"Are you okay? Stupid question," she continued without giving me time to answer, "I can see that you're not. You haven't been for a while." "Is is that obvious?" I sighed. "Yes," she answered, "to someone who's seen it before." Bella needed some help to come to the decision that she almost made in Ch 16 of New Moon. Help arrives at Newton's in the form of a strange girl with her own tragic story to tell...
This story takes place during Ch. 15 - Pressure, the night before Bella's cliff dive.
Rating 5/5 Word Count 2493 Review this Chapter
A pale oval face looked back at me, as pale as my own, framed by long black hair. Her tiny mouth was twisted with worry. Her wide, almost silvery eyes gazed into mine with concern and understanding; more understanding than I had ever seen when I was in this state. Usually I just got she must be crazy stares. What's more, both the concern and the understanding seemed absolutely genuine; she was not seeking morbid gossip, or spying on someone else's misery. Somehow those strange eyes said: I've been there.
"Oh, hi Siofra," I managed to choke out.
The concern shifted to annoyance.
"Okay, Bella, I know this isn't an appropriate time, but it's not sigh-oh-frah. It's she-uh-frah." She-uh-frah took a deep breath. "Sorry about that. It just riles me a little. Stupid unpronounceable Gaelic name..." she muttered.
"Oh," I replied. "That's really pretty." Siofra smiled shyly.
I found myself thinking back to the first time I had ever seen Siofra and her sister and brother. It was in the cafeteria on my first day at Forks High, and they had caught my attention immediately. They seemed so...odd. Of course, not long after, my attention was captured by another table, and never really left it.
At the time I just thought: "They're weird." The boy was tall, about six-four, and lanky, with shaggy light brown hair, blue eyes and a wide, infectious grin. The girls were similar in build - just a little taller than me, with extremely curvy figures.
But that's where their similarities ended. One had very short hair, with an unnatural purple tinge that somehow seemed very natural for her, and vivid green eyes. Her features were delicate, with high cheekbones and a narrow chin.
The other girl had raven-black hair that fell past her hips. She had an oval face, paler than the other two, with a tiny but full mouth. Her large eyes were a disconcertingly pale shade of grey that was almost silver, framed with very long black lashes.
Though not traditionally beautiful, somehow the trio's unusual features added up to make them immensely attractive. They dressed slightly oddly, never quite in fashion, but they looked completely comfortable in their own skins in a way that no other student in that cafeteria, including the ridiculously beautiful ones a few tables away, did. It was as though they were perfectly aware how strange they were, and didn't care, or even try to blend in. It made them...cool, and they had no lack of attention from students of the opposite sex.
I was too absorbed by the Cullens to wonder about their background that day, but I later found out that they lived with their mother, who was terminally ill. They had moved to Forks from Ireland because their mother had been born here, and wanted to live here for a while before she died.
Siofra, the one with the long dark hair, was the eldest, almost eighteen at the time, and she cared for the other two, Maeve (mayve) and Oisin (ush-een), and their mother. No one knew where their father was, but most suspected he was either dead or in prison. No real details, much to Jessica's disappointment, were available. Though friendlier and certainly less intimidating than the Cullens, the Clearys remained on the outskirts of society, only occasionally merging with the locals. No one had ever seen the mother.
It was Siofra who sat beside me now on the cold linoleum floor of Newton's, with one arm wrapped around me and a worried expression on her face.
"Are you okay? Stupid question," she continued without giving me time to answer. "I can see that you're not. You haven't been for a while."
I was a little shocked. Was my mental state so obvious that even people I barely knew could see it? I must be more pathetic than I thought.
"Is it that noticeable?" I sighed.
"Yes," she answered, "to someone who's seen it before."
I turned to face her.
"Seen it before?" I repeated the words back to her. "Where?" I blurted without thinking. I was turning into Jessica. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry."
"It's okay. I saw it in the mirror every day for a long time. Sometimes I still see it there. I empathise, Bella, so I'm not going to give you all the usual ‘You're better off without him' or ‘You're too good for him' crap, because I know it won't help. Any more than ‘He's in a better place' helped me."
I was stunned. I didn't know what to say. Suddenly my problems seemed insignificant. At least I knew that he was alive somewhere, and, hopefully, happy. Siofra's love was gone forever.
"I-I'm so sorry," I eventually stuttered. "I had no idea."
She smiled at me. "I don't have much reason to tell anyone," she said. She was playing with a little silver locket on her charm bracelet. It was teardrop-shaped, chased with black enamel. She caught my gaze.
"Would you like to see him?" she asked, a little shyly, I thought. I nodded.
She opened the locket to reveal a tiny photo of a tanned young man with the most beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen. He had a long, thin face, his dark hair was almost shoulder length, and slightly curly, and his mouth was curved into a very slight but very sexy smile. He was handsome in the same way that Siofra was beautiful - unusually and uniquely.
"His name was Matt. I loved him insanely," Siofra said, a hint of laughter in her voice as she looked at the picture. "He loved me too. We were really happy.
"Of course, it wasn't all sunshine and roses. He was a little self-absorbed. I have quite a few guy friends, and he didn't really like me spending time with them. He couldn't imagine any of them having something to offer that he couldn't give me.
"I'm no day at the beach either. I like my own space, I'm an insufferable know-it-all nerd, and, as you've probably noticed, I'm a bit weird."
I was a little startled by her frank confession of her weirdness.
"But somehow, we worked through our differences. When he got to know my friends, he could see they were no threat." She broke off, laughing at a memory. "Nathan and Luke are like brothers to me, and Sean and Joey are idiots. Lovable idiots, but idiots all the same.
"I got used to spending time with him instead of alone. He didn't seem to mind the weirdness, but the know-it-all nerdiness did irk him occasionally. When we were...together," a slight blush began to tinge Siofra's cheeks, "it was unbelievably perfect. It was like we were meant to be together. Even my family liked him, and that's saying something."
I thought of Maeve, Siofra's sister, and how fierce she could look. I pitied any boy she didn't approve of, and wondered if their mother was anything like her.
"It was a stupid fight." Siofra's voice had dropped to a whisper. "He was defending me, the idiot. He jumped in, and then..." She trailed off, shuddering. "He didn't even make it to the hospital. He died in my arms. If he'd just ignored him, he'd be alive. Sometimes I feel like it was my fault."
I didn't ask who he was; the venom in her voice as she spat the word had frightened me a little. She would tell me if she wanted me to know.
We sat in silence for a while, as what she had just told me sank in. I was not the only one with a tragic love story in Forks.
"Needless to say, I didn't cope very well. I stayed in bed for two months. I barely ate. Even when I left the bed I was more dead than alive. Finally, it all became too much. I'm ashamed of what I did, or almost did."
Siofra tugged her charm bracelet further up her arm to reveal a hideous scar across her left wrist. Though obviously long healed, it still looked angry, like it resented being closed.
"I thought of my sister and brother. What would they do without me? My friends, my family - how could I let them down by being so weak?" A tear escaped Siofra's thick lashes. "As I watched the blood running down my arm, I swear I heard his voice. Don't...they need you, much more than I do...Be happy...I grabbed my cell and called an ambulance. I've never regretted that. I'm glad I'm still here."
Siofra was absentmindedly tracing the scar with her finger.
"I wasn't quite able to obey the ‘be happy' thing, though," she continued, rolling her eyes and wiping her cheek. "That was just like him. But I tried; I got on with my life, and was as happy as I could be. I had my family and I had my friends. It only really hurt when I was alone. Sometimes it still hurts, so bad that I can hardly stand it."
Her eyes closed, as though she were in pain. My own pain was still there, but much less than it had been. Listening to her speak was helping, in a strange way.
"I had become very friendly with his best friend; we were there for each other a lot after Matt's death. I'm not sure when we realised that there was something more between us. I felt horribly guilty, like I was betraying Matt, and so did Ryan. But I remembered what I had heard: be happy. Of course, I could have been hallucinating what with the loss of blood and all, but the first time I kissed Ryan, it didn't feel like betrayal. It felt like love. Ryan knows as well as I do that I will never love him as much as I loved Matt, that I still cry at night with the pain. He doesn't care, or at least he doesn't show it. He loves me. And I love him. He helped put me together again."
Siofra was quiet again. She was now fidgeting with a tiny guitar-shaped charm on her bracelet. I wondered if it was a gift from Ryan, but I didn't want to pry. She had been kind enough to share her worst experience with me, even though we barely knew each other, and I was grateful. She had given me a lot to think about, but I was not ready for any of those kinds of decisions now.
"I don't know how relevant any of that was to you," Siofra said, a tired smile on her face. "In some ways, I think maybe what I went through was easier, in the long run. He's gone, and I know he's not coming back. I have closure, so I can move on." She paused. "I don't know what I would have done if Matt just left me, so I can't empathise with that part of what you're feeling. If you want to talk about it feel free. If you don't, I'm not going to pressure you."
"Thank you," I managed after taking a breath, "but I don't think I do want to talk about it now. Maybe some time, when I'm in a better place."
Siofra smiled. "I'll be here if and when you need me."
"Thanks," I replied, smiling my own broken smile back. I felt a strange sort of camaraderie with this odd girl, though I barely knew her. She had bared her soul to me to help salve, if not heal, my wounds.
"I can see how much he meant to you," she said, serious again. "I recognised all the signs. I can't believe that something like that could just end." Her expression shifted, becoming slightly angry. Her eyes bored into mine, almost like they were trying to impart a vital message.
"I just can't believe that he's that kind of person." She stopped suddenly, wide-eyed. "I'm sorry!" she gasped. "I didn't mean to open old wounds. I was just thinking aloud. Sorry!"
"It's okay," I said, after a minute. Her intensity had left me a little breathless. "I can't believe it either. I thought it was so perfect." Something she had said suddenly sank in.
"Wait, did you know him," I took a deep breath and forced the name out, "Edward?"
She shrugged, though I thought I saw a slightly guilty look flit across her face.
"As well as anyone outside the Cullen family knew him."
I thought about that for a second. Was she including me in that statement, saying that she knew him as well as I did? Maybe I was just being paranoid. I had never seen her or her siblings mixing with the Cullens. Surely he would have introduced me? I sighed internally. Of course it was paranoia.
"Well, I'd better get going. I only came in for a new pair of waterproof boots. Damn rain-soaked town. And I thought Ireland was bad!" She shook her head, rolling her eyes. I was grateful for the subject change, but I felt the need to say something.
"Thanks Siofra," I said, and I meant it. I was not ready to think over what she had said just yet, but I knew that her story would help me when I was in a better place, when the pain had become more manageable.
"Any time," she replied. She paid for her boots and left me to gather my thoughts and lock up.
I went straight home, ignoring Jake as he followed me on his bike, and tried to push what Siofra had said from my mind. I was not in that healthier place in my mind yet. I went to bed steeling myself for cliff-diving the next day, so that I could feed my addiction to the sound of his voice.
Sitting in the cab of my truck in Jake's warm arms after my most recent near-death experience, I thought about piecing my life back together, such as it was, the way Siofra had done with hers. I did not love Jake the way that he loved me, but I could try to make him happy. He would certainly do his best to make me happy. Just as I was trying to make up my mind, I heard the perfect illusion of a perfect voice.