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.)
2. To Eternally Endure
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The drive back to our apartment building in Mililani was tedious indeed, plagued with my thoughts of Jacob and unwanted questions from my occasionally annoying but surprisingly perceptive and well-meaning roommate.
“Sure you don’t wanna talk about it?” Chelsa persisted the entire drive, and by the time we passed the Dole Pineapple Plantation on our left, headed inland, I was about ready to kill her. Figuratively speaking, of course.
Damn Hawaii and its congested roads, I thought in irritation as I had to slam on the brakes to avoid ramming my Cavalier into the back of an ancient yellow truck going about thirty-five.
If only Chelsa knew just the number of things I was forced to keep secret on a daily basis. I snorted, trying to picture her reaction were I to try to explain to her that I was, in fact, half human, half vampire. I could just imagine her quirky reaction: “Well, that makes sense in a way. I didn’t really think you could be an albino.”
“It’s nothing, Chelsa,” I said with a sigh for about the tenth time since getting in the car, beating on the horn at the yellow truck. There was too much traffic coming in the opposite direction for me to pass. “I’m just having an off day.” It wasn’t an explanation at all, but I really wasn’t up to getting into a detailed explanation, no matter how much I liked Chelsa.
All she knew about my relationship with Jacob was that he’d been my first and only ‘boyfriend,’ and telling her that he’d been ‘overbearing’ had been easier than explaining the whole changeling-imprinting phenomenon. It’d probably be easier to just go ahead and tell her that I’m a half-vampire.
“Right,” she said, giving me that look that made it quite clear that she was very aware that I was bullshitting her. “Fine, don’t tell me about it.”
I sighed again. How to say this without hurting her feelings? “Look, Chelse, please quit pestering me about it. I just really, really don’t want to talk about it right now. If I promise to tell you someday, will you drop it for now?”It was more likely hell would freeze over and vampires would ‘come out of the closet’ before that day would come.
The look on her face told me she wasn’t happy with this, but that I’d won the battle. For now, at least. “I’m sorry you didn’t get that Billabong sponsorship,” she said as the truck in front of us finally decided to speed up, and the pineapple fields finally disappeared behind us on the darkened horizon.
“That’s okay.” Really, I didn’t care that much. I’d surfed most of my life, but training these past few months had been nothing more than a distraction. I had been excited about today, but only because I had been eager to do something reckless, and nothing beat surfing the Pipe in a competition. There was a part of me – a part of me that wasn’t at all sure that it wanted immortality – that was always looking for ways of testing my vampiric nature.
It’s not that I wanted to die. It’s just that I wasn’t at all sure that I wanted to live forever, either. Once again, it came down to the question of stamina. Did I really have the endurance to live forever? I wasn’t entirely sure.
“Are you coming home with me, or did you want me to drive you into Pearl City?” I asked as we neared Mililani.
“Home. James is picking me up later – We’re going barhopping in Waikiki, but I’m in desperate need of a shower,” she laughed. “I have sand lodged in crevices I didn’t even know existed.”
I snorted at that. “You’re telling me. You weren’t the one being pummeled on the Pipe.”
“Better you than me, kid.”
Kid indeed. If she had any idea that I was actually only nine years old she’d shit. I laughed inwardly, imagining explaining that to her. Early onset puberty caused by growth hormones in milk?
“Hey, you should come with us,” she said suddenly, her blue eyes lighting up as she eyed me from the passenger seat. “You don’t come out enough.”
I looked at her incredulously. “I work in a bar in Waikiki five nights a week. Why in the world would I want to spend any of my free time there? And besides, I wouldn’t want to be the third wheel in your cozy little nest of love.” Besides, I already had plans for the evening that consisted of a bottle of cab-merlot and the latest package of books and letters my mother had sent me.
“C’mon, Ness – I know you don’t have any other plans.”
I gave her a sardonic look, which she ignored.
“And you wouldn’t be a ‘third wheel,’ honestly,” she persisted. “Some of James’s friends are coming along, and a couple of them are really cute. Especially, um, what’s-his-name… Anthony – the hot one. He told James that he thinks you’re beautiful.” She said this last part hopefully. The girl had been trying to hook me up since we’d first met in a chat room for potential roommates eight months ago, when I’d first come to Oahu and was living in a hotel. As annoying as it could be, I had to applaud her diligence. “Of course,” she added thoughtfully after a moment, “it’s really not so surprising that he would say that, seeing as how you’re perfectly gorgeous.”
I frowned slightly at that. On most days I avoided looking directly into a mirror. As far as I was concerned, my beauty was yet another reminder of how not normal I was.
“No thanks, Chelse,” I said with a wry smile. “I know you mean well, but that’s my final answer.”
She pouted a little at this, but thankfully didn’t push the subject.
At that moment we turned onto the street where our apartment building was housed, not far from the Schofield Barracks. Like much of Hawaii it was a very green place, with treetops forming an almost-impenetrable canopy over the cracked streets.
We parked in my assigned spot on the topmost level of the garage. Even still, it was a bit of a trek to get up to our apartment. We had two options: We could either climb the five flights of stairs straight up to our apartment; or, take the long walkway all the way across to the right side of the building to the elevators, ride up four levels – due to a weird design the elevator only stopped on even numbers – and then take the walkway back to the left side of the building, and climb up the final flight of stairs.
Both ways were a pain in the ass, especially while hauling groceries. I usually preferred the stairs, seeing as how I didn’t tire easily, but Chelsa preferred the elevator fiasco.
Soon enough, however, we were safely ensconced in our three-bedroom apartment, with me opening that bottle of cabernet-merlot while Chelsa dug through her bag looking for her cigarettes.
“I know I put the damn things in here,” she was muttering under her breath, dumping her wallet, keys, cell phone, several loose receipts, and a couple of condoms onto the counter.
“Ah-ha,” she announced triumphantly, holding up the pack as I poured her a glass of wine. “Thanks, babe,” she said, taking my proffered glass while she handed me a cigarette.
I followed her across the living room and through the screen that comprised the entire back wall of the apartment, and emerged onto the lanai overlooking a small mosquito-infested stream.
We sat together at the small patio table, quietly inhaling the toxic gases into our lungs – yet another one of my little ‘tests’ concerning my vampriric nature. If I was truly immortal, there’s no way I could get lung cancer, right?
“Did you read that text I forwarded you?” Chelsa asked after a few moments had passed. “About the girl interested in our extra room?”
I nodded, taking a slow sip of the wine, savoring the woodsy flavor. When I’d given up blood for good it had taken me quite a while to get used to human food, but gradually not only had I become accustomed to it, but I’d developed specific tastes. I was definitely what Chelsa classified as a ‘wine-o’ and a ‘caffeine fiend.’ And I had an insatiable sweet tooth – I was constantly baking homemade chocolate chip cookies.
“Yeah, she seems okay to me,” I answered. “You know my only rules – no drugs in the apartment, no parties without our consent, and no extended visitors.”
“You’re so responsible,” she teased.
I rolled my eyes. “You’ll thank me when we don’t get busted for having a meth lab, or end up with holes in the walls, or come home to find random people screwing in our beds.”
“Stop – you’re making me homesick,” she laughed, pulling her knees up against her chest before taking a long drag off her cigarette. “So what’d your mom send you this time?”
I smiled as I took a drag off my own, moving to prop my legs up on the rail of the lanai. Somewhere nearby a bird was singing a melancholy tune. “The usual,” I said lightly. “Some of her old books. Wurthering Heights. That’s her favorite,” I added in a wistful tone. Truly, I missed my mother sometimes more than I could bear. My heart ached; the longing in my chest was almost overwhelming. “And a stack of letters that she’s written for me over the past several weeks.”
“Why doesn’t she just text you? Or send an e-mail?”
“It’s more personal this way,” I explained. “I can see her handwriting, and smell the perfume that my dad gave her on the paper.”
Chelsa smiled, the edges of her blue eyes crinkling. “I think it’s great that your parents are still together, and still so happy. My parents can’t even stand to be in the same room together,” she added with a frown. “You should’ve seen what happened last year when my sister had her baby – all my family at the hospital, and the situation being tense… Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.”
I returned her smile, barely registering her words. I was thinking about the single letter from my father that had been enclosed in my mother’s package. It had been a short, simple letter, but it had spoken volumes. In his elegant script had been the words:
My beautiful daughter,Please take care of yourself. And know that I love you – for all eternity.
Just seeing those words, the black ink standing out in sharp contrast against the expensive white paper, had almost crippled me with sobs of longing. I’d nearly hopped on the next plane to Seattle where my mother and father had been living for the past two years in an elegant house not far from where Carlisle, Esme, Alice, and Jasper currently resided.
I remembered with a pang of longing that quaint stone cottage outside Forks where my rapid childhood had flown by. My family hadn’t wanted to leave, but they’d had no choice in the end. As vampires who never age, they were forced to pack up and move on every few years, lest people start suspecting their true nature, and even before I’d been born the Cullens had already been in Forks for several years.
Since my mom hadn’t wanted to be too far from her human father, Charlie, and from me, who’d decided to move to La Push to be with Jacob, they had all decided to relocate to nearby Seattle. There the urban population would allow them to blend in more easily, and perhaps allow them to stay for a little longer than usual.
The only members of my vampire family who hadn’t gone with them were Emmett and Rosalie. They’d chosen to live on their own for a while as a married couple, as they do every other decade or so. According to my mom, my adopted aunt and uncle were currently living in upstate New York.
In one of the more recent letters my mom had sent she’d told me that Billy, Jacob’s dad, hadn’t been doing so well lately. I felt a twinge of guilt, imagining Charlie, Sue – Charlie’s wife of several years now, and Jacob caring for the ailing Billy. I really should go visit, and very soon.
At the thought of Jacob I was shaken slightly, suddenly realizing that my cigarette had burned down to the butt. I smashed it out in the overflowing ash tray in the center of the plastic table, waving away Chelsa’s offer of another.
“No, thanks, I think I’m about ready to shower and settle in with my mom’s book,” I said, standing up and stretching as I picked up my still-full glass of wine.
“All right, have fun – just don’t use up all the hot water!” she called as I stepped back through the screen door, crossed the living room, and entered my bedroom. Even though Chelsa technically owned the apartment, she’d very generously given me the master bedroom in order to accommodate all my books which littered my room – stacked on the dresser and nightstand, crammed in my bookshelf, and in several boxes taking up quite a bit of space on the floor.
I navigated the boxes easily, settling for the one that had come in the mail yesterday evening. Carefully sifting through the contents, I found what I was searching for: A picture taken shortly before I’d moved to La Push of the three of us. Me, my mom, and my dad. I wondered what this picture would like to outsiders. A picture of siblings, perhaps – three beautiful, pale-skinned young adults.
It was an undeniably disconcerting thing indeed, having to introduce your parents to your friends as your younger brother and sister. My mother was physically developed to nineteen and my father to seventeen. Me, I was closer to twenty, frozen still in time and eternally unchanging, just as surely as they were.
It was just another reason I’d had to leave. As much as I loved them, it had been difficult pretending to the outside world that my parents were my siblings, but what else could we have told them? As much as I looked like both of them – my father especially – no human would’ve believed the truth.
I sighed, moving to prop the picture against my bedside lamp, next to the framed one of me and Jacob. My eyes stopping on this second picture, I picked it up with trembling hands. Jacob and I looked so happy – we were so happy. This had been taken about two years ago, shortly after I’d reached full physical maturity. After that our relationship had quickly progressed from an uncle-niece sort of bond to something decidedly more. It should’ve been weird; awkward. But it hadn’t been. It had felt so natural, being with Jacob; so right.
At least, at first.
After the first several months I had begun to think about things – to really look past our blissful tranquility to ponder the foundations of our relationship. I’d known, of course, from an early age that Jacob had ‘imprinted’ on me. I don’t think, however, that I’d truly understood the exact implications of this. Either that or I simply hadn’t wanted to face it. We were just so happy that I hadn’t wanted to consider the fact that he hadn’t actually chosen me; that his attachment to me was something that he couldn’t avoid had he wanted to – and he had wanted to avoid it, as a matter of fact.
If it had been up to Jacob Black I would’ve died in my mother’s womb. If he hadn’t involuntarily imprinted on me shortly after my birth he most likely would’ve killed me. He’d thought of me as nothing more than a monster, an abomination, draining the life from my mother’s weak, human body.
And the scary thing – the thing that bothered me more than anything – was that he’d been right. I was a monster – an unnatural creature. If it hadn’t been for my father’s venom injected into her heart in the last possible minute I would’ve murdered my mother, the person I loved more than anyone, by tearing my way out of her womb with my teeth.
I shuddered, setting the picture back on the nightstand.
I couldn’t look at it anymore. Remembering the happiness Jacob and I had shared for such a brief time and my grief at the revelations I’d abruptly come to almost a year into our relationship was more than I could bear.
The even more painful truth was that Jacob wasn’t the only one who would’ve had me aborted. My entire family – aside from my mother and Rosalie – had thought of me the same way as Jacob had, up until my birth anyway. Well, that’s not entirely true – my father had come around before my birth, when he’d begun to pick up on my thoughts from inside his human wife’s womb.
Of course, my family had tried to conceal these ugly truths from me, but it had all come out one morning when Leah had shown up at the small beachfront house that Jacob and I had rented when my family had moved to Seattle…
Shoving these uncomfortable thoughts aside, I dug through my dresser for a clean t-shirt. Showering and dressing quickly, I settled into bed with my mother’s book, my still-wet curls tied loosely at the base of my neck and glass of wine close at hand.
Despite my best efforts, I found it difficult to concentrate on the text, the words blurring together in incomprehensible ramblings. I rubbed the bridge of my nose, rereading a paragraph for the third time without comprehending a word of it.
I kept thinking about the surfing competition. I kept seeing the distant shape of the copper-skinned man on the far-off shore just before I’d wiped out, and afterward when I was sure I had caught his scent on the wind.
Sometime around eleven I heard James and his rowdy group of friends enter the apartment. Anthony made his disappointment known rather loudly that I wasn’t attending tonight’s drunken festivities.
After a few minutes of incomprehensible noise Chelsa was yelling her goodbyes toward my room. I could hear the clamor of their retreat fade gradually until there was nothing except the obscenely loud ticking of my watch on the nightstand.
I found my blurry eyes once more resting on the pictures there, placed so lovingly next to the lamp. My momma. My daddy. Jacob.
I don’t remember much after that. The next thing I knew I was drifting, images of monstrous children tearing forth viciously from their mothers’ frail abdomens preying on my dreams…
I was tumbling in the ocean, kicking, trying to right myself as I was pummeled, over and over again…
The taste of Jacob’s lips against mine assailed my senses, his hard, hot body pressing against me as he laughed… his strong scent, distinctive and decidedly male, overpowering all rational thought…
I woke abruptly, Jacob’s strong scent following me from my dream. I sat up, dazed, his scent lingering in the room despite the fact that I was quite clearly awake. The harshly red numbers on my alarm clock told me that it was just after two o’clock.
Almost immediately I noticed that my lamp was turned off, despite the fact that I clearly remembered that it’d still been on when I’d fallen asleep. This, more than anything, was what alerted my heightened senses to a potential danger.
All this I registered in a matter of seconds.
I was instantly out of bed, habitually forming a defensive stance as my preternatural eyes scanned the darkened corners of my bedroom. Immediately I saw the large form hovering in the doorway to my private bathroom, the unmistakable source of the familiar scent.