Author's Note: Let me tell you a little secret: I plan my author's notes. I come up with them in my head and try to make them meaningful. I do it every single time. Sometimes I write the author's note before I even finish the story. I talk too much, and I just wanna discuss my writing because it means everything to me and I love doing it. I would especially do it now, since this is my 46th story (as if it really means anything)... but I don't have a huge message to say this time besides this: I am not here to preach anyone; I'm just here to spread a little hope. I read an interview with a certain person, and they shared a certain vignette, so naturally, I got inspired. This is for anyone who ever felt dehumanized. I hope you enjoy reading this one-shot as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Be the Shift
Name? Jacob Black. Age? Eighteen. Sexual orientation? Gay.
For as long as I could remember, I knew that I was gay. No, I didn't just know I was gay; I was positive about that. From age five to now, I've had at least fifteen crushes, big or little, and all on boys. There were no doubts about it, and I'm still gay.
And until the ninth grade, I knew that nobody had a problem with it. My dad accepted me like he would any child of his, Quil and Embry didn't have a problem (at least, not to my face), and not even Bella Swan treated me differently. She still doesn't. To Bella, I was never Jacob the faggot or Jacob the queer. I was Jacob the friend. I never stopped being the best friend, and I still am.
Bella never stopped being my best friend either. (And if you guessed it right, she still is.) Everyday since we were both five years old (though Bella probably always felt older, anyway), she would always beg her dad to drop her off at La Push for the day. We made mud pies like nothing was wrong—and nothing was.
Bella never felt younger than me once in her life. She isn't, as she's four months older, but still. She was and still is always the more helpful person, the one that could offer any advice, and most of the time, it's good advice. If I had the slightest issue, from a splinter in the finger at the age of six to a moment so embarrassing that we both vowed to never tell at the age of twelve, I would come to Bella, and she would never turn me down. Bella's not particularly outstanding in school, and she never was—she's not musically talented, she's not athletic, she's not a popular person, and she has good grades (but never the best)—but the one thing she values about herself is that she's a loyal friend to me. It's all she has to boast about herself.
And when I came out right before the ninth grade, Bella wasn't shaken by it. She wasn't disappointed, or angry, or even that surprised. I was just fourteen at the time, sitting on Bella's living room couch, about to watch a cheesy scary movie with her. Right before I told Bella, she was only about to pick up the telephone to order dinner.
"Bella," I said uneasily, as awkward as any fourteen-year-old boy would be. "I need you to hear me out for a second."
"When have I never?" she asked, absentmindedly playing around with the cordless telephone in her hands, nearly dropping it. She was always such a klutz.
"No," I replied. "I mean… this is serious."
Deep breath in, deep breath out. "Bella, I'm gay."
"So, do you want mushrooms on your pizza or not?"
"I just told you I'm gay," I said slowly and quietly, like the entire world could hear me, "and that's all you have to say to me?"
Bella shook her head, smiled, and walked to me, her best friend. She leaned against the couch and put a hand on my shoulder. "No, no, no, Jake. What I mean is, I don't care if you're gay. You're still the same person, aren't you? Did admitting you're gay turn you into an alien?"
"Of course not," was what I murmured.
"Then that's all that matters."
Worry suddenly came across my mind. "You won't tell anyone, will you?"
Bella furrowed her eyebrows. "No way. Now, you'd better tell me if you want mushrooms or not in the next two seconds or we're getting burgers."
Bella was serious, though. She promised to not tell anyone about me, and she never did. Nobody had a problem with it for that summer, because I never really told anybody. Could Quil and Embry see it? Probably not. But September brought challenges that not even me and Bella could defeat.
The two of us slowly but surely got more distant when ninth grade came around. I went to the La Push tribal school like always, but Bella went to Forks High School, where freshman year hit her harder than she anticipated. Every night she'd call me to tell me how bad her days were going. This time, it was my turn to listen. It wasn't like she never had problems—she was just more vocal about them now. I had problems of my own. If anything, I had—and still did have, to this day—more problems than Bella could solve on her own.
I was being bullied.
It started out as a little gossip. My dad talked to Harry Clearwater and his tongue slipped, Harry accidentally let Seth know, who then told Paul, and by the middle of November, the entire reservation was aware that I, Jacob Black, am gay. Quil and Embry, some of my best friends, didn't accept me after "officially" coming out.
The gossip then turned into exclusion. Silence. Loneliness… That had all changed in January, though. A New Year's resolution was in store, right?
Can you guess what happened to me on me fifteenth birthday?
I got jumped.
While leaving the convenience store I worked at, I was thrown down by Paul Lahote, Jared Cameron, and a bunch of other guys I didn't even talk to that much. Then I got my ass kicked so hard that I coughed up blood. Once it was over, I was left there to walk home with a bruised body and a blackened eye. Nobody said or did anything about it. Not even me.
This wasn't just a one-time thing; it happened again and again. I felt like I was gonna die the third time. Once I recovered a little from that time, I couldn't call all the wounds battle scars or the tattoos of a warrior. They were only referred to as the welts of a failure. That's what I was.
In February, Bella got a boyfriend. I didn't even hear it from her. Her own father had to tell me that Bella couldn't come to the phone because she was out with her boyfriend, Edward Cullen. He was a freshman, too, and from what it sounded like, they were perfect together. Bella would have answered the phone or found some time for me if they weren't perfect, but they were, and she never found the time.
I felt betrayed. Deceived. Bella was always the person who could be there, and now she wasn't, just out of nowhere. She used to never be busy. If I had a problem, I could talk to her. And just when I needed her the most, she up and left. I never, ever thought she would forget me because of a guy.
So I was left alone. Left in Bella's dust to fend for myself.
My dad eventually figured out that I got jumped three times, so things got a little better. Nothing too miraculous, though. The teasing never ended, but the violence did—a little. A few scratches didn't hurt, though. For my sophomore and junior years of school, I felt a little safe. Who needs Bella? was the thought that always occurred to me. I didn't need her. When I came to think about it, I never did. Bella was just a part of the past. I wanted her to be around, but I didn't need her.
Now, though, I want her around. I just don't need her.
I'm eighteen now. A senior at the La Push tribal school with some college courses on the side. Nothing special. I'm wasting away there because nobody gives a shit about education here. I'm planning on graduating, I sent in a couple of college applications (and got denied three of them), and I've received a few scholarships, but I'm not expecting too much. As of now, I don't have a steady job or friends or a future. I'm nothing. I'm truly nothing. When I die, I'm going to turn into dust and float away, unnoticed.
I may not have a steady job, but I know how to carry around odd jobs. I'm good with my hands. I know how to build things. I know how to take things apart. I'm a natural-born mechanic, and more importantly, I'm not a store worker. Definitely not that… not anymore.
So maybe the job part is a lie; I do have a job. I'm a mechanic at a garage down the street owned by my neighbor's uncle's cousin's friend's brother or something. Whichever way, we're all connected somehow. They all know they hired a faggot, but they can't turn me down unless they want some problems. I've convinced them that I can do something, but I really can't. It's so easy to lie. It's easy to be alone, too. Being a loner has taught me a few things, and one of them is to pay attention. If you pay attention, you can see anything you want to see. You can see everything, really. I've seen everything and anything as of now. It's like being gay and getting the shit beaten out of me a few times gave me superpowers. I can see everything.
Well, except when I'm in danger myself.
It's May now, and May is supposed to be sweet. It used to always be sweet and fun and warm. It's supposed to be the time when everyone spends all their time inside. And one of the only times I'm actually outside, enjoying the weather (but really just walking home from work for once), I'm seen, touched, heard, and bothered. Those are all things I really don't fucking like. I can't get a break.
Paul Lahote and his gang of meatheads are ganging up on me. I don't care if they push me around today; I mean, it's not like I'm seeing anyone special. Nice guys avoid the rez like the plague, because the rez sucks in the department of nice guys. But anyway, I'm just getting home from work. I don't have to look good for anything or anyone. Basically what I'm saying is that this sucks, but everything sucks so it's okay.
I'm shoved around by the beasts like usual, and I sort of want to fight back. Do you know what sucks? What sucks more than having to go through this every single day?
Not fighting back.
That really sucks.
Don't let me draw the wrong picture in your head; I'm not a wimp. I'm as tall as some of these guys shoving me around and calling me names. Hell, I'm even taller than Paul. And I'm not a pole anymore; I'm strong. I work out, anyway. Without any friends, I can work out as much as I want. If girls even find me attractive, then I'm hot stuff. Maybe I'm hot to even some guys, too. But I'll never know because I never really leave the house.
Well, anyway, I'm not physically weak. It's all in the mentality. I don't really want to fight back—ever. I never fought my sisters. I never fought Quil and Embry when we were kids. I don't touch anybody. Even though I have all the reason to fight back (or do I?), I still do want to make my dad proud. He should be happy that his kid's a pacifist in a sea of brutes. At the same time, he could be ashamed that Leah Clearwater can kick my ass. Then again, she can kick just about anyone's ass—she's Leah Clearwater. When I was little, she used to scare the shit out of me and Embry and everyone else. I clearly remember watching Quil piss his pants in the sandbox. If Leah ever wants to fight me in the future, she's definitely going to fight me and she's probably going to win, all because I can't fight back.
I can take a couple of bruises. A couple of names are cool, too. I've heard them all before. Being shoved around and pushed down is okay, too. There are about five guys on me and I hate it, but I can take it. The kicking and scratching and punching will all heal over time.
The spitting won't, though.
After pinning me down, they all kick me and spit at me. It burns at me and makes me feel like a slug. They've treated me badly before, but at least they treated me like a human. A shitty one, but still human. I'm not even human anymore.
I don't even feel like a slug.
I am no longer human, and neither are they. They are human beings, but that doesn't mean that they're being human.
I want to go nuts on these guys. Struggling and struggling to break free, I can't. They keep pushing me down. I thrash at them and yell and everything, but nothing's happening. When I have the chance to look around, I can kind of see shoes padding against the sidewalk. There are people walking around like nothing's going on. A guy's getting jumped in the middle of the sidewalk in broad daylight, and nobody's doing anything. There are black spots in my vision and I'm drifting but everything hurts and I'm gonna fucking die here and—
I don't know what happened, but I wake up in a hospital. I'm not in the La Push health center, that's for sure. This place looks too clean. I've got to be in the community hospital in Forks, as if it really matters.
My dad and Bella's dad—Chief Swan actually cares? Cool—are the first two people I see, and before I can even ask what happened, another figure walks toward me.
The same Bella I haven't talked to since freshman year. The same Bella who left me behind for her stupid rich boyfriend. The same Bella who finally decides to give a shit about me now, of all times, when I'm laid up in the hospital. I should be mad at her—no, not even that; I should be furious… but I'm not.
I've always been a quick forgiver.
It's a funny thing to see someone that you haven't seen in forever. If I never really thought about it, I would say Bella looks exactly the same. Same hair length, same height, same facial expressions, same everything. The weird thing, though, is that she's way different now. I've had one image of her painted in my brain, and that image has long expired. She's not fifteen anymore; Bella really doesn't look the same. Her hair's longer and curlier. She's a little taller and less bony. She doesn't look as relaxed. She wears makeup and looks way more tired. She doesn't even look eighteen; she looks twenty-five.
I can't not forgive her, though. I always forgave her on the playground; what's the difference now?
She kneels down and holds my left hand in both of hers. "I swear to God, I'm gonna kill them, Jake," is what she tells me.
I open my mouth to say something—I don't really know what; maybe a hey—but she keeps talking. "I don't know if you remember or not, but those bastards stabbed you. I'm gonna kill them."
"Bella," Billy says, "calm do—"
"Jacob is in the hospital because of some stupid guys!" she replies. "He had to get stitches. Why should I calm down?"
"You haven't talked to him in years," my dad reminds her. "I can't even see why you care now."
"Cut it out," I speak up. "How bad was it, Dad?"
"Pretty bad, son," he replies with a solemn expression. "I'm sorry."
"It's not even your fault. It's mine."
"Let's not do any blaming unless it's on the right people," Charlie says seriously. "Jake, do you think you should press charges?"
"Do I think I should what?"
"You can come into the station and file a report. We'll have to talk to the witnesses if there are any, but, Jacob, you should press charges. You were assaulted. You can't just let this go."
It all comes flying at me now—I can take action.
Even if pretty much everybody on the rez would want to strangle me if I do so.
"I don't know," I reply to Charlie. "I really don't."
"Jake, it's the only sensible thing to do," Bella tells me, her eyes glued to mine. "Like, five guys jumped you. You can't just let this go. You have to do something about it."
"It's only happened a few other times," I inform her. "Where were you urging me to do something about it then?"
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asks angrily. "I thought we were best friends, Jacob."
"Maybe if you got away from your boyfriend for once I could have told you."
"Calm down, kids," Billy says. "Stay cool." He stares at me right in the eyes. "Jacob, what do you want to do?"
"I…" I falter. "I don't know."
"Just think about it," he tells me. "I only want what's best for you."
You never have before.
"I think I know what's best for me right now," I reply. "Can I go home yet?"
I don't go home after my little hospital visit. Bella insists on me going to her house, so we can "catch up" (her words, not mine), and I couldn't say no even if I wanted to. Billy's here, too. I'm getting the royal treatment tonight, packed with bad movies and takeout Chinese food. Charlie's even letting me spend the night, since there's nothing to worry about between me and Bella. He doesn't tell me this at all, but I know he's thinking it. The one perk to being a gay guy and having a female best friend is that her dad won't worry at all. I know Charlie's still trying to act like things are "normal," though; I'm stuck on the couch for the night.
With a carton of Port Angeles' very best Chinese food (since the Forks kind "isn't even that good," according to Bella) in my hands, and Bella, my dad, and Charlie at my sides, we're about to watch a movie. It's a comedy, which is just right; a girly movie would make Bella think she's stereotyping me, and a huge action movie would make Charlie think he's drowning me with heterosexuality and manliness. I can read them like a book. It's kind of funny.
I'm still bruised and scratched up and I feel like I'm going to come undone, but I'm actually kind of happy. The movie sort of sucks, but to be able to hang out with Bella is refreshing. We're not as close. We're so not close that it almost feels false, but this is okay. This is good. Normally, I wouldn't care about a movie night with Bella, Charlie, and Billy—we used to always have these. This is different now, though—they're so rare it makes me want to cry. This little piece of tranquility is just fine. I can't be mad at Bella anymore. There's nothing to blame her for. I just need to admire this.
Once the movie is over, Bella informs Billy and Charlie that she's going to talk to me alone, upstairs. They're fine with it—good old gay friend perks.
I follow Bella upstairs to her bedroom, and she carefully shuts the door. "What do you want to talk about?" I ask, staring down at her. Right here and now, her face is kind of innocent again, like how it used to be. As she looks up at me, I can see how wet her eyes really are. She's on the verge on breaking down right in front of me.
"C'mon, Bells, don't cry."
A small, half-forced smile spreads across her face. "I missed that."
"You missed me telling you not to cry?"
She shakes her head and inhales deeply. "No, I missed you calling me 'Bells.'"
"I didn't think it meant that much to you," I admit.
"Well, it does."
I nod and sit down on her bed. "Everything's been too much about me," I sigh. "Tell me, Bella. How have you been?"
She doesn't sit down next to me; instead, she just stands in front of me. We're almost face-to-face. "I've been okay," she murmurs. "As if that really means anything."
"How's your boyfriend?"
She shakes her head. "Don't make me talk about him."
"No, seriously," I say, smirking. "I wanna hear about him. He must be important."
"He sure is something," Bella replies. "My dad doesn't like him that much. No one really does."
"Edward's really smart."
"But…?" I prompt.
"But he doesn't mind letting people know," she finishes. "He's cocky about everything. In all honesty, I don't think he likes me very much, either."
"Then why are you still with him?"
"You wouldn't understand."
"I'm gay," I remind her. "Not an alien."
"No, it's not that…" She looks up into space, trying to find something to say. There's no reason for her to hide anything, though… right? "It's that everyone expects us to be together through the end of the year," she clarifies. "We're nominated for Prom King and Queen, and I'm pretty sure we're gonna win. I can't break up with him yet."
"Why do you care about what anyone else thinks?" I ask. "Why does it matter?"
"It didn't matter when we were fifteen," she replies. "Now, it all matters. Things didn't start becoming bad until this school year."
"What do you mean by 'bad'?"
"Well, for one thing, he's cheating on me," she says bluntly.
"That fucking sucks."
"I know," she agrees.
"I should kill him for that."
"There's no need to go to extremes. Calm down."
"Alright. So what do you call that desperate stunt you just pulled in the hospital? Was that calm?"
She furrowed her eyebrows. "That's different."
"I wasn't jumped," she points out. "I'm not being bullied, period."
She blinks, and tears fall from her eyes, rolling down her pale cheeks. "Jacob…" Her voice is only a whisper.
Bella reaches her right hand up to my left cheek, a bandage has been placed. That's only one of the spots where I've been cut. Bella rubs her thumb along it, and then runs it over my bruised, blackened eyelid. I wince a little at the pain. "I'm sorry," Bella whispers.
"No," she mumbles. "No, it's not okay."
I continue to stare up and her, and she brings her thumb back to my bandage. "I hate this," she says bitterly. It could come out as a cuss word—that's how sharp it is. She bites her lip for a second and brings her other hand to my face. "I fucking hate this so much," she adds.
I put my hands up to take hers away, and more tears run down her face. "Fuck!" she yells, throwing her hands down. "Dammit, Jake!"
She shakes her head and sniffles. "I hate what they've done to you, Jake."
I nod. "I do, too."
"What are you sorry for?"
"I'm sorry I wasn't there to help," she explains. "This shouldn't have happened."
"If I had just been there the entire time…" she says quietly, her eyes closed. "I swear to God, if I didn't leave you like I did, this wouldn't have happened."
"You being there for me wouldn't have made them any less of homophobic dumb-asses, Bella, and you know that."
"It wouldn't have come down to this. And this isn't even the first time. I have been a shitty friend, Jacob. I'm sorry."
"It's okay, Bella," I whisper. "It's okay."
Then she hugs me tightly and doesn't let go for a long, long time. "You're not going to be a victim," she whispers. "Not anymore."
"I'm tired of running," I reply. "I don't know how to not be the victim."
"Well, you won't anymore. You're not gonna take it. We are not going to take it. We need a shift. We're going to be the shift. Alright?"
My dad has a "brilliant" idea for me that he wants to think about for a little while.
He wants me to drop out of school.
Billy is the exact kind of dad that straight, white kids don't want. I see his point, because he just wants me to be safe, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that that's not a good idea. It's really like a slap in the face.
My dad used to always tell me to never give up. I used to be his little warrior. Now he's just ditching everything he's ever said; he wants me to give up. He wants me to be a victim.
I am not a victim, though.
I am not going to be a victim ever again.
So I do exactly what he tells me not to do: I go to school. With it being May, all the gorillas that beat the shit out of me have already dropped out. I don't get it; what the hell is the point of even going to school in the first place if you're not going to finish it?
Well, I'm being a daredevil now. I'm going to school early and leaving late. I'm taking all my tests and getting everything in. I already applied for four colleges, and three of them declined me last March. My last college is my only chance, and I have to get in. I have to get off the rez and do something with myself.
To anyone else, all of this would sound super queer—not to Bella, though; she thinks it's cool. With being accepted to Dartmouth (with that douchebag Cullen guy, of course) she thinks my goals are nice and attainable. She's more than willing to help me reach them. We're nerdy as hell, but at least we can be nerdy together.
Bella spends less and less time with Edward. These days, she doesn't even talk to him outside of school at all. We study for finals together and go back to talking about the things in our lives. The good things, the bad things… all kinds of things.
One sunny day at her house, we're holed up inside, studying like crazy on the living room floor. Suddenly, the telephone rings.
"Aren't you gonna answer that?" I ask when she doesn't even move.
"No," she says, her eyes not leaving her Calculus textbook. "It's just Edward."
"How are things with him?"
She sighs. "Nonexistent."
I widen my eyes. "Whaaaat? The Prom King and Queen broke up?"
"Yeah, pretty much," she replies. "It was kind of mutual, but he took it worse than I thought. He's so full of himself. He was basically complaining over how we were the class couple or something and how he had shit planned. I can't see how we're the class couple when we don't do anything. No extracurricular stuff, no sports, no ASB… nothing."
"Those are just excuses," I simplify.
"I'll say. He never told me any of that before he took my virginity." She sighs and pouts. "It's not like it was special or anything… He was just in a rush to get it done before prom."
"Yeah. Well, anyway, I have an idea." She sets her textbook down, so I know she's serious.
"Is it a good idea or a bad one?" I ask.
She grins. "A great one."
I'm not sure what to think of that, so I nod and tell her to go ahead and share it.
"We should go to Prom together," she tells me.
"Uh… excuse me?" I ask. "I mean—"
"No, I get it," she says. "It's kind of weird and all, but we'll only go as friends."
"My school doesn't even throw a Prom. And if they did, only, like ten people would go."
"I know. That's why I'm asking you to mine."
"I don't know…"
"Jake," she says sternly, "nobody knows you at my school. You can be whoever you want to be."
I snorted. "Jacob Black, heterosexual extraordinaire."
She scowls. "Stop it."
"Bells, I'm kidding."
"Well, I'm not. C'mon, Jake. Don't you want to have fun?"
Of course I want to have fun. I just don't want to go to a stupid dance to prove it. "You don't even like dancing," I point out.
"I will if you teach me," she replies quickly. "I know you know how to dance. I've seen you before."
"I don't have enough money for the stuff for Prom," I tell her.
She rolls her eyes. "Then I've got it. I mean, we can get you a suit somehow. I'll give you some money. I already have my dress, too." She makes a face. "Edward picked it out, so it's kind of tramp-ish, but it's still good. And we can go out for pizza, too. I know it's in only a week and a half, but I swear, Jake, we'll have such a good—"
"Okay," I finally say. "I'll go with you."
"You'll go with me?"
"That's what I said."
Bella's face lights up and she crawls over to hug me. "Thank you, Jake," she says cheerily.
"No problem, Bells."
Hey, maybe I will have fun. There's a possibility.
A week and a half later, I'm ringing the Swan residence's doorbell. I have a white corsage for Bella, a borrowed suit from the eighties, a haircut, and new shoes that reflect every fleck of light that hits them.
I am going to Prom with Bella Swan.
Charlie greets me once he opens the front door, and Bella must have explained things perfectly, because her dad's not awkward about anything. Maybe I'm not Jacob the gay kid anymore; maybe I'm just Jacob the person now. I can live with that.
"Oh, hey," a voice from the stairs says. I turn to it, and there's Bella standing at the top, making her way down. I wonder what Edward Cullen would think if he saw her descending the stairs like that. He'd probably see a sexy goddess who would be easy to get into the pants of, but I see a pretty, clumsy girl struggling to get down the stairs in her ridiculous heels without breaking her ankles. She's wearing a dark blue dress with beads all over it and an open back that makes her look cold and uncomfortable.
Charlie takes a shitload of photos ("Chief's always keeping it traditional," she mumbles between photographs) and Bella and I eventually get into the Rabbit. The senior Prom is being held at a hotel this year, which is an upgrade from the junior one since that one was apparently in the gym.
As we approach the hotel, all decked out in lights and high school seniors, Bella turns to me and smiles. "Thanks again, Jake. Thanks so much."
"No problem," I reply. "I need this, too."
I smile. "Yeah." I do kind of need this.
After parking, we enter the ballroom after taking even more pictures. The theme is an underwater one; everything is in shades of blue and green.
"This isn't as lame as I thought it would be," Bella says. "They're really outdoing the junior prom." She glances around the filling ballroom, and she spots her friends. Or they at least seem to be; they're waving at her and gesturing for her to go to them.
Bella takes my hand and smiles at me. "I'll show you the wild side," she says goofily. I laugh and follow her to her friends, and they greet me. I formally introduce myself as Bella's friend, and they all seem to like me, or they're great actors. I'd just like to believe that I'm more fun than Edward.
As more people come, more people start dancing to the music. At some point, I lean down to Bella and tell her that something's wrong.
"What is it?" she asks.
"I don't know how to dance that well anymore, if at all."
She smiles and nods. "Alright. How about I just dance around you like this—" she makes a circle around me—"to make you look good?"
"So you can dance now?" I ask, surprised.
"I've been practicing a little," she admits. "It's the slow dances you need to worry about."
I nod, but I also know that there's nothing for me to worry about at all.
Bella and I are having a great time—laughing, dancing, eating, talking, and living—until she spots Edward somewhere on the dance floor. We're sitting at a table with Ben and Angela, a couple of Bella's friends, and Bella groans in disgust.
I follow her gaze to across the area to see a tall, awkward ginger guy grinding on a blonde girl like a maniac. Once I realize that's Edward, because that is exactly who Bella's staring at, I start laughing, and Bella just rolls her eyes. "He moved on fast," she remarks. "It's a shame that he came here with someone he doesn't even care about. You know what, though?"
"I'm glad I'm here with you."
I manage to not track Edward down and punch him in the face for being such an ass to Bella for so long, and I actually have fun.
Yes, you read that correctly. I'm having fun.
Correction: me and Bella are having fun.
The slow dances don't go as bad as I thought they would. I don't accidentally step on Bella's feet, and she doesn't accidentally step on mine (more than four times). I don't know when, but at some point, we've got the hang of it. It's kind of sweet.
Fast dances are better, though. I twirl Bella around and it's entertaining as hell. She teaches me dance moves by the minute, and she's way better than she gives herself credit for. She's always been that way.
By the end of the night (or early morning; I don't even know), we're the very last couple on the dance floor. My feet ache, but it's okay. It's all okay.
"Aren't you glad that you're here with me?" she asks. "I mean, everyone's out having sex or getting drunk, and we're just here dancing. I like it."
"Dancing is better," I admit with a smile.
"Dancing is better," she repeats.
I take Bella out for a burger afterward, and after taking her home, I finally drive myself back to my own place. The streets are dark, and I'm surprised nobody's out… as far as I know. I eventually take a deep breath and let it go. I am not a victim is my chant, repeating and repeating in my head. It eventually turns into something along the lines of I am not a victim and I am okay.
Quietly entering my house, I realize that I really am okay. Not just for now, and not just temporarily, though.
I am going to be okay, and for good.
Nothing eventful really happens after Prom for a while. Well, okay, maybe that's a lie; something good does happen. Three days after Prom, I get a letter in the mail, and it's not another college rejection letter, like the ones I got back in March. I've applied for four colleges, but three of them have turned me down. I got really pissed the first time, but by the third, I got used to it. Expecting another rejection, I open up the letter. It's from Western Washington University, my fourth choice.
The first words that pop up in my eyes are Congratulations.
I'm going to college.
So other than that and Prom, I should say, nothing really happens. No nice guys roll into town, and nobody from Seattle or somewhere comes to interview me as Jacob Black the Gay Kid with a Dream. Another lazy summer in La Push is starting to roll around. Nothing big.
Well, except for today. It doesn't mean much for a huge number of people, but it means a lot to me.
Today is the day.
The reservation's community school isn't a regular high school, or anything like it. It's not like Forks High School with six classes a day and AP classes for the kids who need them and people who graduated. The community tribal school is just there, with no differences in the grades or classes or anything. People don't drop out because it's difficult; people drop out because nobody gives a shit, making it just a waste of everyone's time. Maybe if the school had something to offer, so many people wouldn't drop out. I've been attending the La Push school since I was five years old, and nothing's changed. Nothing ever changes. Only today is different; today is the day, and something will be changing. I'm changing.
Today, I am graduating.
It never hit me until now, as I take my diploma from the principal and stand with the other fifteen people in my graduating class, that I could be someplace else. I could easily be at home playing video games (or out in the streets dead, now that I think about it), but no. I've graduated. My name is Jacob Black, I have now successfully graduated from high school, and I have a full scholarship to Western Washington University. Not a lot of people can say that. I mean, there's only one of me. There's only one of me that's graduating and going to college, and that's kind of cool.
I know I'm not going to change the world, though. I may be a semi-hero today (think DC Comics, the underrated kind), but tomorrow I'll still be me, just a little more successful. To all the people who didn't graduate with me, I'm still Jacob the gay kid, which isn't entirely true. My story isn't too special; my story isn't a gay kid story. Gay kid stories are too common in the media and uncommon in real life. They always end with the gay kid changing the world or finding the meaning of life and being accepted by everyone and being a hero and winning awards and medals and all that ridiculous shit. Gay kid stories have it all, but my story's different; I don't know what I'm going to have. As of now, though, I'm good. I'm being treated humanely. I'm just not special. Humanity is fine on its own.
I am not Jacob the gay kid. I am Jacob the human… who just so happens to be gay. It wouldn't be a huge difference to someone else, but it is to me.
All it takes is a little shift.