Up till now, I was determined NOT to put the accent mark in Renée's name, just bc it's easier to type...but all the ghosts of those accented e's are haunting me at night, so I went back through and gave 'em life. I repent and beg your forgiveness, accented-e stans. u_u

(Sidenote: I'm paranoid, so I double-checked lol: 1) Eng, 2) Gov, 3) Trig, 4) Span, 5) Lunch, 6) Bio, 7) PE/Choir.)

(Sidenote #2: Thanks to Lala for the extra kind [and heckin helpful!] review. Not that I don't love all reviews equally lol, Well now I feel like I should be calling you ALL out by name. Ok if you've ever left a comment, just picture me screaming at you specifically like a grateful possum. [Readers who do not review are still super duper loved and get a complimentary hiss.])


Chapter 7

Stories

Lily sat in her room reading Act 3 of Macbeth—well, trying to. She kept having to start over from the beginning. Banquo's suspicions were on repeat like a record, and hers were much the same. Her head was going around and around the questions Edward had left unanswered, a hound dog walking in circles.

She tried to keep an ear out for her truck's engine, more out of curiosity than anything else, but the rain made it hard to hear anything at all. Lily peeked around the curtain for what seemed like the fiftieth time, went to the bathroom, peeked one more time, and—abracadabra—there it was. When she went out to check it in spite of the rain, she found the door unlocked and the key in the ignition. What's more, her things were there in the driver's seat, neat as you please. It left her more irritated than amazed, however, when she thought of having to wait to ask him how he had managed the magic trick. This was gonna be a long weekend.

Mike apparently hadn't told anyone about Edward's involvement in her fainting episode. The only questions she got were about puking, for better or worse, and it was mostly from a few people who hung out with Lauren Mallory. By third period, Lily was hoping the interviews had begun to taper off. Jessica had other plans.

"So," her friend asked just before Trig started, "what did Edward Cullen want yesterday?"

"Oh, um—uh." She could have kicked herself for the awkward stuttering; Jessica's eyebrows immediately shot up. At least Lily's cheeks stayed relatively calm, even if the tips of her ears did start to turn pink. "Um, well. It was actually kind of...vague?"

"Vague?"

"Yeah. He never really...um…." She was going to say that he had never really gotten to the point, but then she remembered one of the more pleasant takeaways. So much for keeping her cheeks out of this. Before she could even debate telling Jessica, she spotted the oncoming blush and gasped.

"What? What?" The short girl leaned half of her body on Lily's desk in rabid anticipation. "Spill!"

"Shhh!" Lily looked around and then sighed. No hiding it now. She leaned in and whispered, "He just, uh…." Her heart kicked up its tempo. "He wanted to apologize for the rough foot we got off on, and, um...be friends?"

Jess nearly squealed. Lily couldn't decide if she was incensed or excited; it looked like a bit of both. Kind of adorable actually. Jessica had a button nose, and she looked like a little girl when it scrunched up that way.

"Are you serious? Friends? With you?"

Lily giggled and shrugged. "I know, right?"

"Ugh," Jessica groaned and sank to the floor, her arms and forehead resting on the desk. "I can't believe this. Are you going to start sitting at their table from now on?" She lifted her head and half-scowled.

"Heh, I seriously doubt that. Can you imagine me alongside the rest of the Cullens?"

"I can't imagine you with one Cullen!"

She felt her smile twitch the tiniest bit. Jessica's remarks, while undoubtedly well-meaning, were quickly stealing away a lot of the endearment, but Lily was too happy to be having girl talk—for the very first time in her whole life—to care about it...much.

"I mean," Jessica went on almost frantically; her cloud of dark brown hair practically quivered in agitation, "I've never even seen him sit with anyone but his family before! Unreal!"

"Yeah," she sighed. "Unreal." Just like him. Swoon….

The bell rang then, and Jessica reluctantly returned to her seat. Mr. Varner dove straight into his lesson, but Lily wasn't listening all the way.

The talk with Jess got her thinking about lunchtime. She shouldn't have hoped, but she did—completely irrationally. Two hours passed as slowly as ten, and that was just her waiting for lunch! Yep, this was gonna be a long, long weekend.

When she walked into the caf with Jessica and Mike, she resolved not to look over at the Cullen table...and immediately failed. Edward's remaining siblings were actually talking to each other, their heads close together. That was new. Not interesting enough to make her glad she had looked over though. The spot where he should have been radiated emptiness—her shoulders sagged under the invisible weight. She tried to remember when he said he'd be back, realized that he hadn't told her, and slumped even more. She'd be a hunchback by day's end. And what if they decided to extend their camping trip to Monday? Tuesday? Forget hunchbacked—she would be walking around with a ninety degree angle of disappointment in her spine.

At least the beach talk cheered her up a bit. Mike was betting on the local weatherman's accuracy, but Eric was dubious; they argued lightly while both hoping for sunlight. The girls were talking about the possibility of sunbathing, and even Angela seemed pretty excited. Lily was content to take a backseat in the discussion for once. She was looking forward to a few things nobody had brought up yet, like finding cool rocks and seeing the tide pools.

Just listening to her friends' eager plans lifted her spirits. The only unpleasant thing came from Lauren in the form of several unfriendly looks at random times. Lily couldn't imagine why until she was walking out of the cafeteria, close behind the cornsilk blonde and Mike. Apparently they didn't know she was there, because Lauren said, "Honestly, I don't know why Lily doesn't just sit with the Cullens from now on."

Lily's stomach dropped, and she almost stopped walking—but then Mike jumped in to defend her.

"She's my friend; she sits with us."

His whisper was surprisingly emphatic, no doubt a reaction to Lauren speaking badly of her. She couldn't help beaming at Mike's heartwarming loyalty even as she began to worry about Lauren's bizarre hostility. Maybe Lily had said something thoughtless to her, or had gotten on her nerves at lunch or something. She would never know for sure, and she definitely wasn't going to ask.

Lily hung back to let Jess and Angela pass, not wanting Mike or Lauren to know that she'd overheard them. Her feet suddenly felt heavier anyway.

Fortunately, the gloom didn't last too long, and even if it had, her father's good mood at dinner would have put an end to that. He was almost as enthusiastic about the beach trip as her friends had been. The two of them sat at the table talking about the upcoming day and reminiscing about previous trips. As time went on, however, Lily realized that a lot of his excitement seemed to have a vague sort of anxiety to it. His eyebrows stayed scrunched the tiniest bit, especially when Lily said how she missed the trips they had taken to the same beach when she was a kid. It could be that he felt guilty for not spending more time with her recently...but surely he knew that she didn't mind. Disturbing his long-established habits was the last thing she wanted to do, and they had spent plenty of time together when she was young. No, he must have just been worried about her falling in the ocean or something, like Edward was.

She sighed, and it had nothing to do with her father this time.

"Hey, Dad? Do you know anything about a place called, um…. What was it—hang on. Uh, the Goat Wilderness or something?"

"Mm." Charlie swallowed one of his last bites of food and corrected her, "The Goat Rocks, yeah. Why?"

"My friend and his brother are going camping there."

Her father's eyebrows shot up, and for a moment she thought it was because of "his brother," his. She cringed internally, but instead of latching on to that part, he simply said, "It's not a very good place for camping. Too many bears. Mostly folks just go during the hunting season." He took another bite and left it at that.

Lily's exhalation was pure relief. She thanked the stars once again for Charlie's taste for cut-and-dry conversation, no follow-up questions, no parental prying….

But then, after a misleading minute of silence, he picked the topic right back up again. "Who's your, uh, friend?"

Her stomach flipped a little. Terrific job, Lily. She could have just said "some kids I know are going camping," but no, she had to go and use pronouns.

"Um…. Edward Cullen," she answered warily, bracing for impact. Renée would've been in a frenzy.

To her amazement, her dad smiled. "One of the Cullens, huh?" He leaned back in his chair and looked pleased.

A tentative nod was all the confirmation she could manage in her surprise.

"Well, that's nice." Charlie concentrated on scraping up the last bits of food on his plate. "Those kids go camping with their father all the time. I'm sure they'll be ok."

Lily smiled at him, even though he didn't see it. She really did have the best dad.

The next morning, her room was unusually bright. The peculiar light woke her up early, although when she saw what it was, she didn't mind. Lily hadn't thought that she would ever be happy to see the sun again after baking alive in Phoenix, but today was different. La Push was going to be beautiful, if the morning sky was any indication. Clouds wreathed the perfect circle of blue like trees around a clearing. She smiled at the sight and hurried to get dressed.

Olympic Outfitters is just a mile north of Forks and has been in the Newton family for generations. It's one of the only outdoor-themed shops around, making it a big stop for tourists and nature enthusiasts. Lily had been there a couple of times, but she was still surprised not to get lost on the way; she had left early just in case. She was also surprised not to immediately see Mike when she pulled up. It looked like she was the first of her group to arrive. Not that she minded of course. She parked the Behemoth and searched for a station playing anything remotely Classical. The antique radio was cute, but she would need to get a CD player at some point, or at least a cassette player. Her Debussy tape was just begging to be played after yesterday, and the idea of driving through the misty forest with lush piano in the background was too lovely to ignore. She wondered if there was a stereo place anywhere in town. Doubtful. Maybe Seattle? She would have to ask someone—Edward, whenever he came back….

The image of Lily driving alone in her truck shifted to include Edward now. She imagined the two of them flanked by tall dark trees, wrapped in green isolation and a gentle cloud of impressionistic music. She thought of the questions she would ask him too. Whether he preferred the Romantic era or the Classical, and who his favorite composers were...his favorite song, favorite movie, favorite place...what he thought of Forks...what he thought of her….

Someone tapped on her window. She jumped as the reverie shattered like a mirror. Lily frowned for a second but had to smile when she saw who the interruption was. Mike beamed at her patiently; his hair was extra spikey today, and his smile was extra bright. She got out to join him and the rest of her friends who were standing by the cars parked in front of the shop.

"You looked like you were sleeping," Mike said as they walked over, "so I didn't want to bother you. Are you tired?"

"Nah," Lily said with a stretch, "not really. Just saving my strength for the beach. I'm gonna do a whole lotta strollin' today. Hey Jess, hey Ange! Hey Eric—I like your jacket."

Eric was with two boys whose names she couldn't remember. Jess and Ange were standing by Lauren, who was flanked by three other girls Lily didn't know. The girls whispered to each other and to Lauren when Lily walked on over. The glances they exchanged made her skin crawl—especially when Lauren looked her up and down, flipped out her silvery hair, and turned away scornfully. It was probably because she hadn't said hi to them, but before she could do anything about that, Mike started talking.

"We're just waiting for Lee and Samantha," he said as Lily took her place by Jessica and Angela, trying not to look visibly cowed. Her acting must have been subpar, because he sounded a little awkward when he asked, "Unless you invited anyone, Lily?"

"Just me," she replied cheerfully. It was only half a fib. She was the only one showing up, even if she had invited someone else. Her heart panged a little at the thought of Edward's absence, especially when Mike asked, "Wanna ride with me? It's that or Lee's mom's minivan." She remembered her all too brief ride with Edward and had to concentrate on looking pleasantly indifferent.

"Sure thing," she said and took a step towards Mike. She didn't want to seem unfriendly, especially when he might be concerned about her—she remembered how protective he'd sounded when Lauren complained about her. The memory of his invitation to the dance still bothered her a little, but she would rather die than make him feel weird about it now.

Apparently her snubs were the furthest thing from his mind, fortunately for Lily...or not? His smile bordered on blissful. It made her a wee bit uncomfortable, and not just her either. Jessica was watching them closely with a very distinct frown that grew more pronounced when Mike promised Lily shotgun.

"That's okay," she told him quickly. "I have a better chance of not getting carsick in the back." It was hard to feel guilty about the lie or Mike's crestfallen face when Jessica's expression went from chagrined to grateful. Lily gave her a secretive smile when Mike wasn't looking, and Jess grinned right back at her...until it turned out that every seat was essential, thanks to Lee bringing two extra people.

Lily had to sit in the front after all, but she talked her way into getting the window seat. That left Jess to sit squished in between them, which was better than nothing. Still, she looked as uncomfortable as Lily felt.

"Sorry," Lily whispered to her while Mike was talking over his left shoulder. "I'll try to give you two some alone time." She wiggled her eyebrows up and down. That made Jessica grin and giggle a tiny bit. Lily breathed a silent sigh of relief.

At least it was only fifteen miles to La Push. She looked out the open window the whole way to give Jess as much faux privacy with Mike as possible. The drive was so beautiful anyway, it almost felt worth the discomfort just to be able to look freely. The forest clung to the side of the road like a towering, dark green wall. The Quillayute river wove through the trees, shining like white fire whenever it crossed out into the open. Together they made a mix of shadow and light that any painter would have drooled over. Her kingdom for some paper and an inch of elbow room!

The roadside scenery was just an overture to the breathtaking sight of First Beach. When they had all exited the caravan, Lily stood there for a long, long minute. She'd visited the place countless times as a kid, but familiarity hadn't stolen any of its charm.

Even in the sunlight, the water looked cold. Instead of the usual blue or green, it was shining silver and frothy white. The wind made the water choppy, and there were white caps and long swaths of foam where the waves sloshed along the beach. The only actual sand on that beach was hidden beneath the waves, revealed only when they rolled away from the shore for a few moments at a time. The rest of the ground was nothing but rocks, and that was her favorite part. The stones all looked the same at first glance, boring and gray; up close, however, they had as many different colors as the ocean itself—an unexpected, rocky rainbow.

The natural wonders didn't stop there. Along the shore of the crescent beach and at the edge of the forest too, logs as white as snow were scattered like the remains of an ancient wooden fence. Some of them were just small, bare trunks, mostly lying by themselves around the high water mark. Some of the others, the ones further up on land, were absolutely enormous—whole trees with most of their branches still on. Lily must have skinned her hands and knees at least a hundred times climbing those driftwood giants. But scrapes and splinters had never stopped her and her friends from enjoying themselves. The sight of the spidery piles of wood brought back a buttload of good memories: playing pretend with Billy's kids, jumping off the upended roots into her father's arms, and sometimes, rarely, just sitting on one of the logs between both of her parents, watching the sun go down over the water.

That was where you found the crowning beauty of it all, out beyond the shore. Islands topped with fir trees stood in sheer, uneven slopes. They looked ancient and weathered, mysterious and unreachable. She had always daydreamed about swimming out to them as a little girl, never mind that the water was freezing and the islands were probably off-limits, not to mention practically unclimbable. There was a wild and lonely kind of charm to them. They looked a lot smaller as an adult, and they weren't big or lush or anything like that, but...even now, there was something about their lopsided shapes that made the horizon feel complete. They made her feel the same way too.

Angela's gentle voice broke through her landscape trance. "Lily? What's the matter?"

She turned to face her friend's anxious expression. "Nothing?"

"But...you're crying."

Lily reached up and touched her face. It was damp. She laughed. "Sorry, Ange—don't worry. I'm not upset or anything," she assured, drying her eyes on the collar of her t-shirt. "This place is just so beautiful, and I have so many good memories here. It feels a bit like coming home again. ...But I guess that sounds pretty darn cheesy, huh?"

"No, not at all." Angela smiled. "I'm just glad you're okay."

"Better than okay, I'd say." Lily matched her smile with a great big grin and linked their arms together. "Alrighty. Let's hit the beach."

They picked their way along the shore with Mike heading the march. The breeze was brisk and briny and full of birds enjoying the day along with them. Seagulls cried shrilly, Pelicans bobbed calmly on the waves, and high above their heads—

"Oh, look, Ange! Eagle!" Lily pointed up to the dark shape floating in the sea of bright blue.

Mike beckoned them over to a fire circle filled with black ashes and ringed with more driftwood trees that were perfect for sitting. Eric and one of the boys—Ben, maybe...or maybe the other one was Ben—made a pyramid of branches they had gathered from the dryer piles of driftwood near the forest. Mike got out a small lighter and knelt beside it.

"Have you ever seen a driftwood fire?" he asked Lily. She had taken a seat on one of the natural benches, surrounded by the rest of the happy, chattering group.

"Of course," she said as Mike set a few blazing twigs against the triangular stack of kindling. "The colors are amazing, right?"

The flames caught eagerly, showing off their blue and green hues.

"It's the salt that does it," Mike told her. He looked proud of his multicolor blaze.

Lily nodded. "Coolest fire I know."

He lit one more twig and then came to sit beside her. The two of them talked for a bit, swapping beach stories—she had a lot more under her belt than he did, having grown up on the Gulf Coast—but soon Mike became ensconced in a conversation with Jess. Lily smiled at the pair of them. They really would make such a good couple.

She sighed happily, put her elbows on her knees and her face in her hands, and stared into the flames with blithe contentment for a while. Her dad was always nervous about her and open flames, but Billy wasn't. Images of late summer evenings roasting marshmallows with the Black family danced through her head. When Charlie didn't feel like taking her along on his fishing trips, she got to spend the night with Rachel and Rebecca, and they would play all over the reservation the next day. If Billy hadn't gone along to fish—he stayed home a lot more after his wife passed away—then the day would often end around another fire while the Quileute elders told stories. The memories warmed her up better than any bonfire ever could.

When the rest of her was warm enough too, Lily got up and went to look for rocks; her raincoat had deep pockets that were just perfect for it. She invited Angela, but the other girl was already shivering and elected to stay near the fire.

Mike looked like he was about to offer to go with her, much to Jessica's dismay, so Lily told him to save her spot and that she'd be back in a second. Yet another lie, darn it. Oh well. It wasn't much of one at least, because her walk turned out to be pretty short after all. Maybe fifteen minutes later, she saw the group rising off their log benches and went back over to see why, her pockets clacking with pretty pebbles as she walked. Lily was going to be twenty pounds heavier by the end of the day—weight she didn't actually mind for once, haha.

Some of the boys wanted to hike to the tidepools, a short distance away. Lily agreed before she even knew if any of the girls were going. Sure, there was a high probability of her ending up soaked as per usual, but the miniature ecosystems were way too exciting to skip. Even if she embarrassed herself and got hypothermia, it would be worth it for just one glimpse of the fascinating marine life that was always present in the pools.

...But, then again…. She remembered Edward asking her not to fall into the ocean or anything. Normally she wouldn't have let anyone's paranoid concern spoil her fun, but she did promise him. ...Well, tidepools weren't really the ocean, right? They were landlocked, after all.

That settled it. Tidepool time.

Most of the girls decided to stay behind, apart from Angela and Jessica. Tyler and Eric said they would hang back too. Mike was going, and he was bringing his biggest smile along, just for her. But Lily was too happy to feel uneasy about it. Besides, he was probably just making sure she didn't feel left out, and Jessica didn't look like she noticed. She and Angela were deep in a discussion of possible outfits for the spring prom. Jess had finally convinced her to go with Eric, although Lily didn't think he was her mystery crush. She wondered if it was one of the boys here today….

Their hike was short but wonderful, even if the trees did obscure the sky. It was worth it. The light that filtered through the forest was an amazingly vivid green. It made her feel like they were creatures in a tidepool of their own, swimming around playfully through the cool emerald light. Of course, no proper fish would be tripping and falling the way she did. Lily cheerfully brushed off Mike's offer of assistance and assured him she would be tripping many more times along the way. The roots always snuck up on her, but she didn't care, even when she did scrape up her hands. Everybody was laughing and lively, and the forest was lovely.

The forest gave way to a beach that was even rockier than the last. Instead of a packed floor of loose stones, much of the ground here was a mix of solid rock, patches of dark sand, and enormous boulders everywhere. They had visited the place at the perfect time. A serene tidal river was making its way to the sea; when the tide rose again, it would disappear. Cratering its rocky banks were crystal-clear pools of every shape and size.

Everyone rushed on over, whooping and hollering as they went. Lily had to go a little slower for fear of losing her footing, but she was just as enthusiastic as the rest of them. She marveled at the natural aquariums, going from one pool to another and leaning way too far over the edges—until her hand slipped on an algae-covered rock and almost sent her plunging head first into the water. A bit more caution was exercised after that. The other kids were a lot braver, but then again, they didn't seem to have her talent for imbalance.

She picked a safe looking pool with a big stable rock to sit on and stayed there, recalling once again her promise to Edward...even if it wasn't quite the ocean. But remaining stationary wasn't one bit boring. This particular tide pool was enormous and chock full of life on parade—flora and fauna in as many colors as the stones on the beach.

Lily felt like she was watching a tiny bustling city, and it was a lot of fun deciding which roll each creature played. The billowing anemones were trees, mostly green with a couple bright red ones. The hermit crabs and tiny snails were drivers hidden in their cars, slowly fighting the literal crawl of traffic. Clusters of pink and maroon starfish stuck to the rocks without moving, the old folks resting on their park benches. The pale sea slug lumbering across the bottom of the pool was an elderly gentleman on his way to lunch. He was watched by a black and white eel who hid himself in the waving weeds—an escaped criminal on the run. It looked like a pretty nice place, even with the slithery bandit.

Lily watched the intricate play of life and amused herself by imagining their antics...and what Edward would have thought of it all...until the rest of her friends got hungry enough to go back. She could have stayed there for a whole hour more, but she was getting pretty peckish, and she didn't want to go back on her own anyway. It would be just her luck to break a leg in the woods when she was all alone. She said goodbye to the underwater city and promised to come back another time. Maybe with a friend….

When they got back to First Beach, it looked like their group had grown, as indeed it had. She recognized the straight black hair and copper skin of the newcomers right away. Lily smiled to herself. They were all teenagers from the reservation, and a few of the faces in the group looked familiar to her. One profile in particular made her stop, squint, and then gasp.

"Jake?"

The younger boy turned to look when she called his name, and his bright white smile lit up like a beacon. "Lily?"

She laughed and jogged forward, pockets bouncing and clattering with rocks as she ran. To her amusement, he did the same. The wind sent his long black ponytail streaming out behind him. It almost looked like a scene from a movie where they would meet halfway, grab hands, and spin around in slow motion. All they did was high five though—the way they always had.

"Dang, Jake! You shot up—what the heck?" The days of leaning on top of his head and calling him an arm rest were long gone. Jacob Black was almost as tall as her now, and while his face was still every bit the child she was so familiar with, it looked more like a young man instead of a little boy.

"Yeah, I grew. People tend to do that."

Lily stuck her tongue out at the sarcasm, but she couldn't hold the expression for more than a second or two. "It's awesome to see you, dude," she said with a grin, denying the urge to hug him.

"You too. You look..." he glanced over her squat figure, and Lily cringed internally, knowing exactly how she looked nowadays... "awesome."

Her smile rushed back and brought a blush along too. Awesome, huh? Yeah, no way...but Jake sure looked like he meant it. That, or the kid had gotten really good at lying. She had plenty of memories of him swearing he hadn't done whatever his sisters were accusing him of—the back of one grubby hand wiping his mouth compulsively as he looked away from their demanding eyes. Happier times for them all. Jake had stopped lying to his sisters after their mom died, and they had stopped scolding him when he took cookies from the pantry.

"I knew Charlie bought the truck for you, but I didn't think it was for you right now," he enthused, and then he demanded, "What are you doing here? It's not even summertime yet."

"I moved here!"

"No way!"

"Yes way!"

He looked as ecstatic as she felt. Lily couldn't resist pulling him into a hug then. Little Jakey. He'd continued playing with her even after he lost his mother, when Rachel and Rebecca started spending more time with their dad and less time traipsing around with Lily. He was three years younger than her, but that hadn't stopped the two of them from being fast friends. She had no qualms about squeezing the life out of him in front of everybody now, even if he did squirm a bit.

At that point, the rest of her group had made it over to the main one, and the introductions began. Lily and Jake walked on over to join them and to grab some grub. While the food was being passed out, Eric named the people who were entering the circle, and then a boy who looked like the oldest of the Quileute kids introduced the seven others with him. A few of the younger boys waved to Lily—she remembered two of them pretty well, Quil and Embry. They were Jake's best friends, and after he performed his own personal introductions with them, she brought him over to Jessica and Angela and did the same.

After that, they all sat down, Angela on one side and Jake on the other so that Lily was the very happy salami in a friendship sandwich. Jake went over to Mike to grab plates for himself and Lily—Mike didn't look too happy about it, for some reason—and she turned to her friend and whispered, "Hey, Ange, um...if I get caught up reminiscing with Jake—I mean, I probably will...I just don't want you to think I'm, like, ignoring you or anything."

Angela smiled at her with gentle assurance and whispered back, "It's all right. I understand; you're happy to see each other."

"Yeah," Lilly agreed with a glance back to Jake. He was walking on over with their food now.

"I wanted to stare into the fire a bit anyway," Angela concluded in a dreamy voice. Lily said she understood that too, and then Jake plopped down beside her.

"What's that guy's deal?" he asked, jerking his chin in Mike's direction.

Lily didn't look over in case Mike was still staring; she just hummed an "idaknow" hum and shrugged innocently. Then she took a big bite of sandwich and didn't even bother to swallow before saying, "So, Jakey." He scrunched up his face in distaste at the ancient nickname and shoved a handful of chips in his mouth. "How're things at home? It feels like so long since I've been on the res."

"Yeah, I remember your dad saying he was gonna start visiting you in Phoenix instead of you coming up here to us. Lame."

"Aw, I would've come back! Consider this my way of making up for skipping out on y'all."

"Why did you?"

Lily chewed her sandwich slowly now. She also took a swig of soda before she answered, stalling all the way. "I, uh…well, for the most part, I thought it might help things with my mom if I spent more time with her. But it turns out that I needed to do the opposite, heh."

"What's wrong with your mom?" The look of concern on his face made her smile return, even if it was a bit sad.

"Nothing, we've just been fighting a lot lately. ...Well, nonstop, actually. ...For the last two or three years."

Jake's eyes were steady, no trace of anything but sympathy. "That's rough, sorry."

She smiled at him a little and said, "Thanks." For some reason, she didn't feel bad about telling him. She probably should have been ashamed for him to know, just like she probably should have been embarrassed for Jake to see her now when all he had ever known was average, slightly plump Lily, not all-out eat-your-feelings Lily. And yet she felt...peaceful. Heck, it actually felt nice to get it off her chest. Either Jake was magic, or she was getting better at the whole change thing. Maybe both.

"So," he said after a quiet minute, "you actually live here now?"

"Yep. It just seemed like the best way to deal with things."

"Isn't that more like running away from things instead of dealing with them?"

She made a face at him. "Rude."

He shrugged. "Just sayin'."

"Well...I appreciate the honesty. Yeah, it is running away technically, but...I just didn't know what else to do. Nothing worked. Talking, not talking, family counselling—"

"You went to a shrink?"

"Outdated term, Jake—and also, again, rude much? Anyhow, it was her idea, and I thought it did help a lot with some things, but..." she sighed and gave up trying to find a way to say it that sounded less blame-laying... "but Mom didn't agree, so we stopped going. Plus, we're both super lazy and bad at keeping appointments—me especially. After that…. Meh, long story short, I thought it was better to cut our losses now and move out early rather than stay another year, damage things beyond repair, and never talk to each other again. Maybe we're just meant to have a long-distance relationship. ...Anyways, I asked about you first. How are you and your sisters doing? How's Billy? Dad says he's in a wheelchair—is he okay?"

"Yeah, just diabetes, but he's doing a lot better about it now. Having to get the chair was kind of like a wake up call for him, I guess."

"Oh, I thought something bad had happened. I mean, not that that's not bad too, just, you know…."

"Nah, don't worry about it. The old coot's as feisty as ever. He's gonna make it to one hundred for sure."

"I'm really glad," Lily told him with a relieved grin. "I've gotta visit him sometime soon."

"Good, he'll like that. He was asking about you the other day."

"Ugh. Was Dad telling him about my incident?" She said the word with comic air quotes, but Jake's eyebrows shot up.

"No, they're not talking," he said like it was old news, and before she could ask about that, he went on, "What incident? Are you okay?"

"Oh. Uh, yeah. I just kind of, um…heh, almost got squished by a van?"

"Whoa, what?"

He made her tell him all about it. Lily felt worse lying to Jake than she had with anyone else, necessary as it was. His eyebrows shot up when she said Edward's name. Maybe the Cullens' reputation extended even beyond the borders of Forks.

As she continued the story for her eager audience, somehow it led into the next embarrassing incident with blood typing. Lily spared no details this time, and Jake laughed at her more than once, but she didn't mind at all; she laughed at herself along with him, even while a part of her was thinking about Edward wistfully. From there, they talked about Jake's latest escapade in school involving Quil, an airhorn, and a box of ping pong balls. He acted disgruntled when she laughed her head off and quickly changed the subject to his sisters—Rachel's college experience so far at Washington State, and Rebeccah's marriage and move to Hawaii.

By that time, the clouds had finally begun their counterattack on the blue sky. Their long shadows drifted across the ground and turned the sea a darker color, almost black. People began drifting as well, walking off in little groups to skip rocks, climb on piles of driftwood, and hike back to the tidepools again. Angela and Eric were in that group. Meanwhile, Mike, Jessica, and some of the Quileute kids were going back to town to visit a shop; other local boys were going along on the expedition through the woods. Soon the only ones left around the fire were Tyler and Lauren—who were fiddling with the CD player—one of Lauren's friends, another teen from the reservation, and the oldest boy. He was a muscular young man who hadn't smiled the entire time. What was his name? Dean? Sean? When Jake caught her staring, she had to admit her forgetfulness and ask him. Sam, that was it.

"Boy, you're still not good with names?" Jake taunted her as they tossed their plates in one of the bags someone had tied to the branch of a log. "That's pretty embarrassing. Remember how you always used to have to ask my dad over and over again who—"

"Remember how you used to take your clothes off—" she interrupted him before he could finish teasing her— "and run around in the rain like a baby streaker? Huh, Nakey Jakey?"

A blush darkened Jake's russet face. He had high cheekbones, beautifully silky skin, and shining dark eyes. Throw in the perfect smile and the long, glossy black hair, and he made quite the little prince. Plus, he was a good kid in all the ways that really mattered, just like his sisters. They might have been a handful, but they were all kind, loyal, and goodhearted. Billy sure knew how to raise 'em.

Jake was gonna be a real catch for some lucky girl one day, and Lily thought about telling him too, just to tweak him back. But she'd be nice and hold off, in case they weren't good enough friends for that anymore. It didn't feel like that was the case though. Jake was as easy to talk to as ever, and he seemed happy to talk back.

"How do you like the truck?" he asked in a not-so-subtle subject change as they went back and sat on their log.

"It's perfect—really my style."

"What, clunky?"

She punched him in the arm. "Rude! I was going to say it's vintage and sturdy. Although, I guess bubble butt is a more fitting description," she added ruefully. "Still matches me though, in that case. I've put on a lot of weight, if you haven't noticed."

Jake shrugged one shoulder. "So what? Stuff like that doesn't matter. You still look great."

Lily chortled even as she felt her ears turning pink. "Thanks, dude. You too." Jake rolled his eyes and waved away the compliment, and she continued, "The only problem is that it's so darn loud, I can hardly hear the radio. It's pretty embarrassing to pull into the school lot with the volume of a jet engine."

"So it's loud and awkward like you, too," he laughed in his pleasantly husky voice.

She smacked his arm with the back of her hand. The kid could go from saying she looked good in spite of her size to insulting her in less than a minute.

"Rude!"

"It's definitely slow like you." He anticipated her swat this time and managed to dodge with a sideways lean.

"It is not, and I am not."

"It totally is. I was so relieved when Charlie bought it. My dad wouldn't let me work on building another car when we had a 'perfectly good vehicle' right there. Perfectly good if you're a snail."

She blew a raspberry at him and took another drink of her nearly empty soda. "Well, maybe you're just a speed demon. Wait, can you even drive by yourself yet?"

He gave her a wolfish grin and said, "Yeah, I can—just can't get caught."

Lily covered her ears. "La la la," she sang, "police chief's daughter! I legally can't hear you!" When he rolled his eyes nearly out of their sockets, she warned him, "Your face is gonna get stuck like that, Jakey boy."

"Pfft. You sound like an old grandmother. Bet you drive like one too—that's why you don't think it's slow. Have you even tried to go over sixty yet?"

"No?"

"Good. Don't."

"Oh. Well, that's fine; I like doing backroads anyway," she said with a shrug, and then she quipped, "But hey, even if it ain't fast, it sure does great in a collision."

"Yeah, I don't think a tank could take out that old monster."

Lily laughed. "I actually call it the Behemoth!"

"The what?"

"Behemoth, it's a kind of monster. Well, that or a dinosaur."

"Pretty fitting either way," he snickered.

"Heh, yeah. So. Building cars, huh? Like, building them from scratch?"

"Pretty much. Scratch or better, if I can get it."

"That sounds pretty fun."

"It is when I have the time and the parts. You wouldn't happen to know where I could get my hands on a master cylinder for a 1986 Volkswagen Rabbit, do you?"

"I'm sorry, are you still speaking English?"

They were interrupted suddenly and, truth be told, unpleasantly. From across the fire, Lauren asked, "You know Lily, Jacob?" Her words were innocent, but her tone sounded almost rude; it had a hint of, Are you serious? As if she was surprised that anyone would know Lily, let alone be friends with her. ...But maybe she was reading too much into that.

"Only since I was born," Jake said with a laugh.

Lily smiled at him. "So not very long at all then."

He snickered. "Okay, grandma."

"Watch it, squirt."

She was purposefully avoiding any looks at Lauren during this exchange, but it didn't do any good. In a very clear voice, she said, "Samantha, I was just saying to Tyler that it was too bad none of the Cullens could come out today." Lily looked over again—she couldn't help it. Lauren was looking not at the other girl named Samantha, but at Lily. Her pale gaze didn't so much as waver when she finished, "Didn't anyone think to invite them?"

A baritone voice commanded everyone's attention. "You mean Dr. Carlisle Cullen's family?" They all turned to look. It was Sam. His dark eyes were surprisingly stern.

Lauren sounded a little annoyed when she answered, "Yes, do you know them?"

"The Cullens don't come here," was all he said in reply.

Tyler held a CD up in front of Lauren in an attempt to regain her focus. With a huff, the blonde girl waved his hand away. Sam turned to stare at the dark forest, his face stiff with an emotion Lily couldn't name. She stared at him, wondering what his strange tone had meant. Her face felt a little stiff as well.

"Let's go for a walk, Jake," she suggested. He was just finishing his soda, tipping his head back to get the last few drops.

He crunched the can and said, "Sure."

They got up and threw away their drinks, and then Lily and Jake walked to the beach and began a leisurely stroll along the crescent strip of land. As soon as they were out of earshot, she asked, "Hey, what did Sam mean about the Cullens not coming here?"

Jake blinked at her. She couldn't decide if his expression was really as open as it looked.

"I mean, it almost sounded like he meant that they weren't, like, allowed to come here."

Jake's head tilted thoughtfully. He rubbed the back of his neck. "Eh, that's kind of…."

"Kind of what?"

He smirked suddenly. "It's kind of a tribe secret."

"Oh. Well, Old Quil did say one time that the Swans have a Quileute ancestor somewhere," she prompted with a wheedling smile, "remember?"

"Yeah, I don't think that counts."

"It totally does! Sort of. ...Okay, fine. What if I just promise not to tell?"

He crossed his arms. "Are you asking me to defy the will of my people, pale-face?"

Lily frowned at him, squishing her lips together like a fish. "Isn't that technically racist?"

"To you or to me?"

"Does it matter? ...Ugh, just tell me, Jake. Please?"

"Why do you wanna know? It's stupid anyway." He shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans and kicked at the rocks as they walked.

"Aw, come on, Jakey." When he grimaced at her, she quickly and mercilessly switched tactics, making her voice as pleading as possible. At any other time, she would've felt bad about the blatant coercion, but something about Sam's words had her itching. "I'm super curious now—small town gossip is the spice of life, right? Defy tradition and satisfy my inquisitive soul! I won't tell anyone. Pretty please?"

Jake stared at the ground for about five seconds, and then he was smirking at her again. "Okay, I'll tell you...on one condition."

"Yeah?"

"You can never call me Jakey again."

"Aw, boo!" She pouted. "I've literally called you that since you were in a larval state."

"If Quil or Embry ever remembered that that dumb nickname existed, I'd be 'widdle Jakey-Wakey' forever," he muttered darkly.

Lily giggled. She put one hand over her heart and the other up in the air. "Fine, I swear. No more Jakey. Just Jake."

He blew out a sigh of relief fit for a bugle player. And then….

"All right," he began in a purposefully ominous voice, "do you like scary stories?"

For some reason, her stomach flipped a little, and her heartbeat picked up a bit. But when she answered, "I actually do," it was the truth. Lily might have been a wimp in a lot of ways, such as with roaches and apologies and other people's hemoglobin, but she loved the thrill of scary stories. Even so, she suddenly felt the oddest bit of foreboding. It made her back start to sweat even before Jake went on in his low, spooky voice.

"You remember the old stories about where we—the Quileute people—come from?"

"Yeah, definitely," she answered only to immediately amend, "well, uh, I think. Maybe? It's been a long time since Billy, um…. Okay, never mind." Lily shook her head. "Pretend I said no."

Jake laughed at her and then continued, "Well, there are lots of legends about our origins, some of them claiming to date back to the Flood. Supposedly, the ancient Quileutes tied their canoes to the tops of the tallest trees on the mountain to survive like Noah and the ark." He smiled sarcastically, and Lily smiled back. She felt grateful that he was telling her this, even if she couldn't see where it was going.

"There's another legend that claims we descended from wolves—and that the wolves are our brothers still. That's why it's against tribal law to kill them. And then..." he told her in an even lower and more dramatic voice, pausing for effect... "there are the legends about the cold ones."

"The cold ones? What are those?"

"Not what. Who." He said the word in a spooky voice and made his eyes go wide; he really was good at this. "There are stories of the cold ones as old as the wolf legends, and some that are much more recent. According to legend, my own great-grandfather knew some of them. He was the one who made a treaty with them, to keep them off our land."

"Wow, your great-grandpa? That's actually not that long ago, is it? Relatively speaking, I mean. Did your dad know him at all?"

"Yep, he did, and like my father, he was a tribal elder, responsible for the safety of our people. You see, the cold ones are the natural enemy of the wolf—well, not the wolf like the animal, but the wolves that turn into men, like our ancestors. You would call them…" he paused once again for dramatic effect... "werewolves."

"Oo-oo-oo, that's very spooky. So, why were they enemies? More racism?"

Jake snickered, and then he cleared his throat and got back into storyteller mode. "Now, the cold ones are traditionally our enemies. But this pack that came to our territory during my great-grandfather's time was different. They didn't hunt the way others of their kind did—they weren't supposed to be dangerous to the tribe. So my great-grandfather made a truce with them. If they would promise to stay off our lands, we wouldn't expose them to the pale-faces." He grinned at her and wiggled his eyebrows insolently.

Lily stuck out her tongue, but it was halfhearted. Something about this story was starting to nag her. Or maybe Jake's narration was even better than she thought.

"Why would exposing them be bad? Were the pale—uh, other humans their enemies too?"

"The other way around. There's always a risk for humans to be around the cold ones, even if they're civilized like this clan was. You never know when they might get too hungry to resist." Jake's voice dripped with menace like a kid telling murder stories around a campfire.

"What do you mean? Hungry like...they ate people?" She shivered and pictured a skeletal wendigo.

"Exactly. But these ones claimed that they didn't hunt humans. Supposedly, they were able to prey on animals instead."

Lily froze mid-nod; she had suddenly remembered why she'd asked for this fascinating information to begin with. Her stomach more than flipped—it flopped. She didn't try to ask herself why it did. She just focused on keeping her steps even and untightening her throat enough to ask, "So what does this have to do with the Cullens? Are they…." She coughed a little when her voice cracked. "Are they, uh...like the cold ones your great-grandpa met? Like, descendants or something?"

"No." The boy gave her yet another dramatic pause, but this one was warranted. When he continued, Lily forgot to keep walking. "They are the ones he met."

Jake pivoted to face her. He didn't seem surprised that she had stopped. If anything, he looked quite pleased by her reaction.

"There are more of them now," he went on in a more casual voice, fighting a smile while he spoke, "a new female and a new male, but the rest of them are the same. In my great-grandfather's time, they already knew of the leader, Carlisle. He'd been here and gone before your people even arrived."

Lily tried to meet his almost-smile with one of her own, but she couldn't. She felt cold now, just like the beings in his story. Cold down to the bone.

"What are they?" she whispered. "Ghosts?" She couldn't imagine anything scarier than that, not even wendigos.

He tilted his head down low, eyes wide and voice chilling. "Nope. Something even worse," he answered. His grin was as dark as the night beyond a campfire's light.

She waited for the final blow, but Jake was trying to wring one last, extra dramatic pause out of the story. She should have been impatient as all get out, but her words were slow when she asked, "What? What's worse than that?"

"Blood drinkers," Jake answered. "Your people call them...vampires."

Lily's mouth went dry. She had to swallow and clear her throat before she was able to produce a hollow laugh. "My people, huh?"

"You should see the look on your face," Jake noted with smug delight, but Lily hardly minded. It meant he was less likely to notice anything off about her expression.

"Yep. Consider me spooked," she agreed. "Good job. A-plus for Jake."

He rubbed the back of his neck as a little of his self-congratulation wore off. "Pretty crazy stuff though, isn't it? No wonder my dad doesn't want us talking about it—not that he'd mind you knowing, Lills."

She smiled at the nickname and the sentiment, but she wasn't able to make her voice match his light tone when she said, "Thanks. ...Do you think he believes in it?"

Jake sighed and slouched. "Yeah, unfortunately. It's why Charlie and him aren't talking anymore—he got pretty mad when he heard that some of us weren't going to the hospital since Dr. Cullen started working there, and of course my dad hasn't told him why, not that it'd help…. I'd, uh, appreciate it if you didn't say anything. To either of our dads, if that's okay with you." He looked at her pleadingly. The expression reminded Lily of a little boy begging her not to tell his sisters that he'd been eating their Oreos; it turned her smile into something genuine.

She wiggled her fingers at him. "Uh o-o-oh, are ya gonna get in trouble?" She sang the question like a juvenile threat.

Jake laughed. "I guess I did just violate the treaty."

"Well, don't worry, traitor." Lily punched him lightly on the arm. "I'm no tattletale. ...I hope our dads work it out soon though. They've always been such good friends. Hey, maybe you and Billy can come over some time, and we can all eat supper together."

"That sounds like a good idea to me." His bright smile helped push all the darker thoughts to the back of her mind. They beamed at each other. In spite of everything she had just learned, things felt better than ever now that she knew Jake was back. She hadn't realized just how much she'd missed him until now.

There was a clattering sound behind them, and they turned to look. Mike and Jessica were heading over.

"Hey, Lily," Jess called with a wave as the pair walked towards them. "Come on—we're getting ready to leave!"

"We were worried about you," Mike called as well. He had the decency to look abashed when Jessica shot him a look. In a voice that wasn't quite as loud, he justified, "It's about to rain."

Lily glanced up at the sky. The clouds had won their battle. There wasn't a trace of blue left anymore, not even way out over the wild black waves. It was as if Jake's story had stolen the sun, and suddenly everything was cast into shadow. She shivered again.

"Is that your boyfriend?" Jake asked, saying the last word as stupidly as he possibly could.

"No way," Lily whispered. He looked astonished by her bluntness and stared at her with a wide-eyed, open-mouthed grin.

"Rude," he mocked giddily.

"Oh," she shot back, "I bet you've just been waiting for the chance to say that back to me."

"As if. I'm not lame like you."

She swatted him again just as Mike and Jess reached them; the former seemed rather unhappy all of a sudden. His expression relaxed when he looked Jake up and down, for whatever reason. Lily was just going to stop trying to understand boys.

"Where have you been?" Mike asked her.

She didn't appreciate the way he said it—all demanding, like she wasn't allowed to go off on her own, geez—so she grinned at Jake and replied, "Right here. Telling stories," as if it was an inside joke. Jake smiled back at her. Mike did not smile.

"Well. We're packing up now. Let's go, Lily."

Nobody smiled when he said that. Jessica wrinkled her nose at him. Jake stood a little taller. Lily let the chagrin show on her face as she met Mike's gaze.

He cleared his throat and looked away from her. His eyes cut up and down over Jake a couple times—it reminded her of Lauren—before he said, "It was nice meeting you...Blake."

Jake's height instantly gained another inch. Without missing a beat, he taunted, "You too, Ike."

Jessica and Lily burst into giggles, and Mike's face and neck turned tomato-red. He scratched his nose in a disgruntled way. Jake smirked, supremely pleased with himself—and the expression reminded Lily a little of Edward. Her laughter quickly trailed off as adrenaline coursed through her body. She had a lot to think about on the ride home….

Jake wasn't able to dodge her big goodbye hug, but he groaned a little in protest, sounding for all the world like a teen boy on the verge of whining, "Mo-o-om!"

"Come hang out with me when you are legally able to drive, okay? If I'm not too old and lame, that is."

"Sure thing, grandma."

They high-fived one more time, and then Lily left with her new friends; she turned around one more time to wave to her old one, and he waved back.

This time, she rode in the backseat of Mike's SUV between Angela and Tyler. Lauren stayed turned around in her middle seat the entire time, but that was just to speak to Tyler, fortunately. Ange was content to look out the window and not talk, and Lily was grateful for the girl's ability to sit in comfortable silence.

With her head leaned back on the seat and her eyes closed, Lily hoped it would look like she was sleeping, just in case someone got the impulse to address her. She sat like that for a while, but she couldn't have napped even if she had wanted to. There was so much to consider about Jake's story, she hardly even knew where to begin. Maybe it was actually better not to think about it at all for now. But she would have to sooner or later….

Later.

She had always been a procrastinator, so it didn't bother her to put it off, at least until tonight. However, when she considered thinking about the legend of the cold ones alone in her room, surrounded by darkness….

Suddenly Lily wished she could nap, because it didn't look like she would be getting much sleep at all when she got home. She sighed, opened her eyes, and peered out the window where Angela was leaning her head.

The cloudy sky glowered, and rain began to fall. It seemed like the sun was gone for good.


possum noises*

I'm turning 25 soon. Quarter of a century. Good LORD I'm old. If you are over 25, haha jk these are the best years of your life. If you are under 25, enjoy your youth, it ends at 25.

WAIT I FORGOT TO SAY THAT THIS WAS MY FAVORITE CHAPTER! I didn't expect it to be my fave, bc no Edward, but it was so darn fun to write. I think Lily rubbed off on me, bc I actually liked Jake even more after this point. I can't decide whether to keep them friends, or to make the inevitable Jake-crush happen (idk if it's starting at all yet, but if it has, I bet he's totally oblivious lol). What do y'all think, fr? Would them basically growing up together change their relationship much, like keep it platonic? Or nah?