6. SCARY STORIES
6. SCARY STORIES
As I sat in my room, trying to concentrate on the third act of Macbeth, I was really listening for my truck. I would have thought, even over the pounding rain, I could have heard the engine's roar. But when I went to peek out the curtain - again - it was suddenly there.
I wasn't looking forward to Friday, and it more than lived up to my non-expectations. Of course there were the fainting comments. Jessica especially seemed to get a kick out of that story. Luckily Mike had kept his mouth shut, and no one seemed to know about Edward's involvement. She
did have a lot of questions about lunch, though.
"So what did Edward Cullen want yesterday?" Jessica asked in Trig.
"I don't know," I answered truthfully. "He never really got to the point."
"You looked kind of mad," she fished.
"Did I?" I kept my expression blank.
"You know, I've never seen him sit with anyone but his family before. That was weird."
"Weird," I agreed. She seemed annoyed; she flipped her dark curls impatiently - I guessed she'd been hoping to hear something that would make a good story for her to pass on.
The worst part about Friday was that, even though I knew he wasn't going to be there, I still hoped. When I walked into the cafeteria with Jessica and Mike, I couldn't keep from looking at his table, where Rosalie, Alice, and Jasper sat talking, heads close together. And I couldn't stop the gloom that engulfed me as I realized I didn't know how long I would have to wait before I saw him again.
At my usual table, everyone was full of our plans for the next day. Mike was animated again, putting a great deal of trust in the local weatherman who promised sun tomorrow. I'd have to see that before I believed it. But it was warmer today - almost sixty. Maybe the outing wouldn't be completely miserable.
I intercepted a few unfriendly glances from Lauren during lunch, which I didn't understand until we were all walking out of the room together. I was right behind her, just a foot from her slick, silver blond hair, and she was evidently unaware of that.
"...don't know why Bella" - she sneered my name - "doesn't just sit with the Cullens from now on."
I heard her muttering to Mike. I'd never noticed what an unpleasant, nasal voice she had, and I was surprised by the malice in it. I really didn't know her well at all, certainly not well enough for her to dislike me - or so I'd thought. "She's my friend; she sits with us," Mike whispered back loyally, but also a bit territorially. I paused to let Jess and Angela pass me. I didn't want to hear any more.
That night at dinner, Charlie seemed enthusiastic about my trip to La Push in the morning. I think he felt guilty for leaving me home alone on the weekends, but he'd spent too many years building his habits to break them now. Of course he knew the names of all the kids going, and their parents, and their great-grandparents, too, probably. He seemed to approve. I wondered if he would approve of my plan to ride to Seattle with Edward Cullen. Not that I was going to tell him.
"Dad, do you know a place called Goat Rocks or something like that? I think it's south of Mount Rainier," I asked casually.
"Yeah - why?"
I shrugged. "Some kids were talking about camping there."
"It's not a very good place for camping." He sounded surprised. "Too many bears. Most people go there during the hunting season."
"Oh," I murmured. "Maybe I got the name wrong."
I meant to sleep in, but an unusual brightness woke me. I opened my eyes to see a clear yellow light streaming through my window. I couldn't believe it. I hurried to the window to check, and sure enough, there was the sun. It was in the wrong place in the sky, too low, and it didn't seem to be as close as it should be, but it was definitely the sun.
Clouds ringed the horizon, but a large patch of blue was visible in the middle. I lingered by the window as long as I could, afraid that if I left the blue would disappear again.
The Newtons' Olympic Outfitters store was just north of town. I'd seen the store, but I'd never stopped there - not having much need for any supplies required for being outdoors over an extended period of time. In the parking lot I recognized Mike's Suburban and Tyler's Sentra. As I pulled up next to their vehicles, I could see the group standing around in front of the Suburban. Eric was there, along with two other boys I had class with; I was fairly sure their names were Ben and Conner. Jess was there, flanked by Angela and Lauren. Three other girls stood with them, including one I remembered falling over in Gym on Friday. That one gave me a dirty look as I got out of the truck, and whispered something to Lauren. Lauren shook out her cornsilk hair and eyed me scornfully.
So it was going to be one of those days.
At least Mike was happy to see me.
"You came!" he called, delighted. "And I said it would be sunny today, didn't I?"
"I told you I was coming," I reminded him.
"We're just waiting for Lee and Samantha... unless you invited someone," Mike added.
"Nope," I lied lightly, hoping I wouldn't get caught in the lie. But also wishing that a miracle would occur, and Edward would appear.
Mike looked satisfied.
"Will you ride in my car? It's that or Lee's mom's minivan."
He smiled blissfully. It was so easy to make Mike happy.
"You can have shotgun," he promised. I hid my chagrin. It wasn't as simple to make Mike and Jessica happy at the same time. I could see Jessica glowering at us now.
The numbers worked out in my favor, though. Lee brought two extra people, and suddenly every seat was necessary. I managed to wedge Jess in between Mike and me in the front seat of the Suburban. Mike could have been more graceful about it, but at least Jess seemed appeased.
It was only fifteen miles to La Push from Forks, with gorgeous, dense green forests edging the road most of the way and the wide Quillayute River snaking beneath it twice. I was glad I had the window seat. We'd rolled the windows down - the Suburban was a bit claustrophobic with nine people in it - and I tried to absorb as much sunlight as possible.
I'd been to the beaches around La Push many times during my Forks summers with Charlie, so the mile-long crescent of First Beach was familiar to me. It was still breathtaking. The water was dark gray, even in the sunlight, white-capped and heaving to the gray, rocky shore. Islands rose out of the steel harbor waters with sheer cliff sides, reaching to uneven summits, and crowned with austere, soaring firs. The beach had only a thin border of actual sand at the water's edge, after which it grew into millions of large, smooth stones that looked uniformly gray from a distance, but close up were every shade a stone could be: terra-cotta, sea green, lavender, blue gray, dull gold. The tide line was strewn with huge driftwood trees, bleached bone white in the salt waves, some piled together against the edge of the forest fringe, some lying solitary, just out of reach of the waves.
There was a brisk wind coming off the waves, cool and briny. Pelicans floated on the swells while seagulls and a lone eagle wheeled above them. The clouds still circled the sky, threatening to invade at any moment, but for now the sun shone bravely in its halo of blue sky.
We picked our way down to the beach, Mike leading the way to a ring of driftwood logs that had obviously been used for parties like ours before. There was a fire circle already in place, filled with black ashes. Eric and the boy I thought was named Ben gathered broken branches of driftwood from the drier piles against the forest edge, and soon had a teepee-shaped construction built atop the old cinders.
"Have you ever seen a driftwood fire?" Mike asked me. I was sitting on one of the bone-colored benches; the other girls clustered, gossiping excitedly, on either side of me. Mike kneeled by the fire, lighting one of the smaller sticks with a cigarette lighter.
"No," I said as he placed the blazing twig carefully against the teepee.
"You'll like this then - watch the colors." He lit another small branch and laid it alongside the first. The flames started to lick quickly up the dry wood.
"It's blue," I said in surprise.
"The salt does it. Pretty, isn't it?" He lit one more piece, placed it where the fire hadn't yet caught, and then came to sit by me. Thankfully, Jess was on his other side. She turned to him and claimed his attention. I watched the strange blue and green flames crackle toward the sky.
After a half hour of chatter, some of the boys wanted to hike to the nearby tidal pools. It was a dilemma. On the one hand, I loved the tide pools. They had fascinated me since I was a child; they were one of the only things I ever looked forward to when I had to come to Forks. On the other hand, I'd also fallen into them a lot. Not a big deal when you're seven and with your dad. It reminded me of Edward's request - that I not fall into the ocean.
Lauren was the one who made my decision for me. She didn't want to hike, and she was definitely wearing the wrong shoes for it. Most of the other girls besides Angela and Jessica decided to stay on the beach as well. I waited until Tyler and Eric had committed to remaining with them before I got up quietly to join the pro-hiking group. Mike gave me a huge smile when he saw that I was coming.
The hike wasn't too long, though I hated to lose the sky in the woods. The green light of the forest was strangely at odds with the adolescent laughter, too murky and ominous to be in harmony with the light banter around me. I had to watch each step I took very carefully, avoiding roots below and branches above, and I soon fell behind. Eventually I broke through the emerald confines of the forest and found the rocky shore again. It was low tide, and a tidal river flowed past us on its way to the sea. Along its pebbled banks, shallow pools that never completely drained were teeming with life.
I was very cautious not to lean too far over the little ocean ponds. The others were fearless, leaping over the rocks, perching precariously on the edges. I found a very stable-looking rock on the fringe of one of the largest pools and sat there cautiously, spellbound by the natural aquarium below me. The bouquets of brilliant anemones undulated ceaselessly in the invisible current, twisted shells scurried about the edges, obscuring the crabs within them, starfish stuck motionless to the rocks and each other, while one small black eel with white racing stripes wove through the bright green weeds, waiting for the sea to return. I was completely absorbed, except for one small part of my mind that wondered what Edward was doing now, and trying to imagine what he would be saying if he were here with me.
Finally the boys were hungry, and I got up stiffly to follow them back. I tried to keep up better this time through the woods, so naturally I fell a few times. I got some shallow scrapes on my palms, and the knees of my jeans were stained green, but it could have been worse.
When we got back to First Beach, the group we'd left behind had multiplied. As we got closer we could see the shining, straight black hair and copper skin of the newcomers, teenagers from the reservation
come to socialize.
The food was already being passed around, and the boys hurried to claim a share while Eric introduced us as we each entered the driftwood circle. Angela and I were the last to arrive, and, as Eric said our names, I noticed a younger boy sitting on the stones near the fire glance up at me in interest. I sat down next to Angela, and Mike brought us sandwiches and an array of sodas to choose from, while a boy who looked to be the oldest of the visitors rattled off the names of the seven others with him. All I caught was that one of the girls was also named Jessica, and the boy who noticed me was named Jacob.
It was relaxing to sit with Angela; she was a restful kind of person to be around - she didn't feel the need to fill every silence with chatter. She left me free to think undisturbed while we ate. And I was thinking about how disjointedly time seemed to flow in Forks, passing in a blur at times, with single images standing out more clearly than others. And then, at other times, every second was significant, etched in my mind. I knew exactly what caused the difference, and it disturbed me.
During lunch the clouds started to advance, slinking across the blue sky, darting in front of the sun momentarily, casting long shadows across the beach, and blackening the waves. As they finished eating, people started to drift away in twos and threes. Some walked down to the edge of the waves, trying to skip rocks across the choppy surface. Others were gathering a second expedition to the tide pools. Mike - with Jessica shadowing him - headed up to the one shop in the village. Some of the local kids went with them; others went along on the hike. By the time they all had scattered, I was sitting alone on my driftwood log, with Lauren and Tyler occupying themselves by the CD player someone had thought to bring, and three teenagers from the reservation perched around the circle, including the boy named Jacob and the oldest boy who had acted as spokesperson.
A few minutes after Angela left with the hikers, Jacob sauntered over to take her place by my side. He looked fourteen, maybe fifteen, and had long, glossy black hair pulled back with a rubber band at the nape of his neck. His skin was beautiful, silky and russet-colored; his eyes were dark, set deep above the high planes of his cheekbones. He still had just a hint of childish roundness left around his chin. Altogether, a very pretty face. However, my positive opinion of his looks was damaged by the first words out of his mouth.
"You're Isabella Swan, aren't you?"
It was like the first day of school all over again.
"Bella," I sighed.
"I'm Jacob Black." He held his hand out in a friendly gesture. "You bought my dad's truck."
"Oh," I said, relieved, shaking his sleek hand. "You're Billy's son. I probably should remember you."
"No, I'm the youngest of the family - you would remember my older sisters."
"Rachel and Rebecca," I suddenly recalled. Charlie and Billy had thrown us together a lot during my visits, to keep us busy while they fished. We were all too shy to make much progress as friends. Of course, I'd kicked up enough tantrums to end the fishing trips by the time I was eleven.
"Are they here?" I examined the girls at the ocean's edge, wondering if I would recognize them now.
"No." Jacob shook his head. "Rachel got a scholarship to Washington State, and Rebecca married a Samoan surfer - she lives in Hawaii now."
"Married. Wow." I was stunned. The twins were only a little over a year older than I was.
"So how do you like the truck?" he asked.
"I love it. It runs great."
"Yeah, but it's really slow," he laughed. "I was so relived when Charlie bought it. My dad wouldn't let me work on building another car when we had a perfectly good vehicle right there."
"It's not that slow," I objected.
"Have you tried to go over sixty?"
"No," I admitted.
"Good. Don't." He grinned.
I couldn't help grinning back. "It does great in a collision," I offered in my truck's defense.
"I don't think a tank could take out that old monster," he agreed with another laugh.
"So you build cars?" I asked, impressed.
"When I have free time, and parts. You wouldn't happen to know where I could get my hands on a master cylinder for a 1986 Volkswagen Rabbit?" he added jokingly. He had a pleasant, husky voice.
"Sorry," I laughed, "I haven't seen any lately, but I'll keep my eyes open for you." As if I knew what that was. He was very easy to talk with.
He flashed a brilliant smile, looking at me appreciatively in a way I was learning to recognize. I wasn't the only one who noticed.
"You know Bella, Jacob?" Lauren asked - in what I imagined was an insolent tone - from across the fire.
"We've sort of known each other since I was born," he laughed, smiling at me again.
"How nice." She didn't sound like she thought it was nice at all, and her pale, fishy eyes narrowed.
"Bella," she called again, watching my face carefully, "I was just saying to Tyler that it was too bad none of the Cullens could come out today. Didn't anyone think to invite them?" Her expression of concern was unconvincing.
"You mean Dr. Carlisle Cullen's family?" the tall, older boy asked before I could respond, much to Lauren's irritation. He was really closer to a man than a boy, and his voice was very deep.
"Yes, do you know them?" she asked condescendingly, turning halfway toward him.
"The Cullens don't come here," he said in a tone that closed the subject, ignoring her question.
Tyler, trying to win back her attention, asked Lauren's opinion on a CD he held. She was distracted.
I stared at the deep-voiced boy, taken aback, but he was looking away toward the dark forest behind us. He'd said that the Cullens didn't come here, but his tone had implied something more - that they weren't allowed; they were prohibited. His manner left a strange impression on me, and I tried to ignore it without success.
Jacob interrupted my meditation. "So is Forks driving you insane yet?"
"Oh, I'd say that's an understatement." I grimaced. He grinned understandingly.
I was still turning over the brief comment on the Cullens, and I had a sudden inspiration. It was a stupid plan, but I didn't have any better ideas. I hoped that young Jacob was as yet inexperienced around girls, so that he wouldn't see through my sure-to-be-pitiful attempts at flirting.
"Do you want to walk down the beach with me?" I asked, trying to imitate that way Edward had of looking up from underneath his eyelashes. It couldn't have nearly the same effect, I was sure, but Jacob jumped up willingly enough.
As we walked north across the multihued stones toward the driftwood seawall, the clouds finally closed ranks across the sky, causing the sea to darken and the temperature to drop. I shoved my hands deep into the pockets of my jacket.
"So you're, what, sixteen?" I asked, trying not to look like an idiot as I fluttered my eyelids the way I'd seen girls do on TV.
"I just turned fifteen," he confessed, flattered.
"Really?" My face was full of false surprise. "I would have thought you were older."
"I'm tall for my age," he explained.
"Do you come up to Forks much?" I asked archly, as if I was hoping for a yes. I sounded idiotic to myself. I was afraid he would turn on me with disgust and accuse me of my fraud, but he still seemed flattered.
"Not too much," he admitted with a frown. "But when I get my car finished I can go up as much as I want - after I get my license," he amended.
"Who was that other boy Lauren was talking to? He seemed a little old to be hanging out with us." I purposefully lumped myself in with the youngsters, trying to make it clear that I preferred Jacob.
"That's Sam - he's nineteen," he informed me.
"What was that he was saying about the doctor's family?" I asked innocently.
"The Cullens? Oh, they're not supposed to come onto the reservation." He looked away, out toward James Island, as he confirmed what I'd thought I'd heard in Sam's voice.
He glanced back at me, biting his lip. "Oops. I'm not supposed to say anything about that."
"Oh, I won't tell anyone, I'm just curious." I tried to make my smile alluring, wondering if I was laying it on too thick.
He smiled back, though, looking allured. Then he lifted one eyebrow and his voice was even huskier than before.
"Do you like scary stories?" he asked ominously.
"I love them," I enthused, making an effort to smolder at him.
Jacob strolled to a nearby driftwood tree that had its roots sticking out like the attenuated legs of a huge, pale spider. He perched lightly on one of the twisted roots while I sat beneath him on the body of the tree. He stared down at the rocks, a smile hovering around the edges of his broad lips. I could see he was going to try to make this good. I focused on keeping the vital interest I felt out of my eyes.
"Do you know any of our old stories, about where we came from - the Quileutes, I mean?" he began.
"Not really," I admitted.
"Well, there are lots of legends, 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, to show me how little stock he put in the histories. "Another legend claims that we descended from wolves - and that the wolves are our brothers still. It's against tribal law to kill them.
"Then there are the stories about the cold ones." His voice dropped a little lower.
"The cold ones?" I asked, not faking my intrigue now.
"Yes. There are stories of the cold ones as old as the wolf legends, and some much more recent. According to legend, my own great-grandfather knew some of them. He was the one who made the treaty that kept them off our land." He rolled his eyes.
"Your great-grandfather?" I encouraged.
"He was a tribal elder, like my father. You see, the cold ones are the natural enemies of the wolf-well, not the wolf, really, but the wolves that turn into men, like our ancestors. You would call them werewolves."
"Werewolves have enemies?"
I stared at him earnestly, hoping to disguise my impatience as admiration.
"So you see," Jacob continued, "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 winked at me.
"If they weren't dangerous, then why... ?" I tried to understand, struggling not to let him see how seriously I was considering his ghost story.
"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." He deliberately worked a thick edge of menace into his tone.
"What do you mean, 'civilized'?"
"They claimed that they didn't hunt humans. They supposedly were somehow able to prey on animals instead."
I tried to keep my voice casual. "So how does it fit in with the Cullens? Are they like the cold ones your greatgrandfather met?"
"No." He paused dramatically. "They are the same ones."
He must have thought the expression on my face was fear inspired by his story. He smiled, pleased, and continued.
"There are more of them now, a new female and a new male, but the rest 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 had even arrived." He was fighting a smile.
"And what are they?" I finally asked. "What are the cold ones?"
He smiled darkly.
"Blood drinkers," he replied in a chilling voice. "Your people call them vampires."
I stared out at the rough surf after he answered, not sure what my face
"You have goose bumps," he laughed delightedly.
"You're a good storyteller," I complimented him, still staring into the waves.
"Pretty crazy stuff, though, isn't it? No wonder my dad doesn't want us to talk about it to anyone."
I couldn't control my expression enough to look at him yet. "Don't worry, I won't give you away."
"I guess I just violated the treaty," he laughed.
"I'll take it to the grave," I promised, and then I shivered.
"Seriously, though, don't say anything to Charlie. He was pretty mad at my dad when he heard that some of us weren't going to the hospital since Dr. Cullen started working there."
"I won't, of course not."
"So do you think we're a bunch of superstitious natives or what?" he asked in a playful tone, but with a hint of worry. I still hadn't looked away from the ocean.
I turned and smiled at him as normally as I could.
"No. I think you're very good at telling scary stories, though. I still have goose bumps, see?" I held up my arm.
"Cool." He smiled.
And then the sound of the beach rocks clattering against each other warned us that someone was approaching. Our heads snapped up at the same time to see Mike and Jessica about fifty yards away, walking toward us.
"There you are, Bella," Mike called in relief, waving his arm over his head.
"Is that your boyfriend?" Jacob asked, alerted by the jealous edge in Mike's voice. I was surprised it was so obvious.
"No, definitely not," I whispered. I was tremendously grateful to Jacob, and eager to make him as happy as possible. I winked at him, carefully turning away from Mike to do so. He smiled, elated by my inept flirting.
"So when I get my license..." he began.
"You should come see me in Forks. We could hang out sometime." I felt guilty as I said this, knowing that I'd used him. But I really did like Jacob. He was someone I could easily be friends with.
Mike had reached us now, with Jessica still a few paces back. I could see his eyes appraising Jacob, and looking satisfied at his obvious youth.
"Where have you been?" he asked, though the answer was right in front of him.
"Jacob was just telling me some local stories," I volunteered. "It was really interesting."
I smiled at Jacob warmly, and he grinned back.
"Well," Mike paused, carefully reassessing the situation as he watched our camaraderie. "We're packing up - it looks like it's going to rain soon."
We all looked up at the glowering sky. It certainly did look like rain.
"Okay." I jumped up. "I'm coming."
"It was nice to see you again," Jacob said, and I could tell he was taunting Mike just a bit.
"It really was. Next time Charlie comes down to see Billy, I'll come, too," I promised.
His grin stretched across his face. "That would be cool."
"And thanks," I added earnestly.
I pulled up my hood as we tramped across the rocks toward the parking lot. A few drops were beginning to fall, making black spots on the stones where they landed. When we got to the Suburban the others were already loading everything back in. I crawled into the backseat by Angela and Tyler, announcing that I'd already had my turn in the shotgun position. Angela just stared out the window at the escalating storm, and Lauren twisted around in the middle seat to occupy Tyler's attention, so I could simply lay my head back on the seat and close my eyes and try very hard not to think.
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