Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing.
When he dropped me off that day, I told him he could drop me at my actual house.
He raised his eyebrows, but he didn't say anything. He just pulled down the street and parked outside it.
I was probably just being paranoid, anyway. Seth would be the only one home.
"Thanks," I mumbled, handing him the cigarette we had been sharing.
Just as I hopped out and was about to close the door, he spoke.
"Need a ride to the bonfire?"
I stopped, realizing I hadn't given much thought to what it would be like going to a bonfire without Sasha at my side.
I wondered if she was going.
I wondered how uncomfortable it would be to walk there and arrive by myself.
I wondered if arriving with Sam would be more uncomfortable.
"Uh… I hadn't…thought about it. But…um… I can walk it."
The more I thought about it, the more determined I became to go alone. I didn't want Sam to become my social crutch.
"Yeah. But I might see you there."
I slammed the door shut then before turning and walking into the house.
And thanked god the face in the window that day wasn't my mother's.
It was Seth's.
"Was that Sam Uley?" Seth asked, the second I walked in the door.
"Why is he giving you a ride home?" he pressed, following me into the kitchen, where I grabbed an apple.
"Sasha couldn't today."
It was like he was a damn dog, nipping at my heels.
"Butt out, Seth!" I cried, just before disappearing into my room and slamming the door.
I returned to the cliffs that night.
Sam wasn't there, but it was just as well. I went that night to dive.
Saturday, it was sunny and warm, so I went to the beach with a book and my cigarettes. It worked out, because I was still lounging and reading when people started arriving for the bonfire.
Unfortunately, I didn't realize how much attention my bikini was going to garner until Cal and Zed paid a visit to my little stretch of sand, on the heels of a visit from Yos and Isaiah.
That was when I put my clothes back on.
I tried to continue reading despite the dwindling light. I was still, for all intents and purposes, alone.
When it got too dark to even pretend to read, I scanned the crowd. I realized I could probably join Yos and the others, but they weren't who I was looking for. I saw Sam. He was talking to Danny, of all people. But they weren't who I was looking for, either.
I finally spotted her, not far from Danny and Sam, talking to Jacob and his friends. Maybe she had given them a ride again.
Only then did my eyes snap back to Danny and Sam, as I felt suddenly paranoid about what they could be discussing. Surely, Sam and I hadn't reached a stage in our relationship that people were treating him like my ambassador. The thought mortified me. Just as I stood and shook out my towel, determined to make sure that wasn't the case, Sam's eyes met mine and he smiled, nodding in acknowledgment. Danny turned then to see what Sam was looking at, and he waved at me awkwardly. I tried to smile, probably unconvincingly.
Then, I rolled up my towel before tucking it under my arm and walking toward them.
They both saw me coming, and Danny stepped aside a little to allow me into their conversation. But they both fell silent as I approached.
"Hey, Leah. What's up?" he asked.
"Not much. Too dark to read, anymore. How are you?"
"Pretty good. Just trying to get through exams and all that, you know?"
He was looking at his shoes, then, and no one spoke. It was awkward.
"Uh. I think I'm gonna see if Isaiah got a hold of those fireworks," Danny finally said. "I'll see you two around."
"Yeah. Later, Danny," I said, as he slinked away.
When I turned to Sam, he was smoking his cigarette, casual as ever.
"What's up?" he asked.
"Nothing. I just…"
The truth was, I suddenly felt like an idiot. They were probably just talking about fireworks.
"I hear I missed your bikini," he said, grinning.
"I was kinda hoping it would make a reappearance later tonight."
I glanced over at Jacob and Sasha involuntarily, then. And Sasha was looking back. I wasn't really paying attention to Sam.
"Uh. Unlikely," I mumbled.
"Really? You're not gonna dive?" he asked, lowering his voice.
That was when I returned my attention to him.
"Oh. I hadn't really thought about it."
He flicked his cigarette butt into the bonfire then.
"Yeah. It's just… This is stupid, right? I should go talk to her, right?"
"Whatever you want, Babe."
"OK. I'm gonna go talk to her."
I dropped my towel and my book in the sand, then, and walked over to Sasha. I would have felt bad about forcing Jacob out of the conversation if… Well, if he weren't such a daily annoyance, anyway.
"Beat it, Jacob. Take your goonies with you."
He made a face at me, but didn't protest, and the three of them loped off. Sasha turned to me, all summer pastels and flip flops and sunshine. Her demeanor, however, provided a dark juxtaposition to her appearance.
"Sasha. What's going on with us?" I asked. I figured direct was the best approach.
"Us? Leah, what's going on with you?"
"Why does it just have to be about me?" I asked, a little indignant.
"You're the one sneaking around with Sam Uley and having sex and doing drugs and not telling me anything!"
"Sasha, you can't take any of that personally. And I thought you wanted me to get together with Sam."
"Not like this. I… I think you were right about him. I think he's a bad influence on you."
"Sasha! You sound like my mother!"
"Well, someone has to say it, Leah! We both know your parents don't know what's going on if I don't!"
"You don't know anything about Sam."
"And you do? Just like you knew all about Yos before you slept with him?"
"Sasha! You have to stop! I don't need another mother! I need a friend! I need you to stop judging me!"
"No, I think you need a ride to school."
I closed my eyes then, and tried not to get angry. It was a stupid thing to get angry over. She wasn't listening to me. I was wasting my time. It wasn't worth getting upset.
"Sasha, I need you to listen to me. This thing with Sam might be poorly timed. I realize what it must look like to you. But… If I'm having any issues, it has nothing to do with him. And if you and I are having issues, it has nothing to do with him. I'm not… Do you really think I'm so impressionable that I'm gonna let some guy affect my friendship with you?"
"Have you told your parents?"
"Told them what?"
"Huh? What would I tell them?"
"That you're dating him."
"Um. I think it's a little premature for that," I said.
"But not too early to sleep with him?"
"Christ, Sasha! When are you gonna ease up with that shit! ?"
"My puritanical hang ups, you mean?" she shot back.
As soon as I said it, I realized a lot of people were staring at us. It was probably only my last outburst they heard, but it was still really uncomfortable. And I knew it was much worse for Sasha than for me. It was the type of thing that really embarrassed her.
"I'm sorry," I whispered. But she was looking at her feet. She didn't answer. And mere seconds later, Danny appeared at her elbow, signaling it was time for me to leave.
I wanted to punch Danny in the face. He acted as if he knew my best friend better than me—as if he needed to protect her from me.
It made me sick.
But it was just one more example of how Sasha and I were different. Because the last thing I wanted was to be seen seeking comfort from Sam.
I retreated, joining Yos and the others under the cliffs.
Getting high helped some.
But the voice in the back of my head told me that I was doing exactly what Sasha expected, and that she was surely judging me from across the beach.
I tried to care.
When people started diving, I felt a rush of adrenaline just considering joining.
Which is when I knew I had to.
Yos and I walked up the cliff together.
I was surprised when we got to the top and Sam was still fully clothed. Yos abandoned me to go get in line with the other divers, so I strode over to Sam.
"Aren't you diving?" I asked.
He glanced down at me and grinned.
"And miss yours? No way."
"You seem awfully confident that I'm going to."
"Aren't you?" he asked.
When I narrowed my eyes at him instead of answering, he laughed.
We both knew I wouldn't be able to just stand by and watch the others.
We cheered with the rest of the crowd as Isaiah dove, followed by Cal. Each guy tried to one up the one before. Each dive got more elaborate…though they weren't all pulled off flawlessly. Yos followed Cal, and as soon as he surfaced below the cliff, the cheering died down, as he had been the last in line. The others were still trudging up the side of the hill or drinking beer.
"Sam!" someone called. It got the attention of others, who all started cheering for Sam to dive, surprised that he hadn't already. He only shook his head and looked down at me. I glared at him, but he nudged me forward with his elbow.
And I knew it was time.
As I walked toward the pile of clothes the others had left behind, my eyes briefly met Sasha's. I saw the exact moment that she realized what I was doing, because that's when her eyes widened.
It was also the exact moment others realized what I was doing, because the cheering suddenly swelled to a deafening level. Only, as I peeled off my tank top, it was also accompanied by catcalls.
I was probably most self conscious as I shimmied out of my shorts. But after dropping them on the ground, I turned and faced the path to the end of the cliff. And then, even though it had transformed from the silent, empty rock surface to which I was accustomed into a loud tunnel of onlookers, it was like nothing existed in that moment but me and the edge of that cliff.
So I ran.
And when I leapt through the air, propelling myself further than felt human, I felt that burst of ecstasy that couldn't be duplicated—not even by sex with Sam Uley.
Then, I completed one perfect flip—just as I had practiced the night before, before plunging into the depths of the dark water.
When I emerged, I could hear the yells echoing down from above. Others on the beach were cheering and clapping as well. I could see Yos standing in the surf, whistling.
I'd be lying if I said it wasn't exhilarating.
I was swimming toward Yos when I heard another splash before the cheering had even abated.
I smiled, because I knew exactly who it was.
I waited for him to surface, then. And when his head finally popped up, he ran his hand through his hair before peering around him. It only took him a second to spot me, and then he was grinning again.
He swam toward me and, just as I was about to say something about trying to steal my thunder, he grabbed me and pressed his lips to mine.
Of course, that just incited even more whistling and catcalls.
I smiled into the kiss, despite my self consciousness. It was hard not to.
He pulled away then and laughed.
"You know that shit drives me wild, don't you?" he asked.
"Hey, Uley—you've been driving girls all over this reservation wild for years with your diving. You're just getting a taste of your own medicine, now."
He laughed again before taking my hand. Then, we swam to the shore together.
Yos greeted us there, and when he slapped me on the back, I realized I was one of the guys again.
I was grateful that Yos was so laid back about it all.
"Damn, girl. You sure upstaged us all, huh?" he said, laughing.
I grinned as the three of us began the trek up the path.
"Sorry I look so much better than you in a bikini, Yos."
"Oh, shut it!" Sam cried. "They're not cheering for the bikini!"
Yos snorted then and Sam's head whipped around to face him. I couldn't help but laugh. But Sam persisted.
"OK, maybe some of it was for the bikini. But really—she was fantastic. Did you see her flip, Yos?"
"Yeah, man. Just barely. I knew something major was coming because I heard the cheering. I thought maybe it was gonna be you, so I was confused as hell when I heard the catcalls," he said.
All three of us laughed then, and I felt Sam wrap his arm around my waist as we trudged up the sandy hill. When I looked up, he was looking down at me with that same gleam in his eye that he got right before he leapt from the cliff.
"It's all coming together for me now," Yos mused.
"What is?" I asked.
"The two of you," he answered.
"What do you mean?"
"This guy's always talking about cliff diving like it's some sort of religious experience," he said, nodding toward Sam. "It makes sense now that the two of you are hooking up."
I glanced up at Sam, then, and he shrugged. But I could see that phantom dimple. I knew Yos was onto something.
Never in a million years would I have predicted the reception we got when we topped the crest of the hill, though. The cheering started all over again, and everyone was coming up to me and, like…congratulating me. There were high fives, and more whistles and someone shoved a beer in my hand.
Frankly, it was a little overwhelming.
So I did the only thing I could think to do.
I dove again.
It was actually probably the best thing I could've done, because people started to get used to the idea of me diving with the other guys. I stopped being such a spectacle and I became just another diver.
So I guess I was still a spectacle, but only in as much as we all were.
After about five rotations through the line of divers, we all collapsed around the fire at the top of the cliff. Sam got there before me and he was waiting, with a towel outstretched. When I walked to him, he wrapped me in it and hugged me, still grinning.
It was really strange to think that a week prior, we had been shouting at each other on that cliff, unclear of where we stood with one another.
We sat down, then, with the others. Sam propped his knees up and I sat between them, wrapped in the towel. He had another towel draped loosely over his shoulders.
"So what gives, Leah? Has Sam secretly been teaching you to dive?" Cal asked, as Yos handed me a beer.
"Fuck that! I taught myself!" I cried. They all laughed. "Not that there's… There's not a whole lot to it, really. Is there? Other than having the guts?"
"Yeah, I guess that's true," Yos answered, as I sipped the beer. "I mean, there's technique and form and stuff, but I guess you don't really learn those from other people, either. Except maybe by watching."
I felt Sam rest his chin on my shoulder, then.
"So… Wait," Jacob spoke up. "Leah, I thought..."
But before he could finish his sentence, Quil punched him in the arm.
"Thought what?" Sam asked. And if I had been in a position to do so, I probably would have punched Sam in the arm. Because I was almost positive that whatever Jacob was about to ask was better left unsaid.
"I just… I thought Leah was with Yos," he said.
Because only Jacob Black is oblivious enough to say something like that out loud.
There was a lot of lip biting and stifled laughter around the campfire, then. My eyes flashed quickly to Sasha, who was sitting with Danny at the picnic table behind those sitting opposite the fire from us. The spots around the fire were reserved for those who dove, and I have to admit that I got some satisfaction in earning my place there. But when I saw what looked like pity in Sasha's eyes, I could feel the anger bubbling up inside of me. It was clear that Sasha felt that I should feel embarrassed and ashamed about Jacob's question.
"Nah," Yos answered, shaking his head. "I would say that Leah traded up, but I don't think I was ever in the running."
It was maybe the only thing anyone could have said that could have distracted me from my rage in that moment. Because it was probably the classiest thing that Yos ever could have said.
He glanced over at us and, even though I couldn't see Sam's face, I'm pretty sure his probably looked much like my own; for my part, I was smiling at Yos gratefully. He winked at us just before turning back to Jacob.
"Oh," Jacob said. But he was still looking at us instead of Yos. "So, you two are like…a couple now?" he asked.
The question caught me off guard and I must have looked like a deer in headlights, because everyone proceeded to laugh at me, to the point that Sam leaned forward to try to get a look at my face and began laughing with them. I buried my face in my hands, completely mortified that I had fumbled the question so exquisitely, as only I could.
Sam, of course, recovered exquisitely.
"Nah, man. We're just bonin'. Right, Lee-lee?" he teased, just before planting a kiss on my temple as the others continued to laugh. Then, he returned his chin to my shoulder as I took another drink of my beer. I turned my head and offered the beer to Sam, but he shook his head.
"I don't drink," he whispered in my ear.
Only then did I recall a vague memory of my mother lamenting poor Sam Uley and his alcoholic father, back when we were kids.
Fortunately, the others had moved on to some other topic. I just pulled the towel tighter around me and relaxed back into Sam's chest, letting the fire warm my toes and watching the light of the flames dancing across the faces of those around me. And every once in a while, when no one was looking, Sam would kiss my neck.
And I knew then that he already had the potential to fulfill his promise.
Things came to a head at my house on Sunday.
I didn't realize my parents had even seen Sam drop me off the night before until that morning, not long after I had rolled out of bed. I was scrounging around the kitchen for some food when I heard my mom call me.
"Leah. Can you come in here for a second?"
I could tell from her tone that it wasn't going to be pretty.
When I entered the living room, my mom was sitting bolt upright, on the edge of the couch. My dad was in his
recliner, slightly more relaxed. But from the look on my mom's face, I knew she was about to confront me. And the fact that she had recruited Dad to be her backup meant it was serious.
Worse, Seth had been banished to his room.
"What's up?" I asked, trying to remain casual as I sat on the other end of the couch, facing her.
"Where were you last night?" she asked
"At the bonfire. Like everyone else."
"Who were you with?"
"What do you mean? I went by myself."
"Why weren't you with Sasha?"
"Whoa. Why am I getting interrogated?" I asked, glancing at my Dad. His face was creased with apprehension, but little else. He didn't look angry.
"Leah, we got a call from Sasha's mom this morning while you were asleep. Apparently Sasha went home crying."
"Don't get mad at Sasha. I don't think she intended to snitch on you. She was just so distraught. She told her mom that she was worried about you—that you've changed. That you're hanging out with the wrong people and doing drugs."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I never thought in a million years that Sasha would tell our parents about anything.
"Who was that that dropped you off last night?"
I was still too dumbstruck to speak. She had to repeat the question before I could answer. Lying didn't even cross my mind. Not a whole lot was crossing my mind, at that point.
"When did you start hanging out with Sam Uley?"
"Huh? I don't know. A few weeks ago. Why?"
"Does he do drugs?"
"I… I've never seen him do drugs. I don't know. I know he doesn't drink."
My mom sighed then, like she didn't believe me.
"Why did you stop hanging out with Sasha?" she continued.
"I didn't! I mean… She's mad at me, OK? I tried to work it out with her last night at the bonfire, but she just got more pissed!"
"Why is she angry at you?"
"I don't know, Mom! I think she thinks I've replaced her with Sam or something!"
"So you are dating Sam?"
"Uh. Yeah, I guess. It's kind of new."
She sighed again, like that was the worst news I could have given her. Which kind of pissed me off.
"Leah, do you really think Sam Uley is going to be good for you?"
"Mom! What the hell! ? What do you have against Sam?"
"He comes from a broken home. His family…"
But then Dad interrupted.
"Sue, honey—let's be fair. None of that is his fault."
I loved my dad.
Mom threw him a look over her shoulder.
"Harry! I don't want him seeing our daughter if he's doing drugs!"
"She just told you she's never seen him do drugs," he said plaintively.
Dad was wonderful like that. He defended me, even though I knew it scared him to do it. He was a mild mannered guy. He hated conflict, but he was inviting a shit storm by doing exactly the opposite of what Mom had hauled him in there to do. And maybe he wasn't even defending me so much as he was defending Sam, because I think we all knew Mom was being unfair. If there was anything my dad always stood for, it was truth and justice.
Well, and cheeseburgers.
"And you believe her, Harry! ? When she's been sneaking around with him! ? Sasha said that Leah's been doing drugs! Of course she's going to lie about it!"
She was yelling then.
"No I'm not," I said flatly. They both snapped their attention back to me, then. I shrugged. "I smoke pot sometimes."
"Leah!" my mom cried.
He just laughed.
It was awesome.
Then, it was like Mom didn't know who to scream at more. She kept looking from me to Dad and back to me, as her face got progressively redder.
Finally, she landed on Dad.
"Harry! How can you laugh! ?"
"I'm sorry!" he choked out. "I just… Were you expecting her to say that? I wasn't!"
Then, I had to laugh a little, too.
"Leah Clearwater!" she screamed, her head snapping back in my direction. "I don't see how this is funny! You're seventeen and you're wrecking your life! Maybe I wouldn't mind your dating Sam Uley if it was just you dating Sam Uley, and maybe I wouldn't mind your lackadaisical attitude about school and your future, if it was just that. Hell, maybe I wouldn't even mind the marijuana if it was just you trying out drugs one time! But when you combine all these things, Leah—you're going down the wrong path! And even though you're a Daddy's girl and he may think it's funny now, he's not going to think it's funny when you're just another unemployed, alcoholic Quileute before you even hit thirty!"
No one was laughing, then.
The room fell silent.
I looked at her for a long time, and she looked right back.
Neither of us looked at Dad, but his discomfort was almost palpable.
"Mom," I began, calmly. "Just because I'm dating Sam Uley and I smoke pot occasionally doesn't mean I'm headed to alcoholic unemployment. I'm sorry that you don't understand why I don't care about college. But you guys have taught me that family and community are my priorities. Things like money and reputation don't matter. I know that Sam's reputation doesn't matter. What matters is who he really is. I'm not going to pretend to know everything about him right now, but I'm getting to know him. I like to think that you guys instilled in me the ability to judge character. Like, I know that Sasha is a good person. I know that she's just mad at me right now. I know that my relationship with her is important. I know that you guys love me. I know that I don't need more than what you've already given me. I don't necessarily think that ambition is always a virtue. Sometimes the ability to be content with everything you've been given is pretty virtuous. And I'm content with what you guys have given me. So, no: I don't feel the need to go off somewhere hundreds of miles away from here to get a degree when I know I can stay here and be a contributing member of my family and my community."
When I finished, the room was again silent as they both looked at me and took in my words. I saw all the anger drain out of Mom's face. It was replaced with what looked like sadness. I cringed, knowing things were about to get worse.
"Leah, it breaks my heart to listen to how articulate and smart you are in moments like this and know that you don't intend to ever go to college."
"Those are not traits that only benefit those that seek higher education, Mom. I'm pretty sure they'll serve me well no matter what I end up doing."
She stared at me a moment longer.
"Leah," she said quietly. "Can we…make a deal?"
"I'm not going to let you bribe me out of Sam, if that's what you're thinking."
"No. I'm not naïve enough to think that I can persuade you not to see him. But I would like you to promise me that you will at least apply to colleges, when the time comes. That way, you will have the option of going if you change your mind between now and when the admissions process rolls around."
"Oh," I said. Because she really wasn't asking that much. At all.
"And I would like you to visit at least one college campus."
"O….Kay," I said, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Because it felt like I was getting off too easy. I had just admitted to doing drugs, for god's sake.
"And I'm also not naïve enough to think that you'll stop doing drugs just because I tell you to, but I would like you to seriously think about why you do them. And I want you to make sure that your little brother never, ever catches wind of the fact that you do."
"OK," I said, nodding. But I was still apprehensive.
And then it came.
"And you need to bring Sam here so that we can meet him properly."
"Mom!" I cried.
"I don't want to hear it, Leah! We both know I'm not asking much!"
"That's… We just started dating! He's going to think I'm crazy! And it's not like he's a stranger! You guys have met him before!"
"Yes, but he wasn't dating my daughter before."
"But—we're not even…"
I was going to say 'serious,' but the word caught in my throat.
"Do you know how humiliating that will be? Can you at least give me a couple of months or something? I mean, what if I bring him to the house and we break up a week later? It's still so new!"
"Fine. You've got until the summer. But if you're still seeing Sam Uley by the time the school year ends and he hasn't stepped foot in this house, so help me god, I will make your life miserable."
"Can I go eat breakfast now! ?"
I didn't go to the cliffs that night. I figured there was some potential that I'd get caught, and I really didn't want to rock the boat.
I was both relieved and disappointed when Sam didn't crawl through my window, either.
When he picked me up Monday morning, it was like any other morning. He grinned at me when I got in, but he didn't ask me where I had been the night before or kiss me or say anything, really. He just threw the car back into gear and we drove in silence, both in our own heads, I guess.
At lunch that day, there was little time for cigarettes, as we laid in the warm dirt, hands all over each other, lips skimming skin. There certainly weren't any words.
It's possible that we didn't utter a single word in each other's presence that day until the car ride home, when I reached for my cigarettes and cursed under my breath, remembering I was out.
He chuckled, plucking the one from his lips and handing it to me.
"Thanks," I mumbled.
"No problem. Sorry you're stuck smoking something non-exploitative."
I tried to glare at him, but I think I mostly just smiled.
"Aren't all cigarettes exploitative?" I countered.
"How do you get all the way to Forks on a regular basis for smokes, anyway? You don't even have a car."
"Oh. Yeah… That's why I'm out, actually. Usually, Sasha and I go into Forks at least once a week."
"Oh, damn. You two still haven't cooled your jets?" he asked. His eyes were still on the road, but he reached over and plucked the cigarette out of my fingertips, taking another draw before handing it back to me. I don't know why he didn't just light another for himself.
"I guess not. I tried, at the bonfire," I said, shrugging.
"Yeah. That didn't look like it went over too well," he said.
He was silent a moment.
"Do you wanna talk about it?" he asked, glancing over at me. He looked nervous. It was so endearing, I almost laughed a little.
"Not really," I answered. "But thank you."
"You, uh… I mean, I probably shouldn't enable you, but do you want a ride into Forks some time?"
I wanted to kiss him, then. It was like he kept finding ways to plug his fingers into all of my leaks. But I also didn't want to impose on him that much. Forks was fifteen miles away. It was bad enough he was driving me to and from school every day.
"Um. You don't have to do that," I said. "I mean, if you're ever on your way there, anyway, I wouldn't mind tagging along."
"How about tomorrow, then?" he asked. The truck slowed down, as we had reached my house. After putting it in park, he looked over at me expectantly.
I was skeptical.
"You just happen to be going into Forks tomorrow?" I asked.
"Yeah. Every Tuesday, actually."
"Really?" I asked, arching an eyebrow.
"Yes. Really. Look, will these get you through until then?" he asked, tossing me what was left of his Reds.
"You don't have to give me your cigarettes."
"Leah—I don't mind, OK? I've got more. Just take the cigarettes and let me take you into Forks tomorrow."
And just as I was about to throw my arms around him in gratitude, we both heard a scream from inside the house.
It was Seth.