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Afterglow

Summary:
The in canon tale of the daughter Rose never thought she could have. When my mother found me, fate seemed to link us together. Not only was I the daughter she never dreamed she'd have, I was unusually unappetizing for a human. However, being raised by vampires does not come without conflict. This is my tale about growing up Cullen and finding love in the most unexpected place. The world's largest coven is about to get a whole lot larger!


Notes:
Sorrowfully, I do not own the Twilight saga or any of its characters. They belong to the glorious Stephenie Meyer. But Emmalie is MINE, as is the plot. :)


7. Grow Up!

Rating 3/5   Word Count 8028   Review this Chapter

I dove into life with a fresh enthusiasm, head-first one could say. Edward began to teach me piano; I took to it very well, not as well as Ness but that was to be expected. Jasper tutored me with his accurate insight on history; textbooks were lame in comparison. I knew every detail about the Civil War, right down to the horses the Generals rode upon. Uncle Jazz always quizzed me during our history lessons.

"What was the name of General Lee's mount?" he asked with a charismatic smirk.

"Which one, Uncle Jazz? He rode more than one," I reminded impertinently. He laughed at my smart-aleck attitude.

"The one who outlived him, you little tike," he teased, plopping down in Papa Car's chair.

"Traveler," I replied confidently. He commended me with a nod.

"Stonewall's?"

"Little Sorrow," I exclaimed almost as soon as he said it. Stonewall was my favorite.

"Sherman's warhorse?"

"That is a trick question, Uncle Jazz! He had two, Sam and Lexington," I said, lofting off my chair into a cannon ball-like leap and landing on his solid lap.

I ignored my bruised knees and smiled. He laughed, slid to the ground, and wrestled me for a little. Mia, who had been eavesdropping over my lessons, poked her head into Papa Car's study to break up our enjoyment.

"Great job, Jasper. Why don't you add how to load Civil War artillery into her curriculum? Then she'll be really well rounded," Mia suggested, her alto voice laced with cynicism. My face lit up and I turned to second the suggestion. Showered in my fervor, Jasper could do no more than laugh.

"What do you want to learn first, the M1863 10-pounder Parrott or the Springfield rifle?" he humorously posed, tossing me. We got in one toss before the Queen of Fun-sucking growled us to a halt.

"So help me God, if my baby ever comes within a thousand yards of gunpowder, there will be hell to pay!" she said under her breath. Jasper rolled his eyes and I squirmed down to give her a calloused glare. I was eight; I was not a baby.

Papa Car rounded the corner and heaved a sigh when he spotted my Mia's wound-up body posture looming in his study door.

"Am I interrupting something, Rose?" he asked, knowing the answer. My Mia huffed in response, tensing, while Jasper seemed to ease under his father's unassailable temperament. I took my chance to plead my case.

"Yeah, Mia just vetoed a very educational experience," I informed him, folding my arms across my chest.

"What sort of experience?" he asked, stooping to my level.

"Oh, Jasper was just going to teach me to shoot a rifle, but Mia has to suck all the fun away!"

Papa Car let my insult slide and stood to probe his son's conscience with a raised brow.

"Firearms? What a suitable lesson for an eight-year-old!" he scoffed sarcastically, but he had a playful twinkle in his eyes. Jasper seemed to melt from Papa's mock disapproval. He strived to evade any sort of blame, no matter how trivial.

"I was just joking when I suggested it. I didn't expect her to take to the idea," he mumbled in defense. I could tell Papa Car was not upset but amused. He just laughed and warmly clapped his son on the shoulder.

"Yes, I'm sure you were joking," he said, ushering me back into his study with his other frosty hand. "Anyhow, history is over and science is now in session. Unless you two wish to review the water cycle with us, you are free to go," he said before shutting the door.

He tutored me daily before rushing off to the office. This allotted for time to slip me my meds, the medications that made my stomach turn and my head throb. With all the side effects, I had a hard time believing they were helping at all.

I excelled in science which Papa Carlisle delighted in. The office windowsill was always home to some sort of experiment: tadpoles, chrysalises, or ant farms. Decorating his study walls were scientific charts and chicken-scratch sketches of my observations.

After all my lessons were over, Nana would effortlessly push all her beloved furniture against the living room walls, forming a temporary ballroom. Here, she taught me dances like the Spanish Waltz, the Argentina tango, the Lindy, the Foxtrot, the Jive, and the Virginia reel. Jasper, however, amended her version of the Virginia reel.

Nana even signed me up for a ballet class at the Grey's Harbor Dance Studio. I loved it so much that I wore through ballet slippers faster than Alice could buy them. That same winter, I danced in a community theater production of 'The Nutcracker' in Port Sequim. I fumbled once during the Waltz of the Flowers, but Aunt Bella said at least they could see me mess up. Apparently, during her dance recitals they tried to hide her in the back.

Aunt Bella let me sift through her library, loaning out her books to feed my literary appetite. I read books like Little Women, The Wind in the Willows, A Little Princess, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Bella had the shelves organized by age appropriateness, the top shelf being the forbidden fruit.

Naturally I, like any good descendant of Eve, waited until she was not looking and plucked the goods down. My Mia about slipped into convulsions when she caught me reading D.H. Lawrence at only ten years old. While Aunt Bella gave me a love of literature, Aunt Alice spoiled me in every way a girl wanted to be spoiled. This was their second time around raising a girl; they had pretty much perfected it to an art.

In the time that Carlisle was not drawing blood for testing or giving my meds, it was easy for me to pretend that everything was all right. Most days I felt good enough to ignore the fact that I was sick. It was the days when I felt bad that encouraged my secrets.

If I so much as a sneezed, Mia had me in bed drinking herbal tea by the gallon. And when I coughed her golden eyes always widened with worry. On my sick days Mia's temperament shifted. Grumpy would be putting it lightly. I had no intention of making her grouchy like that every day. I think Papa Car felt the same way. Neither of us was too excited to inform her that her perfect world was all a façade.

For the most part, my childhood days passed quickly. I longed to shed the title of youth and all its confining limitations. I wanted to be older like everyone else around me. Alice claimed after my twelfth birthday, I was twelve going on twenty two. That was just the way that I wanted it.

As I grew, Nessie did let me tag along. While she and Jacob were very private, she never let me feel as if I did not belong. She had the kind of love that made fairytale endings seem superficial.

Jake was not only her companion; he was her best friend and soul mate. He filled every role from protector to caregiver, from lover to hunting buddy. Although I was a witness to her love story, I could never tell it in its entirety; I only could admire the breathtaking magic from afar.

When it came to piano playing, Nessie was my musical ear. She could hear the songs once then play them. She then would teach me even when my uncle turned me down. The two of us would pound out duets on the piano. Our selections always made my uncle wince. Part of the fun was the reaction we would get. We would laugh quietly as Uncle Edward would groan rooms away. "I've created a monster," he always declared to himself and the two of us would laugh even more.

I loved Elton John and Billy Joel songs that my uncle taught to me only after I memorized a number of classics. When I was ten, I went through a phase in which I played "Your Song" over and over until my Mia screamed for mercy. Nessie would always compliment me, as if the song was new to her ear and not played for the hundredth time.

She was my sister in every way and I could not have asked for a better one. She was daring and brave, sneaking out to ride bikes with Jake when we were supposed to be running errands in Port Angeles. She was compassionate and sincere; practically everyone confided in her, even Nana Esme. Her emotions were always tamed; she never went off on her parents like I did. She had an unforced humor about her, a trait inherited from her mother.

She saw everything in such an unusual light. She never needed to be anything but genuine. Her pristine purity was never ceasing. It was like some unpolluted spring trickling down the Northern Cascades, a spring to which everyone rushed to bottle up and auction off. I wanted so much to be like her; I would have cast my bid.

I did make other friends, although I am not sure they qualified as human. Seth and Leah spent a lot of time at my house, at first as my babysitters, then as my friends. I kept them entertained or at least distracted from their watch dog duties. Seth would hang in the house with us and eat my Easy Bake Oven creations when I was younger. More edible creations came as I learned to really cook. By the time I was twelve, he didn't have to lie about how it tasted.

Leah, however, preferred the porch.

I never really understood why but she really didn't care for my family. She was friends with Ness and answered to Jake. She could tolerate my Aunt Bella with a window open and she could stand Uncle Edward, Nana, and Papa at a distance of at least five feet, but that was it. Alice, she just did not get. Uncle Jazz and my parents she tried to avoid at all costs. I could tell my Mia shared the sentiments. My rebellious preteen nature liked Leah all the more for that.

My telescope to the real world, Leah told me things that Nessie claimed I did not need to know. Her dry humor I found refreshing and her insight on my family sometimes came in handy. My Mia claimed she was a bad influence and not fit to be around me, but I thought differently.

"Leah, why do you hate my family?" I asked one day when she was slumped against the pillar, her usual spot on our porch. Her deep ebony eyes narrowed at my question then rolled as if the answer was obvious. She downed the whole pitcher of lemonade I had made for her, then glanced up, annoyed that I was still waiting for a response.

"Do we really need to go over this again, Emm?" she snapped back at me. She would not say my full name, for one reason or another it made her twitch. "I am a wolf and your family...."

"Yes, I know, they're the Cold Ones. The 'monstrous bloodsucking bastards that threaten your people,'" I recited verbatim for her. She smiled an evil grin, glad that I had learned something. I shook my head at her. "I was just wondering if there was something else. Seth said something and I just thought I'd ask you..... Do you think badly of them for... you know... your shifting?" This time I got a huff and an even bigger eye roll.

"Congratulations, Captain Obvious! Do you want a medal or something?" she growled, her thin eyebrows lowered. I could tell she was trying to scare me off, but she did not intimidate me.

"It just seems that it makes you mad that we are...well... happy," I pressed with an innocent shrug. Out of the corner of my eye I saw her lank body stiffen, as if I had electrified her. She tossed her black silk locks over her shoulder and looked at me again.

"Don't you have homework or something?" she asked between clenched ivory teeth. I shrugged, snatched the empty pitcher rudely, and got up, trying to look rejected. She stopped me before I opened the front door.

"Emm, don't be like that. It is just that, life for all of you is butterflies and rainbows. It's a little nauseating. Do you know what I mean?"

"No, I really don't. We all live in the state of Washington. As far as I'm concerned, it's mosquitoes and rain clouds for us all," I retorted, but I knew she had a point.

"Emm, cut me some slack. I guard your house like four nights a week. It's just that I get kind of sick of making sure everyone else has their happy ending!"

"Then why did you follow Jake? If being around us makes you so miserable, why do you do it?"

Her dark eyes looked right through me and I realized I had been a little cold-blooded. Nessie had told me once that Leah had it rough, but no one ever disclosed details. All I knew was that the imprinting thing had screwed her over -- that and some bastard named Sam. I had met him once or twice at the bonfires, the bonfires I went to without Mia's knowledge.

"I would rather watch Jake's sappily ever after than watch what should have been mine," she admitted. I looked at her for a moment without scrutiny and then nodded. The awkward silence begged for a change of subject.

"So, I really don't want to go back inside. Ness and Jake have claimed the sofa as their own and the whole room reeks of lust. I could always try to pry them apart with a crowbar but I would have to look to do so," I explained artfully.

Aunt Bella and Uncle Edward were hunting. Since Jasper had surprised Alice with a trip to Milan and Nana was helping Papa select paint for his new office, my parents were left ‘watching' Ness. Unlike most Aunts, my Mia practically endorsed promiscuity.

"And I thought up a good prank but I need muscles to do it..."

"Keep talking," said Leah in her low voice.

"What if we moved around a few road signs, then anonymously called and reported that the Rez boy Jake did it?" I suggested my eyes bright with mischief. She considered it for a moment and smiled.

"It's a little immature, but if you want my help, who am I to deny it?" she stated. "How far are we moving these signs?" she asked with eyebrows raised.

"I'm thinking East Division is going over to Steelhead Avenue and Brightwater Drive is taking a trip over to Three-Rivers Road."

She nodded in agreement, and then stood up.

"We'll wait for the cover of dark. Tell the blonde we're going out for ice cream or something stupidly innocent. I'll pick you up around nine," she suggested before taking off into a graceful sprint and disappearing beyond the trees.

I was always trying new things, most of which got me in trouble. Several times I was brought home in a squad car. However when the local police chief is your Aunt's father (who also happened to be my accomplice's step-father), they rarely press charges.

My other brilliant ideas included rock climbing, street racing, and a type of tight rope walking. Since this all happened before I was thirteen, my mother called it my early rebellious teen years. Of course I was grounded, but Popeye seemed almost proud of my stunts. It was Papa Car who had to play the role of disappointed parent. All it ever took was a cross look and I buckled in shame.

"We have worked so hard to stay out of public eye, Emmalie. Unless you wish us to up and move, it might be a decent idea for you to keep your pranks to our property. Hmmm? Can you do that?"

"Yes, I can. I'll never do anything to cause problems ever again!" I vowed. I truly meant it, every time. It was not fair for me to spoil it. I knew that he had made sacrifices so that our family could stay here, the biggest one being his career.

To hide his ever young face, he had transferred to a new hospital, which made his commute longer even though for an immortal, a long commute was irrelevant. The rest of my family also adjusted the way they lived. So to keep a low profile, we mostly stayed out of boring old Forks. They called it going into hiding.

Since no one aged, they avoided past acquaintances. It had been several good years since they had graduated from high school. Needless to say, high school reunions were out.

To deter any snoopy locals, they erected a steel gate at the end of the unpaved serpent-like drive. The house was secluded enough that neighbors were not an issue. We kept inconspicuous rental cars on hand so if by chance someone would see us drive by, nothing unusual would come of it.

A dirt drive had been tracked out by the jeep to provide an alternate route to wooded back roads. They drove on these back roads and did their errands in neighboring towns on the Olympic Peninsula.

Despite the efforts, our time here was limited. Aunt Alice said it was easier to start anew every now and then. It was sort of a vampire coping mechanism. If we moved, it most likely would be, "...just above the Canadian border for a while," said my Mia. "That way our youth will not present problems."

I understood. We were not your typical family. Nessie looked maybe a year or so younger than her parents, I only five or so years younger than mine. When I was young, Nana could pose as my mother when picking me up from dance class. Now that I was older, tinted car windows served us well.

By the time I was thirteen, Nessie and I did all the grocery shopping. Mia asked for the receipts so she could monitor my buying, still playing the health police. Ness bought food for her ever hungry boyfriend and his comrades, while I bought for myself.

We were an odd pair shopping. Not always knowing what she was buying; Ness would just read the label, sniff, and grimace, then throw it in the cart. Her 'buy everything' attitude must have been acquired over many shopping trips with Alice. Fights would arise about this and that. In the end, I always reminded her that she would not be eating any of it.

"Ness," I asked once, looking at the overflowing cart squeaking under excess weight. "Why did you choose three different types of mustard?"

"I don't know what sort he prefers," she explained to me with a shrug of her graceful shoulders. She flipped her bronze curls back and ignored me, browsing absorbedly at canned goods.

"Ness, he is a scavenger. He eats anything," I stated, re-shelving two of the mustards, but her dexterous hands had them back in the cart in an instant. Her eyebrows knit together and her lip grew pouty. Frustrated, I dialed and held the silver phone up to her ear. It was not uncommon to spend an hour in the not-so-local-grocery and make over a dozen calls to Jake in that time.

"Yes, I got that! Gosh, Jake!" she said. Ness never even bothered to greet him; they always just started conversation where they last ended. They were laughable.

"...I was just calling about mustard," she said awkwardly, shooting an accusing glare at me.

"....What kind...Oh, I see," she said flipping the phone shut. I was waiting for the conclusion, but she pushed the cart on, trying to ignore my ‘told you so' look.

"He doesn't like mustard," she tossed the answer over her shoulder. She gave up her stubborn mind-set and smiled at the humor of it. We both laughed and re-shelved the unwanted bottles.

After we had Jake's artery-clogging chow and my tofu and vanilla soy milk, we could check out. Standing in line, I could feel the eyes pasted to us. On the other side of the foggy glass window, a man intently watched us, standing in the rain.

Something about him looked strangely familiar, but before I could point him out to Ness, he disappeared among the passing umbrellas. I shrugged it off as normal because it was an all too common occurrence.

The stares were unavoidable and the bag boys were hopelessly incapacitated by her beauty. Nessie was so pretty that it was hard to get people not to notice her. The temptation to tell them off was almost unbearable. I wanted to yell, "Close your mouths and stop drooling, bimbos! She's taken!" But I fumed in silence, bagging the selections so we could leave as soon as possible.

Ness seemed to be genuinely untouched by the gawking. Most likely, she did not notice it. Hormonal teenage boys were like an alien species to her, and their gaping but a foreign tongue. In many ways, at thirteen my understanding of humans was more seasoned and mature than hers ever would be.

Ness, at times, possessed wisdom that rivaled the greatest Greek philosophers. At other times, she was just too trusting for her own good. The whole world was good through her picture-perfect brown eyes. Her parents realized that Ness was naïve in many ways. For that reason, my Uncle formed the cursed code of conduct, a written contract for unfortunate Jake. Ness claimed it was "overbearing and vindictive" but Jake agreed to it without fight.

The sour note of the agreement was the marriage clause. Uncle Edward asked that Ness remain with them for the standard eighteen years. Ness was ready for marriage by the time she was eight, ten years more was like torture.

It was not that she wanted to get away from us. She loved us all. It was just that she was eager to start her life.

But with that came the fear that we would be separated, maybe she did not realize that. We were destined to move at one point or another and alpha wolves were not known for their willingness to relocate. If Jake would move, he would be the first of his kind to do so.

Secretly, I thanked God for the contract she hated so much. Those eighteen years were all we were guaranteed and they were passing quickly.

Tension ran high when discussing the subject. Ness would push for more leniencies and Jake would try and agree with her but not oppose her parents. It was not just Uncle Edward he feared. Aunt Bella was not opposed to socking Jake in the face when he took liberties with her baby. The fights were something to behold.

Usually, they involved Aunt Bella smashing Jake's head repeatedly against a hard surface while she made threats upon his life. It did not really help that Jake just snickered at her. My Popeye usually spurred her on with laughter, while my Uncle Edward stood by. Jake really sucked at defending himself.

"Bella, try to understand! Think back to before you died, when you weren't the lifeless dull vampire bride. You were cool then! Remember?"

My Uncle tried to suppress a smile, while my Popeye gave Jake a pat on the back. "Good job, Jake! I think you got Bells to understand perfectly. Come on, lil sis! Show him how you understand," my Popeye said with his mischievous grin. My Uncle Edward did not have to mind read to know what was going to happen next. Aunt Bella's lips would curl into a smile right before she drove her fist into his jaw.

"Yeah, I remember a few things!"

Ness would rant about these fights and I tried to appear as if I was mature enough to understand. As I grew older, Ness and I grew closer, our relationship changing for the better.

She was easy to talk with just like my Aunt Bella. Her gift always came in handy when she wanted to tell me a quick secret. Mostly they were things like, "I'm sneaking out cover for me." It was easier to keep the thought from her father that way.

She was the one to teach me how to outwit her mind-reading father. Alice had taught her one way but it involved advanced knowledge in linguistics. "Nothing irks Edward like a good old translation into some strange dialect," Alice had told us both. Nessie taught me another way.

One day she and I both got called out on the whole lame curfew thing. The following morning, we were sentenced to weed the massive garden. The garden was well kept by Nana; it was just the side that was closest to the woods was constantly invaded. The two of us wanted to take a break, but every time we sat down and chatted for a bit, Uncle Edward would bark, "Get back to work, you two!" Even though he could not see us, he could tell when we strayed from the task by our thoughts.

"Just think about doing it," she whispered directly into my ear to keep it from the ones with the all powerful hearing. I smiled as I imagined myself weeding and collapsed in the grass exhausted. It only worked for a little while before Aunt Bella came out.

"Your father says nice try, but because of your wit, you've been awarded the front garden as well," she said handing Ness a canteen of blood and me a glass of fresh lemonade.

"Damn, he can tell now?" she asked her mother taking the canteen in a sulky swipe.

"No, Renesmee, he heard you explaining. You should know by now there is no such thing as whispering," she reminded with a smile. "And Emm, consider the continuation of your life a gift from me, to you. This is the last time I am going to lie to your parents. It's not the moral of the thing; it has more to do with my deficiency in deceit."

I smiled and nodded. "Now, get this done so I'm not the sole captive of Alice's shopping frenzy. She wants to leave by two." At that news, we put our gloves back on, defeated, and set to our task. Instead of leaving, Bella remained there. "...Ness?" she asked in a meek voice, as if she recalled something. Aunt Bella rarely used her nickname. It caught us both off guard.

"I just wanted you to know we understand how you feel. But a curfew is a curfew. Just because we approve of you and Jake does not mean we give you free reign to come and go as you please. When you told us you would be home by midnight and didn't come home until three....well...we worried. We can make it later; three in the morning is fine as long as we know when to expect you. It's just, we can't cross the border," she said her voice so young.

The bonfire at La Push went long and Ness and I both came back a little late. I went back to pulling weeds so not to impose on the mother-daughter conversation.

"Mom, I really don't see why it matters. It all seems very hypocritical to me. Jake claims you and Daddy were sharing a bed at 17."

"Ness, you can even ask your grandfather. I was in the house by midnight," she reminded in defense. It was not really a good one.

"Yeah and he was right there with you," Ness mumbled. Bella was about to argue her point but was diverted by my yelp. A prickly weed pierced through my glove. I gave them a contrite smile and went back to work so Ness could go on.

"Mom, really, it's ok. I promise I will be in before midnight and I'm not mad at you or anything. We all know that you just go along with Daddy and his crazy over protectiveness because you are too dazzled by him to say no. He's a controlling, manipulative, 100-some-year-old-and-counting grump. I'm not blaming you," she replied cunningly. I burst out laughing, but when Bella gave us both a stern stare I passed it off as one of my coughing fits. Just then my Uncle Edward popped his charming head out the side door.

"Ness, keep it up and you'll be plucking every weed in a mile radius of the house," he threatened, the look on his face not at all amused. Aunt Bella sighed and walked back into the house, granting us a quick pity smile. I could tell Aunt Bella felt guilty. Ness grumbled to herself picking weeds ten times faster than I could.

She caused her parents a lot of worry some times, but she was not the only one.

It was a tradition we kept, the first night the men were gone we claimed as ‘Goddess night.' It was a night of face masks, pedicures, and chick flick marathons, of course conducted by the master. Ness and I speculated it was one of those "human experiences" they felt we had to have, but we never let them know we were on to them.

The film was paused upon the mammoth screen, while my Mia took a call from my Popeye. I overheard something about a surplus of Canadian moose; apparently they had arrived at the happy hunting grounds. I turned my eyes to the scene fixed before me on the screen, when the conversation veered from hunting to mushiness.

On the screen, a man stood above a casket being lowered into the frozen, wintry ground. In the background, behind the beautiful people dressed in black, there were ranks of granite headstones, a garden of men. Ivory markers of the dead buried next to their beloved dead, lover next to lover, brothers and sisters and so forth.

It had always unnerved me but I just then understood why. If I were to die today, I would be alone in that cold ground. No family to my right or left.

No one.

I was pulled from my thought by Mia who slapped her phone shut and began to paint her steel nails again. Bubbly Alice was about to push play when I asked. It was innocent; I never meant to hurt her but I did not think, not at all.

"When I die, can you bury me in the front yard?"

At first, I think Ness thought it was a joke but when she looked at me she realized. My Mia's eyes turned to coal; Alice and Nana waited for her to erupt as expected, but she remained frigidly composed. Bella, never being one for confrontation, turned her eyes to the floor. I could tell she was fighting to hold her tongue. My Mia pried the remote from Alice's little hands and glared at her family.

"The movie is over," she spit at Alice, as if it were her fault that the movie contained death. She hurled the remote against the wall and it shattered into a thousand pieces. Nana rolled her eyes, I assumed that this was not the first time my Mia had broken a remote.

Bella gathered some of the plastic splinters and ushered them into a trashcan, an excuse to leave the room. Nana followed her lead. Alice simply glared at her older sister, upset by the cancellation of her favorite night. But my Mia did not back down. Realizing this was entirely my fault, I attempted to make her see reason.

"Mia, really, don't ruin it all because of me," I said pleading with her, but she just shook her head. "You can't have it both ways. You either turn me or you let me live, dying being a part of that." A fierce look unfolded a crossed her face.

"We are not going there tonight, Emmalie. You know, I don't change my mind," she snarled back at me. If someone was to watch our confrontation from the window it would appear as if we were sisters fighting, not mother and daughter. At thirteen years old, even I sometimes forgot the difference.

"We are going there if I take us there and you can either change your mind or accept reality. Take your choice," I hissed. Nana's scrubbing of the already clean counter took a noticeable crescendo. Alice moved out of the warpath, while Bella watched waiting to come to my defense if need be.

Aunt Bella, at times like these, could be my biggest advocate; it was not that long ago that she had played the lowly mortal among gods. Not only did she remember what it was like to be human, but she wasn't afraid to speak her mind.

At the moment she remained silent because she knew Mia was about to lose it. Ness, I noticed, stayed beside me. I did not know what I expected. Mia was nothing but stubborn when it came to the ‘plan' but I felt I had to try.

The plan was something she had formulated herself. It went like this: I would take the SAT at 16. Go to college early a few years early- since I was already past high-school material, be anything I wanted. Get married, buy a house, have 2.5 kids and become a car pooling, soccer mom. All the while keeping the secret of my parents to myself, visiting them on Labor Day, when my hypothetical husband could watch the hypothetical offspring.

Nothing was wrong with any of those things. I may have even pursued them if not forced; those things were what she wanted, not I. I was to let her live vicariously through wallet sized photos, home-videos and stories I would tell her. I thought it was sick; she thought it was brilliant. Deep down she had to know that none of this plan was practical. It meant we had to be apart.

"Emm, I am warning you," she growled, picking up nail polish and tossing it back into a ridiculously oversized caboodle.

"No, Mia, I am warning you. I will die at some point," I yelled at her.

"Unless you want that some point to be right now, I suggest you go to your room," she threatened with her icy voice. I winced; this was a voice she usually reserved for my Uncle and Leah. She took a step closer using all her fear-provoking predator methods to get me to cower to her will. "Now!"

"Bite me," I growled at her, rising on my toes, inches away from her face. I think I knew that ‘bite me' wasn't the appropriate thing to say to an exceedingly pissed vampire, but if worse came to worst, maybe I would get what I wanted.

It was the only time she ever slapped me and I somewhat welcomed it. In truth I could tell she was holding back, because if she wasn't, the bones in the left side of my face would be cookie crumbs. I was glad the men were all out hunting because if my father were here, it would have meant my ass. Mia's expression teetered between regretful and smug.

I decided to make my exit then, she knew better than to run after me. Usually, I moped by the brook behind our house. It was my place to clear my mind. After an hour or so of berating myself and ranting to the open air, I would come back.

I was heading in that direction, when I saw silver glisten out of the corner of my eye. The keys dangling in the Ferrari's ignition were calling to me like a Siren. Uncle Edward was always on her about leaving the keys in the car.

In an impromptu decision, I opened the door and slipped behind the wheel. Driving was something everyone had been secretly teaching me to do for so long and this was not my first time.

License? Who needed that? I just left; at thirteen I did not have any connections. So I just drove the familiar roads to La Push, knowing no one but Nessie would follow me there. My parents hated me going there; it unnerved them to no end. At this point in time anything that made her suffer was punishment she had earned.

I parked the Ferrari under a flickering lamppost not too far from the Clearwater's old house. After tossing the keys in the driver's seat, I stalked across the street and down the winding path to sea level.

It was showering a sleet-like rain, but I did not care. I found a secluded spot where the shore side narrowed and tide pools freckled the rocky terrain. On the frigid beach with wet clothes, I practically called for the Grim Reaper. The bitter cold and the rain made it hard to sniff me out.

It was 11 hours until I heard the recognizable howls. I think that everyone was certain that I had run somewhere else. Leah, Seth, and Quil were the ones to first discover me in my cold, decrepit state. Seth gathered me in his arms and held my shivering remains to his bare chest.

"Your family thinks you're dead. How could you do something so brainless?" he said coldly.

I closed my eyes to hide my shame, but I think he knew. I realized that this was not the greatest idea for someone with my health history. I was prone to pneumonia, bronchitis, and respiratory infections in general. I silently hoped that maybe Carlisle would give up trying to keep me healthy and go ahead and turn me.

Seth's arms were like a sheet of warmth. I avoided everyone's eyes. Seth's, then Jake's eyes as he buckled me into the familiar black car that pulled up.

"Wait! What about Aunt Bella's car?" I asked not wanting to be in more trouble than I already was. I held the car door open and looked at the foursome who stood in the rain.

"You mean the car that you left with the keys in the front seat?" Jake roared at me. Leah gave a little snicker, but the death glare from Jake shut her up. Seth looked as if he wanted to shield me from the alpha wrath, but had no intention of getting in Jake's way.

"With Alice's visions we tracked the car to a bar in Port Townsend. Some drunk apparently thought that you left him a ride to meet his buddies! This is a reservation, Emmalie. It's not exactly Mr. Rodger's neighborhood! You need to GROW UP!"

I was silent for a moment. A shirtless Quil excused himself with a mumble in Jake's ear, then got into his truck and chugged away. I flinched when Jake slammed my door. After some quick words with Leah and Seth, he then stalked around front, parking himself in the passenger seat with a huff.

He was beyond irritated. Not always as reserved in his emotions as my family, he probably would have cussed me out, if it were not for the silent driver. The sunlight that filtered through her shady windows made the trail of tears glisten against her perfect cheek. It was no wonder Jake was so upset; he hated when she cried.

Out of guilt, I hardened my heart to her show of emotions. She was really overreacting. It was not as if I had made a suicide attempt or ran away for good. I was fine; the car was most likely in one fixable piece. The guy was not drunk before he went to the bar, right?

Nessie was usually pretty cool about things. If she was this upset someone had worked her up, most likely my mother. As Ness made her sniffling noises, I rolled my eyes. All I knew was that the reaction I was going to get from my parents would be this magnified by a hundred. They were all blowing this out of proportion.

Engulfed in excuse making, I tried to watch the trees pass as Nessie sped me home. Jake got out, slamming the door in his temper. She slipped out of the car in silence. She went to open my door, but I hit the automatic lock on the door in front of me and sank down in my seat refusing to go inside.

"Alright," yelled the agitated Jacob, pushing his upset Nessie aside, "I have seen enough of your brattiness! Open the door or you will have a run in with a werewolf prior to being fed to the angry vampires."

I shook my head and was overwhelmed by dizziness, but I remained persistent. I knew that I was going to have to face my family sometime, yet I refused to get out. The voice that broke my defiant stance was cold.

"Unlock the damn door, Emmalie."

Like always he was just a phone call away. It mattered not that he had been clear crossed the Canadian border, all it ever took was a phone call and he was there.

I looked over at my father's face and felt more tears burn in my eyes as I conceded. I was in his strong arms and whizzed into the house before I could even exhale. Sorrowful faces greeted me.

My sweet Aunt Alice sat on the impressive staircase, her downcast face in her doll-like hands, frustrated at her temporary blindness. My Aunt Bella immediately hugged Nessie and thanked her then looked tenderly at me. My Uncle Jasper and Uncle Edward sat on the couch speaking in hushed voices but there stares were on me, cold stares. They were angry and dark eyed, most likely grumpy about their shortened hunting trip.

But I could not take my eyes off my mother. Her back was to me, her arms against the counter, Esme comforting her. She did no more than flinch when I entered; she would not even turn around. Guilt gathered in my chest like cancer. I could hardly breathe. The look on my face had to be pathetic. Jasper must have been startled by the cocktail of emotions coming from us, for a wave of serenity flushed the room.

My father immediately looked me over. I could tell he was not pleased with the findings. I did not see why: four limbs, ten fingers, ten toes.

"You look like hell," he roared. He circled around me taking a second look.

"I'm fine," I hissed back in the way that I had been taught. He brought his hand down so fast on the seat of my jeans that I didn't have time to yelp. I could feel the blister rising immediately and tried to hold back tears. He probably had no aim at hurting me; he never could recognize his own strength. Still, he made me so mad; I was a teen not a toddler!

"What in the blazes has gotten into you?"

"I'm going to die. I don't know why you even want me! Surely, there is some other human you can keep as your pet." It was harsh and so untrue; still I said the irrational statement all the same.

My mother turned around and stared at me with her pain filled eyes. I could tell she wished to do nothing more than cry, but all she did was moan. Another belting swat landed, so I began backing away from my father.

"I'm tired of being the house reject. Couldn't one of you be ugly, or at least screw up once in...I don't know, a decade. I am done with lessons and school and dancing and everything. You win. Why should I even try to keep you happy? I will never ever succeed at anything. And you letting me win at chess does not count, Uncle Jasper! I'm m...m so alone and I'm scared because... because I have to die so slowly and watch all of you."

My Papa Carlisle's gentle hands turned me to face him. I had not noticed him till then. He did not look mad or even worried, his eyes only held compassion.

"Thumbelina, I'll not let you suffer; you know that. Now, Alice, bring me my bag."

He looked me over with a swipe of his eyes and a quick palpating process that I was familiar with. "Swollen glands, a fever, and shortness of breath. You really jeopardized yourself, young lady," he evenly commented. He never yelled, but he had that disapproving tone down to a T.

"No more treatments, Papa Car. It doesn't help anyway," I said sadly. My mother gracefully rushed to my side the words making her tremble. I knew better than to mistake the trembles for fear; she was livid.

"What's wrong? What treatments?" she asked in her beautifully hushed voice. It was so quiet that she may have not been heard if it weren't for the appeal of it. I noticed her hands were shaky as she wrung them. This was the eye of the storm. Papa Car looked caught for a moment.

"I'm dying. I have HIV.....and I am discontinuing treatment," I added firmly to Papa Car who was reaching in his bag.

Papa Car looked shocked by my forthcoming, as if he had not thought me capable of telling her. My mother made a sharp intake of unnecessary breath and Nessie let out a sad little sobbing sound. Esme and Bella looked to Papa Car to verify this. Bella's eyes narrowed the way they always did when she was concentrating on keeping us safe, but I knew that it was not going to work this time.

Jasper rose to his feet and glanced over at little Alice, who stood patiently with the bag, eyes fixed to her dainty feet. Were her eyes full of guilt? I did not know. Edward pinched his nose most likely expecting a headache, maybe hiding his lack of surprise.

I knew they had kept quiet for me. Alice and Edward knew all along and gave me the decency to come forth on my own. Maybe in vampire time five years was not a long time to keep a secret, but to me it was a good portion of my life. I loved them so much for their devotion.

My mother wrapped me in her arms and cradled me. I gave her a weak smile and looked over at my fearless fun loving father.

"Popeye, please do not be hurt. I did not want you to be hurt, that's why I couldn't tell you. I couldn't, you see! Don't feel bad." He just backed away as I spoke. He looked mad, as if I had betrayed him. They were so helpless; loving me for whatever reason had made them this way. I did not even notice my crying until I spoke again. "Really, don't feel bad. I had the best family an orphan could ever hope for. I would have died long ago if it weren't for you all...Mia, please don't look at me like that."

I felt her perfect arms tremor in fury, like a volcano ready to spout flesh burning lava. My Mia screamed rage dripping from her voice.

"DID YOU ALL KNOW? HOW COULD YOU? HOW? CARLISE? HOW!"

Blank faces stared at her, my Popeye stormed out the back door ripping it off its hinges. Papa Car ignored the rampage and pulled from his bag my HGH injection, the AZT, and my mineral therapy treatment. I was tempted to knock it all to the floor, but did not. "I am not taking any of those things. I already told you that," I yelled at him and then folded my arms across my chest. I was determined to let this end here. No shots, no enormously large pills, this was it, my dying day.

"Emma, love, be cooperative," he pleaded. I struggled to get away so Papa Car could not convince me to take the meds. This was my decision, selfish as it was. I walked assertively to the stairs. No one is going to persuade me now, I thought.

Then, a set of steady, cold hands pulled me back. I felt sleepy in an instant, emotionally drained, just like I did when I was little.

He was such a cheat. It was so unfair but predictable, none the less. The last thing I felt was a sharp prick in my arm and pills pushed between my lips. Too weary to fight, I swallowed as ordered. Before slipping into unconsciousness, I realized that no one was going to just let me die. Death was something that they feared more than me. And so life went on.