“Sam asked me to marry him, and I said yes. I’m getting married,” Emily repeated. Leah just stared at her in shock. She and Sam had dated for two years, and neither had broached the subject of marriage. Emily had been with him for four months.
1. Like Sisters
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Emily – beautiful, kind, sisterly Emily – had moved out of her parents’ house after graduation, and took out a loan to build a little house in La Push. Her dad had been insufferable to live with so Leah had been thrilled that the cousin she loved like a sister was finally escaping to live on her own. Thrilled, too, that she was going to live within walking distance of Leah’s house.
That is, Leah had been thrilled at first. She’d been thrilled right up until the moment when Emily had stolen away the love of her life through no fault of her own. After that, she’d just been broken. But she’d still found a way to be kind to her, especially after the horrible incident with the bear that had taken Emily’s beauty from her forever.
Sure, Emily had refused to date Sam after he’d cast Leah aside like so much moldy cheese. But that hadn’t lasted. Sam was too persuasive. How well Leah knew that Sam could always manage to get what he wanted. Hadn’t she given him everything? (When she was still a freshman, no less!) Being the focus of his attention felt so incredible. When he loved you, you wanted to give him the world.
“Sam asked me to marry him, and I said yes. I’m getting married,” Emily repeated. Leah just continued to stare at her in shock. She and Sam had dated for two years, and neither had broached the subject of marriage. Emily had been with him for four months.
Leah stood abruptly. She and Emily had been sitting at the shabby dining room table Emily’s mother had given her for Christmas the week before. (So that she could buy herself a new one.) Emily, however, remained in her chair, the hopefulness and joy in her face withering away – as though the angry red scars, still healing, had sucked the happy expressions into themselves. Leah took a deep breath and tried to calm down. It wasn’t enough that Emily had Sam, and Leah had no one? Now they were going to get married? It was just too much.
“Emily,” she began, grimacing as though her very name caused her pain. “How do you know he won’t do the same thing to you that he did to me? He isn’t really very ... stable, is he? I didn’t want to say anything all this time, because I thought you might just get bored with him, or vice versa, but can you really tie yourself forever to someone so inconstant?”
She watched Emily frown and felt guilty. She shouldn’t be ruining her happiness this way, but she couldn’t seem to help herself. This was important. If they got married, and then in two years Sam found someone prettier and ran off, Emily would be ... just as broken as Leah was now. And Leah could maybe handle her own pain, but she had no earthly idea how she could ever console Emily if the same thing happened to her.
Emily appeared to be thinking very hard about something. Finally, she shook her head. “Sam isn’t going to leave me, Leah,” and then she held up her hand to head off any response. Leah closed her mouth and waited. “I’ll tell you how I know, if you sit back down. It won’t be easy for you to hear.”
Leah blinked. Since the moment Emily had first told her she was going to give Sam a chance, they had never so much as whispered about the past. It was easier for both of them to remain close if they ignored Leah’s history with Sam, so that’s what they’d done. Still, it was a can of worms Leah had chosen to open. She sat.
“Leah, Sam loves you. He worries about you all the time, and talks about you often. I KNOW that he isn’t going to leave me. What there is between us – it isn’t normal love. If it had been, he would never have left you.”
Leah watched a tear leak from the ruined corner of Emily’s eye and the hard expression her face had tried to assume seemed to melt. It WAS hard to hear. But it was also kind of Emily to tell her. “Em, what if he’s just saying that it’s something special so you won’t reject him again? Don’t you think he told me that what he felt for me was special?” she tried to speak gently, and it must have worked because Emily took her hands and squeezed them reassuringly.
“I’ve been in love before, you know that. It isn’t the same. It’s – there’s something almost supernatural about it. I know it’s the same for him. If this wasn’t forever, Leah, he could never have given you up.”
Leah squeezed Emily’s hands in return, comforted for the first time since July. Maybe she couldn’t have Sam. But she at least hadn’t lost Emily. Neither Sam, nor that damned bear, had been able to take Emily away from her. “This is exactly why you’re my best friend,” Leah said quietly.
“And your concern that he might leave me is the reason why you’re mine,” Emily returned, smiling sadly. “But I promise you, he won’t.”
“Good. I don’t need another reason to hate him,” Leah said, trying to joke. Emily’s promise had been both reassurance and warning, and Leah was plenty smart enough to see it as such. Emily continued to smile sadly at her for another instant before she released her hands.
“Now, we need to decide what color your bridesmaid dress is going to be,” she began, her face taking on a happier expression again. Leah grimaced, but turned it into a smirk.
“How about pink?” she asked, remembering that Emily despised pink. She recalled that, when she was five and Emily was seven, Em’s father had painted her room pink one day while they were playing together at their grandmother’s house. He’d probably thought he was doing something nice, for once. The room HAD needed paint, after all. When they’d arrived for the planned sleepover Emily had cried so hard at the sight of her room that Leah had just gone home, instead. A week later, they’d had the sleepover in Emily’s newly RE-painted, yellow bedroom. Leah had thought it hideous.
Emily’s grin was much more playful than before. “Hush, or it’ll be yellow,” she replied predictably, and both women laughed. Leah felt a little calmer than she’d been for the last few months – it was the first moment she’d spent with Emily where the older girl’s happiness hadn’t seemed to add to her own pain. They planned Emily’s wedding to the love of Leah’s life for the rest of the afternoon, and then Leah went home, finally beginning to believe that she might some day be whole again.