By The moon
word count: 4k
Chapter 6: La Push
The shower finally soothes the tense muscles of my body, the water several degrees warmer than I would have previously run it in Phoenix. The cold seems to have seeped into my bones, holding my warmth hostage from me, and providing no exceptions. I’ve been in Forks a full three weeks now, and I have yet to develop any immunity to the temperature that continues to plague the town.
Angela is the only friend who sympathizes with me, Jessica and Mike bring me supposedly unnecessary mittens and scarves from their homes every morning to tease. They bring each new item, all knitted and cozy, with a laugh and eventually an incredulous look after I put them on.
“It’s cold,” I rationalize each time, my body slowly become a museum to their winter accessories. Each time they laugh with me, retrieving the goods at the end of the day and bringing me fresh ones the next morning. I know they bring me mittens and such as a joke because to them this weather is perhaps quite mild, but even with the extra accessories, my skin continues to run at a freezing temperature.
The shower, I have found, is the only way for me to cope with the weather. Every morning I take a blisteringly hot shower, my skin blotchy with pigments of pink and red after I get out. The warmth within me, granted from the showers, lasts barely long enough to travel to school. But from there I get hats and mittens and scarves and that helps, too.
I’ve clued Charlie in on my friend’s joke, and he offered me mittens of my own. I promptly declined, favouring instead the teasing of my new friends.
I step out of the shower, my skin nearly steaming with the heat, and wrap myself in a thick grey towel. My hair hangs loosely around my shoulders, the ends curling slightly upwards and in dire need of a trim. I wrap it over my head after applying a generous amount of leave-in conditioner, the sole remnants of Renee’s brief stint in cosmetology school.
The light streaming in through my window is bright as if promising a warmer day than last. I know this is false, that indeed the temperature will remain low for at least a little longer. It is March, after all. Charlie had guessed about another two to three weeks of the chilly air before it begins to raise for spring. I cannot wait for spring, and subsequently summer, because my already pale skin is likely to become transparent if I am unable to sit in the sun at least once in the next three months.
I dress in my staple jeans and long sleeve shirt, pulling a thick sweater overtop. If the last of my skin’s pigmentation doesn’t leave, the world's knowledge of my figure surely will. This past week has been characterized by baggy sweaters that reach down mid-thigh. The length and size shouldn’t surprise me, for I’ve been stealing them from Charlie’s closet.
The drive to school has become routine, as has the transition to using the handrails leading down the steps from the porch. The cold weather mixed with rain has caused the ground to be slick with moisture and the last thing I need is a concussion. The last thing Renee needs is a phone call from Forks hospital that her daughter has a head injury less than a month after moving in with her father. Besides, Phil is in heavy, albeit unhelpful, training right now and Renee cannot afford to leave him to come visit me in a hospital bed.
I locate Tyler Crowley’s minivan in the school parking lot, an aged shade of turquoise with an assortment of chains and figures hanging from the rear-view mirror, and pull my truck in next to it. This had become the unofficial meeting spot for all my friends. The side of Tyler’s van is open and inside all the seats are down, blankets thrown around to add some semblance of comfort to the people currently lounging in it.
Tyler had lovingly named it Fran the Van sometime before I arrived in town. The name is fitting, although I could not explain why. Angela is perched in the passenger seat, nursing a cup of something warm, and the others are crammed into the back of the van.
I exit the truck, the chilly air hitting my face and causing my nose to wrinkle in distaste.
“Bella!” Out of instinct I look up and raise my hands to cover my face, something soft hitting my palms and falling to the ground at my feet. A few people laugh at my apparent lack of athleticism and overall basic coordination. “Come on, girl, you just had to close your hands and you would’ve had it!” Mike grins at me, resembling an overexcited golden retriever.
I stoop to collect the knitted hat on the ground, which thankfully hasn’t seeped in the wet of the pavement. I pull it over my head and reach out to accept the matching mittens from Mike while expressing my gratitude. He waves it off and reclines back to lean against Jessica’s knees. She smiles inwardly at their point of contact, Eric noticing and shooting me a horrified look. Despite myself, I laugh and soon Angela joins in as well.
Tyler, in the driver’s seat, taps the dash and reminds us all that class starts in a minute. “Don’t want to be late on the big day, kiddos!”
“Big day?” I ask, the others exiting the van with their bags on.
Angela pauses next to me, letting the others walk ahead to class. “The first beach trip of spring is this Saturday,” she explains.
“But what does that have to do with today?”
She laughs a little to herself, rolling her eyes dramatically. “Tyler and Mike are having a competition to see who people think is the better surfer.” This does not surprise me, both boys are athletic and incredibly competitive. “Today they’re going to try and garner some supporters.” I laugh with her now, unable to maintain a straight face at the thought of my two friends campaigning for the best surfer.
Lunchtime comes around, my new favourite time of the school day, and Mike and Tyler are sending quips across the table at each other. As it turns out Tyler is in the lead with a grand total of twelve supporters. Mike has three.
“You must’ve bought them off,” Mike says grimly, chewing aggressively on a cold slice of pizza. Pizza day in the cafeteria, as I’ve come to find out, is not something to look forward to. Mike resolutely eats three slices, whereas those of us with stomachs that are not made of steel, can barely handle one slice.
Tyler rocks backward in his chair, gulping down his coke and smirking at his opponent. “When you have mad skill like me, people want to support you.”
Mike swallows the rest of his pizza, collects his tray and stands to throw the garbage out. “I’m heading to class,” he grumbles. A sore loser, then.
“Class isn’t for another fifteen,” Jessica interrupts, her thin brows pulled tight together.
Mike nods, refusing to meet Tyler’s eyes. The other boy laughs silently to himself, clearly enjoying the torture Mike is going through. “I know, I just want to get started on the stuff.”
He doesn’t say anything else, just slumps his way out of the cafeteria with a glum look on his face. I feel a little bad for him, my usually boisterous friend a sad puddle of a teenage athlete. His only three supporters are Jessica, me, and Angela. And we’ve also pledged our support to Tyler, which I still think is against the rules but refuse to discuss. So, when you think about it, Mike is at zero supporters, not that I will be mentioning that to him anytime soon.
“Bella, are you going to the La Push?” Eric asks me after Tyler finishes his fit of laughter. I quirk up an eyebrow. “It’s the beach on the Reservation,” he explains. “La Push, baby, it’s La Push.”
The definition of beach appears to change based on location because La Push is different from the beaches I’m used to. The sand isn’t white but instead dark and gravelly with coloured rocks, the waves are not blue but instead shadows of the clouds. The air is chilly, which is to be expected of the time of year, but still a disappointment. The sun has barely peeked out from behind the clouds but throws rainbows off the dark water when it does shine down.
A large group ended up going to the beach, the regular crew from lunch, as well as the many supporters Tyler had gathered. There is still some speculation around his methods to gather these supports, Mike still says they’ve been bribed, but nothing has been proven.
We had carpooled in Tyler’s minivan, the seating arrangements illegal but not entirely unsafe with Tyler’s cautious driving. Angela and I were perched together in the back, our legs a tangle together and our thighs pressed so tight together you couldn’t tell where one of us started and the other ended. Mike and Jessica, as was expected, sat together in the passenger seat with her shooting grins at us over his shoulder. Eric sat on the floor, enjoying the attention it gave him and hamming it up with the jokes the entire way to the beach
There were a few others also in the van, most of whom I don’t remember the names of. One girl I know is named Lauren, and I only remember her because she is short and blonde and always has a horrid grimace on her face. Quite similar to another Lauren I had gone to school with in Phoenix.
The side of the van is opened, a few other vehicles are littered around the small parking lot, and everybody seems to be milling around waiting for the surfing to commence. I sit next to Angela, our sides pressed together, and our legs covered by a colourful crocheted blanket Mike had brought for me as a joke. I really enjoy their jokes. Someone had brought a thermos of hot chocolate, and I happily accept a cup of it to chase away the cold settling in my core.
Tyler is jumping into his wet suit, the rubbery material looking like it will do very little to protect him from the inevitable cold of the water. Everybody’s laughing and joking, Jessica the sole exception as she stands off to the side with a forlorn Mike. “Looks like she’s giving him a pep talk,” Angela whispers in my ear. I cough to cover up my laugh, but Angela just bites off another piece of licorice and grins.
“Bella?” My head swivels quickly at my name, catching sight of a tall boy with dark russet skin, eyes wide and grin even wider. Jacob Black.
He looks the same as the last time I saw him, his shoulders broad and legs long. His hair is sitting around his shoulders, swaying in the chilly breeze. He’s wearing a loose pair of cargo shorts and his shirt is barely more than scrap material. I feel a nudge in my side, Angela, and quickly avert my eyes from his abdomen. If he noticed my staring, he doesn’t show it.
He approaches the van door, two large boys flanking him with easy grins. They are all dressed similarly, although the shortest one has no shirt on. I try not to notice his physique, which appears more like something in a men’s health magazine than the chest of an eighteen-year-old boy.
“Hey, Jake,” I say as he stops before Angela and me. He shoots her a kind smile, and she returns it, offering him a piece of licorice that he takes gratefully.
“What are you doing down here?” He asks, snapping off a piece of the candy with startlingly white teeth. “This is my turf; you could be initiating a war right here.” He talks around his chewing, so the words come out all garbled. I bite my lip to keep in the laugh threatening to escape. “You laughing at me, Swan?” It appears that his disappearance from our last meeting hasn’t at all affected his contagious optimism.
I open my mouth to respond but am beat by the taller of Jake’s friends. “Jacob’s awful at introductions, clearly,” he says stepping forward with an extended hand.
I take it and immediately startle, his burning fingers clutching mine not allowing me to drop his hold. He shakes it once, twice, and then shoots me another grin. I can’t feel my expression, but from the way his lips tilt downwards, I assume it cannot be kind.
I work to rearrange my features, lifting my brows and lips to look more polite. It doesn’t work. “You have a fever.” I startle myself with the abrupt statement. I hadn’t meant to say it.
Angela coughs next to me and nudges me with force. “Bella,” she scolds quietly.
I catch myself and drop the boys’ hand, “I’m sorry, I just mean that your skin is really warm.” Nobody says anything for a moment, and I notice that Jacob is watching me carefully, not angrily, but as if he’s looking for something in my expression. “Like, really warm,” I repeat lamely.
The tall boy with the hot hand bursts out laughing, the heavy noise resonating in my chest as it thunders through the bustling parking lot. “Embry Call,” he tells me. He motions to the shorter boy next to him, “And that feisty little guy is Quill Atteara.” The short one, Quill, reaches over to smack Embry but he dodges it and turns back to me. “Rez guys are hotter than the guys in town,” he says as an explanation for his temperature, raising his arms to flex them. “We can’t help it, it’s a curse that we’re born so damn hot. Girls can’t stay away.”
“I’m sure it’s balanced out by your lack of humility,” Angela quips from beside me, her knees knocking against mine as she laughs at her own joke.
“Yeah, yeah, real funny,” Embry replies with a falsely annoyed lip raise. “If you had a body like this you wouldn’t be humble either.”
The banter continues, Jake and I quiet as the other three throw insults and comments between them. He circles around the outside of his friends and waves me forward, towards the beach to our left. I look over to Angela, mouthing that I’m going to be back. She nods and I stand to leave.
The beach is long, stretching between cliff faces and encompassing the rocky sand that I imagine would badly hurt your feet. Perhaps my feet just aren’t tough enough to withstand anything but premium Arizona white sand. A pity that even my feet are not accustomed to this town.
The sky is a tumultuous grey, the sun providing little light and even less warmth. Not that I notice the lack of warmth from the sun, it feels as though Jacob is running a fever just like Embry. Though our skin doesn’t touch, I can feel the emanating heat of his body and it warms me down to my bones.
We touch the beach and I look out to the rolling surf where a few people paddle around aimlessly on long surfboards. I don’t spot Mike or Tyler and assume that they aren’t going out to compete until later in the day. “Looks the same as you remember it?”
I turn my head to take in Jake, his eyes staring over my head at the ocean. I wonder if he sees this water as cold and uninviting as I do. “I remember it being more colourful,” I admit a little sheepishly. It’s true. I remember the rocks being an assortment of colours and the trees and forest floor being startling shades of rich green. I remember the sky being a bright blue when it would show through the clouds. The scene before me today is a swath of grey.
“Yeah,” Jake admits, sounding forlorn and nostalgic. “It was pretty colourful,” a small smirk that tells me he’s fallen into memories. I don’t respond for fear of taking him from them. “It’s still colourful to me, though.” I pause a little at this, my eyes scoping out the scenery and returning to his bashful expression. “What?”
“Jake, it’s grey.” Even to my ears, I sound like a whiny child.
“I mean, yeah, some parts of it are grey. But not everything.” He doesn’t elaborate and I don’t push him, not as his fingers catch on the edge of my bright yellow rain jacket and tug on it. This is bright, his hands seem to say as they drop my jacket. This isn’t grey.
“That’s true,” I say to fill the silence settling between us. It doesn’t feel uncomfortable to not talk with him, but it also isn’t as easy as it is with Charlie. It feels like we have things to talk about, we just don’t talk about them. “So, you’re a senior?”
He nods, clasping and unclasping his large hands. A simple question yet it seems to be a topic that upsets him. He fidgets, and just as I’m about to ask a different question he speaks. “More in theory than in practice, if I’m being completely honest.”
I pause walking, pushing the hood of my jacket off my forehead so that I can see him a little more clearly. “Jacob, are you telling me you’re flunking out?”
He chuckles humourlessly. “No, that’s what my teachers are telling me.” My heart seems to collapse a little at this. I think of his sisters, the twin girls who had led academically inclined lives. Or at least that’s what Charlie had told me. I wonder what they think about Jake’s situation, or if they even know.
He waves absently and starts walking again, I hurry to keep up with him. “Yeah, my dad knows. My sisters don’t.” Oh.
I decide to try and redirect the conversation, his empty expression twisting at my chest. I like it when he smiles. “What are they up to? Your sisters, I mean.” He smiles at this question, and I find my own lips pulling up in response.
“Well, Rachel is smart as hell. No change there. She’s out at Washington U, finishing up her computer engineering stuff.” I nod, this falls in line with what Charlie had told me. “But Rachel is the pride and joy of the family,” he tells me with a deep voice, as if the words are coming directly from his heart. The way he says family seems to encompass more than blood relations, I get the sense that he means more than just himself and Billy.
“What’s she doing?” I ask, my lips aching to crack another smile.
“She’s painting, like my mom used to.” I remember his mother a little, with dark skin and bright eyes. Her pockets were always stuffed with mint gum. I remember Jacob telling me a couple weeks ago about her brushing out his hair, my heart hurts that she was taken away from her family so soon. “Rach uses oils, though. Still beautiful, the stuff she paints.” Then, he looks over at me with the wide smile I was hoping would make a reappearance. My fingertips tingle at that expression. “When you come back over to the house, I’ll show you some of her paintings, they’re really nice.” He pauses, eyes raising to the ocean behind me. “Beautiful.”
I notice that he says when I come over, not if. This makes me happy, that his leaving so abruptly from the last time we had hung out was not because of me. It feels like we’ve fallen into the pattern of our old friendship, rekindled from our childhood years without a second thought. I’ve missed his easy laughter and witty remarks, I’ve missed him without even realizing it.
We reach a large tree, fallen over and bleached white from years of torment from the sun. Jake climbs up onto its trunk, then pats the spot next to him. My hands grasp at the trunk, which is wide enough to fit three or four of me inside of itself, and my feet clammer at the limbs extending from its sides.
My neck grows warm with blush and my ears begin to tinge an embarrassingly familiar shade of red. If not for the hood I’d adjust my hair to cover them. Jake, seeming to understand my peril, reaches down with large hands and hoists me up from under my armpits.
His skin is hot, burning hot. Even through my jacket and warm layers, I can feel him. The blush grows up my neck and extends into my cheeks. He deposits me atop the trunk next to him, my feet swinging uselessly above the ground. His hands leave me, but the imprint of his warmth remains in my chest. Warming me from the inside out.
“You’re warm,” I say without purpose. He turns to look at me, his cheeks dimpling into a smile at my noticing. “Like the sun.” I’m not sure where the words come from, but they feel right. His lips spread wider, displaying a full set of white teeth. My chin dips, eyes focusing on my shoes beneath me. The toe of his sneaker knocks into mine and I watch the movement, avoiding his gaze for some reason unbeknownst to me.
My chest still feels warm, although I don’t think it’s from his hands.
“I can help you.” The words come out of my mouth quickly and shock settles in my throat. “With your school stuff,” I explain. “I’m doing pretty well. I could tutor you.” That’s an understatement. I am doing exceptionally well in school; my grades are almost consistently at the top of the class. I don’t say this, both for fear of sounding boastful, but also because I doubt Jake wants to hear about my honour roll status when he’s failing out.
“No, no, you don’t have to do that, Bella.” But I can hear the intrigue in his voice. He’s fake declining, the polite response to being offered a gift. The same response I should’ve had when he made me a truck, instead, I had all but snatched the keys from his hand.
�� It’s my turn to knock my toe against his sneaker and he looks over to me with a slight shake of his head, as if to decline again. “Jake, I want to help you.” And it’s true, I realize after the words come out. The few times I have spoken to Jacob since coming to town have been fun, light, and natural. Even homework couldn’t tone down the way his smile swells something inside my chest.
“Okay, fine.” He pauses, lips quirking to the side and nose scrunching in thought. “Thanks, Bells.” I smile at my nickname. “Now, name your price.” My smile drops and an incredulous sound comes out of my open mouth.
“Jacob Black, you are not paying me.”
He waves me off. “Yes, I most definitely am.”
“No, you’re most definitely not.” I stare him down with a level expression until he finally gives in, his dramatic sigh seeming to fill every corner of the space between us.
“Okay, how about a trade then?” He seems eager to find some way to repay me and as bad as I feel for accepting his offer, I accept it all the same.
“Fine, what are you offering me?” Then, with a mocking roll of my eyes, “Make it good or I’ll revoke my offer. Make me another car?” He kicks at my foot, a loud laugh echoing in my ears.
“I didn’t make the truck,” he repeats with exasperation. “I only fixed it up.” I shrug my shoulders and hands as if to say same difference. He sighs again, loudly. “I can provide you with dinner.”
“Dinner?” I repeat, my chest twisting at the thought.
“Yeah.” Then, after he pauses and his expression changes to wide-eyed and a little startled, “I mean, like, I can make dinner when you tutor me. Like, I can make it. Not, like, going out for…” He exhales and looks back to our shoes. “-dinner.”
The thing in my chest twists once more, tightening as my breath catches, then releases and I exhale in time with him.
“That works,” I assure him, watching his side profile. His long nose and high cheekbones, his bottom lip caught between his teeth. “But if you give me food poisoning, I quit.”
A/N: I was on a brief pause to finish my school term, I'm on summer break now and will get back to posting // also why does the formatting look so funky? I think tumblr must’ve changed something but idk what
fic content masterlist
Next chapter (Tuesday, May 3, 2022)
Taglist: @the-wolf-moon-diaries @edwardsshinyvolvo @unorganisedbookshelf @dot-the-js-and-cross-the-fs @papytonsucks @banditnoo @xy05m @bluetreecloud20 @sethclearwatermybeloved @plainjaniedee