were, or if ignoring all this was something that came along with immortality. Denial. Refusal.
Hearing everyone around him so clearly, painfully reminded Jacob of the one person that was ever-present in his every pore and he suddenly felt her gaze burning against his side. He knew, before he turned his head slightly to check, that she was still staring at him. There was something in her eyes that reminded him of what he saw every morning when he looked into the mirror. A mixture between longing, sadness and confusion. Vulnerability.
And she looked so painfully beautiful.
"You know, I really think they should – Jacob, where are you going?" Renesmee asked, her hand dropping onto the dark wood surface of the table as Jacob quickly shoved back his chair and stood on his feet, fists clenched so tightly together that the skin at knuckles turned white. He could feel his blood rushing through his veins, a tremble in his entire body urging him towards the door, the primal instinct muting out every sound, every cry, every other pull than that of nature.
Jacob caught a glimpse of her eyes as he reached the glass door, recognizing the pleading look that was reflected there. He had seen it in a pair of chocolate brown eyes on a mountain top many years ago, begging him to stay. He had not given in back than, he would not give in now, and so Jacob pushed open the door, trying to keep himself together for as long as possible, his feet digging deep into the moist grass as he sprinted over to the edge of the forest.
The sound of ripping fabric was the last thing Jacob heard before he felt everything around him shift, becoming so much clearer.
The world turned quiet for a second, and Jacob pushed his legs faster into the forest, running into a destination he did not know, towards a goal he was not sure would ever come, the last glimpse of her pleading eyes still burning in his memory.
I hope you liked the beginning for this story. Here is a playlist for the first chapter:
Broken Record - A Promise
Andrew Belle - In my Veins
Keane - We might as well be Strangers
Evermore - This Unavoidable Thing Between Us