We were sitting around the small dining room table of the cottage. How many times had I watched our friends gather around this table for birthdays or holidays, or any celebration that called together Jacob's pack? I thought back to occasions where Emily and Rebekah and I spent all day cooking and watching Emily's children play in the backyard, the three of them watching through the kitchen windows and talking about their newest milestones they completed, or about Rebekah's pregnancy cravings. This room was full of so many beautiful memories to me, and so much life and love. Today, it felt uneasy. I did not feel any of the lighthearted easiness that came with this room; the air was tense and I could feel myself becoming more nervous. Seth stood near the corner of the room, his large presence dwarfed the large, green plants on a stand next to him. Jacob sat almost across from her at the table, his back not quite to Seth, but not including him in this conversation.
I wasn't aware that I was zoning out of the conversation until I realized both men were staring at me, watching my expression like they were waiting for some sudden change.
"I'm sorry" I shook my head, "I don't understand".
Seth sighed, he had been more and more reserved with me as of late. Two days ago was my eighteenth birthday and he had taken me away for the weekend, we had driven up the coast of Washington, to the farthest point they could up by Neah Bay. We had found a little cabin to rent and spent the weekend in each other's arms. It had been beautiful, we went fishing and watched the waves on the beach, but he had been distant even then when it was the two of us. I remembered once on a tv show how men sometimes acted weird before they would propose, and was hopeful that was the reason for his demeanor, but I left the weekend with a sour pit in my stomach and a ringless finger.
I watched Seth begin to pace, and tilted my head slightly in confusion. Wasn't he the one who had wanted to have this conversation in the first place?
"Nessie." It was Jacob who spoke and I turned my attention to him. "You're my imprint".
I stared at him like he had just told me the world was ending. It did feel like my world was ending. "No, I'm not". I shook my head. The words were all registering in my head, but they didn't make any sense. "No, I'm not." I began again, "No, that's silly. Seth and I have been together for like two years. No, I remember the legends, you would have known for a while. You would have known when you first met me". The way that Jacob looked at me made me believes I was only arguing with myself. Was this a joke?
I looked from Seth to Jacob and back again, neither of them were laughing.
Seth was standing next to me now, squatting down next to my chair so he was eye level to where I was sitting. "Ness, it's true. It's all true." He didn't reach out to touch her, didn't move to fix my hair behind my ear like he was always had. The bags under his eyes were dark and heavy. This man that I loved, looked defeated. For as long as I could remember he had been quiet. He was haunted by the loss of his imprint over a decade ago, and he carried that grief with him even till now. There were times when I thought he was finally getting better, he would laugh and joke and be carefree for months, and suddenly he would regress back into this shell of a man.
I wanted to reach out and touch him but my hands felt so heavy. My body felt like it was filled with stones and I felt sick. I wanted to run.
"I have known, since I first met you." Jacob said, again from across the table. He was looking at me and then back at his hands. "That first time I saw you, it was like I felt anchored to you." He reached across the table for me, but my hands stayed where they were. "Nessie, I wanted to tell you for so long, but I promised your parents. I had to, it was the only way they would allow me to be a part of your life."
My palms were sweaty, if I wasn't always so cold maybe I would notice the cold sweaty feeling taking over me. I had to place my hands on my legs to try and fight through the wave of nausea. I started thinking back, all those moments that I would walk into the room and Emily and Sam would stop talking, or the looks that Seth and I got when they were around the pack. What was that look that I had never been able to place before, was it disgust or disappointment? I thought about the times at my parent's home when Jacob and I would be visiting and my father would suddenly snarl at Jacob, even though he hadn't said anything. Jacob would brush it off, but his father would be irritated, or more irritated than normal with him for the rest of the evening. In that moment, pieces started to click together.
Who all knew? Was my entire life a lie?
"Why?" I stumbled out of her chair and looked at Jacob "You kept this from me for eighteen years? You- you made me think we were best friends and for what? A lie?" I cut him off before he could finish his word, "And you-" I turned to Seth "You- you knew this, all this time you knew this and you let me think you were in love with me. You let me fall in love with you, knowing all this? For what? What do you gain from this?" I was searching for the door, unable to see through her suddenly watery eyes.
"Ness please, come back and listen to us both". Seth was off the floor now, walking towards me. "I promise we can both explain".
I shook my head, making some noise that might have sounded like a 'no'. I had found the door, still feeling uneasy on my feet and unsure of where I was going: I left. I wiped at my eyes to clear up my vision, and I was running through the woods. I was praying to any gods listening that the least they could do for her is to leave me alone, that no one would follow me until my head was clear- however long that may be.