A/N –All Twilight characters belong to Stephenie Meyer
The early afternoon sun beat down on the sidewalk as Renesmee Cullen walked out of the massive glass and steel tower where she seemed to spend most of her waking hours these days. The efficient click-click-click of her stiletto heels against the concrete as she walked seemed an appropriate metaphor for her life lately.
Renesmee walked the way she pretty much did everything else these days. In her world, time was money, and this twenty minutes a day was the only indulgence she insisted on, without exception. Twenty minutes to herself, to go for a walk, clear her head, recentre and recharge. No meetings, no being responsible for everyone else's lives, no weight of a multi-billion dollar empire resting on her every decision. Just the wind in her hair, fresh air in her lungs, and sunshine touching her skin. Time was a precious commodity for Renesmee these days, and stolen moments of peace and quiet were few and far between. And she savoured every second of it that she could get.
The grass smelled sweet in the spring breeze, and Renesmee stopped for a moment to take in the sounds and scents of the park around her – of the mothers strolling by with their prams, the office workers eating their lunch on the park benches, a gaggle of schoolgirls whispering conspiratorially as they twittered past.
Renesmee started walking again, and as she rounded the familiar turn in the path just in front of the fountain, she felt a pull in her chest. It made her look up, and she noticed a man walking towards her from the opposite direction. She hadn't felt that kind of pull in almost twenty years – a tugging in the emptiness of her heart, drawing her towards the mysterious stranger. The hollow coldness that had so long been a part of her seemed to thaw at the sight of him. There was something about him that was so familiar, and her thoughts drifted back to a time - practically a lifetime ago now - when she was much younger and the world was a much simpler place. And to a man who, for a time, had been her warmth and sunshine – her own personal sun.
She was sixteen when she had first met him. Renesmee and her two best friends, Alice and Rose, had arrived at the dojo that day after school, giggling as they walked through the door of the unfamiliar building. They were unsure of what to do next as they looked around the massive expanse of studio space, thinking that three cheerleaders probably looked pretty out of place here. Renesmee couldn't even remember now whose idea it had even been to sign up for the Tae-Kwon-Do classes. But she remembered what happened next as if it were only yesterday.
She would always remember the first time she saw him.
The tall, muscular young man who was adjusting the punching bag had heard them come in. He was wearing a martial arts uniform, and had a black belt tied around his waist. Renesmee figured that he must be one of the instructors. He put the equipment down and walked over to them, a wide white-toothed smile lighting up his handsome face and contrasting perfectly against his tanned russet skin.
"Hi girls," the corners of his eyes crinkled as he greeted them. "What can I do for you?"
Renesmee opened her mouth to answer him, but all that came out was a squeak. She wanted to kick herself, but it seems that her legs weren't obeying either.
"We'd … uh, like to try out some classes," Renesmee had finally managed to get out, hoping that the shakiness in her voice wouldn't betray how distracted she was by what had just happened. She couldn't explain the what or the why, but when his eyes had met hers, she couldn't tear them away. And she didn't want to. She felt as if her whole world had just shifted, and she didn't know why. Maybe she imagined it, but she could have sworn she saw a flicker of something cross his face too, if only for a moment.
"That's great!" he responded, drawing her out of her reverie. "What level of experience do you all have?"
"Umm… pretty much none." Rose admitted, as Alice nodded in agreement. Renesmee was still looking at the floor, trying to regain her composure. When she looked up, she blushed when she realised the instructor was looking at her.
"That's not a problem," he said, breaking his gaze on Renesmee to reach over and pick up a timetable from the nearby desk. "We cater from beginners to black belts here. Each class starts with combined warm-ups and then we break off into training groups corresponding to each of the levels. The next class starts in about forty-five minutes, so how about giving that a try and seeing how you go?"
"So we can start today?" Alice trilled, practically bouncing with excitement.
"Sure, sure," the instructor grinned. "There's clean uniforms in the cupboard over there, which you can borrow for today, but you'll obviously need to buy your own if you decide to stick with the classes. By the way," he added, "I'm Jake."
Jake. Renesmee let his name roll over and over in her mind. Jake. She imagined how his name would sound on her lips, saying it, sighing it, moaning it… and then she snapped herself back to reality. Why was she fantasising about someone she'd just met? Goddamn teenage hormones, she thought to herself. Although - since the ugly breakup with Nahuel a few months ago, maybe some eye candy was just what the doctor ordered. And the sweet, sweet sight of Jake was very appealing. She wondered what the sweet, sweet taste of Jake would be like … Aghh, snap out of it! She barely knew the guy and already she was imagining doing indecent things to him. Renesmee put on her best poker face and hoped that Mr Hunky couldn't hear how hard her heart was beating right now.
Rose, Alice and Renesmee each introduced themselves in turn. All through it, Jake was looking at Renesmee with a strange intensity that made her heart skip a beat. It should have made her uncomfortable, but it didn't. As they went to the cupboard to get their borrowed uniforms, even Rose and Alice commented about the way he had been looking at her. Renesmee laughed it off, but was secretly happy and not-so-secretly hopeful that it might have been because he found her attractive.
As the three girls waited for the class to start, Rose and Alice chatted happily among themselves while Renesmee flicked through the dojo's brochures. She saw from one of the booklets that there were three instructors – Jake was the senior instructor and his bio showed that he was 23 and held a 2nd degree black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do, as well as black belts in Karate and Kung Fu. He was also previously the Under-16 and Under-21 national champion in all three martial arts categories. The other two instructors - Quil and Embry - also had some pretty impressive achievements under their respective black belts, but Renesmee's attention was focussed only on Jake.
She put the brochures down and watched as the three instructors warmed up and got the equipment ready for class. They all looked so similar, with their tall muscled bodies, chiselled features and tanned russet skin. Renesmee wondered if they were related – brothers or cousins maybe?
It was now 5:15pm, and people were starting to file into the dojo. There were people from all walks of life – children, business people, some college students, and many others. It seemed to be a pretty popular class. They lined up for the warm-ups in order of seniority, with black belts filling the first line, followed by red, brown, blue, green, yellow and then finally the white belts making up the rear.
"Why do we have to be all the way up the back?" Rose huffed in annoyance. "This is just all kinds of wrong," she pouted.
"I don't think it's personal Rose," Renesmee laughed. "I guess they do it this way so that the newbies can follow what the more experienced people are doing."
"Actually," Alice sounded thoughtful, "I think it's got more to do with respect."
Renesmee and Rose looked at her quizzically, and Alice continued -
"Well, think about it – Respect is a fundamental principle in martial arts right? And the ranked line-up would be a metaphor for that, in that it honours individual accomplishments from the perspectives of self-respect as well as peer-respect. So in essence, you have to earn your way to the front of the line. Respect is earned, and not an automatic given. That, and ummm… I read some stuff in the library before we left."
The other two girls rolled their eyes at Alice. Why were they not surprised. Mary Alice Brandon handled everything the way she handled her shopping trips – planned and executed with military precision, so of course she would have read up on this!
The class started and the warm-ups began. Renesmee was thankful they were in the back row even if Rose was annoyed about it, because the moves were all so new and her body wasn't used to them. She managed to hold her own through the warm-ups though, and then everyone separated into ranked groups.
"All right, you white belts – over here with me!" Jake called out. There were a few whines of protest from the front of the room, since Jake normally trained the black and red belts but for some reason today he'd decided to train the white belts instead. Renesmee didn't know what the kafuffle was about, but she was pleased that he would be training her group today.
Jacob took the white belt group down to the far end of the dojo's studio space. He re-capped with them how to do the three basic kicks – front kick, side kick, round kick – and then he went through the movements for the white belt Pattern – the stances, blocks, kicks and punches. The other white belts seemed to know the movements, so Renesmee guessed that this re-capping was mostly for her and her friends' benefits. She tried hard to concentrate, but it was difficult with Jake being so close. When he stood behind her to guide her arms to show her the right technique for the blocks, it was all she could do to keep from leaning in to him. She was so drawn to him, and with such intensity that she hadn't felt for anyone before. If he felt anything though, he wasn't letting on.
By the end of the class, all three girls had decided to sign up. They were filling out the paperwork as Jake wandered over to them.
"So, how did you find the class?" he smiled, and Renesmee's heart skipped a beat. Damn, he was so fine. Next time they update the dictionary, she purred to herself, the definition of 'man' should just be replaced with a picture of Jacob Black.
"Oh, I think you've twisted our arms into coming back," Renesmee laughed, hoping that he didn't notice the blush slowly creeping into her cheeks. How could someone she just met affect her so much?
"That's great, Nessie" Jake grinned.
"Nessie?" Renesmee arched an eyebrow quizzically as she looked at him. Did he just call her the Loch Ness Monster? Rose snorted and Alice chewed the inside of her cheek. Both of her friends looked like they were about to burst out laughing.
"Yeah, well," he looked a bit sheepish, "Renesmee is a bit of a mouthful, and I figured that if you were going to be around, you may as well have a nickname," he grinned at her.
Renesmee wasn't sure if she liked having the same nickname as the Loch Ness Monster. But when she looked at Jake again, her heart melted.
"Ok, fine. You can call me Nessie - but only because you can't get your tongue around me … er, around my name." Oh crap, talk about a mother of a Freudian slip. Renesmee would never live this down, she was so mortified. Rose and Alice lost it at this point and collapsed in giggles. Jake didn't notice – or if he did, he was being very cool about it and not letting on. He was probably used to it, she thought. Girls probably crushed on him all the time.
"Ummm, so do I have to call you Sensei or something like that now?" Renesmee asked, trying to change the subject.
"Jake is fine," he said and then added with a mischievous twinkle in his eye "– if you can get your tongue around that!"
Renesmee felt the blush creep into her cheeks again, and even more so when she found herself absentmindedly thinking about some of the things of Jake's that she wouldn't mind getting her tongue around. But she found herself doused with a figurative cold bucket of water when she heard her father's voice floating over the din in the hall.
"All right, so how much is this going to cost me?" Edward Cullen had just walked through the door. He had his wife Bella in tow, and was smiling indulgently at his daughter as he headed towards the table where the girls were filling in their paperwork.
"Dad!" Renesmee turned around at the sound of her father's voice. "Dad, Mom, this is Jake – he's the senior instructor. Jake - my parents, Edward and Isabella Cullen."
"Pleased to meet you, Mr and Mrs Cullen," Jake said as he shook their hands.
"Please," Edward smiled, "Mr and Mrs Cullen are Renesmee's grandparents . We're just Edward and Bella."
"Well, pleased to meet you, Edward and Bella," Jake flashed his million dollar smile, and Renesmee's heart melted again.
Edward Cullen was an attorney-at-law, and one of the best in the business. Even though he was just plain old "Dad" to Renesmee and she honestly couldn't see what the fuss was all about sometimes, he cut an impressive and dashing figure in his pinstripe suit and clipped perfect tones. Renesmee thought she saw Jake straighten himself up a bit when he addressed her father, but she could have been mistaken. If he did, he probably did that anyway when meeting anyone's parents, she thought to herself.
Her Dad paid for the first three months' tuition for Renesmee and both of her friends, and then did a quick tour of the dojo before saying goodbye to Jake and herding the girls out to the car.
"All right girls, I've called your parents and told them we're going to grab some dinner before we drop you home," he said as he piled everyone into his silver Volvo. "What does everyone want to eat?"
"Burgers at the diner!" they trilled in unison.
"Why do I even bother asking," Edward rolled his eyes good naturedly. He reached over to his smiling wife and took her hand and kissed it tenderly. Bella leaned over and nuzzled his cheek.
"Oh, puh-leeze," Renesmee groaned from the backseat, "Will you just get a room."
Her friends sniggered, and Renesmee saw her Dad's twinkling eyes smile at her in the rear view mirror. She was glad that her parents were still so in love, but did they have to subject her to it all the time, and in public? Renesmee wanted to burrow into the backseat of the car and just disappear.
"The instructor seems nice," Bella observed, trying to make conversation.
"Do you mean nice, Mrs Cullen, or do you mean," Alice held up her hands in a 'quote' gesture " 'nice'? Because you know, 'Nessie', probably thinks he's really 'nice'."
Renesmee thumped Alice and Rose giggled.
"Who's Nessie?" Bella asked.
"Long story, Mom. And one I'm not going into here," Renesmee glared at her giggling friends as she added, "And neither are Alice and Rose."
Dinner at the diner was, as usual, awesome. Her dad would have preferred they go to a proper restaurant, but to Renesmee and her friends, the diner was the best place ever. And it got even better when she saw the tall masculine figure of one Jacob Black walk through the door.
"Hey, Wendy!" he called as he wandered over to the counter.
"Hiya Jake..!" The elderly waitress waved as she answered him. "You want the usual?"
"Sure, sure," he smiled. He sat down on one of the barstools to wait for his order. He spun around on the stool, leaning his back against the counter. As he normally did while waiting for his order, Jake scanned his eyes around the diner. Renesmee's heart skipped a beat when Jacob's eyes met hers, and the world stopped for the second time that day.
"Worked up an appetite, I see," he smiled as he walked over, nodding at the empty burger plates, cheese-fry baskets and half-demolished sundaes that were littered across the table. Renesmee nearly choked on her mouthful of ice-cream when she realised her latest crush had just busted her chowing down on enough food to feed a small third-world country. His eyes twinkled with mischief as she fought to regain her composure, and then he turned to address her parents.
"Hi again Edward, Bella – long time no see," he grinned. Her parents and Jake exchanged pleasantries, and Renesmee took the opportunity to steal another admiring glance. Jake had changed out of his martial arts uniform and was now wearing jeans and a black t-shirt. His hair was still damp from the shower he'd taken before leaving the dojo, and the short sleeves of his t-shirt showed off to perfection the strength in his broad, powerful shoulders and muscled arms. Damn, he looked so good. And those jeans, my God they should be illegal. Renesmee had never wished so much to be a pair of jeans, the way they hugged his fine ass. And then she caught the outline of his strong muscled torso through the thin fabric of his t-shirt, and all thoughts of anything but that fine specimen of a man went out the window. Rose kicked Renesmee under the table, and Alice just rolled her eyes.
"What?" Renesmee hissed. "Unlike both of you, I don't have a boyfriend. I'm allowed to look."
"You weren't looking," Rose retorted. "You were practically undressing him with your eyes! He's not really my type, but to each their own I suppose. Anyway, there's nothing wrong with looking. Just because someone has an outfit at home, doesn't mean window-shopping is out of the question."
"Now that's a metaphor I understand," Alice laughed. Renesmee just rolled her eyes, thankful that Jake and her parents weren't paying any attention to their conversation.
"Jake," the waitress called out, "order's ready!"
"Thanks Wendy," he replied. "Well, it was good to see you all again. Nessie, Alice, Rose – see you at the dojo," he waved as he turned to head out.
Renesmee managed to squeak out a mumbled "Bye" as Jake left the diner with his bag of take-out. She looked out the window at his tall muscled form, still wishing she was that pair of jeans. He stopped a few metres away and swung one long leg with ease over a huge motorbike. Oh my fucking God, Renesmee purred to herself, Jake riding that massive machine – well that was fuck-hot as all get out!
"Renesmee," her father's voice broke into her thoughts, "Are you ready to go?"
"Umm yeah, sure," Renesmee replied, trying not to blush at having been caught perving at her Tae-Kwon-Do instructor. Rose and Alice were still laughing their asses off. Her parents couldn't quite work out what was so funny, and decided that they didn't want to know. Who knew what went through the minds of teenage girls these days anyway?
The next day, Renesmee, Alice and Rose were at the dojo early so they could purchase their uniforms and be ready in time for the class. Jake was already there, doing some paperwork at the desk. He looked up when he heard the door open.
"Hey, welcome back!" he grinned.
"Hi," Renesmee smiled as she looked at him. Damn, he was so beautiful. "Whatcha doin?" Oh God, really? Was that the best she could come up with? It was pretty obvious that he was doing paperwork. Ugh, why did she turn into such a jibbering mess whenever he was around?
"Nothing much," his eyes twinkled as he chuckled and put the papers he was working on into the desk drawer, "Just putting the finishing touches on my evil plan for world domination. You got your uniforms yet?"
They all shook their heads, and Jake gestured for them to follow him as he got up from the desk, "C'mon, I'll take you over to the uniform shop."
By the time they were all kitted out in their new gear, it was getting pretty close to 5:30pm so Jake left them to go and get ready for the class. Renesmee, Rose and Alice assumed their positions at back of the room and engaged in one of their favourite pastimes – people-watching.
They saw the group of black and red belts at the front of the room and mused how, with their height and tanned skin, they all looked very similar to Jake and the other instructors. They were obviously very comfortable with each other, teasing and play-sparring as they waited for the class to start. Renesmee mused how much they seemed so much like a wolf-pack, milling around their Alpha as he set up for the class. The only female in the group was a tall Amazonian-like creature, with long, lean limbs, and beautiful in a fierce kind of way. All the others were guys in their late teens to early twenties, not quite as tall as Jake but similarly built nonetheless. She saw one of the younger guys look over her way, and then he smiled shyly and ducked his gaze away and back to his friends.
"Seth," the tall girl smacked him over the head as she barked at him "Will you stop checkin' out the new girls and focus on getting in the zone."
"Owwww Leah," he grumbled at her, "That hurt. God, is it that time of the month again for you or something?"
Without missing a beat, Leah brought one elbow down onto Seth's shoulder, making his legs buckle and sending him down to his knees beside her.
"You should know, runt," Leah smirked, "I get mine around the same time as you get yours."
Renesmee watched the exchange with interest. She liked Leah's spunk and decided she wouldn't mind being friends with her, although she'd have to move pretty quickly to avoid the aftermath of any wisecracks!
After the warm-ups, Jake trained the white belts again that evening, amid howls of protest from the front of the room. Renesmee found it easier to do the exercises this time around. Jake claimed it was because of 'muscle memory' whatever the hell that meant.
Jake trained the white belts again the next evening, and the next, and each evening after that. Then when Renesmee passed her exams and progressed to yellow, he moved onto training the yellow belts. When Renesmee was awarded her green belt, Jake started training that group too. Renesmee liked to think that it might have been because of her, but part of her brain – the sensible part – reminded her that it wasn't unusual for instructors to stick with a certain group and train them all the way through. But still, her heart hoped that she might have had something to do with his decisions.
Jake's and Renesmee's friendship grew over the following months, and she also became good friends with the 'wolfpack', as she had called them. Jake had laughed when she first told him the descriptor. Within a few weeks though, the nickname had caught on, and the group of black and red belts down the front became known as the 'La Push Pack'.
"Does that make me the Alpha?" Embry had asked.
"You wish, loser," Jake had laughed. "I'm the senior instructor, so I get to be Alpha. But you're welcome to try and take me down," he said, wiggling his eyebrows and motioning a 'come here' gesture to his friend.
Embry pounced on him, and then they had collapsed into a bout of play-fighting – which, Renesmee mused to herself as she watched them carrying on, can be kind of scary when both fighters in question are decorated black-belts.
Jake had told her about how he and 'the pack' had all grown up on the Res together, and had pretty much known each other their whole lives. The guys were all really nice to Renesmee and some of them even helped her with her exam prep, but Leah was a tougher nut to crack. At first Renesmee had thought it was because Leah and Jake had something going on, but it became clear pretty early on that they were just like brother and sister. It turned out that Leah's standard modus operandi was to assume everyone was an idiot until they proved otherwise.
Over the months, Renesmee found herself being drawn more and more into Jake's world. Theirs was an easy friendship – 'easy as breathing' Jake had said. He was so easy to talk to, so warm, and funny, and kind, and just – well, just Jake. He was still hot as hell, but she was seeing another side to him – a side that made her also want to snuggle up in his arms and hold him close to her, not just rip off his clothes.
The novelty of Tae-Kwon-Do had worn off for Alice and Rose some weeks ago, and now Renesmee was the only one who came to the dojo regularly. She had taken to arriving early, so she could do some warm-ups and maybe catch up with some of her new friends, but it always seemed that Jake was the only one there that early.
And so most afternoons, she and Jake would sit and talk, and sometimes they would just sit in companionable silence or flip through a magazine together. Renesmee was a bit of a chatterbox, and Jake seemed content to listen to her prattle on about all and sundry. But every now and then he'd open up and let her into his world - like that day he had told her about how special a place the dojo was for him and the guys, and she felt so happy he had shared something so personal with her. He had explained how, from a young age, martial arts had taught them respect, focus and self-discipline. Jake had often wondered if they hadn't found this, would they be following the well-worn path to the bottle that so many others from the Rez had before them? Martial arts had given them a focus that was missing from the lives of so many, and so they drew from the gift they had been given and gave back to the community as much as they regularly could. In some ways, they were protectors of their community as well, since crime on the Rez had dropped to almost zero in the past few years, ever since 'the pack' had been put on the Neighbourhood Watch patrol by the council!
Over the next few months, Renesmee found herself feeling increasingly drawn towards Jake. What had started off as a schoolgirl crush was dangerously becoming something deeper.
She often wondered whether she was overstepping the boundaries with how much she seemed to be monopolising his time, but if he minded, he didn't say anything. She wondered if he was just being nice – after all, he was so much older than her. Was he just indulging her the way he would any child? Or maybe he was just hanging out with her because she happened to be there? Renesmee often looked at Jake and wondered if there was anything more than friendship behind those warm onyx eyes. He liked spending time with her – of that, she was fairly certain – but was it as anything more than as a friend? She decided that she didn't care. She loved spending time with him, and until he told her he preferred to do otherwise, she would take what she could get.
Renesmee thought about all the times they had spent together, and how sometimes he did things that made her wonder - like whenever they'd go to the movies or anywhere else as a group, Jake would always make sure that he sat next to her. Or that time he had gone with her to see Top Gun, just the two of them because everyone else had already seen it, he'd leaned so close to her and sat so that his arm slung over the armrest, the top of his muscled arm grazing her shoulder. Or that time when Paul had asked her out, Jake hadn't said a word – but when he had found out she'd declined the date invitation, he'd seemed happy, relieved even. It was things like this that confused her so much. Little things. Things that shouldn't have mattered. But they did. They mattered because she was falling in love with him, and with every passing day, it got harder to draw herself back up from the well of her feelings. And so she was trying to read things into every action, every look, every gesture. She wondered if she was looking for signs that weren't even there – just shadows of a promise, of nothing more than the ghost of a possibility, traces of vain hope. She desperately wanted more than just friendship, but she was so afraid that in grasping for it, she might lose what she already had. And so she kept her feelings locked up, not daring to let them show.
Renesmee had tried to hold back from loving him, but deep down she knew it was a lost cause. He was so easy to love, and so impossible not to. Loving him brought a warmth to her heart and joy to her soul. She loved how loving him made her feel. And so she let herself fall, hoping that he would be the one to catch her. But he never did.
The day it happened was like any other day. They were coming back from catching a bite to eat before class, when all of a sudden a crowd of people came out of the cinema. Jake had grabbed Renesmee's hand so that they wouldn't lose each other in the crowd. To her surprise, he hadn't let go once the crowd had dissipated. And so they had continued to walk, hand in hand. Renesmee had marvelled at the warmth of his touch, how protected her small pale hand felt in his larger russet one, and how she loved every wonderful moment of being so connected to him. She thought her heart would burst from pure joy, and she wished so much that she could be the one whose hand he would hold through the years ahead. But when they got to the dojo, she had relaxed her grasp. And he had let her. It had been a reflex action on her part as they entered the building, but if he had kept his grip on her hand, she would have held onto him.
When they walked in, most of the pack was already there warming up.
"Hey guys," Jake called out as they walked in. They looked up in acknowledgement.
"Ooh, we saw you holding hands outside," Leah cooed. "Since when did you two become an item?"
Renesmee felt the colour rising to cheeks. She wasn't sure what to do. She so desperately wanted him to want her too, but she was too afraid to make the first move, too scared to risk ruining what they already had. And so she looked to him for direction.
Jake didn't say anything. Why didn't he say something? If he wanted her, he would have said something, right? She desperately wanted him to acknowledge what had just happened, to acknowledge it, to acknowledge her. Jake looked at her, as if he was about to say something. Renesmee felt a flicker of expectation, but then he dropped his gaze and her hopes slowly crumbled.
"C'mon guys," Jake called out as he started walking away. "Time to get ready for class."
Renesmee felt her heart breaking. She guessed that she had her answer. Jake didn't feel that way about her. She felt the hot tears welling up in her eyes, and she forced them back. He'd made his feelings abundantly clear, and so Renesmee decided to hold onto whatever dignity she had left, and cut her losses. That was why, couple of days later, she finally agreed to go on a date with Seth.
Seth had asked her out a few times, but she'd always said no. But when she went on that date with him this time, she'd surprised herself by having a great time. He was so sweet, so attentive, and had been the perfect gentleman. He continued to be just as sweet and doting in the days after the date. And so when Seth asked her to be his girlfriend, she said yes.
Once they were official, Seth was like Renesmee's shadow, following her around like a puppy dog. He hung off her every word, and every weekday he'd pick her up from school and they'd come to the dojo together. On the weekends he was always around at her place, and Renesmee had to admit she did enjoy the attention. The guys teased them incessantly at first, but soon relaxed into a happy acceptance of the group's changed dynamic.
But as Seth's affections increased, Jake became more and more distant.
He had stopped coming early to the Dojo, now turning up just minutes before each class. When he talked to Renesmee, he was still friendly, but there was something missing. Gone was the easy banter, now replaced with polite exchanges and stilted conversations. Sometimes it seemed like he couldn't wait to get away from her, and it broke her heart. She would sometimes see him looking at her out of the corner of her eye, but it was always so fleeting she wondered if she'd imagined it.
Jake no longer trained Renesmee's group either, instead handing them over to Embry. She was hurt. Why did he have to do that? Was he angry that she'd decided to date Seth? All he had to do was say something if that was what was bothering him. But he never did.
Days turned to weeks, and before she knew it, almost four months had passed since the day she had first agreed to go out with Seth. They had grown closer in those months, but something just wasn't quite right. And Renesmee knew full well the reason for it. Her brain told her to snap out of it. Seth was the perfect, doting boyfriend, yet her heart still longed for someone else. It didn't help either that her Dad was always championing Seth's cause.
"Nice kid, that Seth Clearwater," Edward had remarked. "A bit intense, but well, who can blame him for falling under my little girl's spell?" he had said, kissing his daughter on the forehead.
"Ugh, Dad," Renesmee grimaced, wiping the remnants of her father's affection off her forehead, "Is that really necessary?" Edward smiled indulgently at his only child, as she wandered off back to her bedroom.
Renesmee sat down on her bed and started absentmindedly thumbing through a magazine. She mused how Seth was the perfect, doting boyfriend and how great it was that her parents liked him. But still her thoughts would stray to the one whose smile would make her heart melt, and whose face and warm touch filled her dreams. Seth and Jake were both tall and of a similar build. Hell, even their faces looked similar from some angles, and Renesmee hated to admit it, but those similarities were contributing factors to why she had agreed to go out with Seth in the first place. If she couldn't have Jake, then someone who looked so much like him might fill that empty place, right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. When Seth kissed her, she imagined it was Jake. When he held her close, she found herself wishing that the large russet hand that covered hers belonged to the man she couldn't have. It was as if some part of her was still linked inextricably to Jake, her soul intertwined with his and dancing to a silent melody that only she could hear. What had Seth ever done to deserve this? He had been nothing but kind, loving and the perfect boyfriend to her. She didn't deserve him. And he deserved better than she could give him.
And that was why, a few days later Renesmee broke up with Seth.
He had begged her not to leave, crying out to her in uncontrollable, heaving sobs. He had demanded to know why? What had he done? What could he do better? But all she could say was that she was sorry, and that it wasn't him, it was her. She thought it sounded so cliché, but it was the sad and undeniable truth. She loved Seth, but not the way he wanted her to. While Renesmee's heart belonged to Jacob Black, there was no place for anyone else. Seth deserved a girl who was worthy of his love. He was worth more than just the leftover shadows of affection that she could give him. And so Renesmee had hardened her heart and walked away. He would hurt for a while, but he would get over her, she told herself. And then she had gone home and cried herself to sleep, angry at hurting a dear friend, and even angrier at herself for thinking she could use him to fill an empty space that still belonged – that would always belong – to Jake.
It was a few days later when Renesmee ventured back to the dojo again. She felt so much on the outer. All the guys seemed to treat her with a polite distance, and who could blame them. She had hurt one of their own, and hopefully one day they would forgive her. The only one who seemed to have shrugged it off was Leah.
"It happens," Leah had declared dismissively. "The kid'll get over it. At least it was you – I might not have been able to forgive anyone else."
And so Renemee's and Leah's friendship had survived the storm. Over time, the rest of the pack became their friendly selves again. Hell, if Seth's sister wasn't mad at her, who were they to hold a grudge? Even Seth started talking to her again, although he still held his distance. That was the best she could hope for she guessed. She'd hurt him, and she couldn't blame him for behaving the way he did. Jake, on the other hand, stayed as distant as ever.
And then out of the blue, one day something happened.
Renesmee had come to the dojo early that day. She was going for her blue belt next week, and she wanted to get in some practice before the exams. She was surprised to see Jake here early too. He never came early anymore, and she wondered what he was doing here. Renesmee paused briefly while she tried to work out what joke the universe was trying to pull on her now.
"Hiya Ness," he smiled at her as he saw her standing in the doorway. He was adjusting one of the punching bags, and for a moment she was reminded of that day she had first met him. The scene before her reawakened a memory that warmed her heart and soul, and she found an involuntary smile curving her lips.
"Hey Jake," Renesmee put her bag down and walked over to him. "Need a hand?"
"Yeah, that'd be great," he said, flashing her that million dollar smile that made her heart melt. Renesmee hadn't realised that it had been so long since Jake had looked at her that way. He'd been so grumpy lately, and there was always this hint of sadness about him. But today he seemed back to being the old Jake again, and her heart swelled with happiness.
"So – why the happy face today?" she asked, arching an eyebrow questioningly.
"What, I gotta have a reason?" he teased her.
"Well, you've been like a bear with a sore head for the past few months."
"Yeah, well I was … Unnghh," he grunted with the effort of lifting the top of the punching bag up over the chained ceiling hook, "in a weird place for a while, but I'm okay now." He patted the heavy leather sandbag to make sure it was sturdily fastened, and seemed happy with his handiwork.
"Oh, thank God… Because you know, Jake, you were unbearable," she said, poking him in the shoulder.
"Oh really?" his eyes twinkled mischievously. Renesmee recognised that look, and she started to back away, but he was too quick for her. He grabbed her and hauled her over his shoulder, tickling her mercilessly. She was still laughing uncontrollably when he deposited her onto one of the mats, collapsing down beside her, both of them breathless from laughter. They lay on their backs, looking at the patterns that the wooden beams made on the ceiling.
"Sooo..." Jake ventured, and Renesmee noticed the hesitation in his voice, "I hear you and Seth are no longer an item."
"Uh … yeah," Renesmee answered, "I mean, no. I mean – yeah we broke up, that's why no, we aren't together." Goddammit, Renesmee thought to herself, get a grip. Why did she turn into such a blathering mess whenever Jake asked her about her love life?
"What happened? Did he hurt you?"
"No, we just … Well, we just weren't right for each other." Because I'm in love with you, you big dork, Renesmee added silently.
"It's a shame. He's a good kid. And the right age for you too."
"Yeah, I guess."
The right age for you. The words hung in the air, and Renesmee wondered if the age difference between her and Jake was why he wouldn't return her affections. Did he even know that she felt that way about him? He had to know, right? She had tried to keep her feelings locked away, but still, she knew she was a crappy actor and so unless he had been living somewhere under a rock it would have been pretty obvious how she felt. But, she thought, even if he did know, he would have probably just put it down to a childish crush. Anyway, she was past doing anything about it now. She remembered how Jake had made his feelings abundantly clear to her that day when they had come into the dojo together. She knew better than to reopen an old wound.
They both lay there quietly for the next while, and the words faded away into companionable silence. It was nice, just lying there like this. Renesmee decided that if she didn't care if Jake didn't feel that way about her. Just having him back in her life again was enough. When he smiled at her, her whole day brightened. The love she felt for him brought a warmth to her heart that lit her up inside and filled every day with hope. She mused how strange it was that love, even when unreturned, had its own rainbow. And if what Jake was willing to give her stopped at friendship, then it was enough that she loved him, and she would be content with that.
Slowly over the coming weeks, their bond reconnected and it became easy as breathing again. But as always, the world had a way of throwing a spanner in the works.
It was a day like any other. They were lying on the mats in the dojo, waiting for class to start. Ever since her father had dropped the bombshell, Renesmee felt like she had been living on borrowed time. She didn't want to tell Jake. Nothing was real to her until she told Jake. But the day was inching ever closer, and she didn't want him to hear it from anyone else. She took a deep breath and said the words.
"Jake, my Dad got a promotion. We're moving to New York."
The silence in the massive studio space was deafening. Renesmee waited for Jake to say something, but instead he continued staring at the ceiling. Finally he spoke, not looking at her.
It was just one word, but Renesmee thought she sensed something - something more than just the literal question that was being asked.
"Next Tuesday," she replied, trying to keep her voice even. She didn't want to leave, but this was a big promotion for her Dad. He was being moved to head up the New York office of his law firm, and that meant that his family was packing up and moving too. Renesmee felt the hot tears sting the edge of her eyes, and she fought desperately to hold them back.
Renesmee turned to look at Jake, and realised that he was looking at her. His face was expressionless, but she thought she saw a flicker of something in his eyes. Was it sadness? Or hurt? Or was it just her mind playing tricks on her again?
"Will you visit?" he asked quietly.
"Of course I will, silly. Grandpa Charlie still lives here, and so I'll be back every summer!" She tried to force a smile, knowing that she was only a hair's breadth away from losing it.
"Promise," Renesmee chirped with a little too much enthusiasm. She was teetering on the brink of tears, and she forced herself to push them back down. "And Let's pinky-swear on it," she said , holding out her little finger to him. Jake wrapped his own finger around hers, and looked at her sadly as if he was about to say something. But instead, he got up abruptly, and then held out his hand to help her up too.
"C'mon, people will be here soon," he said. "We'd better get started with getting things ready for class."
Tuesday came around faster than Renesmee could ever have imagined. Her friends all came to see her off at the airport. Rose and Alice were inconsolable. Renesmee tried to put a positive spin on the move by pointing out the great shopping in New York, and that they'd have somewhere good to stay when they visited her. And, she reminded them, she'd be back every summer.
Jake had stood quietly apart from everyone else, allowing Renesmee to say goodbye to her friends. When his turn came, he'd held her hand gently and whispered "See you in the summer, Nessie."
On the long plane ride to the other side of the country, Renesmee remembered the caress of Jake's breath hot against her ear, the sound of his voice and the warmth of his touch. And those memories were what kept her going through the long lonely months ahead. She learned to make new friends and to adjust to a new environment, but through it all, her affections remained with the wonderful, amazing man who held the key to her heart - a heart which still danced alone to that silent, lonely melody that only she could hear.
Six months passed, and finally it was summer. Renesmee had arrived back in Forks only hours earlier, and her heart squeezed with anticipation at the thought of seeing Jake again. As she opened the familiar doors of the dojo, the tall russet-skinned man sitting at the desk surrounded by paperwork looked up. A smile of recognition lit up his handsome face, and Renesmee felt her heart melt, just like it always did when he looked at her.
"Hiya, Ness," he grinned.
"Hi yourself," she smiled back. "Still putting the finishing touches on those plans for world domination are we?"
Jake looked puzzled for a moment, and then his booming laugh echoed throughout the dojo as he remembered that day, all those years ago, when she had walked in on him doing the dojo's paperwork. He got up from the desk and walked over to her. When he got close enough, he picked her up and twirled her around, before gently setting her down on the floor again.
"I didn't think you'd come back," he breathed, wrapping her in a big bear hug.
"I said I would," Renesmee batted Jake's chest playfully. "We pinky swore, remember?"
He was still holding her, and the closeness of him was intoxicating. Time felt like it stopped for a moment, and Renesmee lifted her face towards him, willing him to kiss her. She felt his breathing hitch and saw his eyes darken. She parted her lips expectantly.
"Uhh … So how's school?" Jake asked her, suddenly breaking off. What the hell? Talk about getting dosed with a bucket of cold water.
"School's over," Renesmee huffed. "I start college in the fall Jake. Not a little girl anymore, remember?" Renesmee thought she saw something flicker in Jake's eyes again, but then the doors flung open and people started filing in. A tall, bronzed goddess walked through the door.
"NessieeeeeEEEEE!" Leah squealed, and ran over to her friend. Renesmee though that her eardrums had almost burst. "When did you get back? Oh my God, I've missed you so much! How long are you back for? I've got so much to tell you …" and then Leah dragged her away. Jake smiled indulgently and mouthed 'see you after class' to Renesmee, as he headed off to set up.
Leah skipped class, and talked Renesmee's ear off for the next hour. A lot had happened in the six months since she'd been gone, and Leah didn't leave out a single detail. She recounted how, as soon as Paul had laid eyes on Jake's sister Rachel he'd fallen head over heels for her, Seth was still moping about but he was getting better, Quil had found himself a girlfriend, but she was still in high school so he was trying to navigate his way around that with her parents, and without getting arrested!
By the time class was finished and Leah had filled Renesmee in on most of the gossip of the last six months, a small crowd had gathered around the two girls. Jake wandered over and saw that they were still talking animatedly, and so he sat down with them and listened as they chatted, joining in with the laughter and reminiscing.
Renesmee was enjoying herself so much she didn't realise what time it was. When she recognised the sound of her Grandpa Charlie's truck pull up just outside the dojo, she said her goodbyes and picked up her bag and began to walk out. Jake got up with her and walked her to the door.
"So am I gonna see you again?" he asked her teasingly.
"Sure you are," Renesmee smiled. "I don't go back to New York for another couple of weeks, so I'll be back around here before then."
"Sounds good," Jake grinned. "Next time, I'll take you to that new coffee place. It's supposed to be really good."
"You betcha," Renesmee answered. "Anyway, I'd better go – Grandpa Charlie's waiting." She had reached the truck and was just about to open the door, when she felt a warm hand on her wrist. It was Jake.
"Wait Ness – I… uh, I need to give you my home phone number."
Renesmee stopped for a moment. Grandpa Charlie was tapping his hands on the wheel impatiently. He'd driven all the way out here to pick her up. She didn't want to make him mad by keeping him waiting longer. And so in that split second, Renesmee made the decision that she would come to regret for half a lifetime.
"That's ok, Jake. I'll get it from you next time I come to the dojo. See you soon!"
And then without a second thought she hopped into her Grandpa's truck and closed the door, certain that she'd be back to see Jake in the next few days. As the truck turned back towards home, Renesmee looked back over to where Jake was standing at the side of the road. She waved at him through the window and he waved back. She continued looking at him until he was just a speck in the distance.
And that was the last time she saw Jacob Black.
Renesmee didn't get a chance to come back to the dojo that summer. When she did the following year, Jake was gone. She had asked everyone where he was, but no-one knew. He had packed up his things a few months ago, and moved away. Something about going back to college and making his way in the world, they had said.
Almost twenty years had come and gone since that day, and the world had changed so much. She had changed so much. The carefree young girl was gone, and in her place now stood a thirty-something senior executive, hardened through years of climbing the corporate ladder. Renesmee was at the top of her game, but at what cost? She had had relationships over the years, but none of them had lasted because she just couldn't be bothered putting in the time and effort. She claimed that it was because she was married to her job, but if she was honest with herself, she would have admitted that it was because her heart still longed for Jacob Black.
Renesmee had often thought about Jake, and she found herself wondering time and again where he'd ended up after all these years? It was such an alien concept these days, but back then cellphones just weren't that common, and email was just as foreign a notion. Had they parted ways in this day and age, the fact that she didn't get his home phone number might not have been so significant. But it was a different world back then, and so she had no way of finding him again. In recent moments of nostalgia, she had tried googling and facebooking him, but there were too many entries for the name Jacob Black, and even when she had tried going through the first thousand or so entries, none of them related to him. She had even contemplated hiring a private investigator to track him down, but changed her mind when she realised that would have been just a bit, well, stalkerish and creepy.
So many years had passed, Renesmee mused. If she could do it over, the only thing she'd change would have been to ask Grandpa Charlie to wait for a few more minutes that day. In her childish fear of being reprimanded, she'd unknowingly walked away from the one thing that could have made her whole. The times she'd spent with Jake had been some of the happiest of her life. He had filled her heart with warmth and sunshine, and her days with laughter and love. And she wouldn't change a thing about those treasured memories, about him. But there had been so many missed opportunities, so many 'almost' moments, and she had been too timid to take it any further. It had all been so innocent. Stolen glances, stolen touches. But with a shadow's promise of potentially so much more. She had been so young then – What did she know about love? But she knew this – without a doubt, Jacob Black could have been the love of her life. It was so cliché, but she knew in her heart of hearts - he was the one that got away.
Renesmee snapped herself back to the present. She hadn't thought about him in such detail for so long. Why now? Why after all these years? She felt the empty ache in her chest tug towards something, or more accurately, towards someone.
Renesmee realised that her steady walk had slowed itself down to a stroll.
They had passed each other now, but Renesmee couldn't keep going. Something was holding her to the man whom she'd just walked past. The pull tugged through the back of her chest, towards the mysterious stranger. It felt as if her soul had reached out to his, and some mystical embrace was holding them both in place.
She stopped, and turned around to look at him. She saw he had done the same.
"Oh my God – Jake?"
They each took a step back towards each other.
Renesmee reached out and touched him, just to make sure she wasn't imagining it all. Yes, yes, he was real. Real as the afternoon sun on her skin, real as the breeze caressing her hair and the air soothing her lungs.
She stood still, unable to move and unwilling to do so, fearing that whatever spell was weaving its magic might be broken. She saw Jake reach out to her, and then he pulled her close and lifted her up into his arms. He twirled her around like he had done all those years ago, and then gently he set her back down on the ground again. He looked at her as if she were the most precious thing in the world, as if he'd finally found some long lost treasure. And then without warning, he crushed his lips to hers, touching, tasting, feeling every part of her mouth as he deepened the kiss. He ran his hands through her hair, around her waist, pressing his hand against the small of her back and holding her closer into him. The heat of his touch was intoxicating.
"My God," Jacob breathed, finally lifting his face to gaze into her eyes, "I've been wanting to do that for twenty years. Are you real? Are you really here?"
Renesmee couldn't speak. Everything around her had just fallen away, and all she could see was the wonderful, amazing man standing before her. Renesmee felt the ice in her heart slowly melt away. Gone was the cold hollowness that she had built around herself all these years. Gone was the impatience, the urgency that coloured so much of her life in these years past. In its place was a peace so warm and real and wonderful, it was beyond anything words could ever describe.
"Nessie, say something. Otherwise I'm going to think this is another hallucination," he murmured, gently brushing a stray hair away from her cheek. "So many times I thought I'd seen you, but it was just wishful thinking. I've imagined this moment so many times. My God, is it really you? Are you really here?"
Renesmee looked at her watch. She had four minutes left. She had to get back to the office. The Board would be waiting for her. She had a pile of paperwork to go through, and countless briefs to clear. And then she had to meet with the lawyers and do a last run-through before closing the deal on tomorrow's negotiations.
And then in a sudden moment of clarity, she realised she had been given her another chance, and there was no way she was going to make the same mistake twice. She put her hand on Jake's chest, in a 'wait' gesture, and pressed the speed-dial on her cellphone.
"Renea? It's me … No, no, everything's fine … Would you please apologise to the Chairman and cancel the rest of my appointments for today. I won't be coming back into the office this afternoon … No, that will be fine. See you tomorrow ... Okay, thanks."
Renesmee closed her cellphone and looked back up at the man who was grinning warmly down at her, his eyes filled with some kind of unfathomable joy that seemed beyond explanation. If it was anything like the happiness that was brimming to the very edges of her own heart, she imagined he felt more alive in this moment than he'd ever felt before. She took a deep breath, taking in every wonderful, wondrous moment of it.
All these years, Renesmee realised now, the twenty minutes a day that she had insisted on were just her attempts to hold onto Jake. The warm rays of the sunshine on her face each day were his imagined kisses on her skin. The wind in her hair and the soothing breaths of fresh air were how the carefree memories of him made her feel. She had been reaching out to Jake each day without even realising it.
She looked up at him, marvelling how he hadn't changed at all over the years. The corners of his eyes crinkled as a wide white-toothed smile lit up his handsome face. Renesmee felt the warmth of his touch permeate through every fibre of her being. She looked up into his warm onyx eyes, and finally she saw what he had been hiding from her all those years ago.
"I love you, Ness" he whispered, his warm breath nuzzling her ear. "I've always loved you. It's always been you. Only you."
"Oh Jake, I love you too," she smiled, finally unafraid to let her true feelings for him shine through. He smiled back at her, happiness radiating from every inch of his tall, powerful frame.
"How about we go and get that coffee I promised you half a lifetime ago," he grinned, taking her hand in his, "and this time, I'm getting your phone number."
He held her close as they started to walk off together. The silhouettes of their shadows cast by the afternoon sun on the pavement seemed to dance together as they took their first steps towards happily ever after. The silent melody that Renesmee had been dancing alone to all these years had finally found its harmony. All that she had needed was her soulmate to complete it.
And now that she had found him, she mused looking at their shadows intertwined on the pavement, she knew this dance wasn't just for this moment, or for now.
It was forever.