I couldn’t believe I was making this call. I really couldn’t believe it. I actually believed some crackpot story about werewolves! What the Hell was wrong with me? I was completely losing it. It must've been the water in that town, because never in a million years would I willingly do what I was about to do.
“Mom? Hey it’s Sophie.”
“Sophie who?” I heard her sharp voice over the crackle of my sidekick and my heart plummeted to my feet. I held the phone away from me, looking at it like it was a dead animal before carefully placing it back against my ear.
“Sophie, your daughter, Sophie,” I told her weakly and Embry gave me a sharp look while the rest of the pack looked bewildered.
“Well what the Hell are you doing calling me at five in the morning?” I flipped my phone back to look at the time here. It was midnight. Oh yeah, time zones.
“I’m sorry, I forgot the time changes. Listen, mom, we need to talk.”
“Now?” my mother thundered out in a murderous voice and I gulped.
“Yes.” I hesitated and looked back at all the boys around me. The eldest, named Sam, nodded his head for me to continue. It annoyed me that he thought I could be controlled and would bend to his will as much as everyone else, but the truth was in my actions because look what I was doing. I gripped my phone harder. “I don’t want to go back to boarding school. Just let me finish. I think it would be best for me if I stay here in the country. The air’s good for me you know? I’ve always wanted to do the national student exchange program.” No I hadn’t. I’d wanted to study internationally. I wanted to go to France, not Washington, but I wasn’t going to point that out to my mom.
“How much is this going to cost me? How much am I going to have to pay the host family?” my mom spit out and I could just imagine her jumping out of bed to put on her moccasin type slippers to walk out of the room and out of earshot from my father.
“I don’t know,” I told her seriously and bit my pedicured nail momentarily before ripping it out of my mouth and folding my hand against my stomach.
“Sophronia De Lorme what is wrong with you? You love your boarding school. What’s happening? Why are you calling me? Where is your aunt? I want to talk to her.”
“Mom,” I whined, stepping diligently away from the ring of boys around me. I just couldn’t talk with them all staring at me. “I’m fine. Nothing is wrong, I’ve just had this inspiring thought, you know? You can understand that, I just feel that I need a year away from everything and everyone. I can collect my bearings and stuff like that. Besides, studying nationally looks great on college resumes.”
“Is this like a cleansing ritual that Oprah tried or something?” my mother asked me seriously and I bit my lower lip so I wouldn't laugh.
“Exactly,” I replied quickly with sincerity and I could hear her sigh on the other end. Wow, she was really thinking about letting me do this. I knew she was busy, but I didn’t know she would get rid of me that quickly. I felt a sharp pang and contributed it to the loss of my freedom rather than really a search for deeper meaning.
“Let me talk to your father about this.” That roughly translates as ‘Okay, we’ll do this and tell him after it’s all done.’
“Thanks mom. You won’t regret this. I really think I’m going to change for the better. I’ll be more—”
“I'd better not regret this,” my mom hissed out sharply, cutting me off before the line clicked dead. My unfocused eyes swept to the pack of boys as they all looked at me hesitantly.
“Okay mom sure. I love you, bye,” I whispered sadly to no one before clicking the end button superfluously. “So I think that’s a ‘yes’,” I tell them, not even trying to sound happy about it, but Embry started shivering again from head to foot like he had done yesterday, except this time he had a huge grin on his face. “Can you take me back to the Cullens now?” I was almost positive that the wedding was over and the celebrated couple had left, so it was only a matter of time before my presence was missed.
“Sure thing,” Seth said stepping forward, the first person to come near me since I'd scooted away from Embry an hour earlier. Suddenly an arm shot out, catching Seth against his bare chest and I peered around to see Embry looking furious, his jaw muscle clenched against his tan skin.
“I’ll take her.”
“Embry, you’re not allowed on Cullen land. Only I am,” Seth pointed out diplomatically and I was so confused. Why couldn’t I go with Embry? Wait, why did I care who brought me back?
Embry let out a sharp breath before yanking his shirt over his head pressing it into Seth’s chest. “Fine, but put this on; touch her once and I’ll know.” Seth just chuckled at his comment before tugging on Embry’s shirt, scooping me up bridal style, and running away. I watched the figures disappear into the night, particularly Embry. His face was a mask of sorrow and I couldn’t help but feel bad for him. He looked like a puppy that had lost its mother. Then again, maybe I could compare myself to that, for I had just entrusted my future for the next year in his hands. I faced forward, squinting to make out the contours of Seth’s face. I hadn’t noticed before, but he did look quite a bit younger than the rest; his features were still rounded with youth. I didn’t know how I didn’t see it before, maybe I just couldn’t get past his height or thick muscles, but he couldn’t have been that much older than me, whereas the others looked maybe twenty.
“You okay?” he said evenly and it was then that I realized he wasn't even breathing that hard. Well, I wasn't fat or anything, but I mean he was running with me.
“Are you okay?”
“You do that a lot.”
“Do what?” I demand.
“Flip questions back around,” he told me and his cheerful smile appeared again. A smile of innocence. How did I not see it before? Could this boy really be a monster like the others back there? He couldn’t, he just couldn’t because he was so… well, cheerful.
“Only to you because you need a taste of your own medicine. You ask a lot of questions.”
“Wow, Embry’s going to like you. I always said he had a thing for blonds,” Seth chuckled as my head bumped with every step he took.
“I thought he loved me already,” I tried to contradict him, thinking about this imprint idea or whatever the Hell, but he just shook his head. I got the feeling that if his arms weren’t currently occupied he’d do that little wave, like he was waving away silly ideas.
“He does, but he’s not going to freak you out with it or anything. He’ll come on slow. It’s a bit overwhelming and I think it’ll take all of his strength to break you anyway.”
“I don’t know what you mean, but I’m not here to be broken,” I sniffed and crossed my arms in a childish way over my chest as Seth rolled his eyes at my comment. He stayed quiet for the rest of the trip, probably trying to let me collect my thoughts. I had to admit, it was a lot to take in. I really never would have believed if I hadn’t seen. I though back to when they had finished telling me everything. Absolutely everything, that they're werewolves, that I’m Embry’s imprint or whatever, that he needed to be close to me to protect me, but these fools were not leading me any further until I had proof. Which they showed me. Well, I was almost speechless. Almost. I had just seen a beast jump out of a man’s body. That’s quite frightening.
“So let me get this straight, you all are werewolves?” I stated in confusion and looked up to Embry as he nodded once slowly, encouraging me to go on. “And you’re sorta my soul mate?”
“Sorta,” he said as he cracked a grin at me. I was not amused. It was completely bogus.
“So, if you have to be with me what do you want me to do, move here?” I asked to the general area and they all shifted uneasily, every last man in the pack.
“That’s up to you and Embry,” Sam deems reasonably and I looked at him.
“Just give me one year,” Embry pleaded and wiped his face with his hand. My first instinct was to tell him no, in fact it was right there, right on the tip of my tongue. Just say it Sophie, God just say it, but then I saw his face as it reemerged. His dark eyes sent my heart into rough palpitations. They were so intense, so dead serious that I just couldn’t doubt him. There was no way he was lying to me. He could take care of me and he did have deep-rooted feelings for me, just at first glance. It freaked me out a little, but the thing was… I just couldn’t break his heart. I couldn’t be the one to put sorrow in his eyes. I know, it was so strange, it was the most unselfish thing I’d ever done in my life, but I was not going to be the one to cause this strange man agony. Besides, Chella and Anthony, my two best friends at boarding school, had already started school in France for the year. The place that I wanted to go. But they were the ones studying abroad, why couldn’t I? I hated being the one left out, but I didn’t want to copy them. Ugh, no way. So it wasn’t like I had a bright future ahead of me for the next year at school without them. Once they came back, I would come back.
I seriously sat in the dirt trying to envision myself ‘roughing it’ with these people in La Push. I pictured myself gardening in a little cabin, Embry coming home to me, while I give everyone in town advice about fashion. It wasn’t so bad when I looked at it from that angle. It wasn’t bad at all. It was something new, exciting. If I could conquer this fear of small towns, then I could do almost anything.
“When do I move in?” I asked in a small voice and Embry’s face nearly split in half with happiness at my decision. I was disgusted with myself. Looking back, how in the Hell could I have chosen my own unhappiness? I truly hated this town. I felt Seth’s arms drop me and I slammed back into the present time. We were finally here and I’d have to tell my Aunt Renee how I wasn’t going to go back with her.
“Good luck,” Seth whispered into the darkness and I glared at him before resigning my face to a neutral look. It wasn’t his fault I was moving.
“Thanks,” I whispered back.
It turned out that it wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined. I think Aunt Renee was still a little drunk on happiness over Bella’s wedding. She simply replied, “What is it with you teenage girls and this town?” She agreed with my mother to stay for a while longer to help with my living arrangements. My mom wanted to stay out of this ridiculous ‘cleansing ritual’ as much as possible, but she did call my boarding school for me and they thought it was a brilliant idea for me to ‘study within the states up close and personal’. In my opinion, I think everyone thought that I would fail. That I would be coming home soon and I wanted to prove them all wrong so badly. I could do this; I was not a sissy, sort of. I really didn’t like how tiny these towns were.
A complication I didn’t foresee was the Cullens. They were extremely wary about letting me move to La Push, they even offered me lodgings with them. Now, I would have readily agreed, their house was huge and they’d probably never know I was there to begin with, but when I passed this information along to the pack via Seth, who strangely enough was the only one to ever come over in the past week, they flat out refused without reason. I didn’t understand. I was so hurt because the Cullens were basically my family… through marriage or something like that, but still! So I sent Seth back with a nasty little message of my own asking them exactly where was I going to stay? Who was going to be my host/guardian? He came back with a simple reply. Emily.
I had no idea who or where that was, but I supposed it was my only option. It took forever though. The pack didn’t send for me for a long time and I had no idea why. It was only much later that I learned the high school in La Push didn’t really go for the ‘studying within the states up close and personal’ like my boarding school did. They didn’t really want a person not from the tribe there at all. They had to call a council and the elders decided that it was in the best interest for the tribe, because it was in the best interest of the pack, because Embry wouldn’t be able to rest if I wasn’t near him. Thus the council ordered I be let in. Just like that, the school had to listen.
Aunt Renee had become restless by this time. She missed Uncle Phil and wanted to return to Florida. The Cullens assured her that I would reach my destination safely, and if they felt uncomfortable then they would remove me immediately. Mrs. Cullen even talked to my mother for me and she assured her over and over that La Push was the perfect place for a cleansing ritual and that she heard Oprah herself say Washington was just the place for that kind of stuff. I had no idea why Mrs. Cullen was lying for me, but she promised my mom that she knew the people from La Push personally and that they were people to be trusted. It would be a worldly experience for me to actually live within the culture of the Indian tribe. My mom loved the sound of that one. So Aunt Renee skipped off into the sunset, or to the airport I should say, then to Florida on an airplane and then into the sunset. Leaving me in other’s hands.
Seth came to collect me from the Cullens that Sunday and I was off straight to La Push. Or Hell. Whatever name you prefer.
“We’re saying that Emily applied to be a host family because she needs help with keeping up her cabin after her attack.” Seth gave me a once over from the driver’s seat then looked quickly back to the road. He’d already confessed to me he didn’t have a license. Splendid, I know. “Besides, everyone will believe the story because Emily’s a kind person anyway. If anyone would take in a teenager, it would be her. Just stick with the story and don’t elaborate. Oh and don’t stare at Emily when you get in there,” Seth told me as we pulled into the driveway of a small cabin flourishing with different colored flowers.
“Hanging around werewolves has a downside.”
“Really, I had no idea,” I told him sarcastically, pushing my door open as Seth grabbed my huge suitcase from the back. I’d have to get the rest of my clothes later. I had only packed that suitcase for two days.
“So everyone knows she got attacked by a werewolf?” I asked, trying to get the story straight.
“No, they think she got attacked by a bear.” Fantastic. Lies upon lies.
I marched stiffly through the door and my eyes found the marred face of the woman who must've been Emily. My automatic response was to yell, ‘WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR FACE?’, but I figured that wouldn’t go over too well with everyone. I just couldn’t stop looking at the red scars pulling one side of her mouth down.
“Hello, I’m Emily,” she said stepping forward and I shook my head trying to unglue my eyes from her to focus on her outstretched hand. “You must be Sophie. My, you’re a pretty little thing aren’t you?” She smiled a lopsided smile and places a hand gently on top of my golden hair. “Wow,” she breathed and then immediately snapped back to the present. “Sorry, I’m so sorry. It’s just no one around here has natural blond hair. Especially that color.” I gave her a tight smile.
“It’s okay, I understand.” And I did. I was staring at her face; she was ogling my hair. This would work out nicely.
“Seth you can put her stuff in the back room. That’s where she'll be staying.” Emily gave me a brief tour around the house after Seth bowed out saying he was tired. He sprawled his gangly form right there on the couch and within a few minutes I heard light snores coming from the living room. Emily had taken me into the kitchen to prepare for dinner. I was not thrilled. What was it with these people and work?
“Have you ever cooked before, sweetie?” Emily asked me gently, holding a spatula loosely in her right hand as she flipped through what looked like a cook book.
“Well, everyone has to learn sometime.” Wrong, she was so wrong. I’d never have had to learn if I hadn’t come here. My mother certainly would never have taken the time to teach me and if she had then I would have pitched a fit, because I didn’t want to learn anyway. Yet I stayed quiet and listened every time Emily told me to do something. I didn’t think it was right to complain when she was letting me stay in her house. Besides, I should play the part. I was sent here to ‘help’ her. Emily talked about how she was Sam’s imprint and what it felt like to be adored. She said it took some getting use to, but was impossible to resist. Ha, they’d never met Sophie De Lorme. It felt like I slaved over that hot stove for hours. I was sweating and bored by the time we were done; Emily threw me a grateful glance.
“I’m so glad you’re here to help. It’s a tedious job cooking for everyone,” she told me, still stirring the large pot of beef stew.
“That’s why you applied for me,” I joked
“I did,” she agreed humorously.
Then suddenly she lifted her head, cocking her ear closer towards the open window above the sink. “Oh, they’re here,” she laughed, and at that instant the front door slammed open.
“I’m starved,” someone yelled, followed by a loud thunk.
“Use your inside voice,” that was Sam. That had to be, because Emily’s face lit up at the sound and she threw off her apron in her hurry out of the room to meet him. I stood frozen by the counter, hearing the impending footsteps of multiple pairs of feet. I couldn’t catch my breath again, here was another phobia making its presence known. Never in my life had I been scared meeting people, I loved meeting new people. I had no idea what was wrong with me, not even a clue.
“We have a guest so remember your manners boys.” I heard Emily’s voice floating in from the other room.
“Go find out.” Then came the huge bodies, all ducking under the door frame to enter the kitchen. All of them stopped to smile or laugh at me and I was almost to the point of hyperventilating. What was wrong with me?
Then there was Embry. He entered right after Emily and Sam, practically skipping over to me. He grabbed me around the waist, picking me up easily and twirling me as my legs flung in all directions. “Sophie!” he cried joyously and he set me back on the ground.
The second my feet hit the floor I stumbled away from him, tripping over a chair before landing flat on my butt. “Oh!” I squealed. The entire room burst out in laughter, at my expense I should add. My face burned, turning red with anger, and Embry pulled me to my feet grinning. My anger simmered, just below the surface still, but there was no point to it. They laughed at me in good humor and it was to hard not to be happy when I looked at Embry’s shining face.
“You okay?” It felt like I was forever being asked if I was all right. Yes, I’m fine, could you please stop asking? That’s what I wanted to tell him, but instead I settled for a nod.
“Hungry?” he continued, shuffling me to take a seat next to him in the overly crowded kitchen. I was so close to him. Heat was rolling of his broad shoulders as he fixed me a plate of food, not even bothering to listen to my answer, which was a ‘no’.
I pushed the plate away. “I’m not hungry.”
“What? Surely the Cullens didn’t feed you earlier?” someone joked and the entire pack snickered, even Emily. I didn’t get it. Maybe that was where Seth got it from. I must have looked confused because Embry covered his large hand over my own. Okay, I’d barely had a conversation alone with this kid. Yes, I trusted him, no, I wasn’t freaked out that he became some form of dog every once in a while, but he wasn’t going to touch me just yet. I consciously pulled my small hand from his. Shock flitted across his face before he cleared his throat and turned away. What did he want from me? I’d already given him my life for now.
“Embry,” Emily said sternly, followed by a loud noise under the table, then a groan.
“Ouch!” Embry cried, reaching down to gingerly rub his left knee. “That hurt.”
“Then maybe my advice won’t slip your mind next time around.” Emily set him in her steely gaze. Embry opened his mouth to retort, but Sam sent him a glare and with a sharp snap his mouth closed again. All the boys tried to hold in their laughter around us. It proved to be too much for them. For the third time that night the group fell into a round of hysterics.
“Shut up,” Embry griped and hurled his fork at one of his brothers’ head, which he easily avoided. That’s when I decided my exit was imminent.
“Well, I think I’m going to go get ready for bed,” I announced shyly to everyone before trying to slip away, but Embry jumped up running his hand nervously through his sheared locks.
“Okay, well I’ll, um, see you tomorrow then?” he said and shifted from foot to foot shooting a glance at Emily to see what to do, but she was only giggling.
“Tomorrow?” I pondered.
“Yeah, you know, school’s tomorrow.” My stomach plummeted to the ground. I’d totally forgotten that I still had to do that. Oh crap. I scuttled out of the room, waving good bye without turning around. I didn’t want to see any of their faces right then.
I took a hot shower and lay in bed trying to think about why I was so clammed up. I think I was repressing all of my feelings. In fact, I was almost sure I was. I mean, why wasn’t I freaking out that I was supposed to be in love with an overgrown dog? Why couldn’t I talk to anyone? I'd never had a problem before. I groaned and rolled over so I could cover my eyes from the shadows of the branches. They were casting some freaky images on the floor, so I tried to curl closer to the wall, wrapping myself in the comforter. I couldn’t go to sleep for hours and I was so exhausted. School had to be better; it just had to, because I wasn’t sure how much more I could take. Pretty soon I would need sleep and I certainly wouldn’t remember how to use my voice if I never talk again.