In Pursuit of Normalcy
Two years after reaching full maturity, Nessie Cullen is living on the island of Oahu, where she escaped in order to avoid the unpleasant truths surrounding her very existence. What will happen when the only man she’s ever loved makes a sudden reappearance in her life? Nessie POV. Post-Breaking Dawn. Thank you so much to achelle131 for the gorgeous banner!
Disclaimer: I do not own the Twilight franchise and am making no money from writing this. No copyright infringement is intended. Please let me know what you think! It only takes a moment to leave a quick review, and it's a great source of motivation for fanfic writers to keep writing! Also, if you enjoy this story you may also enjoy my story Missing Dawn. Please see my author's page for the link. (It's not posted here because of the smut factor.)
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Breathe, Nessie, relax. What’s the worst that could happen?
I took a deep breath, closing my eyes as I tried not to ponder the answer to my own question: For one, you could smash your head against the reef hard enough to bust open a normal human’s skull and then people would see you for what you are – a freak of nature.
I ignored the self-deprecating voice that always managed to seep into my brain, unbidden, at the most inopportune times.
It would be fine. The swells back home at La Push may not have been nearly as impressive as those at Pipe, but I certainly wasn’t new to surfing. And besides, I’d been training for this competition for the last six months, with my first and only friend on the island, Chelsa, pushing me the entire way. Never mind, of course, that she herself never did anything more than sit on her board and yell at me.
“How’re you holding up?” Chelsa’s voice interrupted my thoughts from my immediate right.
I nodded, unintentionally reverting back to my childhood habit of not speaking unnecessarily, as I did when I was particularly nervous. I wished I could’ve shown her how I was feeling the way I would’ve shown my family, but that was out of the question for obvious reasons.
“You’ll do fine,” she said confidently. “You’re way better than any of the girls here.”
While I knew that my strength and agility were definitely an advantage over the other women here, many of them had been practicing at Pipe practically all their lives. I’d only been on the island for eight months, and as such felt extraordinarily inexperienced in comparison.“Our next lady competing for the title of Pipe Master is twenty-one-year-old Nessie Cullen, a relative unknown who got her start surfing in La Push, Washington as a child. ”
“That’s you!” Chelsa said unnecessarily, attempting unsuccessfully to drag me out of my chair.
Slowly I rose to my feet, my board clutched against my hip as I made my way to the water’s edge. As I did so my enhanced vision took in the wide, endless expanse of turquoise water glittering beneath the bright Hawaiian sun as the swells rose to ridiculous heights, curling majestically out of the water. Very rarely in my life had I ever seen anything so astoundingly impressive – not to mention intimidating.
Lined up along the yellow sand, all eyes on me, were hundreds of spectators, tourists, and surfers – professional and amateur alike. Everywhere I turned were t-shirts and banners sporting the names Billabong and Roxy.
Looking at my feet as I stepped into the warmish water, I was slightly shocked by the ridiculous whiteness of my own armor-like skin. Being constantly surrounded by bronzed beach bodies, I sometimes forgot that I myself was incapable of getting a tan.
I felt the hundreds of pairs of eyes on my back, and the television cameras: virtual conduits into the living rooms of thousands of strangers. I wondered how – with my porcelain skin and reddish brown doll-like curls piled into a messy heap atop my head – I could possibly look anything remotely human to them. How could they not see me for what I was?
Didn’t they know that I could smell their blood, and that a part of me still craved it, despite having trained myself my entire life to live as closely like one of them as I possibly could? Would other vampires see me on TV and recognize me for what I was? Half-vampires such as me were rare but not entirely unheard of. What if I caught the Volturi’s attention? I shuddered at the thought, suddenly hesitating in the water. Would they see what I was doing as a breach of their law?
I shuddered to myself. I didn’t think so, seeing as how I wasn’t revealing myself for what I was just by participating in a surfing competition.
However, I knew very well that the Volturi didn’t need much of an excuse to come after you if they felt like you were a threat to their authority. Sometimes I still had nightmares about that time when I was a child, when they’d come for me and my family.“Ladies and gents, it looks like our wild card has her work cut out for her today. With fifteen to twenty foot swells, and after that nearly perfect performance from Riley Fitzgerald… ”
I put the announcer’s voice and the hundreds of other jumbled voices on the beach out of my head as I screwed up my courage and climbed on the board. Placing one strong arm in front of the other, I began paddling, the warm water exhilarating as it rushed over my less-than-pliant flesh.In my head I could practically hear Jacob’s voice: Why so nervous, Ness? It’s not like you can actually get hurt out here.
I pushed back the sob of longing that threatened to tear up from my chest at the thought of Jacob. I couldn’t think of him right now, and of the misery I’d left him in. If I did there’s no way I would even be able to even catch a wave, much less have a hope at doing well in this competition.
Several times on my way out I had to flip myself over on my board to avoid being pummeled by the gargantuan swells.
When I was finally far enough out that the people on the beach resembled ants dotting the golden expanse of coast, I turned around to face the North Shore, settling myself upright as I waited for the next promising swell.
My heart was beating a rapid tempo in my chest and my pulse raced with nerves. I concentrated on these sensations; these biological reactions in my body that most normal humans took for granted, but which reminded me that I was at least partially human despite my vampire-like nature.
Since I’d stopped aging two years ago I’d begun to feel even more inhuman than I had when my body had propelled me to full maturity at an exceedingly accelerated rate. Now, at the actual age of nine I was physically developed to about twenty, where apparently I would stay for all of eternity – or at least until the universe held out, anyway.
Eternity – It was an unfathomable concept to me. I was amazed, really, that people actually had the stamina for immortality. It was a conversation I’d had with Carlisle – my paternal grandfather for all intents and purposes – on more than one occasion. Didn’t vampires ever simply get tired of being after a couple millennia? With a sudden twinge of fear I was reminded of Aro, the ancient one from the Volturi I’d asked not to harm my family.
I was interrupted from my reverie as a promising swell began to rise behind me, leaving me no time to dwell on the matter.
I paddled as hard as I could, my unusually strong arms propelling me forward as the swell rose up to considerable heights behind me.
Carefully placing my arms on the board, I had no trouble keeping my balance as I stood up confidently, my arms splayed on either side of my body as the swell continued to rise. The surf sprayed into my hair and eyes and the wind roared in my ears, and I felt a thrill of exhilaration as I was suddenly reminded completely why I loved this sport so much. The excitement of this was unrivaled by anything – except maybe skydiving. Or cliff diving.
On the beach in front of me my heightened hearing could pick up the mounting excitement of the crowd, even over the roar of the water and the wind. Many spectators had risen in their seats, and their voices, a low rumble, carried over to me across the water from the distant golden beach.
Through the spray of water arcing over my body my preternatural sight could make out individual people. A little girl licking an ice cream cone… a group of teenagers smoking near the judges’ seats… a large copper-skinned, black-haired man on the very edge of the throng, staring straight out across the water at me…
At that moment my exceptional balance began to waver.
The man could have been anyone. A native Hawaiian, or a Samoan, perhaps, but there was something familiar about his stance, about the way his arms crossed over his chest…
Before I even registered what had happened, water was flooding my lungs and I was being tossed in no discernible direction. I felt my head make contact, hard, against what I assumed to be the reef, and not for the first time I was thankful that I’d inherited my father’s armor-like skin.
Concentrating on orienting myself, I kicked my powerful arms and legs in the direction of murky light, but just as my head broke the surface I was hit full-on with another wave and was tossed violently into the undercurrent.
My elbow made contact with something hard and sharp, and I knew it would’ve snapped had I been a normal human. Before I could barely register the thought, however, I was once more pummeling, disoriented, through the violent water, unable to make sense of the shapes around me.
Once again, I managed to right myself, kicking my strong arms and legs toward the surface. This time, as soon as my head broke surface, warm and pliant human hands were pulling me from the water onto a sort of rubber gurney, where I was being hauled to the shore by a yellow jet ski.
I allowed the humans to pull me back to the beach, playing the part of the dazed and injured surfer. They would surely contribute the iciness of my skin to the temperature of the water and a lack of oxygen, but the unusual hardness of my skin was less easy to explain away.
I’d only just barely managed to keep myself from involuntarily projecting images at them when they’d touched my skin. It was something I’d learned to control several years ago, but every now and then I would be caught with my guard down and inadvertently project my thoughts onto an unsuspecting human who accidentally came into physical contact with me.
We’d just reached the shore where a team of medics awaited with their equipment. They couldn’t be allowed to examine me, for they would surely notice oddities in my physiology. I could hear the concerned murmurs of the onlookers and the announcer paging the doctor who was always on site for these competitions.
I allowed myself to be dragged onto the sand, but as soon as the medics ascended on me I sat up hastily, brushing them away. “I’m fine,” I was saying, standing up quickly as one of the men made to restrain me to the gurney.
“Miss, we’re gonna have to take a look at you,” he stated, a slightly affronted look on his face.
I looked up at him from beneath my eyelashes, employing my best “dazzling” smile – a trick I’d learned from my father. Only he never seemed to know he was doing it, those poor, unsuspecting women. “Obviously, I’m uninjured,” I said in my most convincing voice, spreading my arms so that he could see quite plainly that there wasn’t a blemish on my porcelain-colored flesh.
Around me, the crowd was murmuring in amazement that I’d escaped such a pummeling completely unscathed.
The medic looked vaguely startled for a moment, and I smiled inwardly. I very rarely used those sorts of tricks on men, but I found it strangely amusing every time it worked. “All right, lady, if you say so.”“Ladies and gentlemen,” the announcer was saying, “it looks like Nessie Cullen miraculously escaped the beating she took out there completely unharmed. I don’t know how she did it, but if she’s feeling like she can still compete, she gets another chance after Fitzgerald.”
Around me, people were gazing at me curiously; some in amazement; some in disappointment – I supposed the ones who were betting on Fitzgerald or one of the other girls.
I hardly registered any of this, however. My preternatural gaze was sweeping the crowds lined up along the beach on either side of me, looking for any sign of the copper-skinned, black-haired man I’d seen. There were plenty fitting that description, I supposed. But then…I was almost certain I could smell his distinctive scent amongst the scores of human blood along the beach.
The announcers were saying something again and abruptly I realized that all eyes were still trained on me, awaiting my next move. Training my gaze toward the judges’ box I saw a man, sandy-haired and young, jogging toward me, moving past the medics who were now standing around looking awkward.
It looked as if my copper-skinned mystery man, if he was who I thought he was, would just have to wait until the competition was over. I could not bring myself to hope. Or to dread, I thought, remembering our last conversation when angry, unforgiving words had flow.
I would not think on this now.
My board having somehow, miraculously, been recovered, it was now thrust into my arms from seemingly out of nowhere.
“Why don’t you go sit down for a few minutes?” the approaching judge asked me as he leaned over me, one hand on my elbow. “Get something to drink and take it easy ‘til you’re up again.”
I jerked away from him, annoyed by his touch as I wordlessly conceded, moving through the crowd of onlookers. Chelsa abruptly appeared out of the multitude, worry etched on her pretty, tanned features. “My God, Nessie, are you okay?” she asked, flinging her petite arms around my shoulders. “You’re freezing! But then – you’re always cold.”
I didn’t flinch away from her, having long become accustomed to Chelsa’s maternal-like clinginess. “I’m fine, Chelse,” I said, gently extracting myself from her arms. “Not a scratch on me,” I added, moving back so she could scrutinize my body, her blue eyes narrowed.
“Amazing,” she said, her eyes coming back up to rest on my face as we walked together back to our hastily-placed chairs on the edge of the crowd. As we did so, my eyes continued to scan the multitude of people, attempting to seek him out. His scent had already dissipated on the breeze off the ocean, if it indeed had even been there to begin with. Maybe I was simply losing my mind.
“I don’t suppose it’s all that surprising, really, since I’ve never known you to get so much as a paper cut,” Chelsa added thoughtfully as we plunked down into our lawn chairs. I nodded noncommittally as I dug in the cooler for a bottle of water, my eyes trained on the small figure now paddling out into the wide expanse of ocean. Suddenly, I found that I really didn’t care that much about the competition.“Once again, ladies and gents, Riley Fitzgerald is up.”“Hopefully she won’t have the same problems as Nessie Cullen…”
I barely registered the rest of this. In fact, I was so distracted by thoughts of the copper-skinned man that I ended up wiping out yet again on my next try, effectively ruining my chances at competing in the final round of the competition and blowing absolutely my chances at a sponsorship.
I should have cared, as Chelsa repeatedly pointed out to me as we made our way back to my car a few hours later. We’d decided to stay to watch the rest of the tournament, but I’d found, despite the months of training my ass off, that I couldn’t care less. I should have been, at the very least, annoyed by my horrendous performance, but the truth of the matter was that my training had been nothing more than a way of distracting myself all these months.
Since the sudden, inexplicable appearance of the man I knew in my heart to be Jacob, my efforts to distract myself had been rendered utterly futile. As such, I’d used wanting to see how the competition played out as an excuse to stay and continue sweeping my gaze through the crowd. I’d been on constant alert for his unmistakable scent, but as the competition had come to a close, I’d had no choice but to concede defeat. If he had indeed been here, he had no intention of approaching me – at least not yet, and I’d no longer had an excuse for lingering.
As I absently secured my surfboard to the roof of my ten-year-old Cavalier, my eyes kept scanning the sea of faces – touristy types – American and European alike, military kids with close-cropped haircuts over from Pearl Harbor or Hickam, the Japanese, the locals, the Samoans, and everyone in between.
“Earth to Nessie – What’s up with you? You don’t even seem to care that you blew the competition.” Chelsa had appeared around the other side of the car, her eyes following my line of sight. “Of course, I’m glad you’re alive and everything, seeing as how it would’ve sucked to’ve had to find another roommate had you been decapitated or otherwise pulverized, but after all that time we spent preparing… you could at least act a bit more disappointed.”
I rolled my eyes. “Why thank you so much, Chelsa. That’s probably the sweetest thing anyone’s ever said to me. Rest assured that the feeling is mutual,” I replied as I fished in the backseat of the car and pulled out a clean t-shirt, pulling it on over my bikini top. “And did you say the time that ‘we’ spent preparing?”
As I finished my rant, the sun continued to set, the most astounding shades of purple, pink, blue, and yellow reflecting onto the expanse of glassy ocean. A few stars twinkled through, adding their own source of brilliance.
The corners of Chelsa’s mouth turned up in amusement. “You know what I mean, Ness. You’ve been looking forward to that competition for months, and then you got out there and act like you couldn’t care less.” She moved to stand next to me, crossing her arms over her chest. “Billabong was here. You could’ve gotten a sponsor. You could’ve quit that shithole job at the bar where men grab you all night.”
What Chelsa didn’t know was that I didn’t need a sponsor in order to quit my job and surf full-time if that’s what I wanted to do. Carlisle and Esme had set up a trust fund for me that I rarely chose to tap into. As a matter of pride, I generally chose not to touch Cullen money unless absolutely necessary.
Besides, working in a cruddy bar gave me a sense of normalcy. Granted, it wasn’t exactly a respectable ‘career,’ but it did give me a feeling of independence. And it’s not as if I didn’t have the rest of eternity to go to college and have a multitude of other experiences. One thing I knew I didn’t want to do, however, was repeat high school perpetually ‘til the end of time. Okay, so I hadn’t actually attended high school even once, as my accelerated growth had made it impossible for me to have a normal childhood, but I planned on keeping it that way.
“Maybe I like men grabbing my ass all night,” I finally replied, pulling on my shorts and sliding my feet into my flip-flops. “I like having a valid excuse to kick some ass, anyway,” I added before climbing in the driver’s seat. As I did so, I took one last look into the crowd, the increasing darkness making picking out individual faces more difficult with every passing minute despite my enhanced vision.
Chelsa laughed at that, moving around to the other side of the car to climb in the passenger seat. “That’s no joke. You’re a lot tougher than you look.”
I shrugged, only halfway paying attention to what she was saying. “It takes a lot of upper-body strength, paddling on a surfboard,” I said absently as I put the car in reverse and swung out into the traffic, ignoring the angry honks of the car I’d narrowly avoided hitting. Apparently we were going to be here a while, seeing as how everyone was attempting to leave the beach at the exact same time.
As we waited, I once more found myself scanning the sea of people and vehicles. I imagined, in the increasing darkness, that I saw a large, distinct shape disappear between two rock formations. I shivered. Why hadn’t he approached me? Once again I felt a twinge of unease, remembering our last conversation.
The car behind me was honking again, and, looking up I realized that the traffic had begun moving. Hastily, I put the car in drive, quickly catching up to the vehicle in front of me.
I saw you, I thought as the traffic began to slowly thin out and we were finally moving at a decent pace. Jacob, I know you’re here.