"Forget it Dad, it's not going to happen!"
"Ness, he's only trying to help. You and Jacob have nothing to hide; it's okay." What the hell? Was Leah actually defending him?
"No, Leah, it's not okay. It was never okay." She didn't say anything else. I knew she wouldn't because she agreed with me. No one liked what he used to do to us, and we all preferred it now that he couldn't, thanks to me.
It had been an eventful year. When I turned five the shit literally hit the fan. First, I developed at an alarmingly fast rate. It seemed one day I was a little girl, then suddenly, I had hips and boobs. Mom and Dad went all nutty when it happened and thought Jake was going to jump me or something. I think Leah would have literally bit their heads off if Jake hadn't stopped her.
The physical changes, as shocking as they were, weren't the most surprising. My special talents increased. I don't know why no one thought about it before. I mean, I was the product of most powerful shield we knew of and a mind-reader―there was no way my only power could be the ability to speak without talking. How lame would that have been? Of course the happy parents went on and on about synergy and how their love could only create something as perfect as me. Made me want to gag, to be honest.
At first it was subtle. I'd touch someone's face to "show" something, and then I'd answer a question they hadn't asked. Even I didn't notice it at first. We had all gotten used to communicating without talking. I was constantly "showing" everyone, Jake and Leah shared their thoughts, and Dad read everyone's minds. Then, the day came when Mom thought about something private while I was "showing" her. Of course it had to be her. She wasn't accustomed to hiding her thoughts. It was nice to finally see her get herself all in a knot for once. It wasn't fair how she and Dad were the only ones that had any privacy.
From that moment on, you could say the cat was officially out of the bag. I knew everything. I learned about what a bitch Mom had been to Jake, how they still loved each other, how much Jake gave up for everyone, and his imprint on me. I hated everything and closed myself off from everyone for a week. Leah tried to make me feel better, but there was only so much she could say about imprinting. It had fucked up her entire life and there she couldn't a positive spin on it. Jake tried to explain, but I wouldn't let him talk to me. I couldn't.
As the days passed, my ability got stronger. In a way, I was like Aro because I had to touch the person and was able extract all the information in a person's head. In another way, I was unique because I didn't get bombarded with every thought that person ever had. Their mind was a store to me, where I could choose and take what I wanted. The biggest difference was that the object of my curiosity felt me doing it. One day, Leah told me about what had happened with her, Sam and Emily. I got depressed, and she gave me permission to go into her head, so I would be able to understand better. I reached for her face and put my hand on her cheek. She winced and nearly crumpled. Later, she told me that it felt like I was sucking out a vital part of her being. She didn't say anything else, but I knew it also made her feel violated.
Reading thoughts wasn't all I had in me. Eventually, I came out of my sadness and decided I go on with life but remain pissed―mostly at my parents, of course. Set free from the confines of depression, I discovered more layers to my abilities. I was shield too, but way better than Mom. It was why Alice was never able to see me. My shield was so strong that it caused pain to anyone who tried to break through it. They were pretty sure that was why Alice used to get headaches when Mom was pregnant.
The other difference was that I didn't have to be very close to a person shield him. It's range was similar to Dad's mind-reading. This was my personal silver lining because it kept me, Jake, and Leah protected from Dad's snooping at all times. Now, we were the only ones with privacy. It was retribution.
That brought us to today, my sixth birthday. We were, all at the Cullen place, and I had just opened my gift from Jake. As usual, it was perfect. I squealed with delight, and I wanted to show Jake how much he meant to me. I wanted him to know I wasn't a little kid anymore, so I ran and jumped on him. Then, I wrapped my arms and legs around his body, my lips pressed onto his. Jake looked like he was about to have a heart attack, and Dad like an aneurysm in his forehead was about to burst. My parents proved their distrust of Jake when they reacted by accusing him of pretty much raping me. A nasty shouting match followed where Dad demanded I take my shield off Jake, so he could be reassured of his true intentions. I wasn't about to do that.
"You know Dad, everyone else has to trust what others tell them. Maybe you should try it too? We've all been assailed by you and still had to trust what you told us. No one owes you a peek into their head! You've been invading Jacob's thoughts for years, and I won't let you do it again. Ever!"
"If he has nothing to hide then there is no reason for you to shield him!"
"Yes there is! All you've ever done is hurt him. You and Mom!" Mom flinched and turned her face away from my accusing glare. "You've used all your stupid vampire spells, Jacob's private thoughts, and Mom's pathetic weaknesses to take what you wanted. When have the two of you ever not gotten your way? Well, I'm not going to be the one to give you anything. You don't deserve what you already have, never mind more!"
"Renesmee, I am still your father! There are boundaries!" When was he going to learn that that tactic didn't work for me?
"Yeah? Are you drawing a line, Edward?" He hated it when I called him that. "Go ahead, draw your damn line, so I can trample all over it!" I stomped to him, my face was an inch from his. I was almost five foot eleven and didn't have to do much looking up to be face to face with him. "I don't need you. I never needed you, and now I'm wondering if I even want you." He was hurt, but his face returned to its usual stone cold stare after barely a flicker of emotion passed.
I was pissed. He needed know what it had been like for the rest of us. Without warning, I slammed my hand onto his face and ripped his thoughts out of his head. It shocked him so much he reflexively reacted. He grabbed me by the wrist and jerked my hand away. It was a too rough and made my arm bend back behind me. I winced. Jake growled and was about to pounce on him, but Leah was fast enough to hold him back.
"Renesmee, I'm sorry. Please, forgive me. I didn't mean to…" It was too little, too late. I yanked my arm away and spat on my father. He stood like the stone statue he was, my saliva dripping down his cheek.
"Now you know how the rest of us felt when you invaded our thoughts. The only difference is I don't go around telling everyone what I saw!" I turned to Mom and gave her a look I hoped seared into her soul. "Not even the ones who should know." Everyone stared at them wondering what secret I had found out. They could have guessed. It's not like I was surprised. There was trouble in paradise. Dad felt he wasn't enough for Mom because she couldn't let go of her feelings for Jake. My Jake.
"I'm out of here, and I'm not coming back." I stomped out, grabbing Jake's hand as I passed him.
"Renesmee, please. You're angry right now, and we've said things we regret, but we're still family." Mom caught up to us and stood in front of me, pleading. "Please, Renesmee!"
"Get out of my way or you're going to have to fight us off. I mean it! Unlike the rest of you, I won't hold back because I don't give a shit anymore!" She was hurt, and for a minute I cared. But then I remembered she was the cause of everything bad in our lives and got over it.
"Renesmee…" Dad was appeared before us too now. and he grabbed my hand. My body stood, frigid and unyielding, like his opinions and judgements.
"Fuck off!" My parents stepped back in shock. I had sworn before. How could I not? I hung around Leah all the time, but this was the first time I said that directly to any of them. "I'd say 'fuck off and die' except you're already dead!" I stepped around the two vampires and made my way out of the house.
We drove to Jake and Leah's place in silence. Leah was up front while Jake sat in the back, comforting me. I cried the whole way there. They both knew I didn't want to talk. They also knew how I felt. The three of us were always synchronized.
Back home, I was an outcast. I was the only one who felt warmth or cold, the only one who ate and the only one who slept. Beyond the physical needs, there were also the more subtle differences. The eight of them were happy just to have each other and no one else. I wasn't. All I ever dreamed of was leaving and meeting new people. I had only been with them six years, but it was too long for me without change. The rest of them were happy to whittle away their days reading, playing the piano, fiddling with car engines, or shopping for clothes no one needed. I only felt hollow when I tried to occupy my time in that house of solitude. That's why I went to Jake and Leah's every opportunity I got. They were different. They were alive.
"I hate everything!" I shouted as I stomped into the house from the garage. I threw my shoes into the corner and slammed my purse down onto the floor. "When the fuck do I get to have a goddamn life!"
"Ness, calm down. We're out of there now. Breathe for Christ's sake!" Leah leaned into the fridge for something. She poked her head out and handed me a bottle of water. "Look, you're almost done growing. Probably by next year you can enrol in college, or get a job―whatever you want. You won't have to be cooped up anymore."
"I want to start now!" That's all I ever heard from anyone―later, next year, soon…it was never now. "I'm not changing as quickly anymore. I don't think I'm going to grow taller, and as long as I keep changing my hairstyle and make-up, no one's going to notice anything subtle."
"Look, we need to be safe. I think you're right, but who knows? What if you have another growth spurt? No one knows how tall is full grown for you." Leah sat down next to me. She was always there, next to me.
"Yeah, Ness." Jake walked in carrying a couple of bags Alice had shoved into Leah's hands on our way out. Probably the unopened gifts. "Who knows, maybe you'll be taller than me," he chuckled.
"Yeah, that's just what I need―to be even more freakish than I already am."
"You're not a freak, at least not compared to the company you keep." Leah stroked my hair and kissed the top of my head. It was soothing and warm. "I'd say you're about the most normal person you know, present company included." She reached for the bottle top I was fiddling with, stilling my hand with hers. "Come on, it's late. Why don't we call it a night?"
"I don't want to sleep right now." There was too much on my mind. Most of all, I hadn't gotten a chance to move forward with my plan. I was tired of being Jake's "little friend". I was meant to be more, and I wanted to be everything to him. Jacob deserved what my mother wouldn't give and I needed what she wouldn't accept from him.
"I'll go make up the bed in your room," Jacob said and started down the hallway. I grabbed his arm, stopping him. This was my opportunity. I was never one to hedge, and I wasn't going to start now.
"No," I stated firmly. Jacob raised an eyebrow questioningly. Leah looked over, too, and I was pretty sure she recognized the look on my face. She had known for some time where I wanted things to go. "I want to stay with you tonight, Jacob."
Leah raised her covered her ears with her hands. "Too much information, Ness! You guys work this out, I'm out of here!"
"Stay!" Jacob shouted at her, then he turned to me. "There's nothing to work out. No matter how you look, you're still six years old!"
"You know I'm not a six-year-old, Jake." Why did everyone insist on counting my age in human years. I didn't look, think, or speak like I child. If nothing else, my desires proved I was no six-year-old. I didn't take my eyes or hand off Jacob.
"Ooo-kay, like I was saying…I'm out of here." Leah turned towards the hallway, but before she moved, Jacob reached out and grabbed her arm.
"No. Stay." He was begging her. Leah knew Jacob as well as I did. He was afraid he'd give in to me. It made me sad, knowing that, but I was determined not to let anything stop me tonight.
"Look, Ness, don't do this. It's not the right time," Leah said to me. "Wait until you're not all worked up about the folks, and then the two of you can talk about…whatever." She waved her hands around to indicate me and Jake, as we battled each other with our eyes.
"There's nothing to talk about." A smug smile broke across my face. I spoke directly to Jacob, ignoring Leah's comments. "I know what I want, and I know you can't refuse me." As soon as the words left my lips, I knew it was the worst thing I could have said. Why didn't I have any impulse control?
Jake ripped his arm out of my hands. "Don't you ever say that again!" I nearly burst into tears but bit my lip and held them back. I refused to give in.
"Why shouldn't I? It's the only thing I have! You're all I have!"
"Nice to know I count," Leah added casually. She wasn't hurt by my comment. She was trying to lighten the mood, but no one felt like joking around. "Listen, I'm really going to leave now. I have no desire to be part of this." She got off the stool and walked out of the kitchen. As much as I loved her, I was glad she was gone. Jacob would have a harder time fighting me without her around.
"Ness, you know I'm not all you have. There's your family and Leah. Soon, you'll be out there in the world making friends, too." It was the same crap every single time. He knew what I meant, and yet he still persisted on pretending.
"Leah, I'll give you, but the rest of them are not on my side." I reached over and put the palm of my hand on his cheek. "You know what I mean when I say that you're all I have, Jake."
"They love you, too." Why couldn't he say it? Why couldn't he tell me he loved me, like that, the way I knew he had said it to her so many years ago?
"You know better than anyone that's not enough to be happy. You had family and friends…was it enough for you?"
He turned avoided my gaze, his face turned away.
"Leah wouldn't mind you bunking with her if you're badly off," he finally replied, ignoring my question.
"That's not what I need. You know what I need, Jacob."
"It's not right, Ness."
"It is for me. You just don't want me."
"You know that's not true."
"You don't want me the way you want her." He drew in a sharp breath. "You wish you didn't want me at all."
"Ness, I love you," he said, like I was his sister. "You know that." He squeezed both my hands, desperate to make me stop.
"Then prove it." Before he had a chance to react, I flung myself onto him on the barstool. Straddled on his lap, I felt him grow and harden against me. His heart pounded at an alarming rate as drops of sweat formed along his hairline. I brought my face to his and softly stroked his bottom lip with my tongue. I coaxed his mouth open, ever so slightly.
"Okay, Ness, that's enough!" It was Leah. She must have been eavesdropping. She unwrapped my legs and arms from around Jacob and pulled me down. "Listen, the kiss was one thing, but this is too much. Is this what you want? You want this to happen because you forced him into it?" To be honest, I wasn't sure. I wanted him to want it, but I wasn't sure it would ever happen on its own. I kept thinking if we took that leap, maybe it would be enough. Maybe that's what was needed for the imprinting to make him forget her.
Even after this set back, defeat was not an option. I was inches away from Jake, and I didn't care if Leah was here, or that I was making things difficult for him. Before either of them saw it coming, I reached and grabbed Jacob between the legs. "It doesn't feel like he's being forced into anything he doesn't want." My hand was immediately ripped away, but not by him. Leah held it up by the wrist.
"This is not the way to do things." I faced her, a fraction of an inch away. I felt tears well up in my eyes. Of course, I had to get that from my mother. Every single time I wanted to stand tough, the water works started.
"Leah, give her a break. I can handle it," Jacob whispered.
"Jake, be honest. You're not handling anything." Leah turned to me. "You know this isn't the time to do this. You don't go from holding hands to…this overnight." She waved her hands around indicating my hand and Jake's crotch.
"I get that your life's a little unconventional. Trust me when I tell you I know what that feels like!" I nodded, starting to feel a little embarrassed. "Whatever your beef is with the parental units, or the seclusion, or whatever…this is not the way to make it go away." Leah grabbed my chin and forced me to at her. "Do you understand?" I nodded, and tears welled up in my eyes again.
"Leah, please." Jacob grabbed her hand and now he was almost on the verge of crying himself. He couldn't stand to see me upset. Leah hated seeing him like this. She had once told me it wasn't who he was, but I had never known him as anyone else.
"Go; I'll meet you in my room." Leah jerked her head towards her room, and I reluctantly made my way down the hall. "Jake, it's okay. I've got this." I heard her say as I left. "I'll be nice," she added.
Jacob ended up going for a run. I knew it was as much to give us privacy as it was to blow off tension. Like the pathetic child that I was accused of being, I ended up crying myself to sleep in Leah's arms. I wish I could say it was the first time, but it wasn't, far from it.
The next morning, I woke up to hushed voices outside the bedroom.
"She's still sleeping, and I think we should let her. The kid had a rough night," I heard Leah say.
"Yes, of course. I can wait." Great, Mom was here. "Thank you, Leah, for taking care of her. Jacob told me you were a good friend to her."
"You're welcome, again. And I'm not just a 'friend'." That was an understatement. She was friend, mother, and sister to me. Everything they weren't.
"Yes, of course." Every time Mom talked to Leah, it was like a goddamn job interview or something―stiff and formal.
"You need to talk to her. I can't be her mother anymore, Bella."
"You were never her mother, Leah," Mom said, but it didn't sound like she was convinced.
"Oh yeah? Then how come I'm the one talking to her about sex, love, and imprinting?"
"You shouldn't be. She's only six, and it was very inappropriate of you to broach those topics with my daughter. Those decisions are not yours to make." Like she was ever going to talk to me about any of it.
"Don't get possessive and pompous with me. You know what she's like, and what she wants. Pull your head out of the sand and get with the program." I could almost hear Leah's eyes roll.
"Leah, come on." It was Jake. When he gave in to Mom like that―defending her when she didn't deserve it―it was difficult for me to imagine him the way Leah remembered, before me. He was Jacob Black, future leader of the Quileute Nation, alpha wolf, renegade, and rebel, but all I'd seen was a broken man. A man who was torn between the one he couldn't have and the one he couldn't leave.
"Oh, don't 'come on' me, Jacob Black! You know as well as I do something's got to give."
"Tell me what we need to do, Leah. There's nothing our family wouldn't do for Renesmee," Mom interjected.
"Oh yes there is." No shit Sherlock. Really, what Mom should have said―if she were honest―was, "There's only one or two things our family would be willing to do, none of which include you."
"She wants out," Leah stated matter-of-factly. "She wants a human life—an adult human life, with Jake, and without you." I had never said that last part to Leah, but she knew.
"You're only saying that to be hurtful," Mom replied unconvincingly. "She's rebellious—it's natural at this stage of development. If she weren't rebelling, she wouldn't be normal."
"Bells, are you kidding me?" I heard something slam when Jacob spoke. "There is nothing normal about Nessie or her life. What the hell? You guys aren't exactly the Brady Bunch!"
"Fine, but she would never leave us." Mom couldn't really believe that, could she? "We're her family, and we love her, just as she loves us."
"Yeah, you keep telling yourself that," I heard Leah mutter. "Oh, come on. Don't stand there and pretend you haven't noticed. She doesn't want to be anything like any of you!" Leah shouted. I guess they had forgotten about me supposedly sleeping in the other room. "Who do you think you're fooling? That girl knows more about what's going on than anyone else. She knows more than Edward now. Think about it, Bella. She's in love with Jake and she knows he's supposed to be hers, but he's not. He's still hung up on you, and you still can't let him go." Tears stung my eyes when I heard the truth said aloud. "You, me, Jake, Edward, and now Ness, we all know. Why you try to deny it is beyond me. It's a wasted effort."
"I love Edward."
"If only he were the only one you loved," Leah replied curtly. There was no answer. Well, at least Mom had stopped the pathetic denials.
"This is all my fault," Jacob's voice whispered.
"Shhh…it's not your fault, Jake. You had no control over what happened." Mom again. It wasn't supposed to be her job to comfort him, to touch him the way I knew she was touching him right now. "You've done everything you could. Like always, you've tried your best."
"No he hasn't. This is your fault too, Jake." Leah's accusations took me by surprise. They had never been directed at Jake before.
"How dare you, Leah Clearwater! What right do you have to point fingers!" I didn't like Mom talking to Leah like that, but I also didn't like Leah blaming Jake.
"Really? Stop wallowing in your own self-pity. This is the same fucking shit that happened years ago with you, Jake, and Eddie. The players have changed slightly, but it's the same. You remember how much you hated when Bella kept coming to you and wanting you even though she had chosen Edward?" I guess she was talking to Jake now. He didn't reply. "Well, you're Bella now. If you can't give Nessie what she needs, let her go. You're being an asshole keeping her around just because you can't be without her. That's what Bella did to you!"
That's when I knew. There was nothing for me here. I'd never be enough for Jake, the same way he was never enough for Mom. I quietly slipped out of the room and made my way into the kitchen. They didn't notice me until I spoke.
"Jacob, I want to read you." If I was going to do this, I had to be sure. I had never read him before, but it was the only way now.
"Why, Ness? If there's anything you want to know, you just have to ask." It wouldn't be enough. He'd never lie to me, but this was something he wouldn't be able to tell me. Not if the truth would hurt me—not if he wasn't sure what the truth was.
"I want to know how the imprint feels for you. Neither you nor Leah have been able to explain it properly. You've even said that 'there are no words for it'. I want to know if what you feel for me is the same love I feel for you because if I can't get that from you, Jacob, Leah's right, you have to let me go." It took all the strength I had to keep my eyes dry. It would take even more strength to leave once I saw what I knew would be in Jacob's head.
He turned away from me without answering. It didn't matter, no matter how much he fought, he couldn't refuse me. Instead, it was Mom who came and took my hand. She pulled on it, trying to lead me out of the house.
"Let go of me." I pulled my arm out of her grip and stood in front of Jacob. I wasn't going to avoid the unpleasant in the way she and Dad had. I couldn't live like that.
I cradled Jacob's face with both my hands and turned it to face my own. "Don't make me do it against your will, Jake." His eyes were glossy, as he slowly nodded. I extracted the thoughts I wanted making him flinch. I was taking something from Jake that should never have been mine.
A minute passed and I stopped when I heard a loud thump. Jacob was lying on the ground. He had been physically pushed down by me. My vision had blurred from tears, and my body shook.
"I'm sorry, Jake. I'm sorry I'm not enough for you," I whispered through weepy hiccups. I turned to walk away, but Jacob's hand closed around mine.
"Where're you going?" he asked.
"I'm leaving. There's nothing for me here, with you…if you can't be my life, Jake."
"Renesmee, no! You have so much—your family…"
"Don't!" I hissed between clenched teeth. "It's because of you my life's been ruined before it started. He was supposed to be mine but there's no one for me. It wasn't enough for you to break him, or that you already had Dad. You had to take the scraps of what was left for me, too!"
"Ness, it's not like that, please." Jacob spoke quietly, taking my face into his hands. "I can't live without you." He fell to his knees, grabbed my hands, and buried his face in them.
"Jake, I know everything, and you can live without me. It's her you can't live without. I'm releasing you." I withdrew my hands from Jacob's grasp and looked at the two of them. Jacob and Bella, Jake and Bells. All these years of misery and angst, and what did they have to show for it? There was one crumbling marriage, a relationship that could never happen, and four less than satisfied people. It put me in a rage. I pushed Jacob as hard as I could into my mother.
"Do something! Make something good from my misery! This shouldn't all be for nothing!"
They each took a step away from the other, uncomfortable with the close proximity. It was hard to imagine there was once a time when they couldn't stop touching each other.
"What's wrong with him now, Mom? Are you going to refuse him this time because he smells badly? He's good enough for me but not for you?"
"Renesmee…" She couldn't finish, and I didn't reply. I turned and left the house without looking back. No one followed me.
They would come for me. I didn't know if it would be hours, days or months, but someone would come looking. I would have to do everything I could to make sure I wasn't found. There was nothing for me here. I ran into the wilderness not knowing where my destination was, or what I would do once I got there. The only thing I knew was that I was finally free from the chains that had imprisoned me. I hoped it had freed Jacob, too.