Book One ~ Janiya

Chapter One

Note: I edited this because something about it bothered me. A review (which I thought very helpful and am glad for, actually) pointed out that Cali wasn't exactly acting seven-year-old-ish. Which I agree with. See, when I first wrote her out, she was supposed to be I think 3 years old. And I felt weird making her 3 because of a reason you'll see later on, so I made her 7, but I didn't change the events. Which was wrong. So now she's 5 years old. Compromise.

Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or any of its characters, etc. I do own Cali, Jani, the events/people you don't recognize, and the fanfic. [This disclaimer goes for the rest of the story; it's not like I'll own the rights to Twilight anytime soon, or ever.]

"Cali! Come back here!" I shouted at the top of my lungs. My younger sister, named Calindra, was running up and down the stairs, laughing wildly. She was probably on a sugar rush, again. Only a five-year-old that seemed a bit too smart and too tall for her age, Cali was a precious doll when you could get her to stay still. That task was usually given to me, unfortunately.

"Nanny-nanny-boo-boo! Can't catch me!" she called back, blowing raspberries at me. I frowned and rolled my eyes. I was not in a good mood. Mother and Father had been taking us around to see different houses for sale. We were moving, apparently, to be closer to some relatives on my father's side of the family that I'd never met. I wasn't exactly pleased. Oregon was fine. Why move to a rinky-dink town where there probably wouldn't even be a mall?

"Calindra! Janiya!" Mother called. I scooped up the giggling Calindra and rushed downstairs. On to the next house, I suppose. Cali's sandy hair tickled my face as she wrapped her arms around my neck and pressed her face into my collarbone. Her eyelashes tickled my skin. I secured Cali in my arms and bounded out of the large house. Mother wanted something more into the town, anyway.

I saw Mother, light brown hair pulled into a loose bun, as she waited for us with Father near the car. I stepped into the backseat carefully, making sure not to bump Cali's head against the ceiling or jostle her in a way that would unsettle her. Mother and Father sat down and, quiet as always, we drove away, on to the next house. This one was closer to the middle of the small town—rather, Indian reservation—we were moving to. I didn't have any feelings about it either way, except that I'd probably be some stranger or outcast fairly easily and for a long time.

I should explain. My father's family grew up on this reservation, where everyone was dark, tall, with strong features. He left shortly after graduating from high school and getting into a big rift with his brother. I think he even changed his last name, or took Mother's; I wasn't exactly clear on that. My mother's family was from another reservation, where there were lighter skinned, daintier people with lighter coloring in hair and eyes. My sister and I, as a result, were tanned somewhere in between their colors. My sister had Mother's sandy hair, whereas I had a dark brown just a few shades lighter than Father's own black hair. Mother's hazel eyes and Father's obsidian ones were both beautiful, but we got neither. Apparently, we had our grandparents' eyes: deep brown, though some would say muddy. As Father was a tall man, my sister and I were destined to be of tall stature. Thankfully, Mother was dainty. We'd look perfect, or so my aunt used to tell me. I think that we'd be seeing our cousin in La Push, since our aunt and uncle hadn't been heard from in years. I wasn't even sure they still spoke to each other. But we knew our cousin lived there.

As I looked out the window, I saw the houses pass by. Soon, we were at a beach. I glanced at Mother quizzically. "Mother?" I asked. She looked back at me.

"Honey," she said, "take your cell phone. Your father and I are dropping you two off at First Beach to spend a while. I remember how you asked us, earlier today, if we could go."

I grinned. Then the smile fell. "But, wait, where are you two going?" I asked. "Please tell me you're not still looking for stuff for the house, when we find it?" Mother pursed her lips.

"We're heading to Seattle to the agency to see if they can help us locate other homes we might have missed," Father explained. "Then we're going to buy a few things and come back to find you two."

"So keep your cell phone and Calindra with you at all times!" Mother added, shooing us out. I rolled my eyes. I was only fourteen, yet they had made me grow up so fast. I was taking care of my sister daily for a long time now, so I felt like an old person whose company wasn't wanted.

"Alright, fine, fine," I grumbled, getting out of the car with Calindra in my arms. "No later than five thirty, and if it gets to that point, you call me, okay?" They gave an affirmative answer and sent me on my way. I watched the car head down the road and away. I smiled. My parents were tough, and they expected a lot of me, but they knew when to give me a break. House-hunting was boring. I looked down at Calindra, who was wondering where Mother and Father went.

"Jani?" she said, looking up at me with her big brown eyes. "Where's Mother and Father?" I couldn't help but snort at her attempt to say 'mother,' and 'father' in a sophisticated tone—it was weird hearing that from a five-year-old. I reached for her hand and she let me take it, her other hand holding her stuffed puppy.

"Mother and Father are going to do some work stuff," I said, trying to simplify it as much as possible. "We get to play and have fun! Yay!"

"Yes!" she squealed in delight. I smiled; she was too cute. We walked across the beach, and Cali was soon rushing for the water when we got close enough.

"Cali!" I shouted, panicking. I ran after her but, lucky me, I happened to twist my ankle just slightly. It made me fall to my knees, but the twist wasn't so bad that I couldn't stand again. "Cali, you get back here or you're in big trouble!" I was frantic. Calindra didn't know how to swim. I scrambled to my feet and ran to the water. As soon as I got there, I saw Calindra with a tan boy who was holding the hand of a little toddler girl. Cali was soaking wet, but she looked fine. Too bad her stuffed puppy was probably already lost at sea. The boy looked up at me as I approached. As he stood up, I saw he was a little taller than me and looked older. He was muscled, too.

"Is this your sister?" he asked. I looked down at Cali, giving her a reproachful glare. I looked back up to the guy.

"I'm sorry," I said automatically. "Yes, this is my sister. Thank you so much for getting to her." I scooped her up into my arms and held her shivering frame against me. She buried her face in my neck.

He smiled. "No problem," he said, then looked down at the toddler beside him. "Claire does that, too. I'm Quil, by the way. Are you new in La Push?"

I nodded. "I'm Janiya," I replied. "My parents are looking for a house, but, yeah, we're new. This is Calindra, my five-year-old troublemaker." Quil gave a short laugh.

"Well, this is Claire," he said. "She's only two—but you know what they say, terrible twos and all. She's the niece of my friend's fiancée, and I usually baby-sit her." I smiled, looking down at the tiny, tired little tan girl with dark brown curls falling into her face.

"Jani, I'm cold," Cali complained in my ear. I frowned, holding her tighter to me.

"Who told you to go to the water?" I muttered under my breath.

"Something wrong?" Quil asked. I didn't exactly want to tell him my sister was cold—really, it was one thing to need help looking after your sister, but to admit you couldn't even keep her warm?

"Uh… Well, Cali's a little cold," I admitted.

"Well… How about you come to my friend's house? I have to take Claire back now, anyway," he said. "And it's lunchtime, so you must be hungry."

"Huh? But, you know, I wouldn't want to impose…" I mumbled. Quil laughed and picked up Claire, who was falling asleep.

"Don't worry about it," he said. "Emily loves having people over. She constantly has a bunch of us eating enough to feed a third world country." I snorted at that, then winced as I felt Cali shiver in my arms.

"Cali…" I cooed softly, rubbing her back, hoping to warm her with friction. "Come on, sweetie." I shivered, feeling the water soaking through my own clothes.

Quil looked a bit concerned. "Do you want me to carry her?" he asked.


"Well, I tend to have a high temperature," he said quickly. He placed a hand on my shoulder and I felt the heat through my thin shirt. "And you seem like you're getting cold, too." I hesitated, then nodded. I told Cali told stand up for a minute, and she clung to my leg. Quil handed Claire to me to carry and took Cali in his arms. She snuggled up to him, and I saw her visibly relax.

"Wow," I muttered, I shook my head. "Whatever. So, we're going to this Emily's house?" Quil nodded, and soon we were walking a little away from the beach and in no time reached a nice little house. It wasn't big, but it was definitely not small. He burst through the front door.

"Emily!" he called. A young women, probably twenty or so, came out from the kitchen. She had three scars on one side of her face, and she was tan like Claire was. Her eyes flickered to me and to Cali before settling on Quil.

"What's this, Quil?" she asked. "What happened?" She sounded worried.

"Emily, don't worry," he said. "Claire's asleep. This is Janiya and her little sister, Calindra. Calindra's freezing, so we brought her back here. They're new in town." Emily immediately took Claire from my arms and Quil gave me a sleeping Cali. It was a miracle I could even carry the five-year-old.

"Follow me," Emily told me. I trailed behind her as she entered a room—I assumed a guest room—and laid Claire down to sleep. She took Cali from me and laid her on the bed as well, then covered them both with a quilt. I followed her back to the living room.

"I'm so sorry for intruding," I told her.

"Nonsense," she said, waving it off. "I like having guests, and you're not intruding. Your family's moving here? Then we'll definitely see you around." Emily smiled and I couldn't help but smile back. "So how old are you and your sister?"

"Cali is five and I'm fourteen," I replied. I saw her eyes widen slightly. Quil's head appeared from the doorway to the kitchen.

"Fourteen?" he mumbled through a mouthful of bread.

"Fourteen? You?" she repeated. I nodded. "You're so tall!" I chuckled.

"Five foot nine," I replied proudly.

"What?" Quil exclaimed. "No fair! I'm only two inches taller! I thought you were at least sixteen, too!"

"Well, Quil, no offense, but you are one of the shorter guys," Emily joked, laughing. Quil pouted.

"Wait, there's more freakishly tall people?" I said, my eyes growing to the size of saucers. Emily nodded. I squealed and happy danced—jumping up and down while clapping and squealing. Quil covered his ears.

"You were definitely not this hyper when I met you," he whined. Emily laughed.

"I think you'll fit in well around here," she said.

"By the way, where are the rest of them?" Quil asked.

"Well, they're out, er, working," Emily stuttered. I shrugged it off. "They should be back in time for lunch, though." Just as she said that, my stomach rumbled. I laughed nervously as Emily smiled and headed to the kitchen, probably to check on whatever she was making. Quil rolled his eyes with a smile and headed for the couch. No sooner had he sat down, the door opened and sounds of a large group of people echoed through the house. I headed for the kitchen and sat on a stool nearby, suddenly shy and wanting to disappear. It sounded like a bunch of teenage boys. That was not a good thing for me. Soon, a very tall, tan, muscled man burst into the kitchen and immediately went over to Emily, planting kisses over her scars and wrapping his arms around her waist. He was barefoot, wearing only cutoffs. He also had a tribal tattoo on his right shoulder. Emily was giggling and I decided to slip out and leave them to their moment. I left the kitchen quietly, looking around the corner. A blush crept up my neck at what I saw.

They definitely behaved like teenage boys. Tall, tan, and well muscled. Dark haired, all bearing the tribal tattoo on their right shoulders, and all wearing only cutoffs or sweats. I looked around the room. There were about eight or nine of them, mostly boys. There was one girl, though, who sat in the corner of the room, looking a bit intimidating. It was she who noticed me first.

"Who are you?" she called out, just loud enough for me to hear. The guys in the room all snapped their heads in my direction. I felt my face heating up as I tried to find my voice.

"That's Jani," Quil said, looking back at the TV uninterestedly.

"Who?" one of the other guys watching TV said. Emily seemed to appear at my side and took my hand, walking with me forward. I felt my throat close up. I was never good in front of crowds. The man that was with her was standing beside her, looking over at me.

"This is Janiya," Emily said. "Her family's moving to La Push, and she was just at the beach with her little sister, who's taking a nap right now." She sent them a look as if saying, Leave it alone. She turned to me. "Janiya—"

"You can call me Jani," I mumbled. She smiled.

"Jani, this is my fiancée, Sam Uley," she said. The man beside her gave a slight smile.

"Wait, Uley?" I blurted. Sam quirked a brow. "Sorry, sorry. It's just—well, that used to be my father's last name. Well, before he got into a fight with his brother and changed it." I shook my head. My eyes widened. "Oh! So that means you're the cousin living in La Push!" I offered a smile and a nervous chuckle. "Hi…?"

To my surprise, Sam gave an amused smile. "Nice to meet my cousin, then," he said. I gave a sigh of relief under my breath, but I'm sure he heard it because his lips twitched, fighting a smile.

Emily instantly gave me a tight hug, even though it knocked the breath out of me. "Oh, so you're part of the family now!" I laughed airily and hugged her back, then she released me and I almost fell. She glanced back at the room of busybodies who were watching the exchange with amusement and shock. "These busybodies are our friends, like an extended family," she said, then went on to point at each and introduce me. "Of course, you met Quil earlier today. There's also Collin, Brady, Seth, Jared, Paul, and Embry—and Jacob, who should be arriving sometime later." I nodded, looking to each face and trying to remember it. I grinned—which must have looked somewhat evil—as I thought about how their personalities might be, based on their posture and appearance now.

"Why's she grinning evilly? I've met you for about half an hour and I've come to be afraid of that face," Quil said, mock-afraid. At this, my lips parted, exposing my white teeth as I continued grinning. "Ah! The evilness!" I gave a slight chuckle and rolled my eyes as some of the guys laughed.

"So, Sam," I said, turning back to him. "Out of curiosity, how old is my cousin?"

"Twenty-one," he answered. I nodded. "And, although I'm sure Emily will tell me it's improper to ask how old a lady is, what's your age?"

I smirked. "I'm fourteen, turning fifteen sometime later this year," I answered vaguely. "And before anyone comments, yes, I'm tall. Five foot nine. And Quil, stop whining."

"But it's so unfair!" he bawled. I smiled at his antics.

"So you must be from my family," Sam said. "We're all very tall. I take it, your father was?" I nodded. "Well, these are the guys, who will now stop staring at my cousin and will refrain from harassing her." He gave them an intimidating look. Most of them turned.

"Well, the food will be done in a while," Emily said. "You're joining us for lunch, right, Jani?"

"Definitely," I said. "I need to evaluate my future cousin-in-law's cooking skills!" We laughed.

"She's an amazing cook," Sam praised, staring at Emily like she was the sun and the center of his world. I saw the love between them, so gentle, in that moment. I excused myself and went to go, as some say, mingle.

"Hey, Jani!" Quil called. I went over and cocked my head to the side, staring at him expectantly. "…What? Why are you staring at me like that! Stop it! WAH!" My lips twitched and my eyes watered. He was just like a big baby.

"Quil," a guy to his left, whom I recognized as the one named Embry, warned. "Don't make her cry." I was confused for a moment before realizing what he meant. When I laughed too much, or tried not to laugh, my eyes would water. I smirked internally and buried my face in my hands, pretending to go along with the act.

"Jani?" Quil said. "Jani! I'm so, so sorry! Don't cry! What did I do? Don't cry!" I let myself shake slightly, letting my silent laughter take over. My entire body was vibrating—that's how much I was trying to keep from laughing. My tears had overflowed, and I covered my face to hide my grin. I felt someone pull me to sit down on the couch, then wrap a comforting arm around me while Quil continued spewing apologies. I could no longer hear the normal chatter and commotion, so I figured everyone else was paying attention. I felt butterflies in my stomach and nervousness spread through me. I didn't want this big of an audience. "Jani! I'm so sorry!" Quil continued.

I inhaled through my nose sharply and took my hands off my face, noticing that someone was holding me to their chest comfortingly. I looked over my shoulder at Quil and gave an evil smirk. He shrieked and fell off the sofa. Then he glared at me playfully from the floor as I burst out into laughter. The other guys in the room joined in as they realized it was an act. I had tears running down my face from laughing and keeping my laughter quiet. I shifted slightly, and it was then that I noticed Embry was the one who had pulled me in for a hug. Now, he was looking at Quil and trying to hold back his laughter, though a few amused chuckles escaped him. I moved away from him subtly, though I'm sure he noticed. He didn't really say anything about it, though, like I said, I'm sure he noticed—I saw an emotion, I'm not sure which, flicker through his eyes. Something was weird about him… He was in my peripheral vision, so I didn't dare look at him. There was something about him that I couldn't place my finger on… He was like an enigma, so to speak. A mystery.

I was pulled out of my reverie by someone snapping their fingers impatiently in my face. I looked up to see one of the younger guys, Brady, I think.

"Hey, she's alive!" he teased. I stuck my tongue out at him. He grinned. "In case you don't remember, I'm Brady. Nice to meet you." I smiled and shook his hand. It was warm—very warm, much like Quil was. So it wasn't just Quil, then. Something was up.

"Uh oh, she looks like she's planning something," a voice to my left said. Seth, I think it was. He was lanky and tall, and his hair was longer than the others. He had a really bright smile, and I couldn't help but smile back, a bit overwhelmed. I stuck my tongue out at him, too.

"Really, you're fourteen?" Brady asked, taking a seat on my right, in between Embry and I. Embry turned his head, jaw clenched. What was that about? He was acting like some overprotective big brother.

"What's it to ya?" I replied. Brady grinned.

"See, Collin and I are thirteen," he said. "And—"

"Wait, you're thirteen?" I repeated, glancing at him and at Collin, who leaned on the back of the couch. They're surrounding me! No! I laughed internally. They laughed.

"Yup," Collin said cheekily, a grin on his face. "Seth is fourteen, so he's a little older and thinks he's better than us." He meant the last part as a taunt, aiming it at Seth.

"I never said that!" Seth grumbled, a smirk on his face. I rolled my eyes.

"You're all insane," I muttered. Then I brightened up. "I like you guys." They all laughed, and I had to resist the urge to shield my ears from the volume. "But you're a bit immature for my taste, so I'm out."

I smirked at them and stood up, gliding away from the couch and their defeated faces. I could swear I heard Embry chuckle. I headed over to where Paul and Jared were, wondering if they were going to be as odd as the last boys I met. They looked up as I approached. Jared looked reserved, like Embry, and smart. Paul looked a bit aggressive and intimidating, but there was something about him that told me he'd be a good big brother. Either that, or he was an ass. Both were acceptable.

"Hey," I said, the evil smirk still on my face. "So are you guys gonna act as…oddly, for lack of a better word, as the rest of the guys? Or the majority of them, at least."

Paul rolled his eyes. Jared gave an amused grin. "So, Squirt, you're Sam's cousin, eh?" Paul said. My eye twitched.

"Squirt?" I spat. His face twisted into a smirk. "Where do you get off calling me Squirt? If you haven't noticed, you're not the tallest guy in the room." He scowled and glared at me, and I glared defiantly back. Jared glanced between us. Then, almost at the same time, grins spread over both my face and Paul's. He let out a chuckle, and I heard some other people in the room exhale in relief. I looked around curiously. What was that about?

"You're not so bad, kid," Paul said. I gave a slight nod.

"You're not so horrible, either, Polly Pocket," I replied.

"Nice," Jared said in appreciation, and we bumped fists. I smiled.

"You two aren't as bad as those three," I told them, referring to Seth, Brady, and Collin, even though they'd really done nothing. But, hey, I'd mess with them for a while longer.

"Hey!" the three all shouted indignantly across the room. I grinned—I couldn't seem to stop doing that today.

I headed to the kitchen to help Emily. She was taking something out of the oven—about four giant chickens, actually. I offered to help, but all she said was that she needed me to serve myself so that the guys could attack the food and be done with it. I almost laughed at the thought of all those guys attacking the food like a pack of hungry wolves. After I had eaten, she and I took all the food out to the tables and the guys came and, like she said, devoured the food.

Currently, I was standing in front of the tables with my eyes wide open, wondering where all the food went. Behind me, I heard a laugh. I looked over my shoulder at Embry.

"You'd better get used to that," he said good-naturedly, ruffling my hair. He was taller than Quil was—about four inches taller than him, therefore six inches taller than me. Odd. "We eat like pigs, I know."

"Actually," I said, ducking under his arm and fixing my hair, "you looked like a pack of wolves devouring the pigs that were eating the food." He stiffened for a moment before he grinned. His grins seemed, to me, like soft smirks. Again, odd. "How old is everyone, by the way?"

"Well, Jared, Paul, Quil, and I are sixteen," he said. "As you know, Collin and Brady are thirteen, and Seth is fourteen. Leah is twenty, Emily's around there. Jacob—you'll meet him later—is sixteen, too." As soon as he said that, we heard the door open and shut, and greetings were being issued. "Speaking of Jacob…" Embry trailed off. He motioned for me to follow him, and I saw a very tall—the boys here were either tall or very tall—guy who looked like an older version of Seth, somewhat. I didn't know how to describe him. But he was taller than even Sam, and he had muscles to match. By this point, I was beginning to wonder what that tribal tattoo was for. Even Leah, who had left earlier, had one on her left shoulder.

"Well?" Quil asked Jacob after everyone resumed their activities. I couldn't help but hear. Quil and Jacob were sitting on the couch, as was Embry, and I was sitting at the nearby armchair, staring at the wall for the past ten minutes. I couldn't see them out of the corner of my eyes because I was looking at the wall, but I knew where they were.

"She picked up," Jacob said. "She was somewhere, apparently." My brows furrowed. I wasn't one to be nosy…but this sounded strange.

"You gonna give the message tomorrow?"

"Definitely," Jacob scoffed. "The leech will be with her, and there will be witnesses. It's foolproof."

"Good thing, too," Embry added.

"Just what's that supposed to mean?" Jacob snapped. Quil and Embry snickered, and I couldn't help but snort. That was a mistake. "Who's the girl, by the way?" I tensed. Jacob meant me. I didn't really want to draw attention to myself at the moment. I pretended like I couldn't hear them, and continued staring at the wall.

Quil all but giggled. "She's—"

"Shut up!" Embry hissed quietly. He whispered something to them, but I couldn't hear it. I frowned. There goes my entertainment. I began humming under my breath, a little song I remembered listening to in the car.

That reminded me. I dug my hand into the pocket of my jeans for my cell phone. I flipped it open and was disappointed to see there were no missed calls or messages from my parents. It was three in the afternoon. I didn't think they'd really go all the way to five o'clock. I dialed my mother's number and pressed the phone to my ear. Once, twice, three times. Voice mail. I redialed. Again, it went to voice mail. I called my father's number. The same thing happened. I was beginning to panic. I could practically hear my heartbeat racing and my head began to hurt a little. It's probably nothing, I thought.

I was distracted momentarily when I saw Jared and Paul heading out. "Hey!" I called after them. I got up from the armchair and headed over to them. They glanced at me. I pouted. "No huggie?" I asked in the most childish voice I could muster. They exchanged a look and rolled their eyes, smiling good-naturedly. I gave Jared a hug first, sticking my tongue out at Paul and grinning. Then I gave Paul a hug, laughing when he spun me around. "Bye-bye, Jare-Bear! Bye-bye, Polly Pocket!" I called after them as they left to who knows where. I heard some laughs coming from the living room.

"Well, she's certainly interesting," I heard Jacob say as I entered the room. I pouted when I saw that Seth was falling asleep on the armchair I'd just left. I looked at the couch that Quil, Jacob, and Embry occupied. I decided to take my chances.

"Scooch," I sang, sitting on the armrest of the couch and crossing my arms behind my head. I resumed wall-watching and humming, oblivious to the three boys watching me strangely—or so I assumed they were doing.

"Hey, Jani," Quil said. I looked over to him, my neck cracking as I snapped my head over too quickly.

"Ah," I muttered, my hands at my neck.

"Are you okay?" Embry asked, concerned.

"Yeah, fine," I replied, grabbing my head and turning it over to crack my neck again. The sound was loud to my ears. "That was just very unexpected." I shrugged. "You were saying, Quilt?"

"Yes, this is—" he paused and scowled in my direction. "Quilt? Really?" I grinned unabashedly. "Whatever. Anyways, this is Jacob. I'm sure you heard a thing or two about him." I looked at Jacob. Very big guy, very well built.

I shook my head to clear it. "Well, I've heard he's sixteen—somehow, but, then again, so are you two," I said. "That's about it."

I heard a buzz and almost tripped when I jumped from the armrest. My phone was vibrating. I would've fallen to the floor if not for Embry. I nodded my thanks to him and reached for my phone in my pocket. I opened it and there was a text message from my mother.

'We luv u', it read. I froze. Why would they send me such a vague message? And why by text? Why so random? My head was spinning.

"What's wrong?" Embry asked. I looked up at him. He looked really worried. "You look like something's happened. Are you okay?" I opened my mouth to speak, but I couldn't find words. What was I going to say, anyway? I didn't even know what to make of this. I looked back down at the text message. Something didn't feel right.

"Something's wrong," I muttered. I shook my head and brushed past Embry and the rest, heading for the room where Cali was. I wondered if she was awake. I just needed to hold her right now. When I entered the room, Cali was still sleeping, as was Claire. I sat down by her and looked down at my beautiful little sister. She was so precious, so innocent. I stroked her hair, kissed her forehead, and held her hand as she slept. Something felt wrong, very wrong. I felt a few tears leave my eyes and slip down my cheeks. My throat tightened. It felt like I knew something horrible happened, but I didn't know what.

I felt a warm hand on my shoulder and the bed dipped slightly. Embry. I should've known. I tried to smile, but it came out as more of a grimace. Embry looked worried, looked sad.

"What happened?" he whispered.

I shrugged, looking back at my little sister, who had no idea of any misfortunes in the world. My frame shook from repressed sobs. Embry took my hand softly and led me out of the room so I wouldn't wake the two young girls. As soon as we were in the hallway, I knew I was going to start crying. I hated crying in front of people. I ran down the hallway and before anyone could react, I sped out of the house and slammed the door. I felt really bad about it, but I didn't want to cry. I needed to pull myself together. But, why, then, did I feel like I got worse the further from the house I got? When I had run out of the house, I caught one of the guys asking Embry what happened. I wondered if he was going to come find me. Would Sam? Emily? Quil? I ran to the edge of the woods and a bit further in. Tears already made tracks on my red face and my chest felt like it was about to explode from all the running I did. I could no longer run, so I clung to a tree. I slid down the tree and fell to the ground, shaking violently from the sobs I tried to repress.

Suddenly, I felt two warm, comforting arms around me. I didn't need to guess to know who this was. I leaned into his embrace and cried. I buried my face in his chest and let myself sob quietly, let myself cry. I knew my parents were dead. I hated it, but I always had gut feelings like this. When it was bad, I was usually right. My parents don't casually throw around I love you's. They say it at holidays, birthdays, and when they have to go on extended trips. Never have they texted it to me, and never has my mother texted anything to me without proper spelling and grammar. It didn't help that Seattle wasn't as safe as I'd like to believe.

When I stopped sobbing and was in a state of shock and confusion, I just sank into the warmth of Embry's arms. Without knowing, I'd made him my best friend. I couldn't cry in front of anyone else—not even my little sister. The sudden realization hit me so hard that I almost fell back.

"Are you better now?" I looked up at Embry, to his warm brown eyes. I felt so helpless. I nodded, like a good little child, and stared straight ahead. "Do you wanna head back to Emily's now?" Again, I nodded. I couldn't find the will to move, though. Embry sighed. I felt the floor disappear for a minute before I noticed Embry holding me behind my knees and my back. I wound my arms around his neck and clung to him, tears still falling, but less than before.

When we reached Emily's house, only Emily, Sam, and Quil were there. I wondered for a split second where the others went, but the thought was pushed out of my mind when Embry laid me down on the couch. He was about to go when I grabbed his wrist and looked up at him pleadingly. He nodded and sat on the couch, adjusting my legs so they were over his lap. I leaned against the couch and closed my eyes. Tears still brimmed at the edges of my eyelids, but I didn't cry. Instead, I used those tears to wet my eyelashes. I tried curling my eyelashes by pushing them up with my finger, like I did when I was sad or nervous.

"Are you okay, Jani?" Emily said. I opened my eyes slowly and turned my head. She took my hand and looked at me curiously. "What happened?" I couldn't speak. I didn't want to say it out loud for fear that it might make it all the more real. Instead, I reached into my pocket for my cell phone and went straight to the inbox. I handed her the phone, displaying the text message my mother had sent me. She handed to Sam and Quil, confused. Embry took it last, glancing at it, then me.

"What's up, Jani?" Embry said softly. I looked up at him, feeling like a puppy.

"I have a bad feeling about this," I replied, just as softly.

"What do you mean?"

"Mother and Father don't throw around those words. Those words are for holidays and special occasions or times when we know we're not going to see each other for a long time," I whispered. "Mother doesn't text me—barely—and if she has to, she uses proper grammar and spelling. She was in a hurry."

It was quiet for a moment. Sam spoke up first. "Where are your parents, Janiya?"

I inhaled deeply. "Seattle."

The word rang out in the grim silence. The silence itself was too loud. I knew that something horrible happened. The last time I felt this bad, I was younger and it was before my grandmother died. I desperately hoped my parents weren't dead and lying somewhere in an alley in Seattle. It felt like that was all I needed, all that was left to reduce me to a puddle.

No one said anything. After a while, Claire's mother came to take her home, and Quil helped her, carrying the sleeping toddler. It was six. Mother and Father hadn't called. I hadn't spoken since that last word, and Embry hadn't moved from his spot. Emily tried to get me to talk, but Sam told her that I'd snap out of it when I was ready. For the most part, I stared at the wall again, paying attention to nothing else. Even I turned my head, however, when I heard Calindra calling my name. She was standing in the hall, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, holding her stuffed puppy. I immediately stood and ran over to her, gathering her in my arms and holding her tight.

"Are you hungry, sweetie?" I asked her. She nodded slowly, still half-asleep. I looked up at Emily. "Would you mind too horribly if I asked you to feed her?"

"Of course not," she replied. "I'll make her something quick, and you can give it to her." I nodded and lifted Calindra up, balancing her on my hip as I adjusted my hold on her. I carried her over to the couch where I was previously. She clung to me, as if she knew I was falling apart. I almost smiled.

"That's your little sister?" I looked up to see Embry sitting next to me, glancing at Calindra. I nodded.

"Embry, this is Calindra. Cali, this is Embry," I introduced. Cali looked up at him and smiled.

"He's cute!" she squealed. I'm sure my face was one of horror. I heard Sam chuckling from the kitchen. Embry laughed nervously, and I'm sure I was red. Embry was kind of embarrassed, too. The worst, though, came with her next line. "Don't you think so, Jani?"

I was blushing furiously by this point, and glaring at Cali reproachfully. Thankfully, I didn't have to answer because Emily came in with a bowl of food. I smiled appreciatively and picked up the spoon. She'd made quick mashed potatoes and chicken—she was a saint! Cali's stomach rumbled, so I went to work feeding her.

"Do you usually take care of your sister?" Sam asked.

"Usually," I replied with a sigh. "I've been taking care of her more and more over the years. It started when I was about eight and she was one." I shrugged.

"Since you were that young?"

"That's what I get for being a smart little kid," I muttered. "Plus, it wasn't like we were unsupervised. Practically all of the time, there was someone in the room with us."

"So, Janiya," Sam said hesitantly. "If you don't mind me asking, what are you going to do?"

"About…my parents and my situation?" He nodded. I shrugged. "I don't really know. We don't have a house, I'm not emancipated… My uncle's AWOL, my aunts are dead and so are my grandparents… I guess I don't know yet. I'll figure something out, even if it's just so Cali can live alright."

"Nonsense!" Emily said. "You're staying here! Both of you!" I was stunned into silence for a second or so.

"But I couldn't impose—"

"You're Sam's cousin! Family! You're not imposing! Argument failed, you're staying with us," Emily concluded. Sam smiled and looked at her adoringly. I sighed.

"Okay," I said, giving a smile. Then I frowned. "Ugh. All my stuff. Gone!" Embry laughed lightly and I smiled as I looked at him.

"More food! Hel-lo!" Calindra complained, crossing her arms. "I'm old enough to feed myself. Why can't I feed myself?" We all laughed at that as I relinquished the spoon to her control.