It seemed like the only people who hadn't heard about the perfect new addition to my life were the ones I considered to be my second family; the Cullens.
I'd always gotten along great with Bella and Edward. It had made me a bit of an outcast with my brothers for a little while back there, but after Nessie had been born and stuff really went down, the guys had come around. Everyone loved Ness like she was their own little sister. Which to me, she was. They still avoided the rest of her family as much as they possibly could, but there was no going out of anyone's way to be a jerk anymore. They were here to stay, for Jake's sake, and we were going to accept them as best we could.
Jake basically lived with the Cullens full-time now, only staying at Billy's at night. He and Nessie were seated on the comfy white couch in front of the TV when I stopped my car.
"Seth!" Nessie met me at the door, her bright voice greeting me before she launched herself into my arms and locked her arms around my neck. She'd stopped growing before she'd turned five, and was maybe just a bit taller than Daisy now, so our greeting had become a little more uncomfortable than it used to be. Nothing we couldn't handle, though.
I swung her around once while squeezing her in a bear hug and put her back down on her feet. Jake walked up behind her and gave me a friendly hit to the shoulder. "Edward only asked about you this morning. I think they were worried because you haven't been visiting much."
"I've had a lot on my mind," I sighed.
Nessie jumped on the spot and Jake put his hands on her shoulders, as if to keep her still. "Your imprint! You imprinted! Daisy? Jake hasn't told me anything!"
"Don't know anything to tell," Jake mumbled as the three of us walked back to the huge white couch.
"That's not an excuse, Jacob. I know you know things," she turned back to me and raised her eyebrows in question. "Jake said she's pretty. Is she blonde?"
"No, she has brown hair. Darker than yours."
"How tall is she?"
"And she's from Forks?"
"No, she's from Australia."
"Wow…" Nessie leaned back in her seat. "Wow, you're so lucky to have met her…"
The three of us sat in silence for a moment while we thought about that.
"Has anything happened between the two of you yet?" this time a voice chirped from behind me, and Alice watched me expectantly as I turned to answer her.
I sighed and scratched my head. "Ahh, no. No, she's just had a pretty bad break-up, I think. She's still upset about it. The guy sounds like a real —"
"Language, Seth," I heard Edward's voice call from upstairs somewhere.
"Sorry! Yeah, he kind of sounds like a — an idiot. I mean, he broke up with her. I don't really get it."
"Do you want me to drink him dry for you?" Alice joked, then fell serious. "Don't worry, Seth. She'll come around."
"Can you be positive about that?" not being sarcastic. Genuinely hopeful that she'd seen something.
"No…I don't know her out of a million people. And you're going to make it hard, getting in the way. I was just saying that for your sake. Imagine how much fun it will be to have another girl around! I think it's time Nessie got a friend her own age."
"I agree," Nessie said sadly. "I always manage to feel inferior around the other imprint girls; they all watched me grow up. And Claire's taking her sweet time getting there. But Daisy's my age! And she's not in the know about my family…it'll be something different. Exactly what I need."
"Well, she'll know eventually," Jake reminded her.
I drove Jake back to Billy's that night. "You got Ness excited."
"Yeah," I laughed. "They'll be great as friends." I couldn't imagine how Nessie and Daisy wouldn't get along. They both seemed to wrap everyone around their fingers, from what I'd seen. And they both had that whole looking-like-an-angel thing going for them…
I didn't get to Daisy's house until one o'clock that night. Despite the late hour, my imprint's bedroom light was still on. I'd been attempting to spend a whole night in my own bed, but I pined for her, and it was hard to sit still. Rather than phase, I'd taken to just running on my own too feet. It was easier to hide. Less risky incase I fell asleep and was seen. I couldn't risk walking right to her window with her light on, so I sat within view of it, unable to see her, but watching closely anyway. I could her hear moving small things, but I couldn't distinguish the actual sounds. She was being quiet — the rest of her family was obviously asleep. I wondered what pyjamas she was wearing. I wondered if she'd braided her hair to sleep in, like my sister used to do.
She murmured a couple of things to herself every now and then, but they weren't enunciate enough for me to be able to understand them. I rested my head against the tree I was leaning against, staring up at the branches and the small amount of the clouded sky I could see through them. The coverage was so thick tonight it was difficult to tell where the moon was. I must have been sitting like that for ten minutes or so, before the first sounds of her crying reached my ears.
My heart tore its way to the front of my chest, and I leaned forward in my seat, listening as closely as I possibly could with my human ears.
It wasn't the loud, attention seeking crying of girls in movies. It was as quiet as a whisper, as though she was trying to hold it inside herself, keep it all close to her and not let it go. She sniffed heavily a few times, and I heard her bed creak as she stood to her feet, revealing her shadow to me.
"What am I doing?" she whispered, sounding as though she were genuinely asking someone. "What am I doing?"
I listened for any other clues. What had made her cry? I didn't know whether to feel upset or angry. Was it at the fault of someone else, or was she just sad? She always acted so satisfied with everything in front of people…
"It's okay," she told herself gently. "You're being stupid. What's wrong with the way things are now? You don't need him. You don't need anyone. You have yourself! You're so spankin'!" she swallowed halfway through her own little pep talk. "I am the most important person in my world. I am the only one who can make me happy…" Her shadow spun on the spot, and then started bouncing in place as she chanted. "I do not need a relationship, I do not need a relationship, I do not need a relationship —" her shadow froze for a few seconds, and then her arms were flung up in victory. "Yes! It's so much fun being single! I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. I am only going to think of myself forever and ever. Hm," I heard her sigh, and I leaned back against the tree, watching her window sadly.
Who didn't she need? Me? Her boyfriend back home?
I was torn between feeling proud of her for realising she didn't need anyone; she was perfect by herself, and feeling desperately hopeless about her taking the ideas to heart and not ever wanting anything more with me.
My heart stopped when she moved to her window and leaned her chin on her arms, crossed over the windowsill. I'd never seen her window closed before. I was sure her hands would have been frozen, but she gazed out of the window anyway, her eyes wide and cheeks wet, her hair untidy, as if she'd tried numerous times to sleep on it. Her eyes traced the outline of the trees ringing her backyard, and I knew she wouldn't be able to make me out in the dark, but I still stayed completely still when they skim passed me. For a long time, she watched the sky and the trees and the night, and I watched her the entire time. After half an hour or so, her eyes appeared to be too heavy to stay curious. They dropped to the windowsill in front of her, and she was very thoughtful. I could almost hear her thinking. I wished I could, so I could know what she was worried about. Two heavy tears rolled down her cheeks, and she brushed them away angrily before turning around to finally turn off her light and climb into bed.
I wished she'd fallen to sleep quickly and easily, but she didn't. She cried for twenty minutes at least. And then, when it sounded as though she'd run out of tears, she began sighing, like someone who had run out of hope. It took everything I had not to walk to her window and comfort her. I looked back up to the sky, praying for her to find peace, wishing I had an answer for her. She was too good for this.
The sky began to lighten before I'd gotten any sleep. My eyes were heavy, though, and I knew if I fell to sleep now I'd be there longer than I should be. If someone looked in just the wrong spot, I'd be seen and that wouldn't be helpful. I pushed myself to my feet and started the run back home, arriving too exhausted to do anything but pull my shirt and shoes off and fall into bed, asleep before my head hit my pillow.
I felt myself slip into dreams, and after a second or so, a nightmare. What a horrible noise…wait.
My eyes flew open. My phone had been ringing for real, not in my dreams. I'd been asleep for longer than it had seemed, because my room was brighter than it had been when I got home. I was so tired I didn't know whether I could actually reach for my phone. I pushed myself up on my forearms lazily and glanced at it out of one eye.
It was suddenly in my hand and I accepted her call and held it to my ear.
"Seth? Did I wake you up? I didn't realise it was six-thirty…"
"No, no, I was awake," I lied, and yawned as quietly as I could so I wouldn't make her upset. I thought back to only a few hours ago, how she'd cried herself to sleep, and my heart tightened. I hoped she was okay. She sounded like her usual self now on the phone. "What's up?"
"Um…I think I'm outside of your house. I mean, I found the tree, so I'm hoping it's your place."
I jumped out of bed and looked around my room erratically, making sure everything was in order. It wasn't, but there wasn't much I could do with her outside. I kicked the shirt and shoes I'd been wearing out of the centre of my floor and nudged my closet door shut, turning for the hall all in the one movement. I couldn't see her at the front door, but I walked to it and opened it anyway. She was still in her car, in my driveway. Daisy Butterfield, just sitting in her car in my driveway. At my house.
"Come in. I'm at the door."
The phone went dead, and I watched as she gathered her bag from the passenger's seat and climbed out of her car, leaning against the door to close it. She turned to make sure it locked when she pressed the button on her key, and turned back to face me just as she reached the top step of my porch.
"He-ey," her eyes rested on my chest, then looked to the left immediately. "You really need to get a grasp of the weather, Seth. It's freaking freezing."
"I was in bed."
"You were sleeping!" she looked back to frown at me. "Look at you! You still look half asleep. I'm sorry," she put her hands to her face, and I grabbed her wrist and pulled her inside, shutting the door behind her. She felt like ice, despite the heavy yellow coat she wore over her outfit.
I was now more aware of the crust in the corner of my eyes and what I could only imagine my hair looked like, but right at that moment I cared more about getting another nap in than fixing my appearance. I caught her staring at my hand on her wrist and let it go gently. Her hand fell back to her side, but a small line appeared between her eyebrows. "You're cold," I stated.
"I'm always cold," she answered.
She laughed under her breath, but followed me down the hall. "You're short in the morning."
"I can't think of words yet," I yawned widely. "I didn't get any sleep last night."
"Sorry," she said quietly.
I turned to look at her. "It's not your fault," I lied.
We arrived at my room, but she stayed in the doorway, watching me as I dropped back into my bed and rubbed my eyes. I realised I might have seemed a bit rude and managed a small smile at her. She wasn't wearing makeup this morning. The skin on her face was lighter than what I could see of her neck and collarbones and hands. Her moth-wing eyebrows still hung over her eyes with as much expression than anyone else's entire face, but they were gentler than I was used to seeing them naturally. Her skin looked so soft. The fingers on my right hand twitched as I imagined touching her.
"Do you want to sit down?"
Her eyes left me to gaze at the corner of my bed closest to her, but she didn't make a move.
"I can get you a chair, if you want."
"No," she said quickly. "You look like you need to rest."
"Mm," I leaned against my pillows. "Sorry, Daisy,"
"Don't apologise to me!" she said, a little too loudly for my sister sleeping in the next room. "I'm the weirdo who showed up at six-thirty in the morning!"
I was about to say something against her calling herself a weirdo, but my eyes were too heavy, and I honestly just couldn't be bothered talking for the minute. I tried to keep watching her — there was nothing I liked the sight of better, but her presence was so calming, and I was so tired, and I felt myself slipping further and further away every second. The bed sank by my right foot as she sat down and I used the last of my energy to push my blanket toward her (I wasn't using it), and mumbled something as close as I could manage to a goodnight.
It was less than an hour later when I opened my eyes. My dreams reminded me she was waiting for me, and the small amount of sleep I'd managed to get seemed to be enough for my brain to kick into gear. She'd tucked me in while I'd slept, just keeping the corner of the blanket for herself, wrapped in it as best she could manage. She had goosebumps on her wrist. Her mouth was parted slightly, her lips pouted as she looked down at the book she'd taken off my desk and read it silently. I smiled, watching her for almost five minutes before she sighed and peered over at me, freezing when she caught me staring at her.
"Nothing," I looked away, as if that would help anything, then rubbed my eyes. Why try to hide anything? "You're really beautiful."
She didn't say thank you. She watched me with a serious expression, her eyes full of something I couldn't figure out. They spoke to me, but I didn't understand, and I pushed myself up onto my arms, not breaking eye contact with her. Her lips were pressed together now, and they didn't give any hint of amusement away. It was as if I'd told her something as plain as I'd been to the store to buy milk, and she was waiting for me to surprise her.
"Am I allowed to call you beautiful?"
"Of course you are," she said immediately. Her eyes were suddenly sad. "But it doesn't matter that much, does it?" she sounded hopeful, and when I watched her in confusion, her shoulders fell the slightest amount. "Does it?"
I shook my head silently, completely blank toward what she was trying to tell me. Her expression now had me remembering the sad Daisy at the window the night before, and my heart clenched in my chest. I had the strongest urge to reach forward and pull her into a safe hug. But now seemed like a bad time for something like that.
"Just so you know, I think you're beautiful as well." She leaned toward me, very serious, and raised one eyebrow. I tried not to lean toward her as well, but my body didn't seem to be listening. "And as well as that, you're a beautiful person to be around."
"Ah," I got it. She sat up straight again, watching me expectantly. "Daisy, I didn't mean to be superficial at all —"
"It's okay, Seth," she smiled at me, but it didn't really reach her eyes. "If I worried about it that much, I'd start wearing a paper bag on my head."
I got the impression she didn't want to talk about it anymore. I wondered what had happened for her to seem to be so unhappy with her beauty. I'd never met someone who could be so wary of a compliment before. "What did you want to do today?"
"Build a fire," her teeth chattered toward the end of her words, and I rolled my eyes and picked up the blanket, wrapping it around her shoulders so all buy her face was buried in white. "You're not even wearing a shirt!"
"Not cold," I argued. "Would you mind if I had the quickest shower ever? I have the entire day off. Think of something you want to do, and tell me when I get back."
"Have the longest shower ever," she murmured, searching for her hands and my book in the blanket. "This is getting to a good part."
I chuckled, climbed out of bed, grabbed my towel and a change of clothes, and threw her one last smile before I reached for my door. A thrill ran through me when I realised she was staring at my stomach instead of my face.
I almost gasped when I had my door open, and I closed it behind me quickly.
"What are you doing?" I whispered.
Leah didn't even flinch, standing in front of my door with a questioning look all over her face. Her smile stretched, but her lips stayed pressed together, as if she were trying to hold back an excited giggle.
"Don't you dare,"
"Oh, you know I won't," she rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. "But I don't leave for work for another hour, so if you don't introduce us you're officially the worst brother in the world."
"Of course I'll introduce you," I murmured. "You're the one who has to tell her how wonderful I am."
"I already have my lines all planned out," she grinned widely and opened the bathroom door for me. "Enjoy your shower. I'll be making breakfast. Just for the two of us, of course."
"Don't embarrass me."
"Oh, Seth," she nudged me into the bathroom and grabbed the door handle. "That's my job," she grinned once more before shutting the door, leaving me to myself.
I'd picked out a pair of brown pants and a long-sleeved gray shirt, just to put her mind at ease. I'd even put socks on so she wouldn't worry about my feet being cold. I dressed as quickly as I could, anxious to see her again. I didn't even dry off properly — my shirt got stuck halfway on in the water from my hair and neck, but I wrestled with it as best I could without tearing it until it was in place. Daisy wasn't where I'd left her when I got back to my room. She'd made my bed. She still wore her thick yellow coat, cream sleeves of another sweater showing around her wrists, and she breathed into her hands as she studied the picture on my desk with a small smile.
"This is your family?"
"Yeah," I smiled and rubbed my hair a few times with my towel before hanging it back up.
"Look how young you are," she laughed quietly. "Look at your hair,"
"Yeah, it was a while ago," I agreed, dropping onto my bed to wait for her to be finished studying my things. I could smell Leah preparing breakfast, and I was just a bit eager to get out there and eat. "That's Leah," I pointed to my sister. "My mom, Sue, and my dad Harry."
"Do they all live here with you? I saw there were a few doors in the hallway that were closed."
"Yeah, Leah's always here. My mom was staying at her partner Charlie's house last night, I think."
She tilted her head to the side and looked back at the picture. "Does your dad live away?"
Uh-oh. How to not make this awkward?
"Ah, no, dad died pretty soon after we took that picture."
She breathed in a huge breath, much longer than I'd expected, to the point where I was worried about her lungs bursting, and sucked in her lips, her eyes wide. I could hear an apology on her lips, and I shook my head, holding my hands up. "It's fine," I reassured her. "It was ages ago. We're fine. Mom's been seeing Charlie for years, and she's happy."
"Seth," her eyebrows pulled together and she put her hands to her mouth. "I'm sorry,"
I smiled to let her know her apology was unnecessary. "I'm hungry," I told her.
I climbed to my feet. "Well, don't listen too closely to my sister. Not everything she says is the truth."
"Leah's in the kitchen. She'd probably like it if she met you."
"Gosh," Daisy jumped on the spot, preparing herself. "Okay," she smiled like she was trying to convince me she was perfectly fine. "Okay,"
"Okay," I agreed and led the way to the door, opening it and watching her follow me as I walked into the hallway and started toward the kitchen. Leah was dropping a few rashers of bacon in a pan when we made it, a pile of bread beside the toaster and a whole carton of eggs open beside the stovetop. She waited for me to seat Daisy at our little table, acting completely ignorant, and smiled once everything was sizzling away to her liking in front of her.
"Seth," she said casually. "Could you grab the orange juice out of the fridge? You haven't even offered your guest a drink yet."
I obeyed, putting the juice on the table and crossing the kitchen to grab three glasses out of the cupboard. "Leah, this is Daisy, Daisy, Leah,"
"Nice to meet you, Daisy," Leah made her way to the table and held her out her hand, smiling welcomingly at my imprint, who looked a little stunned.
"Nice to meet you as well," Daisy shook my sister's hand. "You're warm too,"
"We grew up around here," Leah dismissed her comment. "The cold doesn't really bother us too much," I couldn't help but notice at this point that Leah was wearing a pair of shorts and a singlet she must have slept in. She could at least be keeping up appearances.
"I wish it didn't bother me," Daisy laughed. "I could shake your hands forever — mine are completely frozen. I don't think I'll ever get all the feeling back in them."
"Let Seth hold them for you," Leah offered as she started turning the bacon.
"Inappropriate," I spat quickly, and they both laughed at me. Daisy stopped flexing her fingers in front of her face to sit on her hands, as if hiding them from me was going to make us forget about Leah's little joke.
"So you're Australian, Daisy?"
"That's interesting. What was your home there like?"
Daisy thought about how to answer. "Busier than Forks… I think our town was the seventh largest in Australia. We were only a couple of hours north of Sydney. Surrounded by water…the suburb where I grew up had a lake on one side, a channel on another and the ocean closing us in."
"Oh, wow," Leah said enthusiastically. "So it's not a lie about all the beaches and sun, then?"
Daisy laughed. "No, that's not a lie. We lived so close to the beach that my backyard at home is completely sand. Which isn't as great as it sounds. The dogs bring it in quicker than we can get rid of it."
Leah started piling up the bacon she'd cooked onto a plate seperate from the eggs and tomatoes and I buttered the toast silently, listening to the two of them with a content smile. This was going to easily. And Leah hadn't even gone out of her way to embarrass me yet.
"So it's a bit of a change of scenery coming here."
"Yeah, but I love it." Daisy said quickly. "North America was always my dream holiday, so I pretty much forced my dad to say yes to taking the job here. It's so beautiful — when I can get past not being able to feel my body. I'm excited to see snow."
"Seth loves snow!" Leah said excitedly. "Seth, you'd better take her out when it's snowing."
"Mm," I agreed, throwing her a warning glance as she smiled a little too widely. She carried the plates to the table and sat down, and I brought three clean ones with me, laying one out in front of each of us and helping myself to the food.
"Eat as much as you want, before Seth gets to it all."
"Thank you," Daisy smiled. "Were you guys expecting anyone else?"
"No," Leah answered. "My brother's just a pig."
"Speak for yourself," I snapped around a mouthful of food. Daisy laughed to herself as she helped herself to a good amount of food. She caught me watching her and smiled gently before she looked down at her plate.
"So what are you two kids up to today?" Leah asked after a quiet moment. I looked up at Daisy, who had done the same to me, and we both looked away just as quickly. My sister chewed on her toast slowly, her eyes wide as she attempted to give us ideas. "The rain's supposed to be pretty heavy all day. It might be a good idea to stay in."
"I can't handle going outside anyway," Daisy sighed. "I feel like being lazy."
"It's Seth's day off!" Leah happened to remember. "How about a movie day? Mom won't be home…you'll have the house all to yourselves."
"Aaahhhh," I sighed way too loudly and dropped my knife and fork on my plate with a loud clang. Daisy continued eating, gazing at the wall in front of her, her eyes glazed over, and Leah looked between the two of us inconspicuously. I had the feeling all three of us were waiting for someone else to say something.
"I've got to get ready for work," Leah announced suddenly. She stood from the table and turned into the next room in what seemed like one movement, and I cursed her with every word I knew in my mind. Daisy looked up at me silently, still chewing her food.
"Would you mind if I hung around today? I don't want to go home and get talked into a fun sister day shopping or something."
"I'm still pretty tired, so I'm happy for a quiet day in if that's what you want to do."
"Oh — I can go and give you some space to sleep, Seth."
"Don't be silly. I'd love some company."
"I'll make you lunch," she said quietly. "I can't cook, but I'll try."
"I can cook," I smiled at her, feeling more shy than I probably should have. Alone in my house all day with my imprint. "I can cook really well, actually."
"I'll pour the water," she offered glumly, spearing her last tomato and shoving the whole slice in her mouth.