Chapter One

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns the Twilight series that I oh so love and hate. Also, all rights of this fanfic go to Greeen Goldish. I am simply reposting it.


Stifling

That's the word that summed up my existence.

I increasingly felt like I would never get out of our tiny little reservation. It was the same things every day—the same people, the same beaches, the same roads and houses and conversations. The same trees and smells and clouds and air. Sometimes it felt like something was pressing in on my chest, refusing to let me breathe. And when I finally did succeed in breathing, the air I inhaled was heavy and wet. It was like drowning, in the air. It was like the air itself was pushing in on me. La Push was pushing in on me.

I was lying on my back in the dirt outside the school. Not because I have any special affinity for dirt, but because the grass was probably still damp. It was rare that the dirt had an opportunity to dry out completely, and it felt parched and warm on my back and, for once, I could breathe.

So I guess maybe I do have a special affinity for dirt.

I didn't like the idea of the dirt soiling my clothes so much as I liked the idea of it soiling my clothes and not mattering. Because nothing seemed to matter in La Push. Regardless of what I did, I would end up living in a small house like my parents. My job wouldn't matter. My friends wouldn't matter. Nothing would change.

So it was hard to care about anything.

I certainly didn't care about the dirt that smeared the back of my t-shirt and clung to my hair. I almost liked it. Because then it was like not caring was a benefit—like it was good. The fact that nothing mattered was good. The fact that everything would stay the same was good.

It made living easy.

So I watched the clouds as they drifted past, fluffy and white, for once. It wasn't the first sunny day in La Push and it wouldn't be the last, but it was uncommon. So it almost mattered.

But not really.

"Leah!"

I started at the sound of my name, propping myself up on one elbow and looking around.

"Huh?" I mumbled drowsily.

"Over here!" Sasha called.

Sasha was behind me, near the school building, waving me over. I stood up and brushed the dirt from my jeans indifferently.

As I strode over to her, I could see that she was grinning. She obviously had something to tell me. I raised my eyebrows at her as I closed the distance between us, but she was silent until I was within reach, which was when she grabbed my arm and pulled me to her.

"Danny asked me to the bonfire this weekend!" she whispered excitedly.

"That's great," I said, a little confused. It wasn't like the bonfires were private functions. They were pretty much wide open, and pretty much everyone went. It wasn't like she needed an engraved invitation. "So, uh…does that mean it's…a date?" I felt stupid even asking it.

"I don't know! Do you think?" she squealed, as we pushed through the doors and into the bustling cafeteria. I preferred spending lunch outside when the weather was nice, like it was that day. It wasn't often that the clouds parted in La Push. I tried to take advantage of it when they did. But I could tell Sasha was dying to talk to me about Danny and analyze every syllable that had come out of his mouth. So I steeled myself.

"Well, what exactly did he say?" I asked, pretty sure that was the appropriate response.

And that was all it took. The words gushed out of her the entire time we stood in the lunch line. I nodded my head as I plunked some Salisbury steak onto my tray. Then, I wrinkled my nose as I examined a small bowl of mashed potatoes, sniffing it.

"Well, you stuck your nose in it! Take it!" the cafeteria woman shouted at me. I grimaced at her in apology and dropped it on my tray, as Sasha continued chattering about the clothes she was going to wear at the bonfire on Saturday night.

It was only after we paid and were looking for a place to sit that Sasha stopped to take a breath. I realized I was supposed to have something relevant or helpful to say to her, so I began racking my brain, going back over everything I had just heard her say. But what did I know about boys? Not much, really.

Nothing, really.

Not that it mattered.

~~~~~~~~.~~~~~~~~

That night, I lay awake in bed, staring at the ceiling of my cramped room. Like every other night.
The window was open, but it was hot. Our house was almost always hot, regardless of the temperature outside. Maybe just because I found the humidity so stifling. I would open my window an in effort to let out the heat, but it would let in the damp air. And it was late April, so the air out there wasn't all that cool anyway.

I was sticky, and my tank top felt damp, like everything else. My sheets felt damp. The room felt damp. The air was so god damned damp.

I rolled out of bed and pulled on some jeans, thinking about how the only thing that mattered was that none of it mattered.

I let the screen door slam behind me as I left the house. And when the night air hit my face, it was like I could breathe for the first time in ages. I wasn't holed up in my stuffy room in that stuffy little house anymore.

I was alone.

Everyone was asleep.

It was quiet.

I was free.

I pulled the crushed pack of cigarettes out of my pocket and tucked the least shabby looking one into my mouth as I dug the lighter out of my other pocket.

I knew that smoking was bad for me. I knew that it was stupid. But I loved everything about smoking cigarettes. I loved the flicking sound of the lighter as the lick of fire burst from it. I loved the taste of the cigarette as I placed it between my lips. I loved the sweet smell of tobacco when I pressed my nose to a fresh pack. I loved the orange glow of a cigarette in the dark. And most of all, I loved the feeling of inhaling that dry smoke into my lungs slowly, savoring it. Then, I loved exhaling it slowly, in puffs. It was a ritual. It was beautiful. And there was nothing damp about it.

So I walked, smoking that cigarette like it was the last cigarette on earth. I didn't know where I was walking to, at first. I just wandered, listening to the crickets and thinking about nothing. Nothing but those crickets and that glorious cigarette.

I perched the cigarette from my lips and shoved my hands in my pockets and threw my head back, looking at the sky as I walked. It didn't matter if I watched where I was going. There was nothing in front of me. And if I tripped, no one would see.

Nothing mattered.

So I stared at the stars, my head slung back, wandering forward, one foot in front of the other. I would close my lips around the cigarette to inhale and then open the side of my mouth to exhale.
It was uncharacteristically clear that night. And I tried to spot the stars Dad had pointed out to me as a
child as he wove the Quileute legends.

I couldn't remember them.

When I grew bored of pondering my own insignificance in the universe, I tipped my head back down and looked straight ahead. I had veered off course some.

Not that I had a course.

But that was when I realized where I was headed.

Despite suddenly having a destination, I meandered. I took my time. I reveled in the silence and the solitude and the knowledge that no one knew where I was or what I was doing.

I did a cartwheel, cigarette still dangling in my mouth.

For no reason at all.

Then, when I dusted off my hands, I headed for the cliffs.

The cliffs were my albatross. My siren. My Everest.

I had watched the boys jump off of those cliffs for years. Even as a little girl, I was mesmerized by the way men would leap from them as if they could fly, running, running, running and then flying before diving into that water. It was all so deliberate. They weren't falling back to the earth. They were diving back to the earth. They were bending their bodies, their instincts, and the earth to their will. They were commanding the ground beneath them and the air between them and the water under them. Their bodies were merely the vessels for their freedom.

It drove me wild.

Because it was everything I wanted.

But I was terrified.

I had always been terrified of heights. Mom thinks it's because Jacob Black shoved me from a diving board when we were little. I hit the water at an awkward angle and became disoriented. By the time I knew which way was up, I had swallowed my fair share of the pool. And I was pretty sure I was
drowned.

Until I heard Jacob Black laughing.

That was probably the day Jacob Black started irritating the shit out of me.

When I got to the cliffs, I walked out to the very edge. I tried to peer over it without actually leaning over it. It was enough for me to see the water that was almost directly below me. I didn't need to look straight down.

It still made me nervous, so I sat down quickly, crossing my legs beneath me. I could handle sitting on the edge, with my weight close to the ground. That was easy. Plus, there was a great view of the ocean.

And the salty air was almost dry.

Sometimes I swear the water at First Beach is dryer than the air. The water is at least salty. When I swim in it, it makes my hair coarse when it dries, almost like the mane of a horse. My hair will never be as coarse as that of white girls, though. I used to watch those commercials on TV about how using hair products and blow dryers and curling irons and things were bad for hair—that they dried it out and damaged it. The commercials were for shampoos that were supposed to restore that "healthy sheen." But I wasn't interested in the shampoo. My hair always had that shiny gloss that made it look almost wet. So I used to do all of those things that would supposedly damage it. I would blow dry it and then try curling it and teasing it—anything to make it lighter than it really was. But my hair would always be heavy, shapeless, and smooth. Like water.

I stubbed out my cigarette on the cool rock surface beneath me. I was going to shove the butt into my pocket, because Dad always taught me to love the earth and not to litter. But I really wanted to flick that cigarette butt over that cliff. And I couldn't convince myself to care enough not to. So I flicked it with a precision that comes only with years of practice flicking cigarettes. It was another part of the ritual that I enjoyed. And as I watched what was left of the last cigarette on earth sail down and down and down toward the water, I regretted that cigarettes only had the courtesy to glow orange when someone had the courtesy to inhale their smoke. Because I would have liked to have seen that orange light fall down the side of that cliff into that water.

As it was, it disappeared behind the cliff before I could see it hit the water, anyway.

Then, I sighed, before pulling the crushed package of cigarettes back out of my pocket. But that time, I tapped it in my palm lightly, corralling the few cigarettes left toward the opening. Once they were obedient, I dug in with my index finger until I found what I was really looking for. I tilted the package, then, until the joint slid out into my open palm.

The only thing better than breathing in the warm, dry smoke of tobacco was breathing in the warm, dry smoke of pot.

After I lit it and sucked in that first lovely breath, I released it slowly; deliberately. Then, I fell back to the stone slab that had become my bed.

I knew I wasn't going to be doing any cliff diving that night. I closed my eyes and did some visualizations. I imagined the running and the jumping. Yet, even as I imagined it, my brain made the Leah in my mind's eye hesitate, when she got near the edge. This was tragic for Imaginary Leah, because she ended up tripping over the edge of the cliff instead of leaping over it. Which meant she didn't put enough space between herself and the cliff, scraping against it on the way down, and falling onto the rocks below, where the crashing waves threw her already mangled body against the cliff face, bludgeoning her even further.

So I took another drag and started over.

The second time, Imaginary Leah hesitated again, but caught herself. Only it was too late. She caught the edge of the cliff with her hands after she had already fallen over the edge, so she clung to it, dangling above the water and the rocks. But she couldn't hold on. She clawed helplessly for a moment before losing her grip entirely and hurdling down to the rocks below. That time, she fell head first into a large, jagged rock, cracking her skull in half, blood and brain matter exploding into the water around her.

So I took another deep drag, exhaling slowly.

I bucked up Imaginary Leah. I told her she could do it. I told her she just needed to not think about the water. She needed to concentrate on running, and leaping, and flying. Then, I told her she was imaginary, so it wasn't a big deal if she failed.

Funny how things almost seemed to matter more for Imaginary Leah than me.

On her third attempt, Leah finally made it. Not only did she survive it, but she also executed the most beautiful and exquisite swan dive ever performed by anyone, imaginary or otherwise.

I was proud of Imaginary Leah.

And hopelessly jealous.

~~~~~~~~.~~~~~~~~

When I heard the footsteps coming toward me, I didn't bother opening my eyes. I knew it was Sasha. Sasha was the only person who ever sought me out at the end of the football field, where I smoked during the lunch period. And she probably just wanted to gush some more about Danny. I hoped that if I kept my eyes shut, she would decide to sit down and soak up the silence with me.

"Bum a smoke?"

My eyes flew open and I sat up, startled. Because it wasn't Sasha.

It was Sam Uley.

And I hated Sam Uley.

I had absolutely no reason to hate Sam Uley, other than the fact that he was incredibly good looking. I tended to have an irrational disdain for attractive guys—feeling like they assumed that I was interested in them, and that they were too good for me. Actually, even if they didn't think they were too good for me, I was still bugged that they always assumed I was interested.

Of course, there was no way of knowing whether they actually assumed I was interested in them. It was just a feeling I always got. And before I knew it, I was self conscious even making eye contact with them. I had no desire to feed their egos or let them perceive me as yet another groupie.

Like I said: completely irrational.

And Sam Uley was the worst one. Because Sam Uley was like a living, breathing, hunky high school bad boy cliché. He was the kind of chiseled beauty that was almost painful to look at, because it made you feel inadequate and uncomfortable. He was kind of a loner, and it was unclear if it was because he actually thought he was better than everyone else, or if everyone else was just intimidated by him. Or maybe he was just a loner because he fit the stereotype that well.

So it was a little surprising, to say the least, when I realized he was the one standing over me. And I cursed the fact that he had caught me off guard, because I began stammering, and I'm sure that he chalked that up to my being too awestruck by his god damned beauty to be able to speak coherently.
"Uh. Yeah. Um. Here," I said, handing him the package that was lying next to me.

He looked at it for a second and cocked his head, which I thought was kind of weird. Was he going to complain about the brand or something? When I was bumming him a cigarette?

"Are these supposed to be ironic?" he asked.

And then I realized what he was asking about. Because I was smoking American Spirits. Which is practically the equivalent of killing puppies in La Push.

American Spirit cigarettes have nothing to do with American Indians. The company isn't owned or operated by American Indians. It's not some sort of American Indian tobacco. Yet the label on the package features a stereotypical looking Indian smoking out of a stereotypical peace pipe.

"Uh. No," I stammered. "I mean…I guess… Kind of. It's…hard to explain."

"Try me," he said, tapping a cigarette into his hand. He looked back at me, then and spoke again, before I could answer. "This is your last one."

"It's fine. Take it," I said. I was going to have to get more on the way back from school anyway.

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah."

"Thanks."

Then, he stuck the cigarette between his lips before meandering over to a nearby trash can and tossing in the empty package. I thought my interaction had thus concluded with Sam Uley at that point, but just as I was breathing a sigh of relief, he turned and walked back toward me as he lit the cigarette. As he inhaled, his eyes returned to mine. I stared at him, determined not to look away. He raised his eyebrows at me and exhaled a smooth cloud of smoke.

"So?" he asked.

"Huh?"

I was squinting up at him and shading my eyes with my hand, because he stood over me unapologetically, the sun behind him.

"The irony. You were gonna explain it."

"Oh." I looked at my hands then, despite my determination. Because it was really hard to look him in the eye as I tried to explain why I smoked cigarettes that were kind of exploitative. "Um. I guess because…fuck it. Because…what does it matter?" I asked, glancing back up at him.

I wasn't going to let him intimidate me. And I sure as hell wasn't going to flirt.

But then…he grinned.

It was the type of grin that made me want to gouge out my eyes. Because it was so charming. I could feel everything inside of me rising up against my determination to not be attracted to his chiseled face and broody eyes and dimpled smile.

It was awful.

I think I actually winced.

But Sam just plopped down next to me, like we were the oldest of friends. Like it was perfectly natural for him to invade my smoking spot.

Eventually, he lay back in the dirt and closed his eyes.

I sat there and fumed about how he bummed my last cigarette and made himself at home, scowling at his perfect eyelashes as we both smoked our cigarettes in silence.

When he finally finished, he stood and brushed the dirt from his jeans just before flicking his cigarette butt into the trash. Then, he looked at me and grinned.

"Thanks for the smoke, Leah," he said, just before turning on his heel and walking back toward the school.

~~~~~~~~.~~~~~~~~

I may not have cared much about dating, but I was a teenage girl, susceptible to all of the normal adolescent thoughts and urges.

So, while I didn't have any illusions about Sam Uley wanting anything other than a cigarette from me that afternoon, I wasn't impervious to his beauty. There's no way I wasn't going to see that grin replayed in my head a hundred times that day, every time I closed my eyes.

It was disgusting how much I liked that he had smiled at me, and that he had said my name. I mean, it's really not that significant that he knew my name. It wasn't like La Push was a big place. Everyone knew everyone's names, for the most part. But I don't think Sam Uley and I had ever spoken to one another. Maybe because neither he nor I really spoke a whole lot to anyone.

So when I went to bed that night, it was like any other night, in that I couldn't sleep. I thought about going back to the cliffs. But when I shut my eyes, I saw that smile again. And it wasn't just that smile. Everything about Sam Uley was molded in a way that the heat of my resentment for him and disgust with myself was matched only by the heat of my want. I envisioned the way his arms were perfectly sculpted and the way his t-shirt fit taut across his chest, hinting at how perfectly sculpted it was as well. And even though it was no mystery that Sam Uley's body was flawless, thanks to many days of watching the boys go cliff diving, the t-shirt somehow made the blood in my veins run even hotter. Knowing what was under there and not seeing it made me crazy.

I knew if I ran my finger over his skin, it would be smooth and warm. But it wouldn't be soft. Nothing about Sam Uley was soft.

And as I imagined running my hand over that grey t-shirt and feeling the muscles that bound him together into the sleek and imperfection-less object of my disdain, my hand dipped down into my shorts…

…and I wondered if it was going to be anything like hate sex.