The Twilight Series belongs to S. Meyer, no copyright infringement is intended. I'm just playing with the characters.
AN: Written for the Diamond in the Rough Writing Challenge on JBNP.
As the oldest of the Clearwater children, Leah had managed to wrap both her parents around her tiny, copper-colored pinky finger within mere moments of them meeting eye-to-eye. Some even believed that Harry had been wrapped around her finger even before she was born – simply because he loved Sue more than life itself. Life and its ability to be taken away at a moment's notice was something that Harry had understood for far too long – at too young an age some would add.
It was the reason why he had learned to live for today – Tomorrow may never come.
Harry and Sue had married on a beautiful May day in 1985 – they were young, barely 22 years old, but they had loved each other since the day that Harry pulled on Sue's pigtails in grade school. Harry along with his three best friends were considered 'big catches' in a small place like Forks and La Push.
The four of them – Billy Black, Charlie Swan, Quil Ateara IV, and Harry, for all intents and purposes could have left their mark by breaking girls' hearts left and right – but they didn't. Billy had declared at age 7 that he was going to marry Sarah Wilde. Quil fell for Joy Quehpa when she stood up to Joshua Uley when they were in the sixth grade. Joshua was two years older, but he never spared another gaze at the La Push trio – as their parents were in the habit of calling Billy, Harry, and Quil – after Joy punched him in the face, giving him a black eye.
And Charlie, he had seen the love and devotion his best friends had toward their chosen mates so he refused to settle for anything less. All it took was a pair of blue eyes, brown hair with golden highlights and bronzed skin – both of the latter two being courtesy of the California sun for him to fall head over heels.
So, it was with little surprise after Harry and Sue married on that late spring day that nine months later they welcomed Leah into the world. Sue worked nights as a nurse at Forks General Hospital while Harry worked days as a Forest Ranger in the Olympic National Forest; there were days they barely saw more than the back of each other's heads but they were happy. It was during their early years that they learned to live simply.
Don't count every hour in the day, make every hour in the day count.
Time passed as it was wont to do and not many years had come and gone before Seth joined their small family, bringing their number to four. Leah was both a daddy and mommy's girl, so the arrival of her little brother made her prone to tantrums and fits of temper. She couldn't understand why Seth needed either daddy or mommy when he was crying. It seemed whenever he was awake he was cradled in one of her parents' arms. She began to feel unloved and unwanted.
Even her two best friends, Rebecca and Rachel didn't understand. Like Leah, they had a little brother – but they also had each other. So, maybe they didn't get their parents' affection as often as they had before. Or perhaps, it was simply because they had always been used to sharing.
This time when Sue went back to work after her maternity leave, Harry stayed home. When school started up that fall, Leah was irate. Seth got to spend the entire day with daddy and then mommy fussed over him in the evenings. It wasn't fair, she fumed on more than one occasion. It was then that they began to live with a new motivation.
Lost time is never found again.
This was when they both found a way to make a special time for Leah. It wasn't every day, but nearly every day. Each evening Harry would read to Leah from books that she wasn't ready to master on her own. Books with pages and pages of words – together they would stretch out on her twin-sized four poster bed with its gauzy white canopy and frilly sea foam green linens.
It was the only truly girly thing Leah had allowed her mom to put in her room when they re-decorated it the summer before Seth was born. Harry would gather Leah into his arms. His long legs stretched out and she would try and stretch her legs as far as she could – wondering if one day she would be anywhere as big and strong as him.
They read tales of princesses, princes, paupers, thieves and robbers – some sad, some happy. Leah voraciously absorbed the stories and her dreams were filled with all the wonderful things that she would someday get to do, see, and be when she was older. Depending on the book and the size of its letters, Harry would run his finger just underneath the line he was reading, so that she could see the words as he spoke them.
Every other Saturday was a girl's day. Just Leah and mommy – it was often a day they would run some errands in Forks. Leah felt like a grown-up girl as she helped her mom shop for groceries and other needed items. Once every other month, they would get in daddy's truck and make the long drive to Port Angeles.
There Leah was allowed to select six books. The books that daddy would read to her. This was the best part about her day with her mommy. They spent all day in the bookstore and daddy and Seth did the grocery shopping, because Leah loved to amble down the narrow walkways between the shelves of books.
She was going to read them all someday and then after she had read everything there was – she would write her own stories. Her tiny fingers would run along the spines of the books while her eyes catalogued their varied colors.
Sometimes, her mommy would give her suggestions. Showing Leah books that she had adored as a child or books she had heard her co-workers say their children esteemed. Occasionally, Leah would take the book her mommy offered, but not always.
It made Sue shake her head when Leah would look at the book she held in her hands. Leah's head tipped to the side, chin resting on her hand, and her black hair brushing her arm; sometimes Leah would look at the book for an infinitely long time before pursing her lips and curtly replying, "No."
Sue didn't know it but Leah had a method to her madness. It wasn't just the story that made Leah want to crack open the cover. It was what the book looked like itself. It wasn't necessarily because it had the prettiest picture or her favorite color. There was just something she couldn't describe that she would feel deep inside that told her a particular book was the one.
One winter when she was twelve, she came down with influenza. By this time her daddy and mommy had become dad and mom except for in times of illness or fear, and then she would revert back to the titles she now saw as 'childish.' She wasn't a child any longer – every day she was growing taller and wiser.
Truthfully, she didn't need her dad to read to her any longer, but he still did every night. First, he would read a story to Seth and then when it was Leah's bedtime, they stretched out on her bed – just the two of them and she was transplanted back into the world of magic and adventure.
As they had just finished a book only the night before, Leah mulled over her choice for the entire day while she was laid up in her sickbed. The old small bookcase she used to have, had been replaced – her one and only birthday gift last year, but she didn't mind at all. It was a thing of beauty to her. White-washed wood which matched her bed and dresser perfectly; the height of it was taller than her dad – taller than anyone she had ever met.
Even better was the fact that it fit all her books and still had room for more. She found herself on days when it was particularly cold and rainy, reorganizing it. Some days, she would put the books in order alphabetically by the author's last name. Other times, she would organize it by size and yet others, by colors. Either way, she was quite proud of it and the collection she had acquired over the years.
The future is uncertain but the end is always near.
For some reason, she struggled to find what new book they should start. It was as though the book she chose tonight which they would spend the next week or more reading was substantially important. She stood in front of her bookcase; more than once her mom scolded her for being out of bed.
Finally, she found it. The cover wasn't overly impressive. Muted colors graced it – greens, gold, and browns. A giant tree with roots that she could see were deeply imbedded into the ground. Two figures, one standing and one sitting were underneath the tree's shade. She traced her finger over the title –Bridge to Terabithia. This was the book she had been searching for.
She scampered back to bed, the book clutched her hands. Setting it on her nightstand, so her dad would see it she snuggled back into bed and closed her eyes. It took only moments for her to fall asleep. Her dreams filled with the possibility that her choice held.
Later, that evening her dad came and read to her. She was entranced by the story. Jesse was a simple boy who had big dreams and sensed the same feelings she remembered having when her baby brother was born. He felt out of place in his family – his life, but he found a friend, Leslie, who was able to help him through it.
It took nearly the whole week for them to read the entire book. By that time, Leah was feeling better, but the book had an ending she wasn't prepared for. After all the magic of the kingdom they had created together, Terabithia – it seemed unreal that they would face death. For wasn't childhood the kingdom where nobody dies?
The idea that someone young and full of life like Leslie could die startled something inside Leah. It gave her nightmares as she realized that all living things at one point would die. That nothing lasted forever. Her heart clenched in fear as she gazed at her parents and little brother at the kitchen table each day. Her mind racing with horrible thoughts of how, when, where, and who it would happen to first.
She clung to her parents tighter when she hugged them goodnight. Even Seth suffered through the indignity of her embracing him not just on a daily basis, but multiple times a day. And when tragedy struck the small reservation in the form of Sarah Black's death – Leah was sure that she had caused it.
She had never seen her parents cry – never seen any adult cry. It seemed there were rivers of tears which flowed faster than a swollen stream in the spring. No one was spared the agony of grief. Rebecca and Rachel looked like a pair of bookends meant to keep Billy on his feet. Little Jacob clung to Rebecca's hand and when they went to bring Sarah's body to the burial plot, he wrenched his hand free from Rebecca's and viciously attacked the men carrying the casket.
"I want my mommy!" he screamed. "Don't take my mommy!"
Leah watched as Billy fell to his knees and sobbed. Rebecca and Rachel clung to one another. None of the three could bring themselves to grab the screaming and flailing boy. Their grief too intense – it was Joy Ateara and Tiffany Call who managed to grasp Jacob. Tiffany gathered him close to her and whispered softly to him while Joy rubbed his back in a soothing matter.
It was barely three months later when death visited the reservation again. Leah shut herself in her room and refused to go with her family to pay respects to Old Quil, Joy, and Young Quil. Quil IV, her father's best friend had died in sudden storm while fishing. He had been so close to home, just a few miles off shore near Strawberry Bay when his boat was overcome by waves.
They held out hope for the first few days, thinking perhaps he had managed to somehow make it to shore, but it was all in vain. His body washed ashore and they had no choice – the facts stared them in the face. It was her fault; she knew it without a doubt.
Every night since Sarah's death she had prayed that her parents were never taken from her nor her brother. Every night it was the same prayer, over and over – a mantra that slipped from her lips easily, too easily she now realized. By praying for her loved ones lives to be spared, she had brought death upon them all.
Harry and Sue had no choice but to leave Leah home. They didn't want to be late to the funeral and didn't have time to get to the bottom of why Leah was upset. Harry had started back to work only a few months ago, but the same job he had done only a few short years ago, was now too hard on his body. It seemed they needed to re-think things.
When they got home later that evening, their mood was somber and subdued. Leah's responses to their concerned questions were constricted; her affect blunted and guarded – as though she carried the weight of the world on her young shoulders. The four of them went through the motions of their evening. Dinner was prepared and eaten, dishes gathered and washed, and bedtime rituals of baths and stories done without any particular attention to them.
As Harry stretched out on Leah's bed that night to read to her, he noticed the book they had finished months ago was sitting out on her nightstand. As she snuggled closer to him, he picked up the book and turned it over in his hand.
"Leah," he began softly. "Didn't we just finish this book?"
"Yeah, daddy, but will you read it again?"
Slowly, he put the pieces together; her strange moods, calling him 'daddy' instead of 'dad', and her wanting him to re-read a book.
"Sure, honey, but why don't we talk for a bit?"
The shuddering sigh she released broke his heart; though he continued on. "We've had some hard times these last few months, haven't we? It's not easy to face death – our own mortality. Though we can take comfort in the fact that the spirits of our ancestors are always around us, guiding us, and will be ready to take us home when our time comes."
"But…what if…" she whispered. "What if you caused it?"
"How could you do that?"
He saw a single tear leak from the corner of her eye which she hastily brushed away. He pulled her closer and kissed the crown of her head before nudging her chin with his hand so he could look at her face.
"Leah, you didn't do anything to cause what happened. It is the way of Our Mother – she gives us life and we do not know when we will return to her arms. Everything has a time – a reason – a cycle."
She scrunched her nose and squeezed her eyes tightly shut, trying to hold her tears inside. As they began to leak down her cheeks she tried to swallow the lump in her throat, but couldn't. Racking sobs shook her small shoulders, her hands clenched into fists so she could furiously brush away her tears.
Harry didn't say a word; instead he held her close and let her cry it out. Sue peeked in the room and mouthed to him, "Do you need me?" He shook his head and his focus was returned to Leah before she even realized it had been pulled away.
It was a while before her sobs quieted, her voice raspy as she confessed, "I prayed every night…I didn't want you or mommy or Seth to die. And now Sarah and Quil are both dead. I shouldn't have prayed for that. If I didn't, then Jacob, Rebecca, and Rachel would still have a mom and Quil would have a dad."
"Honey, you did nothing wrong or bad. Nothing you did caused what happened. Sarah and Quil, it was their time. None of us know when our time could be."
"But I don't want you to die!"
He didn't know how to respond to her wail. His heart pounded in his chest at the thought of lying to her. Telling her that he would never leave, but he already knew he was on borrowed time. Had been on borrowed time for years – since he was 13 years old to be exact.
He remembered it as though it was yesterday. It was the middle of summer when he fell ill. His throat was red and swollen; it hurt to swallow. And his body ached and he probably had a fever, but it was summer and he was enjoying running around the rez with his friends. He refused to be sick – not when they were having nice, sunny days for once in Northwestern Washington.
So, he made sure not to complain to his parents and stayed away from the ever watchful eyes of his older siblings, Michael and Elizabeth. A week after he started feeling ill, things took a turn for the worse. The swelling in his throat was so bad that he couldn't swallow and he became dehydrated. That was the tipping point.
His parents brought him to Forks General and he was quickly diagnosed with a strep infection, otherwise known as tonsillitis. Even without antibiotics, usually it would resolve on its own, but Harry wasn't so lucky. His infection quickly turned into rheumatic fever.
His heart and joints were damaged from the infection. At the tender age of 13, he had arthritis and a prolapsed mitral valve. He was in the hospital for two weeks and since then had been on some form of medication. Antibiotics for several years to prevent re-infection and given prophylactically now. Heart medications given to help his heart pump more effectively while ensuring his blood pressure remained within normal ranges.
His health was part of the reason why he and Sue didn't delay getting married or having children. It was the reason behind why Harry stayed at home when Seth was born. The very same reason why they were trying to figure out how to deal with their latest challenge. He loved his job, but at the same time he couldn't physically do it anymore.
Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.
He didn't know what the future held. Didn't know how long he would get, but he was determined to enjoy every moment. Surgery was an option, but risky – the pros and cons equal – the outcome not sure. He refused to waste his time here by putting his life in others' hands; instead for better or worse, he was putting his faith in the spirits – his ancestors. They would ensure he had the time he needed.
There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing.
"Leah, I can't promise you that I won't die. We all will someday and the when, where, why, and how's – aren't for us to decide, either. What I can promise you is that I will always be with you and watch over you."
She nodded; the movement so slight that he might have missed it had he not been watching her closely. Kissing her cheek, he whispered, "I love you so much. You'll always be my little girl – you're firmly rooted in my heart. So, no more tears tonight. Let's have faith that our ancestors are watching over us."
Eight years later…
Nothing in Leah's life had turned out how she thought it would. As she stood in a circle surrounded by her ex, brother, and other young men of the tribe – she wondered how she was to live with her faith being completely shattered to bits.
The never-ending rain and cold still found ways to seep into her light grey fur. She shook her new – definitely not improved body in an attempt to dry off. She was trying not to be angry and disappointed, fighting her desire to rage and scream at the sky, their ancestors, and at the motley crew of boys she found herself surrounded by.
"I'm here – always here. Don't be afraid. I promise to watch over you and Seth."
She startled at the whisper she heard in her ear. The winds died down for a moment, the rain slowing, and the clouds parting to reveal a beam of sunlight. Its rays and the words that were just spoken warmed her cold, stiff heart which swiftly thundered to life.
'Did you hear that,' she asked tentatively through the still-foreign pack mind.
'Hear what?' – 'I didn't hear anything.' – 'It's bad enough we've got a girl to deal with now, but she's crazy too.' – 'Leah, you're embarrassing me!' The last comment being from none other than her little brother.
Shaking her wolfy head to clear it, she mumbled, 'Never mind. It was nothing.'
"I love you so much. If there's one thing I want you to remember, it's this: time is precious. Live, laugh, and love like there's no tomorrow because today is the only thing that matters. While this time may be difficult for you – you are strong like your mother and obstinate like me. I'll always be close to you and when your time comes – I'll guide you to your way home."
She choked back a sob as she realized who was speaking those words. He had kept his promise after all. He knew he couldn't promise forever – but he promised to always watch over her. For the first time that day, she felt confident and comfortable in her new skin and duty. This was only a small hurdle and she planned to fly over it. Nothing would get in the way of her dreams.