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You Can't Run From Fate

Summary:
Made by JokesOnJane
(Banner made by JokesOnJane) What if there were no vampires? What would the shapeshifters exist to protect, and from whom? Their people, of course, from the enemy clan. Together, Jacob and Araea (OC) unravel secrets about their heritage that had previously been overlooked by the elders. The war is on between the Quileutes and the Makahs for the most powerful breed of shapeshifting-wolves. WARNING: I am reserving the right to break canon a bit, and to tweak around with ages and such - what you have read in the books about a character and their age, may not be the same in my fic, just for the sake of continuity, but I try to keep it all realistic. I use twilightsaga.wikia.com to help me with this. UPDATE (May 5th 2010): I pretty much went AWOL on this story, and if ANYONE out there really liked it enough to be saddened by this, I sincerely apologize. Being a senior in high school truly sucks, and I was constantly far too stressed out to think much about this story. However, I'm nearing the end of my high school education, summer is rolling around, and I've been plagued with the urge to WRITE. Unfortunately, about 3 months ago, my computer crashed, taking with it ALLLL the planning documents I had typed out, my plots, my twists, my details, EVERYTHING...so I will have to work on re-formulating those things before I can bang out chapters. ;/ It will happen though...I love this story too much to just let it die off and never see completion.


Notes:
This story came from a wild idea I had, that just escalated and escalated until I couldn't contain it any longer, and I had to write it. I try to stay as close to the book as possible, but some things have changed. It does feature an original character, but to reveal anything else about her would be a spoiler.


3. Chapter 3: Where Did The Time Go?

Rating 5/5   Word Count 6156   Review this Chapter

I grimaced, not liking the fact that she still was not going to tell me the entire truth, but I didn't want to argue any further - my body was beginning to feel the uncomfortable, prickling sensation one gets from moving from hot to cold or cold to hot very quickly.

Analli stared at her hands that she had clasped in her lap for a few seconds before speaking.

"This is my twin brother, and your uncle, Asis. He only ever saw you once before, but you were a newborn baby then. Your grandparents, and Asis, they stayed with me throughout the time I was in labor, and helped me through the birthing process. But the very next day, they had...urgent reasons, forcing them to leave. The day after you were born, the three of them left to come and live here. I stayed behind because I...was tied to our home on the reservation, and could not leave without feeling physical and emotional pain. And so I and your aunt Aylen stayed, because we did not want to leave our home or our families. I was just 18 then...I was still really young, too young to have had a baby. That is probably the main reason Aylen stayed behind. She was such a huge help to me in that most difficult time. I would have been a horrible mother if I did not have her guidance. But after a year or so, it became easier to raise a child, and I considered leaving to follow Asis. A year after your birth, he had written me a letter, and told me where I could find them if I ever wanted to leave, and also to tell me that...that our parents were dying. That alone made me want to join them, but again...I just couldn't..."

At this point, my mother pressed the palms of her hands to her eyes and shook with sobs. Asis put a comforting arm around her, and looked at me as if he were encouraging me to ask any questions, of which I had plenty.

"Um...Asis...what was it that made you and your parents leave? What was so urgent that called you here?" My voice shook a bit with fright.

Finally, his expression changed, to one of skepticism. He looked at his sister, still crying, and sighed softly. "Basically, Araea...it wasn't safe for us there. And before you judge us," he said, for the look on my face showed that I was less than pleased with that answer, "it wasn't entirely our decision to go. Analli actually urged us to leave, and so did Aylen. We weren't leaving them to save ourselves, we had the freedom to leave, but your mother and Aylen...they didn't have that same freedom."

I studied his face for a few seconds before asking my next question.

"You speak about their 'freedom' and such, as if they were slaves to their home, and couldn't leave. And my mother says she couldn't, without feeling pain? What does that mean? I don't understand..."

Again, Asis looked at my mother, as if wanting her help to answer the question. She had finally calmed down a bit, and was rubbing tears from her eyes. They exchanged a look, and he spoke.

"It's something difficult to explain, Araea. It is one of the things, that you will fully know in due time. But right now, all I can say is that, your mother and Aylen had something...or someone...that tied them to the reservation. Your grandparents, and I, we didn't have anything of the sort, something that bound us to our home. And so, we left, to escape the danger."

"What danger?" I blurted. I couldn't control my voice; I was beginning to feel agitated all over again. I wanted to know everything, right then and there.

This time, my mother answered. "Araea, I can't explain-"

"Why not?!" I shouted, standing up. "In light of what happened, mother, I think I have every right to know the full story!" I felt like my body was trembling with my anger. I wasn't sure if I looked truly alarming or if the shocked looks on their faces were because my outburst simply caught them off guard, but the two adults looked very taken aback at my reaction. My mother got off of the couch and put her hands on my shoulders. "Araea, breathe, calm down, please...you're shaking, you're getting carried away with your anger..." Her hazel eyes flickered with gold from the fire place behind me. I noticed that I was breathing heavily, and my hands were balled into fists. I tried to control my lungs, to contract and expand them at an even pace, and eventually, I felt the strange wave of intense anger disperse. I collapsed back onto the ground.

"Good girl..." Analli murmured affectionately, and sat back down on the couch.

I noticed the look of pure fear that my mother exchanged with Asis, but did not think too much of it in the moment. I stared at her intensely, wanting her to go on.

After she ran a slightly shaking hand through her jet black hair, she continued. "For the sake of informing you at least a bit, my family was in danger because there were some people...another family, if you will...actually, they didn't live on the reservation, but they knew who the Summers family was, and they...they were intimidated by our family, they felt that we were too powerful..." The look on her face was showing signs of being under extreme pressure, trying to word things the right way. I too, looked a bit frustrated, because what she was saying only made me want to ask more questions, that I knew the answers to would be denied of me. I literally bit my tongue, and tried to control myself.

"Basically, my parents and Asis had to get away while they could. Our family had always been great friends with the Blacks, and Billy's father, Ephraim, practically governed the whole community. He was a very influential figure, and he assured that he would be able to make a...a treaty, with the other family that threatened mine, but that the treaty could only ensure the safety of myself and Aylen, because we had children, we had ties to the reservation. He could not ensure the safety of my parents and Asis. They would have been open range to the rival family's attacks..." She visibly shuddered at the thought that crossed her mind. I pouted; understanding half of the story was probably more annoying than not knowing at all.

"But...but once Ephraim passed away...I think, Araea, you were just 2 years old, too young to remember...we were very nearly in danger, just as my family had been. But thankfully, Billy Black, Jacob's father...he stepped up and assumed the position his father had held, and renegotiated the terms in the treaty that would have been nullified with Ephraim's death...it was only ever out of respect, and fear, of Ephraim that the family didn't do anything to harm us."

She inhaled and exhaled deeply. "The years went by. And when you were 5, you remember, I'm sure, that I became pregnant with Andrew, but...his father...well, you know," she said weakly, and appearing to lose some of the color in her russet complexion as she struggled to continue speaking. "Around that time, I had gotten a letter from Asis, which told me that my parents had passed away...they had begun feeling sick once they had settled down here, in this house. Slowly but surely, their health declined until they died."

Analli grabbed her brother's hands in hers, and he stroked her knuckles with his thumb soothingly. "We had them cremated, and kept them in those vases up on the fireplace," Asis whispered solemnly, nodding in the direction of the objects. I turned around slightly to see them - two almost identical, ornate vases, except one was white and the other was black - sitting atop the fireplace. Next to the white, was a photo of the grandmother I never knew, and next to the black, was one of my grandfather. Most unusually, I felt my eyes begin to tickle with warmth. I had never cried over the father that I never had, so why was I crying over the grandparents I never had? I supposed it was because I had never seen a picture of my father before; never had an image to go off of, to cause me to really, truly, think about him. My own reflection in the mirror didn't count - I looked too much like my mother to even consider trying to find the features I had never seen of my father in my face. Even from the floor, I could see that my grandfather had those wrinkles in the corner of his eye that his twins, and even I, had. And my grandmother looked like she gave my mother and I her button nose...

"What were their names?" I croaked, still gazing at the photos and wiping away the last of my tears.

"Ayasha and Ashkii. Surely, you can see the name trend in our family?" Asis mused, his voice adopting a much lighter tone. I couldn't help but smile. "Yes...I do. We all have beautiful, A-lettered names. I like it," I turned around, and smiled at the two adults, who returned the gesture.

"So...you have no idea what they died of, Asis?" I asked, frowning.

Again, he exchanged a look with Analli before speaking. "I have an idea. But there is no way of knowing if it is true or not. They were not quite so old, when they passed. They were only 50. But they lived a difficult live, in the earlier years of their marriage. Who's to know exactly how much of a toll it took on their health."

I held a short moment of silence for my grandparents before speaking again. "Mother...I am grateful you are telling me all of this. But..." I hesitated, grimacing. "How...how does this have anything to do with Andrew's death? With the giant wolves? With us being here?" It was with great effort that I forced myself to ask these questions. To think about the incident made the raw nerves in my heart throb with pain - to speak of it aloud only intensified the agony.

Analli's eyes glittered with fresh tears. "It...It is all connected, somehow, Araea. That's all I can say to you right now. Just trust me...that if we had stayed, we would have been in danger...I needed to get you away from there."

I clenched my throat, due to an odd combination of wanting to burst into tears and wanting to scream and rage at my mother. Where were these intense bouts of anger coming from? I was never this much of a hot-head. I assumed it was all because of the stress and tragic events that had occurred one after another, much like a domino-effect.

I nodded once, to let my mother know that I acknowledged and accepted her answer...for now. I stood up, still wrapped up in the blanket. "I'd like to sleep now, if that's alright."

"Absolutely," Asis smiled. "Your room is down the hall, first door on the left."

I murmured a quick thank you, and went in. I had no intention of sleeping yet, however.

I was immensely grateful that the walls were not so thick, and allowed me to hear the proceedings in the room on the other side of it. Still, they were speaking in such hushed whispers, I practically had to merge my ear into the wall itself to hear anything at all.

"You noticed, didn't you?" My mother's voice.
"Yes...I don't understand. She's too young. She couldn't possibly turn now." Asis's soothing baritone.
"This is just the reason why I took her away. It can't happen to her, Asis. I won't let it." Asis hushed her sobs before they could take control of her.
"I can't say if that is possible or not. We shall see, within time. But Analli, you know what must be done, if the signs unmistakably show that it is inevitable, right?"
My mother sniffled once, twice, before responding.
"Yes. I know."

vVv

Asis went to work, rearranging his home to better suit the presence of his two guests, that very same day. The log cabin-home was apparently much larger than it appeared at first glance. They had another bedroom, which had become a storage room of sorts, of Jamika's toys that she had outgrown. Once everything in the room was readjusted in more orderly manner, Asis pulled an old military cot from the garage in the back, and gave it to my mother, along with profuse apologies that it was all he could offer her. She, of course, dismissed his apologies, and stated that it was enough for her to simply have him allow her to have his roof over our heads. Still, it broke my heart to see my mother have to lie upon the stiff cot every night, to fall asleep. I offered to share Jamika's bed with her - I didn't care if it was miniscule in width, I would make room for her - but Analli simply refused. She said she "truly didn't mind her arrangements," and eventually I gave up, and had to believe her.

It turned out that we weren't exactly in the heart of Nahma - the actual town was further south, closer to the shore, which, unsurprisingly, wasn't very habitable, seeing as the town was too far up north, and was rarely ever warm enough to enjoy a day in the sand. We were located in the outskirts, the farmland. Asis was actually employed on a plantation to the north. Asis took us to the town the very next day after our arrival in his beat up and ancient white truck, and showed us around after he dropped off Jamika at school, and Karla at her job at the thrift store. Nahma felt even smaller than the reservation, and it had only one of everything - one school, one gas station, one grocery store, one library, one post office, one police station, and one thrift store, every single one of them tiny and quaint.

While school had ended for me back on the reservation, the children in Nahma still had one more week to go when we showed up. I was glad that I didn't have to deal with that aspect of life for a few more months, but at the same time I began to feel more and more restless in the house, not really having anything to do. My mother had packed a few books, but I had read them all many times, and the log cabin house apparently did not have electricity, and therefore, no television whatsoever. I was just relieved that it did, indeed, have plumbing, meaning I did not have to do my business in a stinky outhouse.

The adults all spoke in secret a lot, either in the front or backyard, leaving Jamika to color in coloring books or with various other forms of entertainment in the living room while I watched over her. I was always vibrantly aware that it was about me, as well, because upon returning from their sessions, one of the three would not be able to betray a look of guilt. I never said anything about my suspicions, and learned to toss away any questions I wanted to ask of anyone.

Once the school year came around, I felt a bit more sane, now having a routine to follow. I went to school, came home, did my homework, ate, showered, and slept, every day. I fell into the sequence with great ease.

But life in Nahma could never be the same as it was on the reservation, and I was most certainly not the same person. I became a sort of recluse. I made no attempts to befriend anyone in school, and they returned the gesture. I only strayed from Jamika's room when necessary, I didn't speak unless spoken to, and when I did, it was never more than a few sentences. And I had terribly vivid nightmares, every single night that were always variations of the same things - Andrew's death, and having to leave Jacob behind.

After one particularly ghastly nightmare in which an undead Andrew arose from his grave, blaming me for his death, I had woken up to find that I was sweating, screaming, and crying. My mother, who was normally a very heavy sleeper, had her hands clamped onto my wrists, restraining me. "Araea, calm down, it was just a nightmare, it's okay," she whispered, consoling me. I cried silently for a few more minutes before she asked me if I wanted to talk about it. I sat up in bed, and stared at her - the light from the moon outside the window was the only source of light that we had.

"Mom..." I began, unsure of how to proceed, "...you...you don't...blame...me, for Andrew's death, do you?" I asked meekly, staring at my hands that were knotting themselves together in my lap. I heard my mother's sharp intake of breath. "Oh...oh sweetie," she exhaled, and threw her arms around me. "Of course I don't. I never could, Araea. How could anyone make an accusation like that? There was absolutely nothing you could have done to save him. It was...it was a tragic accident, sweetheart. That's all." After a few more consoling gestures, she left me to fall back asleep, and the weight that had settled upon my shoulders seemed to have lifted just a bit. My mother didn't hold it against me, but I still had a long way to go before I learned not to hold Andrew's death against my own self.

I still had not forgotten about the strange event that took place between Jake and I, when we heard each other's thoughts. Several times, the idea that I should ask Asis crossed my mind, but I knew he would be just as helpful as my mother was when she gave me "half of the story" on our first day, which was not a whole lot. I even tried visiting the school library and town library in search of anything that might help me understand it better, but I might as well have searched through the dirt for all the answers I found in these endeavors.

I did not hesitate to attempt to make contact with Jacob. In the home, during the summer, I had no means of doing so, but at school I did.

For a month straight, I went into the main office after school, and lied to the secretary about needing to use the phone to call my mother. I was actually calling Jacob, but every single time I called, I was disheartened that it wasn't Jacob's cheerful voice that greeted me, but rather, a loud, blaring busy signal. It wasn't until one day my mother entered the office just as I had finished dialing Jake's number, was my cover blown for the whole charade. Needless to say, the secretary didn't trust me very much after that, and my mother hadn't even waited for us to get home before she was getting angry with me.

"If you think I'm stupid, you're sorely mistaken, young lady! Don't you think for a second that I don't know who you were trying to contact back there! How many times do I have to tell you, it's better off this way! Leave the reservation behind, and everyone there, because you are NOT going back!"

The grip she had on my upper arm left a slight bruise that didn't fade for a week. But of course, I hadn't given up hope.

I took to the only other option I had - letters.

But even that plan was pulled out from underneath me. The post office wouldn't accept the letter if it wasn't stamped and in an envelope, and I had neither at my access at home. The most wild solution, to steal some from school, did indeed present itself in my desperation to contact Jacob, but I was too much of a chicken to actually go through with it. And it was with an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness that I tore my 5 page letter, back and front, into many pieces, and dumped them into a trash can outside of the post office, tears stinging my face as they met the cold air.

vVv

I watched time take it's toll on everyone in the house, but the passing time always felt as if it weren't coordinating with the speed it should have passed in; it always felt either too fast, or too slow...but mainly too fast.

I felt that I had barely blinked my eyes and suddenly, I was 17, waiting to turn 18. I had an amazing growth spurt within a short amount of time; I now stood at 5 feet 11 inches, towering right next to my mother. It made me highly self conscious, especially at school, where the other teenagers stared like I was a freak of nature. It didn't help that my mother looked at me with the same emotion in her eyes, that she was disgusted with me, and sometimes, even afraid. Asis's eyes read more along the lines of certainty, and morbidity. It was the kind of look I imagined one would have as they gazed upon someone on their deathbed, whose demise had already been mapped out, and accepted, and they were simply just waiting for the moment in which their life would be over.

But time did not affect myself nearly as gravely than it had my mother.

I watched, year after year, as her health visibly decreased.

Every year, I ignorantly denied the undeniable truth, because I didn't, no, couldn't, believe...

Every year, something different added, until she was so sick, she appeared decades older than 36.

At first her back went out, and she couldn't be as active as she once was. Next, her hair started to thin and fall out, forcing her to comb her hair over to cover a balding spot at the top of her head. Then, she developed a horrible cough, to the point where she wheezed frequently when breathing, and the act appeared to cause a great strain for her. And what infuriated me the most, was that she downright refused to see a doctor about her increasingly faltering condition. She always smiled and told me that it would pass, but I watched as year after year, it got worse.

It was when she was confined to her bed - Jamika's bed, which I had given up for her to use - because she couldn't move without feeling pain, that it hit me like a ton of bricks.

My mother was dying.

The last of my immediate family, was going to leave me alone in the world.

I had graduated by then, and devoted all of my time to taking care of my mother. I constantly begged her to see a doctor, and she always refused. Eventually, I got so sick of hearing her dismiss her condition as if it was nothing, and I lost my temper.

"WHY WON'T YOU GO? WHY WON'T YOU DO ANYTHING TO HELP YOURSELF? LOOK AT YOU!" I screamed, tears running down my face. I threw the bowl of soup against the door that I had been feeding her from; it shattered, the contents smeared all over the wall, and I collapsed to my knees. I felt my body shaking and quivering with my anger, but it was slightly overpowered by my grief. Unexpectedly, I felt my mother's hand on my shoulder, and I turned to see that she had managed to pull herself from her sitting position on the bed, to sit on the edge of the bed. At that moment, the door opened, and Asis and Karla stood in the open doorway, watching the two of us.

"Araea," my mother wheezed, gently rubbing my shoulder. "Calm down, please. Breathe..." I obeyed her instantly, and pulled my anger in, so I was no longer convulsing because of it. "Now turn and look at me."

When I did, I saw that she too was crying gently, her lips slightly quivering. "There's nothing that anyone can do, Araea. Not even if we got inside a time machine and went back 4 years, could anything have been done to prevent this. It was bound to happen, and now, it is far too late to turn back."

I sobbed even harder, and turned my gaze away from her to press my palms into my eyes, relishing the tiny pinpricks of pain that it caused as I pushed my eyeballs into their sockets; I was maddened with my grief.

"But why?" I choked and spluttered, gasping for air. "Why, why? You're too young, this shouldn't be happening yet, you should be here for me for 40 more years at least!" I threw myself at her, at the same time making sure not to disrupt her frail condition, and wept into her lap. She stroked my hair and held one of my hands in hers.

"Why? Because I was foolish. Because I thought I could defy my destiny...run from fate. You must believe me, Araea, when I say that dug my own grave. The choices I made lead me to where I am now, and how I am now."

I felt like I couldn't breathe, and yet, I couldn't keep the tears at bay long enough to get a sufficient amount of air into my lungs.

"Araea, look at me." Her hands gently eased my head up and held it in front of her. She stroked my cheek, wiping tears away, and brushed a my hair behind my ears. "I love you so much, daughter. I am only sorry that I never said that enough to you. I am sorry for any torment, and anguish, that I may have caused you over the years. But you are going to be fine without me. You are a strong, independent person. You will make it on your own. I can feel now, that I don't have much time left...maybe about a week or so. I want you, to do everything that I tell you to do, no questions asked. Agreed?"

I nodded, unable to speak. She kissed my forehead, and stared into my eyes once more. "I need you to go into town, and find a phone to use. Contact your aunt Aylen, and tell her that she is to await your call from the Marquette Airport, because you are coming back home in a few days. When you call her from Marquette, she is to leave to Seattle to pick you up from the airport and take you back home. When you get there, you are to go straight to Billy Black, and he will tell you everything...no gaps, no half truths, but every single thing...now is the time for you to know it all. You are going to leave me here, with Asis. I will die here, and I will be laid to rest here, but I will always be with you in spirit, watching over you." Her voice began to break, as she finally let loose the tears she was holding back. We both erupted into tears together, clinging onto one another. "I love you, mom," I whispered, my tears dropping onto her shoulder. "Thank you, for everything." She pulled out of my embrace and kissed my forehead again, and lay back down onto the bed. I still held one of her hands in mine as I pulled her covers over her.

"Go now, Araea. Contact Aylen. You need to leave as soon as possible."

I planted a kiss on her cheek, before sprinting out of the room and grabbing the keys from Asis as he stood beside the door.

vVv

It felt strange to be here, in the same bus station outside of Nahma that I had arrived at 4 years ago, except now I was completely alone with my one luggage bag, and feeling as if I were falling down a bottomless pit; unable to regain control, simply spiraling downward in my misery that had no end in sight.

It felt like days had passed since I left my mother's bedside, but indeed, it had only been a couple of hours. Once I called Aylen, she agreed to meet me in Seattle when it was time, and I went immediately home to pack my meager belongings, and receive the money necessary for the bus and plane ticket. I couldn't bear to peek into my mother's deathbed one last time before leaving. I knew that if I did, I would never have the strength to turn away from her again.

I refused to cry in public, and so I tried to make myself as numb to the pain as humanly possible. The only ray of sunshine I had to make this possible, was the fact that I would finally be reunited with Jacob again. I closed my eyes and pictured his boyish features in my mind - his chin-length black hair, his kind smile, and the brilliance of his eyes as they sparkled with schemes and pranks. But of course, this was how I remembered Jake 4 years ago. I had no idea how he looked now, but I imagined he would still have many of the same distinguishing features.

"Now boarding trip to Marquette, gate C," rang a voice over the intercom, and I grabbed my single backpack and swung it over a shoulder, standing behind a woman and her daughter in the rapidly growing line. I refused to look at the mother and daughter in front of me, and stared fixedly at a spot over their heads, as I was tall enough to achieve this.

Once on the bus, I took out my sketch pad and a pencil from my bag. Drawing was a hobby I had picked up in Nahma, because it was one of the few things I could do to keep myself entertained. The bus moved, but not enough to muss up my drawing. I don't know exactly why I chose to draw him, but by the time the bus pulled into the garage in Marquette, Asis's kindhearted face was staring back at me from my sketch pad. I sighed, and put it away, ready for the next leg of my journey.

Again, it felt extremely odd to be going the opposite direction, by myself, that I did 4 years ago. It felt like I had gone full circle, and I was ready to close the gap by setting foot onto the reservation yet again.

I called Aylen as soon as I arrived at the airport, and I did not have to wait long for the flight to board. By the time it had departed, I was far too hyped up on the thought of seeing my hometown, and seeing Jacob, to feel even the least bit tired, which I should have felt, because I had been awake for nearly 36 hours.

Aylen greeted me at the main entrance of the airport with a somber expression. She embraced me tightly, and whispered "I'm so sorry" into my ear before kissing my cheek. I had no idea what to respond to that, so I simply kept quiet.

"Where is Camille?" I asked, as I sat myself in the passenger's seat.

"Oh, you're so out of touch with your roots, Araea," she chuckled, as she put the car into reverse, backed out of the parking space, and began driving. "Tell me, where do you think she is?" she asked, smiling at me.

"Hmm...well, last I remember, when I left, Camille had gone to Washington State with Rachel and Rebecca, to check out the campus...wait, so did she end up going there?" I asked, turning to stare at my aunt.

"Yes, she did! She's just finishing up her last year, actually! She and Rachel went there, but Rebecca, wow, she disappeared halfway across the world, practically. Rebecca ended up at the University of Hawaii! Last I heard from Billy Black is that she's married with two kids, I think. I must say, it kinda broke poor Billy's heart that she up and left and married, with no invitation to the rest of the family. But I know that as long as she's happy, so is he."

"Oh wow. That's great..." I rasped, feeling a horrible sinking feeling in my gut all of a sudden. It didn't take me long to realize that it came from the fact that I was speaking to a mother, my aunt, my mother's sister... Aylen was older than my mom, she was about 41 now, and yet she appeared to be as healthy as a horse. I turned to stare out the window, my face contorted with pain and rage. It wasn't fair...

"Hey..." Aylen said softly, and tentatively grabbed one of my hands in hers. I squeezed her hand softly. "I know you're going through a hard time right now. But you know, you are definitely not alone in it all. I never even got to see my parents before they died. It was hard for me too...I just want you to know, that you can talk to me. I can certainly empathize with your situation." I nodded once, still facing the window, and Aylen took her hand back.

It wasn't until we saw the sign which alerted us that Forks was a mere 3 miles away that Aylen spoke again.

"So, I know it happened so quickly and everything, but I managed to give word to Jacob that you were coming home, and I must say, he nearly lost his mind with excitement." There was no denying the absolute smug tone of her voice. I had to chuckle.

Aylen was always seriously embarrassing when it came to me and Jacob. She was always hinting that he and I would get married and have children, that we should be boyfriend and girlfriend, and the sort. Thankfully, Jacob was never freaked out by her comments, but rather thought that they were hilarious. They had the complete opposite effect on me.

"Aylen," I groaned lightly. "Please don't start with that again. Jacob is my best...friend. Case closed."

Aylen giggled. "Alright, Araea, but don't be surprised if that changes very, very soon. I'm 100% certain once he lays eyes on you, he's going to fall madly in love. Look at how beautiful you are! Not that you weren't before, but you're a woman now!"

I rolled my eyes and went "pfft," and stared out the windshield. But there was no stopping Aylen.

"And I'm sure you're going to want to drool when you see him too. That young man has grown!" she exclaimed. I turned to see her eyes pop with surprise. I laughed a bit more this time. "What do you mean?" I asked, trying to sound innocently curious, but Aylen detected the underlying emotion in it, and smirked.

"Well, let's just say he could probably bench press a cow with one finger. He's got huge muscles!" I snorted with genuine, true laughter, doubled over in the seat. It seemed immoral for me to be enjoying myself, but I couldn't help it - I'd realized that I hadn't genuinely laughed in years.

We continued to argue over my feelings for Jacob and his feelings for me all the way into Forks and through it, and it wasn't until we arrived into the reservation did we grow quiet. I felt like a kid staring through the window of a candy store, with my face and hands pressed against my window in amazement, staring wide eyed at the landscape I knew and loved, that had not changed a bit since I left. I felt a new kind of warmth inside me, not the dreadful "woe-is-me" kind that seemed to decay my insides.

This warmth was strengthening, comfortable, and welcoming.

I was home at last.