It was like the weather kept track of the dates. I felt as soon as November had hit, the cold had found me worse than ever. I'd had a chill inside of me, and no amount of bubble baths or blankets could keep it away. It was like ice had literally filled me, and I could make my skin warm to the touch, but I still felt hollowly frozen. It wasn't a nice feeling, no matter how much I'd said I liked the cold in the past.
Then, sitting in that little coffee shop, with that boy I knew absolutely nothing about, I finally felt comfortable. How stupid. How many times had the people in my life warned me about going anywhere alone - talking to strangers? You're like a dream to them, with the way you look, Aubrey. You have to be careful, Aubrey. Don't even think you're going on any kind of holiday without someone with you, Aubrey.
I knew from personal experience the terrible things that could happen to someone when other people found them desirable.
Now, arriving home and pulling my guitar out of my car, I felt the chill again. It was so uncomfortable I could have cried out in complaint, but I walked silently to my house, ran a hot shower, decided I'd had enough, pulled on my warmest pair of pyjamas (afternoons in Washington were a perfectly reasonable time for pyjamas), and sat myself in my bed with my sketch book, a bag of pencils, and at least four blankets over me.
I like being alone. I like being single. I'm never falling in love with anyone ever again. Attractive people are bad for me. Don't go gooey for anyone. Only have friends.
I yelled at myself mentally, staring at my phone for a very long time. What kind of idiot would just meet someone and want to text them not an hour after saying goodbye? Not healthy. At all.
I would play it cool. What had Josh always said to me? Treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen. He used to laugh, like it was a joke, but I wasn't sure that was so true. He'd always liked not responding to me for days, making me fight for his attention. Maybe, if I learned not to seem interested, someone one day would like me better.
Not Seth. Because I'd only met him once. And I wasn't going to be gooey and imagine spending time with someone I didn't even know.
I don't know exactly what I'd been thinking earlier. I was smart, and I'd always been cautious. I knew not to become friendly with people I didn't know. Especially people that just about towered over me and had more muscles than was necessary. But he'd had such a kind face, and there was something about him...why had I felt so safe with him? STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!
And I hadn't let him say anything! I'd blabbered on about myself almost the entire time, and only realised when I'd finally shut my mouth! He probably thought I was selfish and weird. Wait it out, don't text him yet.
Then again, I had said I would just send him a sunflower so her knew my number...
I opened a new message, selected the sunflower emoji, and sent it before I could think about it. It made me nervous just to send him a simple message. I was pathetic.
It only took a moment, and my phone sounded to let me know I had a text. Butterflies hit all the walls in my stomach and I reached for my phone in a flash.
Who is this?
I giggled like an idiot, typing before I could even think. You obviously get way too much coffee, if you can't even keep up with the texts.
As I said, it was a first.
I didn't know how to answer that! Is this where I should stop? I wondered if I was closer to the truth than I thought, though. He was super good looking, and really nice...he probably did talk to quite a few girls. Which means he would be looking for something super casual with someone, and I'd turned down quite few guys who had asked me if I was interested in that kind of thing back home. Relationships were supposed to mean something. To me, at least.
I put my phone back down before I could overthink things, praying for him to send a message that was really nice and convincing he wasn't like anyone else I knew, but I wasn't too hopeful.
I would play it cool. I could be cool.
I tried to distract myself by drawing, but I couldn't help checking my phone every few minutes, just incase I hadn't heard it. It took almost half an hour, but I eventually received another text from him.
It was very nice to meet you, Daisy. Thank you for the company.
Thank you for the hot chocolate! And for not kidnapping me. I would have been in a lot of trouble.
Hahaha, not a problem. And then, in a message straight after, When will you be singing again?
I was going to go out on Saturday. Guilt some of the families out for the day into giving the poor little rained-on busker their loose change. Did that make me sound like a terrible person? Was that one of those things that sounded funny to Australians but not Americans?
That's a good plan. I'll be in Port Angeles on Saturday. Would you want to catch up for lunch? I'll give you my loose change.
Ooooohhhh…date? Maybe? Should I ask? No, that might be weird.
I must have taken too long panicking over his proposal, because he sent a back-up text. I promise I won't kidnap you this time, either.
A giggle exploded from my lips and I picked my phone back up. Okay, but only if I can pay this time.
My phone rang again after a few seconds, and I was all caught up in my drawing, so I just glanced at it rather than reach to reply straight away. And froze.
MESSENGER: JOSH MATTHEWS
No. No, no, no, no, no! Not now! I'd just started forgetting about him!
If my butterflies had been bad when Seth texted me, I couldn't even explain how they were now. My fingers shook violently as I reached for the phone and opened the message, alerting him that I had seen it.
Hey :) How are you?
I hadn't heard one little word from him since he'd walked out, three weeks before we'd moved across the world, and now he asks how I am.
Well, I've just about stopped obsessing over how you don't seem to love me anymore every second of the day. How about you? I resisted the urge and and set my phone down slowly, as if bumping it even a little bit would send him a reply. Should I wait it out? Make sure he knew I'd seen his message but hadn't felt the need to reply? He used to do that to me while we were together…
It only took three minutes until I couldn't wait anymore.
Really, really good! How are you? Yeah! Let him know how wonderful I was without him. Then he would want me back.
Mae would hate me. And my family. They all thought he was the worst thing in the world for me.
I just loved him so much.
My breath clouded in front of my face as I walked to where I knew Daisy would be singing. Winter was coming closer and closer every day. I wondered if the thick knitted cardigan I'd worn for show was enough in comparison to the heavy coats the shoppers walking past me were wearing. I heard her voice before I saw her. It filled me with a pleasant fulfilment, and my feet picked up the pace automatically. I also heard her song finish, and her teeth chattering together.
She looked just about to start another song when she saw me, her wide eyes looking around in all directions (for me?), and she promptly lifted the strap of her guitar off her neck and held it tightly in both hands as I made my way to her. My heart was drumming too quickly, and I didn't know whether it was nerves or the cold which shook her now.
"Hello, Seth," she sighed gently. Her shoulders were stiff and drawn together, her knees clamped tightly and her boots raised onto their toes. I realised she was frozen stiff and reached out for her guitar, lowering it into its case as she fumbled around in her bag for something. "Thank you — you don't have to do that. Thanks,"
"How was the rest of your week?"
"Ah, alright," she offered me a small smile, and I watched her closely. I'd spent at least a couple of hours every night outside her house, listening to her sleep. Except for the night before last, when she tossed and turned and flicked her light on and off several times before finally putting some quiet music on until I couldn't hear her mumbling to herself anymore. She was troubled about something. "How have you been?"
"Good! Just work and things on my plate."
"That's good," she smiled warmly. She'd pulled on a pair of soft pink gloves which matched the stockings she was wearing under a thick skirt and heavy brown coat. The knitted hat pulled over her forehead was topped with a round ball of fluff and her chin was almost completely hidden under a brightly coloured scarf. "What did you want for lunch?"
"Yes please," her teeth chattered together through her words and I chuckled as I picked up her guitar case and started walking in the direction of a small cafe/restaurant nearby.
We were seated against a yellow wall and menus were placed in front of us by a helpful waitress. Daisy thanked her quietly and leaned over the menu, still bundled up in all of her winter wear. "I'm thinking soup. I'm frozen. What do you feel like?"
"Soup sounds good to me."
She looked up and grinned at me, then sighed helplessly. "I hope I get used to the weather here like you are one day."
I followed her gaze to my bare forearms. I hadn't realised I'd rolled up my sleeves. I pulled them down to my wrists again immediately, and shrugged. "Just been around it all my life, I guess."
"Have you ever lived anywhere else?"
She'd travelled overseas to live elsewhere. Would she think I was a joke if I told her I'd lived in the same little house my entire life? "No. No, I've always lived in La Push."
"La Push," she repeated, as if it were a song. "Where would be your dream holiday?"
"Somewhere with a lot to see." I said thoughtfully. "I don't really have anywhere first in mind. I'd just like to experience some different things to what I know."
"I know what you mean," she agreed. "I always wanted to come to a place like this. See some pine trees and snow. And mountains," she laughed airily. "And I want to see deserts and cacti. And then I want to go to Africa and soak up whatever I can over there. And then something totally different, and go to Tokyo and be completely overwhelmed by the amount of people around me."
She was a traveler, then.
"Where else have you been?"
"I went to France with my French class at school a few years ago…that's all. And now here!" she seemed very pleased. "I always wanted to go to Virginia and see Pocahontas' statue. I feel so close to it now but I just can't seem to get there."
"Do you think you'll ever run out of places to see?"
"Nope," she shook her head, and the waitress arrived with a bottle of water and two glasses, then took our order. Daisy turned back to me immediately already speaking as I watched the waitress leave. "What's your favorite color, Seth?"
"Green," I answered immediately. "What's yours?"
"Sunflower yellow!" she exclaimed happily. "What's your favorite food?"
I laughed. "I like it when there's a lot, I don't usually worry over what it is."
"I think otters a pretty cool…"
"Seals are my favorite!" she smiled widely. "Because they're like water dogs."
I smiled happily. Did that mean she was a dog person?
We ended up playing something similar to Twenty-Questions, but with a lot more than twenty questions. She asked me what my favourite subject had been at school, and nodded happily when I said science. She told me she'd hated any sports classes, but she'd always wished she'd continued on with dancing instead of leaving when she was fourteen. She asked what I did for work, and I avoided telling her all the weird stuff and tried to stick to the normal human things. I learned about how she's started working as an opera singer and costume maker for a theater company when she'd left high school, and that she had a certificate in dressmaking. She was happy to know I lived with my family, and told me she'd never left home. Her best friend's name was Mae, and Stacey was her closest girlfriend in America. She played seven instruments, but knew she would be able to play more if she had a go at them. She was always nervous to meet people. She had a fear of spiders. She wished she'd grown to 5'7", but she'd stopped at 5'5". Her sister was four years younger, but had looked older since she was twelve and Daisy was sixteen. Her favorite singer was Michael Jackson, and she'd had tickets to his upcoming concert before he'd died. Her first pet had been a turtle named Tyson and she wished chocolate wasn't so wonderful.
Again, neither of us said anything when we'd both run out of soup. Daisy played with the crumbs from the crust of her bread on the little plate in front of her and I smiled and held onto every word she said to me. She was really a talker. I'm guessing it had been well over an hour when a waitress finally came back to our cleared table with another couple of menus. "Were you waiting to order anything else?"
"Oh — no, sorry!" Daisy rose out of her seat, an apology in her eyes, and I copied her, reaching for her guitar case and swiping the bill from under her hand as she'd reached for it. A part of me wished she'd been a bit quicker so I could have touched her hand, but I didn't worry about it for too long. "You said I could pay today!"
"I don't think we came to an agreement on it, actually," I paid the appropriate amount and nodded for her to leave the cafe. She huffed, rolled her eyes adorably, and strode for the front door, pulling her gloved back on as she went.
"Next time?" she asked hopefully. I resisted shouting out in delight. She wanted there to be a next time. I was going to see her again, face-to-face."
"Probably not," I murmured casually and she shook her head in frustration.
"Well then, we will have to have a picnic so you can't pay for anything. I'll make a cake and a salad, or something. Just so we can pretend to eat the salad."
"Of course," Yes! Yes, yes, yes! "Where are you parked?"
"Seth's finally got his big boy shoes on!"
"When are you bringing her around to meet us?"
"Hey, hey! Give him some space!" the guys shut up, because Emily was holding pancakes. All four of us looked back at her like puppies looking at a treat. "Seth. You tell them as much or as little as you want to."
I sighed and helped myself to the first pile of breakfast, smothering it all in maple syrup. "There's pretty much nothing to tell."
"Give it some time. You'll get there, Seth," Sam winked at me from across the table and Quil almost choked as he tried to talk around his mouthful of food.
"If she's all that great, she's probably seeing someone, yeah?"
"Then why would she be so okay with seeing me regularly? She hasn't said anything."
"Ask her," Brady said, as though it were the easiest thing in the world. I rolled my eyes.
"How about we all just leave Seth to whatever he's doing and he can move at his own pace, and we can wait patiently and accept when he makes a move?" Emily said reasonably. She popped a strawberry into her mouth and smiled happily at me. "That being said, I'm so excited to meet her, Seth. It will be nice to have another girl around. Do you know whether she likes cooking?"
I shrugged and slid down the back of my chair. "She hasn't talked about cooking. Or relationships. She likes to talk about trees a lot…"
I was at home later that morning for about ten minutes before I decided there was no point in trying to keep myself busy. I'd just be thinking about her until I spoke to her anyway.
She answered the phone after the second ring.
"Good morning," she laughed happily. "How are you?"
"Can't complain. Nothing all that bad's happened the last couple of days."
"Well, that's good! How many pebbles are in your happy wagon?"
"Uhh…" I could almost feel my head hurt as I tried to figure out how to answer that one.
"Out of twenty," she giggled. "You know, some day I'm going to ask someone that and they're going to know exactly what I'm talking about."
"Out of twenty? I'd have to say fourteen." I answered honestly.
"Fourteen is good!" she replied immediately. I didn't get the chance to ask her how many rocks or whatever she had. "What are you doing today?"
"I just finished a morning shift and realised I didn't have anything else planned for the day."
"What a coincidence! Me, either!" she fell silent, and my heart raced as I tried to pick up the courage to take initiative.
"What if I meet you at your house in half an hour and we can figure out the rest then?"
She agreed, and I hung up the phone, breathing out a huge sigh of relief. This was scary stuff.
I had the quickest shower anyone ever had, made sure I smelled okay, and put something a little warmer than my t-shirt and shorts on. The hood of my jumper provided no more use than a shelter from the rain as I walked to my car, pulled out of my driveway and drove a little too quickly toward Forks.
I made it before twenty-five minutes had passed from our call, and beeped my car horn a couple of times to let her know I was out the front. Then I remembered she would be freezing, so, for one of the first times (I'd driven my mom around a bit), I switched on the heating and let the muggy air fill the small space until I heard the front door of her house swing open and saw her well-worn moccasins dance along the small porch in the direction of my car.
She smiled warmly before she opened the door and dropped into the passenger seat heavily. Then her eyes widened dramatically and she turned to me, looking cautious. "Do you still count as a stranger? Are you going to kidnap me this time?"
"Well, you already know all the names of my pets after our last meeting, but you're just so kidnappable —"
She threw her head back, laughing loudly, and pulled the car door closed. "Gah! It's so bloody cold here. I don't think I'll ever get used to going outside while I'm here."
"You need some more coats."
"I'm wearing three!" she said it as though it might have been the most wonderful thing in the world. "And I bet you're not wearing anything under that!"
We both immediately fell into an awkward silence at her words. "You can check if you want," I offered quietly.
She half-sighed, half-laughed and pulled her feet onto the seat in front of her, wrapping her arms around her knees. "Nah, that's okay. Thanks, though,"
We ended up on First Beach. We'd driven around La Push for a while, and I pointed out certain things as we drove by. She said she liked the tree in my front yard when we passed my house, and I thanked her with a wide smile. I dug an old blanket out of the back of my car — one that I don't think had been used since Claire and Nessie had their picnics a couple of years prior, and wrapped it around Daisy. That, with the addition of her multiple coats, made her look a bit like a marshmallow being held up by two too-skinny legs. She sat next to me on an old log, first facing the water with me, then, when she felt too cold, turning around and slipping both of her feet under my thigh to soak up my warmth. There was something unique about her touch. It wasn't like I'd experienced with other girls; she didn't do it to get a reaction out of me — to see what her touch could start. She did it in such an innocent and unexpectant way that it felt as though it could have been something so easy as her handing me something and her fingernails grazing my palm.
"You're refreshing to be around! You know that, Seth?"
"You are, too," I said honestly. I grinned at her from the corner of my eye.
"And you smell good! Like trees!"
"Back on the trees," I sighed and shook my head and she laughed, nudging me with her right toes. "Sorry. You smell like cake,"
"Mmm," she agreed, lifting her own forearm to her nose and inhaling deeply. "It's called Vanilla Deeeeeee-light!" she laughed and leaned forward so I could smell her arm. I played along, as if it helped my nose in any way and nodded back at her. While completing this action, I recognised a very unwelcome sight behind her and shook my head furiously while she tugged her sleeves down her arms again. She began mumbling something about the beach back in Australia, and Brady and Embry made a disgusting gesture toward us, both of them bursting into laughter at their game, too far down the beach for Daisy to hear them.
My eyes flicked between her and my brothers rapidly while I listened to her speak, and she noticed, turning in her seat to peer down the beach at them. As she turned, they became still as stone, looking more like guilty children than anything else. "Do you know them?"
"Yeah," I told her honestly. "Yeah, they're my brothers."
"I didn't know you had any brothers."
"Pack — friends! They're my friends. We all grew up together, though, you know?" Kind of. All in the same place, anyway.
"Should you go to them?"
"No," I gave them a warning look to stay away, already worried about what they could potentially say to her. "No, they wouldn't have anything interesting to tell me." And then, just because they were meddlesome idiots who couldn't be trusted, they began walking up the beach.
"Seth," Embry smiled down at me with his arms crossed before his bare chest. "What a pleasant surprise finding you here."
"Daisy, this is Embry and Brady. Guys, this is Daisy."
"Daisy, was it?" Brady politely held out his hand to shake hers, holding it a little too long for my liking. I hadn't even touched her hands yet! "Seth, you've never mentioned a Daisy!" Embry snorted a laugh and I swiftly kicked him in the shin. Daisy smirked and looked into her lap.
"Nice to meet you, Embry and Brady." Then she repeated Embry to herself three times.
Embry watched her, looking a little confused, then turned to me. "Why don't you invite Daisy to dinner at Emily's tonight?"
"Because Emily's not having dinner tonight."
"We can always ask. She's going to cook enough for all of us anyway — we might as well help her out with finishing it off for her." He turned toward the overcast sun and threw his arms out. "And the weather's been so beautiful lately!"
"Yeah, I don't know how you two are standing there undressed. I feel like I'm filled with ice." Daisy's teeth chattered toward the end of her words, and I wish I'd worn a jacket over my clothes to offer her.
"I don't think we should bother Emily. She's busy being a mom. It's not nice to show up without warning anymore." Not to mention what they'd come out with if I invited my completely unaware imprint to a family dinner with my pack brothers. And sister.
"It's okay, I promised I'd cook for my family tonight anyway, so I wouldn't be able to make it." Daisy said quietly.
"Wow, she can cook, too!" Brady grinned at me. "Not just a pretty face, huh?"
"I can only make soup," Daisy informed us casually, apparently not catching onto what Brady was insinuating toward me.
"Seth loves soup," Embry said.
I shook my head toward the sand, because no one else was going to pay any mind to it. "Aren't you two working for Jake today? Does he know you're having a break?"
"Oh, rightio then, Mister Snitch," Embry said in a terrible British accent. "We'll get going before you tell him we're slacking off."
"I wouldn't do that. He just seems to know everything, you know?"
Brady sighed dramatically as he pushed himself up from where he'd sat next to Daisy. "Nice to meet you,"
"You, too," she said genuinely. "Thanks for making me feel shorter than I already did."
"Any time," Embry called over his shoulder as they started back down the beach.
"Why are you all so tall?!" Daisy cried once they were a little farther away.
"Are you started 20 Questions again?"
"No," she picked at her finger nails. "Questions are too hard. Facts are easier."
We didn't stay at the beach for too long. She was obviously freezing, and I wasn't about to say I was a bit worried about her. I drove her around La Push as she spoke, and then back into Forks, stopping in her street as we spat facts at each other.
"I love sunflowers,"
"I play along with prank calls."
"I'm amazing with a hula hoop!"
"It took me three weeks of bed shopping to find one comfortable enough for me to sleep in after my last growth spurt."
"I can believe that," she giggled. "How tall are you?"
"Six-four. What about you?"
"Five-five!" she exclaimed excited. "We have magic heights!"
"How?" my face couldn't seem to keep away the smile when she got excited like this. It's like I could feel her getting more comfortable around me with every hour we spent together.
"Six-four and five-five: they both add to ten."
"I wouldn't have thought about that. Ahhh….I'm really good at saving money."
"Me too! I did ballet for years, and now I have ugly feet."
"I have an addiction to sandwiches."
"I'm a dog person,"
"Really?" she nodded, smiling back at me. I grinned wider and looked out of the windscreen. "Good. I am, too."
"I have a dog back at home," she said sadly. "She's a Blue Cattle dog. Her name is Shartzi."
"Shartzi," I repeated.
"Say the R like an H and you've got it," she laughed.
"Shah-tzi," I said, rolling my eyes.
"That's pretty close," she leaned the back of her head against the car seat, hugging her knees again, my blanket around her shoulders. It was a while before I noticed I was sitting the same way, peering down at her with a goofy smile. I realised I must have looked disgustingly lovey at that moment, and neutralised my face, looking back at the grey street in front of us.
"So, I've had in my head this entire time that you'd have a boyfriend back in Australia."
She was completely silent for a few seconds in response, but her heart started beating heavily. "Why is that?"
"You don't seem like the kind of girl who would be single."
"Well," her heart sped up again. "Just so you know, I didn't even hold hands with a boy until I was nineteen. I pushed all of them away. And then I said yes to dating someone, and I was with him for two and a half years, until right before I moved to America, and he decided to end things."
"Long-distance too difficult?"
"No," she sighed and stared at her knees while she spoke now. "No, he did it before we decided to move here. I think we just about came here because no one knew how to handle me. My parents thought I needed a change of scenery. That, and my dad's pay check was a massive plus." She cleared her throat, and turned her head to the passenger's side window. "I didn't really handle it too well. I always had in my head that I would be with one person. That I'd kiss one person, and stay with them forever. I thought that way right up until he ended it. I didn't know there was anything wrong in our relationship. And then, it was like everything I was positive about was gone, and I was so confused and I couldn't figure myself out. And I feel wasted." She shook her head and looked at me. "I used myself all up on him, not the person I'll spend the rest of my life with, you know? If there is someone I'll spend my life with. I'm too scared by it all to think about that again. It took three and a half years for me to say yes to him, God knows if there'll ever be a chance for someone else." Her voice grew very quiet, and my stomach clenched, like I was suddenly going to be sick. What was I doing to her? Did she not ever want anything more than our friendship with me? I would be okay with that…if that's what she wanted. There was nothing wrong with being close to her. She obviously needed a friend here. I was happy with whatever I had with her.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah," it didn't sound like the truth. "I'm just trying to learn how to be completely happy with myself."
"Well, if it means anything," she looked back at me as I spoke, and her eyes were wide and wet, but no tears had spilled out of them. "I don't see any reason why you shouldn't be. You're one of the most beautiful and interesting people I've ever met, and I hope you keep me as your friend."
"Thank you for being my friend," she said gently, resting her lips against her knees, smiling a tiny smile. "I feel the same way about you."
It was like an addiction, being with her. It was never enough. And it seemed the more time I spent with her, the harder it was to leave her alone. If I had a few shifts in a row and didn't get to see her, it would be easier to keep away, but as soon as she left my car after our day together I was already planning my trip to her house in the middle of the night again. I had to run with Quil tonight, but I would be done by eleven. And I knew I wouldn't be getting any sleep in my own bed. I couldn't remember having eight hours in it since the first night I'd spent outside her house.
Did that make me a stalker?
It was nice running with Quil. His thoughts were on Claire as much as mine were on Daisy, so I didn't get any crap off him. I don't even think he noticed, to be honest. Apparently Claire had taken to wearing singlets when it was just the two of them, and Quil wasn't an idiot. He knew what she was doing. Teenage hormones, and all of that nonsense. His mind flicked from the image of her trying to act grown-up, to the temper tantrum she threw when he forced her to put a jumper on while they watched a movie. Claire had been freezing, but she was too stubborn for her own good.
Three years, I reminded him.
Sixteen's too young. She needs to slow down growing up a bit. She shouldn't want a boyfriend now. She's too young.
Denial, I said gently.
I could feel Quil's disagreement, as well as a whole heap of confusion as to how he himself was feeling. Poor guy. I don't know what to do. I can't tell her about the imprint, I can't tell her to stop trying to grow up, I can't tell her not to go out with other boys — it's killing me!
Is it really so bad if she gets a boyfriend for a while? We all dated during school…she'll realise you're the best option in the end.
I was suddenly flooded with a million different thoughts from my brother, all panicked, all imagining different endings to what I'd just said.
Sorry, I apologised quickly. Shouldn't be getting involved when I can't even figure my own imprint out, I guess.